A Pandemic Poem by a Teacher…

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It felt good…and awful at the same time…

It all began with having to tell 8th grade we weren’t going on our trip to Israel.

Heartbreaking. Disappointing. 9 years of waiting, and now nothing.

Then talk of having to go remote.

Our small school managed the beginning really well.

We were prepared – already planning to go remote when the decree came.

We are ready to “pave the road as we are already driving on it.”

Worked hard to connect and be “live” as much as we could with the kids each day.

Check-ins in the morning and at the end of the day.

Story time with teachers, even for middle schoolers

Finding ways to play a game in TEAMS

Adjusting the schedule in response to student needs and our own.

Office hours. Asynch. Synched. Doing what works, each day.

Doing Color Wars virtually with teams and themes and games

Graduation online with parents presenting diplomas

For a horrible situation we did as well as anyone could. 

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

Fall. 

Supposed to be able to be in person again. Still too risky.

Preschool is on campus. Outside, all day. Every day. It’s Seattle.

They have rain gear and snow gear and boots and hats.

Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth.

Slowly they return and are masked. Distanced. Doors open. Windows open.

Sanitizer sprayed. Hands washed outside. Lunch outside. Recess masked.

But they are here and they, and the teachers, are healthy.

Middle schoolers begin to return. Alternate days. Hybrid. Kids at risk still home.

The worst – trying to teach to kids in the room and on Teams at the same time

Exhausting. Sore neck. Migraines.

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

Testing begins. Spit test. Once a week. Everyone on campus.

Middle school returns full time except those at risk. Hybrid continues. I hate it.

“Time to spit” Not words I ever thought I would say to a student. Let alone weekly.

We are masked. Hands washed before each class – outside – cold water – frozen hands.

Windows open. Doors open. Sanitizer by the gallon. Wiping desks hourly. Distanced

Lunch in the “wedding tents” outside. Recess with a mask. Warm, cold, wet, dry, windy, snowy.

If it’s 35 outside, it is 35 inside. No snow days but two “cold” days off. But we are here.

We are on campus. The kids are together. They are learning.

I am happy. I am also stressed. I am tired. I am worried. I am sad.

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

Israel cancelled again. A promise to go somewhere. Do something. 

But where? What?

So much angst and anxiety and stress and sadness in the students.

Mental Health issues like no other year.

VACCINES! For teachers! 

Gov Inslee makes teachers first line workers, and we can get them NOW!

Trip for first shot with two colleagues. We cry. We are so happy and relieved and grateful.

Every adult on campus vaccinated in the first couple weeks.

Still spitting. Every Wednesday. Time to spit kids!!!

VACCINES! For teens! A ray of light. An opening. A trip could actually happen.

Second shots for teachers 

Again with my colleagues – wearing our “Science is Real Shirts”

A gift from me at the start of the year to make it clear where we all stood

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

We begin to plan a four-day trip to the Olympic Peninsula – the kids are thrilled

It’s a lot of work. Planning food, activities, rooming, transportation

Students and teachers are podded. 

Extra spitting and tests so we can be unmasked on the trip.

We leave campus masked then, take them off. Van ride fun.

“Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States on full blast. Car games.

Seeing their whole faces for the first time in a year – wow they’ve grown!

First night they realize that if they can be unmasked, they can hug. 

14-year-olds so happy to hug

Lots of hugging. Big bear hugs. Crying. Laughing. Joy. Relief.

It felt good…really really good.

Four amazing days with kids who are grateful for every minute of it

Four days of almost “normal” Four days of just being teens with their friends on a trip

It WAS good…really really good

Graduation in person. Limited guests. Must be vaxxed. Masked. Distanced.

But in person.

Peaches is the class song (yes, I take the credit).

I love this class. 

We have been through so much together and have had so many great discussions

We have lived through a pandemic, remote learning, spitting each week, supporting each other

Being grateful and giddy when we can see whole faces and maybe even hug.

It was good…and it was also sad, but things seemed to be lifting. 

Maybe I would get to travel?

No travel. Thanks Delta Variant.

Spitting. Testing. 3000 plus tests. Not one positive test. We made it through the year Covid free.

That was very good.

School year three – what will it be?

