I stopped blogging maybe 2 months ago and I don't think I'll go back and fill in the details. But here's the brief recap.
The school year finished online. I felt frustrated by these limitations. Co-teaching was hard. It was hard for me to get students to participate consistently in my well-funded district where learning with technology was already a routine part of learning. To say this was an equitable and accessible form of teaching is laughable. Many students fell off the grid. Some came on video calls every single chance they had. One student came on only once to tell me her Grandma died and she hadn't been able to go see her even though she lived nearby.
Starting maybe the third week I stopped seeing anyone outside my house in person. It just didn't feel safe. The exceptions were Max's parents and the grocery store. We would go on walks with Max's parents in masks in an unpopulated park with wooded trails where we could spread out. The housemates would take turns braving the grocery store, where capacity was limited, there were lines to get in, masks were required, and in some cases, there were arrows on the grounds of aisles denoting which way to walk. These were largely ignored. I kept myself busy teaching and playing cello and doing yoga and reading and hanging out with the roommates. It was a good situation.
America cares more about the wealth of its rich than the lives of its poor.
Basically, America decided it was done with the coronavirus because people were tired of not being able to get a haircut. Or at least that’s what the protesters organized by the right-wing said as they gathered with their guns and MAGA hats at the Michigan Capitol. States re-opened prematurely and then there were spikes of Covid cases in those states. Re-opening disproportionately affects people who cannot work from home and people who have to work. These people are more likely to be poor, and, due to systemic racism, more likely to be Black. Black and Indigenous people have less access to quality health care. Black people are more likely to be living in area with less access to food, more condensed housing, and are more likely to rely on public transportation. But America doesn’t care about that. America cares that the stock market looks okay.
America Awakening: Black Lives Matter
Posting this is why I have put a password on this blog. I am not here to write this chapter of American history from my white perspective. This is for me.
The phrase Black Lives Matter has been around since I was in high school, but the history behind the phrase is 400+ years old. This new awakening to the phrase, along with the statement “Defund/Abolish the Police” has taken the national spotlight in recent weeks following the murder of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis. This was nothing new. This had happened in America over and over and over again. But this murder was captured on video. And there was some direct lead-up to this outrage. Ahmaud Aubrey was killed in Febuary while jogging in a white neighborhood. When that video resurfaced, the people were outraged. Breonna Taylor, an EMT risking her life to save others during Covid, was murdered in her home while she slept. By Police. Who were looking for someone who DID NOT LIVE THERE and WHO HAD ALREADY BEEN PUT IN CUSTODY. When the police entered, Breonna’s boyfriend thought the house was being broken into. He tried to defend the house. Now he is in custody and Breonna is dead. The cops are still on the force, four months later.
After the death of George Floyd people took to the streets. Riots ensued. Police were by far the most violent at these events, tear-gassing crowds, running people over in cars, beating people with batons, murdering, and shooting crowds with rubber bullets as the people demanded justice for police brutality. But sure, Black people looting Target are the problem. Okay.
Overnight Instagram and other social media transformed. Instead of selfies on porches and throwbacks to pre-quarantine life, it was resources for people protesting, information on Black Lives Matter, research about defunding the police, and calls for justice. It became against the social code to post a picture of you fishing unless it was directly tied to justice for Black lives. It was amazing. And for people in my close circle, it’s still that way. For Black activists, it’s always been that way. And for some people, it never changed. I know which friends haven’t posted a damn thing about Black lives, but have continued to post their home cooking and hunting pictures.
In the family meeting for Crescendo Detroit just a few days after the death of George Floyd and resurgence of BLM, Angel invited Alexandra, the U-M dance teacher and a young Black activist to speak. She told the Zoom room of entirely Black families (minus me, the U-M choir teacher, and the literacy teacher) they needed to take action in the government, to run for positions, to vote, and to make their voices heard. Then one high school student asked her question. She struggled to put it into words. “I’m not saying this is a good thing, but, well, I mean it just seems like these riots are the only thing getting anyone’s attention. So, if it’s all that is working, is it really a bad thing? I mean I don’t want to condone violence, I’m not saying it’s good, but, well yeah.” Alexandra responded vaguely with a statement about how making noise in the street only matters if [we] have a voice in the government. An elderly member of a family told the kids of the group to stop their friends from going out in the street and destroying [our] community.
Then the leader of the organization, Damien, spoke. He didn’t directly contradict his elder, but he did tell a story.
