Saturday, August 1, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Living in Limbo

Y'all.... it's August!  How is it August already????  Sometimes I hate the weirdness of time.  It seems like forever, yet it seems like no time has passed at all.  I've been at home since March 13, only venturing out for curbside grocery pickup and a few other things.  Thankfully I'm a major introvert / hermit, so this hasn't been as horrible for me as it has for my more extroverted friends.

When we left school on March 13, it was supposed to be for our normal one week spring break.  COVID-19 was barely present in my state at that point, with only 4 reported cases.  A few days into spring break, the state department of education extended our break by 2 weeks and our local city government put in a "safer at home" order.  By the end of March, our extended spring break was coming to an end and we were told that all classes were moving online for the remainder of the semster as the country came to a standstill overall.

My colleagues and I worked tirelessly trying to figure out how to teach online within the space of a few days.  Thankfully, edtech companies were doing tons of webinars, providing free access, and the online teacher communities ramped up with amazing support being offered everywhere you turned.  In our state, grades and attendance were frozen as of March 13 and the grading policy was "do no harm", meaning that student grades could not be lower than they were on March 13.  Instead of new material, we worked on application and enrichment of previoiusly taught content, with the exception of our AP classes, which still had the AP exams scheduled in May.  Overall, I was really pleased with my distance learning lessons, leaning heavily on the ever-amazing Desmos Activity Builder to help me create engaging lessons and provide daily feedback to my students.  

Fast forward a few months and here we are again, still in limbo.  Early on, our city governments, followed by our state government, issued "safer at home" policies to flatten the curve.  And it worked!  Until it didn't... When restrictions were lifted, people started going about their daily business like there was no concern in the world.  Holiday get togethers, wedding celebrations, backyard cook-outs, large gatherings, graduations.... it all happened with minimal mask wearing, minimial social distancing, and a lot of community spread. :(  

Now we are faced with a dilemma.  Schools are starting soon.  Hospitals are filling up.  People are arguing constantly about mask mandates and other mitigation measures.  To be perfectly honest, I've spent a good part of my summer debating about whether to return to the job I love.  I am fairly healthy, but the people I care the most about in this world are in at-risk categories.  I will be exposed to hundreds of teenagers a day, so I will not feel safe seeing my sister who is battling breast cancer, my elderly parents or my elderly neighbor that I check in on.  Each day, I will need to come home and do a load of laundry to try to protect my spouse, who has an immune deficiency.  

So I live in limbo.  I'm supposed to report in less than 2 weeks.  My district currently says we are returning in person with masks and enhanced cleaning protocols, but that is subject to change on any given day.  I'm grieving the classroom I've built over the years - filled with laughter and groupwork and activities because I need to spread out desks as much as I can, try to reduce viral load, and have no shared supplies.  In a typical year, I've already sent off papers to the copy shop, starting purchasing school supplies, and decorating my room.  This year, I'm struggling to find the motivation to plan because I don't even know what to plan for.  Our state education department recommendations have my county right at the edge of suggested distance learning.  Surrounding districts all have different plans - some are going full distance learning, some are doing a hybrid A/B schedule, some are adament they are going back in-person.  I watch the trends for my state and my county, and neither show signs of slowing down.

And so I continue to watch... and wait... and pray... and live in limbo.

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