I missed Microblog Mondays. I am having a really difficult time concentrating lately, and when the day is over for school, I am just a pile of goo on the floor.
Okay, that's a little dramatic.
But it is difficult to take a day of screens and then end it with more screens, even if this use is restorative and not stressful. I think one of the problems is that my office at home, which has been this glorious book-filled, light-filled cozy space for blogging and occasional school work, has become an OFFICE. And so when I'm in there, I'm in school mode. I'm in work mode. I'm trying to get shit done.
Which kind of sucks, because now it's less of a respite than it was in the Before.
The teaching is going okay, wayyy better than the last time where I was like "EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE AND I CAN'T GET TO EVERYONE AND I DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO THIS." Now it's better, because I have days like the caps statement maybe once a week, not every day. Ha.
I have successfully reached all 9 of my caseload students and have time with all them every week. Last week I set up times to meet with my primary class group (my Reading/English/Work Lab/Cotaught Social Studies/Cotaught Science group) one-to-one in addition to the twice per week full group Google Meets. That has been a game-changer, because sometimes those Meets are the full 45 minutes, and sometimes they are 20 minutes or so, but I can get SO MUCH DONE during that time. And then the full group check ins are more for organizational needs, questions for the good of the order, and discussion of the book we're reading. For my small group Social Studies, which is a different group of students and another teacher has them the rest of the day, I see them for a 10 minute check-in on Tuesday or Wednesday, and then we get a full 45 minute class period on Thursdays. Which so far is the highlight of my week. For some reason, my students with the highest degree of support are adapting to this new online learning thing really, REALLY well.
Does that sound like a lot of time? It is, but now I feel like at least I am providing a service and DOING something. The kids are appreciative. The parents are appreciative. I love having that time, because sometimes it's 15 minutes of telling me about a cat or a video game, and sometimes it's 15 minutes of reteaching Math and seeing that AHA moment happen (albeit through a screen).
But then, there's the Meets for Social Studies (cotaught) and for Science (also cotaught). And creating the support materials for those classes. And then the meetings. Holy moses, the meetings. Every week I have a team meeting, an 8th grade meeting with guidance, a faculty meeting, and a special ed meeting (although this week that one didn't happen). And somewhere in there I have to a) create all the things so that they can be uploaded in a weekly format by Monday morning, b) grade (give feedback) all the things, c) contact parents, d) put together all the organizational tools for my students who are being expected to be tiny adults who are used to running a calendar of meetings.
I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.
It is a huge weight off of me that I know where all my kids are and that I have figured out something that seems to work for them, and although it looks totally different for each kid...um, that's sort of why they all have Individual Education Plans. In some ways, this is actually allowing for far more individualized support. But there are only so many hours in a day. And for some students, it's more about the contact than the work. Because they are stressed, their families are stressed, and some of them are in situations that are less than ideal for learning, or dealing with the stress and trauma of foster care at the same time. So I'm learning that sometimes, just having a student show up or text me or chat me or send in a random assignment is a win.
The Monday morning thing is a district thing -- they want families to be able to receive all work for the week on Monday and then plan out how they can do stuff so that everything is due by Friday. I just haven't figured out how not to have to do a boatload of work on Sunday to get it ready for that, because I'm still assessing all the stuff that came in by Friday and how my lessons went on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The good news is that I'm learning all kinds of cool things you can do with Google Forms to make quizzes that automatically provide feedback for correct and incorrect answers (you have to type it all up ahead of time, but then you don't have to grade all the quizzes separately). You can make a Google Slides presentation for a Social Studies lesson and then record it on an iPad with screen recording, so it's like a "lecture" but with all the pictures and text, and then you can upload the actual slides so students have text to refer back to. You can pose a question for everyone to answer. You can do a Google Meet with students, have them all mute themselves, and then watch a video clip on your screen that they can see and hear and you can even over-narrate it if you want.
The technology part of this is very, very cool.
But again, I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.
I am fortunate. I am fortunate to have a job, to have meaningful work right now. But it is just so much more exhausting than regular teaching, and as my grandmother said, "Teaching is a jealous mistress." She takes all your time.
