Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Myopia that has nothing to do with eyesight

I am near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other eye.
I like to think this is a reflection of my personality, too, because I try to see both sides.
That doesn't mean I agree with both sides, but I try to understand where people are coming from.

I understand the desire and need parents have to send their kids back to in-person school.
I understand the feeling that one's kid(s) is doing nothing except playing video games right now in the summer so the idea of doing more screen stuff for the foreseeable future as "school" is not appealing. 

But I have to laugh at the notion that kids, suddenly, now during the pandemic, are for the first time in their lives going to bed at all hours of the night and not keeping a normal schedule.

There is a global pandemic.

Everything, for lack of a better term, sucks. 

But while the pandemic is making things suck more for a lot more people, it doesn't mean that school and everything "normal" made life right as rain before.
And if we suddenly go back to school in person that children's lives will once again be precious and special and whole.

In-person school caused an awful lot of kids stress, for one, whether that stress was teacher-induced or getting up early-induced or not understanding school work-induced. 

And I knew PLENTY of kids who would stay up all hours of the night playing video games and then come to school the next day. 
Just because they were in-person in a school building did not mean they were getting anything like an education. 
They were checked as physically present, but they were emotionally and intellectually not on the premises.

There were many times that I watched students do absolutely nothing. 
Yes, that was with me, a sub. 
But I know from their teachers that they still did nothing. 
They would sit and not work, even with their teachers. 
One teacher I know said one of her classes would get maybe, if she was lucky, 2 days of work in a 5-day period because they just played around and had no interest. 

So I do get my panties in a bunch when adults act like kids were a-ok before pandemic but now are suffering depression and anxiety because they aren't at school.
That appears to be correlation, not causation.
Maybe they are depressed and anxious because there is a GLOBAL FUCKING PANDEMIC.

I'm not sure sending them back to school in a building with its public health rules and the potential for quarantine when someone turns up COVID-positive after two days in the building (hello Charlestown HS) is gonna reduce that anxiety/depression.
For all we know, it could make it worse.

And by saying all this, I'm not suggesting that the kids who stayed up all night and played video games and were just zombies in the building was alright. 
I didn't like it, and it's not right, and I know there are ways to resolve it with enough funding and enough work and making class sizes WAY, WAY smaller than 30 kids or even 15 kids in a class. 
But it is super pollyanna-ish to act like putting bodies in a building is going to make life normal.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The pandemic plus-side (and there are some)

I am a progressive person.
I believe in improvement and making things better and enacting quick change if necessary to make improvements happen.

I do not believe that "things were better" in the past.
If they were so great, why did we strive to get to where we are now?
We only think things were better back when because we aren't living back then.

I sometimes fall into this, especially when I see how much time my kids are spending online since we are not doing much because of COVID. 

When I find myself doing this, however, I try to whisk myself back in time and maybe even do a little Google research.

Sometimes I only need to go back to my own childhood, when my mother thought me watching MTV for hours on end would lead to the atrophying of my brain. 
(Actually, she and my dad wouldn't get cable so I would go to my friends' houses and watch MTV there for hours on end. And she always wondered why I never wanted to invite friends to my house.)

And yet, here I am, with a master's degree and having read 68 books so far in 2020. 

Or I go back to the late 1800s when children my son's ages were working in factories under horrific conditions. 
Or working all day long on a farm doing back-breaking work. 
Or I think to children in other countries who are working in cobalt mines under horrific conditions like right now, in the year 2020. 

Last week I participated in an online lecture about tuberculosis, and I would not want to go back to when TB was epidemic.
Or polio was a thing.
Or smallpox was a thing. 

It is with this in mind, this movement forward and not focusing on what the past was like, that I look at non-traditional instruction for 6 weeks  (the rest of the year cause I know these fools going to pool parties and keggers are not gonna help the virus go away.)

There can be some real positives from online school for my kids such as N being able to work more and earn money to put toward car insurance or car purchase or college expenses. Or G not having to be around other dumb-ass middle schoolers all day (because he doesn't love middle schoolers even though he is one.) Or us being able to do some weekend trips around the state because we have greater flexibility. 

N actually read more books during the spring NTI than she normally does when she is at actual in-person school, and that isn't a bad thing. 

We all aren't running in 15 different directions all the time, which isn't a bad thing. 

NTI means families don't have to buy new uniforms or clothes or shoes or backpacks or lunchboxes or folders and pencils and all that other stuff. 

NTI means some people are finding more time to exercise since they aren't having to drive kids to and from school. 

