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.