Going Back

English teachers love the full-circle device in literature- so deliberate, so serendipitous. There's a feeling of closure and precision that the author has so carefully crafted, one we feel gleeful upon discovering. I'm susceptible to this notion in other areas of my life, so the fact that we have received the word that we're going back to the classroom a year after shutting down in-person learning seems meant-to-be. Should it have lasted this long? That's complicated and not the point of this post, so I'm not going to digress (for once). Am I ready? Yes. 

Since our county's numbers came back low enough today, we head back into the classroom Monday, for a hybrid schedule (I'll see my kids twice a week, at fifty percent capacity, once online and once in the classroom). Our COVID cases have dramatically fallen, for various reasons, along with most other places in the country, so I feel that we can reconvene with a level of safety that wasn't there before (please note I teach 11th graders, many of which have had the illness move their households and have had it themselves. Some have seen family members suffer greatly and a few even die). I, and many of my colleagues, have received both vaccinations and our classrooms have medical-grade air scrubbers, plexiglass shields, cleaning/sanitizer products, and a partridge in a pear tree. Masks for all, temp checks, social distancing, new drop-off procedures, cohort schedules, reduction in consumable materials, and whatever else I'm forgetting. The swiss cheese model in full effect. 

I cannot wait to see my students again- to do all the academic stuff, of course, but to also laugh with them (do you know how hard it is to joke around together as a class on Google Meets?) and monitor their work a bit better. I know my kids are a great group, given the perseverance and dedication they've shown since August, under less-than-optimal conditions. I keep joking with them that I'm going to arrange them in order of our Meet grid so I can remember who they are. For the last decade I always tell my students that I wish we could all just come to school and hang out and talk about books- I love the content and the discussion (the grading and the meetings I can do without). 

It's not going to be easy- we are returning to a way of teaching that we've never done before. I'll be concurrently instructing my students at home while teaching those in class, meaning we'll all be together doing the same thing. We aren't supposed to walk around the classroom much, so I think it will work. At the end of the day it means by students are going to receive double of me talking about reading and writing, so CLEARLY it's a win for them. 

I am incredibly fortunate that our childcare is handled, since that is a huge wrench in this system for most people. My son goes to school Monday thru Thursday in the afternoon, and while my husband is working from home, his schedule is not conducive to him covering pick-up and drop-off, so my mom is coming for a week and then my sister for the two months after spring break (and I know this is no one's concern, but we are compensating them- this is a huge favor, since they are both from Central California). It's so exciting, since we haven't been able to see them in almost sixteen months and they will both be fully vaccinated. For once it all worked out!

It's been a really long year that I know has made me a stronger teacher, and person. Going back isn't going to be easy, but, like I tell my students, we're pros at being flexible and changing course.

My biggest concern? Wearing shoes all day again. 

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