Farber students during the 2020-2021 school year.
Farber students during the 2020-2021 school year.

Elana Miodownik writes why it was a good year for her while working at Farber Hebrew Day School.

It started out not like any other year, but this one was a school year that began with a different type of anxiety than the typical first-day butterflies. No moms or dads helped their children cross the threshold from home “safety” to this new unknown world of pandemic schooling into the physical school building. 

There was no passing off our children, unlinking our intertwined hands and placing those tiny fingers in the teachers’ hands. There were no “good lucks” to the teachers as the parents backed away from a classroom or children embraced their peers in reunion after a full six months apart. Masks that were there for protection also served as tear receptacles, collecting the drips from the eyes of children who were leaving the comfort of their homes that had been safe havens since March 2020. But … it was a good year.

Elana Miodownik
Elana Miodownik

Our teachers were challenged. Challenged in ways that none of us anticipated — figuring out spacing in hallways as their students transitioned from classroom lessons to our new, pandemic recess situations. Challenged in ways beyond teachers’ true control — in keeping the promise to parents that they would keep their children safe from harm. Spacing desks, limiting partner work and collaboration opportunities, and changing the whole way classrooms had been run with stations and interactive lessons took on a new character with pandemic interactive lessons. Boy, are teachers creative! To that extent, it was a good year!

I was blessed with the opportunity to interact with my students in person. I watched kindergarten students transition from young 5-year-olds in September to be truly prepared to be first-grade students in fall 2021. 

I watched my eighth-grade students, who started the year on Zoom, transition to in-person learning and, even greater, transition to being prepared to enter high school as brand-new freshman this fall. And I witnessed all the grades in between grow as resilient, strong students, who not only made up for academic progress last year, but who also learned to roll with the changes of CDC guidelines, school policies, temporary quarantines and all that this truly great year had to offer.

It was a good year.

Year of Adaptations

Collectively, we witnessed Zoom bar and bat mitzvahs, that we were only recently able to reenact and celebrate in-person, in an adapted way, but safely enough that we were able to see our students read from the Torah at a school minyan after becoming a bar mitzvah a year ago, isolated in the safety of their home; now, together with peers, live, safely distanced at the bimah.

I got to witness students who were truly isolated, fearing for the health of themselves and their families finally get the green light from their doctors to return to in-person learning, even if it wasn’t until May to finally physically reunite with their classmates. But it happened. And this year was a success.

And while all of this was happening, the world around us continued to change and evolve and heal. And while this year was a success, it also carried with it the tides of a typical year, pandemic notwithstanding. There were illnesses, losses in families (pandemic-connected and otherwise, natural stages in life, etc.), terrible stories of things happening in the news in our beloved country Israel. We mourned with our students, we processed with our students, and we grew with our students. All of this contributed to it being a good year.

Regrets? All years are filled with regrets and, in that regard, this year was not unique. Should we have sent our children to school sooner? Did we contribute to our child’s anxiety? Did I ruin my child? The list of questions I have been asked can go on and on. 

The answers to these questions? As parents, we, too, were being challenged to do what we believed was best for our children … So, we have permission to question our judgment, but it was a good year. To that extent, we cannot question the choices we made this year because without the choices we made, perhaps this year would not have been the same.

So, together we shall celebrate that we had the opportunity to have a good year. Cheers!  

Elana Miodownik is the K-8 school social worker at Farber Hebrew Day School-Yeshivat Akiva in Southfield.