It was past time for an update!
2020 is almost over. I will be glad to see it gone.
2021 is an unknown – but I am hopeful.
The WordPress folks have a new theme called Twenty Twenty-One, so I am playing around with it. So far, I like it. I wonder if the year ahead will be something I like, too?
I am not yet fully comfortable with “block editors” as they remind me overmuch of early WSIWYG editors that were extremely unfriendly to screen readers and people with accessibility challenges. However, I am told that this particular theme is very friendly as it allows for the viewer to make adjustments on their end. Let me know if you are (like me) a person who has some adaptations pre-selected on your browser: does this theme adapt properly for you?
It also is supposed to adjust automatically for desktop/tablet/phone viewing. How do you like this theme for different types of devices?
BIG news this autumn has been my transition to full-remote instruction. I was already well-prepared to have a “flipped” classroom model and had been taking courses since the spring to prepare for that style which easily transitions between in-person, hybrid, and full-remote instruction. However, I was given a position NOT as an actual teacher, but as a mentor for families who are using an online platform. This was made possible by our friend, the pandemic… and hasn’t been a smooth move at all. However, there is a silver lining!
Because I am not driving an hour each way, and because I am able to take actual breaks during the day, my health is improving! Not my mobility – I still need a wheelchair when I am in public*, but my ability to breathe and the number of serious allergic reactions are WAY down. Still, there are challenges: the online lesson provider isn’t always reliable, the materials the families were promised never materialized (and now we know they won’t I have the added burden of making sure I have resources for the lessons – there are over 40 lessons EVERY day that I need to know what’s going on at least a month in advance….), and internet/power from Oct-March is not guaranteed.
- I keep trying to just use a cane or crutches when I leave the house to stop by school or go to a store where I don’t have to walk far. The last two attempts resulted in my being virtually immobile by the time I got home and back in the wheelchair for the remainder of the day.
And I DO get to teach some. I am providing Social-Emotional lessons for all 6 grades that I support, and in the process of those I manage to fit in some reading/literature and math (and let’s be honest, it’s me! – Science and Social Studies) instruction. I also grade writing for the students, since computer algorithms aren’t yet sophisticated enough to adapt to developmental standards.
I have found that I am able to explain how online platforms work better and better. No real surprise there, but the thing that caught my attention recently was that despite having been full-remote since March a LOT of the students (and families) don’t know how to access their school-district online services. We use GAFE (Google Apps for Education) and all students by grade 2 have pretty much learned the routines. Except…
The stress and uncertainty of this year has caused so much mental and emotional overload even simple, straight-forward tasks are sometimes mystifying. I see it in myself – and I hear it in the voices of the families when they call for advice or guidance; and in the faces of the kids when we are “zooming” together; and in the language colleagues all over the world are using to describe their days. So many families struggling with food insecurity, impending homelessness, job loss, health concerns, working from home while supporting students whose schools are not open. And of course, the families and communities who have lost loved ones…
I am teaching full remote because I asked my doc in the early summer if I should return to in-person teaching if the pandemic was still raging. And he advised me not to.
Knowing I could take a year off without extreme financial distress (if I were denied the request) I asked for full remote, hoping they would offer a part-time position or a remote support position. I was thrilled to be able to say yes to this particular job title because it handshakes nicely with so much of my previous “hats” and gives me a chance to refresh and update skills: computer programming, website design and maintenance, lesson design, resource finding and development, family education, student encouragement… and in the process of getting the spare bedroom ready to teach in (the study with the dog door being not excellent for professional purposes!) my painting techniques. I really am just geeky enough, and just socially awkward enough, that while I miss actually seeing people I do find myself not badly flustered most of the time to be working on computers and seeing people through screens.
And yet… for my colleagues who were not comfortable asking for this kind of assignment, who have health issues but need the job to have the insurance for the health care… those who are working in unfamiliar territory and with tools they don’t enjoy using. They do not enjoy these challenges. They are not comfortable with being on camera. Many of my colleagues are not okay.
2020 has been a horrific year, a devastating year made more horrible in the United States by internal political posturings and strife. I suspect this is what it must have been like in the run-up to several notable moments in the 1800s when our nation nearly fractured. Economic distress, race-based hate crimes, sex-based hate crimes, religion-based hate crimes, nationalism/fascism, self-declared militias taking up arms against citizens, blatant and hysterical ignore-ance of educated authority figures, threats to public officials who are trying to do their jobs, threats to private citizens who are attempting to follow the laws and advice of authorities, and all in the context (at this point in time) of 3,000 people dying every day in the United States from a relatively “new” virus that is more contagious, more deadly, and has more unknowns for life-long impacts than most other viruses we have encountered.
Of course instances of domestic violence are up as stress makes already-fraught situations untenable. Of course instances of violence against strangers are up –
Why must our tendency always be toward violence when times are uncertain?
Perhaps it’s time to focus not on what we don’t have, but on what we do.
Maybe that “attitude of gratitude” and practicing noticing what is RIGHT instead of what is wrong could help us move toward focusing on appreciating what is good in other people instead of being threatened by what is different. Maybe an attitude of gratitude for what we HAVE instead of constantly enumerating what we lack compared to others would allow us to build each other up instead of tear down. Maybe we can cultivate the attitude of gratitude so our personal weaknesses become a source of another’s strength – and allow us to graciously accept the help we need without feeling self-conscious.
That’s my biggest hope for 2021: that we can move toward gratitude for what is good, compassion for ourselves when we fall short of our expectations, and kindness toward others when they need us.
We can make 2021 better. We can, we must, we will.(stidmama says)