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We’re Not Alone on this Rollercoaster Ride

By Casey Ainsworth, an MHS Middle Division Teacher

Casey Ainsworth, a middle school teacher, poses in her classroom at Milton Hershey School.

Spring brings with it a lot to look forward to. Longer days, warmth, trees and plants blooming, and a lot of social gatherings are the typical scenes that this time of year brings. No one anticipated what we are dealing with now. The days are still getting longer and warmer, buds on plants are still producing vibrant colors, but now we can only experience those things with those we live with. Crises that typically have missed our little bubble of Milton Hershey School has united us with the rest of the country and the world and has brought much uncertainty. Much like the rollercoasters I can see from my classroom window on top of Pat’s Hill at Catherine Hall, we have been strapped into our new seat without knowing what twists and turns, hills and drops are coming. One small comfort is that we are not alone on this ride.

March 13, and yes it was a Friday, was unlike any that I have experienced as a teacher, anywhere. It was the day MHS teachers were tasked with developing lesson plans for three and a half weeks in preparation for the possibility of virtual learning in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Our focus quickly turned to the job at hand and although we had many questions and concerns, it was all hands-on deck. We all worked furiously to put together the best possible activities and lessons for our students, knowing there would be a variety of situations our kids would be dealing with beyond the bounds of MHS. I will never forget the end of that day. All of our eighth-graders sat in our POD area before dismissal, looking to us for answers—many of which we couldn’t give them. In reality, no one could at that point. We briefly spoke to them and dismissal came. The hustle and bustle of the end of the day ensued and none of us knew that would be the last time we’d see our kids this school year—at least in person.

Milton Hershey School Middle Division students participate in virtual learning with their teachers.

Fast forward these last few weeks and yes, the rollercoaster ride is still plummeting down hills, climbing slopes, and there have been a few twists and turns. One of the things I was not prepared for was a renewed sense of purpose and drive to do the best for our students. None of us were truly prepared for virtual learning, but just like this rollercoaster, we’ve strapped in.  I have loved having chats and Google Meets with my students. The stories, the laughs, and the unexpected trumpet concerts have been a breath of fresh air. I think I can speak for all of our staff when I say that just seeing our students’ faces or hearing their voices brings a lot of comfort in a crazy time. Even having a chance to talk with parents/sponsors and other MHS staff members has created a whole new positive experience. Has all of this forced me into trying new things and sometimes not being completely certain I can accomplish them? Absolutely. Just like the quote: “What doesn’t challenge you, won’t change you;” We have all been challenged. It will take some hard work and open-mindedness for me to use this experience to make me a better teacher.

Do we know what’s in store on this crazy ride? No, but that’s fine. Each day brings a different track. I know if I just take it one day at a time and focus on what is most important—our kids—I will be 10 times the teacher I was when I left Catherine Hall that Friday.


Read More on the MHS Coronavirus Response

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