Photo by Michael Henry via Unsplash.
It is the eve of Week 2: remote learning with my coteacher and 26 fourth graders. Week 1 of 2020 was more difficult than Week 1 of my first year teaching, 22 years ago, and believe me, that week was rough. There are so many reasons for this that I won't go into. If you are an educator, you don't need me to.
I am writing this for you, my educator friends who have not yet begun this year. This summer, many of us dealt with our own trauma, sickness, death of loved ones and acquaintances. We tried to imagine what to expect as our districts and schools were deciding how to do school. So many of us learned new tools, curated new resources, all to be prepared for what we had not yet done. It is what we do. We prepare. I get it.
And this is why I am compelled to tell you this now, after completing my first week. You know how they say that you can't really prepare for the SAT? Yes, I know there are prep classes, and this helps with format of questions, and general knowledge. BUT. Those prep classes are based on a bank of knowledge gleaned from those who have taken the test many times. Pandemic teaching Part II is a complete unknown. The test items are not predictable like the SAT. There is no format. At some point, you will have to draw upon all the knowledge you have obtained from many areas of your life. Some days were unending triage.
I have friends who are struggling with making the correct moral decision. Do they choose to teach remotely and care for their health? Or should they choose to teach in the building and tend to their students' needs? Should they keep their own children at home for their learning, knowing that other parents are not able to make this choice? Is it cheating to actually put yourself first if you are an educator? Is that in the handbook? Doesn't it conflict with the section called "Sacrifice Yourself At All Costs"?
Ready? Here is what I know.
You did not conspire to create these conditions. None of us did. While I know that you are busy looking for the right answer to your moral dilemmas, and the right platform and right tools, none exist. And that is not your fault. The first week may very well feel like an ER for which you were not trained. Yes, I know. It sucks.
You absolutely cannot hold yourself responsible for this. Please remember to forgive yourself continually. You will address each issue as it comes. That is your best. It will look different because your best is now limited by conditions you can not control.
I also know that while it is difficult, you will also get through it, because that is what we do. You will find the words you did not know you had, the expertise to troubleshoot unique situations, and the grace to extend to those who need it most. And you know what? You will receive that grace in spades. IN SPADES. Those around you will always remember what you did for them, all the effort you put into planning. Your families will see you. And it will be enough.
Remember this, please.
Photo by Carolyn V via Unsplash.
I have awesome friends.
It seems no matter how much I receive
In hugs from family
It doesn't last long enough
So much death
No one wants to discuss
They deny it will come to us
We are "strong" and pretend
But that is violence
The violence of silence
That we perform
On each other
And now the violence continues
This time in my own home
I feel it
Others feel it
It is worse than in March
There was so much time to prepare
The strongholds are much tighter now
We try to comfort each other
And phone calls
How can you give what you don't have?
Photo by Dave Adamson via Unsplash
Five months. Five glorious incredible months with my 21-year-old son home. This gregarious social butterfly was summoned home at the end of his Miami Spring Break. Hunkered down to resume virtual school work. With few distractions, he earned the best grades of his college career so far.
I couldn't have been happier. I got to see my son months earlier than I had thought, and without an internship that would take him out of the state. We spent a summer together, as he did not socialize nearly as much as normal. No job (UberEats was not worth the risk), but lots of video games, and of course faithful workouts.
We talked about so many things - social issues, education, politics, finance, religion, sex. He schooled me on the new spirits and we experimented with mixed libations. Mother and son, but also friends with deep history. We talked of risking your life for those you love, death, joy, advocating for yourself and others. And, I made sure he knew that his life has worth far more than a football player, that he had choices. He can walk away from anything. No judgment, no questions asked. And still, he chose to return to school.
He is an adult. I cannot dictate his moves. He must make his own decisions. As his mother, all I can do is love him enough to give him the best knowledge and wisdom I have. And I did. It is his life.
I can rest easy knowing that I left it all on the field.
Photo by Hannah Wei via Upslash.
The phone rings. It is late. The voice on the other end immediately apologizes for the hour, but there is something else. I hear the pain. Then silence. Then, the news that my friend has lost her mother. That like mine, succumbed to a long bout in the hospital. With her sister now also gone, I was the first call. She knew I would understand.
I did the only thing I knew to do. I cried, too. I helped with logistics, took care of whatever details she would entrust to me. And I did it happily. And wished I could do more. I loved her in ways that I did not know I could - because that is what you do when your friend loses their mother. The feeling of aloneness is vast and easy to get lost in. She would not be lost on my watch.
That was years ago, and I figured that this is simply what adulthood is now like. But then, my 21-year-old son got that call last week. In a pandemic. A college friend had lost his cousin unexpectedly. Someone who was as close to him as a brother. Sam described to me the wails of pain that came from his friend. He still remembers.
Tomorrow, Sam heads back to his college campus. In a pandemic. Although it is not my choice, what my daughter has taught me (from refusing to move from NYC in a pandemic) is that his childhood home is not his real home anymore. He is an adult, who was on loan to me for a time. He has done everything he needs to do to be healthy, and he needs to finish this last chapter of his life - finishing his senior year of college and two degrees. Right now, his home is in another state. After graduation it will likely be a different state. This is parenting. This is life.
I respect his need to care for his friend. I get it. He is me, just a better version. The way he loves is forever. A loyalty that seems more mature than his years. His bond to his friend was already deep, and now it is deepening. Soon it will be in person, despite my misgivings. After all, I think about him maintaining his health constantly.
But I also am reminded of every testimony I have. Every one that he has. We have been blessed and delivered from some dire circumstances. I will trust Him now, also.
Reflecting is good for the soul. Doing so in public is terrifying and exhilarating.