BPS Families and Staff,
For this week’s COVID update, I want to share some thoughts relative to the unseen implications of this pandemic - things that cannot be effectively captured with a graph, table, or color-coded chart. In particular, I am going to speak directly to the emotional toll associated with this virus and how it is contributing to our collective sense of unease and angst.
What I sense after many conversations with people in our district is that a good number of us are tired. Physically, mentally, and emotionally tired. Tired of COVID-19 and all that came with it eight months ago. We want to be finished with this pandemic. Because we’re over it - we’re done, kaput, worn slick, exhausted - whatever term you want to use. The virus was supposed to be gone by now, suppressed by the summer heat, neutralized by herd immunity, and ameliorated through our collective sacrifices. Yet, it is still here, and COVID fatigue is setting in. I feel it. I bet you do, too.
Personally, while I know it is necessary and appropriate, I’m tired of seeing young children in classrooms wearing masks. I miss seeing the innocent smiles of young children and the wry facial expressions of adolescents. I’m tired of limiting our students’ interaction with peers out of concerns over the potential spread of this virus. I’m tired of not being able to let our kids be kids. I’m tired of the emotional and physical toll this is having on our teachers and staff, who courageously place their fears and concerns in the background to serve and teach the children they love. I’m tired of us having to notify families and staff members they have to quarantine due to a seemingly arbitrary exposure with a positive individual. I’m tired of the multiple, constantly-changing, color-coded COVID alert systems. I’m tired of physically distancing from people I care about. I’m tired of Zoom meetings. I’m tired of not being able to shake the hands of people I meet or to hug or high-five a child. I’m tired of partisan politics and unproductive rancor over the wearing of masks. I’m tired of waiting for a vaccine. I’m tired of kids somehow feeling ashamed or guilty for testing positive to a virus they have no control over because of the impact it has on their friends and family.
Everybody is feeling the strain of months of life being altered in every direction. Case numbers go up, then down, then back up again in a cyclical, seemingly callous way. The uncertainty related to the potential impact of the upcoming cold and flu season exacerbate an already tenuous condition. Things we love and look forward to - birthday parties, holiday get-togethers, weddings, baby showers, church events, athletic contests, an out-of-state trip or cruise, a few hours at a good movie or lunch with friends - have all been disrupted by a virus that came into our lives suddenly and indiscriminately. We want to hug our grandparents. We want to go to the gym, to the store, to church, to restaurants, to our kid’s sports and activities - without fear, without a darn mask. We want to cough or sneeze without feeling conspicuous and potentially dangerous. We want to get back to normal.
Yet, what we are being forced to accept is that normal may not come soon. It could be right around the corner or it could be years away. That lack of control over when what we perceive as “normal” returns is a big piece of why we are tired, individually and collectively.
You may be wondering by now what exactly is the point of this letter? To vent? Maybe ... just a bit. But, the real purpose is mostly to simply admit that, like many of you, I’m tired. But, I’m also okay. And I hope each of you are as well.
I’m okay because our kids are in school. Because I have the immense privilege of watching superb educators, administrators, and support staff make the best of an unprecedented situation. Because good things continue to happen in our district, every single day. Like the hundreds of normal, meaningful interactions that occurred between students and BPS staff yesterday and will occur today and tomorrow and the day after. Like our varsity football quarterback, Mason Williams, breaking the all-time school record for passing touchdowns last Friday night. Like Jack Ramsey, a first grade student at West Elementary, making the October cover of TulsaKids magazine. Like four of our 2020 BHS graduates now representing our community while serving in the U.S. Armed Services (James Cothran, US Army; and Spencer Puckett, Kobi Royce, and Cade Milligan, USMC). Normal life is happening, just not always in ways we immediately recognize.
Here’s the bottom line. What has not changed with COVID is our capacity to create normalcy in the midst of uncertainty. I sometimes have to remind myself of the inherent ability I possess to control my mood, my attitude, my behavior, and the way I treat others. In times like these - when people are a little more stressed and tired than usual - I can make things better by being a little more kind, a little more gracious, and a little more patient. I can spend LESS time on social media and stressing about things I can’t control and MORE time relaxing, reading a book, listening to music, taking a walk in the woods, calling an old friend, handwriting a note, playing with the dog, and being genuinely grateful for the life I have.
To our Bixby community, I want to thank each of you for the patience, understanding, and caring you’ve provided me and our BPS staff during this challenging time. Our teachers are carrying this new, unexpected load very well, yet that doesn’t mean it’s not heavy. You are an important part of the success of this school district and we value your feedback, encouragement, and support. We’ll get through this together.
Spartans, allow yourselves to be tired, yet remain STRONG! Take care of yourselves and please let us know if there is anything we can do for your children or your family.