They Sent Us Remote

It finally happened….our whole school system moved to remote learning. The covid numbers in our county have reached the level of “high spread”. Many teachers are out with either positive covid cases or symptoms. There aren’t enough substitute teachers to keep up with the need. Parents want their kids in school, but I guess not enough to support having the students wear masks. This is the natural consequence of this decision. The spread goes up, and schools cannot operate safely.

In my building, we just had two adults needing surgery, and testing covid positive in pre-op. Surgeries are delayed, due to this virus.

In a local nursing home, a strange thing is happening with covid. Patients are recovering from covid and having at least two negative tests. About three to five days later, they are having sudden onset of covid, and dying! This has been totally unexpected and shocking. My heart just sinks in sadness at the lives this pandemic is taking. Our hospital is full, and nurses are fatigued.

Our county mayor will not put a mask mandate in place. That would work, if people would demonstrate personal responsibility. Instead, they plan superspreader events, typically using our beautiful town square as the setting. People come from other counties to participate, because….no mask!

This cutout just made my day, standing in the teacher mail room one day. I passed it, then went to do some work. When I returned to the mail room, it was gone! Where did it go? To my surprise, it greeted me in the restroom! Someone was moving it around! In the quiet of a school building with no children, this little bit of fun made it a little brighter.

We are all tired of wearing masks and distancing. We are tired of always fearing bring a deadly virus to our older relatives. We are tired of wondering if the person across the table has been exposed. We are tired of the anxiety.

Stay safe!

~AoA

Confirmation

Today my 14 year old received confirmation that has been a long time coming….an autism diagnosis. I have suspected this for a very, very long time. We have had testing after testing, only to be told that the dad’s treatment most likely was behind the very odd behaviors. Well, it has now been a few years since the kids have had to deal with regular visits. Time has begun to heal some of the trauma, and what was underneath, was a beautiful, intelligent, loving, autistic teenager!

My teenager has been going through the stage of self-awareness; and had asked to have this testing. It helped make sense of life so far. It explained why some things had been so difficult along the way. Neurodiversity is not completely accepted in our schools yet. Students are forced into a box more often than not. It is only the rare teacher who embraces neurodiversity, and supports growth of the child before them, rather than the child they think should be there.

I am not sure that I would have done anything differently had I known earlier. I do think it may have helped me explain my child to others in a way that they could understand better.

To think that we have been navigating autism alongside the litigation hell and emotional trauma brought to us by the dad, is surreal. We got through it all so far. It hasn’t been easy, and I am tired. We still have a December 30th court date in front of us. I have lost count of how many times we have gone back and forth with litigation over the past eight years. I think the dad is on his 10th attorney, or more. Thankfully, we have an extremely thorough and detailed order in place, and left as few loopholes as we could think of.

Stay safe!

~AoA

Grounded

Behold, the health department drive through line for Covid-19 testing. I ended up there a week ago. I woke up with a sore throat and terrible headache. Normally, I would have written it off as my body’s response to the drastic weather changes. But no, not in a pandemic! I had learned just a day earlier, that one of my students had come to school while both parents were home with positive Covid-19 tests! I had been with him just the day before he was sent home. His parents had told him not to tell anyone! Fortunately, my Covid-19 test was negative. Because of our school protocol, I had to stay out of school buildings for 10 calendar days. I have done some remote classes from home, and taken some of the Covid-19 leave that we are able to get.

It has been really interesting doing remote teaching this week. I had one student get inside his dog’s cage to do remote class. I had another student connect to class from her dad’s 18 wheeler, on her way to Texas! Some of my students are at school, and go to the hallway, band room, or common area to meet. I am really proud of them for being able to adapt!

The pandemic has gotten really bad here. We are about 150 active cases away from having to pivot all of the schools to remote learning. Our daily case numbers have gone from about 30 a day, to more like 100 a day. My county is one of a few counties in our state, where the county mayor will not mandate masks. Our hospital is holding twice the number of Covid-19 patients than it was prepared for. Many are on ventilators. The nursing home where my daughter works, has 10 covid positive patients. They didn’t contract covid there, but rather, were sent there from the overcrowded hospital.

