Pandemic ponderings:

Observations on living and literacy teaching through Covid-19

By Rebecca Benjamin 

Day 1 - March 13
Hours after learning we would teach online for a week, I packed. We were advised to prepare for a month of remote teaching. I looked at sets of books, markerboards, and magnet letters, and wondered about transitioning to Chromebooks. I grabbed essentials, leaving without considering the contents of my candy drawer…
Day 2 - March 14
Many opinions. We should stay home, but shouldn’t panic-buy, and toilet paper is out of stock or limited. I order online, preparing to stay in, without taxing local supply - order placed March 13 arriving May 22… 
Day 4 - March 16
Online teaching! After a single weekend, we go live. Diving into Google Classroom. Fumbling through posts, wondering about our screentime. Work-life balance disappears, rotating between digital teaching resources, posting activities, and providing feedback, never wanting to miss opportunities to respond.
Day 5 - March 17
St. Patrick’s Day: first day restaurants/bars are closed? Thankfully, I wore green in the before-times.
Day 6 - March 18    
Doctor’s appointment. Nothing pandemic-related. I attempted canceling. Phone lines jammed. I received 4 text/email reminders regarding the appointment (and cancellation fee). Empty waiting room. So many chairs and magazines to avoid touching.
I jogged home on roads I often run. Never have so many people been out, wearing such a wide range of outfits, for what I presume are trials at “leisure-walking.” 
Day 7 - March 19
Video calls galore. I excel in limited-view, light-controlled settings...
Day 8 - March 20
I should buy food from all my favorite restaurants, right? What if they become unavailable? I should purchase Indian, Thai, Mexican, Italian, Morrocan... Can I buy enough to avoid cooking through this?
Day 9 - March 21
What will my credit card look like next month?
Day 10 - March 22
Everything is tedious online. Explaining, clarifying, waiting for responses, typing individual feedback, wondering if difficulties are content-, platform-, or motivation-related… I miss teaching in-person, seeing responses, addressing confusion immediately...
Day 11 - March 23
Um, students know I’m responding, right? They get notifications and see comments, right? Somebody is reading this personalized advice… right?
Day 12 - March 24
Husband corrected my floss dancing technique. It took longer and was less successful than I’m willing to admit.
Day 13 - March 25
I miss students. I love seeing some online, but that’s just a percentage. Are the rest okay?
Day 14 - March 26
Will mute buttons be the downfall of civility? What if we emerge having lost discipline for controlling mutable bodily functions? 
Day 15 -  March 27
Closures announced through April 15. Calls, delivering chromebooks, posting media and games, creating videos and live sessions - how else do we reach them? Those absent need support most, and this crisis reveals more educational inequity.
Day 16 - March 28
Where even is my make-up? When did I last wear shoes?
Day 17 - March 29
If someone sends something, I check school email, gmail, google classroom (8 rooms), hangouts, meet, twitter, social media, texts… If I’m struggling juggling, what about kids?
Day 18 - March 30
Traditional commuting morphed into frantic “pull it together” sessions minutes before video meetings. The meeting time does not impact this new routine.
Day 19 - March 31
Spring break... cancelled. Teaching straight through. Morale is where one would expect.
Day 20 - April 1    
How do we have this much food?
Day 22 - April 3
After running, it takes a half-hour to remember I’m allowed to approach my husband. An extravert practicing disengagement behaviors is unnatural.
Day 23 - April 4
My husband discovered sourdough. Awesome!
The Department of Health called because I was exposed to Covid-19. Not awesome.
They couldn’t divulge location or person, just a date. Remember that doctor’s appointment?
This call came over 2 weeks after exposure, so self-quarantine wasn’t required, but I got a cool letter for my file…
Day 28 - April 9
On windy days, we map storm movement in online meetings by watching the order participants get kicked off when they lose power.
Day 31 - April 12
Husband won’t let me buy more food until we “make a dent in what we have.” How insensitive.
Day 33 - April 14
I am now nocturnal.
Do I have the only pets annoyed by my presence? My solitary, nocturnal hedgehogs are modifying schedules to avoid me.
Day 34 - April 15
Masks in public. I tried while biking. People were significantly less friendly than usual. Nobody could see and respond to smiles.
Day 35 - April 16
NOT when we go back. School buildings remain closed until April 30. Knowing two weeks of life at a time is unsettling. I made brown-sugar-cinnamon crumble and put it on everything, including a straight-up bowl of Nutella.
Day 39 - April 20
All my jobs are online. How did I get a papercut?
Day 40 - April 21
Messages from students missing me, lunch clubs, and reading groups are heart-breaking Thank goodness technology provides some connection. One district cut their reading department. Another is laying off over 160 teachers. Our district is millions in debt. We are directed to restrict hours of online instruction. How do we prove merit in these conditions?
Day 41 - April 22
I realize someone is watching my recorded lessons, potentially noticing my proclivity for wearing established, comfortable, online teaching outfits until they require washing. Which takes significantly longer when outfits have less-than-strenuous responsibilities.
Day 42 - April 23
How am I busier? I think I’ve run more miles than I’ve slept hours.
Day 50 - May 1
School buildings closed through June. 
Day 56 - May 7
Maybe I’ll do a 30-day yoga challenge without missing any this time!
Day 58 - May 9
Nope.
Day 60 - May 11
Turns out, hours at home were not the missing component in my house-cleaning completion formula.
Day 61 - May 12
Many feelings. Should we wear masks? Are non-medical-grade masks effective? Don’t wear those, though, because professionals need them - most are confused; all are irritated.
Day 66 - May 17
The Capital Region met criteria for “re-opening” phase 1 - are we moving towards normalcy before my toilet paper arrives?!?

 

Rebecca Benjamin 

is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Education Theory and Practice at the State University of New York at Albany.

She is a Literacy Specialist in the Schenectady City School District, Organist at Niskayuna Reformed Church, Co-President of the Albany City Area Reading Council, and the Eastern Regional Director for New York State Reading Association.
Rebecca can be reached at rbenjamin@albany.edu.

Trolley c/o NYS Writers Institute

Science Library 320

University at Albany

Albany NY 12222   

nyswritersinstitute.org 

© 2020 All rights reserved.​

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