Back to School in this here 2020 – Part 2 (Keeping it all the way together)

The second week of remote learning for my gremlinz has just ended as has my first week of teaching using remote learning while managing my gremlinz at the same time. What have I learnt over this past gruelling week? As a member of the teacherati who is also a parent, the following:

  1. Bathe early. As soon as you get up, pray/meditate, brush your teeth and hop straight into the shower. Pray/meditate/brush your teeth in the shower even! Do not lull yourself into a false sense of security thinking you will have breakfast ready for yourself and others and then go take a bath and begin on time. Nope. When that first notification comes in, you’ve already lost. Operate like you are literally going to work or you will be in your nightie until 3 p.m.
  2. Do NOT plan your week. Plan your day. You can have a general idea of how the week is going to go, what your children have to do and that the tasks are all on the schedule but try not to exhaust yourself holding on to the minute by minute play that you have written in your calendar/planner/journal. For the past two weeks since remote learning started, I’ve been a boss on Monday and Tuesday and then a disappointing failure on Wednesday because my schedule went off the rails for one reason or another (one of those reasons was me staring into space after a double Google Meet wondering how the rassss I’m going to make it to December but I digress). Take each day as it comes and at the end of each day, map out what’s going to happen the next day. Leave room for disappointment and frustration. Be gentle with yourself in the evening.
  3. You know what you DO need to plan on a weekly basis though? Food. Have your meals sorted out for every single day, Monday to Friday. If your gremlinz are like mine, although they are ‘in school’ they are not operating with ‘school stomach’. Make sure you have stuff in the fridge or frozen and ready to pop out and heat up. This is a sanity-saver and it avoids your children having to lunch on digestive, cheese, Vienna sausage and ‘just add water’ mauby when you were really responsible for providing a balanced meal but was just too drained to bother (possibly a true story).
Image taken from The Washington Post

4. I’ve glad I’ve honed my multi-tasking skills. At one point during an online session I was in  a live class, messaging my form class on my student phone (because I realize that ‘Miss wha’ subject we have now?’ or ‘Miss, sir ain’t open the live yet, what to do?’ is really their way of staying connected with me), trying to update an online ‘WE NEED THIS NOW!’ attendance register on my personal phone, appeasing my son who was quarrelling because wifi went down on his device and trying to finish some cold ass coffee while making sure that my toddler handled ALL the play doh colours to keep him occupied (such a thing has never happened, one colour at a time yo). Maranatha became my safe word.

5. You will feel to mash up your device and never want to see a screen again. I don’t think I have ever gotten this much notifications in my life…….ever…….My thumb joints were literally hurting after the first day, it was the strangest feeling. I wanted to kick back at the end of the day but I did NOT want to watch tv or a movie or read my Kindle. That was most frustrating to me, so I did a spa night….on a Monday….

6. You will feel guilt and wonder if you are short-changing your own children. Sigh…….Gremlin 1 is pretty independent with Form 4 study but there were times he came to me with a query and I had no choice but to beg him for 10 minutes grace. Gremlin 2 is still on post-SEA break but wants work to do, so I made up a simple schedule for her except I have to give her the work which I forgot to do a couple of days. She whined. Gremlin 3 has a set preschool timetable as well which I have not been able to stick to and I begged the principal for two weeks escape from live circle time and reading until I get my groove. So I work with him off-schedule. That guilt hits like a ton of bricks when I’m reflecting in the evening. I swear I’ll do better next week.

7. Find your happy place. Very often when I needed a reset when there used to be a physical separation of work and home, I tended to drop in to bar or grocery, buy a beastly cold Stag or cake and sit in my car while I mentally changed my hat from teacher to parent. Now that there isn’t that physical separation or even a spot where I could sit and tour out, everything is overlapped, home is school, school is home, that’s life. The end. My bedroom (with some minor upgrades) is now my primary space to unfold the overlap so I’m not feeling a despairing need to escape my own home. Your happy place is wherever or whatever you determine it to be….and you need it…..

Last, but not least,

8. Find your happy people. You need someone to commiserate with, to rely on, to listen to you, to cuss with, to cry to, to stay in silence with, to drink with, to laugh with, to discuss you mental state with……It is a struggle and there were times when I felt I was going crazy (December Lord?!?!). I was checking in with a friend all the way in the Middle East and in the midst of the voicenotes back and forth I realized I was crying. Unbeknownst to me I needed that release. This journey isn’t to be trod on alone. Check in with your people and check in with yourself!

