The ‘First Half’ Debrief 2020-2021

With such a crazy year under our collective belts, it’d be more than reasonable to accept our limping to the finish of 2020. But, as we all know by now, that’s not exactly the Country Day Way™. Instead, we’ve been sprinting through the tape with unique community activities and reimagined ways of crushing what has already been quite the reimagined school year. It was this way long before that abruptly emotional afternoon last March, and it will likely be this way long after the darkness of this tunnel is in our rear view.

So, as we hurl towards maybe the most welcomed New Year of our lifetimes, as we speed through these final days of the year we’ll talk about forever, I think it’s worth a glance over the shoulder to share some of these beautifully mundane moments otherwise bound for the mists of our minds. It’ll be easy to chalk this one up as a bad one, but that overlooks all the moments of joy that were sprinkled throughout. Maybe we’ll laugh a bit, maybe we’ll shrug at a joke I thought was funnier than it was, but hopefully, we’ll all allow ourselves a few minutes away from powering forward or beating ourselves up for not being more productive to reflect on a First Half like no other.

Enjoy, and as always, CLICK THOSE LINKS!

1. As always, give us that Tweet/Gif/Meme Length review of the year (so far).

Erica Warfield: #isthisreallife

Angela (Madam) McAteer: #whyaremyclosetsstillfullofrubbish?

Meredith Shah: #grateful

Julie Cartwright:  #wheredidalltheextrapoundscomefrom?

Claire Norman: #whatcolorarewenow?

Alex Hill:  #happytobejoiningafunworkfamily

Liz Hofreuter: Uncovering the most creative ideas in the darkest of places.

Kristina Kramer: Creative confusion.

Linda Krulock: Teaching online is definitely more exhausting than in-person.

Brenda Deneen: Nothing redeemable about this year.

Stella Boldrick: Is 2020 over yet?

Michael McDonald: Does a song work? Hey, Look Ma We Made It! (Shoot. I definitely thought he got the words wrong to Barry Manilow and had alllll kinds of things ready to go. Thanks a lot, Michael. Sorry, everyone.) No, but really, hats off to those fifth grade students and families for their continued support!

Luke Hladek:

Bridget Rutherford:

Elizabeth Hladek: When this is over…everybody gets a hug!! (Oprah style) You get a hug! And you get a hug!! And YOU GET A HUG!!!

2. How about your moment of the (school) year?

Julie: Every moment is the best moment, good or bad.  It is a privilege and a gift to live each moment.

Claire: Moment of the year so far was taking the kids on our “field trip” to the mailbox by Subway.  We got so much love from the community!

Liz: The Halloween parade just barely gets edged out by the 29 Hours telethon success!

Linda: Watching Xiao walk around the corner of the gym in the morning for the first time without her wheelchair!

Michael: First day back in September or the first day back before the break. The energy was electric.

Alex: The tents, oh the tents. Filming the Christmas show.

Stella: Seeing my family after months of quarantine.

Bridget: When Stephanie said, “Fifth Grade will have four new students for the 2020-2021 school year!” Woohoo!

Kristina: The day Adrienne returned to school and everyone cheered for her (including Adrienne).

Angela:  I loved being outside the JK classroom under the tent.  As we went through our choral repertoire one morning there, I happened to mention to the class that the little people from across the road were passing us on their walk, all tethered together.  jK spontaneously turned around to face them shouting “bonjour, bonjour mes amis” and waving.  One never knows just how much is being retained, does one?   That was a good moment.

Erica: Every moment – surviving this craziness is a win.

Meredith: The first day of Comeback Kids Camp! I was just overwhelmed with joy and gratitude being back at my home away from home with a bunch of kiddos who were equally as excited to be back!

