Wednesday 6 May 2020

Day in the life: coronapocalpyse week 7

Second of my posts about daily life during the peculiar time of shutdown during a pandemic. The day was Wednesday May 6th.

Turtle: age 40, special Ed teacher, jr high, now emergency online teacher
Mr Turtle: provisional psychologist, age 39
AJ: 5.5, kindergarten student
Dani: 2 years 3 months, toddler human

6:30 am alarm. Doze. Look at Facebook. Bryan is working from home today, so still in bed.

 Hear Dani briefly.  Shower.

For some reason I looked at my school email account before bed yesterday and read a parent email that irked me a bit. I start thinking about it again and considering different ways to interpret it and how I might respond, while another part of my mind analyzes my own reaction and what thatmeans. I am still half asleep. 

I also read a former colleague’s Facebook post that notes schools in another province are opening in a limited way mid May. There is an attached graphic which is purportedly the rules from one school where the original poster knows someone (whose identity and school is not being revealed.).  Who knows how true this is: it is so colossally awful I hope it isn’t true.

Not to brag but I’m pretty sure whatever we are doing for kids right now at home is better than *that*. I don’t think you need a degree in education to understand what a disaster the described situation would be. 

7:15: kid alarm. I now have alarms coordinated for every day.

I pick up Dani from her crib and change her diaper. She collects 3 stuffies and sits on the couch sucking thumb. Mr Turtle gets up and puts coffee on. AJ doesn’t want to get out of bed.

7:35 coffee. Mr Turtle heads downstairs to get set up for his remote staff meeting.

Dani asks for “pinkberry” yogurt for breakfast, as the blueberry is all gone. I sit her at the table on her booster, and take the top off the yoghurt container exactly as I’ve done a dozen times before. Today however, this is The. Exact. Wrong. Thing. To. Do.  Dani screams with fury and refuses to touch the yoghurt. After unsuccessfully trying to figure out what’s upsetting her, I go ask AJ (still in bed) if she can get up and come distract her sister.

Dani is still screaming, but the word “butterfly” is now intelligible. Does she want a blue butterfly ring on the table? NO!!! AJ brings her a plush butterfly. Also NO!!! But when I walk away with the plush she changes her mind and reaches for it. Dani hugs the butterfly stuffy and stops crying. 

AJ and I go sit on the couch. Dani watches us. AJ laughs a loud silly laugh out of the blue. Dani looks at her uncertainly then laughs too. I settle them both down with yoghurt. 

Potty break for mom. In a few minutes, I hear the kids leave the kitchen and get up to something in AJ’s room. (Enjoying AJ’s secret stash of goldfish, it turns out.)

8:00 AJ and Dani invade the bathroom. AJ has to pee. Dani asks to sit on “ducky” (her duck shaped potty). Afterward Dani is not happy to be asked to wash her hands. She shouts at me: “Dani—  stegosaurus!” (her new favourite word.) “RAWR!”

8:16: continue breakfast with apples for the girls. I empty the dishwasher.

8:20: start checking emails on my computer. Think about how to respond to the parent email that I was considering earlier. I decide to connect with partner teacher to share ideas and to also ask the parent for more information. Email is a stinky poopy way to communicate so I always try to remember that and be patient when I see an email that rubs me the wrong way.

8:30, Mr Turtle is back upstairs. He takes on the job of washing the girls, who are now hanging off my arm while I’m trying to work.

9:00, emails done for now. Go to get dressed.

Not in the mood to dress up today, but hey, my shirt has a collar.

9:15, staff meeting. Dani is finished her bath and checking out what’s on my computer. My colleagues  are sharing their pets on google meet. There is no pet in our house so I share a cat stuffy. Dani is very interested in my colleagues’ real cats. Mr Turtle is wrestling AJ into the shower. She is in full on silly mode. 

9:38: staff meeting done. Mr Turtle takes a shower. Kids are playing. General mental multitasking fog as I try to get things done and come up with a plan for the day. Set AJ and Dani up to do painting beside me while I work on computer at the dining room table. This actually goes well and they are busy and happy till Mr Turtle is out of the shower.

