1 Day- Countdown to Re-entry

Teachers return to schools in one day! The students will return two weeks later. The school system is providing teachers with two weeks worth of training on distance learning. It is important to mention how it will be done. Teachers will report to their schools, do the COVID-19 check in with temperature check, and then go to their individual classrooms and participate by zoom. Well…we are learning like this, yet it is safe enough to bring roomful of kids back to school without even requiring masks?

I got to see most of the girls in Little AoA’s troop today. Most of them are choosing to do remote learning. We put together pen-pal supplies for each girl. If they write letters to some of the girls in our troop, they will earn a special “pen-pal patch”. We do our Girl Scout activities as “drive through”. We set up in the parking lot at our meeting location, and the girls stop by and pick up activities. I miss seeing them in person, but I know this won’t last forever.

My family is not happy about me starting back to work. They are all very worried about me bringing home these new germs. We have already planned that I go straight to the shower when I get home. Little AoA was upset about that, because she wants to hug me when I get home (she does not usually hug me when I get home, but thinking about NOT doing it was upsetting). Our home set up seems pretty safe for distancing. My dad mostly stays in his area of the house. I feel like I should try to isolate in my home when I start working in person with students. It isn’t a perfect solution, but I don’t think it will be long before our school system ends up having to move to all remote learning. Once our community reaches 965 active cases, it will be considered a high level of transmission. We are just about at 400 active cases right now (this does not include recovered cases). At the rate it is spreading, we will reach high spread within a month or so.

I feel like I worry about this quite a lot. The prospect of even one teacher or student experiencing the severity of Covid-19 is upsetting.

On a positive note, I am getting pretty proficient with Google Classroom. I have been putting lessons together for three classes. I have a social/emotional/mindfulness class, a Passion Project class, and another social skills class. The population I serve is the intellectually gifted. The kids I serve deal with crippling perfectionism, anxiety, executive functioning challenges, and social challenges due to asynchronous development. I have served this population for the last 4 years. Before that, I worked with kids who had a variety of mild to moderate disabilities. I did that for 15 years. My job has been both challenging and rewarding.

Stay safe!

~AoA

4 Days- Countdown to Re-entry

The countdown to return to work continues. I am a public school teacher in Middle Tennessee. Our state is quickly moving up the worldometer COVID-19 tracker. Over the course of about a week, our state moved from 17th to 14th. All of the counties in our state had to submit a “continuous learning plan” this week. This plan was to address how school will be handled this year. The plan in my county is to provide choice to parents. They can send their kids to school (masks not required), or select remote learning.

That is the meat of the plan! The individual school plans I have seen so far, call for daily temperature checks and screening questions of everyone who enters the building. We are to “encourage” hand washing, and distance kids as much as we can. Teachers are to sanitize high touch areas throughout the day. If a teacher or student has symptoms, they are sent home. I need to note here that the guidance ends with a vague statement. How long do we stay home? A student is one thing, but if a teacher is sent home, who will take the students? There is already a severe shortage of substitute teachers!

Our school board is suppose to meet tomorrow night to address some of the questions. They have already said that there won’t be answers, and that they are just opening the conversation. I am not a doctor or lawyer, but it seems that if there isn’t more to the county’s plan than this, it is not time to return all the kids to school in person. Testing and tracing is lagging here, taking 7-10 days to get test results back for Covid-19. There is no disinfectant to be found in local stores, so even if we (teachers) wanted to provide our own supplies, they can not be found! There are so many safety issues that have not been addressed, that it is embarrassing. I love my job, my schools, and the people I work with. My heart hurts to know where this is headed. I really feel like my particular job is potentially much safer than that of some of my friends.

