"Stay flexible" continues to be my professional mantra, carrying over from 2020. I volunteered to be a remote learning teacher last fall, and am one of those weird teachers who has actually looked forward to and even enjoyed creating a new learning and teaching environment. I've shifted from trying to make my Zoom and digital experiences "just like" on-site or "real" school (with all of the restrictions that on-site students and teachers have to adapt to, why would I wish any of that upon my class?) and to put it bluntly, my body greatly appreciates having multiple breaks scheduled throughout my day. That's right, I have five, count them, F-I-V-E intermissions where I can and do use the restroom, e-v-e-r-y day. In twenty-plus years of teaching, this is the most accommodated my bladder has ever been.
Unlike past teaching years, my class size can accordion greatly. I began with twelve of my own "permanent" remote learning students in the fall. Families chose my class because they intended to have their kindergarteners learn safely from home for at least the first semester of school. Two transferred to on-site learning after parents who had lost their jobs during the spring and summer gained employment ("If I don't take this job and move _______ back to school in-person, we won't have Christmas or be able to pay other bills.") while recently another parent working the night-shift couldn't support his kindergartener's daily Zoom and activity schedule. As a remote learning kindergarten teacher (I have a grade level partner) I host students who test positive and must isolate or who have a family member who has tested positive and must therefore quarantine for up to two weeks. My class size has grown by one, two, three, six, and last week, by sixteen students overnight. Yes, sixteen. Stay flexible.
Though my entire district moved to remote learning right after Thanksgiving Break, on-site classes begin again tomorrow. Last Thursday and Friday, district students, their families, and teachers and their families were offered the opportunity to be tested for COVID, and as anyone could have guessed, I've already added at least one new student to my roster. Should a kindergarten teacher in the district have to quarantine in the future, however, and with an extreme shortage of substitute teachers, there's a chance I could yet again, take on another entire class in addition to my own.
This week all of our middle-of-the-year mandated assessments begin. Will I be screening ten, eleven, or twenty-five students for dyslexia and STAR Reading, or administering curriculum-based measures for math to children who I have not yet met nor even had the time to build a rapport? I'm also having to take Friday off to accompany my husband to his dental surgery, so I'll need to prepare for a guest teacher who has yet to be assigned since my original sub just received a positive COVID test for a family member.
You know, even flexible tools like pipe cleaners and wikki stix break apart after being bent one too many times. At what point must others release their grip from the mindset of "we-have-to-make-this-year-as-normal-as-every-other-year-because-we-refuse-to-envision-education-in-any-other-way?" Often our ability to effectively apply self-care relies heavily upon the responsibilities thrust upon us even during our hours away from work. Here's hoping that this latest surge doesn't last long and that I can reclaim some of my time for myself and my family, and that my colleagues and their families can do the same.