My only goal

The only thing I want out of the next eight days is to make it through them without some sort of catastrophic meltdown. I will figure out what to do next after a meltdown is averted, depending on how the election goes.

That’s all I’ve got right now. I just got very mildly corrected on Twitter, incorrectly, and I’m pretty sure the burst of incandescent rage that it triggered could have powered the house for a couple of hours. I managed to not retaliate inappropriately but that’s all I’ve got in. me right now. I am going to try and disconnect and read comic books for a bit.

Puppies and flowers, goddammit.

on weariness

Before I say anything else, let’s all agree to take a minute and just appreciate black-and-white cinematography.

Also, leaving the O in the title of this post uncapitalized was originally a typo, and then I stared at it for a second and decided to keep it.

Back in July I submitted paperwork to my district regarding my desire to teach from home. This included a doctor’s note informing them that I had high blood pressure and was a fatty-fat, both of which are additional risk factors for Covid-19. On top of that, I have never once made it through a school year without using 90% of my sick days at least and more than once have run out of them by the end of the year; I was already out of sick days for the year in March when all hell broke loose and school got cancelled for the rest of the year. Not one time in my life have I made it through the first month of school without getting sick.

And then we went virtual-only until at least October 5, which is rapidly approaching, and the school board is voting on Monday about the reopening plan they’ve been presented with. It is unclear to me whether approving the plan, which at least in broad strokes I approve of– it’s basically a hybrid model like many other districts have adopted, and in general I approve of hybrid models although there are some quibbly bits here and there– is the same thing as directing us to return to school. I’m not going to post any graphs today but the short version is that basically every important metric has gotten worse than it was when they cancelled us until October 5, so the only reasonable thing to do (and, frankly, the easiest thing to do, believe it or not) is to continue to keep everyone at home.

Yesterday I got an email from my boss outlining how he sees my job responsibilities working out if the students return to school and I continue to work from home. And I don’t get he impression that he’s pissed at me about it or anything, to be clear. The email ended with “Let me know if you have any questions,” and my first thought was I don’t even know where to start.

I took a brief shopping trip today to buy a couple more work-appropriate polo shirts, because some of my favorites are starting to show their age. And while I was in the store I had to listen to a conversation between the store clerk and someone whose husband was waiting in the car because he didn’t want to put a mask on, and I think I aged five years during the conversation. Everyone was being very polite and understanding; it wasn’t one of those Hey, let me make you famous on the internet sorts of situations, but … Christ.

I look at this job description, and it’s manageable, and more importantly it’s reasonable– I should be clear here that I really like my principal and have since the second I met him– but it just makes me tired. And I’m falling into this trap, where I’m bored, and I’m tired, and so I’m sort of shrugging at basically every single health decision I’ve ever made, and shrugging at my wife and my son and my father and my father-in-law, and thinking fuck it, let’s go back.

(Oh, and one place where the plan really does stick in my craw is that it’s going to require another adult to be in my room managing things, presumably while I instruct my kids from home via Google Meet or maybe from the big-screen in the room like some sort of older, fatter Max Headroom bullshit. I don’t like the idea that I’m directly inconveniencing other people with this, which … there’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t care, but still.)

My son is also home. He doesn’t have to be, and for various reasons I’m not going to get into his school is able to do some things with social distancing and masking that simply aren’t possible in any school I’ve ever worked in. And my days, generally, are spent with me in my office either instructing or (more often, honestly) just shooting the shit with my students, and keeping half an ear on him in the background. Every so often he forgets that he doesn’t actually have to scream for the people on the other end of the computer to hear him (a lesson he has never learned) and my kids will actually comment on what he’s doing. And every time his teacher says something even mildly cross to him, and every time I hear him leave the room to go to the bathroom or whatever, or hear a sound from his room that is likely not produced by a 9-year-old diligently working on his schoolwork, I go into this hideous mindfuck where I want to redirect him and help his teacher but I don’t want to leave my job to go do her job and also does it really matter if he left for a second and maybe she doesn’t want me shoving my face into her business.

(I told this story, right? I mildly corrected one of my students when his mom was within earshot and she blew up at him. I had to put him on mute to keep the other kids from hearing his mom. Not what I wanted. I don’t know if his teacher wants me charging into the room to Fix Shit every time he needs to be told to put something down or watch what she’s doing.)

He hasn’t seen another kid since March. I kind of feel like he should see other children. He’s kind of going feral.

(Also, I love my son, and I hope I don’t actually need to put that disclaimer there, but I have not been out of earshot from him for more than an hour or two at any point since March, and … yeah.)

I have not been to work since March. I can think of maybe three face-to-face, non-transactional conversations I have had with an adult who was not a relative by blood or marriage since March.

But if any of that was reasonable, then surely right now when shit has only gotten worse since this all started, it is still the right thing to do to continue to keep this shit up, right? We shut shit down when there weren’t any cases of Covid-19 in Indiana. Now we have a thousand a day. And that number only continues to go up.