A lot to unpack yes but we are living in the strangest times ever. Normalcy as we knew it is gone and we are all trying to adapt in the best way that we can. Be patient with yourself and others!

Blessings!

TMIDM

Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 5) – Bacchanal

So the date is set. Thursday 20th August 2020 and to quote one very Euro 80s rock band, it’s the finalllll countdowwwwwn.

There was a sigh of relief as I, like all other S.E.A. parents was in this perpetual state of limbo and limbo, while it may seem dreamy and amazing, could very well break you in half. When I told Mam’zelle of the new date, she broke out into the Hallelujah chorus and I don’t blame her. She reached the state of ‘fed-upcy’ a loooooong time ago. If you are an S.E.A. parent like me, you would have also found yourself practising these same three subjects (Math, Grammar and Creative Writing) over and over with no clear finish line in sight. That would drive any human up a wall and I really feel it for all those hamsters in labs all over the world.

Covid body included

It took me a minute since the announcement of the date to this present point to write this blog post because I suffered information overload to the point where I was ready to sky (read: fling) my phone. It would absolutely NOT be the land of La Trinité if there was no bacchanal included in damn near everything. So the minute this was announced, the commentary was endless and in some cases, outright insane. (Some of us really need a social media break eh 🙄).

Anywho, let me preface this by saying one of the reasons why my blog is called Trini Mom in D Middle because that is the place where I very often find myself…Switzerland. I am a sucker for reason and balance (except where there is jackassery and the obvious is clear). So the argument of whether the date should have been in August because “some frustrated and burnt out and Covid basically gone” or in October because “some are left out, it was unfair and Covid still here”, landed me square in the middle. Honestly, I understood both sides because I was fed TF up since March and I hate this inherently STUPID exam but I also understand the plight of the academically and economically disadvantaged because I teach them daily in Secondary school. Hence the reason why I wasn’t caught up too much in the debate and made the honest commentary of being more concerned about the uniform fitting (which I am ELATED to announce that it does but still I need to get a belt 🙄. Homegirl was also haggling for new sneakers but the line was drawn and to quote myself, “You have a month to make it work, so ease meh up and doh drag yuh foot too much” 🤨).

Now of course the new date of S.E.A. (and for that matter, Coronavirus) is not the MAIN issue anymore. With the announcement came a parallel announcement that S.E.A. teachers and some school personnel will be paid a stipend from the 20th July to the date of the exam to facilitate readiness for the exam.

Allyuh! What we, the nation eh say about teachers, we forget to say because the commentary was downright vitriolic. Now in case you may be reading and have been one of those who have had bad experiences with teachers and thus may be quick to paint with an 8-inch, let me put my teacher hat on and remind you of the main facts:

  1. Teachers/TTUTA (teacher’s union) did NOT ask for the stipend. TTUTA agreed with the Ministry that the exam should have been held in October. The Ministry rock back with the August date and the stipend figure as a dangling carrot to get ONLY STANDARD FIVE teachers to come out during their holidays and threw TTUTA off balance.
  2. Teachers have legitimate (meaning: written in law) holidays, they don’t get paid over time, if they take no leave they don’t get incentives and I’m not the person to fully detail why this is so at this point.
  3. Teachers are grossly underpaid including the “good for nothing”, “greedy”, “lazy” “bloodsuckers” who “didn’t do one ass but cock up dey foot” since school closed. Teachers need to be upgraded (imagine working 13 years in one position when you have offered proof to your employer of completed study to advance based on recommendations from the same employer). Teachers need to be paid increments as they are working with devalued salaries and moreover, need to be positioned correctly on the scale.
  4. Nurses and other essential workers find this move to be grossly disadvantageous and unfair as teachers were not seen on the frontlines of Covid19 nor could they prove that they added an essential service to the nation (they do have a point EXCEPT for the view expressed by the first part of #3 above because I know of one case where a teacher was up until 2 o’clock crafting online lessons for her students to not do 🙄.
  5. Teachers feel like they are being publicly crucified because 1) they still received salaries during lockdown, 2) ONLY STANDARD FIVE! teachers will now receive a stipend but the paint from the 8-inch brush is now dry (even though they didn’t ask for the stipend), 3) even if they were to now continue their plight to be paid their just salary, they would get ZERO support from John Public and 4) Teachers are divided on the issue (‘we deserve it’ vs ‘don’t be a sell-out’).

All of this confirming the whole ‘divide and rule to get my way’ ideology. How very Trump! Well played government officials.

