Finishing strong

Having put in the hard work for most of the pandemic, we want to finally be able to ease off. But now – more than any other time – is for vigilance, Jordan Martin writes.

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Every school year, around the middle of April, there is a change in the atmosphere at most schools. Most of the year, teachers and students are working hard Monday through Friday (and often weekends) to get the work done that they need to. We keep our heads down and focus on the task ahead of us.

But by mid-April, a change has started to take over the school. The days grow longer, the temperatures nudge higher, and the outdoors become more appealing. Spring sports like track, golf, and soccer all take place outside. There is a sudden awareness that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – the end of the school year is finally approaching.

In many ways, our more-than-a-year-long struggle with coronavirus has played out in a similar fashion. We have had to make alterations to our lives that are unpleasant, from the social distancing to the mask-wearing to those beloved Zoom calls. So many of us have worked hard and made tremendous sacrifices to make sure that we and our neighbors can be safe.

But just as when spring comes to a school year, a light has appeared indicating that there is potentially an end to our long battle with this disease. Vaccinations have taken off across this country, and slowly, we are creeping closer to that magical number to reach “herd immunity.”

Like a child longing for the days of summer, our minds inevitably turn toward those pre-pandemic luxuries that we hope to enjoy again soon.

We are now in a precarious position. We’ve mentally crossed the finish line with another lap to go.

Any teacher will tell you that the longest months of the school year are always the last ones. Students and teachers, who until this point had been focused on their day-to-day work, are suddenly counting down the days until the end of the year. Merely surviving to Friday is no longer acceptable. We want to be transported that first day of summer.

As a result, work ethic tends to slump during the end of the year. For students, this means that classwork might decrease in quality or the level of participation in class may drop off. For teachers, there seems to be a dropoff in enthusiasm for their subject and less patience for some of the antics of their pupils.

Likewise, in the pandemic, we are seeing a similar dropoff. Having put in the hard work for most of the past 13 months, communities want to finally be able to ease off. Mask restrictions are being weakened and larger social gatherings are being tolerated.

However, more than any other time, we must remain vigilant. While increasing numbers of Nebraskans are becoming fully inoculated, we have not yet (at the time of this writing) achieved 50 percent of our population being immune to COVID-19. Large swaths of our population are still susceptible to this disease, and this virus has not yet disappeared. While certain activities are certainly safer now than they were before, it is not yet time to celebrate victory over the Coronavirus.

Like students pushing through that last quarter of the school year, we must continue to work together to push through this last leg of the pandemic. As a community, we need to continue to make sure that we keep each other safe.

It will not be long. One day at a time, we will reach that final day where we will cross that finish line and our “summer vacation” will finally be here.

Jordan Martin teaches social studies at Wilber-Clatonia Public Schools. He moonlights as an assistant one-act drama coach in the fall and a speech judge in the spring. For more Civic Nebraska Writers Group columns, click here.

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