The days are getting into a routine. I get up, I eat, I do some laptop work, I eat again, I do some other work or talk to some buddies, I go on a walk, I have a snack, I practice, I do yoga, I read, I hang out with the housemates, I sleep. The only way I can tell which day is which is the walk I took on that day.
I have a good video chat with Madeline, the college buddy I was supposed to visit in Seattle. She made it to her Minnesota home for spring break to be with her family, but is getting scared of the potential for a travel ban preventing her from going back to Seattle. Her boyfriend is still at their apartment and becoming sick with a tight chest a cough, two of the main Covid symptoms. He's scared to leave the studio apartment for anything at all, even a drive-through test. Plus he's tired. Really tired.
She really wants to be able to go back and be with him and feels bad that he's sick and alone. We don't know if he has Covid-19, and probably will never know if he had it. But there's a chance he has this highly contagious, terrible virus, and she wants to be there with him in a studio apartment. There's still a lot of love in this world. It gives me hope.
Housemate Will tells me about a park in Ann Arbor with some trails to check out. I meet up with bandmates and college buds Ezra and Jacob for our exploration of Bird Hills. We find a magnificent park of wooded, hilly trails. It's larger than any other Ann Arbor park I had been to. In one direction there were tall pines bringing dark green to the otherwise brown landscape. In another direction there were tall, straight, skinny trees, barren but for a head of green hair. In yet another direction the trees had windy branches that looked abstract against the greying sky. As we ventured we found some white birches, pale and hiding below the other trees in their own section of the woods. Some trees swayed widely at the top while others remained rigid to the natural eye. The swayers creaked loudly, cutting through the sound of the wind and the footsteps, as if they were speaking to the other trees.
It is the first time we are seeing each other since the start of all this, which feels like a really long time ago. In reality we have gone longer without seeing each other, but the concept of time is quite dissociated from "normal" conventions. Jacob asks the now common question that has replaced 'how's it going.'
"How is everyone holding up?" We all agree that things are relatively okay for us. We are making it work in our living situations and enjoying the company of others.
"I just find it unsettling and disorienting for things to feel normal and almost okay amidst a crisis," I say.
"Yeah, I've been struggling with that a lot too," Jacob adds. "I just know this is going to be an emotional marathon and we are still very early on."
"I just feel like the only choice we have is to be happy," Ezra states.
"Well, we can also just be sad," I say.
The rest of the walk is filled with our normal exchanges. We plan our somewhat absurd next band show (a livestream event with technical difficulties that's really a well-put together film), debate random nonsensical narratives we have introduced to common language, and ask a lot of "what ifs," all while purposely trying to get lost in the sea of trails, taking less conventional routes, and contemplating proper names of forest features. Every now and then we stop and listen to the trees and the birds, pointing out when we have reached a new family of tree, or when one tree looks particularly unique.
We reach a tree on top of a hill that is unlike the surrounding tall and skinny trees. It stands away from the other trees, distinguishing itself with it's thick trunk that splits into many thick curvey trunks that are low to the ground. In other words, it is a perfect climbing tree. The others start climbing, but uncharacteristically I don't think I can. My hands are starting to get numb. It's colder than I thought it would be in the shade and we have been out a long time. I didn't even bring gloves with me to Ann Arbor. Jacob offers me an extra pair of gloves he has in his pocket. I am very thankful, but still cannot warm my hands enough to grip them around branches. It's only when I give the gloves back that I realize maybe sharing gloves does not comply with social distancing.
The emails of the day are mostly relating to a Michigan Department of Education (MDE) press announcement stating that our school days during extended learning will not count towards the required 180 school days of instruction. This press release sets off a chain of confusion and educators expressing concern from all over the state. The memo gives the impression that in the eyes of the state, this time of teaching does not matter. But it doesn't actually say that. What it says is that it cannot be counted towards instructional time because of equity issues with technology. Not all students in the state are going to have access to electronics. The way the laws are set up, the school needs to have 75% attendance to count as a school day, and we cannot determine attendance numbers in online platforms. It is vague in what this means for all us teachers working our butts off to put entire courses online in a matter of days. The statement says that this does not mean the school year will extend to the summer.
Teachers are rightfully confused and annoyed. Many are working harder than ever only to be told it does not count. My superintendent releases this email. It states his disappointment with the press release and his firm belief that what we are doing does count.
Maybe it is an unpopular opinion, but I think the MDE was right in saying these days cannot "count." They are right that all kids do not have access to the same technology. I highly doubt all the kids with IEPs in the state have all their accommodations being met right now. I have multiple students that have a one-to-one aid with them in the classroom. They do not have that at home and it is not right to assume the parent is free to play that role in their child's education. There are countless accommodations that we just don't know how to meet in this situation, and many scenarios we have never tested before. A student that has never needed an IEP before may need one in this situation. Are all students going to be evaluated at a clinical level to determine if they need assistance meeting the standards of this new world?
