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

Back to School in this here 2020 – Part 1 (Red pill vs Blue pill)

Why is it that life piles everything on you on a Wednesday? Did we proclaim it Hump Day so much that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy? A mountain top that symbolizes struggle? This is why on a Thursday we need to throwback yunno, there’s nothing like some good old memories to set the mind right.

Anywho………

Relatedly…..allyuhhhh, this online learning/remote learning/distance learning/homeschooling/school in 2020/pandemic ‘new normal’ is a whoooooooooole NO! (Disclaimer: yes I know it’s the safest bet as we are still in the middle of a pandemic and no, I would neither want to be working at school nor send my gremlinz to school. My anxiety would thrive.)

That being stated…………..

(🗣 send Merlot please!)

Yesterday as I entered my sixth straight hour staring at my laptop screen, my eyes convulsed and it was ole mas with the synapses between my eyeballs and my brain. With my work not nearly finished I wondered how this was going to work between now and December. Ah ketching meh tail to add some attendance sheets, make sure my online classroom is tamper-proof, re-do a scheme of work for the term, not a single lesson plan in sight, curate my teaching content and to throw in the mix my students changing phone numbers like underwear when I’m trying to contact them and parents are asking me about (demanding) laptops, ‘if the work could do on a cell phone’, when they could collect the printing packages, why ‘allyuh’ not answering the phone in school, why I ask the child mother for her email when the child don’t live with the mother anymore……😐

In them midst of the melee I also thought about the little primary school children. Some of the bigger secondary school ones are accustomed to zoning out and probably don’t have to be online all day to get their work done but the babies that have to sit in a chair….and stare….and their teachers!!! Sigh…….

I consider myself a functional techie and always longed for education in Trinidad and Tobago to accept online pedagogy as an option in the teaching and learning process. To some extent it is heading there, many related professional development courses were (and still are) being offered and frankly I was blissfully looking forward to making my teaching life easier (blue pill). However, this launch from a cannon into the deep end is NYAT what I fully anticipated and I can’t swim even though I took a life preserver…..

Red pill…

I start teaching next week and I was most thankful for the extra time. I knew that the planning process for this term would be heavy but as I entered that sixth hour with the brain-eye drama escalating I wondered about my life choices (starting primarily with the battle between wine and coffee but to be clear it is sacrilegious to pit the two against each other). I closed my laptop and damn near cried in frustration.😭😭😭😭

This morning I woke up with my brain in the clouds after going to bed late and a rough night’s sleep. I was then I realized I was on top struggle mountain and needed to consider my descent. My plans for today itemized in my journal for myself and my gremlinz went through the window and I christened it ‘bare minimum day’ to save myself. Breakfast? Peanut butter sandwiches all around. Zoom meeting at 9? Camera off and turned that into a podcast. Preschool? I coloured that apple like a 4 year old. Older gremlinz? Allyuh fix up, yuh know the work. Lunch? Called on my mom (“Please cook for me!” (#ahbeg). My work finally resumed with resolve at 5 p.m. today after a mini-flood in my living room (long, very maddening story), two tablets, some Limacol and a nap. I’m not seeing cloudy and the effects of the red pill are clear but I swear I’ll do even better tomorrow.🤞🏾🙏🏾

To my teacherati, please save yourself when you need to and make it your ‘new normal’. This road is going to be long. To my teacherati who are also parents, look out for Part 2….

Blessings,

TMIDM