Reflections from 2022

As I reflect on the year we just had, I can’t help but feel proud of myself, all the educators and of course, the children that endured all of the challenges of the year we had. From countless closures to the uncertainties, our feelings of normalcy were starting to become a thing of the past. For someone who is normally so positive, I found it hard sometimes to carry on with a smile and try to spread the feeling of “All will be well.” So how do we learn from this? How do we use what happened in 2022 to guide us in 2023.

Well as I set goals for 2023, I think I would like to bring a couple of mindsets into the new year:

Never underestimate the power of an experience

2022 was made up of many lovely experiences- whether it be viewing a musical at the local high school or playing in a soccer tournament- students remember every single experience and love to look back on it. So try to take the opportunities as they come. Read every email because you never know when a fun opportunity could come your way. Also, never be afraid to make a fun opportunity happen! I know sometimes I wonder if the students will like something I plan or ask them to plan but they always end up reminiscing on how great of a time it was. So experiences are the greatest treasure I would take from 2022, right down to a game of trivia on the playground.

Nothing is forever 

I remember being upset multiple days during 2022 thinking, “I hope this doesn’t last forever” and the truth is, it never did. So positive thinking almost always wins and stressing over things that are beyond our control never works well. I hope in 2023 that when I am faced with a challenge, I will approach it without dreading its end date and that I can find a way out of it. I know that this will ultimately make me less stressed and will help me stay positive.

Breaks are for taking a break

I remember trying to plan any break we would get: Christmas, March, summer, etc. I would carve out a few days to plan as far ahead as I could get and not actually spend any of my break on break. This summer, I tried something different. I enjoyed getting married, my honeymoon and then after, I didn’t plan. I didn’t read any documents, instead I watched videos and read articles about first day activities. I read the exciting first day back opportunities our board had made and from there, I let things happen as they may. I started to really plan the curriculum after I got to know my students. Spending weeks of the summer mapping out a plan was something I thought I needed to feel confident about the next school year- however doing so during the first weeks of September proved to be much more productive. By then, I knew my learners and knew the style of teaching I would want to use for that group. This is a style of preparedness I want to save and continue on with for 2023. I don’t think I ever really tried taking time to take a break- a break from the business and the planning. Now I know I can do it.

There are so many other things I’d like to comment on but I have my activities saved in files, my memories saved in photos and of course, actual items saved in my class. I felt it would be most important to write down these mindsets so that others could try them. Although there are many lessons and units I’d love to try again, it’s more important to reflect on the feeling and mindset I’d like to have. Stress is a feeling almost every teacher shares, I’d love to see that change into something else. This blog helps me relieve some of that and I always hope there’s someone out there that will try it too. Either by reading, replying or trying to write their own version. 

Happy new year everyone! 

 

The Wind Down

2022 has come to a close. As I reflect on the year, there are 3 things that I will be taking with me into the next: finding moments to create; doing what I can; and resting. They’re simple and yet, if followed, I think they might help to make 2023 a little better for me.

Finding Moments to Create

When anyone asks me what I enjoy most about teaching, I say that it’s working with children. Sitting down and having the chance to interact and watching as students learn is very rewarding. In my role this year as a STEM teacher, I’ve had several opportunities to do just that. This month, students used cardboard and Makedo to create strong and stable homes that could withstand the huffing and puffing of the “Big Bad Wolf”. As group members worked together on their plans and designs, I had a lot of fun sitting with them to see how we could bring their ideas to life. It wasn’t easy at first but it was really neat to see how even our youngest students – the kindergartens – got the hang of it and created incredible homes that were so unique. Overhearing some tell the stories of their homes and what happens in their homes at the end was a great bonus. 

Reflecting on the year, the times that I enjoyed myself most in the classroom have been when I’ve had the chance to either watch students build or have built with them. Seeing the excitement that students have as they create something is truly a joyous experience. Whether or not it’s perfect, many love to describe the elements of their creations and often ask to save them so that others can see their work. Knowing the joy that creating brings, I’ve tried to incorporate more time for myself to be creative outside of the classroom. Whether it’s through making jewelry, painting or building with Lego, I’ve enjoyed creating and as I walk into 2023, I’m choosing to make more time to do so, whether or not I’m “good at it”. 