It is easy to be mad at the people at the top that are not in the schools every day. It is hard to be compassionate and empathetic. In the end we should have always knew these days can't legally "count". But we should also know that the number of instructional days counted does not determine what counts for a child's education. Everything we are doing counts.
Life feels far more quarantined now. Seeing people out and about starts to feel weird. Meeting friends, even for socially distant walking, feels weird. But still, I go off to meet Scott to pick up takeout at one of my favorite spots in Ann Arbor, the Lunch Room. Restaurants are only open for takeout and curbside pickup. I make the order online and tip extra generously, but forget to say curbside pickup. When we arrive in separate, socially distant cars I consider calling them and asking them to bring the food outside, but Scott is walking confidently towards the door, and I feel silly for feeling overcautious.
The restaurant is empty except for the three people I can see working behind the pickup counter. They look surprised to see anyone walk in. I quickly tell them my name for the pickup order. It feels weird to be there. We also get two tap waters. I am very conscious of not touching anything inside.
We eat at a picnic table by the river that is surprisingly dry, considering how everything else is still wet from yesterday's rain. Scott is a year younger than me and in his senior year studying music education at U-M. All U-M students have been told to go home if possible. All classes are online. He doesn't get a graduation. I'll probably remember my college graduation for almost my whole life. If I am lucky, I'll live long enough to forget it. Scott will remember his too, but for different reasons.
I ask Scott what is going on with student teaching. You cannot make student teaching online. He had done 1.5 out of 8 weeks at his second placement before all the schools shut down. He says the Deans of Michigan Education programs all had a big meeting and decided student teaching was just done. It would not take place online. Congrats, you have finished your field requirement for certification. I think about how much I learned in the last half of my student teaching. In reality, nothing really prepares you all the way for having a classroom, but student teaching certainly helps. It's not like there is a checklist of everything you have to learn while working under a mentor teacher. The hope is that if you do it for long enough, you see enough and learn enough to survive. I hope the teachers this year are seeing enough and learning enough.
Scott's second placement was in Dearborn, about 40 minutes East of Ann Arbor, right outside Detroit. His mentor teacher worked in a Title I middle school. I ask if the students are getting food they need and how is it working. He says that normally, 100% of the students get breakfast and lunch from the school. The district is still offering breakfast and lunch, but families have to pick it up at breakfast and lunch time. In a working class area, parents are struggling to get to the school twice a day for food.
Our walk takes us to wooded trail by the Huron river. There is constant slow stream of people jogging. If they were not running in opposite directions up and down the trail I would think that they were all running away from something. As we get to the part of trail that turns into Gallop park I notice several people are stopped, looking at the river. There are a pair of swans socially distant from each other, one on each side of the bridge. I wonder if people always stop to look at these swans. Or if somehow people are noticing them more now. Maybe they need to notice them more now.
We get to a point in the path where the trail ends and we would have to loop back the way we came, but it looks like people before us have cut through further. Something about being cooped in place all day makes me want an adventure.
It doesn't take long down the "path" for us to realize we are going to have to just climb through bramble. I feel like I am nine-years-old adventuring with my best friend in the neighborhood woods. It's the freest I've felt all week. Eventually we hit a fenced-off backyard. We have to climb straight up a brambly hill, which leads us to a steep drop over a small creek. When we finally make it to the street Scott and I agree that it was worth the adventure. Nine-year-old Lydia would be proud.
In our second day of online learning, the first email I get from the district is an announcement that all TSD servers are down. Too many people are using district devices at once. I won't lie, it kind of makes me laugh. The email even suggests things for students to do that don't involve devices, like building a fort.
I log-in to Schoology and find another student has submitted a video. This one is of a student on the autism spectrum, and it's the best she's ever played.
There's another email, this one asking for community volunteer translators. My district is beautifully diverse. I wish I knew how many languages were spoken across my families. In times of crisis it is important to make sure people across the community are all getting the same message. I am glad the district is stepping in to help organize the people. By the end of the day the servers are back up and the district has sent another email about how members of the community can get free food and groceries. There are certainly advantages to the working-class families that can afford to pay the district's taxes.
Today is the day we start extended learning! I set up everything to post at 7 A.M., which is a few hours before I woke up. I emailed my half of the parents, so about 200 people, and posted our website and Schoology announcement. I login to Schoology and see one student has posted a video of them playing something. It makes me happy to see her play and know at least some students are still playing instruments. There is yet another district email, this one remaining positive and again filled with learning resources.
