Tonight, I am contemplating — somewhat anxiously — what tomorrow will bring. That’s fairly standard territory the night before returning to school for a new term, but right now it’s even more complicated than usual.
Phrases like “back into routine” and “good to keep busy” have been bandied about altogether too casually by people who don’t understand how I feel. In one sense, things may seem as though they are “returning to normal”, but I don’t feel that way at all. Instead, it feels very much like I’m stepping into the vast unknown.
The world out there is anything but normal.
The state in which I live ihas been cut off from the rest of the country by border restrictions because of the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne. We’ve all been quarantined to an extent, and Melbourne itself is locked down much tighter than we are out here in the western region of the state.
The distance between us and Melbourne is no room for complacency, though. Just today we heard the news that Warrnambool, the regional city in which I work, has reported its first active case in months. It’s sobering news, and terrible timing for the beginning of a new school term. Honestly, it just adds a greater sense of impending doom to the craziness that is going on out there.
I’m keen to see my students, though. My hope is that they will take my mind off things through each school day and keep me motivated when I’m feeling low.
So, I’ve invested in masks and extra sanitiser. I even have sprays to disinfect any work the kids hand in. I will be even more conscientious and deliberate about social distancing, because I don’t trust other people to do the right things. At least my natural cynicism about human nature is intac which, I suppose, is something.
Life isn’t ‘normal’ on a personal level either.
I miss Dad. I miss Helen. Enormously.
I have lost two of the constant, consistent encouragers in my life. I keep thinking of things I want to tell them, and photos I want to show them, and I can’t. I want them to know about my new great-nephew. I want to tell them I love them. It’s really, really hard.
I’m trying to work through my grief, but that isn’t going to happen according to any timetable. That’s a process that will take as much time as it will take.
The past three weeks have changed me, although I can’t define exactly how.
I feel like I should be more resilient, or better at handling things, or at least better at faking an appearance of being able to manage, but I’m not.
I feel like I should look different somehow, but I probably don’t.
That is, of course, if you don’t look too closely at the dark circles under my eyes. Sleep has been evasive ever since Dad was admitted to hospital with coronary issues on June 16. During the week in which both he and Helen passed away, I barely slept at all. Last night I managed seven hours, but it was in two instalments with an hour off at half time. It’s no wonder I feel like rubbish.
My purpose in expressing my thoughts and feelings here is not to moan or whine. I know I am not the only person experiencing these things. I am not the only person experiencing grief, or lugging emotional baggage everywhere.
I want others in similar situations to understand that there is nothing wrong with feeling the way they do. All of this is part of the grieving process, and it’s crucial to be kind and patient with ourselves while we sort our various burdens out.
I want other people to understand that they can’t expect people who are grieving, or anxious, or caring any other kind of burden for that matter, to feel a certain way or simply “get over things” in any set period of time.
Grief is not a tidy and well-organised domain. Everyone experiences it differently. It brings with it a whole variety of secondary emotions that are unpredictable at best. Denying it, suppressing it, or trying to make our grief fit preconceived expectations are futile and unhealthy ways of dealing with it.
That means each of us has to deal with it in our own time, and each of us can expect to be as messy as our grief. Each of us will, at some point, have to step out into a world that has changed significantly and irreversibly.
Acceptance, kindness, patience and self-care will help to make that a healthier process for everyone.
Stepping Back Into A Changed World #grief #emotions #anxiety #personal #blogpost
Teaching in front of a camera has given me— and, I’m sure, every other teacher out there — a unique insight into what our students see when we talk and interact with them.
I have made some honest observations about myself during this time.
I really do have RBF. Sorry, kids. I’m not annoyed or angry, that’s just how my face looks.
When my eyes are tired, I tend to open them really wide after blinking. It tends to makes me look somewhat perpetually surprised. Prior to lockdown learning, I had no idea I did this.
At first, I touched my face a lot without thinking about it. Now? Not so much.
My coffee cups look even more enormous on camera than they actually are.
The little smiles I give to try to connect with my students, and to encourage and motivate them, can sometimes look a bit deranged.
My eyebrows are perhaps my most expressive feature.
My hair does, in fact, look really cool most of the time.
Despite all those things, my students keep on showing up to class, working hard, getting things done and putting a smile on my face. They regularly brighten every day I spend with them. They’re a pretty awesome bunch.
There are a few other things I have observed.
Bad hair days and/or desperate need for a cut and colour are easily fixed with a nice beanie/touque/knitted hat. The best way to find beanies/touques/knitted hats nice enough to wear for work is to have friends who knit or crochet. Also, a faux fur pom pom on a hat is far more satisfying than I ever realised.