Doing What I Can

At the beginning of my career, I think I was very hard on myself when I had a lesson that didn’t go as planned or didn’t get as far as I hoped in a unit, usually due to time. At that point, I didn’t quite grasp that we teach the students in front of us and not who we expect them to be. Once I did, I found that teaching became easier. Don’t get me wrong, my expectations remain high for my students, it’s just that if more scaffolding is required, there’s learning needed and we take our time as we learn before moving on.

This year I had a few different design projects that I had imagined and yet we’re still on our first one. We’ve paused and regrouped while learning new skills and I’m proud of what we have been able to learn and accomplish so far. In 2023, we will continue to do what we can without judgment, knowing that learning is happening.

Resting

This year it didn’t take long for me to fully embrace the fact that I was off for 2 weeks. In years past, I would do a little work towards planning for January or start thinking about Term 1 reports but not this year. I need rest and I’m choosing to not feel guilty about having 2 weeks off to rest and get myself ready for school to start again. There will be no work beyond some writing for this blog and I’ve learned to embrace that. As I walk into 2023 I will continue to be intentional when I am at work and when it’s time to recharge, I’ll take the time to do just that. I do hope that you’re taking some time to rest and relax during this break. Teaching can be quite demanding. Remember that we need to take care of ourselves in order to make the most of the learning experiences within our classroom spaces. Refill your cup. You can only give what you have. 

As you wind down from the events of 2022, what might you take into 2023 that will help make it better for you? Wishing you all the very best for this coming year.

time off time

I received a very encouraging email today while working from home as a result of an imprecisely unplanned present from Mother Nature in the form of a pause prior our previously planned end of school for our winter break. The message could not have come at a more perfect time either. It read;

“I hope you can log off, unplug, relax and enjoy starting asap.  You have all worked so hard under ever-changing and difficult circumstances but the common thread is that you put our students at the forefront of everything you do.”

Perhaps serendipitously as I was adding the quote above, another message arrived in my still open board email inbox. It read;

 “thank you for the work that you do each and every day to support the learning, well-being and achievement of our students. What you do matters. It matters to our students; it matters to our families; it matters to your colleagues and it matters to our community.”

These two messages may not give you the feels as you read them on the first pass. In fact, the version of myself from December 2021, would have been the first skeptic in line however this year, I could not help feeling the sincerity in them both knowing who sent them. I am very fortunate that messages from these senders are not uncommon either. I thought it a good idea to add my own sentiments as well, hence the idea for this post.

It’s time off time folx. As of 3:45 pm on Dec 23, 2022 you have led your classroom of learners for the year. You can also take some satisfaction in knowing that 4 tenths of the school year are now in the books or 2 fifths if you’re in my class and have to reduce your fractions. With all those numbers bouncing around in you minds it is truly time off time.

Time off time to…

  • rest
  • relax
  • reach out to help
  • reach out for help
  • rejuvenate your mind
  • reflect on all of your hard work
  • reconnect with friends and family
  • remain still for as long as you choose
  • remember those who are no longer with you
  • re-establish personal boundaries and respect them

Whether you are a new teacher or pulling a decade plus teaching experience with a long rope, it is important for each of us to recharge our mental and physical batteries. This job is demanding and as I have shared in the minutes in between and survival tips,  self care is crucial to being able to burn brightly without burning out each day. That’s it. That’s the message. Wishing you all a restful, relaxing, and restorative winter break. It’s time out time for this teacher.

I Heard the Fall Sing

Photo By: Iyanuoluwa Akinrinola

Whispers of wind flowing on a breeze.
Sounds like rushing waters, a flowing stream, a quiet river.

Leaves no longer green, but reds, yellows, browns or bare.
The nip of frost just within reach in the air.

Where does it all go? Time, that is.
We have winter, spring, summer, then FALL.

