The Circle School Blog

An occasional thing

The Circle School Blog

Seeing smiles behind masks

Jim’s 2014 blog post “I connected my laptop to the internet and fire trucks came” was published shortly before I began my tenure here at The Circle School. In my early days on staff, one of the first things Jim told me was that “At The Circle School, something new happens every day.” Was that a job perk, or forewarning? I wasn’t sure. Since then I’ve learned that most of the time, the “something new” is something delightful. Most of the time.

Throughout 2020 and now into 2021, we’ve collectively experienced a big “something new”: the impact of a global pandemic on daily life at school. We’ve also experienced long days at home, and weeks on end where it seemed like nothing new was happening. The title of this blog post could be, “I walked into school on March 13, 2020, and the world turned upside down”. But I’m a person who likes to deliberately practice gratitude.

So, as the school year approaches its end, it’s my turn to catalog a year of the “something news” I witnessed this year — some magical, some melancholy, some big, some small, but all taking place at The Circle School amid the challenges of a changing world.

    • Summer meetings of the Executive Committee, where students and staff came up with a plan to open safely in-person on the first day
    • The Circle School’s first temporary dress code: face masks (don’t worry, wearing shoes remains optional)
    • Games and games of gaga ball in the gaga pit, built in September by students, staff, and a parent volunteer… thanks Reb!
    • Classes and study groups held outdoors under the patio tents
    • Pool noodles for no-touch tag games moonlighting as lightsabers and pirate swords
    • The hush that fell over the school this year, on days when almost everyone was outdoors
    • Teenagers setting up groves of hammocks in the woods, “hanging out” at a six-foot distance
    • The bittersweet establishment of the Lily Jordan Memorial Scholarship
    • Closing school as the pandemic peaked in winter, but meeting virtually to make snowflakes, bake cookies, and exchange holiday gifts
    • Opening school in LITE mode for a few hours per day, so that staff and students could get back together in-person as the pandemic (and our patience for being at home) waned after the holiday season
    • Sledding at school and building Gertrude the snowman, with her pool noodle hoop skirt and collapsed patio tent limbs
    • My excitement on what felt like the second first day of school, when school fully re-opened in February
    • Homemade shortbread cookies at a formal tea party, with guests separated by clear plastic table dividers
    • Participating in the YWCA’s Race Against Racism with a 5k walk around the soccer field
    • Very few JC cases!
    • Designing an outdoor stage with the Jordan family in Lily’s memory
    • Alumnus Cody Unger ’09 returning to The Circle School as a staff member
    • Hosting the Spring Pop-up, the school’s first public event since the pandemic began
    • Swinging on the brand-new, periwinkle and yellow swing set installed in May
    • A school dance held outside under the stars
    • The nest of baby robins, found, rescued, and cared for all day by several students before being taken to a safe place at the end of the school day.

I’ll remember this school year for its challenges and restrictions: face masks, distancing, and uncertainty. But I’ll also remember how I learned to recognize smiles in eyes above masks, and marvel at our resiliency. The close connections formed between Circle Schoolers, even from six feet apart. How on some days, it felt like the whole school was hanging out together, and the renewed joy of being together in community at a school that sometimes feels like home.

Ellen Abbott