I was lost for awhile. I had fallen into a deep, dark hole that is Covid-19. If you're a teacher, I know you can relate. It's not a good place to be. It's a scary and overwhelming place to be. I felt like nothing I was doing was good enough for my students. I didn't feel like I was giving them my best. I was crying every single day, sometimes even at school. It's just too much!
I hate that there are plexiglass dividers on all of my students' tables. We have to clean them daily, sometimes more than once because of food, boogers, Play-Dough, and any other variety of "unmentionables." There are larger, taller plexiglass dividers in my block area and in my manipulative area. One step down the hole...
At the beginning of the school year, our district sent out guidelines for a "gating criteria" that showed how schools would function based on the positive testing rate for our county. Guess what? We're not following it. Another step down into the hole... I needed to remind myself that these were just "guidelines" and not gospel. Because of our building's number of kids choosing remote learning or being homeschooled, we didn't need to change all that much, except for only have one classroom at a time at recess, not the whole grade level. Part of me was really angry about not following the gating criteria, the other part of my knows that I would much rather be in the classroom with my kids and my classroom aides than be teaching remotely. I hated that this past spring!
We have three meals a day in our classroom. In the past, students came to our classrooms between 8:05-8:10, after eating lunch in the cafeteria and whole-school morning announcements. Now they come straight to the classroom at 7:40 and eat breakfast there. We also have lunch and an afternoon snack in our classroom. Sometimes when I come into school in the mornings, I have to clean sticky spots on the floors or tables that the custodians have missed. Further down the black hole... My amazing classroom aides and I clean the room better than the custodial staff most days. We do it for the kids and each other, even though it's not our job. I could go on about the cleanliness of the room, but it serves no purpose. We do what we need to do for the kids. Every single day, I am grateful that our classroom is still tiled. Most of the other classrooms in the building are carpeted. Gross!
I have a handful of students who show up without masks every single day. We're on Day #27. Masks have been mandatory since school opened in September. Some of those masks are disgusting, as only a preschooler's mask can be. Despite many reminders about keeping masks clean, it still happens. Going deeper down the hole... So, we now have disposable masks in our classroom, labeled with the students' names. If a munchkin comes in with a mask needing to be washed, we wash them, and the child wears the disposable one until their cloth one is cleaned.
We've had several adults out at our building, either quarantining due to exposure or because they have actually contracted Covid. This causes people to have to cover for them, at times, because the number of Guest Teachers (substitutes) has dwindled considerably. Another step further into the dark... I feel like, in the building where I teach, everyone has gone above and beyond to help each other out. That doesn't mean it's not exhausting. It's what an amazing group of caring, compassionate educators does! As one of my colleagues said, "We rise by lifting others." I truly believe that we do that at NES.
After a particularly tough day (aren't they all anymore?) a very wise confidante said to me, "Why have you changed? Why have you stopped doing what's best for your kids? This isn't who you are, as a teacher." Even though it stung a little, it was the reality slap I needed. So I've climbed out of that hole, for now. I'm back to closing my door and doing what's best for kids! Much like flying, which we are all doing, by the seat of our pants, since this is new territory for everyone in education, I'm putting on my own oxygen mask first.