Working from home has its benefits, but it is definitely not less work.
Looking at a screen for sustained periods of time is mentally and visually exhausting. I’ve started asking my students what sorts of trees are in their gardens, what they can see from their windows, and what’s happening outside their houses, just to make them look away from the screens every now and then. I’m also spending a lot less time on screen outside of class. There is nothing like losing yourself in a book, but when your eyes are tired, listening to great audiobooks and podcasts while staring into the distance is an enormously underrated and enjoyable sanity saver.
Overall, things have worked fairly well for me.
On the Sunday evening before my final week of 100% remote teaching from home, I can honestly say that I can look forward to my classes this week with confidence.
I am also looking forward to seeing some of my classes and colleagues when we begging to return to school on June 1st. It will be great to get into a physical classroom again… although I wonder if that might feel a little weird now, too?
Observations from #TeachingFromHome In Front Of A Camera #TeacherLife #TeacherConfessions #TeachingOnline #blogpost
I don’t write this to complain. I am, however, starting to feel like I need to account for my whereabouts. If this post sounds even remotely whiny, I apologise in advance.
The past few weeks have been brutal.
A horrid throat infection a few weeks ago laid me low and set me at least ten days behind in my work schedule just before my students sat their mid-year exams. Trying to get those exams marked and into the Semester 1 reports by the deadline was always going to be a challenge, to say the least.
That task, however, has been complicated by my being at court since last Friday, in the pursuit of justice and hoping for closure in a matter very close to my family and my heart.
That, in turn, has limited the time available for grading exam papers and writing reports to the weekend and evenings. It also meant that every lesson for this week and next had to be fully prepared, resourced and assigned on the school system before I left work last Thursday afternoon.
And thus, my waking hours have been fully consumed by matters of high priority that cannot be put off. I’m pulling successive 18 hour days with very little downtime.
There has been no writing. There has been no reading. My friend taught me to knit on Saturday afternoon, and I completed four rows while I was with her. I haven’t had time to pick that up again yet, either.
The only relief I have had is the audiobook I am listening to on the drive to and from court each day, and the few minutes I have taken over lunch or dinner to write the day’s blogpost if I am not using one written in advance.
I honestly don’t know how much longer I can keep this up, but I am going to have to try.
I should finish the exams tonight, but the there is a stack of work and assignments that my students are turning in this week while I am away from school. I need to check, grade and return all of that as soon as I can so the kids get the feedback and help they need to keep on learning and improving.
I don’t know when the court case will finish. I don’t know when I will get all this work done or when I will be able to write again, or read for pleasure.
Term ends at the end of next week and I am determined to take a well earned break then. Maybe I will sleep for the entire two weeks.
And if you are one of those people who like to comment on “all those holidays” teachers get?
Today was the last day of term and the end of the school year.
The last two weeks since I returned to work after my surgery have been brutal and I feel like I have run a marathon, especially having had dad in hospital again at the same time, but I’m proud of myself for doing it, and looking forward to a very well-earned rest.
One of the things I really enjoy doing on this one particular day of the year is turning all my morning alarms off. It may take all of ten seconds, but it’s a ritual that restores my sense of “owning” my time again. I love being able to embrace my inner night owl once more, and take my daylight hours at a slower pace.
Last Friday, I gave my History class an essay question half a week in advance of their assessment task.
They were to prepare a plan and notes to use while writing the essay in class this week. I advised them that they could use their handwritten notes and their textbook while writing, but they were not allowed the use of any devices. All the information about the task was given to them in writing as well as my explaining everything in class.
I expected that today, when the students came to class, they would be ready to start. Happily for me, most were.
And then, because nothing ever goes smoothly, this happened:
Student A: “Can we type this?”
Me: No. No devices.
Student B: “My notes are at home. Can I use my iPad?”
Me: “No. No devices.”
Student C: “Can you write the question on the board please?”
Me: “I gave you the question on Friday.”
Student C: Yeah but I didn’t write it down.
Me: That makes me happy.
Bemused, I wrote the question on the board.
Student B: “What page is it in the textbook?”
Me: “Do you mean the pages you were supposed to read and study last week?”
Student B: “Yeah.”
Me: Speechless, I allow The Eyebrow to speak for me.
All the kids except two commenced writing. Students B and D, though? They’re still reading the textbook.
There are a number of things in life that I’m passionate about. British history, especially the medieval period, has always been my favourite for reading and study, as have the works of Shakespeare, along with a good number of other writers. A teacher by profession, I love interacting with my students and leading them to those golden “penny drop” moments when something becomes real and meaningful. I have always loved reading. And as an Indie author who understands how hard it is to find readers, and how much harder than that it is to get reviews, I’m committed to reading, reviewing and sharing great Indie books of all genres.
