This year has been full of changes for everyone: parents, children and especially the school system.
In early March, our schools closed down due to Covid-19 and schooling was moved to virtual learning. As parents, we felt the strain of trying to work and also helping with virtual school for our children. Teachers had to change all of their plans to accommodate virtual lessons, on top of also helping their own children. Teachers held meetings via Zoom to help students and also check in on how they were doing.
My son was a kindergartner this year. Unlike most 5 year olds before him, he never had the chance to watch his plant grow, celebrate spring time and learn about places all over the world with their friends in the classrooms. As heartbreaking as this was for the children and the parents, can you imagine the toll that took on the teachers and staff at schools? They had to gather all of the items left at school knowing they wouldn't have that child in their classroom again this year. They tirelessly cleaned their classrooms, collected personal learning items from each child's desk and removed their name and bus tags to tuck them away in a bag for the parents to pick up later.
There would be no kindergarten graduation.
During a weekly Zoom meeting, I watched my 5 year old son light up when he saw his classmates through the computer screen, I felt immense sadness mixed with gratitude. I was happy that we have the ability to connect through technology but sad that was their only way to see each other again. I blogged about my experience with virtual learning here.
I watched as my sons kindergarten teacher commanded a Zoom class full of 5 year olds brimming with tales of what they're learning and endless questions. Sometimes my four kids get the best of me and I'm left exhausted. I couldn't imagine the patience involved to get through a 40 minute Zoom meeting with 20 five year olds. Those weekly meetings were what my son lived for. He would wake up excited and ready to see his teacher and his friends. Those meetings made his week pass by with less tears and more smiles.
Teachers had to abruptly change their lessons, the way they taught and dealt with the emotional aspects of children being quarantined in their home for months.
Yes, they were still receiving a paycheck but their job was always at home. The only way they could "leave" work was to shut a computer screen and even then, the endless questions from children about how their abandoned plants were growing at school had to stay with them even after the screen was shut off.
My two teenagers had teachers dedicated to helping teens who once lead very social lives suddenly thrust into being stuck at home 24/7. Learning to homeschool yourself in a week isn't easy when you're a teenager. On top of that, you can't see your friends unless it was through a screen.
This time has been hard on so many people.
I wanted to find a way to give back to those who gave so much for the children that they care so much about.
I offered a complimentary 20 minute photo session and online gallery where they could download their photos free of charge.
This was a way that I could give back to those endless givers.
I am thankful to my sons teacher for passing along this offer and I'm even more thankful that teachers accepted.
The first session was for a teacher at my sons elementary school. Her son was graduating 5th grade and moving on to the next big step in his life -middle school!
She opted to use her session for some quick family photos and to celebrate her son graduating from elementary school.
Mom had her sons clothes handmade and special ordered from Nigeria. They arrived in time (thankfully!) and they were proud to represent their heritage and religion.
This family was such a joy to photograph. Her son is so excited to join his big brother in middle school next year.
Thank you Mrs. C for all of her hard work & dedication to all of the children attending the school she calls home.
The next family asked to use their session as a front porch session, where they could celebrate the end of the school year. Both parents are teachers at a local school and were excited to see the school year end. We actually held their session on the official last day of school in our area.
The parents were amazing and their kids were full of such personality and joy. When I asked if they wanted to end their session with a quick funny photo, they immediately knew what to do and it was perfect!
Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. T for all of your diligence and commitment with all of the kids you teach, especially during this pandemic.
The next session was another dual teacher family. Both mom and dad teach within our local school system, on top of chasing after their energetic two year old son.
They chose to use their session as a quick update for family portraits and to celebrate their new baby that is due this year.
Their son was shy but did really well, considering he has never seen me before. He loved his cute baseball and made sure it was with him at all times.
Thank you Mr. & Mrs. B for allowing me to photograph your growing family! We appreciate all of your hard work and dedication during this crazy time in our history!
The day after their session happened to be celebration of them meeting 26 years ago and both are also teachers!
In our emails, she let us know that they are usually the ones taking the photos and they rarely have photos taken of just the two of them. They decided to use their session to celebrate their love and have a moment with just the two of them. We took a walk along the beach and enjoyed the warm, golden sunlight. Even though it was beyond hot outside, these two laughed and were so easy to work with. You could really see the connection and trust between these two!
Thank you to to Mr. & Mrs. E for your tireless dedication and commitment to each of your students. My son loved seeing you during the Zoom meetings!
This session was of the W family. Mom is a local first grade teacher and dad serves in the military. Together, they have a beautiful son!
They were so fun to photograph and their son was obsessed with my camera. He even had a chance to take some photos of his mom during the session.
Mom shared with me through emails that they haven't been able to have family portraits taken in two years due to the hectic schedule of the military. I was so thankful that they trusted me to capture some new memories for their family. They love to laugh and were truly so much fun to be around!
Thank you both so much for all of your dedication and efforts during this pandemic!
I want to say a HUGEthank you to all teachers around the world. Thank you for being the calming force for our children as they also navigate all of these changes during this pandemic. You checked in, you asked questions and you worked more than required. You all deserve a big pay raise for your endless undertaking of teaching our children.
I hope that whatever this school year brings that you know you all are very important and such a driving force for so many. We appreciate you today and always!