Then there is an email from a classroom teacher that some students can’t open our specials website because of restriction on their iPads. The tech issues are bound to happen. The problem turns out not to be restrictions, but connecting to home WiFi instead of a school server. It doesn’t make sense to me, but as long as it makes sense to the right people it is fine by me.
I have plans we go on a walk with my buddy Scott, but then he calls me and says it is about to rain for the rest of the day. We agree to do our socially distant walk tomorrow.
I take a quick walk alone before the rain comes. I wish I had my handheld recorder to take some field recordings of the world. I love the sound of a razor scooter racing up behind you, the sound of a bird looking for a friend, the sound of my feet snapping a stick in my path…
I stop and take pictures, but I know that it is the sound that I want to remember.
Trump signs an Emergency Relief Bill into law that includes free testing for Covid-19 and paid emergency leave. It’s a step in the right direction, but only that. These are things that we should already have in America. We should not have to have to rush a bill into law in order for someone to not have to financially worry if they want to get tested for a contagious virus. People not being able to afford health care just makes more people sick.
I wake up to much of the now usual- teachers sharing resources that have become free for students to use. There's also one district email clarifying some general things, like how the buildings are closed and offering resources for the well being of students and the staff. The email also assures all employees that pay will happen for all employees during this time period. People that are employed at hourly rates will be paid their average amount of hours they work in a week. The district is the one making these decisions and they are doing it right. It is comforting to know at least these people are being taken care of.
One more email goes out later in the day. This one is for parents as well as staff. The big announcement here is that there will be no grades for the second or third quarter. There are also many links with resources for technology support as well as emotional well-being. I have not really had enough time working in this district to gain any pride for being here, but today I think I am starting to feel the pride.
I emailed my team of elementary instrument teachers to check in how everyone was doing and get the password for our website. Two of the three members ignored my individualized question to them asking how they were doing. I hope this means that they read it too fast and that it does not mean they are really having a hard time. Or maybe they just are emotionally tired of people checking in with them. That is real.
I do a little more school work to help get ready for tomorrow's Extended Learning Launch. Most of what I had to do was just change a file slightly so it was ready to put on the district's specials website. Sounds easy enough, but I ended up spending 20 minutes becoming very frustrated that is was not doing what I wanted it to do. I am tech savy enough and have some website experience, so I can only imagine what the almost retired and never used the internet teacher is experiencing right now. An hour or two later of last minute adjustments and I am ready to launch a new way of learning.
The rest of my day is what, in any other circumstance, I would have called "beyond a trifecta." On "normal" days, a trifecta is a day where I practice cello then do yoga then take a shower. Usually I do not have energy/time for cello and yoga in a day, but when I get the trifecta days it feels great. Today I did not only that, but I also finished my book, wrote my blog, took a walk outside with Max, and cooked a meal. It felt great to have all the time to do all the things.
Walks are perhaps the most important thing to me now. They are the only thing I leave the apartment for, and the only fresh air I breath. It is the only time I see people that I do not live with. It is what connects me to the nature around us. Max and I walk through the woods and spot the dogs together, pausing every now and then just to look and listen to the world around us.
Amidst this day that is disorienting-ly full of things I love, there are elections happening in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona. I am not on Twitter, but Max shows me pictures people are posting from voting locations. The CDC has recommended that people stay home and if they have to go out to stay 6 feet away from each other and to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. The pictures of polling places show more than 5 people people shoulder to shoulder in long lines in unventilated polling places. Tweets describe polling places not opening because of staff refusing to show up and utter confusion over where voters should go. This is not what democracy looks like.
We watch some non-political TV before bed. News comes in that Biden won all the states up for grabs. Tweets are still popping up of people waiting in line to vote. But my mind and body have been cared for today. One day at time. Not all at once.
Today was largely characterized by documenting my quarantine housemate Will making bread. The man has been producing homemade sourdough bread like a machine for a few weeks. Last night he asked if anyone wanted to join his adventure and study the art of bread making. I agreed. I started documenting it on my Lyd in the Veggie Life series on Instagram. It's a series that rejects the "serious instagram foodie" aesthetic and takes practical, instructional shots of how to make affordable vegetarian meals. I've been a vegetarian since I was about ten and like to share my perspective. I think maybe three people really enjoy that I do it. Four, if you count me. I woke up this morning to will knocking on my door at a ripe 11 am. It was time to make more bread. Throughout the day I would create an epic Instagram story comprised of 150+ ten second long videos.
Today in Michigan news, the Governor has ordered all "places of public accommodation," including bars and restaurants, to be closed. These places can still offer food as carry out or curb-side pick up. The Governor also prohibited gatherings of 50 or more people. She also expanded un-employment benefits. It is getting more real every day.
