A little extra understanding

The email caught me by surprise. Maybe if I’d woken up earlier, or if I hadn’t already had to help one of my kids with math – before breakfast! – or even if I’d felt more on top of things, maybe then I would have been more prepared, but I wasn’t. Maybe if I wasn’t cooking breakfast and checking work email, navigating my children’s schooling, my partner’s morning meeting for work, and my own job – maybe if I’d been in the school building, I would have remembered to check the timestamp before reading, remembered my personal rule of thumb that middle-of-the-night messages tend to be more emotional and less filtered and are therefore to be taken with a grain of salt. But I was at home, managing all the crazy, and the email was unexpected.

I know the student who wrote, know that the parents are often more worried than the student, know that the student is doing fine – even well! – during this time of remote learning. I can imagine the student’s frustration at being stuck at home with parents and the parents’ frustration at being stuck at home with children. I could hear all of this in the words on the screen. I could guess that the parents, not the student, had laid out the phrases that I was reading.

But it still hurt to read a even a short diatribe about how I’m not doing my job properly. Welcome to Monday morning, the beginning of week 10 of emergency online instruction.

SIGH

To be honest, I’m behind on basically everything, constantly scrambling just to stay near the crest of the growing wave of “things to do.” I’m behind on marking, on providing feedback, on creating new assignments for this new reality, on playing the video game I assigned as text. (Walden, A Game – it. is. awesome. for right now. The grade 12s who chose it are really enthusiastic about it.) I’m behind on navigating the apps and programs I suddenly need to do my job. (Look, I *know* that Screencastify is easy, but I haven’t had time to use it yet.) I’m so far behind on email that sometimes I just scratch the old ones off the list because they’re no longer relevant. At home, I’m behind on blogging, on commenting, on laundry – actually, we *just* caught up on laundry.

Still, I know that I’m doing the best that I can, and that my best is good. I’ve read a BUNCH about online learning and teaching; I’ve been focussing on building and maintaining relationships with students where I can, calling “missing” kids at least once a week; I’ve started a weekly lunch hangout with the English Department, just to chat. I’ve been attending webinars on best practices for online teaching and anti-racist education. I’ve even created a website for Grade 12, just to have a central space for information. I’m really proud of it – even if, to be honest, the students are working in three interest-based streams, and I’m having trouble keeping all the streams up-to-date. Sigh. I know that I’m focusing hard on creating and co-creating work that the students find both interesting and important. And I’m letting my home life fill me up (well, except when I’m negotiating the endless fights about screen time), remembering the importance of time away from work

So after I read the email, I stepped away from the screen. I went for a walk, talked to my children, tried to work. I allowed myself to imagine some *perfect* responses that were cathartic if not especially kind; sadly, neither sarcasm nor lecture are effective responses if learning is the goal. I wrote a nice email to one of my children’s teachers. (They have so many from me at this point that they probably don’t read them anymore.) In the afternoon, when I recognized that the negative words were still a heavy pit in my stomach, I called a colleague. I read her the email, and we laughed and talked. We chatted about this & that, swinging from work to everything else and back again. I was able to focus on some of the more enthusiastic responses I’ve received from students. I loosened up, then used my newly-restored good mood to write a supportive response to the student.

After all, change is overwhelming, and we each deserve a little extra understanding right now. Maybe my response will help my student remember that; it definitely helped me.

Join us at https://twowritingteachers.org each week; come write a Slice of Life!

You’ve got mail

Image result for emailDear Amanda,

I love you, but girl, never make the mistake of thinking you are unique. After all, a name is just a name. And an email address? That’s only barely yours at all. Let me tell you, I got another of those emails tonight: “Confirm your Twitter account, Amanda Potts. It’s easy — just click the button below.”

Don’t worry: I get this message about once a month and I never click the button…but I’ll tell you what, I think Amanda’s trying to get pregnant. I know she lives in Arizona and I live in Ottawa, but there are some obvious signs. I mean, first of all, let’s talk about the BabyCenter emails. They’re all about when to have sex and how to prepare your body for pregnancy. By the time I got on BabyCenter, I jumped straight to the “your baby is now the size of a insert small fruit or vegetable here” emails, so I’m guessing she’s still trying – but she could absolutely be pregnant even as I type. Shh – if I find out, I won’t tell anyone.

I *will* share a secret with you, though: I can’t tell anyone who knows her because I’ve never met her. You see, there are these other Amanda Pottses out there and they keep accidentally using my email address.

Which means that I know that Amanda Potts is probably on her way to Portugal by now. Her “Ocean and Yoga Leadership Retreat” sounded great when I found out about it last month. I bet that the hosts, Fernando and Eva, are lovely, and I kind of want to meet Max, the surfing instructor. It’s really too bad that I have to, you know, work and watch my children in Ottawa during that scheduled retreat – I would love to go. And I missed out on those Sandals retreat points last year, too. Such a shame.

Still, I can’t say I’m sorry I missed the “Bare-assed Silverado Stay” a few years ago, back when she was trying to make a go of things as an actress. I kind of admired her daring, but I’m just too old for that kind of thing anymore. Apparently Amanda lost her underwear? Possibly in at a ranch somewhere? Though she was definitely living in California at the time and, really, it’s not like her to vacation where she lives. Anyway, according to her therapist, who believes all things happen for a reason and suggested that perhaps I should be part of her on-line therapy group… but wait, that’s private. Well, sort of. I mean, she accidentally emailed me instead of, well, Amanda.

Now, I’m pretty sure that Midwest Amanda Potts, who has registered for several conferences that sound so incredibly dull that I can only assume that she is going for work, would be horrified if she knew everything I know about her. Because, I think we can all say it’s obvious that she’s a somewhat private person. And possibly she’s a workaholic? Odds are increasing with every passing email. Perhaps when I finally figure out her actual email address I should put her in touch with Arizona Amanda? Because I’m pretty sure that Surf and Yoga Amanda is just a *little* too wild for midwestern Amanda. Not that I would know. But those emails give me more than an inkling.

I do worry a little. I mean, maybe it’s the name? Maybe there’s a secret truth about Amanda Potts that means that I, too, give oodles of people the wrong email address on a regular basis. Maybe there are emails meant for me  that are actually somewhere in cyberspace randomly arriving in another Amanda Potts’s inbox.

I assure myself: this is not possible. I’m the one with the good email address. Too bad for those other Amanda Pottses that I am older and was the first to jump on the email thing all those years ago. Age has its privileges. They’ll just have to deal with my email superiority – or, well, I guess I just have to deal with all of their email.

For now, I’ll just keep forwarding the messages to the Amandas I’ve found and looking for the ones I haven’t – and I’ll consider the trove of absolutely crazy messages I’ve received as fair payment. Oh, and I’ve got to go find the Amanda Potts who’s publishing on Academia.com. I would love to share my email with her.

Yours,

Amanda

slice-of-life_individualSlice of Life, Day 18, March 2018

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for this wonderful month of inspiration.