Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many have been forced to live in fear, uncertainty, and seclusion, lured into constant black holes of pessimistic news. But despite this darkness, there has been tremendous hope, unity, and solidarity. People across the country have mobilized in response, hoping to help others adapt to the present lifestyle both physically and emotionally.
A notable movement has been built by elementary school teachers in various towns across the United States, who have joined together to organize collective “teacher parades” for students isolated from their friends and peers. The small gestures of waving and honking from decked-out cars have transformed divided ghost-towns into unified, effervescent communities.
On March 26, school districts across northern Texas joined a nation-wide “Teacher Parade.” Purefoy Elementary School and Robertson Elementary School in Dallas-Fort Worth were two of the first schools in the nation to ignite a chain-reaction of parades that altered the narrative of this pandemic for both young children and anyone who experienced the vibrant joy that bubbled from these celebrations. Kristen Williams, a local parent with children in kindergarten and third grade, stated: “I am not an overly emotional person, but it was impossible to hold back tears seeing the camaraderie and love that was overflowing throughout the parade.” Williams continued, “Even people who do not have current elementary school-aged kids were in front of their yards waving to the faculty—it was an incredible thing to be a part of.”
Another family in northern Texas, the Roberson family, spoke out about their uplifting experience. Though their children are beyond elementary school-age, they too felt the impact of the car parade in their north Fort Worth community. Dennis Roberson stated, “I looked up and down the street, families were out, kids were out, and they had lawn chairs like the 4th of July or something.” Roberson recalled being in awe of the joy that hit their whole town that day as “the teachers made sure to cover every street, not leaving any children out of the experience.”
Across the state of Iowa, teachers joined others across the nation in finding a way to evoke positive change amidst social distancing. More than 70 vehicles were driven by teachers from the North Polk Community School District in Elkhart, Iowa. Melissa Fetters, the elementary school counselor said, “I just wanted to do something for the whole district because we are a pretty big district with lots of little towns and kids in the country so I thought it would be fun to do a little pick-me-up.”
On the east coast of the United States, in Brooklyn, New York, teachers continued to fight against COVID-19 by constructing a parade that drove by 900 student homes. New York City has been the most negatively impacted by COVID-19 with the highest number of deaths and positive cases, and the closing of their public schools has been devastating for many of its inhabitants.
Assistant Principal Jennifer Troman from New York's PS 115 was one of the coordinators of this parade. She explained that their school encourages "strength, honor, integrity, nobility, and excellence," within their students and that the event aimed to "show them how we really shine and bring some light into these dark times for them." By following their school values and motto, “Shine,” these teachers truly created an unparalleled bridge of hope and unity throughout the borough. One young student, Alex Gilbert, extolled this work, saying, “I can't believe the school is doing this for us. It's really nice to see all the teachers, and it shows the teachers really care." The acts of care and bonds between students and their teachers illustrate how seemingly minute actions and experiences define a community and create a cohesively powerful culture.
In Connecticut, two elementary schools also joined together to fight back against the thoughts of confusion, fear, and anxiety that have overwhelmed children and adults alike through using a “Just Keep Swimming” theme. On April 6, a parade of elementary school teachers in Wallingford, Connecticut filled the streets to brighten up the spirits of their young students. They decorated their cars with teddy bears on their rooftops, balloons, uplifting signs on their windows, and more, filling the once dreary town with noise and color. The teachers in this town went to every single neighborhood where a student lived, taking care not to miss a single house. The young children at home all went out with signs to thank their teachers as the parade of cars drove by honking and waving. The superintendent, Sal Menzo, writes, “It kind of shows a sense of unity that we’re a big school of fish and even though we've been separated by the virus we’re still working together.”
Teachers’ actions have inspired a new movement of unity in the United States and deserve to be praised for their unprecedented actions. Answering what is needed of everyone during this pandemic is the first step. This question, however, is contingent upon whether people will feel the duty to counteract the heightened divisiveness amongst citizens alongside teachers or whether they will choose to sit-back as isolated bystanders. Hopefully, the creativity and love emanating from these parades will not perish over-time, but instead will flourish and encourage others to do their parts in positively rewriting the narrative of this pandemic.