Nearly one year into the strange times, and in Covid quarantine for at least the third time, I felt I should probably start reflecting more in the moment so that one day I can look back on these times and remember. Because you never really remember the exact details, do you? After the fact. I have also been giving a lot of thought to my job, teaching. I have thought many times recently – there is a book in there. Oh, the tales to be told in conveying the reality to those that don’t – teach.
It is fair to say at this point everyone is “rona’d out”. Done with the masks, the distancing, the isolation the inconvenience etc. This is not that story, although it plays a part. I wanted to reflect on the lives that exist in our public schools today. One thing this virus has given me, and others who teach online, is a window into the misery that is some young people’s home lives. It is safe to assume that all kids in Canada are not created equal, and the opportunities they are given are likewise, not equal. This was true before we all got sent home, but it is far more prevalent now, based on my non-scientific circumstantial observations.
As I write this, we are all back to “normal classroom teaching”, and are now into our second week returning from a second bout of teaching online. For me normal looks like 2h40min classes twice a day. No group work, limited walking amongst the students, no invasion into 2m bubbles (though kids themselves are stacked in within 1m of each other). In traditionally built schools that, for me, feature 30+ high school bodies. These protocols are challenging to say the least. Creativity is stifled, and personalities muted. I teach in a school that normally has hallways bustling with 2700 students, but with dedicated entrances and exits, and no time allowed to mingle in hallways, no lockers, you would be hard pressed to bump into more than five students outside your classroom on a normal day – it is eery.
The kids are different there is no denying that. There is no boisterousness no excitement, very limited classroom discussion. Classroom management has never been easier. I may also be having success in this way as the mask I am forced to wear helps hide my resting “I hate my life face” ( I don’t of course, it is just how I look! If you know me, know this 😊) It is also hiding the most bitchin beard I have ever grown!
Normal for me right now is being at home, again, teaching online half a day, and preparing sub plans for the other half as one of my students became infected with Covid 21. This is normal. I am not the first teacher to enter into this situation this school year. I am not unique. There is, right now, at least one other teacher at my school in the exact. Same. Boat.
What is not normal, is high school children holding back tears as we braced for the likely reality of returning to online learning, for some of these kids they knew that this was the end of school for them, and that they would not be able to manage their home lives and school at the same time. For some, this was the return of them as babysitter/errand child, now able to look after younger siblings while mom/dad went to work/slept off whatever they were doing the night before. We teachers get a lot of flak from the public about time off, “short work days” etc. and for sure, like any profession, there are those of us who probably deserve the criticism, but I would like to think that this is the exception rather than the rule. I moved furniture 6 days a week in previous life, and I have never known exhaustion like this ever. This includes the rest of my 12 year career as a teacher.
Happily married to my beautiful wife Stephanie, and proud father of three beautiful girls, Aurora, Brynn and Clara. Master student, working in South America as a Social and English teacher: writing when I find time.