Saturday, September 19, 2020

Shards of Joy

My happiness was shattered on March 26, 2020. That was the day my Mom passed unexpectedly. The days since have been filled with sorrow, tears, and grieving. Memories of her swirl in my mind as I sleep, and when they do it causes me to wake up smiling. 

My happiness is buried somewhere in there, in the remembering. I'm broken, but not too broken to appreciate who she was, how she nurtured and supported me, and her unconditional love, which is, above all, the thing that will help mend me. 


I'm finding it is the things I love that comfort me and give me hope. In comfort, there is a way back to peace and a sense of wholeness. School has started, kinda. The craziness of my personal struggles, mixed with the craziness of our societal struggles dealing with a global pandemic, cannot take away the joy I feel when I see the picture above. A child reading Curious George! It seems simple, but there's so much power in the image. I am so grateful to her mom for sharing it with me. She knows. She knows I need the boost. And it helps.

I'm looking forward to starting another school year because, despite the craziness, I know that children, teaching, ASL, books, Curious George, smiles, laughter, and youthful energy will bring me back to me again. It's a happiness my Mom would want for me. That I know with great certainty to be true.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Back to School(ish)

Anxiety mounts as the countdown brings us closer to the start of another school year. This one, my 25th, is like no other. It is filled with questions ranging from the school calendar (there isn't one), to safety protocols, student rosters, learning models, curriculum, and the coordination of all these elements. There are so many unknowns. 

Thankfully, this past week we had some answers. It seems a strike, which has been weighing heavily on my mind, has been averted. The NYC DOE, mayor's office, and the UFT came to an agreement that would provide some safety measures for students and staff. I still report in-person at my school on September 8, 2020, but students (originally scheduled to start on September 10) won't begin classes now until September 21. That will give schools time to get their act together, I hope. 

My school selected the A, B, C, D plan encompassing blended and fully remote learning. This means, as far as I understand, that I have some students on my first grade roster that I will never see. Children whose parents opted for fully remote learning (Group D) will work with a fully remote teacher (not me and not yet assigned). I'm not sure how that plays out for my Deaf and hard of hearing students. I suppose a sign language interpreter will work alongside the teacher to facilitate communication. It's not ideal (especially when I can provide instruction in the child's first language of ASL), but these are extraordinary times. 

The rest of the class - my blended learning students - are split into A, B, and C groups. I see just one group a day in our socially distant, mask-wearing, classroom. Let's see how long first graders can follow those rules. That means I see them only once or twice a week. The other days they work with a "blended remote teacher." Confused? It'll be a lot to coordinate. 

There are so many challenges, yet, I feel more than ready to tackle them. Remote learning, which I did with my class from March - June, was difficult and (mostly) unfulfilling. I kept reminding myself that we were all doing our best in a horrible situation, it is temporary, etc. 

I want to go back to my classroom. I want to build a community of learners (no matter how small each day), and I want to feel the joy that teaching brings me. Alas, I don't want to die for it and I have my fingers crossed that all will go well, but it's a risk. A risk I have no power to avoid or refuse.

Details continue to be worked out. I'm very anxious. I am skeptical. But, I am also determined to be the person my students need me to be right now. Given all the pain I've encountered this year, I believe getting back to what I love will also help heal my sorrow a bit. At least, I hope so. 

Back to school 2020. This is one like no other. Wish us luck. 


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