He told the story of being a young teacher at band camp. There was a student that had a problem with a staff member and wanted to complain to Damien about it. Damien would not hear it. He shrugged him off. Later in the day, the student tried again. It was not the time, Damien said. At the end of the day, the student punched a giant hole in the wall. Damien said he was sorry he hadn’t listened earlier. The student was not punished. The parents were furious at him for not sending the kid home.
We have been asking nicely over and over. But sometimes, asking nicely, protesting peacefully, doesn’t get anyone’s attention. If punching a hole in the wall is what it takes, then so be it. But don’t say it was our fault when you didn’t listen.
Some days are fine. Actually, some days are pretty great. I do a lot of things that I love doing that care for my body and mind and spend time with good people. I am incredibly lucky. After I started using my humidifier I stopped waking up with a stuffy face. Many of my fears were assuaged with this development. I continue to go on my walks, like a walk with Max's mom, a walk with friends Sofia and Zoe, and another walk with Ezra and Jacob. The intention is always the best social distancing, but I would be lying if I said we kept at least 6 feet away from each other for the entire walk. The only person I made sure to actually keep 6 feet away from was Max's mom, since people in her generation are advised to be extra cautious due to the higher risks that are associated with older age with the virus.
Some days are hard. I woke up one morning to the news that the first person had died of Covid-19 in my county. My brain stopped for a minute. People had already been dying, but now they were dying close to me. The truth is that I didn't realize they hadn't already been dying close to me. Then another day I wake up and see a famous person has died. When the famous person dies their whole life story is crammed into a short article, covered by all the major and local news sources. If someone dies who was only famous to the few people that knew them, their name is not included in the article.
The state of Michigan is on lockdown now. All non-essential businesses are closed. Restaurants can still do carryout. Grocery stores, pharmacies, and the post office are still running.
There are two days where I just wake up sad. I just feel sad, the whole day. I don't want to do as many things. When I force myself to walk or play cello I feel better, but still sad. I don't get much done. There was no specific event that lead to these days. Well, nothing specific other than the perpetual reminders that our world is in an unprecedented health emergency. Then I wake up the next day and feel fine.
I make some more bread. I freak out because there is a bug bite on my leg and I cannot tell what kind of bite it is. I destroy my roommates in poker. I read.
New York is getting hit hard. My family is not in the worst of it (NYC), but they are not that far away (Poughkeepsie). People I know through relation are becoming diagnosed, including parents of childhood friends. I'm worried about my parents going to the grocery store.
Friends from New York start sharing articles about the increase in gun sales. They share pictures of long lines outside of gun stores. So far, most of the reactions I have seen from people in the midst of the crisis have been things like teachers sharing resources, families finding new ways to connect, friends checking in with friends, and invitations to mutual-aid pages and meditation groups. I've been feeling good about the state of humanity. But reading all the comments on gun posts of people with shared experiences, seeing long gun lines. terrifies me. Maybe I am in a naive bubble, and the gun-buying toilet paper-hoarding America is the more accurate depiction of humanity in crisis.
Being a "specials" teacher is hard. It means I am not the one responsible for checking in with students or communicating with them. Parents are supposed to access our "weekly lesson plan" through the district wide specials website, which the classroom teachers include in their weekly communication. But instrumental music, although a "special", is only a 5th-grade special, and therefore is not included on the weekly calendar provided in the district. One of my colleagues says his daughter, a first-grader at one of our schools, has never received the specials link from her teacher.
It feels great to see students submitting things and writing us messages. But the reality is that only 35 or so students out of 350 are submitting things. Submitting things is not required, so they could be doing things and not submitting them. But data showing 10 % of students are engaged doesn't feel great.
I didn't sign up to be a teacher to make lesson plans, send them out, and have no communication with students. It doesn't feel like teaching. But I don't want to overburden students and assign them too much for my own benefit of validating myself.
So I text Joe and tell him I want to create a bingo board for our students. He's down. I can't wait for our video meeting to get my ideas down so I start creating the squares. "Take a silly picture of you practicing your instrument and submit it to the Silly Picture Challenge," "Play the Gravity game on the note-reading quizlet and screenshot your high score," "Teach a relative how to hold the bow and take a picture." I'm excited. Joe joins the fun and in the end we have something like this: (ST)RINGO.
I post it to a string teacher Facebook group and people seem to really like the idea. It feels great. Almost as good as actual teaching.