Monday 12 October 2020

Thankful 2020 (so far, so good)

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving and seems like an appropriate time to add something to the record. I have a lot to be thankful for, both obvious and less obvious.

Six weeks into the 2020-2021 school year, here are the obvious things to be thankful for:

AJ and Dani  have adjusted well to their school day routines. 

Dani (two years, eight months) is full time at the daycare and is happy to go and see her friends. I don’t see directly what their space looks like nor what they do as parents aren’t allowed past the door. But her attitude is enough proof for me that she is doing well.  Dani loves collecting rocks, riding  tricycles and having her own opinions on everything.

Ditto for AJ. She loves Grade 1 and her teacher. Whatever they are doing at school for Covid 19 precautions doesn’t appear to phase her at all. She wears her mask most of the day without comment. The only thing that she complains about is that there is some sort of schedule of cohorts for the playground which means she doesn’t go there often. I often get requests to go after school. She has a few good friends in her class.

AJ turns six in a couple of weeks. I planned her party a couple of weeks earlier so we could hopefully be outside for most of it. We are going to a kids’ farm with a few friends to hang out with the animals and possibly play in the park if weather permits. I have warned AJ it might not come off exactly as anticipated for all sorts of reasons but she is philosophical about the whole thing so far. 

So far our family has stayed healthy so life carries on mostly normal with the precautions that have become routine. Family gatherings are smaller than previously but we continue to see our family in Calgary regularly, which is very important especially for my mom who has struggled the most with the isolation. We live without guarantees, but we live.

My high school year: also so far, so good. Or even, dare I say it, great. As far as not having Covid cases at school, I have to say I believe it is mostly luck. The students are good about wearing masks. Social distancing, not so much. We try to stagger class changes informally (keeping kids till the bell is a thing of the past, and tacitly accepted.) Still, despite reasonable best efforts, I have no doubt that one infected person could easily cause an outbreak, and odds are it will happen at some point, though I hope for the best. My former high school and staff was featured in the school board’s instructional video for Covid precautions. Ironically they were the first school in the city to have an outbreak declared.

The not so obvious things to be thankful for:

My new co-teacher and I have confessed to each other, almost with embarrassment,  that this has been the most pleasant and low stress opening to the school year either of us can remember (we are similar aged). Why this seeming miracle? We have very small classes, even by special ed standards. A few students, mostly the older ones, opted for online education for at least a few months. We know most of the others well, as I either taught them grade 9 or she taught them in the previous years. We have a well bonded little group and not too many issues (so far). The two of us also work very well together. I am more the dreamer and she helps us stay real and not take on too many schemes that take hours of prep. 

Also, Google Classroom. Although we are back in person, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would use Google classroom as a learning tool and remote teaching back up. My co teacher was not as familiar with it and was dubious at first, but I assured her it really would make things easier. And by God, it does. I am more organized now than I have ever been in my career. We share plans and ideas with a couple of clicks of a mouse. We have even added on  colleagues outside our school and substitute teachers to share ideas and curriculum with them. We can work on projects in real time with the students while staying socially distanced.  The opportunity in all this pandemic-caused disruption is to learn new ways of doing things, to move beyond limitations that don’t need to be there. All this is benefitting our students who have the opportunities created by our shared energies and creativity.

Compared with this time last year, I am shockingly confident, relaxed and optimistic. And I am actually profoundly grateful for all the non Covid-related  struggles I had last fall. I feel like I went to mental health boot camp, and when pandemic crazy happened I was able to go into the battle strong. I cannot overstate the difference it has made to switch my self image from....whatever it was seeing myself as someone who leads, or at least stands out in front.

The other thing which cannot be overstated, is what an advantage it feels like to be able to stay in my community. Again, whatever turns of fate got me to where I am now, no matter how unthrilled I might have been about specific situations in the past, I am so lucky now to be in the position I am. My home, daycare, AJ’s school and my school are minutes apart. I literally drop off Dani and cross the street.  I am not a fan of the identity group based, atavistic energies of our cultural moment. Bleah! So much NO.  But my tribal instinct, if any, is now centred squarely on my local community.  I have located myself in time and space and this is where I will aim to make a positive difference. For now.

I could go on and on; I could explore all the reasons I’ve come to this moment. I could also be writing another entry in a couple of days starting “wow everything has turned into a shit show.” But I have faith in the moment, and in myself. As the Samurai proverb says: “Take arrows in your forehead, never in your back.”

The pumpkin cake AJ made with her Grandna over FaceTime.


  1. OK, first that cake looks amazing! I've been so interested in reading about the school experiences because it seems every school is different. It sounds like there's some things working great for you and others not so much. I give teachers so much respect because what they're doing is seemingly impossible.

    1. Thanks! The cake was a great success. Fun for AJ and her Grandma to create something together: they’ve gone a long time without a visit.

      I was afraid I’d be asked to do impossible things at school, or worse, ridiculous things. So far that hasn’t been the case so much. Part of it is luck and part of it is probably my attitude. I have been really trying to focus on what I can do vs what I can’t and that makes a big difference. And just having learned so much this year, is encouraging. I enjoy my peace of mind where I can find it, knowing there’s more than enough chaos out there to take me out. But it hasn’t yet and I am getting stronger. Haha. I hope. All the best to you.

  2. That cake does look amazing! My mom wants to bake with Kate over Face.Time, but I’m not sure how long it would hold her interest. I’m glad things are going smoothly for both of you at school. Kate went back to in person for mornings only and we too are surprised at how well it’s going.

    1. Nice; I’m glad Kate is doing well. I think the little ones are often more flexible and adaptable than adults (at least until they aren’t). There is so much value in having kids be with other kids at this age. I hope it continues to work out.

      We often bake in our house, so the FaceTime baking was not bad. AJ tends to lose interest about half way through, but it’s not a big deal. The cake was really quite fast though so it held her attention and she also got to choose what to make, so that helps.