Atmosphere Update (4/3/20)

Updated: Apr 5, 2020

Each one of these Corona days feels like two. And each is its own emotional rollercoaster. When we wake up in the morning and realize the nightmare is still real, we feel deflated. And then the student and staff faces on Zoom refuel us and remind us why this exhausting work is so necessary, important and appreciated. 

The daily silly memes and objectively bad dad jokes at the Middle School morning announcements make us laugh out loud. The teddy bears in the windows around Hyde Park seem to be multiplying and they cheer us all on on our daily walks. The regular parent and student emails of deep appreciation make us proud of all our efforts, and grateful that we are making a difference. (Did you see the wonderful public recognition our collective hard work received in the Block Club Chicago article earlier this week?).

My own one-on-one student sessions give me glimpses into the inner lives of our students. Here are some excerpts just from one day this week.

  • “I hate this. I mean, no offense, I like that you’re meeting with me, but I hate that we’re not in school.” 

  • “Yeah, I guess there’s a silver lining. No sunburn. That’s it.” 

  •  “My dad’s doing telemedicine from home today, but he still has to go into the hospital some days. I get it, but I hate it.” 

  • “I’m really, really upset about probably not being able to go to Israel or have color war or even graduation. I’ve been waiting for all of those things for 8 years!” (many 8th graders)

  • “I want to talk to my parents about how scared I am, but then they stop telling me stuff that’s going on, and I also want to know what’s going. And I can tell that they’re worried, too. So, I don’t talk to them too much.”

  • “I know that I have less work than I would have if regular school was still happening, but it just feels like so much more. And I’m always so tired.” 

  • “My grandma’s health isn’t so great and she lives with us. So we are being extra careful and just not going outside. At all.” 

  • “Did you hear that a man from my shul died from COVID? I used to hang out with his kids on Shabbos. He was younger than my dad. Sometimes I’m not really thinking about anything else.” 

Many of our students are on the emotional rollercoaster we are on. They are scared and sad, tired and preoccupied, confused and anxious. And they are children. Those moments with teachers and each other, on Zoom or on the phone, mean a great deal to them. With attention and care, they are distracted and they are brave; they are challenged, they are inspired and they are nurtured. We are grateful to our teachers for leading our students on this uncharted path and showing them as much empathy as possible. We know it’s not always easy. 

These next two weeks of Spring Break will provide time to catch our breath and celebrate Pesach with our families. And yet, this vacation is anything but what we had imagined it would be. There will be no trips, no large family seders, no museum outings. We are all disappointed about that. And yet, there are many good things happening over break as well.

  • On Monday, April 6, 10-10:45am, we will host our (optional) Model Seder for all grade school students on Dr. Jones’s Zoom URL: Link sent via email

  • On Wednesday, April 8, 10:30-10:50am, we will host a Burning of the Chametz (also optional) on Dr. Jones’s Zoom URL: Link sent via email

  • The Annual Akiba-Schechter Reading Contest will be ongoing (April 3-June 1). Everything you need to know about it is HERE.

  • Our staff members have volunteered to offer optional Zoom programming for our families throughout the break. Click HERE for the latest menu of grade school options and check back over the weekend and next week as more may be added. Preschool and Kindergarten families should have already received an email from Carla about programming offered by staff and parents over break.

In addition, over the break, our staff will meet (on Zoom, of course) and continue strategizing for the remaining eight weeks of the school year. The work has already begun. 

  • We’ve made note of what we had hoped to accomplish with our students in these remaining months of school, and we will continue to grieve those losses. 

  • We made the decision that the third term of the year for Middle School will be graded Pass/Fail with an emphasis on effort. We certainly still have high expectations of our students, but we cannot pretend that this is normal school. (We have already reached out to CPS to discuss the implications of this decision for our current 7th graders interested in applying to CPS schools. More on this at the forthcoming Parent Meeting on Zoom for 6th and 7th grade parents. Date TBD.)

  • We will reassess our academic priorities with an eye to what is possible given our new format and these difficult times. We will lean in to the opportunities our small group and one-on-one sessions allow us to explore. We will further develop our relationships with our students and with one another so we can better innovate, create and thrive. 

  • We will work to have better answers to our students’ daily questions: Will there be an Israel trip? How will we do Color War? Will we ever do the play? What will graduation look like? How will we celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut? And more.

  • We will continue to keep a close eye on the Corona Chesed Google form and continue to match up Akiba community members who can help with those who need help.

We are well aware that COVID-19 and the Governor’s Order to Shelter in Place (extended through April 30) has affected us all. We extend special gratitude to the members of our Akiba family working in healthcare and first responder capacities (and their families!) for whom the challenges and strains are especially acute. We know that many within our Akiba family are struggling with emotional, professional, and/or financial stress. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Jones, Mrs. Waitzman, Carla, Miriam Friedman-Parks or me if we can be of any assistance over the break.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Miriam Kass

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Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School is affiliated with the Associated Talmud Torahs, the Board of Jewish Education of Chicago, and is a beneficiary of the Kehillah Jewish Education Fund of Chicago. Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.