Luke: I know it was just before the official start of the year, but during the final week of Comeback Kids, Mrs. Cartwright had a ‘full school’ yoga class on the field and I immediately caught the vapors…

Elizabeth: It’s a simple one – one that might have been overlooked during a different year. We were gifted lots of mini pumpkins so we set up a simple pumpkin washing station – clear water, soapy water, scrub brushes, and towels to dry the pumpkins. We placed everything outside and let the children go. The sun was shining perfectly and the air was crisp. It was beautiful to watch them work together. No one told them what to do. They decided for themselves and began helping each other in an assembly-line fashion. Everyone had a role, everyone was joyfully playing. It was one of those simple moments when you realize, this is what childhood is all about.

3. They say Kids Say the Darndest Things, right? What is the quotable kid line you’ve heard lately?

Linda: Asking for potential topics for one of our Morning Meetings a student suggested  we talk about “How we make love to someone.”

Claire: Yeah! “We can talk about how to make love.”

Liz: “Yes! School!”

Brenda: I wish YOU were the boss of the school! (Look out, folks!)

Michael: 21 questions in fifth grade…3 questions remaining… they know it’s a vegetable… “is it the color of my hair?” Me – “no.” … “well guys, you can rule carrots out!”

Kristina: ”I feel like I’m home”

Erica: “Me like this Place” – Miles Hersey our first day back to school after being remote for weeks.

Meredith: After opening a gift from a 4 year old, I wrote down their name and what it was in my planner. She asked why and I said so I didn’t forget to send her a Thank You. To this she replied, “You might as well just send it to my mom. I was just as surprised as you to see there was a candle in there!”

Elizabeth: Pretty much anything Hadley Marsteller would share with me in confidence. She’s so genuine and funny!

But my Hazel said: “The little dog laughed so hard it farted and the dish ran away with the spoon.”

4. Finish this sentence… ’when I think back about Fall 2020…’

Julie: I think about building those darn airplane hanger size tents in the field and how Michael McDonald is a math wizard…

Claire: I think about how amazing our students did on Zoom. They stuck with us, no matter what popped up. We are so proud of them!

Liz: I will be grateful for all of the creativity and flexibility of our faculty – especially with outdoor learning.

Brenda: I think school should start in September every year.  Seriously.

Linda: (I’ll think of) taking in the beautiful fall weather and colors of the trees while watching children play and scream with joy. And swinging on the swings with my students on the playground.

Alex: I was learning my way around a new job and navigating a constantly changing work/home life schedule.

Bridget: I will think about how grateful we were to open our campus to in-person learning for so many weeks.

Kristina: I think of sitting under the tree writing poetry.

Erica: I am grateful we were here.

Meredith: I think of being outdoors in the fresh air with kids learning in so many new ways.

Elizabeth: It will be impossible to forget the feeling of morning sickness (that lasted all day) in a mask during the freezing cold mornings and then in the blazing heat in the afternoon. Shoooo!

5. How about your surprise of the year. Anything catch you off guard? Probably nothing, right?

Julie: 1st and 2nd-grade yoga.  Those kids are so ready for mindfulness and yoga! (The teachers too!)

Claire: All of the new ways we discovered to make use of our outdoor space.

Liz: How much I had missed having IJ in person with the kids.

Brenda: The importance of face-to-face learning.

Linda: Being remote (again) so soon really threw me for a loop.

Michael: Surprise? What surprise? The only surprise I’d have is if a day was normal.

Angela: From last spring to the present, I am completely in awe of how tirelessly and selflessly our faculty has labored to bring excitement and a sense of academic normalcy to every child at the school.  It seemed as though each of us took a giant step toward sainthood!

Elizabeth: I was shocked that the section of I-70 into the tunnels opened so quickly! I thought it would be much longer and boy I was over taking the detour to get to St. Clairsville every day.

Meredith: How resilient kids are! Everyone adapted pretty seamlessly to mask wearing, being outdoors more and hybrid learning.

6. We love them good eats here, and while the salad bar has been out of commission in 2020, we’ve had personally packed lunches every day. What is your lunch of the year?

Julie: For sure the greek rice and chicken bowl!

Alex: There are sooo many to choose from! Greek bowl was a highlight!

Bridget: I think that Greek rice and chicken is making me switch from Chicken Puffs as my new number one. Tough call though.

