Well, shit

Had a great time at the party yesterday— not that that was a surprise, mind you– but we didn’t get home until nearly midnight and pretty much collapsed into bed and died, and as of right now (4:36 PM) I haven’t managed to shower yet. Oh, and we got a text from birthday mom that the birthday girl woke up with mild cold symptoms and promptly tested positive for Covid.


My son doesn’t start school until Friday, and my wife had already taken the week off, so technically in a world where someone in the house has to have Covid, this would be a pretty good week for one of them to catch it. My wife had it in January; the boy hasn’t caught it yet. Me? School starts Wednesday, and tomorrow I’m expected to be at a meeting with every single other teacher in the district. Plus, despite having done it once before (*) I really don’t know how to write sub plans for the first Goddamn day of school, much less the first few.

So, yeah, I’m going to be testing tonight, and we’ll see how that works out. If I’m negative and unsymptomatic I’ll go ahead and go to the thing tomorrow, but I think I’m gonna mask up all week no matter what happens, just for shits and giggles. We’re all vaccinated to the gills and I should still have some antibodies left over from having it in May, but I really don’t love the school year starting off like this.

(*) The boy’s birthday is August 23rd. I attended parent/teacher night right after he was born and really enjoyed the looks on people’s faces when I told them I wouldn’t be there for the first two days of school (confused, angry) and then how they changed when I told them it was because I’d just become a father. The difference is at that school we had an experienced building sub who knew how the place worked and how I wanted my classroom run. Here we’re going to have teacher coverage, which is not going to be the same thing at all.

It is too early in the morning for this shit

It is 9:09 in the morning, I have been up for approximately 39 minutes, and I have not had my coffee yet. I had a dream last night where I won tickets to a Phil Collins concert, was late to the concert, showing up only after the entire first set had finished, and then realized that not only was I the only person at the entire show wearing a mask but that somebody from high school who I never want to see again was sitting right in front of me.

Since waking up, I have checked my email, to find a message from the guy who is supposed to be my new partner teacher this year. He has sent me a couple of emails over the last week or two. I did not respond to the first one, and just replied to the second last night saying that I had basically been ignoring my work email (true) and that I would be in the building sometime this week to move my stuff between classrooms and that if he wanted to get together I’d let him know when I would be in.

I received a response this morning. He will not be in this week, because he is driving with his daughter to South Carolina to attend a wedding. South Carolina is currently in worse shape than Indiana is, and I suspect anyone dumb enough to be holding a wedding right now is also dumb enough that there will be no masking and/or social distancing involved.

This motherfucker doesn’t get to come near me for two weeks after he gets home. Sorry! Except not.

I’m done for the day now, I think.

In which I reimagine education

Let’s start with this: We should not be returning to schools in the fall. I think it very likely that this will be worse in the fall, not better, and even if we do return at the beginning of the year I don’t see any chance at all that we make it through next winter without at the very least a substantial chunk of the year dedicated to e-learning.

But, for several reasons, most of them perfectly obvious, we should probably try to have schools open in the fall– if for no better reason than the idea of starting a new school year with the kids already at home fills me and every other teacher I know with bone-deep horror. If we want to have a school year next year (and we may not! That’s not an entirely unreasonable position!) we have got to start it with at least a little bit of in-person education or this just isn’t going to work at all.

You saw the CDC guidelines the other day; you also saw, in the same post, me state that the CDC guidelines as they currently exist cannot be fulfilled in any school I have ever worked in. So: how do we do this, in a way that allows in-person education and, as much as humanly possible, maximizes student safety? Oh, and also: this needs to be revenue-neutral, or, if possible, save districts money, because we all know nobody’s ponying up for, for example, doubling the bus fleet.

(Nor should they. Any solution involving a need to buy more buses isn’t going to fly simply because you don’t double your bus fleet for a problem that, even hugely pessimistically, is probably going to be gone in a couple of years once there’s a vaccine. That’s too much of a capital outlay for something like that. But I’m off subject.)

So, I’m taking the following as written:

  • That our students are not suddenly going to become any better-behaved or more likely to follow rules than they already are;
  • That any solution to this problem cannot cost money and should probably save it;
  • That in-person education is necessary to get some knowledge whacked into the brains of these kids, somehow;
  • That most classrooms and school buildings are not even a tiny bit set up in such a way to successfully promote social distancing. Put simply, tape on the damn floor isn’t gonna do it; see item #1 up there.