It is technically a teacher work day, although I still have until Wednesday before the official launch of this new world of teaching. Our district has decided to call it "Extended Learning" to unify what language we use when talking about this weird unknown time. I expect that it also was meant to deter people from using the sometimes inaccurate generalization of "Online Learning."
Social media is filled with teachers reaching out and offering support. A global community of teachers has come together in essentially a weekend to figure out how we can best pool our knowledge to offer the best education and emotional support to our students while it seems like the world is turning upside-down around us. Both my Facebook feed and email are flooded with teachers sharing educational resources that are now offering their services for free. Everyone is on one team here.
My district has sent out another email in anticipation of the workweek. There will be two meals a day available for students starting tomorrow. Anyone can pick them up, the meals are not limited to students in the district. There's a link for an article about trauma related to the recent school closings. It's a great thing to share and I am glad my district is thinking about the social-emotional well-being of our students, but it's hard to find solace in a link right now. There's a link for students to fill out if anyone is having technology issues. IEP meetings will happen by phone call/video conference. The buildings will be closed after 1 PM today. Students will be allowed into school to pick up belongings, but their entrances are going to be staggered by last name. Students are to grab essential things only, not clean out all of their belongings. Parents will not be allowed in. For the elementary schools, a staff member will escort the child in the building. I imagine a kindergartner, with little ability to understand the scope of what is going on, being dropped off at their school to find almost empty hallways, being escorted by someone they don't have a connection with. That is not to say parents should be let in. I think the district is right in limited visitors to the school in this public health emergency. But what is right is not comforting.
I did some prep work to make sure everything was ready to go. I uploaded all the videos Joe and I took on Friday and drafted a statement to the students and families. An FAQ sheet is being sent out by all the principals. It covers lots of potential concerns, and emphasizes that new material is not to be taught in this time. Although I agree with the logic that it would not be equitable to teach new material remotely, it is not fulfilling as a teacher to know we just will not get through the curriculum for the year. What is right is not comforting.
I wonder if other schools are giving free meals to kids of the community. I wonder what schools are doing where there is not technology available at home. Our school is working on getting WiFi to the families that need it. The meals are being delivered to the poorest apartment complexes. Are other schools able to do this? Did other teachers get a long weekend to prepare for a new world of teaching? At this point I am seeing snippets of teachers posting on Facebook and Instagram, but most of it is about how to best teach students, not complaints about any situation. I think I know the answers I seek, but I am not ready to seek them. I do not think I can handle every reality of the world at this moment.
One of the things I have been able to fall back on no matter what is happening in my life is playing cello, Through high school and college I practiced hours a day. The routine of diligently working at crafting one's art becomes therapeutic in an almost addicting way. In college I would feel off on a certain day and not figure out what was up until I realized I hadn't practiced. It's what I did on great days and days after break-ups and all the days in-between. I cut down my amount of practicing significantly once I started teaching, but I still try to get an hour in a few times a week, and I play music with other people at least once a week. I can tell when practicing is what I need and I know that playing with other people weekly is why I am happy where I am in life.
I decided that while I am staying with three highly skilled jazz musicians I should really learn some Jazz. The housemates decided that the Joe Henderson tune Black Narcissus would sound beautiful on cello. So I practiced my warm-ups and etudes then found a housemate approved chart of Black Narcissus, listened to a record of it, and started my work. It felt great.
It was just warm enough that I could sit out in the sun with a jacket and blanket and read. I was almost done with Their Eyes were Watching God, a recommendation from Max's mom. It was the climatic part of the book where (spoiler alert) the main characters escape a devastating hurricane by swimming through it. It is chaotic, dramatic, and tragic. I think about the world we are in now. Chaos, while I sit and read in the sun. I think of the hospital workers and grocery store cashiers on the front lines. They are the ones saving lives. Hospital workers are posting pictures telling people to stay home. So stay home I do. But what is right is not comforting.
Will joins me on my neighborhood walk. There are beautiful woods on the edge of the neighborhood with bare trees and trails where people frequently trodden over the fall leaves from many months or years ago. On our way to the woods we pass by siblings playing in the driveway, arguing about the rules of their basketball game, parents playing ball with their kids in the yard, and the happiest of doggos, prancing around with their humans who have all the attention in the world for them. Children race past us on bikes and scooters. The sidewalks are decorated in chalk. It feels like an illusion of a happy world.
The woods themselves are filled with people just like us, taking their walks to acquaint themselves with nature and escape the monotony of their homes. Every time we are about to cross paths with someone else on the narrow trail, we step off the path, giving them at least six feet clearance to pass us. Although most people are running (like Max is somewhere in the woods), walking with family, or walking a dog, we pass some people on phone calls and video chats. Will expresses what I am thinking, "It doesn't make sense to me that people could be looking at their phones when we could be looking at this," he says, gesturing at the trees. The birds are singing more than they have sung in months. Or maybe they always sing like this and I just have not been listening until now. We get to a small swampy body of water along the trail. We stop and look for awhile. We live in such a crazy world where it takes a pandemic to let people prioritize seeing the beauty of our world every day.
