Long before either one of us had ever heard the word coronavirus, we agreed that the 2020-21 school year would be a challenging year of transition for our youngest granddaughter and we both had concerns about whether she was ready for the changes ahead.

After all, she had completed the fifth grade at Oakview Elementary School in Ashland and would be going to Ashland Middle School.

My wife and my concerns about my granddaughter’s move to the middle school had little to do with whether she could do the work. We knew that she was smart enough to do middle school work, but we were both concerned about whether she was mature enough to ease into changing classes and having multiple teachers. After all, since she would not turn 11 until Sept. 2, she would be one of the youngest kids in her class, if not the youngest.

 But our granddaughter’s age and relative immaturity were not our only concerns about her entering middle school. Since her first retirement as a primary school teacher a number of years ago and her second retirement as a teacher of English as a second language in the adult education program at Ashland Community and Technical College, the love of my life has spent many days as a substitute teacher at Ashland Middle School. In fact, she would have likely exceeded the maximum days she would have been allowed to sub and still draw her full retirement if the coronavirus pandemic had not ended in-school classes in February.

My wife had already decided she would not sub for AMS teachers who had our granddaughter in a class. I agreed with that position because teaching your child or grandchild creates an automatic conflict of interest.

However, things have not worked out as we had hoped. Because the school year has begun with every student at AMS learning by sitting at home on computers. From my limited vantage point, my granddaughter's teachers at AMS have been doing an amazing job of teaching under less than ideal conditions, and I have been impressed by their efforts.

For the most part, my wife — a.k.a. Mee Maw — has left the teaching up to the certified professionals, while she has concentrated on keeping our granddaughter on task, or at least trying to. It is certainly not the best learning environment for my granddaughter and other students. It is stressful for my granddaughter’s mother and grandmother and it seems like my wife is spending as much time on school work as she did when she was subbing. It’s just that she is not getting paid for it.

I long for when my granddaughter and others again will be in school learning in classroom settings and socializing with their peers. My granddaughter is lucky to have a great treacher living just up the stairs. Many other kids are not so fortunate and those are the ones I am most concerned about.

Reach JOHN CANNON at johnboycannon@gmail.com.

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