What we are going to have to do– and the legislatures are just going to have to do something to make this legal– is split the kids in half. We can’t stagger arrival times or anything like that; any solution to that not involving doubling or tripling the number of school buses leads to 10-hour working days for staff and teachers and that’s not gonna fly.

Half of the students, and yes-this-is-a-logistical-nightmare-but-we-have-to-figure-it-out-anyway, keeping families in the same building and in different buildings on the same days, so that no one has their kids on conflicting schedules, go to school on either Monday-Wednesday or Monday-Tuesday. I suspect two successive days is better, but that’s a detail. The other half go to school on Tuesday-Thursday or Wednesday-Thursday.

Students who are not in school in-person have e-learning on the days they are not there, focusing on basic skill retention and shoring up deficits whenever possible. New material is covered by a teacher, in class, doing their level damn best to cover grade-appropriate material as much as possible.

Standardized testing is either cancelled or minimized as much as humanly possible.

Fridays can either be rotated between the two groups or, and I think this is my preference, Fridays are always e-learning days. Teachers are on office hours all day on Fridays. In my district, we have two preps a day, one of which is a “real” prep and the other is owned by the office; in this scenario on Mon-Thurs that extra prep, rather than being devoted to daily meetings like it usually is, would be time for office hours and catching up on email from e-learning students who had questions while in-person teaching was taking place.

Now, to be clear, when I say “split the students in half,” what I’m envisioning is that where right now I have a classroom cap of 32 students, my classroom cap would fall to sixteen, meaning that while I might not have room for perfect six-feet-between-everybody distancing I can definitely spread the kids out. It would mean that students with IEPs could also get some face time with their TORs and might actually stand a chance of getting some of their accommodations, most of which are impossible to fulfill during e-learning.

This keeps the buildings at 50% capacity, which, okay, they’re still going to be out in the halls together but it’s a lot better than all of them being together. Other aspects of the school day could be dealt with as reasonable and available per building and district; I don’t love the lunch-in-the-classroom thing but I can see why it might be a deal, and if necessary for some grades we can set up a situation where the kids rotating from class to class is minimized and the adults move instead, or wherever possible try to have classes that are blocked together– my district, for example, could go back to one teacher doing both sections of math and putting Reading/LA together rather than using two teachers, just to keep movement minimized as much as possible.

We’re not putting plexiglass between desks, y’all, it’s just not gonna happen. Pointing desks all in one direction, okay, yeah, I can get with that, those types of things are easy, but social distancing is only possible by minimizing the number of kids in a room at a time– and the only way we can do that is if they’re not all there.

Staff should probably be wearing cloth masks all day, especially since I don’t see a way we can stay 6′ away from the kids. Once they’re seated, that’s one thing, but I can’t help somebody with something they don’t get from six feet away a lot of the time. I would like for the kids (the ones old enough to know what they’re doing, at least) to all be wearing masks as well but … well, look at any time I’ve ever mentioned dress code around here. That may or may not be worth the fight.

What do y’all think? Feel free to share this out, if you like.

4:29 PM, Sunday, May 24: 1,635,192 confirmed infections and 97,495 Americans dead.

In which we’re all gonna die

The Wonder Woman Funko POP on the far left is brand new as of today; do I keep her with the other Wonder Woman or move her with the other three Funkos on the desk?

These are the questions that keep me up at night.

I have left the house more in this last week than in the six weeks prior to it, mostly because I have to drive my wife to and from work, which is automatically two trips a day, and I went and got groceries yesterday and picked up the grill and blah blah blah. I had a couple more errands that needed running today, unfortunately, but other than work runs I shouldn’t really need to go anywhere for most of next week. When I’m out, I’m wearing a bandana over my face, and I have a friend who is a seamstress making a few proper masks for us. Witness:

We are under a state order right now to wear masks when in “enclosed public spaces,” and the county health department has released a bunch of recommendations as well. What this has led to is a bunch of businesses posting prominent signs outside that you need to have a mask on to be inside … and a bunch of people inside without masks on. One of the errands I had to run was to the pet store, and I was in and out in under five minutes, and less than half of the customers I saw while I was in there were wearing masks. Indiana has had 1400 Covid-related deaths, and St. Joseph county is closing in on its thousandth confirmed case.

