This week, our school system closed three schools due to widespread Covid-19. One of them was the school where I have my office/classroom. I know of three teachers who have covid. I only know because they posted about it on social media. There is no transparency about it. Our school systems are just not equipped to manage medical things like pandemics. Still, the powers that be in our county, preach that it is a hoax meant to scare the weak into submission. Our county is now one of very few, where the mayor refuses to put a mask mandate into place.
We have already lost one school employee to covid. Our hospital is full. We are a fairly small county with a population around 100,000. Our town hospital serves as a regional hospital for surrounding rural counties.
I took today off; to gather myself, get flu shots, and donate blood. The last time I donated blood, there was a crisis in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This time, there is another crisis, as a school bus full of children was in an accident there this week. An adult and seven year old child were killed, and many were hospitalized.
It is that time of year…time for some creepy decorating! For some reason, the skeletons make me laugh! I think it is because we are so lonely here, that we just want company!
The covid numbers are far too high here. Our little state just moved up to 8th in the country, with cases of covid. Our local nursing home, which just started allowing visitors last week, has had to lock down again because of the very high positivity rate. Luckily, my mom got in one visit with her sister (who lives at the nursing home). They hadn’t seen each other in person since March!
This van was in a school parking lot today, right next to me! My heart just sinks at messages like this. We, teachers are essential workers now. We risk our health, and our families, to go into the schools and provide (childcare) education. Contact tracing is about the only safety precaution that is being taken. There is no mask mandate. Classes are not at lower capacity or socially distanced. Our community wanted “normal”, and they got it. The price is that people get sick.
Today, I learned that one of my students was sent home yesterday to quarantine. All we learn when sent home, is that a student was exposed to a positive covid case. I was able to connect with my student today, and learned that the exposure was last Thursday.
Here is the thing that makes no sense…we had a teacher test positive, and about three assistants were exposed. All of her students were sent home to quarantine, but the exposed assistants were used as substitute teachers in other classrooms all over the school! This is because they are essential!
Schools are not the same as hospitals or grocery stores. We do not have even as many precautions in place as the cashiers at the grocery store!
Enough of my venting…I am fatigued from holding my breath, hoping that no one in my schools gets sick or dies; or becomes disconnected and depressed. Our school system has seen three deaths now, since August. One from covid, one student from suicide, and as of today we have lost a public high school student in a car accident.
Today we lost a 7th grade student to suicide by gun. This is the first time in my 20 years, that this has happened at a school where I serve. Our faculty is overcome with grief, as we prepare to tell the students when they return to school tomorrow.
My sadness and anger intertwine. This student was learning at home, as the schools are not really doing enough to keep everyone safe. Those of us who teach, and respect science, know this. We were not prepared to meet the needs of all of our students. There was never enough personnel to do this effectively.
After a much needed week long break from work and school, we are buckling up for the next covid wave! I shared some concerns with my teacher council representative, after unknowingly walking into a school that had almost an entire grade level out, along with all front office staff! The updates that our county said they would do, were not happening. “All is well”….. We were (lied to) assured that the county updates the covid status EVERYDAY, at 3:00. We are under new leadership in our school district. I am not surprised by our new leader being completely unaware that there are many teachers who, like me, travel to different schools. I am not impressed that he made a definitive statement that was clearly a lie. As expected, teacher voices are not heard or respected here. The best I hope for is to shine light on the facts, so that at least someone is aware.
After one week back in school, one of my dearest teacher friends became ill, after her teenage child contracted covid at the high school. My friend teachers students who are the most medically fragile in our school. All of those students were sent home to quarantine and wait. My heart hurts…..
I am still doing my best to stay as safe as possible while not having the information I need in order to do this well. My heart is leading me toward using family medical leave, as our state’s cases rise quickly. We have moved to being 9th in the nation, with number of cases. People don’t care for the most part. It is like heads are in the sand, and everyone walks around in a cloud of darkness.
Lives should not have to be cut short from the negligence of others.
We all have the power to do things to keep each other safe!
After being so very careful for seven months, the AoA kids and I packed our bags and headed to the hills of Tennessee for a couple days. We spent one day at Dollywood, where masks were required and capacity was limited. We ordered curbside food for dinner, and brought our own food and snacks. Other than Dollywood, we were in our hotel room. The drive was very beautiful, though it was not yet peak time for the changing leaves.
We only went on one ride- a nice slow train ride. Little AoA and I aren’t into the rides, and the lines for other rides looked a little unsafe for covid. We really enjoyed just walking around and seeing everything.
When we got back home, I did my outside work. I spent two days pressure washing, and one day sprucing up the yard a bit. I wanted to paint outside a bit, but the rain started coming.
While I love my job very much, I am as worried as ever about Covid-19. Our state is not doing well at all. I think I saw this week, that Tennessee was number 4 in new cases in a 14 day spread. That is 4th out of our 50 states! Many people are just going about their lives as if there is not a pandemic. Our hospital is near or at its peak for covid beds. I wrote earlier, that our school system has already had one death due to Covid-19, and we’ve only been open two months!
The teacher anxiety is real. This week, it finally got to me. I have been sucking it up to, “mask up and go in”, as we are told to do. I travel to different schools, and see about ten kids in person a week. The rest of my students are remote. Of the ten in person, only two wear a mask. I try to always wear one in schools, unless I am alone in a big room.
To start my week, I was asked to stop communicating with a worried parent. The parent had been threatened by the school system, with threat of court, fines, and DCS intervention. Without going into detail, I felt very strongly about this, and with the way our county has handled the opening of our schools. I needed to just keep my fingers silent.