Meredith: The Greek Bowl!!! Yum!!!!

Luke: Yeah, give me that Greek bowl eryday.

Claire: The taco bowl day with homemade guacamole.

Liz: Korean Beef.

Brenda: Tuna.

Linda: Yogurt with granola and some kind of fruit. Everyday!

Michael: Pizza roll ups…but man that Cartwright lady is NO JOKE!!!!

Stella: After months of quarantine in the spring, the lunch from Sarah’s on Main is the most memorable. Mainly because I had been eating ramen noodles and PB&J for 2 months straight.

Kristina: Jimmy Johns of course!

Angela: I love the salads and veggies when Julie is her usual generous self with the feta cheese!

Erica: All of them! I can’t remember my favorite, I’m just happy to be fed by someone else!

Elizabeth: I’m pretty sure I popped by the kitchen for seconds on tomato soup and cheesy garlic bread day. Yum!

7. Liz always says ‘no moss grows under our feet at WCDS’ and while that’s almost always great, sometimes by the time we stop to take a look around, we’ve been an opportunity to reflect. What is the best thing lost in the wake of this wild year?

Liz: Lost that I won’t have – The Christmas Party. Lost as in happened without getting proper attention – every moment that a teacher found connection with a child regardless of fears, masks, pressures.

Michael: How mature the fifth grade has quickly become.

Kristina: Driving around in our cars to activities all evening.

Erica: I can’t believe I am saying this but- Parents not dropping off in the classroom- Honestly, our little ones have become so independent and there are almost no tears in the morning- that usually doesn’t happen until much later in the year.

Meredith: I’m going to slow down from here on out and make more time for just the little moments because those little moments truly are pretty amazing!

Luke: There are so many, but that giant blog series I started called ‘in the wake’ where I was highlighting all the amazing lost projects from last spring really jumps to mind…

Elizabeth: Our new outdoor space- what a game changer! It’s truly a blank canvas with endless possibilities. This year’s class is full of big imaginations. I hope the children have the opportunity to create something lasting for this space.

8. And finally, what are you most looking forward to in the second half of the school year, the first half of 2021?

Julie: A long wet winter and spring so the Cartwright well fills back up! (Rain dance for Rayland!)

Claire: I am fingers crossed that we will have more time on campus with our students. I am looking forward to spending more time with them.

Liz: Being one step closer to being together again.

Brenda: Being able to zing Alex again.

Linda: I look forward to having all of our students together in the classroom in person!

Michael: A winter weather balloon launch… aka Hladek on a snowy roof testing the parachute since he loves heights. (*deletes comment*)

Stella: Light at the end of the tunnel.

Bridget: Safely being back in person with all of the students.

Kristina: Being in school together again.

Angela: I’m looking forward to getting dressed properly every Monday and Wednesday, coming to school, and doing my usual Madame McAteer thing, then going home tired but happy.

Erica: Being in-person!! (I hope)

Meredith: Being back with my JK kiddos and watching them learn and grow and just seeing where they’ll be by the end of the school year.

Elizabeth: I hope we get to be safely in person consistently. Our class is lovely. I want to laugh with them and learn with them and share in the little moments and big ones. Hopefully, we will have more time to build that “school family” feeling.

Luke: Last spring, during the early days of the lockdown, I remember feeling the warm sun on my face for the first time in months, and for some reason, it gave me such peace of mind. I’m looking forward to finding the sun on my face again, however it chooses to come.

And there we are. The official narrative has been written and any other Gif Reviews of the Year are mere imposters. I’d be hard pressed to believe many of us will ever experience another place like WCDS to call home, and when I think back on the past nine months, I honestly can’t fathom having gone through this in any other way, with any other group of people. I’m proud, we’re proud, to give so much to such a place. 

Thanks for being there for us, for still being here with us. Now go enjoy a glass of bubbly and sing the right lyrics to Auld Lang Syne… 

Cheers to the New.


This is the third annual ‘First Half’ in our Debrief series. If you’re so inclined, you can check out the rest here.

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