The Year without Deadlines

Laura Mourino
5 min readDec 2, 2020


Re-thinking education during the pandemic

When I was a child, I never understood what “The year without a Santa Claus” meant. I just couldn’t process it.

What do you mean no Santa Claus. You mean the tooth fairy is coming? Is he sick? Did the reindeer get hurt? It just didn’t make any sense to me.

The processing did not get any better as I aged — but the lens did shift a lot.

Wait, what!!!

No Santa. Who will tell the kids. How will the economy survive. What about all the seasonal workers? What will we do instead?

I can’t.

I just can’t .

That’s what 2020 has been like.

But I find myself processing what I couldn’t before and my lens has shifted so much — by the second.

I am gifting myself the art of FLEXIBILITY.

That’s is my self-care mantra for 2020 — What will be will be, or as they say in Latin America, deja que el agua corra

Being that I am an educator, this gift is paramount for my well-being, but more so for my family’s balance and my student’s survival.

So after talking to $ I am altering my pedagogy significantly as of this very moment. (YES, I will refer to this student as $ because I want them to know they are my inspiration for this article and since I can not use their legal name they will immediately know it’s them once they see the $)

If it is possible for some people to fathom a “The year without a Santa Claus”, then why can’t we, after all the challenges 2020 has presented — including mysterious art forms appearing and just as quick disappearing through inaccessible roads — ponder The Year without Deadlines?

That’s right — The Year without Deadlines — and yes I am serious.

Think about it.

As an educator, I am fried, June tired — a first year educator pulling all my rabbits of my hat and constantly feeling defeated.

Don’t get me wrong — my students are not responsible for these feelings; they are amazing and keep me going.

It’s the not being next to my students — the lack of physical engagement, the inability to reassure my students in person. I don’t even know the faces of who I am teaching. This virtual world is cool and sexy but exhausting and dynamic, and very much detached (Thanks student K for the adjective).

After 8 hours of teaching, I look like I have pink eye because my eyes are shot!!! I have yet to hear a single teacher say , “I’m totally loving this online instruction” despite being surrounded by some pretty experienced, progressive, sensitive and well-versed educators.

Not a single educator wakes up whistling like Snow White making coffee and looking forward to another day of staring into dark laptops and speaking out loud into space.

This is beyond exhausting — It is Depressing.

At 3:20 pm I am DONE.

DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE in a singing voice.

I literally count down how many classes I have left to teach. I try to walk around because I don’t walk blood clots — yes I am more on the hmmmm “experienced” side.

I try to wonder what my students feel like and because I know we are both going through this together, I am trying to be as flexible as possible this year — more than ever before. I consider their technological gaps, their socio-emotional status, their lack of social life, and lastly, if math was ridiculous in person, it’s INSANE online!!!!

So that’s where $ comes in. Instead of me wondering what my students are going through, I had a private chat with $ — an incredibly balanced, sweet, and hard-working student.

I asked them what their challenge was and they said, “Laura, after 3:20 I still have to work. I have several assignments I have to complete for all my classes”. This student does not finish at 3:20. This student might finish around 6 or 7 — and that’s only because this student works well independently. So what time are students who need guidance and/or support logging off?

Here I am complaining about my eyes and possible blood clots — which really won’t happen because despite my size I am quite athletic.

These are young people deprived of a social life — of a social environment — getting instruction via computers for the past 9 months.

They are no longer using computers for social media or streaming but literally writing essays, or doing math worksheets, or reading, collecting data for science experiments, and so on.

Our students went from after school chess clubs and Model UN, basketball and handball, dancing, theater clubs, walks in the local mall, GSX, skateboarding, playing video games to NOTHING.


OVERNIGHT it was taken from them. — Maybe not the video games but everything else that involved social interaction was removed from their routines.


I couldn’t do it.

So what can I contribute to their sanity — and probably my own ?

The Year without Deadlines.

I got it all wrong these first 3 months, but it’s never too late to change.

Thanks to my discussion with $, from this point forward I offer my students the flexibility of submitting work when they can — no more deadlines!



Ridiculous…..nah, more like realist.

Think about it, do you prefer to get work from a student that is tired, stressed, on the edge and unfocused. Or would you rather get something from a student that is thinking clearly and deeply.

I challenge any educator who can claim they are teaching online even 60% of what they used to teach in person. We are lucky if we are able to flush out 30% of the content, and that’s GLOBALLY!

Let’s face it, we will have to re-imagine schools, instruction and education to eventually narrow the content gaps for these students.

So why not start by giving our students some strength, some muscle to battle on and some hope that their needs can be met….

Let’s make this academic year The Year without Deadlines.

Thank you $ for making me realize the errors of my way.

See a 52 year old can learn from a 16 year.

Fathom that!



Laura Mourino

Education Activist. Math Adjunct Professor — Baruch and Hunter College (CUNY) , The New School and NYC public school Math Educator (Harvest Collegiate HS)