This school year started a little later than usual with a feeling that was full of excitement about returning to full-time classes and perhaps a little disappointment as safety protocols were still being held in place. The entire district moved to a semester model with the attitude that if we went into lockdown again it’s likely that four classes would be much easier to manage than eight for both staff and students. And so it began, the bustling hallways filled with chaos and laughter and playful brawling, witnessing the wide-eyed shock of Grade 8 students and the cool collectedness that the seniors finally get to live out after all these years. There is always an energy, a buzz, a momentum that makes you a little more cheery and animated and full of zest. September marks a new year of sorts where you are eager to do things better and with more ferocity. Its infectious and perhaps unlike most other workplaces.
We made the decision to start Homework Club in the latter half of the month with the thoughtful attitude that it might be good for the students to get a week of class time under their belt before actually needing to do much homework. Clearly, this was the wrong call as we were met with exaggerated and very dramatic outrage by our regular attendees who could hardly wait to return to the club. I was often called out in the hallways by an overeager student proclaiming, “when is it starting and will you be there?” or kids frantically coming down to my office asking for details because they didn’t want to miss out on the big return. The greatest concern, however, was around the status of the tutors. Our wonderful volunteers had worked diligently on Zoom last school year to offer what is always an unparalleled service, but as most of us have experienced over this difficult time, it just doesn’t compare to an in-person encounter. We were not confident that the tutors would be able to return and so held back on giving a straight answer. During a nerve-wracking meeting with the administrative team we learned that indeed they could come back in-person and were thrilled to welcome them. I feel that so much of their presence and the students longing for their return is a collective hope for normalcy again; what is known and comfortable and simple in their sometimes complex lives. The other day, while I was making sandwiches for the kids, a student who had started attending last year and so had only experienced packaged snacks said to me “so what are the sandwiches all about?” and a senior student turned to her and said “this is what Homework Club used to be. This is what we know. Its tradition!” and it warmed my heart to think that even something as simple as a Nutella and peanut butter sandwich provided a small sense of routine and familiarity and goodness.
As we look towards this first early break in the school year to celebrate Thanksgiving and all that we have been given, I am mindful of the continuous and often daily support our students need. Sometimes essentials that we take for granted are scarce and it’s our great privilege and responsibility to provide a space and the resources for them to feel supported and cared for. This season, I am excited to begin this journey once again with old faces and new coming through the Homework Club door, eager for fellowship and fun, treats and great conversation.
– Katie Simonson
Homework Club Facilitator