I saw this decision guide today, and it might help some families make some decisions. As both a public school teacher and homeschooling parent, I know the struggle. While I love both, I realize that I need support for some aspects of homeschooling. It isn’t as simple as buying a cute curriculum and joyfully sitting with your child in a “homeschool” class. I wish it worked as simply as that! The best support we have found is having a tutor. I will be writing about this soon. There are private hybrid schools and co-ops that may work, depending on the students and teachers. For us, a one on one tutor is what was needed, and even with that, finding a tutor who connects well with the child is even more important than the content being taught.

I like to think that there is no need to worry. I usually let most everything roll right away without triggering anxiety. In this case, I haven’t been able to do that. I don’t want to see anyone suffer needlessly in our schools because of the reactive rather than proactive plan from our leaders.

Stay safe!

~AoA

8 Days- Countdown to Re-entry

Tension rises as the day to re-enter our public schools gets closer. While I am ready to get back to the routine of going to work and interacting with others, I am terribly afraid that it won’t be safe. I need to keep my mind sharp and critical, so that I can pull out and take the Family Leave Act at the first sign of unsafe conditions for this pandemic. I know I have the ability to do most of my work from home, as I did it in the spring. Even though CDC recommendations promote working from home if you can, I am doubtful that this will be allowed.

I took this picture today as I was leaving our WalMart parking lot. Starting this Monday, they are requiring mask wearing of all shoppers. In preparation for that, they have only one entrance open so that they can monitor who enters. They are also trying to keep the number of shoppers in the store at a lower number. They are holding a line of people waiting to get in. There is someone now stationed at the carts, disinfecting them before they are touched by shoppers.

I have been working on my Google Classroom in preparation for my students who have opted to do remote learning. Today I played with “screencastify”, which allows me to make videos and easily save them in Google Drive. I immediately learned that I need a lot of practice and maybe some makeup. Right now my face is broken out from a combination of allergies and the intense heat. If I don’t position myself and the webcam just right, I look like I am talking to the air. I feel ok about being on camera, but it is not one of my favorite things to do. I am going to play around with the background, so that my bedroom isn’t up for the world to see! Actually, Little AoA’s doll collection lives in half my room, and makes an interesting background. Anyway, I have some ideas for background that I want to play with. I found a cute little chart about how kids might think about zoom meetings. Many of the things on the list have indeed, proven to be true in my experience.

Zoom with kids is quite a fun experience!

Stay safe!

~AoA

9 Days- Countdown to Re-Entry

It is time to begin the countdown to return to our public schools for the professional development activities that occur the week before students return to school! In reality, we won’t even know what this might look like for another three days, when our school board meets to decide. The main things that we know are that families will have the option of in-person school or remote/virtual school. Masks will be optional. Did I mention that our state of Tennessee is in one of the “hot spots” with COVID-19? Our county hospital has only one COVID-19 bed left right now. Our mayor and his wife just tested positive with this virus, and they have three school age children.

I found this chart interesting. Since March, I haven’t been past a risk of 4, and that would be waiting in a doctor office waiting room. I have missed many of the things that the kids and I enjoyed, like going to amusement parks, concerts, and movies.

In preparation for having to provide remote learning, I have started to create my classes on Google Classroom. It takes a long time to create lessons for an online platform. In person, I just take my curriculum, and go for it. For the remote format, I have to go internet searching for videos and supporting information, and create documents and activities. I will use zoom to meet with remote students and discuss the lessons. In some cases, we may just go through the lesson materials together online. I am finding lesson creation to be very satisfying.

In the event that I need to be in close proximity to others, I have this hat with face shield. I am a teacher….not an experienced healthcare worker. We do not get actual medical grade PPE. I question whether we will even get actual disinfectant to use in our rooms, as there is none to be found in stores. There will be no Lysol wipes on the wish list this year, as they are nonexistent!

There is no use getting upset about being called to the new Covid-19 testing ground of public schools. There is a family medical leave act that can be used if we start, and it looks haphazard and disorganized to the point of being too risky. I have started preparing friends who I may need to call on if I get sick. I have four people in my home who depend on me to do all the errands and shopping as well as meal prep and medication sorting. I can’t do those things from a quarantine bedroom!

