School Is Closed

It still hasn’t totally sunk in that we aren’t going back to school this year. I won’t finish the year with my students and my colleagues. My son won’t being going back to school and continuing his UIL Theater competitions. My daughter is just home from college indefinitely. I know that eventually life has to get back to some level of normal, but what will that be?

I am not sure how I feel about Gov. Abbott’s decision to let retail businesses open with curbside pickup options. It seems like that is just putting more individuals at risk during a time when those types of businesses aren’t really essential. I know our economy is struggling but I also know that opening things back up too soon could be detrimental to everyone. We have been lucky so far in Texas in that our case numbers have been lower than other places, but that doesn’t change the contagion of the virus or the fact that more people being out means more risk to everyone.

My family is trying to stay safe so we have been really careful about not getting out unless we need something. It is so difficult though because being at home all the time is hard. I am starting to feel like my life has no purpose.

I completed my master’s and my Dual Credit Certification program through online classes but this is my first experience with them as a teacher. Although I wouldn’t exactly say this is a true online class. We are forced to all give the exact same assignments every week and we are only allowed to review material already covered. I feel bad that my students are missing out on so much learning. Next year will have its own set of challenges trying to get students back into the routine of school.  We will also have so many gaps to fill in order to get our students where they need to be. I am supposed to be teaching Dual Credit next year which will be even more of a challenge now with students missing out on the last few weeks of English 2. Our students struggle enough in Dual Credit as it is but now we will have even more challenges. There is so much unknown about the future.

Distance Learning Professional Development

So my district has decided that in addition to the craziness created by switching everything to online learning, we are also required to do professional development. For any of my non-teaching followers this is the training that is supposed to help us do our jobs better. The interesting fact about most professional development is that it is usually grueling, uninteresting, and not helpful in the least. So my district sent out some options and because at my current stage in life I try and not procrastinate, I immediately started working on my hours. I have to complete six hours and each session I was sent count towards an hour.  The idea behind this is that the training is supposed to help us with distance learning but the thing is, yet again, the trainings are not geared at all for distance learning.  So far I have enjoyed the webinars that I have watched but I haven’t gained any skills that truly translate to distance learning.

It is so frustrating as an educator because my students aren’t getting what they need. I am forced to hound parents who I have no idea their current situations and I am forced to attempt to teach through assignments in Google Classroom and email. We are required to do four hours of Google Hangouts “office hours” of course the students don’t show up. I try and answer my students’ questions but sometimes they don’t even ask questions I can understand. They lack any specificity and any times they don’t even reference which assignment they don’t understand. I have been using Google Classroom all year but many of my students act like they don’t understand how to do basic functions within the programs. I can honestly say there isn’t any training out there that can prepare you to feel so helpless when it comes to students. I hope all these innovative people that think teaching is so useless and that school could be done on a computer realize that not all students can succeed in this environment.  Some of my best students are struggling the most right now. I have parents that have no idea how to encourage students to do work. I email students through their Google Accounts but let’s be honest, it only works if they are checking it. I feel unequipped to help my students in this environment and I don’t have the resources to help many of their parents. My district is already stressing that we need to do whatever we can to get as many students as we can across the finish line but right now I feel the struggle. I will be glad when we finally make a decision about our grading policy so that maybe our students will be more motivated to get stuff done.

My Recent Trip to Costco

We used to go to Costco about twice a month to help feed my family. I have a teenage son that eats snacks all the time and can still eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We started buying all his snacks and lots of frequently used products there to save money when my boyfriend moved in a year ago.

This morning we took a trio to Costco because we thankfully go paid today, we’re both educators, and we are out of everything. It was interesting to see all the changes the store has made in light of the virus. Normally you can enter the store and walk wherever you want to start your shopping but now because of the restrictions in the check out lines the root area of the store is sectioned off so that you have to start down one aisle.  Most of the things we were looking for were easily found but seeing people walking through the store in masks and gloves is so surreal. I still can’t get used to this new normal. I hate that every time I leave the house now I feel this dread and additional stress until I’m safely back to my cocoon at home.

I don’t mind cooking every night because we did that most of the time anyway to save money. What is most bothersome is the fact that we can’t just get out freely anymore. I miss being able to wander through Target just to get out. I am doing all my shopping for my kids’ birthdays online this year which is not my usual way of doing things. I am lucky I can still shop at all because I know that many are really struggling to make ends meet but I miss the freedom that we used to have. We quickly shopped this morning so we could get back home.

I came home graded online assignments and then began contacting parents of my slacking students. I feel guilty every time I have to get in touch with parents because I know that many of them have more important things to worry about other than their kids doing work. I know as an educator I have to contact them but it is hard not to feel like a burden. I am lucky that I haven’t really had to bug my own kids about school work. My son has been surprisingly on top of it and my college age daughter is used to scheduling her time for school so I usually don’t even ask. I am super thankful that my son’s teachers aren’t having to reach out to me for lack of work. At least his district has decided how they are handling the grading for the rest of the year which means now my son has a focus. I will be glad when my district decides what they are going to do about grades.