10:00: My office hour starts. I open up a Google meet so that students can come talk to me. Two students show up, including, fortuitously,  the one whose parent had emailed. I spend some quality time with them. Plans take shape in my head.  Mr Turtle and the kids head downstairs. He takes the iPad to work on AJ’s online kindergarten assignments.

11:00: my office hour is over, and I  need to figure out lunch. I didn’t eat breakfast and I  am getting pretty hungry. What to eat....well we had pasta yesterday. And cheese sandwiches. So I don’t feel like either of those. There are lots of eggs. Scrambled eggs? AJ refuses to eat eggs. But she agrees to eat a tuna sandwich. Check the plan with Mr Turtle, who is still downstairs. Start cooking and clearing off the table. 

11:30ish, lunch ready. Divide up a tomato and a yellow pepper between the four of us for vegetables. Everybody eats and enjoys their lunch: that’s a good thing.  I am feeling rather tense and overwhelmed though, and am finding it a struggle to be reflective enough to find time to write this account, and guilty that it is adding more screen time to my day.

11:50: Mr Turtle is stacking the dishwasher. I vacuum and change the dining room tablecloth because I refuse to work at a dirty table and I hate a dirty floor. Truthfully looking at the dirty floor bothers me much more than fears of Coronavirus on a daily basis.

12:00. AJ is on my computer for her weekly kindergarten google meet. 

Today Aj’s class is sharing messages they wrote on google meet. She came up with this one on her own. Mr Turtle observes she has the soul of a poet.

Mr Turtle washes dishes and I read Dani The Pout Pout Fish while AJ’s call continues.

1:00: Mr Turtle goes downstairs for another meeting. I am also online again for my class’s google meet. My partner teacher and I confide in each other that we both feel a bit out of it today. This might be related to the fact that in the past two days we learned that I will be moving to another school. Basically we have a very large graduating grade 9 class, and not enough students coming into grade 7 to replace them. So I will be following our grade 9s, more or less, into senior high. I will be back teaching at the school where I taught before AJ was born. It’s not a bad thing, in the big picture, but change can be exhausting and we’ve had so much of that already.

 The google meet goes well. We talk about a planting experiment the students did where they soaked seeds in different liquids to see which would germinate  first. I also did the experiment with AJ. She loved it.

We discuss a new experiment where students will try to grow seeds from fruit. Toward the end AJ and Dani, who have been playing around me, start whining to go outside. I prevaricate and AJ melodramatically starts to cry. Finally I decide they can just go. They make a nefarious enough racket that Mr Turtle emerges from the basement to supervise.

1:40ish, meeting ends. I get ready to go for a walk. It’s windy and cool outside. AJ and Dani are already outside so that part is easy. 

AJ has written notes and drawn pictures for some of her friends, so we walk to a mailbox to send them.

We continue on to the green space in our neighbourhood where we usually go for our outside breaks. As usual there is much playing with sticks and rocks and getting acquainted with trees. Dani insists on picking up “pink rocks.” This appears to translate to “every rock I want” because most of them are not pink. Every pocket of every jacket she owns is full of rocks.  At least she doesn’t usually try to eat them anymore. She has more of a taste now for dirt and the neighbour’s tulips.

We are home by around 3. I rush to wash Dani’s hands before she sticks her thumb in her mouth. I succeed.... this time.

AJ hangs out in her room while I put Dani down for a nap on the couch and sing to her. I have been singing 
the extended version of Row Row Row Your Boat that I created for AJ nearly four years ago (!)

When Dani is asleep I get out my computer again. AJ asks for the iPad and goes on Starfall, her favourite website. I make a cup of instant coffee and put on my softest sweater. This is just the creature comfort I need to get myself going again.

I begin going through my list of students for the day. The best way I have found to organize my work week is to assign myself six students a day to check in with. I go through all their work and mark it if it hasn’t been marked already, and leave comments and make edits for them. If they haven’t been active in the classrooms I might send an email to them or their parents. I try to stay disciplined and focus just on those six. 