On a lighter note, here are a few slightly snarky things about our pandemic predicament that made me laugh…

Ha! I live in the heart of “anti-mask” land. Opinions are abundant here!

Stay safe!

~AoA

Who’s Going To Do That?

Our kids are set to return to school on August 3rd! Of course, this could change at any time. The only thing we really know is that each school is being given a thermometer gun for each 40 kids. One school I serve at is providing face shields for anyone who wants one. Do you know what I want? Lysol wipes! They can’t be found at any local stores. Heck, I will take disinfectant and paper towels! Since I travel to different schools, and use random rooms, they are usually not on the “cleaning rotation”. If high touch surfaces are to be cleaned, I will need to do it.

No one will be required to wear a mask, but they can if they want to. Kids will be on buses together before their temperatures have been checked- that happens once they get to school. Parents can either send their kids to school, or keep them at home with virtual lessons. Recess will be a free for all, and we aren’t going to clean playground equipment. Lunch schedules will allow for 50% capacity in the cafeteria. There will be no shared supplies.

Some counties will start the school year 100% remotely, and some will be in person. It depends on the COVID-19 situation. If a teacher happens to develop symptoms, he or she will have to stay home. There is a huge shortage of substitute teachers already. Schools will pull assistants to fill in the gap. If a student displays symptoms, they go to the office. I will just say right here, that when kids get sick at school, they just start dropping like flies. Regular viruses can take out a third of a class in the course of a day or two. Now we won’t know if it is Covid-19. I really don’t see that anyone has thought through logistics….if ONE person in a classroom is sent home with symptoms, and they go get a Covid-19 test….it may be 5 days before they get results. What does the rest of the class do while waiting to learn if they have all been exposed to COVID-19 or just a seasonal cold?

I think I am pretty vigilant about physical distance, surface touching, and all the things we are suppose to do to mitigate. However, distancing while working with little kids just doesn’t come natural. I know it will be really tough for those who teach our youngest friends, because it is not developmentally appropriate. I do know that our teachers will do their BEST to meet the needs of all students AND stay safe.

Since our schools open very early in August, we will be the test ground. There is no protocol for regular testing of teachers, so it has the potential to run into chaos. I personally, have gotten a test about once every 3-4 weeks, which is about how frequently I exhibit symptoms of something (allergies?). I try to distance from my parents in our house, but they forget, and come a little too far into my zone. We will keep moving forward and stay vigilant!

How are schools opening where you are?

~AoA

Processing New Mandates

Last week, our governor decided that local county mayors could mandate mask wearing in public if they thought that was best for their counties. Guess whose county DID NOT get a mask mandate? Mine…..Our county mayor decided that individual freedom was more important than wearing masks and saving lives for a short time during a pandemic with rising numbers of new cases. Our county is divided on the need for masks. For my family, that freedom costs a feeling of safety. It means that we will be less free for a longer period of time so that others can feel “free”.

This map clearly shows three states where people do not have any thought for others….Tennessee, my state, is one of them. This state has always had a reputation of being a bit uneducated and perhaps backward. I really thought this state was progressing beyond this. I think I was wrong.

I had a COVID-19 test today. They give them free at our local health department. I feel ok going shopping or doing curbside pickup using social distancing and a mask. Last week, however, I was overly exposed to a few people in an enclosed space for over an hour, with no masks. I was also in the car with my daughter for an extended time, and she is in a high risk exposure setting at the nursing home where she works. This virus hit even closer to home….my daughter’s significant other, who was working out of state, spent two months in a hospital, fighting Covid-19 and fearing death. He is home now, but not fully back to normal.

There are so many moving pieces to defeating this virus, that it forms a logistical nightmare. One person’s choice has a ripple effect. When did people stop understanding this? Do they understand and just genuinely not care about others? Perhaps they never understood?