This is not fucking complicated, God damn it. It blows my mind that, three years and some change into this person’s administration, the GOP is still finding new ways to be venal and cruel and stupid, and then it blows my mind that I’m still capable of being surprised by these people. Wear a mask so that you don’t get sick! Wear a mask so that you don’t get other people sick! Why is this difficult? Why is “stop being a fucking asshole” a partisan statement?

My Google-fu has failed me, but I saw a clip of a comedian a bit back where he explained that he’s figured out the equation for this administration, which is (surprised x disappointed)2, because if you multiply it properly, first you’re surprised that you’re surprised, then you’re surprised that you’re disappointed, then you’re disappointed that you’re surprised, then you’re disappointed that you’re disappointed. Or something close to that, anyway. I can’t find it.

The other thing I want to bitch about is that on three different occasions today I have either read or heard people speculating about the “second wave” of this disaster that’s coming this fall. Y’all, this shit hasn’t slowed down yet. If anything, we’ve plateaued. There are a few specific localities in America that have bent the curve a bit but they’re about to be overwhelmed by the states that are all opening too fast– probably about another week from now, if past experience is worth anything. We can’t have a fucking second wave if the first wave never stops. And the way things are going, this isn’t going to get any better anytime soon. We have an entire fucking political party openly fucking dedicated to making it worse. We’re fucked for as long as any of these people hold any power, damn it.

5:25 PM, Saturday May 9: the world crossed four million confirmed infections today, with 1,305,199 of those being in America; 78,469 Americans have died, and we’ll be over 80K by the end of the weekend. And y’all are too fucking manly to wear a mask. Fucking idiots.

In which nobody is kidding and this shit is real

There needs to be a word— there probably is one, in German at least, but I don’t know it– for simultaneously 1) recognizing how incredibly lucky you are compared to a whole lot of other people, and 2) feeling like you are completely unable to manage your own life. Because … holy shit, y’all. And also a word for I am complaining about this, but I am also not complaining about this because the thing I am complaining about is the right thing to do. That needs to be a word too. I assume y’all understand me.

(Cue absolutely everyone nodding.)

The governor closed down all schools in Indiana until May 1. May fucking 1st. And the mayor– the new one, not the dude who ran for president– put us under a travel advisory today. It’s an advisory only, mind you, meaning that there’s no real teeth to it, but it’s a sign that more may be coming. I am not going back to work for six weeks. And I have to figure out how to educate the proportion of my students who can be counted on to make themselves available for said education for those six weeks, and figure out what to do with the (probably over half) group of them who are not going to do anything at all during that time.

Now, this feels overwhelming, but balance the fact that I’m going to get paid to work from home for the next six weeks against that, and that my wife also has a job where she can relatively easily transition into working from home during that time if necessary, and that unlike a whole lot of people my job is not suddenly going to actually go away, and I really should be outside dancing in the streets at how lucky I am. Because my immediate family, at least, is (within the world of those of us who are not so rich that we don’t have to worry about it at all) basically as set up to weather this storm as we could possibly be.

In the meantime, though, and with that said, I’m trying to figure out how the hell any of this works on the ground, especially since the governor just de facto cancelled state testing, which is kinda legally mandated and has a whole lot of money attached to it, to say nothing of the fact that it’s supposed to be a factor in all of our performance reviews at the end of the year. And, like, school letter grades, which were already a massive mess. The entire window for testing was in April, y’all. That’s done now, and I don’t think anyone thinks we’re gonna bring these kids back on May 1

(we are not going to bring them back on May 1)

and immediately throw state testing at them. It’s just not going to happen. Also, like, every IEP in existence is getting violated right now, because as far as I know none of them are written in a way that acknowledges the possibility of six or seven weeks of e-learning. Those also are all legal documents that we can be sued for not following correctly.

It is, in short, one more huge mess in the thick of all the other huge messes that are taking place right now. The unprecedentedly, ridiculously huge pile of huge messes.

… and meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases in the US just crossed 10,000, mostly on the strength of New York State starting to take testing seriously and somehow getting a ton of kits from somewhere. Expect that to increase by a staggering amount over the next few days.

I’d say “take a deep breath,” but doing that might trigger another coughing fit, so I’m not gonna. Still sick, and still not with the ‘Rona, if anyone’s wondering.

Stay safe, y’all.