NTI means kids are maybe having to be adaptable and flexible in ways they haven't had to be. 
And maybe, ultimately, that will be ok and even beneficial for them over the long-term. 

(I have to bite my tongue every time I see a parent comment about their kids potentially not having a prom or a ring ceremony because this historic pandemic event is the time to make things different which will be a f*ck load more memorable than say my own senior prom, in which I desperately wished while.I.was.actually.there that I wasn't there with my longterm boyfriend at the time who I wanted to break up with but didn't until I got into college.)

I mean, at 46 years of age, if my prom or ring ceremony or graduation actually mattered, I WOULD NEED TO BE SEEING A COUNSELOR. 

I think parents are getting way hung up on a lot of the things that I just don't know that they need to be getting so hung up on right now. 

(I also just finished reading The Poisonwood Bible, and if that novel doesn't make you look at American excess and convenience with a more critical eye, then something is the matter with you.)

Of course, I say all of this fully understanding that I am the people who benefit from American excess and convenience, from an upper-middle-class perspective and part-time employment that allows me tremendous flexibility to assist kids with schoolwork while still doing my stuff. 
That doesn't mean NTI in the spring was always fun or seamless, but it got done. 

And I do think school districts need to think very much outside the box to help kids who don't have home support or who are below grade-level. 
NTI could be an opportunity to micro-focus on the kids who aren't at grade level, perhaps. 

I never consider myself an optimist, and I certainly don't now (especially as it concerns how we're dealing with COVID), but I do think in every situation, there can be positives even in the midst of negatives. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

The best of potentially horrible choices

I don't love online school as a teacher or as a parent, but I think it is the best of many bad options especially for my kids' school district which is about 96,000 kids big.

I think smaller schools can probably more safely manage COVID precautions (although I think the same thing I talk about below can and will happen to them especially since COVID rates are going up).

Let me flesh out what I briefly alluded to in my prior post about N's field hockey team the other day.

A young person went to a Younglife (this is apparently a religious thing) event.
That teenager was waiting on COVID test results.

Yes--that teen and/or that teen's parents thought it was an a-ok idea to go to a public function while waiting on a COVID test.
I think that is called "doing a Rand Paul."

That young person got a positive result the next day, which means every other kid who attended that event is now COVID-exposed, whether they were right up in this kid's face or all the way across the outside area where the event took place, whether they wore masks or not.
COVID exposure can mean nothing serious or everything serious because you just don't know what people's actions are unless you see them with your own eyes.
(And even then, we have under a year's worth of knowledge about this virus so we are flying blind most of the time.)

As I understand it, some of the friends of the 4-5 field hockey girls who attended the event (but did not attend field hockey conditioning) now have to get tested and quarantine because they socialize outside of field hockey and some of them work at a nursing home.
They have to now act out of an abundance of caution because one person made the call to attend a public event while waiting on COVID results.

As far as I'm concerned, if my kids went back to school in person, I would be spending a sizable portion of my time taking them for COVID tests.
And I imagine they would also be having to do much of their school work online anyway because if they got a COVID test, I would then have to quarantine them until we got the results back.
Which means a whole lot of stopping and starting.
Which is EXACTLY the worst thing for the first weeks of school.
It takes most kids like 6 weeks to even get into any kind of routine at the start of the year.

And if the district ultimately decided to do in-person school, kids' educational time would be sacrificed even if they are in the building. 


--how much waiting time will there be to get temperature checks? If there are 300 kids in a building (lowball figure; my son's elementary has 700 kids; my daughter's high school has 1,400), how long will that take? If there are even half as many kids who opt for in-person school, how long will it take to record temps on 150 kids? Do we line all these kids up 6 feet apart? Where do we line them up? If it is raining, we can't do outside. What do we do with the kids who have fevers? (Since by being in line, they may have already exposed other students?)

(Also, temperature checks don't mean anything, even though every place keeps taking them simply to rule out the people who flagrantly violate the rules and go someplace with a fever.)

--how much waiting time will there be to move students from one area of the building (front door or bus drop off spot) to wherever they are supposed to be in the building? They can't follow social distancing and move kids all at once. How long will kids have to wait in the gym or multi-purpose room while teachers move groups of 5 or 10 kids throughout the building?

--how much waiting time will there be to do restroom breaks? Will there be monitors to do that or will teachers have to stop teaching to monitor? What are the kids doing who are just sitting there? A regular bathroom break takes a minimum of 10 minutes numerous times a day.

