November 26, 2021

Enjoying the Moment

Hilary McCarthy

A group of Lower School students sit on the blacktop with blankets while eating lunch.


Opening our doors and ushering students into a new school year always brings a sense of both trepidation and excitement. Questions about the new year and the challenges it brings are inevitable. This year, we also wrote pandemic policies and procedures, decided on universal masking, and came to terms with the disappointment of starting another year of school amidst a global pandemic. 


Welcoming Lower School students as a wholly unvaccinated population with the Delta variant of COVID-19 proves to make the beginning of the year less predictable than ever. It takes an immense amount of time, effort, and focus, giving adults anxiety as health and safety are more paramount than now. 


We could, as a community, focus our attention on what this year might not be. Back to School Night moved to a virtual platform. Assembling as a division is nearly impossible with social distancing requirements. Students are eating more than three feet from their peers. The list goes on and on. 


Yet, a few moments shift my perspective from the difficult things we will continue to do and what we will need to ask our students to do to something miraculous. 


Carpool is a beast at GCS, but a moment stands out. Last year, fifth-grade students didn’t participate in the time-honored tradition of assisting with carpool due to pandemic protocols. This year, the students were so excited to get started they coaxed their families into arriving early to be the first on duty. One morning, a student mentioned how chilly the morning air was that day. I asked him where his sweatshirt was, and he answered honestly, “In my backpack. Why?” before running to open the next car door. I felt a smile come across my face under my mask. 


Serving lunch—an excellent way for me to connect with students—provided another memorable moment. One day, a bright voice says, “Hello, Mrs. McCarthy. How are you doing today?” I turn to see a fourth-grade student, eyebrows raised. He was genuinely asking how I was and was waiting for an answer, and it was heartwarmingly authentic. 


Matt Walsh, Jennifer Schiller, Karen Wootton, and I bestowed Glens and Elgs t-shirts to new Kindergarten students. There is always confusion as the five-year-olds are handed a shirt and told they are a part of a green or white squad. They will soon understand the importance of the moment, especially as the All-School Relay approaches. Afterward, I asked the students if they knew what everyone was together? I called on a student, arm-waving, sure he knew the answer was “We are all Dragons.” With as much excitement as anticipated, he said, “I lost two teeth this week!” We were happy to celebrate his dental achievement, even if it was unexpected. 


A tearful third-grade student came in. She was back from another challenging PE class. She was sure she would never be in the All-School Relay because she had only run 40 laps when some of her classmates had run 80. I carefully explained to her that this was not how relay runners were selected and her effort was what mattered. She wailed, “But I have asthma. There is no hope!” I told her she was beautifully human in the body she was given and because running laps was such a challenge, her effort was even more critical. Her tears dried, and she said, “You know what, I will keep trying.” 


Moments such as these ground us in the present and allow us to be fully present. Our curriculum teaches students to hone in on the details of a small moment, use a mind’s eye to see beauty in an everyday occurrence and share through writing the celebration and exploration of those moments. 


Each moment I experience here is humbling. From the laughter outside to my son’s Post-It note that reads, “Hi Mom.” From the Gaga pit to the pond and Forest Time and back, each moment reminds me that this is what school should be. 


Being together, fully present, in the big and small moments, unite us as an amazing community. I am eternally grateful. 

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