Guest post by Jonna Huseman

What is your profession/involvement in the community?
I am a teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, where I have been an English teacher for the past 17 years.
 
How has your life changed since the community has been impacted by Coronavirus?
My life has changed quite a bit due to the Coronavirus. The schools have shut down and I am scrambling to figure out how to navigate this new educational environment as both a teacher and a parent. At first, my wife and I were trying to create learning opportunities for our kids while schools were not assigning new work. That was hard for us, and my wife and I are both in education. I know it was even harder for other parents. Now I am so appreciative of my sons’ teachers, who are really trying hard to make this distance learning work.

One reason why I really love teaching is that I am not in front of a computer all day. Now, I am.

We are staying home all the time and not seeing family or friends. It’s very strange because we have a lot of family who live in the area. Usually, we constantly have family and friends over and now all visits are on Zoom. It’s definitely weird.
 
Are you working more or less?
Overall, I am working less. I am not going to a school for eight hours a day and not bringing work home with me after. However, even though I am working less, work is definitely more exhausting now in this environment. I am spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to best create lessons and provide support for students.  

My goal is to create a sense of normalcy for students. Even though we are in this crazy time period, I want them to count on the fact that I am here for them. However, it is really hard to balance trying to create meaningful assignments while understanding that everyone is going through a rough time period right now. For instance, I never know if the student who has not engaged in the distance learning is not doing so because the student does not have access to technology, is hungry, or has some other basic need that is not being met, or is suffering emotionally. I try and call or email, but many of these calls go unanswered. I just don’t know how they are doing and it is definitely weighing on me. I acknowledge that the importance of my English assignment pales in comparison to the other issues in a student’s life right now.

What are you most afraid of?
I am most afraid of this situation lasting through the summer. Summer camp is a big part of my family’s life, and there is no way to create this experience virtually.
 
What are you most hopeful for?
What gives me hope are my kids. They are 7 and 9 and have been so resilient throughout this whole process. Somehow, they understand that they need to social distance and that this situation is serious. They have lost a lot—they miss their friends in school, all of their sports games are canceled, and they are stuck with their parents 24 hours a day. However, they really have been incredible, and even get along better now than they ever have before.   
 
What has been the most challenging part of this experience for you?
The most challenging part of this experience is definitely the unknown. There is so much about this situation that is changing by the day. From projections for how long social distancing will be necessary to implications for the school year to the ability to get groceries—so much is unknown and stressful. I find myself trying not to read the news too much because it usually makes me sad or angry. It is impossible to make any plans for the next few months, because we don’t know when anything will be close to back to normal.  

Is there anything—even a tiny thing—you enjoy or like about sheltering in place?
I have enjoyed spending more time with my family and slowing down life a little bit.  

What do you think society as a whole will learn from this experience?
I hope that we come out of this with a new appreciation for how society can come together for a common good. It is great that so many people worked together to try and flatten the curve and the collective effort made a difference. I also think that we’ll come out of this with an even greater appreciation for the time we spend with our friends and families.

How are you coping with stress/taking care of yourself?
I am trying to do some activities that I don’t usually do. I spend a little more time reading for pleasure, I rediscovered puzzles, and I play a lot of card games. I have a weekly Zoom spades game with three close friends, which is a highlight of the week.  

When future generations ask, what will you tell them about this time in your life?
It was uncomfortable. I hope we don’t have to go through anything like this again, but we came out stronger in the end.

What would you like your friends and neighbors in Silver Spring/Montgomery County to know?
One day, this will end and we’ll be able to be closer than six feet from each other. I look forward to that day.

Jonna Huseman is a family photographer who serves Silver Spring and beyond. During the COVID-19 crisis, she is using her free time to document the lives of friends and neighbors living through the pandemic.

Author’s note: Over the coming days and weeks I am documenting the lives of dozens of members of the Silver Spring and Takoma Park community. My goal is to talk to teachers and students, religious leaders, small business owners, frontline workers, parents, elected leaders, and private citizens. I want to learn about our collective hopes and dreams, our biggest challenges, and our greatest triumphs. Mostly, I want to build connection and create community at a time when we need it the most. 

Mike Diegel