I am sad that taking little vacations is out of the picture for us for the near future. Summers usually mean a trip to the mountains or the ocean. For now, it is a dream…

~AoA

The Plan is to Pivot?

I can’t believe we are three weeks from teachers’ return to the public schools! The schools are starting to put out their plans for returning. Each school has its own plan. Masks? Wear them if you want to…..

To say the least, I am already concerned. I go to seven different schools each week. I look forward to seeing the plans for all of the schools, so that I can begin the logistics! I only see 1-5 students at a time, so I really am at less risk than if I was in one room all day with a large group. I imagine there will be some bullying around the masks….perhaps a time to re-write “The Sneetches”! I, for one, will be wearing a mask….or working from home….or using the family leave act in order to protect my at-very-high-risk parents who live with me. Our home is not really designed for easy social distancing like some. The covid 19 cases are just going up exponentially now in our state of Tennessee.

On the topic of multi-generational living, it has become quite the full time event for me since COVID-19 entered the picture. My mom has been more confused, and short term memory is failing. I started a long awaited project with her, cleaning out her storage shed. We have spent a full two weeks dragging out each and every box to look through. She was in heaven, recalling a lifetime of memories. She LOVES her books and craft supplies!

Those protective pets can be something! I don’t have any pets during this life chapter, but I love animals. Little AoA is terrified of animals, which doesn’t really make sense since she had been around animals as a young child. We lived on a farm with dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, goats, and cows!

Pen Pals is a returning thing, and it makes me happy! As a child, I have the best memories of having up to about twelve pen-pals at one time. Little AoA has started writing to pen-pals, and she is super excited every time she receives a letter. She writes back within a day or two, and always adds a special treat to her letters. It could be a picture, a sticker, or something she makes. Her pen-pals do the same thing, and it’s so stinkin’ cute! I saw the above picture on a social media site, and immediately sent it to my daughter who works in a local nursing home. Residents have not had visitors for the last four months. I know that we are getting lonely for people in my home, and we are pretty introverted. I am in the mental creation stage of building a pen-pal group to try to nurture a love for written communication. Hopefully, I will find the energy to follow through!

~AoA

Independence Day Pandemic

Pandemic holidays are really something. I usually love seeing the fireworks, and shooting some off at home. This year, we all decided to just watch the celebrations on the television, while listening to all the neighbors shoot off fireworks in their yards. We had some nice steaks and salad for supper, and a cherry pie- that was our celebration. I just can’t get into it this year.

Perhaps one of the coolest things I have seen so far is a drone show in the night sky over Nashville.

~AoA

Every Man for Himself

Covid has hit close to home now. My oldest daughter, a nurse at a local nursing home, is working amidst a new outbreak. She has had to ask a family member to keep her daughter for at least a month, as the outbreak makes its way through her workplace. As the facility becomes short of nurses, who are home in isolation, patients who were exposed, are moved to different areas of the facility in order to receive care. The nurses take Covid-19 tests once a week. I am thankful for this, as it seems that it may have helped to slow the spread a bit.

My state is now one of the states with a large number of new cases. Instead of following CDC guidelines, our leaders say to “wear a mask if you are at risk”, and “stay home if you are scared”. Tonight my town is having a big community gathering that has been taking place once a month (not for the last few months). People will be gathering at our town square, shopping and enjoying local restaurants and bars. Tomorrow, our town is having their annual fireworks display, as well as some area parades. Some of our hospitals are near being overwhelmed, and yet they keep doing their own thing.

I am bracing for impact. I will be getting a Covid-19 test early this week. I was with my daughter one day this past week, driving her to and from an oral surgeon. We both wore masks in the car on the way there, but afterward, only I wore one. She was bleeding and in pain.

We are still waiting for our plan to reopen schools. The first day of school is suppose to be August 3rd, with teachers reporting back a week before that. No one knows what to do! Maybe a more appropriate way to put that is, no one agrees on what to do! I am a proponent of CDC guidelines and science. It seems that my town is passionately divided on the severity of COVID-19, and following CDC guidelines.

