It’s been almost 7 MONTHS since my last post. Man am I bad at this or what?! And honestly, there’s nothing I can say to really defend myself. Afterall, COVID hit in March and for the last few months, we’ve had more time than we ever expected to ourselves. I definitely could have found the time to create content for this blog/site and yet I didn’t. To be completely honest, I didn’t do much of anything. Talk about my life story.
Maybe that’s a bit to harsh. Afterall, COVID sent us all through a loop and any higher functioning skills I had got funneled into keeping up with the drastic change from brick-and-mortar/in-person teaching to virtual learning. But with the new school year right around the corner, I figured this would be a great opportunity to form new habits:
- Regularly work on/create for my comic, Adventures with Charlie.
- Regularly workout at least 5 times a week. (Starting the Fit Girl’s Guide tomorrow- including meal plan/prep!)
- Regularly update this website/blog!
So What’s the Haps?
Truth is my motivation has been shot. I spent the bulk of my COVID time doing just enough to get by. I started off nice and productive. I put up a backsplash in the kitchen, got my studio/office space all set up to how I wanted it, and started virtual learning pretty on top of things, including working out at the end of my day on regular basis with the help of the FitOn app.
And then summer hit, I lost my routine of teaching, and any motivation I had fallen to the wayside. My days became consumed with Netflix, carry-out, and thinking about all the things I wanted to do without ever actually attempting to do them. To be completely honest, COVID and the subsequent mandatory social distancing hit me hard. It became a chore to even keep my house clean, something I prided myself on doing regularly given the fact that I have three cats who love to track litter everywhere.
I spent a lot of time skimming the edge of acknowledging that perhaps COVID was affecting me more than I was expecting and in turn pushed a lot of my concerns about my actions, thoughts, and feelings to the side. The truth is I don’t do well without a set routine, like what comes from working as a Teacher- or any job for that matter. I also find it hard to create a routine for myself. It’s the reason why I find I thrive during the school year and become a blob on the couch during the summer. This is also evidence of a problem that I have yet to truly acknowledge and tackle but resides on the outer rim of my mind- that ya girl is probably experiencing seasonal depression, only flipped. Because of course, I gotta be that weird.
That’s not the point of this post though!
Then What Is?
Right- the purpose of this post beyond my need to just type out whatever thought comes to my head, as if this is just a brain dump and not blog with the explicit purpose of sharing information that other people would probably want or benefit from, is because I wanted to talk about OPENING WEEK.
Yes friends, it’s that dreaded yet equally yearned for time of year where we open our (in this case virtual) doors to a brand new group of children eager to learn new things and apply their newfound knowledge in everything they do.
This year is going to be an extremely weird year. Even if you are not like us in HoCo, MD- working completely virtually until at least the second semester- we are not staring our new school year as we normally do. Either you’re encountering your students for the first time through a computer screen or with the addition of masks covering essential facial features and a required minimum of at least six feet of distance between you. Maybe even through a clear shower curtain or sheet of plexiglass/plastic wrapped around your desk. Not going to lie, after looking through those images of what some counties are providing as PPE and what teachers have had to fork out for their own on top of their already long list of materials they provide to their classrooms, I am supremely grateful that my county opted to engage in virtual learning for the first semester.
That doesn’t mean that these last two weeks haven’t been some of the most overwhelming, pull-out-my-hair, frustrating days of my career. I’ve spent the last two weeks working every day, watching tutorials, reading articles, creating introduction videos (see below), and figuring out the exact expectations shared with students and parents to make sure I’m meeting them as I created Synchronous and Asynchronous lessons with my fellow art team.
These last two weeks have been hard. It feels a lot like year one of teaching all over again which I’m sure none of us expected to have to deal with, especially after surpassing the 5-year turn over rate of teachers. So as I stated in the second video linked above: our focus in education has to shift.
Shifting from Content-Based to Community Based Learning
We’re not living in normal times. Not only are we stuck behind screens this school year, but our society as a whole has become increasingly aware of the disparities that exist in this nation between white people and our BIPOC counterparts, especially in education. Mind you, BIPOC peeps have been aware and telling us about it for YEARS. If there’s one good thing that came out of COVID, it’s that it has forced us (white people) to confront truths that we’re pretty uncomfortable with. (Slavery! Red-lining! Police Brutality! The 13th Amendment! to name a few. Think I’m being too liberal/controversial? Man, have I got some news for you! I don’t care- learn some sh*t.)
The fact is we’re living in the middle of a pandemic that has killed 189K+ and has left survivors with increasing health problems. COVID has also marked education. Sending us all home as made us aware of what students have access to working internet and a device to learn on. We’re now required but unwelcome guests in spaces we have not been invited into. Are we really going to regulate student’s bathroom breaks in their own homes? NO!
On top of that, our country is the most politically divided it’s ever been and we’ve been witness (as well as participants) to the rise of a new wave of civil rights movements across the nation. Conversations on BLM don’t end with Police Brutality, education is just as important. If you haven’t been reading the works of Dr. Bettina Love, Dr. Eddie More Jr., Dr. C.E. Matias, and Dr. Gholdy Muhammad, to name just a few of the educators who are making it their life’s work to engage and educate teachers about the inequities experienced by BIPOC students across the nation, you might want to.
The truth of the matter is these movements and events greatly impact our students and affect how they interact in the world. Black students might not be willing or able to discuss or learn content when they’re faced with another video of Black death that induces Black trauma.
We must be mindful and aware of these factors. I’m aware that this is late in the game- if you’re like me, you start teaching kids in just a couple of hours- but if you can, shift your focus from content to community-based learning. Spend time getting to know your students- more than you usually would because virtual learning is very different from in-person learning. Focus your energies in creating a family of students, of learning who your students are as people vs. just as learners. Your students are going to ask you about what’s going on in the world, including the tough/awkward questions that maybe we’d rather avoid for our own sensibilities- talk to them about it. Be honest and authentic. Teach in your pajamas! Invite students to learn in theirs. Be understanding if they miss a zoom (or google) meet because they slept through their alarm. Play games. Have fun!
And don’t forget to take time for yourself. You can’t show up for your students if you’re overwhelmed, stressed, and not mentally ready for the work. Take the personal day if you need it. I know that’s weird to say considering a lot of us are at home and teaching virtually, but you’re no good to your students if you’re not mentally present with them.
Above all, as much as I’m tired of hearing it- it’s true, have grace and patience. For your students, your coworkers, your neighbors, your pets, and yourself. This year is going to be a tough year. Keep yourself sane so you can be the best teacher possible for your students. It’s what they deserve.