The other day I was asked how long I’ve been speaking Spanish. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I started learning Spanish 15 and a half years ago. I remember that exactly, specifically. I was a high school sophomore signed up in the only foreign language class my 1A high school offered. I didn’t know I’d be walking into a class that would change the course of my life, offer me relationships across the globe, give me opportunities I couldn’t even imagine at that point in my life. I DID know that the majority of my classes bored me to no end. I knew that this one would be a challenge; it would be new. It would be, if I am completely honest, a much needed distraction.
I had just spent the summer working full time on a peach orchard under the table. I was racking up ag hours, but I was also using my paycheck to buy groceries because my mom was sick and couldn’t work much anymore.
And again, if I’m completely honest, in those classes that couldn’t occupy my mind, I spent my time thinking about things I couldn’t fix. And dancing around a truth I couldn’t yet see. And pretending I was ok.
So when I walked into sophomore Spanish 1, I wasn’t expecting to go from learning “hola” to teaching hundreds of students at every level of Spanish K-12 and Spanish 1- AP Spanish Literature. I wasn’t expecting to have a teacher who somehow when I wrote “Yo tengo el taco” read: actually, my mom is dying and I’m not as ok as I seem, oh, and I’m going to move 1000 miles away and might need a rain jacket— but she did.
So for over half my life, I’ve been bilingual. And tomorrow marks 15 years since my mother passed away. And, if I’m honest, Spanish is part of the reason I made it this far in (mostly) one piece. And a teacher, one in a long line of teachers who made a difference along the way. That, and a rain jacket.
P.S. Here is a picture of me in said jacket, 6 years later in Costa Rica with Billy Ray Cyrus, looking like a dork because I fell backwards directly into him right was as the picture was snapped.
I think we all have moments as parents when the weight of parenthood truly and suddenly sits on us. It happens in cycles: the weight of keeping the kids alive, the weight of keeping them safe, the weight of protecting their minds, guiding them through the many crises of life. It can be heavy.
That’s the weight educators on every level are feeling right now. We all feel the weight of educating the minds of our children in a time when circumstances aren’t ideal. And it’s heavy. It’s chaos, but we need to provide order. It’s distant but we need to make it feel like home. It’s being given every tool and material from Lowe’s, but we need to build the house and everyone on our team is constructing one on their own lot too, so while we can share the tips and tricks, we’ve got to do it ourselves. It’s building the plane as we fly, (and pass out the snacks). And the whole time aware that the mission is critical and the people on the plane and in the house are children who need you and you can’t break but you are broken and it’s time for take off and you never learned to rivet, but by God, planes need rivets.
It’s triumphs over little things and tears over big things and the diligent hum of everyone hammering out things as we learn and building and rebuilding because sometimes it’s wrong.
I’m just full of thoughts.
I’m not sure I’m a “glass half-full” or “glass half-empty” or “there’s water in that glass” or “it’s 2020, don’t trust it!” Kind of person. But I do know this: I’m struggling. And I don’t think our profession will make it through this without some much needed honesty going forward.
Today was a day I desperately needed. It was a good day.
Problems are being solved. Did we order enough digital accounts for my students to have access to the digital curriculum this year? Yes. Did anyone think about how all these kids are going to charge their chromebooks in the building? Yes. What happens if I can’t post my digital lessons in time for today? Don’t worry, we’ve got a solve for that.
I got to see human adults. I got to socialize. In a group (socially distanced and masked up). With people who aren’t my children. PRAISE THE LORD.
I felt affirmed. Someone told me I had a good idea. Then I told it to someone, and they listened. Then my boss told me he believes in me. That’s a damn good day.
The boys both got to meet their teachers–and we won the teacher lottery with both, FOR SURE! I work in a different district than my boys attend. Even when we were together, I never stepped in and requested a teacher. I didn’t this year, but for the first time, I did meet with the principal to share some of the concerns I have about my incoming first grader. I feel heard. I didn’t ask for a specific teacher, and we would have taken whatever we got, but we did request someone calm and patient (but firm). And we got it. And I know God had His hand in the mix.
THEN, we went to meet the duo that will teach my 3rd grader. I’ve been nervous about my little asthmatic changing classes in the age of COVID. Why couldn’t they be self-contained??? BUT. Again, it was handled. His teachers are the pair that are taking on the virtual class. So while he is with his math teacher, the reading teacher will be virtual. And then they’ll switch. So, he won’t have to enter a room after lunch that 24 other kids were siting in just 25 minutes prior. And on top of that, they happen to be an amazing pair. I couldn’t have asked for more!
I’ve been a ball of anxiety because the future looks so uncertain at every turn, but I’m feeling better. Why? Because I’m surrounded with good people at work. And my kids are going to be with good people at school. And I don’t just mean “good people”. I mean GOOD people–the best people– who are going to go the extra mile and make sure everything turns out in the end. And I know that whether this year is a breeze or a mess of chaos, we’re going to be ok.
p.s. Pic of the gift we gave each teacher tonight! If you didn’t know these existed, you do now!