Of course the exception is if I get a personal email, a parent contacts me or a student comes to office hour: then they get my attention whether or not they are on my daily list and I just make a note on the day I have assigned them. My colleagues have also struggled with how to organize their days and so I have been trying to teach them my system, and our principal had been helping by designing us individual tracking sheets. I have never worked with a principal who is so eager to help and I will miss that. 

Six students might not sound like much but it is quite a challenge to get through all of them thoroughly. At around four AJ asks me to teach her loom knitting. I had bought a bunch of looms and was teaching some of my students to knit. They had been sitting in my classroom at school but a colleague’s wife dropped them off at my house today. AJ of course found them.

Guiltily I tell her I need to work but I can teach her how to knit at five I clock. I show her the time on her iPad and explain what 5 o’clock looks like. She agrees to that. By 5 I have finished my student check ins and marking mostly  to my satisfaction, and am happy especially to see that a student who had not been doing much is completing more work, and good work too. That feels like a victory, even though her review of a horror movie about a serial killer is a tad disturbing. I still feel antsy because I haven’t done any task design or new assignments for the classes. But a promise is a promise....and AJ had noted that her iPad is showing 5 o clock. Dani is also stirring and Mr Turtle has ended his work day. He comes upstairs and starts dinner.

I wind the fuzzy yarn AJ chose around the loom and show her the basics. I don’t have high hopes but she actually proves to be very good at it and only needs my help to wrap the yarn.  She makes the mistake of proudly showing off her work to Dani who promptly grabs her yarn. Luckily I have a smaller ball of the same yarn that I can give to Dani.

With kids occupied, I pull out my computer again and challenge myself to make a spelling worksheet. A couple of weeks ago another teacher showed me a way to turn a PDF worksheet into a Google slide where students can type their answers. (here’s how)

After half an hour of fiddling I have created a couple of worksheets that are appropriate for our more advanced students. Dinner is ready. For her part AJ has knitted several inches of scarf.

I put the computer away, still feeling like I’m not done. Dinner is delicious though: chicken cooked in sauce with zucchini and mushrooms on the side. We eat at the table together. There are also noodles which Mr Turtle has hidden until Dani eats her meat and vegetables. Otherwise she will refuse to eat anything but “noo-noos.” Mr Turtle and I catch up.

6:20ish: I can’t help myself: after dinner I pull out the computer again and create some easier level worksheets. It doesn’t take long. AJ practises her piano. At around 6:40 I put the computer away, feeling finally accomplished. Then I realize I’ve almost forgotten I have my stepdance class on zoom. Luckily it doesn’t start till 7. I change into dance clothes. I always put on different clothes for dance class, and try to be pretty, even though our cameras are all off.

7:00ish: Mr Turtle takes the girls downstairs to watch a movie. I set up Zoom. I have a few flustered moments where I can’t find my mouse. But all is good. I am still very distracted, at least until I get the idea to record myself dancing. For some reason this idea appeals to me and I have fun attaching my phone with duct tape and recording my feet. In the end I actually do quite well and do some of the trickier steps better than I have before.

Some things I learned this past month:

Dani comes up at the end of my class and wants to dance with me. I put some fiddle music on YouTube and dance with her. I feel in the zone....

8:30ish....bedtime routine begins. It’s always a bit of a gong show but at some point we all end up on AJ’s bed listening to Mr Turtle read The Magician’s Nephew (the first of several classic fantasy books I’ve ordered for AJ: including The Hobbit and the first three illustrated Harry Potter books).

When Dani loses interest I take her to her room and cuddle with her, including a little bit of boobs (but it is getting more abbreviated....) and then to bed with whatever stuffy she is inseparable from at the moment....luckily she is not asking for Pink Rocks.

I start on the process of completing and editing this entry. It’s worth it to be reflective, I think, even though it takes time out of days where time is a hot commodity, flexible scheduling or no.

I get into bed with a glass of wine and continue till almost midnight.

Happy May 2020. I’m glad  to be alive and grateful for all the gifts of this day: the gift to be useful, to connect with others, to hug and laugh and dance and talk and feel the wind. All of it matters.  I love my life story and I wish nothing less for everyone else too.