I was very excited recently to discover, read and review an Indie novel about the life of Aethelflæd, the Anglo-Saxon queen. To my absolute delight, it was well-written and beautifully told. I thought then that several Christmases had come at once.
Now, less than a month after posting that review, it’s happened again, and I find myself at a quite magical point in time where my passions have met and over lapped, as though life has popped me into the middle of some invisible but very cool Venn diagram.
I’m currently teaching Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ in one of my senior English classes. Not only is the writing and language incredible – there are curses and insult exchanges galore, along with some great monologues – it’s also the one with the hunchbacked evil genius who usurps the throne and has himself crowned king, the princes being murdered in the tower, and a fabulous haunting scene! The historiography of the play may be fairly tenuous, but the audience is left in no doubt of the creative genius of the writer. All of this means that I am getting paid to be an absolute nerd about the language, the writing and the history, all at the same time. That in itself is pretty darned great.
Tonight, though, as I was browsing through the Wordpress reader, I found an article about a great new Indie novel about the life of Henry Stafford, known in Shakespeare’s play as Buckingham, the ally and “other self” of King Richard III. When I went to a renowned global digital bookstore to check it out, I discovered the same author has also written a novel and several other books about Richard III.
That may not seem very exciting to some, but for me, it’s fantastic. I get to teach ‘Richard III’, indulge myself in Shakespeare and history to my heart’s content, and to read and review a couple of Indie books about two of the most fascinating characters in the play – and possibly in English history, it could be argued – at the same time.
My nerdy little mind is blown. I think I need to go and lie down.
School has resumed after the six week summer break that we enjoy here in Australia. After completing my First Aid, Asthma/Anaphylaxis First Aid and CPR re-certs last week, followed by three full-on days of professional development and preparation, I had my first day with classes today.
The kids are great and, if the first day is any indication, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a good year together.
But holy beaverschnitz! I am exhausted. I don’t remember being this tired at the start of a school year before.
Exhaustion by Jessica Cross via Flickr
I’ve come home every evening this week, fallen onto my bed and wept until I fell asleep like a two-year-old who still desperately needs that afternoon nap. I honestly have no idea why they resist that so much!
This afternoon a colleague asked me a question about something that happened last year, and I told him quite honestly that I was having trouble remembering yesterday. I can’t do social media. I can’t read. I can’t write. It’s a good thing I did my preparation for the semester over summer, because there’s no way I could get it done now given the shape I’m in at the moment.
There’s a running joke in my house – okay, so it’s actually not much of a joke, to be honest – that my husband makes me a double shot in the mornings because it’s my kick starter dose of Vitamin DHP – “Don’t Hurt People”. That double shot usually keeps me going most of the day. Today, it got me to about 10.15am and then my grip on reality started to crumble. I focused on my classes, tried to make all the words make sense, and dragged myself to lunchtime, and then downed 600ml of Coke Zero in record time – even for me.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I know it’s part of my job and it will pass. I’m just trying to explain why the blog has been quiet, why I’m not active on social media, and why emails are going longer than usual before I respond.
The only thing I can do effectively right now is hope I snap back into the rhythm and routine of teacher life quickly, because the pile of essays and papers in need of grading is going to start mounting up very soon.
Until then, though, if you see me staring into space or collapsed at my desk, administer caffeine… and please, be kind.
Every year, this week is one of the busiest of my teaching year. It’s right up there with report writing in terms of stress, but it’s much more enjoyable.
It’s Production Week.
I’m the director/producer of my school’s musical each year, and this is the week where we hit the stage and everyone is wowed by the students’ performances.
The weeks leading up to the show have been demanding. There has been fear, elation, exhaustion, laryngitis, delight, and excitement in fairly equal proportions. Even so, there has been an overriding confidence – at least, most of the time – that the show would be great.
In every show we do, the kids are always amazing, and I’m always proud.
But during the first performance of ‘Les Miserables – School Edition’ last Friday night, I was so proud that I cried. For someone who doesn’t cry much, that says a lot.
It’s wonderful to be able to honestly say that the show was spectacular.
In saying that, I don’t mean to brag. This has been a group effort by singers, actors, orchestra, sound and lighting crew, set construction teams, backstage crew, parents sewing costumes, hair & makeup teams, vocal coaches, musical director and myself. A show like this doesn’t happen without every part of the machine running.
Most of you reading this won’t get a chance to see the show, so here’s a little article from today’s Warrnambool Standard, complete with a totally-unrehearsed-for video that shows you how talented, and how delightfully funny, my students are.