Tuesday, July 21, 2020

My sad, empty classroom after I cleaned it up during my 3 hour window. We were not allowed in our rooms from March 16ish-end of May.

I don’t know if you are ready to talk about this, but I wanted to, to the very least, share my feelings at this juncture for posterity – as a sort of way to journal and remember where I am at this point. I understand if you want to skip today’s post, but I would also love some healthy dialogue in the comments.

I have conflicting feelings, you all. I feel a bit differently as a parent than I do as a school employee. I am relieved that my boys are finished with their k-12 education, because this is a very hard position to be in. I hear some of my social media friends and blog friends saying they are having to make a really tough choice right now – even though things are constantly changing – about whether their children should go to “school” or do school virtually. I use quotes because we all know this will be nowhere near normal. I read one of my long time bloggers who is now only on Instagram say that she decided to homeschool for this year. If it’s something you have always wanted to try, then I say this is a great time to try it.

But, I want to make a point – the fact that you can choose means that you are privileged to do so. Some people will not be able to choose – for many different reasons. And, I can’t even imagine the guilt if you feel like you made the “wrong” decision. This is a horrible position to be in.

Our beloved daycare/preschool we used from age 4 months – kindergarten has been open for quite some time and is doing well with the restrictions. Maybe the smaller groups are even better and should be our new normal. But, this means that some of their employees were let go or sent to other centers. There will always be some bad with the good. I heard on the news that we should let our daycare centers be our guides with how to do school. I’m not sure I totally agree with that. It’s a whole different ball game. I do think we should look to other countries and see how they got back to school or how they will get back to school.

If you are currently facing this decision, I feel for you. I think you need to look at your family’s situation – do you have anyone immuno-compromised? Is your child in need of the school even if it isn’t the same? How did your child do from March-May? What is your work situation and your husband’s work situation? Remember that schools, teachers, students, and parents were forced to quickly change everything up last March and that whatever happens virtually this year is sure to be much better and smoother for all involved. At least, I hope that it the case.

If you decide to or have to go virtually is it appropriate in your situation to open up your circle a bit more? I think it is. You may have a grandparent or aunt or neighbor or school small groups that you want to form. If you are able to have a set of guidelines and all are being careful and you are all on the same page, this may work for you. Some people might say that this is no different than going to school so why aren’t we in school, but I disagree. This is a much more controlled environment of your choosing. I have been amazed by the creativity that has come out of this experience – and maybe this is another opportunity to think outside the box and question if we should keep doing things the way we have always done them. Do what is right for you and your family is what I think.

I cannot stress this enough – whatever your school and your family decides – your attitude is super important for you and for the kids. Take a deep breath and know that the school will help you. Communicate. Go to any and all Zoom meetings. Write down questions. Form a support group with a few other parents. This is not permanent. This is temporary. Even though it feels so hard when you are in the thick of it, it will not last forever. Remember back to March-May. Now we have some perspective on that time period but it was so hard and scary when we were in it!

My Situation:

My Kids: (I have identical twin boys who are starting college!)

As of right now, my boys have dorm assignments and roommates. They are in two different dorms at a small, private liberal arts college only about 20 minutes from home. I am super worried that this will change if our numbers keep rising. We do have a state wide mask mandate but some people are fighting it and some of our elected officials are even suing our governor for this mandate. I don’t go to many places, but I am happy to report that all of the places require masks to enter and everyone seems to be respectful of this.

So for move in day, my kids will sign up for a 2 hour slot to keep numbers down. Then, there are activities for freshmen planned for 3 days before classes start. There is even a family activity one night? We have a vague schedule for now with more details coming later – again I am wondering if this is a bit on hold because of our current climate. Maybe they are waiting to send out final details. I am so worried that this will not happen. And, they will do health screenings, temperature checks, and wear masks.

