I’ve been feeling vaguely deja-vu-ish for the past several months now. A few weeks ago, as I stared at my 9th graders three hours into the PSAT, I realized what it was.
I feel almost exactly the same way I did when I started this blog.
My first post ever as Love, Teach–ten years ago in the first semester of my first year of teaching–touches on this feeling a little bit. Really, it’s a combination of three feelings: “I’m exhausted,” “I know I’m not doing this right,” and “I’m completely overwhelmed.” A little interdependent triangle. You can’t work on the overwhelm because you’ll get behind. You can’t work on doing things better because you’re exhausted. You can’t work on fixing the exhaustion because it is literally more work to prepare a sub to teach during a pandemic than it is to actually take a personal day and unwind.
I think it’s my nature when I feel overwhelmed to hermit; to come home the second school is over and bury myself in blankets, draw the blinds, and refuse to take my vitamins. (We would probably call this an extended depressive episode). But, with the same shaky courage I had when I first started this blog, I acknowledge that a huge shift is taking place both within and around me, and I am yawping a barbaric NOPE to the tempting notion that I’m alone in this feeling of paralysis. Whether it’s your first year or your fortieth, we are all experiencing something right now that is shaping our professional landscape. And least for now, at least for today, I’m shaking off the blankets except my favorite one, popping my vitamins, and giving you my first weekly not-quite-a-newsletter-but-I-don’t-know-what-else-to-call-it:
Quaranteaching: Volume 1
What’s Going On in My World
My district has had teachers back in buildings all semester, with parents being able to opt-in their students. I wrote a New York Times op-ed back in August with my feelings on that.
For the most part, I’ve been very lucky. We have a very small school contained in a single wing of a larger school, so our exposure is minimal. The parents at our school could not be more supportive of us and our safety, and I’m grateful for every part of our little community. I think most of us teachers have gotten somewhat-of-the-hang of hybrid teaching, even if it’s the most exhausting thing we can remember. I will say that being in the physical building with other teachers–being able to pop in with questions, commiserate, etc.–has been unbelievably helpful and something I didn’t realize I missed while remote teaching this spring.
But beyond my school, the optics of being a part of this profession right now are what’s really weighing on me. Every day when driving in, I pass a giant billboard bought by parents in the surrounding area saying something to the effect of “WE LOVE OUR [enter elementary school here] TEACHERS,” and I had to start averting my eyes because it would rile me up thinking about how much money went into that billboard, and wondering if the person or group who funded that billboard is equally zealous about funding pro-public education, pro-science, and pro-public health efforts (I hope they are). Our faculty parking lot is under construction right now, so when I park for school, other teachers and I cross a four-lane road where I would say about half of the cars going past actually stop at the crosswalk; the rest blaze past, some even driving around us as we cross as to not be inconvenienced. (Note: every time this happens, it makes me want to revisit my idea of throwing paint-filled balloons at cars that ignore school-related traffic laws). I saw a Tweet a few months ago from a health official in Wisconsin, flabbergasted at the recent uptick in cases in their schools, who said, “Never in a million years did we imagine or think to account for parents deliberately sending their sick or symptomatic child to school,” and I wondered if they had literally ever spoken to a teacher in their lives before making decisions for their district.
We were heroes in March. I think about that a lot.
The good stuff? My students. I can’t think about them too much or I’ll cry. They are champing online learning. They are wearing their masks correctly every day and wiping their desks down and taking safety concerns seriously as an act of compassion. They are managing their expectations about this year and being resilient and curious and wonderful and (rightly) cynical about the adults in the world who aren’t acting like adults right now. I love them. Teenagers forever and ever. Amen.
Another good school thing: we have the world’s best counselor. (See Cheez-Its pick-me-up below).
More good stuff: I got married in June! Mr. Love Teach is the best. My book was released in July and is doing well (yay!) Less oppressive weather has finally arrived here in Houston. I took a much-needed social media hiatus that breathed life into my soul. And finally, DEVOLSON 2020–the longest ever recorded to my knowledge– is behind me. If it’s not behind you yet, I hope it is soon.
One (ok, two) Great Thing I’ve Watched:
Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) I can’t remember a miniseries that has captured my attention or my fashion envy more. LOVED.
Dash and Lily (Netflix) Sometimes you just need a good old-fashioned teen rom-com Christmassy escape, and D&L did not fail me.
What I’m Making Right Now
Sheet pan nachos. Are you even ready for how easy this is? And cheap? And exhausted-teacher-friendly?
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Dump tortilla chips on it. Dump cheese, beans, meat, whatever you want to get hot. 350 for 5-10 minutes or until cheese is melty. Take it out. Dump whatever cool toppings you want–sour cream, guac, pico. EAT IT OFF THE ACTUAL SHEET PAN and be delighted that you have now have zero dishes once you roll up the parchment paper and toss it. You’re welcome.
From the Mouths of Babes
“This broken empty star-woman
Ne’er escape to worldly life
and turgid cloud o’er native field
beneath obdurate intelligent system
to never trek with fortune”
(I’ve been having my students do online magnet poetry as a brain break which produced this literary masterpiece. I asked this student what this meant and he looked at me silently with huge eyes like, You think this has meaning???)
Your Self-Care Action Item
Between now and winter break, bring an Awesome Lunch to work. Prepare a lunch for yourself that you are genuinely hyped about. No restrictions on whether you have to make it yourself, just arrange something that will make you absolutely pumped for lunchtime. Grown-up charcuterie board with tiny pickles and hams and cheeses? A fabulous wrap spilling with goodies? A slice of cheesecake from your favorite bakery for dessert? A special cloth napkin? Whatever makes it an Awesome Lunch for you, do that.
How are you doing? Tell me.
What is your Awesome Lunch? Tell me that, too.