 

The New Normal

I used to get up at 6am everyday and get ready for work. I would arrive around 7am and prepare for my day of teaching my students English and World Geography. I would leave work around 4pm and then get home and relax. I would have dinner with my live-in boyfriend and my son. We would each participate in our nightly routines of homework and video games, with the occasional TV thrown in. My boyfriend and I watched Maverick’s Games and occasional enjoyed a weekend to ourselves when my son visited his father on his scheduled weekends. My daughter was living with my mom and attending her first year of college. We all had things that were important to us and we were all busy at least some of the time.

Now our partially empty nest has become full again.  My daughter is back home and my son has visited his dad since spring break was over. We celebrated my son’s 17th birthday with takeout and only the four of us. It was the first time my ex-husband hasn’t seen his son on his birthday. I get up at 8 or 8:30 now depending on my work schedule which now consists of hangouts meetings and grading my students work in Google Classroom. The only time we leave the house is to walk the dogs or go to the grocery store. My car has literally been in our garage since the week after spring break. It is strange because I spend my time playing games, listening to audiobooks, and reading physical books but I never really feel fulfilled. I am restless and bored. I miss the routine and chaos that the classroom brings. I miss the crazy antics of some of my students. Our administration wants us to start thinking about next year which seems so strange because technically this year isn’t really over. We aren’t giving our students real grades right now, but we have to constantly contact parents of students not completing lessons. The decisions are set to be made this week regarding how we are grading our students and when/if we are going back to school this year. I worry everyday that the Engineering Camp my son was accepted in for the summer will be canceled. I am thankful that my son is only a junior because I would hate for him to have to finish his senior year this way. I worry because he will have to take all his AP tests this year from home. He has been so successful the last couple of years with this AP test and I just hope that the format change won’t impact his performance. He was supposed to take the SAT this month at school. Now I am not sure he’s even going to take it. He needs to start applying for college as soon as the applications open so I don’t really want to worry about having to schedule it once the world goes back to normal. I think my biggest issue is the isolation I feel. My boyfriend is wonderful but the being home doesn’t bother him the way it does me. Normally I am fine spending time at home but now that I am being told I can’t go out I feel like I’m in a cage. I know that this will all be over eventually but I wish it was over now. At least we have had some great family game nights over the last few weeks and I am thankful that we all get along well. The one thing we haven’t had in our house is arguing and fighting even between my children. We have all been peaceful even if we are tired of being at home. Technology has made it possible for my children to keep up with their friends with video chats and extended phone calls while they play online games through Steam. I am lucky in so many ways because I am getting paid and still able to do my job. It is just hard to be content at home all the time!!

Colleagues

I was missing my colleagues today so I called one of my closet friends at school. We had a great conversation and I realized that we are both struggling with many of the same feelings. We are both bored and irritated by the neediness of our students. I have used an online platform in my classes for many years now so it is difficult to understand why my students are struggling with using Google Classroom. Google Classroom is relatively easy to use and I still don’t understand why many of my students are struggling to use it. Our administrators want us to provide our students with video instructions for each of our online assignments. I have a hard time understanding why we need to record videos when my students don’t even listen to the things I say in class. I want all my students to be successful but I wish they would just read the directions provided on the various assignments. Many of the questions I have received are actually in the directions if my students could be bothered to pay attention and read them.

I am not really looking forward to having PLC’s again starting on Monday or the fact that we now have to have all assignments posted by 7pm every Sunday night.  I am still wondering how we are going to give our students grades for the rest of the year. The district has given us many guidelines about how to post assignments but they still haven’t told us how or if we are going to be giving grades for the rest of the year. Oh well I guess only time will tell.

Uncertainty

So as of now we are supposed to return to work on April 6th. Of course after Betsy Price’s announcement this morning issuing a “Stay at Home” order I really doubt we will be returning. It is so weird to think about the possibility that we won’t be going back to school this year. I can honestly say that I am not missing my students a whole lot but it does seem sad that I won’t see them again this year.

The other uncertainty in my life is about what I am going to be doing next year. I will either be teaching Dual Credit English or possibly working in a curriculum department which would be my dream job.

My poor son was able to visit two colleges before all this Coronavirus thing has shutdown the whole world. I was hoping we would be able to eliminate a college or two this spring but it doesn’t seem like that would be possible.

I am thankful that my relationship and my kids are at least one bright spot in my life. I am in love and happy with my boyfriend. I am thankful for my beautiful children. It is weird for the four of us to be together all the time but so far we are handling it well.

Directions

When did it become such an issue for students to read and understand written directions. I know that many of my students would require me to repeat directions in class because they weren’t paying attention but now it seems like they can’t understand written directions either. I feel like my students don’t understand how to read and follow simple directions. Then there are the stupid questions that I can’t even answer because they don’t give me enough information to know what their question is asking. I know that online classes are not exactly easy but I also know that you can’t just act stupid and think that you won’t be required to finish assignments.  Starting next week my students will be required to complete all the assignments for grades.  I wonder how some of these students will deal with that.  I am doing my best to help my students but right now I feel like they aren’t really trying to do their part. I know that I am just frustrated right now and by tomorrow I will probably feel better about all this but right now I am just frustrated with the whole process.