Cars began pulling into the back parking lot at Tommie Barfield Elementary School promptly at 9 AM on Friday, May 29th, with children eager for a glimpse of their teachers, with both hoping for a hug, but virtual hugs were the only ones allowed along with virtual high-fives at safe distances.
Parents drove their children around the parking lot loop, and all stayed inside their cars. Colorful, costumed staff greeted them with waves and dances, while smiling, crinkly eyes revealed the smiles broadly behind their masks. Children’s names were relayed by radios outside the building to staff inside the cafeteria; students’ belongings were located in the cafeteria by their teachers’ names and delivered to the cars by staff and teachers in closed, plastic bags, carried by gloved hands. Posters and greetings that lined the fence were cheerful while teachers shed tears as they waved their goodbyes.
“It was a tough ending to the year,” said one staff member. “We are much better at teaching in person and having those special relationships with our kids.”
Another staff member remarked, “It was the hardest and most challenging year I’ve ever experienced as a teacher. I miss the spontaneity, the joking around, encouraging my students and hugging them when they are going through tough times.”
The questions remain about the next school year and no one knows yet what it will look like. There will be staff changes and retirements. The one thing that stays constant is the relationship building between teachers and students and the bonds that will transcend time, no matter how challenging times can be or how quarantined we are.
For those who are interested, www.collierschools.com/graduation2020 is where the commencements will be viewed. CCPS main site is hosting everything.