And I see all these other people out there not wearing masks and doing whatever the fuck they want, and shit, maybe I’m the crazy motherfucker here. And I’m a data nerd and a numbers guy and I know full well that the millionth person to die from this will probably die this weekend and that shit is only getting worse precisely because of the type of thinking I’m engaged in right now and fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck.

I’m fucking tired.

Want some, come on and get some!

Some of my parents must think I’m new, I swear.

Just came out of an IEP meeting that went abruptly south when the parent decided to start casting blame far and wide for her kid’s seven current failing grades. Now, here is the thing: I am fully aware of how hard this must be for a lot of our parents. I am keeping track of one child while trying to keep up with my actual students and doing my job to the best of my ability and it is difficult. I am not keeping track of more than one, the extra kids that I don’t have to keep track of aren’t at multiple grade levels, and as things go my actual child tends to be pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways. And it is still hard.

Now, what that means is that I’m bending over backwards to make sure my students have access to me. They have my phone number, and know they can call or text me basically anytime between 8 AM and 10 PM. I am online in a Google Meet for about four and a half hours a day every single day so that they can come in and ask questions, and I am monitoring my email whenever I am awake. There are no penalties for late work on any of my assignments, and I’ll even allow unlimited retries for anything a student wants to redo. I have posted personally-recorded video lessons for every single piece of new content we’ve done that they can access any time they want through the magic of the Interwebs.

(I am actually at my computer during my lunch break right now, too, because I have kids testing. I’ve left this desk twice in the last three hours– once to pee, and once to get some cold pizza from the fridge.)

This is not for cookies. I don’t want praise. This is because I think what I’m doing is the minimum amount of flexibility teachers should be showing right now. But what this also means is that if you try and come at me for not teaching your child when your child hasn’t taken advantage of any of these opportunities, I may not be entirely sympathetic, and when you try and blame me specifically for your student’s failure I’m going to start bringing out receipts.

Because I have them. I can see every time you’ve logged in to check your kid’s grades, for example, and I see that you’ve done so repeatedly over the last few weeks, so don’t even try and pretend that you didn’t know he was failing. I can also search my own email, so when you claim you’ve emailed and talked to all his teachers? I never delete anything, ma’am. I can assure you that you have not.

Oh, and I see that your email is here on Google Classroom, which means that you’ve been receiving my weekly emails about everything we’re doing in class, all of which contain my phone number and constant reinforcement to contact me if you have any questions or any needs at all that I can be helpful with.

I am not the one, God damn it, so don’t try it. Just don’t.

An email I didn’t send

Dear Sir and/or Madam:

I have received your email communication of Jul 27th, and it did indeed find me well, at least for a moment, until the subject of your message sunk in and I found my previous wellness replaced with a bone-deep, nearly painful level of exhaustion. While in principle I do agree that we will be working together this year and that we should discuss such things as the curriculum we will be teaching, I feel compelled to remind you that it remains July for several more days yet, and that furthermore it is also somehow still March, and that at the moment I find myself entirely unable to do anything so civilized as “plan” for any so-called “future.” At the moment I barely even believe tomorrow is happening. Three weeks from now is literally unimaginable, and yes, I know what both of those words mean and I assure you I am using them accurately.

Furthermore, I have stalked you on Facebook and you look like a cop, and while I admit and agree that forming an early impression of someone by such means is manifestly unfair, doing so has not led to the cessation of one single bit of my current level of exhaustion. In addition, your use of “your new partner in math” as the closure to your email is unnecessarily precious when a simple “yours,” or perhaps the somewhat archaic but at least moderately humorous “Your obdt. servant” would have sufficed.

In conclusion, please do not expect a response to your query prior to the 3rd August, and later than that is a strong possibility. Responses to this message will be deleted unread, and I swear to God and baby Jesus that if you email my ass just to say “Okay!” or “Thanks!” I will kill myself on the spot and haunt the dog shit out of you and your descendants unto the 4th generation.

I remain,

L.M. Siler

I don’t have it today

Losing John Lewis and C.T. Vivian in the same damn day was rough. I was not prepared to discover how much Lewis’ death, in particular, was going to fuck me up. Losing both of them in the same week where Grant Imahara died out of nowhere and Naya Rivera’s body was found after she drowned saving her child … which, like, I’m not really a Glee fan but that story is going to mess up anyone with children, right? That shit starts to border on unfair, or at least it would if it wasn’t already 2020 and literally everything in the world wasn’t fucked up as is. Oh, and the federal government is kidnapping people off the fucking streets in unmarked cars.

I’m trying to use the word literally less frequently but I feel like its presence in that previous paragraph is justified.

Point is, I’m not really all here today, and all I really have brain cycles for is rage and despair, and I’ve spent most of the day trying to ignore that and channel my nervous energy into fucking video games, which … could I at least channel it into, like, cleaning, or something to make me useful to my family in some way? No, apparently.

Go hug somebody. I don’t even care who; chances are they need it.