Pandemic Teaching is Getting Routine, but not Better — Week Nine

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My alarm hasn’t gone off for weeks. I’m up early, having slept in fits.

Try to find a tie that matches my mask, or a mask that matches my shirt

It’s still dark as I drive across town, listening to the news until I can’t, and then to music until I want more news.

I answer emails that were sent since I left home, send emails that get no answer.

I take my daily anxiety pill with the first of four cups of coffee.

I try to give myself ten minutes away from my screen before my first online class. Sometimes, I just look at my phone.

I take a deep breath before starting the meeting, pretend I’m ready for this.

It’s becoming routine. I’m less frantic, but not any better off.

I have to remind myself that I like this job, that I love this work.

I have to remind myself that I love where I work, that it has felt like a home for this work.

I have to remind myself that I feel valued, that there is value in what I seek to do in this work.

I have to remind myself that there is joy in this, that I am inspired by and for this work.

I have to remind myself, because none of those things feel true. I hate that. The guilt of that has made my lungs heavy.

I know I am lucky to be working at all, and lucky to be teaching, and lucky not to be teaching online and in person at the same time, and lucky to live in a state that at least pays lip service to our safety.

Kids are the only reason I feel sometimes ok. Every three weeks in person in small groups, masks and all, they want to learn, want to hear that I care about them, want to laugh and make stuff and be with each other.

I ignore the voice in my head that says it’s a bad idea. I need it too much.

On the other weeks, I teach four classes a day online. There are moments that feel something like teaching, whole days that feel like something less.

The best days are imperfect. The worst days we are, every one of us, just getting this done.

On nights, I write comments on their writing, try to make them specific and original, full of questions and suggestions. Usually, I get no answer.

On nights, I think about how to do this better, each idea flickering out before catching, fading to smoke against all the reasons it won’t work right now.

I work until my brain shuts my body down, promise myself an early morning.

I can’t quit this without quitting on kids. It has to be better somehow. Maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow, maybe tomorrow.

Written by

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything.

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