The college has said that they will have smaller groups for classes – not sure what that means exactly. They already have a 11-1 student-faculty ratio so my husband and I are wondering if life will be more “normal” at a small college, rather than if they had chosen large universities. Both boys have a schedule already! It seems so light compared to what they did in high school with 7 classes each and activities after school. I remember thinking that about my own freshman schedule. I attended a different small, private liberal arts college. I couldn’t believe how much time was on my hands after a very busy senior year. They have plans in place to reduce numbers and space out in communal areas.

The college plans to break for the first semester at Thanksgiving with no long weekends or fall break or anything like that – and do the last two weeks online. They do plan to bring students back in January but I know some colleges plan to wait until February. Who knows where we will be by then? I pray for all of us that we will see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So, that’s where we are with my precious children. I cannot tell you how much better I feel that they will be close, they will be at the same school, and that the college has bent over backwards to help make us feel connected – especially in this current situation. The college has hosted an online orientation for both students and parents, advising meetings for the kids, major mixers for the kids (you meet virtually with other kids in your major), a parent virtual happy hour, sent the freshmen a pair of socks with their logo and a note saying “you’re one step closer”, sent a bandana with the school logo, and lots and lots of emails with information. I am super impressed with the effort they have gone to – not sure if this is what they always do or not!

I am starting to really get sad about them moving out, but there is always a silver lining. With everything we have gone through since March, I will be joyous if this gets to happen because I am so scared that it won’t.

My job: (high school Spanish teacher)

This photo is of students from Mexico teaching my students how to do some traditional dances last year. This kind of stuff can’t happen right now obviously, and it simply breaks my heart. This is the stuff that the kids remember and what spices up the classroom!

I teach in the largest school district in Kentucky. We serve aorund 100,000 kids. Our superintendent has recommended that we start the school year virtually for at least the first 6 weeks of school – until the end of September. But, where will we be in September with flu season starting? This round of virtual school will have a better structure that includes more training for teachers. We will train for two weeks before starting. Last March, we had little to no time to get things going and we are kind of a late adapter to technology with us being such a big district. The school board will be voting on this tonight so I will let you know.

For the 2020-21 school year, this is not what I wanted, but I could not wrap my head around how we would go back with my school of 2000 students and the 150 students I personally serve a day and the other 50 ish people (staff) I encounter on a daily basis. I miss my classroom and my students terribly and this is such a big part of who I am. I have now been a teacher longer than I haven’t been a teacher! I started at age 22 and this will be my 27th year. Once I heard this proposal and the fact that it will probably pass, my stress levels went down several notches, though. I was already running through all of the possible scenarios and to be frank, I was scared to death. This virus is liking playing Russian Roulette. Yes, for most it is mild, but for some it is anything but mild. Maybe we will look back and say we were too cautious, but I would way rather say that than we weren’t careful enough.

So, technology is not my strongest ability, but I did pretty well using Google Classroom and various platforms virtually. I have a ton to learn but I am up for the challenge – I hope!

I hope to have a good attitude and not worry about the things that I can’t change – easier said than done! I am very much a type A, control freak kind of person in both my professional and personal life. I have worked on this and my husband has helped me a lot. I have also mellowed considerably as I have gotten older.

Let me know your thoughts!

Thanks for reading,

Amy

16 thoughts on “Let’s Talk about School…

  1. I will start school in the middle of August, no difference for me since our elementary schools never shut down. My youngest daughter is starting high school on August 18, and so far we haven’t heard anything else than a normal school start (high schools were closed from March 18).
    Back in March it felt very surreal to go to school every day, because our city was almost empty! Only school kids, parents, teachers and health professionals were out on the streets…
    I’m not sure closing schools is the right way. I think it’s more important to keep on with the social distancing and washing your hands! After all, this is a virus that enters your body through the mouth or nose when a sick person caughs or sneezes, it’s not more complicated than that… Just keep a distance from people!
    And it’s not true that Swedes are waiting for herd immunity – we’re waiting for a vaccine!