After a climatic cutting of the beautiful finished bread loafs, we settle down for bed. The primaries in Florida, Arizona, and Illinois are set to happen tomorrow. Ohio was set to happen too, but the governor postponed them. Or recommended they did. It was complicated, but long story short, they were postponed.
Max is not happy that there are sill primaries happening. In fact, it makes him furious. It is irresponsible for them to ask people to vote in public places when the CDC is begging people to stay home. There must be a political strategy that benefits some corporate politician if America is getting away with this. Max's anger grows to frustration at the DNC. Then it grows to the whole primary season and politics in America. We are both pretty worked up about it even though we are on the same team. After half an hour or maybe an hour of the most shouting or shouting like conversation we have ever had between us, we breath. Some people need to sob. Some people need to just be angry.
We haven't had time to process anything. There has been too much at once. Even in the day to day self-care activities like reading and practicing and walks, it feels like we are swimming through the hurricane, not processing that what we are swimming through is the wreckage of normalcy. Then the end of the day comes and we see the ruins start to pile up. There are more and more news alerts of new cases, deaths from cases, and inequity in who is getting treatment. It is far away but it is not. It only exists on our phones but it is just down the street.
What we did have was each other. And how comforting that was, to hold each other tight as we drifted into the night.
I wake up to Max checking his phone to discover his weekly Sunday morning brunch gig is canceled. It's the first Sunday we get to sleep in together with nowhere to be for a long time. I'm not set to do anything until 3 PM when I have another video chat lesson. Any other Sunday we would have been happy to have the extra time together. I think we pretend that we are happy.
I decide from now on I am going to stick to an eating schedule and eat full meals at every scheduled eating time. I will get up at 11 am (I am a night owl by nature) and eat breakfast, then lunch at 3, dinner at 9, bed at 1.
Max's mom Carol texts us to check in. They live in town and we usually go and see them on Sunday and have dinner. Carol says we are welcome to come over, but she's not sure she should cook us anything. She just got back from Los Angeles earlier on Tuesday from her two week stay with Max's sister, Lakisha. Lakisha is 28 weeks pregnant with her first kid and has been hospitalized for two weeks for complications. It's not a great time to be in a hospital, if such a time even exists.
We decide not to see Max's parents for a bit. Anyone in their generation is at higher risk and people in our generation are more likely to be carrying Covid and not know. Plus Max is still a little stuffy. Carol is glad we feel this way and looks forward to video chatting with us later in the week. It doesn't feel good to turn away family but it does feel right.
There's lots of things that I know I can do to take care of myself during limited social contact. I love playing cello, reading, writing, cooking, and yoga. What I know I will need most of all is walks in nature and friends.
It seems like the internet says walks outside with friends are still okay. The suggestion is to stay six feet away from each other at all times and avoid groups of more than 10. The governor has prohibited all gatherings of more than 250 people. A walk with three friends seems just fine.
I meet Ezra and Conner at Conner's house. We arrive in separate cars even though Ezra would have been on the way for me to pick up. We text Conner when we arrive so we don't have to touch anything.
As soon as we get to the wooded trails we can hear the birds. We walk and walk, enjoying conversations about how strange life is. The trail shifts between tall trees with oddly shaped roots sticking out of the damp dirt to straw grass that's been bent and crushed by other trail wanderers. We take the path that leads through the underpass of the highway, a graffiti covered tunnel with wooden planks aiding our walk over the smelly murky water. At one point my band BRIGE had planned on recording our album in this underpass. As emerge from the underpass to a park by the river, member of BRIGE Ezra says he still wants to record our album there. I'm no longer so sure.
The path by the water is nice. Lot's of doggos. I think of how happy many doggos must be to have their people with them all the time now. They sure do look happy.
At some point I express my concern about food and grocery stores. Conner and Ezra assure me grocery stores will not shut down. "And if they do," Conner says, "Let me know. I've got lot's of farm friends that are still growing food."
Max and I make dinner (some sweet potato, onion, rice, and quinoa stuffed peppers) and watch the Democratic Primary Debate. There's no audience for the debate. At first it's kind of weird, but then it is kind of nice. The debate itself is pretty terrible. Biden has had many recent moments of being a blubbering idiot when talking out loud, mixing up words, saying incoherent sentences, calling people the wrong name.... and he's honestly outperforming expectations by speaking in full sentences. They talk about Covid-19 for awhile. Two men in their late 70s, telling the world about a virus disproportionately killing the elderly.