We fall back in time, resetting our clocks.
We fall back into our routines, our schedules, and our box.

We fall back to the rigorous demands of planning and teaching.
We fall back to juggling the many hats it means to be you – An Educator.

We fall back to needing more time while running out of it.
We fall back to operating within one of the noblest professions of all – Educating.

While we fall back into this calling, we dared answer,
Remember to listen to the whispers of the wind flowing on a breeze.
Permit yourself to follow the sounds as you breathe in the life around you.
Listen as the fall sings, and let it guide your way in the doing that must be done.

the minutes in between

I think about time a lot. Most of the hours and minutes in between 7 am and 5 pm are spoken for by this passion called teaching. So that leaves me with 14 hours for the many other parts of my life, give or take, depending on whether I am trying to avoid writing progress reports in lieu of writing blog posts.

Granted, those 14 hours are not all free time as they include commuting, housework, personal care (relaxing, catching up on the Bear, Slow Horses, and Reservation Dogs, exercising, avoiding exercising, etc.), eating, brewing coffee, and sleeping. Chores, meals, shows, and self care carve at least 3 to 4 hours out of my day.

When you adjust for seasonal events such as extra-curriculars, report writing, assessment, planning, and errands another couple of hours come off of that free time daily. Then there’s my need for at least 7 hours of sleep which has become an irreducible minimum amount of time to disconnect, clear my head, and recharge for the next day.

Educators are often willing to sacrifice their sleep hygiene to burn the work candle at both ends. We come by this work ethic honestly though. Think back to when you entered your faculty of education and how hard you worked to get there. Many in our calling are predisposed to getting things done regardless of the hour of the day. The problem is that it is unsustainable and begins to effect your cognitive abilities and physical well being.

My advice to you all is to try to set a sleep schedule and stick to it. Your body and mind will reward you with clarity and energy if you do. Prior to the pandemic I was lucky to get 6 hours of sleep per night, and it was beginning to catch up with me. Since then I have upped that to 7+ hours per weeknight and 8+ on the weekends. For me, the result has been a gain in alertness, focus, and creativity.

Now back to those minutes

Okay back to the math; 14 hours outside of educator life less 7 hours of sleep, take away another extra 2 hours for school related work/correspondence, and another 4 hours for life at home leaves me an entire hour or two per day of relatively unprogrammed time if you are keeping track, and that is usually spent catching up with friends, parenting, marriage maintenance, family visits, or doubling back to one of my other daily tasks. If I’m lucky.

Despite having a fairly clear vision of how my days are filled, I find myself still struggling to separate my teacher brain from my Will@home brain and it makes me wonder whether anyone else is going through the same thing? How are you managing the minutes in between the prepping, the planning, the teaching, the counseling, the assessing, and all the other moments that comprise an educator’s day?

For me the routine(s) of school provide a decent frame to parse out my minutes. I am mindful that some days are going to be longer than others, but am also working to become more organized and efficient between the hours of 7 am and 5 pm. I admit that the first 10 years of my teaching career were not as streamlined as the last three. The first step was avoiding work related correspondence outside of work hours. That simple act took a lot of self-talk and restraint at first because I had become conditioned to the fact that teachers were on the clock from the time they wake up until bed time.

I have seen this effects of this play out with many new teachers who are fresh out of their faculties who struggle with parents who for lack of a better description are time thieves with daily requests for progress updates on their children. On numerous occasions, I have encouraged new colleagues to set those boundaries from the beginning at meet the teacher night or sooner. Weekly updates are more than enough when it comes to informing families unless there are significant extenuating issues above and beyond typical classroom learning. I could not imagine what it would be like for a JK/SK educator to respond to 30 families if they all expected daily updates after a full day at the speed of kindergarten. Yet, it is not uncommon for newer teachers to get pulled into that time suck.