--how much waiting time will there be to do lunch? Do cafeteria staff bring it to rooms? What about kids who bring their lunches? Can they go in the halls to lockers to get them? How many can go at once? Then there will be clean-up time in classrooms which will be slower and longer since only a few kids can dispose of stuff to not violate the distancing guidelines.

--how much waiting time will there be to move teachers from one room to another? Kids likely won't be able to change classrooms so teachers will move, which will mean waiting time for kids in classes as they wait for a teacher to come in because they can't be left unsupervised.

--how much waiting time will there be to have kids go to lockers for books? Do they go to lockers? What will teaching kids to use their lockers in middle school be with masks and social distancing? Most kids share lockers. Can that happen now?

--how much waiting time will there be to go outside for recess? Again, there is that movement issue because traveling in a class of 30 kids will not happen. Who cleans the equipment between recesses? Is there wait time for that?

The point here is that the normal "wait" time of school will be magnified to a degree that most parents can't even wrap their heads around because they may not have a clue how long the normal administrative and movement stuff takes on a regular day when there isn't a pandemic.

In-person school will mean parents have an awful lot of stopping and starting work because they have to take their kids to get COVID tests.
And likely have to have them re-tested to prove they are COVID-negative.

In districts like ours that are huge, going back in-person would either require tremendous outlays of money for masks, staff, sanitation, etc or it would require significant outlays of money to use rooms/buildings differently to reduce class sizes by a third (at least).

Our district is a behemoth and something that size can't pivot without a lot of expense and time, which we don't have if we expect our kids to learn something this year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

All the anxiety all the time

It seems my anxiety has become more problematic than it has been.

Overall, in the spring, I think I was doing pretty well, all things considered.
I was ok being at home all the time.
I was ok with staying isolated.

But this past weekend, I realized that my anxiety is starting to rear its head in ways that make me irritated and irritable and likely to fly off the handle over darn near anything.

Because anxiety often presents not as fear but as rage.

I think this anxiety is due to the following:
--the increasing levels of COVID in the country when much of the rest of the world (the sane parts) has gotten a grip on how to manage this virus.
--A former colleague who had posted on FB that a close friend of hers had COVID updated that this person had died over the weekend from COVID.
--My MIL's neighbor has COVID (although he is asymptomatic at this time).
--This evening, my daughter's text that members of her school field hockey team are isolated because they went to a Young Life event and someone is COVID-positive, therefore many of her teammates are at home.

I am feeling weighed down by the fact that what we thought was terrible in the spring and shut everything down for is now WORSE.

I am anxious, but that anxiety is manifesting as fury, and I am also furious by the general stupidity of people so I am anxiously furious and straight-up furious, and that makes me bad news right now.

Parenting advice in a pandemic as it concerns school and normalcy

I hesitate to advise other parents what to do because as a mom of 3, I am winging it just like everyone else.

However, I keep seeing a totally understandable yet problematic thing that parents keep saying socially that has to be seeping to their kids, even if they aren't directly saying it to their kids' faces.

Things like...

"I hate this for you that school won't be..."
"I wish you could have your regular...."
"Maybe you'll be able to have your prom, graduation, whatever like normal..."

(Some parents have even held "small" proms that the local newspaper published pictures of, which just looks like a petri dish of COVID and helps ensure that we won't be able to go back to normal because they keep trying to make life normal now.)

Again, I get it.
As much as I complained about substitute teaching, I would give up my foot to make COVID disappear and go back to life pre-COVID.
I would take an unruly class over this uncertainty and fumbling about trying to create a "new world."
I don't relish the idea of doing virtual learning for my kids.

COVID has cost me income (of my 4 part-time jobs, I am currently doing 1, and I'm thankful as hell for it.)
COVID has impacted my mental health.
And I'm freaking privileged and can put food on the table and pay my mortgage because D still has his job.

But pining for the way things used to be right now is an effort in futility.
Wishing things could go back is not helping your kids adapt.
Promising to give them pre-COVID experiences to assuage their loss (and YOUR loss) is not helping either of you.

As Elsa says, LET IT FUCKING GO.
(Ok, that is the non-Disney version of Elsa.)

I only play a therapist on tv, but what I have been trying to tell myself is that we will adapt.
We'll adjust to whatever.
School may look different, but my kids will get used to it.
We will find that there are benefits to the new way of doing things that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to discover had we not gone through what is unarguably a suck-ass experience.

My hope is that my forcing myself to let whatever "normal" was and looked like go is going to help both me and my kids move forward.