I have found myself uttering the words, "It feels wrong, but I'm so glad we don't have kids right now." Please note, this does not in any way take out any grief or loss or feelings of inadequacy from all the fucking "Mommy Photo Challenges" and the ominous looming specter of Mother's Day. But it does make it so that I can do all the things for school all day without interruption (except for the cat, who likes to march across my keyboard during meets and gently claw my backside), and I can collapse in a puddle at the end of the day without small humans needing me. I don't have to worry about my children. It does make this quarantine thing simpler, but it does NOT mean that I'm lounging on the couch watching marathons of Schitt's Creek drinking vats of wine. My busy is just different than children-busy. I am grateful for the downtime I do have, which I know those with young children don't. My best friend has three kids, 12, 11, and 9, and she is basically hiding in the bathroom to have 5 minutes where no one is touching or needing her. It's relentless, and they're older.
Another piece of stress is Bryce's PhD. He is now almost 5 years in, and he is on deadline for his Candidacy Exam, which is next Friday. So his proposal is in for review and he has to do a presentation and answer any questions and then he's off to dissertation and wrapping up. But, he's also working full time and has zero downtime and is super stressed. And while it's really awesome that he was asked to present at a major conference that is now going virtual on a paper he published with his adviser recently, his presentation is ALSO due...May 1st. Next Friday. So he is a big old ball of stress. It's really pressing our "only one person can be crazy at a time" policy. (Which we had before I listened to the 5th episode of Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast, which talked about the 50/50 myth, which is basically the same concept.) I am taking up slack on housework, and dishes, and keeping the house sane, and...you guessed it...I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED.
But it's good. I'm grateful for our home and our relationship and our food and our cat and our laundry. Maybe not the laundry, but the clothes and the fact that I have to do laundry so often because I am getting good and sweaty during the Pilates/Barre classes I fit in a few times per week on zoom. I missed a class this week, but that is so key to my sanity. Moving and stretching and taking the time to do something for my body is super important. It also makes me feel less bad about the wine or margaritas or Manhattans that we have in the evening. Not all at once of course!
The stress, my stress, from all these factors, not including family worries, is exhausting. It leaves me feeling all brain fogged. It has me spending Saturday as a No Talking Day, where I do not make phone calls if I can avoid it and I sit somewhere and read or do a puzzle, because I just cannot stand to look at one more screen. I cannot WAIT for it to get warm out. This cold, snowy, rainy, windy weather is just insult to injury. I can't garden on the weekends, because Spring just plain stalled out. Everything seems to be in a pause. It's creepy, honestly. I want warm weather, I want to sit on the deck, I want to prep soil and plant things. And right now the ground is just so cold. The air is cold. The snow that refuses to stop falling is cold. It's depressing. It sort of matches everything else.
Another thing that I am letting go of (also in Brene Brown's podcast in the link above) is Comparative Suffering. I thought that was going to be like a Pain Olympics, but it's not quite. It's basically feeling like empathy is a pie and I can't feel exhausted for myself while there are healthcare workers out there who are working endless 12 hour shifts, so my frustration and exhaustion isn't as bad as theirs. She said you have to have empathy for yourself and realize that everyone has the right to their suffering without comparing to others, and you can feel for others and feel for yourself without taking anything away from anyone else. This part really stuck with me: that when you do the "well, but these other people are dealing with ____" you could actually be worried about what others think about you complaining about your life, and you worry about the perception people have of you, so you're really just making it about you. Just accept the suffering. Accept that everyone is suffering differently, and you can feel for them but not have it take from your reality, either. That was strangely empowering and a good thing to attempt to let go of. It's a process, a habit to break.
The upshot of all this is that I AM FUCKING EXHAUSTED, and this quarantine situation has all new stresses that compound together and make things feel super overwhelming. That make me feel like a puddle at the end of the day. That have me fairly silent and sequestered on Saturdays to heal for the week before I take some of Sunday to prep for the next one. It feels like a marathon. But now that we're 6 weeks in, I guess it's what I have to work with. After May 1st it will be better, when Bryce is back among the land of the living. We will survive this. One person on the ledge at a time, letting go of things that don't fit the new reality, and giving ourselves permission to be puddles when it's called for.