Welcome to school (of life): First graders in Corona times
Welcome to school (of life): First graders in Corona times

"All year long I have been telling my child how exciting it will be when they finally get to school." - And then everything turned out differently. We admire our author Susanne, who, as the mom of two boys (4 & 6 years), can still gain so much humor from the current situation …

Welcome to school (of life): First graders in times of Corona
Welcome to school (of life): First graders in times of Corona

Whew, semester break! Testimony, meet friends, go on trips, sleep in! Or maybe not. We all imagined the first semester break of my big guy to be different. Just like his entire first year of school. Well, in theory, sleeping in would still work - but let's put it this way: my son likes to have as much of the day as possible.

Unfortunately, not much remained of the rest of the holiday program in times of the pandemic. That's right, actually there wouldn't be a hard lockdown at the moment! But somehow non-lockdown feels suspiciously the same as lockdown right now. And holidays like (home) school. And Sunday as well as Tuesday.

So after what feels like 100 years of home schooling, we mostly sit at home during the Salzburg semester break and play a board game for a change. Because we never did that at all last year!

I don't want to discuss the sense or nonsense of the school closings now. Whether all of this could have been arranged differently. And also not about how long the schools will stay open after the holidays.

Actually, I just want to yell at someone and wipe off. No one, nobody needs to call the youth welfare office, of course not my child! Not even Basti or Rudi or any clever virologist. I would love to be the one who gave us all the corona crap. But since it doesn't look like they're going to handcuff the guilty bat anytime soon and because I wouldn't want to spank them anyway for animal welfare reasons, I have to be content with a punching bag (which I no longer have online at Department store Austria can buy, oh dear).

“One thing is certain: I'm angry. And really. One-week-house-arrest-and-no-television-angry either."

In any case, one thing is certain: I'm angry. And really. One-week-house-arrest-and-no-television-pissed off. Because what my child is experiencing as the first year of school is probably the worst joke of all time!

All year long I have been telling my child how great and exciting it would be when they finally start school. How many cool things he would do with his class! If I were him, I'd feel pretty pissed off by now.

"Would you have thought that you'd consider putting a bottle of Sagrotan in the school cone for your Taferl classler instead of gummy bears ?!"

Because what came next was neither great, nor exciting, nor cool. Already on the first day of school it was obvious that this year would be anything but normal. Or would you have thought that you would consider putting a mask (and not a ninja turtles carnival mask) and a bottle of Sagrotan in the school bag for your table classler instead of gummy bears and felt pens ?!

The first few weeks at school were incredibly exciting and incredibly disillusioning at the same time. The first homework! The first big break (but only separately from the other children)! The first music lesson (but only with MNS!)! The first time doing gymnastics (but only outdoors)! The first night of reading, the first day of hiking, the first circus workshop - canceled, canceled, canceled! Instead: wash your hands, ventilate, disinfect, keep your distance, wear a mask …

In spite of everything, my son was hooked and looked forward to school every day - until after a few weeks it was time to shut up, monkey dead or school closed, motivation dead. So the sword of Damocles, Distance Learning, caught us after all.

And as I said, I don't want to argue about the necessity. I don't even want to complain about how home schooling should work when you also have a kindergarten child and a job. And I don't want to start a moral discussion about who should, should or should have brought their child into emergency care and when.

But what I want to say is: Home schooling is not an adequate substitute for real school! Especially not if, as a first grader, after a few weeks you don't even know exactly what school actually means.

I have really tried my best to make distance learning as meaningful and fun as possible for my son. But to be honest: Have you ever tried to teach a six-year-old, who just doesn't feel like it today, how to do negative arithmetic in a funny way or to make a cuddly T-Tiger with him to learn the letters ?!

"There's a good reason I didn't become a teacher - because I'm just not fit for it!"

There's a good reason I didn't become a teacher - because I'm just not fit for it! I don't know how to explain the clock to a child in such a way that it arrives. I have no idea how to turn disassembling the 10-number house into party fun. And I sometimes lose my nerve when the child has written exactly ONE word in 20 minutes because they take turns looking out the window, sorting their pens, picking crumbs from the table or picking their nose. I understand the little boy very well who said he was looking forward to school again because "there is no longer an angry woman sitting next to him". And I think that every elementary school teacher who normally has 20 times a day deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!

And yet I have read, written and calculated with my child to the best of my knowledge and belief. I counted up chestnuts with him, painted snowmen, made announcements, made clowns and did children's yoga (okay, not true, I skipped that. Sorry, teacher!).

My child also did his best during this time. He has learned how much 8 minus 4 is, how to write a lowercase "f" and that you can only partially motivate mom to clap syllable arcs before the first coffee. Actually, in my opinion, he should have learned completely different things in his first half of school.

How to make new friends. Which games are the most fun during the break. The best way to chat undetected with the next door neighbor. How to share your snacks with others on school trips. How to learn from an adult who doesn't wash their underpants at the same time.

All these little and big things, the first day of school, the first day of school report, the first vacation, the first school carnival - these are all the first times that you cannot make up for. Instead, there's a nose pick test for the first time or a quarantine for the first time. And every day annoyed mums and dads who despair of their role as neo-teachers. It makes me sad and angry because I would have wished him and all the other first graders different.

Not just the first graders, but also the high school graduates who actually wanted to live out their new freedom and not sit at home. The 16 year old who wanted to go to their first festival. The 11-year-olds who have barely seen their new classmates in high school. The 8-year-olds who have been doing all this crap for the second year. I feel sorry for all of them - and all parents (and teachers) as well.

I hope that in retrospect it will all be worth it. That our children will still go through life strong, happy and smart. And that after this year I never have to make a funny lowercase letter out of glitter paper again.


About the author: Susanne Holzer is a freelance writer from Salzburg. Together with Sybille Maier-Ginther, she writes in the honest mom blog "Hand on Heart" about what life with a child really is like. You can find more of the two on Facebook / HandaufsHerzblog.

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