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    1. It’s so interesting to hear about other countries and you guys were ahead of us in this whole thing. I remember you telling me about this in March and April. I think people will be fearful of a new vaccine. We still have people here that don’t trust the flu shot.

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  2. Amy! I’m so impressed with your sweet, positive attitude!!! You’re AWESOME!!! I didn’t know you taught in the largest school district in Kentucky! WOW! I, too, have a son going off to college at a private liberal arts school! Plans are for him to leave August 25 and similar to your sons plans. I’m so excited for him to start college and know it will be different, but he is SO excited! Our daughter is a senior at the SAME college and she’ll graduate in December. So…….her graduation may be virtual. 😦
    The Minnesota Governor has a big press conference next Monday, July 27 to declare the plan for public schools. We are anxiously awaiting……as I teach kindergarten and my husband teaches high school science! Our youngest son is a 10 grader. He REALLY wants to go back to school and be with his friends.
    Again, thank you for your fun blog posts!!
    Have a happy Tuesday, Amy!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! But, don’t give me too much credit as I’m not in the thick of it yet! But, you and your husband get it! It’s such a tough decision. How nice to have two kids at same place for a bit. I feel for your sophomore. Maybe they will bring December grads back in May to have a real graduation. I keep praying the virus dies out because I think people will be scared of a new vaccine. Thanks for commenting!!!

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  3. I would 100% go back into the classroom right now if I could. 100%. I would send Wells to daycare or preschool. Staying home forever doesn’t make this go away. And you’re right: the flu is so much worse for children.

    That’s my blunt opinion 🙂

    But I very much agree that by keeping schools closed, we’re hitting our most vulnerable kids and the amount of regression will probably be a whole year’s worth, instead of just the usual over the summer lapse.
    AND I hold the somewhat unpopular opinion that if you are a teacher and you refuse to go back, you’re out. You don’t get to hold onto tax dollars as your salary and refuse to do your job (i.e. that horrible Op Ed in the NYT the other day).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I respect your opinion but you are younger and maybe that is a different perspective. I could stand to lose a full retirement if something happens to me as this could be my last year. I have people depending on my salary.
      And, I didn’t say the flu is worse – I don’t know that and I don’t think we know the implications of this virus. I only said that we have flu season coming.

      There is no easy answer.

      Thanks for commenting!

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  4. I have enjoyed reading and hearing teachers thoughts. I just wish everyone could go back….my heart hurts for the class of 2021. I never believed the seniors that told me to not wish high school away. Not until it was actually gone. But I know that JCPS will make remote learning better for everyone this year, especially you! You gave us different lessons (and my absolute favorite música de miércoles) so that we were not bored while learning!! Muchas gracias, Señora!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so nice to see you here Tori! I would love to pick your brain about ideas as we try another round of NTI!
      I so wish that, too. If I think about it too long I cry and I shed so many tears from March-May! You are going to be the most amazing teacher and I feel so good that you will be the next generation of educators!
      Te quiero!

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  5. First and foremost, we absolutely need to look to other countries for guidance. Because God knows our own fearless leader hasn’t been worth a crap with this entire situation. (Or any other for that matter, but I won’t go too far down that rabbit hole.)

    On a personal level, I desperately want my kids back in school, whatever that would look like. My oldest will be a senior. so obviously I hope he gets to have some sort of decent year. But as far as learning goes, he’s pretty self-motivated and will be ok with whatever happens. Now the younger one, on the other hand…he HAS to have the structure of the classroom. Virtual lessons were nothing short of a nightmare for us. If it comes down to having to do school virtually, I hope it’s TRUE virtual school…via Zoom or whatever…a teacher live on camera actually teaching and giving guidance and direction.

    I don’t know what the answer is. No one does.

    My heart hurts for the single parents that don’t have a choice. I can’t imagine the turmoil they feel these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree with everything you said here! I am hoping that I will actually get to go live in my classroom and actually teach because it is the year 2020! That will help for a transition back that I pray happens sooner rather than later!