This week, it got to me. I was in a hallway at a middle school at the time the students were going to their first class. The hall completely flooded with hundreds of unmasked teens! I couldn’t hardly believe it! I could barely catch my breath.
The next day, before I even got out of bed, I got a notice from a coworker. She was home with Covid-19. This coworker does not see many kids, and is in multiple schools (like me). That hit me hard, and I had what I can only think was a panic attack. I called in and didn’t go to work. I did not feel better the next day, but I sucked it up and went in. I let my boss know, because I had to check a box on the daily covid screening. I never heard back from my boss, so I just kept going. I called my doctor, only to learn that no one was available to see me for the remainder of the week.
The next day, I arrived at work to learn that one of my dearest work friends had been in an accident, and was being taken to the hospital. Thankfully, she was checked out and sent home…her car was a complete loss. Our lives can change in a matter of seconds!
With stress coming over my entire body, I reached out to my old doctor’s office, and pretty much begged to be fit in somewhere. I was able to get in, and had a heart event ruled out. I had my anxiety regimen adjusted, and now I just wait for relief.
I have talked with coworkers, and I know I am not alone in my increasing anxiety. Teachers are breaking under the weight they are carrying. They are meeting together to vent and cry. Our county and school board has not protected teachers or students in a proactive manner. They are completely reactive, closing classes, grade levels, and schools; as teachers and students test positive.
There is nothing any of us can do. We are public servants….we have no voice. We watch silently, hoping that we don’t lose a coworker, a family member, or a student. We watch as students do all the things that the cdc warns us against doing. They are not physically distanced, there are no masks, and they are crowded together in large groups. They are children. It wasn’t time to let our guards down. It was the jobs of our county government and school board to keep us all safe. I feel like their actions clearly communicate that school employees and students are not worth keeping safe. There had to be a better and safer way to meet the needs of the children in our county.
This week we celebrated Little AoA’s 12th birthday! We have really been mourning the freedom and safety of taking little vacations. We decided to take a day, and visit Nashville! We planned very carefully, going to places before the crowds would be there. We started at the newest Dolly Parton mural, created during the protesting this past summer.
Next, we headed to the Grand Ole Opry. They won’t start having in-person audiences until October. We enjoyed going to the gift shop, where Little AoA got to pick out some great shirts, holiday ornaments, magnets, postcards, and a Dolly Parton poster!
Finally, we headed to a wax museum.
It was a really fun day! We still mourn our overnight trips, but days like this will help.
To be honest, Nashville felt a little more safe than our little “mask free” town right now. The crowds weren’t out, which made it feel fairly safe. We may just plan another day of mural hunting!
One of our main high schools had to close for a 14 day quarantine. Each day, our county updates on which schools have had to send students home to quarantine. No one seems to connect the fact that if students were exposed here, there is a good chance that siblings at other schools are at risk too. It does seem like our county is trying to keep the kids safe. I can’t say the same for teachers. I don’t see a lot of kids in person, but in middle and high schools, the kids change classes every hour. Teachers might have 5 or 6 classes of 20 each day, or more. The students are “encouraged” to wear face coverings, but most don’t. This week, teachers were told to pick a spot in the room, as far from the kids as possible, to teach from.
Now for the anxiety situation….my teen child was sick this week. Of course, everything is a covid symptom. We went to the doctor and ruled out strep and flu. The doctor did a covid test, and the wait was started. As we waited the next three days for the result, my anxiety grew. What if it was covid? What if others in our home got it? What if I carried it to work and spread it in a school? I didn’t go anywhere other than my “essential employee” job as a teacher. I had nightmares every night, and a nervous stomach. When I got the call that the test was negative, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief! It is this way every time someone in my home gets sick. I really hope that a decent quick test is developed soon, if it is even being worked on.
Now for a bright spot…..
Little AoA’s birthday is this month! She loves birthdays! She settled on a country music/Dolly Parton theme. I set out to find someone to make a cake. I turned to Facebook.
The first response cracked me up.
No worries! I found someone to make the cake!
We just love Dolly! We really want to start taking regular trips to Dollywood, which is about a four hour drive from where we live. Now is probably not a good time. In the meantime, we are planning a short day trip to Nashville, to seek out the Dolly Parton Black Lives Matter mural. We may just go “mural hunting”!
Schools have been open in my county for a full month now. I don’t think parents or other stakeholders really thought in advance, what that would look like in this pandemic. Many people where I live, still think it’s a “hoax”, and only the “scared” should wear face coverings. So no one is required to wear face coverings at school. There is not enough space for “social distancing”, and even when there is, kids natural instinct is to be right on top of each other. Middle and high schools are changing classes throughout the day.
Administrators are spending unreal amounts of time contact tracing, trying to keep everyone in the buildings safe, while disrupting as little as possible. In the schools where I teach, there are whole classes quarantining at home, whole grade levels, and even one whole school! Two days ago, my 14 year old granddaughter was sent home to quarantine, after someone on her volleyball team tested positive. This impacts more than just the student! My daughter, who is a nurse at a local nursing home, was sent home from work for at least 10 days, since her daughter was exposed. Every patient that my daughter had come in contact with, now has to be tested. My granddaughter was showing symptoms, so she was tested. We are awaiting those results.
This ripple does not seem to be understood by many. Even if the “I have freedom” citizens who refuse to use face coverings, flaunt that freedom, someone is paying for it! Our state decided to create “new math” to make our active case numbers lower. Now, it looks like we are really beating this, when in reality, it is getting worse!
Believe me when I say that we all want to resume life as it was before this virus hit our shores! We have been given guidance from top experts! This is not the flu….