It’s the 4th of August. In thirteen days, summer is over and the pesky drone that keeps circling over teacher’s backyard will be docked and the widely debated Distant Learning will officially begin. Student eyes are ever-present at Angel Cove Cottage By the Sea, my safe harbor graced by Huck Finn Gboys and a nesting wispy-haired four-month-old chick and her Mama Bear. I step outside and sit in the front garden’s sun and once again: The Buzzing Drone overhead. No doubt, a former student. Damn that Gotcha Privacy Invader. I’m moving under the jacaranda. Shade when I crave sun. Damn. I’m still pasty, tan-less white.
A couple of weeks ago an eighth-grader from our school and his family moved out of the apartment that shares our southernmost fence. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. We throw ourselves some pretty vivacious backyard parties. Like last night, a mysterious pink-boxed gift was revealed to the hip, but elderly auntie–deemed the “mini massager”–which actually isn’t really a sore neck vibrator, if you get my drift. My naivety caused quite the roar. It’s always like this: We’re always hooting and hollering over something. Anyway, the former neighbor/student knew a little too much about me and my private life, especially my really bad pajamas. But that’s the nature of living so close to school.
Seriously, I had no idea when we moved here 25+ years ago that one day I’d be living around the corner from the school I’d eventually teach at.
My daughter, who’s also a teacher, and I have been talking a lot about our jobs until I was ordered, “No more!” We have to give it a break before there is no break, at least not until Thanksgiving when who knows what the world will look like.
This coming year is gonna be a doozy, that’s for sure.
I’m not sleeping. I’m worried about lesson planning, the new delivery of content, the pressure to ramp up and motivate while at the same time still enjoying teaching and getting to virtually know my new students. So many unknowns. Yet, so many concrete answers, like WE WILL be instructing from behind a computer screen for a bunch of weeks. At this point we have to report to campus five days a week while our students are instructed to stay home. None of us are fans–not the teachers–for sure–or the students, parents and the district administration. But we will, once again, step up to the challenge and do the very best job we are capable of doing under the unwanted circumstances. I’m grateful, honestly, that I’m not going to be exposed to the virus in the same intense way I would be if I were in a warm classroom with 35 students times six classes a day. Under normal conditions, classrooms are Petri dishes. At least now we can be somewhat safe. For that I am proud to live in a state where the governor is a true leader. He does the right thing even when it’s not especially popular.
If you aren’t a teacher, be assured that every day in August leading to and beyond the opening of school, I and every other teacher I know will be thinking about, and preparing, how to best teach students. I am way out of my comfort zone and, if I’m being honest, if I could afford to retire early, I would–in a heartbeat! But I know I am learning skills that I guess I need to know to be relevant. As a pencil and paper person, I keep telling myself, “It’s just a different way of communicating.” I’m sure my administrators are worried about me: “Can the old gal handle it?” One thing I am is stubborn. I not gonna lose my shot, to quote a pretty famous musical, at making this the best teaching year of my career.
This year, my 8th grade English Language Arts colleagues and I decided our theme would be The Power of Story. We’re going to make connections with current events and learn to listen, reflect and respond in powerful ways. It’s an open canvas. We’re gonna take out what we don’t need, what we don’t like, what isn’t effective using the distant learning format, and concentrate on making the content extremely relevant. This is right up my alley. As a former journalist, I fell in love with writing when I discovered my words could make a difference in the lives of readers and those I reported about. Teaching students to be powerful writers, thinkers, listeners and speakers is exhilarating. And daunting. While confident with the content since this is my 18th year teaching 8th graders, the HOW I teach it is profoundly unnerving. Thus, the lack of sleep.
It’s going to be different for all of us, but I am hopeful we’ll emerge wiser.
In the meantime, be kind to us dear public. I can promise you, with love, courage and technological assistance from our IT Department, we’re going to to rock it. Somehow.
Just know that every night in August is like a Sunday night for teachers.