I spend the debate feeling either angry, annoyed, mildly enthused about the messages, or unenthused while imagining what most Americans will see when watching the debate. It's not great.
The last hours of the night are spent playing cards with the house mates. We play, laugh, drink, and eat homemade bread. I could get used to this new normal.
With endless weeks without work ahead, I am happy to be in Ann Arbor where my partner and friends are. Max and I play in a band called Polyglot with two friends from college, Sofia and Zoe. We made plans for a rehearsal a few days ago at the U-M music school, where Sofia and Zoe are still students.
Walking in the building feels really weird. I spent more time at this school during undergrad than any place I lived in that period. There were days when I would get there at 8:30 AM with a packed lunch, stay until dinner around 7. come back at 8, and practice until midnight. I had seen the school with very few people in it before. But I had never been there when it felt like I shouldn't be there.
Zoe says some students threw a Corona party last night. The reality has not hit anywhere yet. There is an attitude that, because the disease is (for the most part) not killing young adults, young adults are safe to go part in masses. This is dangerously misguided. From what we know, young adults are still carriers, even when they are not getting sick. The actions of partying young people seem careless and potentially murderous.
After we had been playing for twenty minutes or half an hour I have lost my desire to play. I tell the others I just want to listen for a bit. We play freely improvised music so this works just fine. Zoe says we can just stop if we're done. I say I don't want to be done, I just want to listen.
So I sit, listening.
Eventually I play some more. Playing with others is usually a healing practice for me. But today, it's starting to feel wrong. I leave the school knowing that I will not return again anytime soon.
After the rehearsal I teach my first private lesson over video chat. I teach my very quiet and shy 10-year-old cello student. At first it feels really weird and forced, but as we get going figuring out what we can and can't do, it starts to feel refreshing to do some actual teaching. There are few things I would have taught that I do not because I am not there, and we can't play together like we normally do. When I leave by pressing the hang up button I feel good that I was able to connect with a student.
Our next adventure was at the grocery store. News has been flooding with pictures of empty shelves and grocery carts filled with toilet paper. I am not sure what to expect. I had been to a grocery store earlier that week for my normal weekly shopping, and did buy an extra few cans of beans, but I wanted some good fruits and veggies for the week.
I am pleased to find a fruitful produce section with all the fruits and veggies my heart could desire. I am usually all team only buy environmentally packaged produce, but today I get the bell peppers that come in plastic bags, the cucumber and cauliflower in plastic wrap, only buy fruit that's in containers. I feel guilty, but safer. It's confusing.
The toilet paper aisle is completely empty. All you can see is depressed metal shelves that only serve the purpose of holding up the Kroger signs that say something to the effect of "Due to heightened demand, Kroger is limited the amount of hand sanitizers, disinfectants, and toilet paper to 3 per costumer. We apologize for the inconvenience." Max's place doesn't have a bunch of extra toilet paper. We just hope that when we runout, someone will come through to help us out. From all I've seen so far, it seems like I can trust the people I know to help.
I think about what to make for dinner and start to worry. Should I be using any of my rice now? What if the grocery stores close and I cannot get rice? I should probably only eat perishables. I suddenly feel like I did not buy enough food. Can I live off all this for a month? Or longer? I am only used to cooking for myself and having 5-6 days worth of groceries. I wasn't really thinking about buying things long term.
Later in the evening we settle down to watch a movie with the housemates. We choose Synecdoche New York. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a phobia of medical malfunctions in certain contexts and really can't watch doctor or hospital shows/movies. This isn't that, but as part of the absurdist plot, the main character (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) has random nonsensical medical issues during the first third of the movie. I end up escaping to the bedroom.
As soon as I collapse on the bed I start sobbing. I just cannot handle the medical things and I hate that I can't and it just freaks me out and I just can't do it. My already on-edge body has given out. My stomach feels like it's filled with acid. I don't think I ate enough food today. But I have enough food. I will be alright. I start breathing deeply. I'll be alright. Then Max walks in the room and sees me hunched and helpless looking and the cycle starts again. He is so sorry. So sorry. As he sits and comforts me I realize the cries I shed have been in there for days. It's the cry from election night, the cry of uncertainty, the cry of fear, the cry of walking out of school for the last time because things are not normal. It's a cathartic cry.
As we settle down for the night I feel somehow more at peace with everything. "So all that medical stuff was not important to the plot? And it all just stops? And then he goes on and does this crazy revolutionary thing?" "Yep." Some of the built up anxiety has gone away. It's going to be alright. Sometimes it really does help to just sob about something.
I drive away from school for the last time in who knows how long. It feels really, really strange. The drive feels like a blur of a memory even as it happens.
