Almost ready

I’m exhausted. I haven’t blogged for the last two weeks. I have plenty to say but no time to say it. I’ve put my entire classroom library into boxes and put all of the boxes onto shelves in the book room. I’ve cleaned classrooms and shelved more books than I could keep track of. I’ve thrown out papers and binder and, yes, books. Old books. Damaged books. Doesn’t matter because, as it turns out, we’re not allowed to hand out *any* books. For a week? two? the semester? No one knows. We are now teaching bookless.

I’ve been making up words.

With two colleagues, I’ve created a course shell, a course outline, and a Google Drive full of mentor texts to help English teachers make sense of how to teach for 225 minutes a day to groups that are in school every other day of every other week for a “quadmester.” I’ve copied and pasted and searched and linked and categorized until my eyes nearly crossed.

I’ve tried to connect to the internet, changed my password, moved to a new room, sent in call tickets to support staff. I’ve done the required PD in the early morning and late at night, sitting at the kitchen counter, grateful that my internet works.

I’ve argued about class novels and talked about racism. I’ve asked questions, said no, said yes, and said, “I have no idea” over and over. I’ve suggested changes. I’ve encouraged people to be kind to themselves. I’ve encouraged people to lean in to discomfort. I’ve publicly said, “We’ve got this” and privately fretted that we don’t have it at all. Then I’ve changed my mind. And changed it again.

I’ve limited my children to two hours of internet a day except when they took an online class that lasted 1.5 hours per day and taught them how to program, aka use the internet more than two hours per day. I’ve told them to play outside and said, “it’s just rain; you won’t melt” even as I opened the door and greeted them with towels. I’ve prepared them for classes that may or may not end up outdoors or indoors or on line for who knows how many hours per day.

I’ve baked banana muffins.

I’ve shamelessly taken advantage of my spouse who took two weeks off so that I could prepare for a school year unlike any other. He has magically produced three meals a day, done the laundry and managed to landscape our backyard. He has not complained though he has taken refuge in board games.

I have given up checking the news, drinking alcohol and eating ice cream, then changed my mind within a day or an hour or a minute when yet another new announcement arrived and all of the rules changed again. I’ve avoided social media and the news; I’ve allowed social media and the news to swallow me whole.

I’ve walked every day. I’ve laughed and cried and talked and raged and read and written. I’ve picked up the phone and sobbed; I’ve ignored calls from those I love because I couldn’t bear to utter even one more word about school. I’ve recorded a podcast. I’ve recorded a podcast that didn’t record. I’ve said things I wish were not recorded.

I’m exhausted, but I’m ready. Half of the grade 9s came today; the other half come tomorrow. By Thursday, classes will start. The IEP system isn’t working; there are no paper towels in the girls’ restroom; the class lists are still changing; no one knows when teachers get bathroom breaks; we still cannot hand out books.

And despite it all, what I want more than anything is to see the students. What I want most is to look at them and say, “Welcome! I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been waiting for you!”

2020-2021 is going to be a year like no other. I’m exhausted and incredibly excited for the changes that it will bring.

11 thoughts on “Almost ready

  1. That you’ve written a post filled w/ contradictions and miracles—working internet, your gracious and long suffering husband—is so 2020. Yet despite the many new challenges and changes, some things never change: the restroom has no paper towels, and teachers can’t get a bathroom break. Despite it all, you and so many teachers await students w/ wide open arms (virtual and a gesture) and w/ love. Have a wonderful year, and write it all down. It’s a book you’ll live and write w/ your colleagues and students.

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  2. What a whirlwind of a post, Amanda! You’ve captured the ups and downs of the past weeks so well here. Your dedication and determination shine through as does this sometimes-seemingly-impossible-ever-volatile situation we all face. To me, the most horrifying element you face is not being able to put books in kids hands. I’m sure you have electronic alternatives, but that just makes me so sad. It feels like a small death. On an up-note though, I truly believe you will make this work and that your students are fortunate to have you as their teacher. Look for the happy surprises and enjoy your students!

    PS My post was titled “Not Quite Ready.” lol

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  3. A year like no other is right. I’m exhausted reading this post, but your kids will benefit from all of the work you have put in to this year. I don’t know how to teach without books. It’s all hard. This line resonates with me – I have plenty to say but no time to say it.
    Best of luck to you!

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  4. You have summed up the current lives of all of the teachers I know beautifully. The energy of this piece echoes the switchbacks of policy and the required mental pivots happening minute by minute, and yet you end on the solid, unwavering note of why we do what we do. This post was a pleasure to read. Thank you. 🙂

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  5. You’ve summed it up perfectly! I have written a bunch of posts in my head but never seem to find 5 minutes to get them onto the screen. Part of my class starts today. I don’t know how I am supposed to get them on the bus at the end of the day. I don’t know where I send them to be picked up by parents. I suspect I still won’t know the answers to the questions by next Monday. But I am super excited to see the kids!

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  6. I love how the repetition of “I’ve” works as a list of actions, thoughts, and beliefs. This list is familiar and different but the emotions are felt by me too. Such a difficult and exciting time we share and it becomes more and more apparent that we will only survive it together.

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  7. What a heartfelt post about all the emotions you’ve felt/are feeling/will feel as you return to school. Love these words from your post: “And despite it all, what I want more than anything is to see the students.” Sending hugs and energy your way.

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  8. You gave me a chuckle when I read this line:
    “I have given up checking the news, drinking alcohol and eating ice cream, then changed my mind within a day or an hour or a minute when yet another new announcement arrived and all of the rules changed again.”
    Don’t give up the ice cream!

    May the school year ahead be a good one, albeit a strange one, for you. Stay healthy!

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  9. The intense time is so clearly felt in your words. How it is possible to teach without books boggles my mind. Wishing you all you need to stay healthy and strong and sane during the uncertain times. Flower photos and running certainly help.

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  10. If 2020 were a blog post, this would be it: extraordinary highs followed by heartbreaking lows, followed by an earthquake and an alien invasion!

    You’ve done such an amazing job of encapsulating how many of the emotions I’ve felt here. I do appreciate the realism of your blog. I’ve had it with the “toxic positivity”. This I can sink my teeth into, give myself permission to ” checking the news, drinking alcohol and eating ice cream, then changed my mind within a day or an hour or a minute”, feeling angry, then sad, and finally excited.

    Thank you for putting 2020 into words for us. 🙂

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  11. So, so loved your post and the ‘awfulness’ of teaching like this right now! You have captured all the highs and lows so well… I can’t even begin to think how shattering it will be to actually live it….
    Stuck here in Australia, we are locked into a state that has shut itself off from the rest of the country as well as the world, it’s mind boggling. But guess what, schools are back to normal (pretty much) and that’s awesome!!
    India on the other hand, hasn’t opened its schools for over 6 months in a country where working online doesn’t happen for 95% of students and it just seems to think that education will somehow be able to cope…. our school has been shut since mid-March and we are the only school where teachers are actually interacting with students in their homes and trying to keep relationships and learning going in the area.

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