Once I return to the school buildings, I will work one week, then have Thanksgiving week off. Three weeks after that, and then it is Christmas holiday time! While I don’t want to see people get sick, I really wish our school board would go ahead and pivot all schools to remote through the end of the year at least! We are not winning!

~AoA

What About This Neverending Election?!

Tuesday night was a tense night, as people everywhere waited to see how the presidential election results would unfold. Some states, like mine, are ALWAYS the same. It turns into a red state.every.time.fast. Nothing new to see here. Then came the other states….red-blue-red-blue…….on and on through the night. Next, the stall out! Some states had voting protocol that was different than the majority of the country. They could not touch the mail in ballots until after the live polls closed. What’s this? We are in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic? More people used mail in ballots than ever before?

This was expected by many, and unexpected by equally as many. What followed was again, expected by many. Our sitting president, #45, had been saying for months that mail in ballots would be fraudulent. The United States Postal Service was crippled by actions that were seemingly coming from the top officials. The crippling actions of the post office were reversed ahead of the election, when it was called out for the poor timing. #45 encouraged his supporters to vote in person. After all, the pandemic was overblown. Only the scared people would be sending in votes by mail, and they would be fraudulent!

As the results unfolded, red was strong…really strong. The people who understood that mail in ballots in some states would take longer to process, just held firm to the mantra,”Count Every Vote”. Voting is every American’s right to participate in the democratic process. It is the only voice that many people get.

When reality started setting in, those who were apparently in the lead for in person voting, started calling to “stop counting the mail in ballots”!

We are sitting here now, three days later, with six states whose ballots have not been completely counted yet. The outcome of the election hinges on the winners in these states. Watching the election news, we watch as pockets of mail in ballot counts are reported. Red…blue….red….blue…it seems to go back and forth. Some news groups have called the winners of states before all the ballots have been counted. This confused me for a while, as the election news I have been watching, has been explaining every.little.detail for the states that are still counting. It seems that the news group that is prematurely calling winners, is usually in great support of #45. The winner this news group is calling, is NOT #45!

In our last presidential election, it looked like it was going to end one way, and then turned at the last minute. From where I sat, it looked like our president was “appointed” rather than “elected”. Anyway, it was accepted. We moved forward into the four year term, hoping for the best. This election, on the heels of civil unrest, and a pandemic; those who were in disbelief at the last election, were on their toes! Issues such as voter suppression and systemic racism have been on the forefront of the minds of many. Every voice matters…..

Regardless of who comes on top in this election, the oppressed and invisible will still be fighting to be heard. People with disabilities, different races, and the LGBTQ community do not live with the same privilege as many do. My life has involved supporting and advocating for people with disabilities. My granddaughter is biracial, and another of my kids is in the LGBTQ community. They all deserve to be seen for who they are; beautiful, caring, kind souls with much to offer this world!

From where I stand, our country looks completely divided. The division has grown in the last four years, creating a country with a tension greater than ever. In my own home, my 77 year old dad asked me to remove a sign from my front yard that said “you matter”( it was from a suicide awareness campaign). My dad is afraid that someone will shoot at it or start a fire! Yes, people have been setting fires to campaign signs….my teenager is terrified to go some places for fear of being attacked. Some of us live in closets for our safety. I hope and pray that one day, people will be seen for the content of their character…period.

We have made great progress, but there is a long way to go. Voting day is over. What will be, will be…..I will continue to wait patiently for every vote to be counted, hope for the best for whichever candidate comes out on top in the end, and keep advocating for those who are oppressed.

This is just the view from my corner of the world. I am not a government scholar or a legal analyst….just a teacher/mom/caregiver getting through one day at a time. I would love to hear the view from your corner of the world!

~AoA

Whole Schools Close

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.

https://www.wsmv.com/news/as-covid-19-cases-rise-in-middle-tennessee-rural-hospitals-are-being-pushed-to-their/article_469875b8-19a1-11eb-9c9e-63c6cdb7dcf1.html?fbclid=IwAR2syhf1iq0IwuifEjvMgCxsYjKo9uzWIgHdPhOF27px-UxRTphOtoW_Uvc

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.

~AoA

Scary Stuff

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.

We can do better.

We MUST do better.

~AoA

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