I know that for me, physical distancing will be very challenging to do in schools. Kids love to hug and touch, and be close to others. I often find myself on the floor with kids, having discussions or playing games. Staying six feet apart will have to be taught and practiced by everyone. I have started noticing my own distance from others. I tend to feel pretty far for a conversation at about three feet. At six feet, it feels like being all the way across the room!

I hope you all are well, and finding ways to meet your needs amidst a pandemic….

~AoA

Is 2020 Over Yet?

Is it over yet? I was blogging daily while our state was under a stay at home order. Right after that ended, teachers were called back to work. We had to complete all of the IEP meetings that had come due during the stay at home order. We then had to go back into the schools to clean up our rooms, and gather students’ personal items for parents to pick up. After that, we got to officially start summer.

My summer started with my mom going to the hospital emergency room with a blood pressure/heart rate/breathing emergency. The hospital did a lot of tests, and only found that she was a little dehydrated. They sent her home with an oxygen tank. With no answer, I went to our health department for a Covid-19 test. I am the only one who goes out right now, so if my mom had it, I would have been the vector. My test came back negative. The follow up doctors think that it was an accidental overdose of blood pressure medication. Upon inspection, I discovered that she had two different bottles of the same medication, from different companies (so they looked different). I have now started managing my mom’s medication as well as my dad’s.

A week later, my aunt fell at her nursing home, and broke her hip. She doesn’t self advocate well (cerebral palsy and limited cognitive functioning). I spent much of five days at the hospital with her. She ended up needing surgery. She will most likely not walk again, but she may be able to move enough to assist in her care.

Aside from health emergencies, I decided to use this home time to clean out and reorganize our storage sheds. This has been a daunting task, but I am almost done! I have been gathering boxes of my mom’s, putting them in a wagon, and bringing them to her to go through. She ends up keeping quite a lot. I think she may have finally realized and accepted that her lifetime of collections won’t fit in her room!

Black Lives Matter! This is the event held in my community. It was peaceful and unifying. In the last year or so, our county churches have been doing a great job trying to create ONE COMMUNITY. As the grandmother to a beautiful biracial granddaughter, I have hope that her generation will be the change they want to see in the world.

Topping everything off with our pandemic….that isn’t going away. While it hasn’t stricken my household, there are at least two cases in my aunt’s nursing home, at least one case in the nursing home where my daughter works, and there has been a case at our local high school (summer football practice). Very few people here are wearing masks or following CDC guidelines. Our local leaders are divided- the county mayor is telling everyone to go back to our old normal because it isn’t that bad here (we have gone from 1-2 cases a day to 8-10 cases a day and the hospital is fine). Our city mayor is encouraging more caution. Regardless, my household is using caution.

One thing that hasn’t gotten back on track are supervised visits for my kids and the dad. The visit center had to close in the stay at home order. We tried to do phone supervised visits three times, but the kids freaked out. Now the center has lost their location, and only do supervised visits in a public place like a park or restaurant. My teen is not able to do visits right now, but Little AoA is. The dad has now refused to have any visits with only Little AoA. The week after he refused visits, he contacted his attorney to complain that the kids weren’t coming to visits! I predicted that he would do this, so I kept pretty meticulous documentation and put it in the faithful hands of my attorney all along the way. It has been almost a full 8 years since we parted ways. My heart just aches for the kids who have not been able to live without fear of the dad.

I will end here by sharing a picture of our favorite little Chinese restaurant. It is just a couple miles from our house. They were closed during our stay at home order, and then revamped how they serve once everything opened back up. They converted their door to a walk up take out window. I haven’t seen anything else like this.

What changes are in your world? I would love to hear about them!

Everyone take care, love your neighbor, and be the change you want to see in the world!

~AoA