I park outside my house and I do not move. I often just kind of sit in my car for awhile after work before I go inside. It is nice to just be still and clear my head before I get in the house. I find that when I need to do this and don't, I end up sitting on my couch for far too long. But today is different. Today I feel like I can't get up; like it's not real to get up. So I don't. For an hour. I don't look at my phone, there's no radio, nothing. Just nothing.
When I get inside I start this blog. Before I know it it has been two hours and I have not gotten through Wednesday. But my head feels better.
I text Max and tell him my plan for the evening. Yoga, shower, eat & TV, and pack an ample amount to come stay with him. I usually stay with him on the weekends and breaks from school, but this is an unexpected, much longer break.
I've gotten to the eat phase of my plan and Max hasn't responded. I am a little worried that maybe he doesn't want me to be in Ann Arbor with him for the whole quarantine.... or doesn't want me to bring my germs. He does have two roommates. I give him a bump and he says enthusiastically agrees and says they have some buddies over now. I feel weird that he has buddies over. I feel weird that that feels weird.
A little over an hour later I am on the road. I had to make three trips to my car to pack everything up. I packed lots of clothes, instruments, games, and all the food I had in my house. I put on my Harry Potter audiobook. It's my go-to to reset on the 50 minute biweekly drive. I'm at the part where Harry and Dumbledore go to the cave in the 6th book. I drive away.
At Max's house I find a lively scene with the three residents and two guests finishing up their jam. They are all jazz musicians. This is their life.
I start getting all my stuff unpacked and Max joins me and tells me someone who goes to the same gym that he goes to daily has tested positive for Covid-19. My heart skips a beat. He went to the gym on the same day as him. I sit down on the bed and Max sits right next to me. "But we weren't there at the same time. I went after him." Not great, I think. "He went to the pool and the men's locker room, and I was nowhere near that part of gym." I think he can tell he freaked me out a little.
We have a real talk about what this whole thing could mean. He decides to stay away from people for a bit. I tell him I'll cover the utilities for him and his roommates while I am here. They might be about to lose work. We decide to be more cautious about going out. I'm worried about them losing income. I encourage Max to start looking at other jobs he can do from home. We don't know how long this is going to last. Nobody does. None of his gigs have been canceled yet, he assures me. I ask him to promise to look into other options the moment his first gig is canceled. He promises to look before then. We have no idea what will happen, but we might as well be in it together.
The night continues like any other night. Games of cards are played. News alerts popping up on our phones of more thinks being canceled. Albums being played. The president is saying stupid things. Drinks are drunk.
I have been awake for about 18 hours and am ready to collapse. As we go to bed I think of how weird the day felt. Even the parts that were normal felt like they should not have been.
I wake up to email #8, the district sharing the Governor's message that schools are closed for 3 weeks. This goes into our spring break, so we will not return until April 13th. I'm not sure how I feel, if I feel...
I let myself sleep in a little; I really need it. I get to school five minutes after my contractual start time and ten minutes before the start of class. Nobody notices or cares, there's enough on everyone's mind. Principals are sharing Email #4, telling us the Friday school closure is really precautionary... we have no cases in the district...we are just taking a day to plan...this is all part of what we have been working on for a month...please keep calm and tell the kids to have a good three day weekend. Principals are all emailing saying they will be available to chat before school, but I slept through those emails. I would not have gone anyways.
Principal #2, let's call him, sends an email that has a line that the other emails do not. "Please refrain from speaking about it with your students at this time until we get more information. We want to be consistent in our messaging." I take the advice and pretend like everything is normal.
Principal #5 sends out an email telling us to have kids bring home all essential items, just in case.
Principal #3 sends out an email telling us not to tell kids to pack up more things than necessary, this just causes worry.
Matt sends an email to all the 5th-grader teachers telling them to remind all 5th-graders to take instruments home (like they always should).
Joe seems a little off. I don't ask him how he is doing, because I am trying to pretend like everything is fine. Looking back, I think I should have asked. Usually at the end of class we help all the students stack all the chairs. We do not have to today because nobody is using the room after us, so Joe stands at the door, and tells every one of our 30+ kids, "Good job today! Have a good three-day weekend! See you Monday!" I think he wants to force things to be normal, which in some ways I respect. After all, he is doing what we were told to do.
At the next school, I teach kids to tune their instruments. It goes okay. It is not really the kind of lesson I would like to teach with no prep and in half a class, but I think it is important. Kids do not seem to get that it is not normal that I am teaching them to tune. I must be doing my job well. I start to wonder why we do not teach kids to tune sooner. We say we don't have time, but as my middle school teachers taught me, saying you don't have time for something just means you do not prioritize something. I wonder why we do not prioritize this.
