What It’s Like Now: Christin LaMourie, SM Northwest social studies teacher and Youth and Government sponsor

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re shifting our Shawnee Mission Faces to focus on folks in roles that have been profoundly effected by the virus and response: What life is like now with social distancing, a stay-at-home mandate and the need for essential workers.

It’s been a month and a day since Shawnee Mission students and teachers were on spring break and found out they wouldn’t be returning to school for two weeks. That decision soon became the rest of the school year. Christin LaMourie, who teaches American government and advanced prep government and politics, is sad about the sudden separation from her students, but hopeful to reunite with them next year (except for her seniors, to whom she wishes the best). The SM Northwest teacher has taught for 15 years; she also coordinates Link Crew, a student mentorship program for SM Northwest freshmen, and sponsors the school’s Youth and Government program, which includes a student trip to Topeka. The Lenexa native graduated from SM West, earned her bachelor’s degree at K-State and earned her master’s degree in teaching at MidAmerica Nazarene. When she’s not teaching, LaMourie enjoys binge watching Netflix and reading books. She lives in Shawnee with her husband, Joe LaMourie, and their children, Ella and Liam, and the family dog, Indy.

We always talk about current events in class, and so we’ve been talking about the COVID-19 stuff in other countries, and the kids were speculating whether or not we would end up shutting down and whether they would miss prom and graduation.

I figured we’d shut down eventually, but I really thought we’d be back by prom, or at least by graduation. The day before we left for spring break, they kind of not panicked, but panickingly sent all the kids around to various teachers to get textbooks and make sure you take your computer home, and all this stuff. It just went from zero to 60.

And the last day before spring break is a half day, so most of the seniors don’t come in. I had classes of five kids.

I’ve talked to colleagues, and there’s tears sometimes. It sounds so silly in the grand scheme of things. To think there are people dying and people losing their loved ones, it seems silly to say that we’re grieving the loss of a graduation, or we’re grieving the loss of prom, or an assembly.

But at the same time, these are milestones for these kids, things that they were looking forward to, that they’re never going to get back. It’s just sad.

I think with a lot of seniors that are happy with their grade, they just have decided for whatever reason — and you know, it could be personal, some kids might just be over it, some people might have to work or are dealing with problems at home — I’d say the largest percentage of my students just have not tuned into online lessons.

I teach government, and I’m like, these are your rights, and I want you to go out in the world knowing all this stuff, and I didn’t get a chance to walk you through that, and I’m sad. When you log in and 10 out of 90 students have done the assignment, or 30 out of 60 students have responded to the survey, just things like that.

There’s some kids that school was never really their thing, or they weren’t super interested, or maybe school stressed them out, and having this opportunity to take an extended break, they’re going to take that opportunity. Some people need it for their mental health, and some people just want to be done. And I get that, too.

And even though we interact with the kids online — we’ve had Zoom meetings, we’ve emailed and sent text messages — it’s not the same.

It’s fun to see them on Zoom, though. It’s funny, they’re not really looking for a lesson with a Zoom meeting. They want to get on and talk to each other, laugh about the fact that one student’s cooking a chicken sandwich and eating it on Zoom while everyone’s watching.

It’s just nice to see their faces, to be able to interact and to joke about the kid who gets doughnuts from the cafeteria every morning — he’s bemoaning the fact that he doesn’t get his doughnuts on a regular basis.

I had some girls who had a Zoom meeting and wore their prom dresses on the day of prom. There’s fun things like that.

It’s just so nice to see them. It’s almost like everything has changed, but nothing has changed.

The hardest part I think is I didn’t get to say goodbye. We didn’t get to work together anymore. That’s kind of where I’m at today.

I looked up all my students’ birthdays, and I’ve been putting together little birthday bags with a voter registration card in it, because all of my students are turning 18. I’ve been taking it around and putting it on their doorsteps and ringing the doorbell and running away.

I did one this morning and they answered the door before I ran away and we did a little cheer, you’re 18 yay!

I’m going to show up and be there for whoever’s there and whoever needs me, even if it’s not academic that they need me for. I’m going to be there and I’m going to show up and do the same lesson, whether it’s two kids or 200 kids. But it’s just heartbreaking that they’re not there.

(To her students:) We’re still here. We’re here no matter what. I’m here, even if you just want to talk. And if you’re interested, I’m here to help you learn about those things that you’re going to come in contact with in your life outside of school. And one day, we’ll get back to normal.