Into the Unknown

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

GORKON: I offer a toast. …The undiscovered country, …the future.

ALL: The undiscovered country.

SPOCK: Hamlet, act three, scene one.

GORKON: You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.

CHANG: (in Klingonese) ‘To be or not to be.’

As the youngest of my folks’ kids, there wasn’t often I didn’t have a guide of some sort. To call my sister a role model would be an almost gross exaggeration of how I perceived her; “cautionary tale” would be much more accurate.

For example, when she, again, was busted one evening for breaking curfew, she screamed out how “Mr. Perfect” (her sarcastic nickname for how she felt my parents perceived me—though she wasn’t exactly wrong) also broke curfew; I just never got caught. After her grounding and being sent to her room, I entered in the guise of being the kind, concerned kid brother. Instead, I just let her know that her methodology was all wrong: When coming in late, one should never go through the primary entrances of the doorways, both of which led through the living room. After all, even if our light sleeper of a mother wasn’t waiting in her recliner, the shifts in air pressure by opening/closing the doors would alert her that someone was either coming or going. Instead, I offered, go through the windows.

Throughout most of my life, I’ve looked at what others have done in order to gauge how my own efforts should go. This has gone through both the example of my sister or other elders, reading academic and anecdotal literature (and I use the term loosely), or even pictures. It’s not that I have a fear of the unknown; I just like to know what I’m up against and how to achieve optimal results. So just imagine how I am with all of the unknowns associated with covid19.

From as early as January and February, when reports of a novel new virus had appeared in China and was starting to spread, N— and I began discussing plans; we’re like that. We made an ATM withdrawal to keep cash on hand and began limiting our outings. Observations of declining stock levels of some foods (frozen waffles, for example) and other items made it clear that something was happening. It just hadn’t happened here. Yet.

Frozen waffles were among the first covid19 casualties at the local super.

By March, we were no longer being social with anyone and decided to not visit the gym. Then the schools closed. First, for a week, then another, then for the year. By then, we’d secured devices for the kids’ remote learning and had a makeshift office set up in the main bedroom’s closet, affectionately dubbed the annex, complete with my own megadesk…err…workspace.

My own take on megadesk. And, no, I don’t have enough coffee. Further, you cannot use my stapler; it’s mine.

So now it’s July, and things are starting to take shape for the 2020-21 school year. By that, I mean everyone from my own superintendent all the way up the President (yeah, that guy) has said schools will be open this fall. Trouble is, guidelines just came out a couple of days ago and have led to more questions than they answer. Things are further muddied when realizing that the Texas Education Agency (the entity releasing those guidelines) are, themselves, quarantined at home and will not return to their offices until January 2021. They, like most other policy makers, are handling things remotely.

But students, custodians, teachers, counselors, administrators, and the rest of the countless cast of characters that make a school function, are expected to report for duty in a few weeks’ time.

And we will. Because that’s what we do: When students have a need, we as professional educators find it in ourselves to do what we need to do.

Are we anxious? Nervous? Scared, even? Probably a mix of those things. Myself, I am all of those things—not so much for myself but what it could mean for my immunocompromised wife and, by extension, the family unit as a whole. We have made tremendous sacrifice these past several months in order to keep our house’s microbiome as unaltered as possible, thereby keeping N— safe. Or safer, anyway.

In Act III, Scene 1 of Hamlet, the title character muses over the matter of death—the ultimate known—making reference to it as “the undiscovered country”:

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country from whose bourn

No traveller returns […]

While I am not fearful that I’m going to die (my affairs are more or less in order) when returning to school next month, I acknowledge there is a lot that is unknown or, at best, unclear. Exploration is aided by having the appropriate tools, including a willingness to explore. Hamlet further espouses this when, a few lines down says:

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pith and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action

So, come Monday, I’ll be helping the curriculum team with writing lessons for in-person and remote learning to help myself and my colleagues be ready to adapt to the ever-changing situation in which we—and our students and our families and our communities—find ourselves.

It’s what we do: We teach. We mold the present to prepare for a future, even if so much of it is unknown.

Ready? Off we go.

Thanks for reading.

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