A Year Like No Other…and a Rare Anthropological Experience

A Year Like No Other…and a Rare Anthropological Experience

I – Way back long before COVID – way back long before schools existed, even – the great pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “Time is a game played beautifully by children.”*

Time indeed has passed – it’s been an entire year since schools closed due to the COVID-19 global pandemic: a barely comprehensible experience that we would qualify in French aptly as “inédit,” as if the very words do not exist for a period in which, at the rare, very best of times, we were able to remember the primal joy of seeing those children play.

Since then, a staggering amount of K-12 students have not stepped back into a classroom – a tragic consequence of a complex array of factors, of which those children are a glaring (though far from sole) victim. I’m grateful and privileged to be part of a school that has, by digging deep and calling on all available resources, succeeded in remaining open for its students. Here’s to the students – the children.

Mr Ericson leads a discussion outside in the MS area

II – Joining a new community is always a bit challenging – and it might be even more so in the midst of a “situation inédite“. With that context in mind, I wanted to share an unusual and enlightening experience I’ve had – one that could only occur at a rare time such as during a global pandemic. It’s an interesting anthropological event amid a tragic period.

Student creativity on the MS Deck

When I arrived at SDFAS, I met hundreds of students and staff all wearing masks due to COVID-19. As I got acclimated, I put names to faces and faces to names, but those faces…of course…were still wearing masks, and thus my knowledge of them were incomplete. Sure, I looked at past yearbooks, but students in Middle School change greatly from one year to the next. As I went about my day-to-day work, I thus began unconsciously to project onto all these faces an incomplete understanding of what everybody looked like. Then, one day, we started testing students and staff for COVID each week, and I was one of the volunteers who helped administer the anterior nasal swabs. So there I was at the testing table, swab in hand…

You can imagine: what a fascinating experience to then encounter these whole, complete, real faces when students and co-workers lowered those masks!

Some faces resembled to a “T” the projection that I had unconsciously formed upon arrival, while others differed greatly. A sharp or rounded nose, a differently set cheekbone, a wider or narrower mouth…a myriad number of elements contribute to giving each of us a unique visage. I kept asking myself: what experiential, environmental, and/or other factors contributed to my accurate or inaccurate initial projection? It’s yet another reminder of how the global pandemic has made the last year quite jarring, in any case.

Regardless of whether the face behind the mask differed from or resembled the initial projection my mind made when I joined this wonderful community, one thing is sure: a cloth barrier does not prevent people from being kind to a new face. There’s more to a book than its cover, and there’s more to a person than their (masked) face, and my particular experience only serves as further proof.

*supposedly, anyway – sources on Heraclitus are incomplete at best