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  6. Hi, Amy,
    I’ve commented before and as a former k-12 teacher and current college instructor and district school improvement coach, of course I wish we could all go back like before. Unfortunately, I believe mistakes made in dealing with the virus at the beginning have led us to the place we are in now. I want the safety of the students to be a top priority, but not to the point where we are ignoring the safety of the teachers and staff. My state’s teaching population is aging, and I know for my schools, the support staff (aides, cooks, bus drivers, subs) is made up of a lot of retired folks-many teachers. As far as I know, only one school district in our state is requiring masks, assuming they can go back face-to-face in the fall. Others will require in certain situations, and others say masks are optional. Masks have become such a political statement, I worry about those kids whose parents want them to wear masks and end up either being bullied or peer-pressured into taking it off. I know many schools were not ready to jump into virtual learning last March, but we have had some great districts spend a lot of time and CARES ACT funding to improve connectivity, purchase needed materials/devices, and train teachers and allow them time to prepare lessons. We really need a hybrid approach because we are going to have students and staff who are constantly flowing in and out because if they have been exposed, we need them to self-quarantine for two weeks but still participate in teaching and learning. Another concern are those who are asymptomatic. How many of us teachers have gone in to work when we were sick because frankly it’s easier sometimes than preparing for a sub? How many of us as parents have had our kids tell us they don’t feel well and we tell them to suck it up and go to school? Bottom line I know there are kids who desperately need to be in the school buildings, but not sure what the best answer for all will be.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your blog is always a breath of fresh air to read Amy! I ready it every day but have only commented once. I feel connected to you as a teacher myself. My husband teaches high school English and I teach at risk preK in an elementary school setting. We have 4 kiddos sophomore down to 2 years old. One in high school, one in middle, and one in elementary. I do not have help with my elementary kiddo, so we have to send him since we are both teaching too. My middle boy is not the most studious student, so it is best for him to go too. And my high schooler runs cross country, season hasn’t been canceled yet, this defines him, so he wants to go. With all that being said, I wish I could keep my family in the little bubble we’ve been in since March 16. I miss my classroom, my school, being WITH students TERRIBLY. But all the unknowns and expectations about going back have my anxiety at an all time high. I’m nervous about all the exposure the 6 of us will be bringing home, with all 6 of us being in different settings during the day (every one of us is at a different school, with my 2 year old at an at home daycare.). I’m nervous about my childcare provider not being reliable because of fear. I’m nervous about it all. There is no right answer. Cases keep rising in my area. But like you said, our attitude is number one. So I’m trying to be positive no matter what happens! Thanks again for your blog. You are so real and I enjoy you sharing your thoughts with us!

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    1. Thank you so much J! That is so nice – I feel connected to all of my blog readers and it is weird and wonderful! You and hub really get it. You guys have so many points of exposure! Where are you located? Why couldn’t we come together as a country and all do the same thing for 2 months? That might have eradicated this whole thing! Why didn’t we wear masks from day one? It’s all so painful! It helps to talk about it and to share ideas. This blog has truly given me a purpose during this time so I appreciate your kind words more than you know. I will be praying for your family!

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  8. This is the first time in 8+ years that one of my boys WON’T be homeschooling and to be thrown into a “traditional” school setting in the midst of a pandemic is certainly not what we had pictured. LOL. But he has his heart set on attending a local high school that has a culinary arts program and he is just way to excited to let my fears get in the way. I have been talking to a few different people at the school in the past week and while they are scheduled to start school in person at the end of August I have been cautioned that this will probably change. They are talking about some in person learning and some distance learning but mostly we’re prepared to just go with the flow and as I’ll be home with my other two I am rather lucky that I won’t have to scramble around if they do decide to switch to all distance learning for a bit.

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    1. That will be so different for you! We need your tips on homeschooling, by the way! I think the culinary program sounds so cool and I think you should go ahead with it as there is a chance it will be online or hybrid. I can’t wait to see what he learns and I hope you will post his creations. Have a great day!

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