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I finished my first day of teaching for the 2020-2021 school year on Tuesday. It went surprisingly well. I was so happy to be in a classroom with students again.

It was also unlike any first day of school in my 23 years as an elementary school teacher.

Eight total students in class. Another dozen learning from home.

Masks. Bubbles. Social distancing. A classroom stripped of my stage, curtains, and most of my furniture.

Lots of time spent outdoors in the shadow of a maple tree.

But also laughs. Nods of understanding. Kids chatting with kids. Shakespeare. Prime numbers. Sign language.

Happy, happy kids lying in the grass, six feet apart, reading.

A strange, difficult, successful first day.

Here’s the craziest thing:

Later that night, I folded a king-sized fitted sheet. Legitimately folded it all by myself. A first.

Somehow folding that fitted sheet felt almost as good as navigating a successful day of teaching in the midst of a pandemic.

I guess it’s because it was day #1 of pandemic teaching. Every step taken was a new one. Mastery wasn’t yet expected. I did well – better than I ever expected I would – but it was still my first day.

But after more than two decades of trying to do something right, it felt great to finally master it, even if it was something as relatively unimportant as folding a fitted sheet.

Then again, folding a fitted sheet properly and independently is damn miracle.

Perhaps I had plenty of reason to be proud.