Perhaps I can finally find something to be thankful for as a result of the COVID pandemic? Although mentally excruciating and physically draining, the past three years taught me to create some boundaries with my time. It taught me to say “no” and “not now” a little more often. Perhaps it has been that decision to self-preserve and prioritize which has helped maintain my decorum and drive. It is precisely these actions that have allowed me to return to my classroom with a better work-life balance and an excitement and energy for voluntary extra-curricular activities as well. Perhaps this post will encourage you in that direction too.

Has the pandemic changed your approach to your teaching and personal life balance? Please share in the comments what you’ve done to bring more balance into your days.
Thank you for reading.

Being Gentle With Myself

As mentioned in a previous post, it’s a new year and I’m at a new school. I often forget that so much goes into learning about a new place, space or community. I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for not knowing the space and I’m asking questions. In this post, I’m sharing some of my experiences this past month. 

Learning Names

Names are powerful and important. They are a part of who we are and a key identifier in schools. I have to admit that learning names doesn’t come easy to me. As a prep teacher, teaching all students in our school, there are times that I feel overwhelmed with making sure that I also know how to correctly pronounce student names. It’s the end of September and I’m almost there but there are a few that I am still learning. This month there has been a lot of asking for reminders and using my time during yard duty to familiarize myself with names. While I wish that from day 1 I remembered them all, I think it has allowed my students to see that I too am learning and they have been patient in the process.

Setting Intentions & Reflecting

I started a journal at the beginning of this school year as a tool for reflection.  Every morning, I take 5 minutes to think about the day and in the evening, I take some time to reflect. In the morning, I list 3 things that I am grateful for; 2 things that will make the day great; and one affirmation for the day. I find that in doing this, I’m able to set an intention that helps guide the day. At the end of the day, I reflect on  3 things that made the day great, 2 actions that I could have done differently, and one thing that I did for myself. For me, it’s an opportunity to think back on the day and determine whether or not I feel the day was a success. The good news is that if I haven’t been successful, I know that I can try again the next day. 

In the beginning, I noticed that the 2 things that I was writing that would make the day great were things that I expected others – students, colleagues, etc. – to do rather than focusing on what was in my control. For example, rather than hoping students would pay attention during a lesson, I could instead write that I hope that the lesson planned would be of interest to students and offer multiple entry points. When I started focusing on what was in my control, I realized that I wasn’t as attached to the actions of others. 

Another thing that I noticed was that there were many days that I wasn’t actively deciding to do something for myself. I was fishing for things to write, which was a reminder of how much we often choose to do for others, especially as teachers. I’m going to keep journaling and reflecting this year.  

“Learning the Ropes”

I can’t tell you the number of times that I have walked into a new school and realized just how different the routines are. From entry to dismissal, every school has their way of doing things. I’ve learned not to make assumptions and to be explicit in asking questions so as to understand the practices of that particular school community. It may seem silly but while “learning the ropes”, I think nothing is off the table in terms of asking questions. Having been on the other end – someone very familiar with the practices of a school – I also realize the importance of sharing information with others who are new and trying to pass knowledge on. 

I hope you’ve had a great start to the school year. If not, I hope you know that it’s ok to be gentle with yourself. I know that I have been and will continue to be. We’ve only just begun. There’s still time yet for things to turn around.

Wrapping Up The Year

The end of the year is the perfect time to reflect and I’m certain that within our profession, I am not the only one who feels this way. Today being the last day of school, my mind is working overtime as I continue to unpack the year that has past and looking forward to the opportunity to rest and recharge over the summer.  For the last month, I’ve spent time in deep reflection, and starting tomorrow, I’m going to be focused on taking care of myself and making sure that I’m up for the challenge in September. In terms of reflection, I like to think back on the year and consider: what worked; what didn’t; how I’ve grown; what I’ve learned; and what I might like to change for the following year.  As I say goodbye to my current school, I’m looking forward to an incredible new opportunity at my next school. In this post, I’m sharing some of my thoughts going into the summer and looking forward.