Colbert is never wrong

Meanwhile (parent hat on now) I can’t stand that teachers are being vilified and I hold to the view that public resentment of ‘blue collar’ workers usually rotates between teachers, police officers, doubles men and KFC employees when the cole slaw finish. We need a 15 minute attention grab from Gary or Watson and we need it expeditiously. Teacher morale is at an all time low and who feels it knows it. Now I am not quick to surrender to group think, I like facts and quite frankly all I am studying is my daughter. Now that there is a date, we just need to get there and move on with our lives. If for some reason teachers decide not to turn up out of principle, or some court matter delays the process or Madam Corona decides to swing back and say “ah was just resting my eyes but I’m back baybeeee”, her mental will be off and I just might forget about this whole S.E.A. drama and start the hunt for a private secondary school (not really eh, but it must be nice to have that option because the way my salary is set up……issa whoole no). The fact is this is all too much bacchanal for one inherently STUPID exam. But then again…where we living again 🤷🏾‍♀️?

Blessings

TMIDM

Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 4) – Thoughts and Prayers….

OK so far I have been rowing in the boat: Schools are closed, work with your children at home, avail yourselves of online material, school may open on the 20th April. I HIGHLY doubted the last one there so when they said they extended the stay-at-home orders until the 30th I wasn’t surprised. To be honest, based on my observation of what is going in other parts of the world with Covid-19, I wasn’t entirely surprised when the Ministry of Education signalled its intent to re-start in September but in both my roles as a parent and a teacher I would like to offer my thoughts and prayers in the interim.

what-limagine-when-people-say-theyre-sending-thoughts-and-prayers-30094230

Let’s get it done Care Bears!

 

Random Thoughts (based on the Ministry’s press conference today):

I think that presser today gave me no information other than the fact that the Ministry of Education still continues to be out of touch with reality.

I think with all of those connections that the Minister announced at the beginning of his speech (I consulted with the King, the Queen, the Duke and the Duchess of Barbados, the Chancellor of UWI, the Earl of Derbyshire etc.), he forgot to mention one of the most important stakeholders (the actual teachers’ union)…..

I think the next 5 or 6 months are going to be really interesting in my home as I seek to ensure that my three children at three different levels are educated everyday because you know, online learning = no excuses, school must go on and all that. Send wine by the case please.

That being said, I don’t think I know what I’m expected to be rushing to teach online as September is going to be the third term’s work anyway. (I hate to be repetitive, am I teaching it again in September? Pleh.)

I think you cannot just expect all teachers at all levels to go from face to face learning to online learning like the flick of a switch. I can’t even make that switch after an argument with my husband. What are we? Robots? John Public is assured everything is up and running for teaching and learning like a horse bolting out the gate meanwhile teachers are like “I hadda pay for my own Zoom?”. (Stop making promises. They can backfire and set you up, like announcing a website and it crashing due to 10,000 sudden hits. Stop it).

I think I am fed up of the inescapable politicizing of Education.

I think teachers are the dog balls of society, filled with purpose but always taking a licking.

 

Random Prayers:

I pray that we all survive Covid-19 with our sensibilities intact because the way things going………(Dear Parent, why are you suggesting that S.E.A. students go to school in September out of uniform? Dear Parent, are you aware that I also have my own children to teach? Dear Parent, if teachers don’t get paid, we don’t eat and we die. Who’s going to teach your children?)

I pray that we all understand that not all schools are created or run equally. Please Lord help mankind to understand that Behind God Back Secondary School certainly cannot be expected to operate like Excelsior High College as the latter is well furnished with resources, multimedia, helpful teachers and brainy students while in the former, one has to walk with soap to school and students are zessing. #thereisnoequity  Stop it.

I pray that I am granted the superlative skills to cram three term’s work into two terms because I AM that teacher who gives VALUE for money paid via my salary and all that…..

I pray for owners of bookstores in July and August.

I pray that mankind understands that is not teachers who closed school and are lollygagging at home. Schools are closed because of Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and we can’t go back to work because we might die.

I pray that my own laptop, wifi, created resources, credit card, personal cell phone, data plan etc keeps working well in sync because I give VALUE for my hard earned money.

I pray that those ICT skills I tried to adopt in my meager classroom, actually work this time around because those students are blessed with the best right?

Relatedly and honestly, I pray that my students who are under immense strain in unhappy, difficult homes and who look forward to daily refuge in school, can find the resilience somehow to make it through to September. It’s going to be a long road.

 Blessings

TMIDM