Another Needless Casualty

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.

Families are suffering.

Children are under stress.

Another life lost…..

This didn’t have to happen…..

When will those in charge, understand this?

~AoA

Buckle Up!

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!

~AoA

Fun Fall During the Pandemic

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.

This roller coaster is straight out of a recent nightmare!
The t-shirt was appropriate!

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.

Nice, slow train ride….

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!

Stay safe!

~AoA

We Lost Someone

It happened…..we lost a public school employee to Covid-19. He went home one day with Covid-19, and passed away soon after. Schools have been in session for about seven weeks.

We currently have 41 adults out with Covid-19, and 32 students. Many more are quarantined as “close contacts”.

Our employee worked at two of the schools where I serve kids.

This is just.too.much……

This is not the flu or a cold. Masks are not mandated. We are not all on board with protecting each other.

This death should NOT HAVE HAPPENED!

My heart is heavy with sadness for all of my coworkers, who go to work faithfully…during a pandemic….risking health and life…..

~AoA

Teacher Anxiety Increasing

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.

~AoA

Missing That Vacation

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.

Johnny Cash has a mask on!
Loretta Lynn
Elvis
Reba is a new favorite!

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!

~AoA

Pandemic Anxiety and the birthday cake

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”!

Dreaming of Dollywood….and Gatlinburg….

~AoA

The Ripple

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….

Stay safe!

~AoA

The Little Things

Little AoA found joy this weekend in a Walmart. We knew that there was a new line of greeting cards featuring our favorite, Dolly Parton. We looked for them every time we went to the store, and finally, we found them! It was a little treasure in these challenging times. I’ll take it!

Our schools are still in chaos. We now have one entire school being quarantined for 14 days. Unfortunately, the information is being kept quiet for as long as possible. One of my teacher friends showed up at the closed school this morning to deliver services to her students. She said the parking lot was empty, and she thought she’d missed the rapture! By the end of the day, it was being realized that perhaps more people in the community and school system need to be made aware when schools, grade levels, or individual classes are quarantined.

Social distancing doesn’t work too well when working with elementary age kids. They are not able to do it in their classrooms or the hallways, so it is just an abstract idea. It is hard enough for adults, but we have put far too much on the kids, expecting that they have the developmental ability to adhere to cdc guidelines for an entire day at school. They may be able to do it for the length of time of a shopping trip, but that is vastly different than all day in an enclosed room with 20 other kids.

One of our school administrators was on a national news program this weekend. They were interviewing teachers and administrators from various parts of the country. They were all communicating concern for the well-being of students, families, and community….except for the one representing Tennessee. “We can’t live in fear.” The interviewer asked about the risk of kids taking Covid home to parents and grandparents. “The kids are always going to take illnesses home.” was the response. My mom was watching with me, and the look on her face was very sad. I depend on the person who spoke, to respect policies enough to follow them in order to keep us as safe as possible. My trust for this person was affected to say the least.

To top off the surprises, our county is having the county fair next week! Masks are optional. Do you know where masks aren’t optional? In the counties around us with declining Covid rates!

I know I am feeling the pandemic fatigue as much as everyone. I don’t like wearing a mask everywhere. I feel like I’m in a Dystopian novel! I want to eat in restaurants, go to theme parks, attend church in person, go to a movie theater or a concert…. but like so many, I chose to be part of the solution. I wanted the spread to end quickly, but instead, it dragged on and on while people argued about the legitimacy of this virus. Our state has now moved into the 10th spot in the country for number of cases. Kids aren’t staying in school without interruptions to quarantine. I feel like a broken record. We are no longer “in this together”. One thing I am glad about, and that is that businesses have taken it upon themselves to uphold safety measures when our leaders did not, for whatever reason.

Come on down to the fair! Mask not required!

~AoA

Mass Confusion and Frequent Pivoting

Here in my county in Tennessee, we have just completed two weeks of school with kids in person. Our state seems to be in complete denial that the pandemic is serious. Our state sat at 17th most cases in the country not so long ago. The cases have not been decreasing here, and we have now made our way to the number ten spot in the number of cases. I watched our school board meeting this week, as they talked about “how well” things are going. Our schools opened in person for anyone who chose it. Those who preferred, could choose remote learning. There is no mask mandate, everyone is “trusted” to honestly answer the covid questions each day as they decide whether to send their kids to school. Teachers were declared “essential”, and must come to work even after exposed to Covid-19 as long as there are no symptoms. Classrooms are full, with very little room for social distancing in many classes. Our PPE kits from the state have still not arrived.

Now for the two week update…. Tonight we learned that one elementary school will be closed for two weeks for quarantine after mass exposure.One school has sent home all third grade classes to quarantine, a kindergarten class was sent home for two weeks, and in one day at my home base school 21 contact trace letters were sent out to students. Everyone was so anxious to get back to “normal”, that they didn’t think through the reality of contact tracing and quarantine in schools. Everyone had to be ready to pivot at a moment’s notice. I’m not sure that’s much better than having to adjust and arrange childcare for a longer term.

Our county fair is scheduled for the first week of September. My family won’t be participating, but then again, we rarely went anyway. It will be just fantastic dealing with the effects of that! There are rumors floating around that our district will be all remote very soon. Schools are in a panic trying to scrape up enough chrome books for the kids who will need them for access to instruction. The bottom line is, there are not enough.

~AoA