Students, Students, Students

It’s what teaching is all about! How we support students; how we facilitate student learning; and how we learn with and from students. When students – and their families – are at the center of the work that I do, I feel a sense of purpose and reward. Over the last few years, let’s face it, it’s been challenging. This year, when the distractions came, I tried to focus on what was most important and what I could do. If there was something that I couldn’t do, I didn’t, without guilt. I worked as hard as I could for students and I’m content with what I was able to do. Also, I asked a lot of questions – why is this important? Who does this benefit? If it wasn’t of benefit to students, I kindly declined. It’s easy to get distracted by the myriad of things popping up on our plates. I’m grateful that this year forced me to focus on students and their learning and I plan on continuing come September.

Take Time to Recharge 

We all know that we can’t be good for others if we aren’t good ourselves.  As teachers, many of us are problem solvers and we jump in and are there to support and care for others.  This summer, please take time for yourself. This past year, I learned the value of saying no to “opportunities” and really taking the time to take care of myself. This summer will be the first in years that I will be completely focused on taking care of myself and recharging to make sure that I’m ready for a healthy September. What will you do? How will you take care of yourself this summer? What does recharging look like for you?

Hear or See Something? Disrupt Publically!

I’ve written extensively about my experiences as a Black student and teacher. Things that I saw, heard, and experienced are sadly, things that I see, hear, and experience in the present day, although there are decades in between. Many of us know the lingo to add to our bios or to say in interviews – diversity, inclusion, equity, disrupting, dismantling, etc. – and yet, I wonder how many of us know what they actually mean within the school setting. When you see something, how are you disrupting? This includes experiences between students but also between teachers and students and between teachers. Notice who enters or doesn’t enter certain spaces within the school building. Why is that? What does it say about school culture? How do we build better community within our schools? I can’t tell you the number of times that people have come up to me in private after something public has happened and apologized for the actions of another. It’s time to publicly disrupt or nothing will change for those most marginalized – students and teachers alike. 

The past few years have been challenging. This summer, please take time to rest and recharge. The year ahead will be another filled with challenges. Let’s do what we need in order to make sure that come September, students can be at the center of what we do. Also, once September arrives, when you hear or see something, please disrupt. Congratulations on completing another year in education. Wishing you a safe and restful summer & a great start to the new school year.

fitness

Fitness is a funny word. I get quite a chuckle each time I see this meme. Knowing where to get a laugh comes in handy in this job. The trick is knowing when and where to fit it in?

Yeah, I'm into fitness. Fitness whole pizza in my mouth. – Wag Pet Boutique
https://www.wagpets.com/yeah-im-into-fitness-fitness-whole-pizza-in-my-mouth

Fit in itself covers a broad swath in its meaning as it ranges from adequacy/competence much like whether a premier is fit to govern or if a garment is the proper size. In legal spaces, the courts decide whether someone is fit to stand trial or have custody rights. When someone is upset they are said to be having a fit. When they are inconsistent, things are happening in fits and starts. When someone doesn’t play by the rules and norms they are often told to fit in or labeled that they couldn’t fit in.

Fit can also have a positive light around it such as, “They were a perfect fit for each other” or “all the pieces fit together so well”. When we are starting somewhere new, we always hope to fit in.  When we need an appointment, we are always hoping to be fit into the schedule.

Not to be overlooked, fit can also describe someone’s physical or mental state, as well. So as the days of our 9th month in school wind down I wanted to check in and share some thoughts on fitness in order for all of us to finish strong in June. To no one’s surprise in my world, humour plays a huge part in how I maintain my mental health. Sharing it with my class has become part of our support of one another since the start of the year.

With so much happening in our world right now to crush the spirits of our students and fellow educators, humour, art, acts of kindness, and movement are my goto strategies to combat relentless tragic news stories, a pandemic, and the return of standardized testing. So how does that look in the classroom?

Before I share that, let me reiterate that there is no need, ever, for a head in the sand approach with my students when it comes to tough topics. On the contrary, active discussions about the goings on in our world, nearby and far away are crucial. I believe there is room for conversations for students of all ages. I believe there is room for them to share what they wonder, have heard, and think. I am wary when classrooms are not allowed to be open spaces of inquiry when it comes to the big questions on students’ minds especially when our students possess a world of information, real and fake, at their fingertips. It is important to let go of the control and comfort though. For some that discomfort does not come easy, but hey it’s not about you.

