Well, it has been quite a month for me. I guess COVID19 has offered plenty of unexpected turns for everyone, but I hardly even feel like the same person anymore. I guess I’m not. Six years ago, I founded a blog called Lead from IN the Classroom. Now, I don’t even have a classroom. And as I sorted through the mess of teacher stuff in my garage this weekend, I couldn’t help but feel the wreckage deep in my soul.
COVID19 has been extra hard for my family since we are protecting my five-year old daughter with Down Syndrome. (People with DS are naturally immunocompromised and she was already hospitalized in February for a minor respiratory infection). Being trapped at home without support from family, friends, or therapy services has been intense and painfully isolating. I’ve skipped many nights of sleep and chewed down all my fingernails reading about COVID19 and praying for a speedy vaccine.
At some point, I realized things weren’t going to be back to “normal” at the start of the school year. As a high-risk family, I worried the most about schools being ready to open before I could safely return to teaching. I hated the idea of taking leave right at the start of the school year and worried about telling students and families that news. Strangely, I never thought to worry about schools opening while COVID19 was still surging and very dangerous for everyone. That has been a big shock to me.
When I found out that my preschool special education classroom was scheduled to open August 17 in a district where K-12 is closed until October 14, I swung straight into advocacy mode. I figured people did not know why it would be dangerous to open a classroom like mine. I wrote emails. I wrote a blog. I connected with doctors. I joined a podcast. I’ve been active on social media. In between these things, I worried about keeping students safe, keeping their families safe, keeping myself safe, and keeping my family safe. I waited to feel heard and acknowledged, but the plan just kept moving forward in a culture of silence. I was devastated.
After three encounters with mask-less employees on my campus the week before employees returned, coupled with news that I was expected to be on campus every day beginning July 28, I found myself filing for leave much sooner than I ever expected.
And I can see the writing on the walls: There’s very little chance that 12 weeks is going to yield a miracle vaccine or flatten Arizona’s curve–especially now that schools are opening. At the end of the 12 weeks, I’ve been told I will need to make a choice: Return or resign. What would you choose? The career you love or knowing your child is safe? I never thought I would face that decision. It’s like a dark, dystopian novel.
And so here I am, a life-long teacher wondering what to do with my life. Will I return to teaching? I truly have no idea. And there have been some ugly tears about that. So I guess I am a recovering teacher, trying to heal from COVID19 and the trauma of feeling voiceless about my own family’s health and desire to protect my students. I don’t know how to stop caring or writing or worrying. So I will be here if you care to join me from time to time. This blog space won’t be negative or hostile. That’s just not who I am. Instead, I hope we can all grow together.
Image credit: I am so grateful for permission to use Kirstyn Smith’s inspirational glass artwork for this site’s banner. It reminds me of healing, life, and cheerfulness. Above all, it reminds me to thrive on this unexpected new journey. I hope you will check out her website and Etsy shop. She is as sweet as she is talented!