Because wallowing in what was and what we'd like to be is pointless.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A reading/viewing example of white supremacy

There are, to my mind, two kinds of white supremacy.
There is the definition everyone thinks of, in which white people believe they are superior to other people who are Black, brown, yellow, etc.
This is what I always thought of.

But then there is white supremacy in which whiteness is the dominant color that society thinks about as being "the main."
Reading "White Fragility" helped inform this other meaning.

Because supremacy doesn't just mean superior.
It also means dominant, influence, or advantage.

I caught myself having an experience of white supremacy last night when D and I watched the first two episodes of HBO's His Dark Materials, a trilogy based on the novels of Philip Pullman.

This series of fantasy books has long been a favorite of mine, but I decided I needed to reread it.
And so I started reading it to my kids this summer before bed.
The 16-year-old even participated in the listening.

Now, I have always, in my mind, visualized the characters as white.
Was this because Pullman is white?
Is this because I was influenced by the 2007 film version of The Golden Compass?
Is this because I am white?

So watching the new HBO series, in which the master of Jordan College is played by a black actor, and John Faa is played by a black actor, and Boreal is played by a black actor, it struck me how sneaky and subtle supremacy is. It informs your thoughts even if you aren't aware that it informs your thoughts.

It was a bit of a wake-up for me, an awareness of how unaware I am all the time.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

White fragility and what may be an unusual conversation at the fireworks tent

I can think of a few situations, a couple I've written about on this blog, in which something happens that just seems weird like maybe its got God's fingers in it.
Or maybe it is just coincidence.
Or maybe it is me doing what my high school students say I do ALL.THE.TIME with literature, which is reading too much into something.
The blue curtains are simply blue curtains and not metaphors for something else.

Yesterday, I finished reading White Fragility, which is all about how conversations about race make white people 50 kinds of uncomfortable.
The premise is that when white people are forced into having these conversations (because they often don't willingly do so) and must recognize their own racism, they then get angry or upset or cry or do other things to not deal with their own racist thoughts, actions, or reactions.

I've been thinking about my own experiences and conversations about race and how I have acted or reacted.

Today, I went to the fireworks tent near my house to pick up sparklers and pop-its that the kids throw on the ground.
I walked up and greeted the people who were running it, all of whom were Black.

There were one adult and numerous children (I'd say ranging in age from elementary to middle school).
(They had accents which made me think they are from Africa but I don't like to be nosy and ask because it is none of my actual business.)

The middle-school-age girls were very helpful, showing me different items, and the gentleman showed me things, but I told them that we're chickens and don't like the big fireworks.

I said that I'm the one who lights the fireworks, and I can't lose my hands because who will do the cooking?

When I was paying, one of the middle-school-girls was bagging my stuff and humming.
She asked me if I knew that song.
I asked her what it was.
She said it is a Christian song.
I said, "Oh."
She said, "Are you a Christian?"
and I answered, "Er....."

Because I was raised Catholic (which is Christian) and I half-assedly attend a Disciples of Christ church (which is Christian), but I don't think of myself as Christian because, honestly, a lot of Christians do a lot of not-even-remotely-Christian-stuff, and I don't want to be associated with them.

A lot of Christians do a lot of talking about being Christian, but they don't do a whole lot of acting like Christians in the way that I think Jesus would think is cool.

The girl saw me hesitating and said, "Am I making you uncomfortable?"
And I said, "No, it's just that I have some issues. I believe in Jesus, but I don't always like the church."
The girl then asked me about gay people and trans people, and I responded that I support them.
And I said, "I don't always like how churches treat women, for example."
This then led us to briefly discuss how Catholicism doesn't allow women to have a major role in the church as priests (which is just one of many issues I had with that particular brand of Christianity.)

And then I said, "I believe in treating people the way you want to be treated."
The gentleman said that this is the most important thing.

I couldn't help but think this conversation was sort of bizarre.
I meant it's not every day that people start conversations about religion with me.
But it was also bizarre because of its timing.
I was the sole white person at this tent.
The people who operated it were all Black.
The girl asked me questions about religion and asked me if they made me uncomfortable (which relates so much to what I'd just been reading about except in terms of race).
And we ended up discussing the Golden Rule, which I think has a lot to do with how white people treat Black people in both obvious and non-obvious ways.
Many white people do not speak about or to Black people in the same way that they would want to be spoken about or to.
They don't like the idea of Black people having the same opportunities as them even though if they traded positions, white people would want to have a fair shake at opportunities.

The video above is, to me, a pretty obvious example of white people not doing unto others as they would have others do unto them.

So, I don't really know what to do with this whole thing.
But I know I'll probably think on it for a good long time.