When we fit this work into our days, we tell our students that they are safe to ask when uncertainty abounds. In case you’re wondering. I am into fitting this into my days.  Okay now back to what can only be expressed as a fitting conclusion to a year at the speed education.

  1. Lessons getting shorter. Connecting and applying concepts still continuing.
  2. Time to explore concepts outside of the boundaries and boarders of the curriculum being added.
  3. Collaborations on projects between grades(4 and 5) guaranteed.
  4. Time for exploring new learning with another self-directed inquiry project(Genius Hour)
  5. Student led social activities and DPA. They always know the latest and greatest vids.
  6. Organization of one more PAK (purposeful act of kindness)
  7. More time listening to one another.
  8. More time for the arts beyond our weekly schedule.
  9. Joke(s) of the day.
  10. Time to celebrate that each of our mistakes is evidence that we were trying.

Lastly, there is going to be an end of school in-class celebration to honour each student for their hard work. persistence, growth, and contribution to our class family. As exhausting as the lead up to June is each year, the satisfaction and joy from a job well done lasts far longer than any memories to the contrary.

Each day of this year has been physically and mentally taxing. I have eaten my feelings on occasion. I have been called grumpy from time to time. Mea culpa. I have also found time for a lot more personal fitness in order to combat those tougher days we all go through as educators. Whatever you do to keep fit, I hope it sustains you and gives you joy through the upcoming month and well into a restful summer.

If you see fit, please share what you are fitting into your classroom in June. Thanks for reading.

the eyes tell our stories

Trigger warning: This post may be triggering to some folx as it discusses the emotional and physical toll happening on our students and our profession. I hope you read on.

A student asked to speak with me the other day. They said things weren’t going so well. They didn’t have to say a word. Their eyes told the story of someone who had been going through a lot lately. They shared and I listened while resisting every urge to cry along with them. How has it come to this I thought? How have so many of life’s weights been placed on a student who deserves to enjoy these years without worry, fear, or doubt?

While they spoke, it became known that these feelings of sadness and dread have been building up for a couple of years already. It struck me a bit odd as this student comes across as one of the most well liked, bright, and optimistic persons. If they were struggling, then how many more have not found the courage to come forward? My mind raced around how best to support them in the moment, but then moved to thoughts of what needs to happen on the macro level of our classrooms.

Despite some training, my mental health first aid kit is still only partially stocked, and unless additional social workers can be added to our school, I fear things will only be getting worse.  If it is happening in one school, then it is probably happening in many others. Notwithstanding the already existing immense work loads placed on centralized caregivers in school boards, it does not appear that supply will meet demand any time soon.

I guess that my best move for this particular person will be to check in with them a little more frequently, contact family to construct a cohesive support plan, and to recommend seeking some help from a social worker if at all possible. I am also going to build in some wins for them throughout the week. These could be a few more affirmations or intentional opportunities to have fun in their day.  Maybe this approach could help in supporting staff as well? Read on.

They didn’t have to say a word. The eyes told a story of someone who has been crying a lot lately. What happened before coming to school? How were they going to make it through another day when the sound of fast paced walks toward their door meant another part of the day, intended to plan and organize, was going to be co-opted again. How can this continue to happen when things are supposed to be safer, better, and back to normaler? Cue the tears. Cue the sadness. Cue the confusion. It’s hard to hide the stress or frustration. With all of that to manage, anger is never far behind. So when someone asks what is causing the tears specifically, the answer is nothing and everything at the same time.

Nothing because there is nothing we can do about what is happening other than mask up, make sure the kleenex box is full, and brave out the current chaos of each day. Everything because the number of issues provide more than enough straws to collapse every camel’s back. Mixed messages, inaction, anti-vaxxers, non-maskers, insane rates of infection, lost preps, fatigue, and having to complete the same system work with less time due to time that has been ‘liberated’ from one’s daily schedule.

