Whew, what a difference a week makes.
Are you back on the hamster wheel? Have you returned to work and thought there would be no problem going from 0 to 60 and resuming the frantic pace of our frantic lifestyles? I have and I have some stories to share.
First, the kids are all right. Sure, they’re tired and eating crappily (as a California credentialed teacher, I get to make up at least 10 words per year) but they are also ready and excited to get back to it. Monday in the classroom I wanted to have them turn in their phones which I then drop into the electronics shredder at the door then fit each student with Specula eye pieces then put Koyaanisqatsi on loop on my new massive distance learning TV and let the environmental magic happen. Let’s just say the United Nations environmental report had a pretty powerful impact on me.
Course this was not what we did because the Specula was just a prop in “A Clockwork Orange” (a movie I do not recommend, btw, as it’s like a training film for psychopaths) and I might raise some eyebrows with the new superintendent if this is the extent of my science curriculum. Plus imagine the backlash when the Tik Tok video of the classroom goes viral. “Northern California Teacher Combats Climate Change with Unique and Questionable Lesson Plan”.
But we do have to start moving in a different more sustainable direction so why not start with shredding phones?
Want to talk learning loss then let’s talk about what screens are doing and TV is doing and nature deficit disorder and a number of other issues that are impacting students far more than sitting at home trying to learn on a computer because the world has shut down. Yes, the last year messed with regular learning but we’re back baby so let’s move on.
What really happened in the classroom Monday was all that uncomfortable normal first day stuff with an overarching surprise. Students seem to care more and they actually seem to want to be at school (There’s a sentence I rarely write). There is a new appreciation after a year of sitting at home covered in Cheeto dust that school is maybe, kinda, sorta fun and sitting around every day is maybe, kinda, sorta not. Two of the girls on my golf team also said for the first time that they really like some of their teachers which has not been a common refrain over the years.
Of course, maybe it’s just the first week of school but I hope not.
The mask thing is fine, the learning loss doesn’t seem to be much different than after any other summer and the only consistent complaint from the students is that they are tired, very tired. But so is everyone because to go from Distance Learning to teaching 6 subjects in person and coaching a team while maintaining all the normal life drama is tough. It always was tough but it’s especially tough after last year.
But there are lots of ways to make it not so tough, more walking around our new fabulous athletic facility, more listening to the students, more 70% rule (If we can maintain 70% of normal output during these crazy times, then that’s OK) and more being OK with not sweating the small stuff. And more Art, always more Art.
Tuesday evening I’m too tired after golf practice to go to a friend’s dinner party at Suite D but I play through. I’m nervous because I’m always nervous but also because I’m out of practice socializing, I meet new people and by the end of dinner my friend George sums it up best, “It actually makes us stronger, Valter, gives us more energy to be at dinners like this, it’s exactly what ve need right now.” George is the perfect doppelganger for Christoph Waltz, a wise and interesting man.
Thursday two girls text me that they can’t be at golf practice because they are overwhelmed with schoolwork. “Find your homeostasis, see you next week.” I text back wondering how much work they have and whether it’s really the right way to start the first week of school.
By Friday I can see that things will settle, my almost daily naptime (3-5 during COVID), has changed to going to bed an hour earlier. My biology class only retrieved two bags of garbage from Nathanson Creek (The last time we cleaned was 16 months ago so two bags is not too bad). Biology class is currently all COVID and climate change, issues the students seem to want to learn about. And yes, I am teaching the California State Standards but my examples are straight out of the New York Times (and a little Fox News just to keep things balanced).
Saturday, I schedule and do nothing on purpose. I walk the SDC with Sam, the dog, and prune my neglected olive trees but otherwise it’s all Bill Bryson’s book “The Thunderbolt Kid” on the front porch nest. I’m like a narcoleptic all day trying not to be too embarrassed as I nod out every 20 minutes.
By Sunday I’m preparing to do it all again. I have lessons planned about Afghanistan, COVID breakthrough cases and unifying for the common good, the students will be completing diagnostic evaluations in Algebra and Geometry, and the girls will learn how to hit out of the sand.
It will get easier; we will catch up on our sleep and by Thanksgiving things should be humming along as they always do. One week at a time.