In which hybrid is homogeneous

My students have very clearly figured out that having to wear a mask for eight hours while attending classes in rooms that do not contain their teachers– because we are either at home because we put in paperwork to be or because we are currently in quarantine– is not actually any better than just being at home. I never had big numbers of kids in any given class since we made the switch to hybrid– subtracting out about a third from any given group for kids that are staying at home then divide them again by their last names means that about 10 was as big as any group was going to get, and the vagaries of statistics meant that I had a couple groups as small as three or four. A few weeks later, my biggest group today was four kids, both my partner teacher and my co-teacher are out because they’re close contacts for COVID– one of them has been sick, and is being tested today– and I had two classes with zero in-person students.

Turns out I can probably stop hassling the school board to shut down the schools, because my 8th graders are making that decision all by themselves. I have 142 8th grade students. Twelve showed up to physical school today.

We are spending too much money on buses, class coverage (I keep writing “subs” and having to delete it; there are no subs. Subs make $100 a day. If a teacher has to cover a class, that’s $35 an hour, and teachers are covering every single class) and just fucking keeping the lights on and the buildings heated for an entire grade’s worth of in-person learning to be twelve kids. I bet it will be fewer tomorrow, too; one or two of this group is going to go home and tell Mom that they only had one class with more than one other person in it and that’s gonna be it for them.

But hey, it’s not like my tax dollars pay for this or anything.

In which … something, I suppose

I have news of immense personal and familial value to share, but I’m waiting for somebody to take my leash off so I can do said sharing. And as of right now, I remain leashed. So I gotta come up with something else to talk about today.

Y’know. Like a chump.

Today was the first day of hybrid learning, and it was also yet another day of utterly shit covid numbers from both the nation, the state of Indiana, and my county. The number of kids in my classes ranged from three to, I think, five, or perhaps seven at the high end. Tomorrow will be similar, and then next week once the kids have realized that “return to in-person schooling” does not, in fact, even vaguely resemble anything like the school they remember, our in-person attendance is going to drop even lower than that. Luckily for me, I’ve gotten over the guilt. The people who were in my classroom today had the easiest gig in the world, and it’s only going to get easier.

On the other hand, there’s at least one more teacher in the building approved to work from home, and an email went out this morning looking for volunteers to cover her classes, so we’ve already run out of subs and available bodies on the first day. In, I must needs remind you all, in accordance with prophecy.

We’ll see how long it lasts. Word is the health department is about to put their foot down on this whole mess; we’ll see.

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.