Image
via https://twitter.com/MikeJToronto/status/1520175065333219329?s=20&t=NLlivpQQu-yLApHE3_iEUA

I looked into the mirror. My eyes were dull, glassy, and dry. Thankful that another week has passed where I did not have to be out of the classroom. Thankful that I did not have to isolate. Relieved that time outside of school meant a chance to disconnect and recharge.

Although there is no single thing to attribute this current state. It could be because of the daily dread built up from what is happening in schools right now. It has gone far beyond any occasional days when OT jobs went unfilled to a sadly predicatable and unprecedented time in our profession. When was the last time you ever heard of 9 unfilled OTs at one school? Last week comes to mind.

If it hasn’t been mentioned before, the folx caring for this province’s most precious resources are having a tough time and are being pushed to the brink of exhaustion and anxiety. It seems that once again, pontificating politicians have put their heads in the sand when it comes to equipping educators to meet the realities of the day with the resources they need.

Let’s start by having more teachers available to cover the amounts of educators having to take time to quarantine due to illness/exposure to COVID19 or to care for an infected family member in the same home. As we enter the final months of the school year I am not feeling super confident that things will change and that has me worried about my own energy and emotional levels.

Despite every educator’s individual efforts, ‘things ain’t goin’ so good’. No amounts of extra time or out of pocket expenses are going to fix what is happening. We need personal supports for students and staff more than ever not affirmative memos and lipservice from elected/board leaders. Help.

…and in this corner

….weighing in at the size of that giant elephant in each of your classrooms.

Yup, with a sense of timing so impeccably ironic, that it is only achievable by elected officials, we are once again face to face with maskless learners and colleagues.

Oh the freedom!

This all despite numbers related COVID19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths) increasing across the province. Despite a strategic throttling of information from the current government and an ineptly duplicitous media incapable of calling out the “horse hockey” being shovelled at an unwitting public who is either happily oblivious learning how to live with COVID19 or now scrambling to avoid a negative patient outcome for someone in their life who is immuno-compromised.

Another struggle took centre stage the moment the masks were allowed to come off in Ontario. We are once again facing government sanctioned chaos when it comes to public health policy and education in our province and there are signs of  trouble in nearly every public school. #Onted via Twitter reveals numerous schools with growing numbers of COVID19 cases and exposures among their youngest learners. That means more absences (students and staff), more missed learning opportunities, and more uncertainty in schools/homes.

To no one’s surprise who has actually taught in a school over the past 2 years, students, teachers, and support staff  once again find themselves at greater risk of being exposed to COVID19 now that masking has become optional in public schools.*

Thankfully, at the school where I teach, the number of students and staff still choosing to mask up each day remains around 90%. Odd though how that figure corresponds to another public health statistic at 90%. Hint, it rhymes with vaccination rate. Hmm? Yet, that is not the case inside of many other schools and has the potential to be problematic on a number of fronts. I’ve seen this movie before and as I recall, it ain’t a comedy.

The removal of required masking, limited cohorting, mandatory hand sanitizing protocols, and social distancing have not provided me with the peace of mind that the return of such “freedoms” pretends to promise. So what is can a health conscious public educator do while they are now placed on the frontlines of learning to live with germ warfare?

Psst. Running away and hiding are not options.

The safest moves are to continue limiting our own exposure to potential infections by keeping our distance, masking at all times, sanitizing, and limiting our social interactions. Overcoming a global pandemic entering its 6th wave is going to take a little more time. We have gone through so much and have learned an equal amount about ourselves and others.

I can sense that students are still concerned about this too. I have noticed them still sanitizing their hands and trying to maintain their distances with students who have chosen to go maskless in class. Thankfully, I have not observed any social shunning as of yet which makes me hopeful that this will be the case in the general public when ideologies collide as legislated social expectations are gone. It is in this spirit of care and respect that I encourage you all to stay safe and strong as you continue to serve and shine in your classrooms.

* I was going to make a snappy comment about how private schools did not have  to remove their mask mandates while all public schools were ordered to do so, but I could not think of a good way to phrase it without the use of profanity.