Principal #6 sends an email about not preparing extra materials for students. Lots of emails have stuff about hand washing, not touching your face, no adult visitors to the schools... Principal #5 sends a correction email with the don't send extra stuff home message. Within 5 minutes, I get an email from Principal #2 saying DON'T TELL KIDS TO PACK UP EVERYTHING and an email from a middle school band teacher saying he is announcing at the end of the school day for all kids to come get their instruments, and advises other schools to do the same.
Twenty minutes later Principal #2 sends an update from the elementary superintendent. Kids should bring home all essentials...do not cause panic. Similar emails follow. The standard email ends up being one like this from Principal #11, with a list of essentials to bring home and a message to not panic. I notice instruments is not on the list of essentials.
I teach in an incredibly privileged district. We have a lot of money and resources for our students. Starting in third grade, every student is one-to-one with an iPad. This is a growing trend in America, but like most growing trends in America, it is an example of lack of equity. Some places get recourses, some do not. The rich get a better education. Your zip code determines your future.
Now all the principals have sent out the list of essentials. For grades 6-12, instruments are included, but not for 5th. It is not the time to start a fight about this, but it does make me roll my eyes. An email of good news goes out saying paraprofessionals and long-term subs will still be paid during a potential break from school.
All day the kids seem different, but fine. The later we get into the day the more kids are absent. We get more emails about things being cancelled. The news is buzzing. The energy of the schools is really strange. Everyone is pretending to be okay and nobody is. Nobody knows what is going on. I think the kids are pretending they are okay too, because I doubt that they really are, but they probably do not even realize what that are doing.
Email #5 from the district goes out telling us to report to normal buildings. For my team that teaches at 12 schools, this means we can pick what school we go to.
Principal #10 says there were 40 students absent today in her email and asks if teachers could please bring their things to the office. Principal #4 says we will let students come get stuff on Monday, if they need it. Email #6 goes out reiterating that tomorrow is one day closure... please bring home essentials and bring them back to school every day... we have some emergency child care... here's all the things that are cancelled... and oh we had to take youtube restrictions off the middle school iPads, sorry parents. Email #7 adds in that Adult ESL classes will continue as normal. This does not really make sense to me, but okay. Principals start sending out agenda for tomorrow. People start sharing inspirational articles. I do not read them. I have never really felt that connected to the elementary school culture of teachers. It is its own universe. Something tells me that these are not going to be my kind of articles.
I usually listen to a podcast on my way home. Today, I drive home in silence. I had spent so much of the day just processing the latest message and trying to think about the next step that I had not had time to really think about how I felt. All I could feel was that I was tired.
I got home, lied down, and slept for two and a half hours.
I woke up to a text from Max, who was coming out to stay with me, asking if I wanted to go out to Dinner with him and a friend. I tell him that I am not sure about going to a restaurant right now. He gets it. I eventually decide that it will be alright as long as we do not go anywhere crowded. After all, people are cleaning like crazy. So we go a Thai place that is mostly take-out. It's just us and one other family in the decently sized room. I feel alright. We talk about how everything is closing, about how our president is an idiot, and how this is stressful. We probably talk about other things too.
We go home and I try to tell Max about my day. I do not know how successful I am. We go on a walk around my neighborhood. It helps me reset. We eat ice cream and watch 30 Rock. Pretend things are normal, they say.
I check my email and find an update from the union. There is a lot in here. IF the schools close, and only IF, we will start teaching online... curriculum expectations are suspended...we will be focusing on review only... do not overtax students... please be flexible. The biggest thing in here is that until further notice, all teachers are expected to still report to work during the school closure. While this seems somewhat unsafe based on the CDC recommendations, I actually feel calm at this news. I do not do well with routine changes and too much free time, so having a set place to go every day and people to see while keeping a routine sounds lovely. I take a deep breath. Maybe I will be okay through all this.
Max says he's not felt quite right all weekend. He had worked hard canvassing for Bernie, drank a lot on the night of the primary, and not slept enough. We get settled in bed. Then I get a text from Joe. It's a link to Fox news. "Fox news? Why is Joe sending me the Fox news homepage?" So I click. It's Governor Whitmer's announcement that effective Monday, all K-12 schools in Michigan will be closed until April 5th. I million questions come to mind and I start to get nervous about not handling a long break well. An email to my personal account pops up from the union, clarifying a few things. If schools closed, we will get paid... we will not have to make up lost school time...we will still have to report to schools during the closure... and we will have time to get things from the school if needed. I check my school email. Only one new email. It is from Principal #10, saying MI schools are closed for three weeks. All I know is that tomorrow should still be the same. Right? I leave my phone on, just in case. Max falls asleep easy. I read my book and actually comprehend what I am reading. Some minutes or hours later, I sleep and dream that I have the Coronavirus.