Windows still open. Doors still open. Masks still on. Seats still distanced. Sanitizer on tap.

But everyone on campus. Middle School teachers refuse to do hybrid.

Learning begins. Stress builds. Tired and short tempered even from the start.

Why are we still in this place? Frustration. 

Testing.

Rapid Tests now. Every Thursday. I have the period free so offer to help.

Kindergarten through 8th parade through my room to get a swab.

Little ones cry and refuse. 

They get to know me and enjoy my room. Even if they hate the swab. 

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

Gratitude we have tests. Gratitude that the state is providing them.

Anger that this is how the students know me – the one with the swab that they hate.

But we get through the fall. Students get vaccinated. Masks are worn. Teachers boosted.

We persevere. We are here. On campus. Learning. Masked/Vaxxed/Distanced/Tested

Break. Talk of travel quarantines. Rules for vaxxed and un. More testing. Days gone.

Return from winter break. Kids out with Covid. Families sick. Omicron.

Testing day one – one positive.

Testing day two – another positive. 

And another,  after being at school all day

Testing day three – another positive. 

And it is cold. So cold. Miserably cold as you try to learn, to teach

Staff is stressed. Angry. Feeling at risk. Feeling unheard.

Day four – another positive. Teacher out. Classes exposed. Teachers exposed.

School will be closed tomorrow. Staff to talk and plan, then to rest. 

To be home and warm and safe.

Kids to rest. Exposure chain to hopefully be broken. Masks to be upgraded/doubled.

Back on Monday. Middle School now tests every day. Every day starts with a swab.

“Morning. Here’s a swab.” “good to see you. Here’s a swab.”

Teachers test and text their results to each other each morning.

We are excited to be negative day after day after day after day after day

Every morning testing 22 students. Praying for 22 negatives.

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

I am grateful for the tests. I am grateful for the science. I am grateful for the ability to be on campus and feel safer. I am grateful to have my students in front of me and able to be together and learn. I am grateful for a school, and admin, a community that enables us to test, supports wearing masks, eating outside, freezing cold classrooms, and vaccinating their children and themselves. Very grateful for colleagues with humor and baked treats and a sense of shared destiny or adventure that has bonded us tightly together. I am grateful for the “Core Four” middle school teacher back-channel chat where we can vent and connect while isolated in our own rooms. All of this has kept me sane and showing up.

Greeting my students each day with a swab makes me sad. Knowing what they have missed, have lost, have had to experience makes me sad. Looking at probably a third year of no trip to Israel makes me sad for them, and for me. Seeing them struggle to know who they are and how to be in this world where we are paving the road as we are driving makes me sad.

It felt good…and awful at the same time

It is almost two full years since this began. I am sure that the anniversary of telling that first 8th grade class that Israel was cancelled will come soon. I am healthy. I have not had Covid. I have three shots on board and will get a fourth, a fifth, whatever it takes. We are now double masking against Omicron.  It is again cold, and we are again bundled up. Students wrapped in blankets. I get to wear a knit cap most days, and that is a small happiness.  

I am depleted. In need of travel. In need of the infusion of energy and new learning that travel and seeing colleagues in other places gives me. I have done 100 zoom webinars but none of them can replace walking in another country breathing in history and new information. I work each day to bring my students the learning I want them to master but adjusted by the awareness of the past two years and its impact on them. On their mental health. On their skills. On their patience. On their focus. On MY focus.

I am well. They are well. We are here and whole and over all very lucky. It is very good…and it has also been very bad. It will continue to impact us all well past the “end.” Whenever that might be.

It felt good…and awful at the same time.

Nance Morris Adler

8 February 2022

Written in a stream of consciousness in about an hour

About nancesea

I live in Seattle with my husband Steve. I am an award winning Jewish educator, and primarily teach middle schoolers. My speciality is the Holocaust. My hobbies, when I have time, are reading, live music, and photography. I am passionate about teaching the lessons of the darkest periods history to help inspire my students to assure our future is brighter. Pre-Covid I used to travel yearly to Central and Eastern Europe to continue to learn about this history and make connections with educators there doing similar work. I hope you enjoy my writing on my travels, my learning and Jewish thought and practice. B'vrachot - with blessings - Nance

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