In a previous post I wrote about the last step before you jump out of an airplane to skydive.
I have more to say on this topic.
This is another COVID-19 post. I promise.
The thing you need to know about my skydiving experience was, before I jumped out of the plane, I was already doing a series of things I thought I would never do.
First of all, the plane. There’s a quote whose provenance I cannot discover but I’m willing to theorize has its origin in soldiers who declined to volunteer for service duties that involved parachuting, “Why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” Let me just say that to describe the planes used by these small skydiving schools as “perfectly good” would be stretching the truth. They appear to have been purchased from the Iraqi military, after Desert Storm. The plane I jumped from would more aptly be characterized as a tin can with wings attached.
Secondly, you fly in the plane sitting on the floor, that’s it, just sitting on the floor of this horrible airplane, with no seatbelt. I don’t fly often, but when I do I find it exceedingly rude when people in front of me recline their seats without giving just a slight heads up before doing so. Hate that. Sitting on the floor of the “airborne tin can”, I suppose I avoided that indignity.
Thirdly, you’re flying with the door to the airplane completely open. I have flown to Florida, to California, to Ireland… never have I flown in a plane with the door open. In movies, when the door to the plane opens, if Harrison Ford doesn’t grab you by the ankle, you get sucked out somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. In the skydiving planes, you’re not travelling at jet speed so this doesn’t happen. If that’s supposed to make you feel better, it doesn’t. The door to the plane, it’s OPEN!
I went with two other friends. It was explained to us that in order to reduce the weight of the plane, the heaviest jumpers go first. I took solace from this fact as my friends were each over 6 feet tall and clearly weighed more than I do. But when we reached 3000 feet, the instructor said, “Don, you’re up first.” The smiles on the faces of my buddies communicated that they’d lied about their weight on the form. This whole thing was their idea in the first place, and I recalled that on the car ride to New Jersey we got into a conversation about diets and how much each of us weighed. Gee, what a coincidence. What else were they not telling me?! Was there even a parachute in my backpack?
Skydiving appears on the bucket lists of many of your friends and family members. It may at one time have been on mine. This is probably because of the thrill of facing your fears and doing something you thought you’d never do. The thing is, when skydiving for the first time, before you even jump from the plane, you’ve already done several things you probably would have labeled insane at most junctures earlier in your life.
I suppose the same is true of teaching and learning through COVID-19.
What if you had told me the following, even as recently as 12 months ago:
One day, kids are only going to attend school every other day. The kids and the teachers are going to be wearing surgical masks. Their desks are going to be 6 feet apart and will have plastic tri-fold barriers. They won’t use lockers, you’re going to let them carry their bookbags again. Kids at home are going to watch classes as they are live-streamed. You’re going to try to keep kids 6 feet apart at all times, in the hallways, on stairwells, in bathrooms. They can’t eat at the same tables. They can’t make physical contact with each other at all. Whenever you need a break from this routine, you’re going to wash your hands. In fact, that’s mostly what you’re going to do, wash your hands. Constantly… wash your hands.
Like skydiving, I might’ve said, “I’m not doing that.”
But, like skydiving, I’m doing that.
So, yeah, you’re doing that.
And at some point we’ll all reach the ground. We’ll have learned a lot and we’ll have stories to tell for a very long time.