Tomorrow I go back to work (physically, no more working from home!) exactly 5 months after our building was closed for COVID. #AllTheFeels
If I’m being honest, I have reservations about going back…
But more than every reservation, I’m excited. I’ve spent the summer drooling over curriculum and planning. I’ve spent the summer wishing I’d gotten those extra months with my students. I’ve spent the summer (and extra-long Spring Break 2020/ Crisis Schooling 101) remembering why I work outside the home 😅. I’ve loved being home with my boys… and now we’re all ready to get back to a new normal. Hopefully a safe normal. Undoubtedly a challenging normal. But I’m. R. E. A. D. Y.
Ready to see my coworkers and joke in the hallway. Ready to collect on my free lunch from a bet we made in June. Ready to train on new tech. Ready to plan. (And re-plan when the plan doesn’t go to plan 🤷🏻♀️) Ready to meet my kids. (The un-biological ones I get a new batch of each year) Ready to teach someone that isn’t obligated to ignore everything I say the first 50x (like MT and JL are…)
Ready for my staff meeting burrito. 😋 With green sauce. Because #Eagles gotta eat.
Back to those reservations. Pray for all the teachers and staff of your schools. We are all going to be working incredibly hard to give everyone (online and in-person) an equitable educational experience. We’re going to spend weeks training on new tech so we can DO. IT. RIGHT. We’re going to be training on a million and one ways to keep kids safe in-person. We’re going to add a whole extra layer to our jobs as we teach online and in-person simultaneously. We’re going to take on exposure to easily over 100 people a day in the name of learning. So yeah. Pray for us. A lot. Every day. Without ceasing.
Take a journey with me, to a land far away, a land of dreams and nightmares…
I’m in a classroom surrounded by all my anxieties about the upcoming year. Teaching in person and online simultaneously. Getting Covid. Spreading it. Being too lax. Being so uptight it breeds fear. Not having enough time to do it all. Not being my best for my students. Failing them when they need me.
I stop. I breathe. I calmly affirm that I’m ready. 2020 has thrown almost anything it can at us already. We’ve got this; I’ve got this. I stand at peace with whatever comes next.
Suddenly I’m roused awake by chaotic barking. 6:54 am. I hear the back door crack open. Matthew sets the dogs loose on whatever it was. Then, from behind the safety of the screen door, Matthew screams, “SKUNK!!!!!”
I’m out of bed. Bobby is yelling, “get the dogs in! Get the dogs in!” But it’s too late. I arrive at the back door in time to watch the dogs rolling in grass and drooling profusely in an effort to clear the stench.
America is not a place. She is an idea, an ideal, something we strive for and often fall short of. To all who have served in any capacity, as soldiers, as first responders, as civil servants, as educators: THIS is the thing we try to create, the thing many have given their lives for, dedicated careers to, the thing so many abandon their homelands to seek: America in all her glory. She is not a place. She is an ideal.
So, part of the reopening plan for Texas gives the indicators for being able to return to school. (See below).
It puts the student or staff member out of school for a minimum of 10 days (because all three conditions must be met.) Now, I’m not picking a bone with that part. I want to be safe.
HOWEVER. The third option allows an individual with say, allergies, to get a doctor’s note saying that they don’t have COVID. It’s just allergies. It’s a great option. It’s an option my son with asthma could use. BUT. It puts students and families with few economic resources at a disadvantage. They will have to stay home for a minimum of 10 days (about 8 school days), and another kid with access to health care will be back in a day, note in hand. Who has an educational advantage in this situation? It’s an equity issue.
This illustrates one of the MANY simple yet profound injustices in our world.
And next time you see me in person, ask me what I know about being on the other side of this situation, the receiving end, if you will. It might surprise you.
“Any teacher, staff member, or student who experiences any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (listed below) should self-isolate until the below conditions have been met.
In the case of an individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual may return to school when all three of the following criteria are met: at least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever- reducing medications); and the individual has improvement in symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath); and at least ten days have passed since symptoms first appeared; or
In the case of an individual who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and does not get evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19, and the individual may not return to work until the individual has completed the same three-step criteria listed above; or
If the individual has symptoms that could be COVID-19 and wants to return to school before completing the above self-isolation period, the individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis.”
Edited to add: I don’t have a problem with requiring doctors notes, as long as everyone has access. If not everyone has access (which they don’t…), then we need to either: address the problem by creating access (ideal) or abandon the requirement until it can be addressed. In this case that would take the form of either (1) not requiring a note OR (2) making everyone complete all 3 criteria before returning.
Edited again: To be perfectly clear. This will mean that more poor children, more black and brown children, more children with unavailable parents, will miss school than kids with middle class and / or white and/ or available families.
I keep wanting to write a post about #BLM / #blacklivesmatter, but then I remember that what I have to say isn’t nearly as important as what people of color have to say. White people have been sharing their thoughts for generations and drowning out the voices of people of color in the process in favor of a white-washed perspective. So, while I will probably eventually share my thoughts, for now, I’m just sharing the thoughts of others and listening. If you are white, consider this thought. #amplifyblackvoices #amplifymelanatedvoices