My Back to School Plan

Updated Friday August 14th- ‪Today I had to make the tough decision to submit a leave request on the condition that my district will open for in-person learning. Hopefully in the end we will go virtual until it is safe for everyone. It will not be easy for my family, but it’s what is right for my family and my family will always come first.

In the end there is no outcome that would be easy for everyone. Everyone will have their own struggles and their own stresses but I’ve become exhausted and drained physically, mentally, and emotionally.

My grandfather always said, “Que sera sera- whatever will be will be.” So with that in mind, it’s time for me to stop the constant worry over things out of my control and enjoy these final days of summer with my wife and children.

These are moments I will never get back, and I will be damned if I waste them away.

Good luck to all and stay safe. ✌️❤️

Original Post:

First and foremost, I am not posting this to discredit anyone, I know all school stakeholders are working hard putting together plans as if they were trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I am really posting this just in hopes to maybe relieve my own stress a bit by putting what’s been racing through my mind out into the world so the grammar might not be 100%!either. But part of my district’s reopening plan (which is posted publicly on their website) that really shook me to my core was under the “Educator Well-being” section it read, “We will provide time and space for individuals to process traumatic events, re-establish connections with each other, and receive support to promote healing.‬”

I really appreciate that this was included and I do think it’s 100% necessary. I also must reiterate that I know my principals, reopening committees, and other admins have been working their butts off trying to make this work as best as possible with the resources and changing information they have been given so this is not to throw ANYONE under a bus, but reading that hit me hard. Very hard.

I kept rereading it thinking, “Wow. We’re walking into a situation where we kind of already know traumatic events have and will mostly likely continue to happen.”

Teaching in 2020 has made us more aware of these type of traumatic events. After the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in 2018 I really reflected on what it meant to be an educator in today’s world which lead me to becoming a volunteer Crisis Counselor for crisistextline.org. *Full disclosure- once my daughter was born in August of 2017 and as she got older it became much more difficult to volunteer but it was an amazingly eye opening experience.

I only bring that up because that one line put me in a similar position of reflection but this time it was moreso about my personal plans for September if schools do not start as all remote.

So now I must consider and decide over the next couple of days if I will be applying for all remote accommodations with my district and if those are not approved then I will more than likely put in for the 12 weeks of family leave at 2/3 salary because my son was born in June. Neither is something I want to do and it has nothing to do with the money part, I just hate letting people down. I don’t want to let down my students, colleagues, and administration but if I am forced to make a decision that the state does not make then I have to do what’s right by my family first.

My wife and I are both educators. I am in a highschool and she works with for a program for young adults with special needs. We worked tirelessly from March – June on doing the best we could. It was not a vacation. Hell, I used more sick days during that time period than I ever have before not because someone told me I had to but because if I knew I wouldn’t be accessible to students or staff then it just seemed like my the professional thing to do.

We sold our house in May of 2019 and moved in with my in-laws to pay off student loans and start saving money for our “forever home” our kids could grow up in. So during remote learning our bedroom, our daughter Maverick’s bedroom, and the dining room all became home offices. The guest room is where our two big dogs spent most of the day, and the office which is where my mother inlaw worked from home.

Most of my teaching was done sitting at the edge of my bed. My wife was live with her students for 3–4 hours nearly everyday until my son was born. We figured out the best way to make it work back then and by the time my wife “stopped teaching” when my son was born we had a pretty good system.

It was the hardest on my daughter who just turned three because she could not understand why Mommy and Daddy couldn’t play with her even though we were home. She cried. She cried a lot. Those months were not good for anyone’s mental health that’s for sure. We did start incorporating her into our teaching which helped a lot. Here we are doing work together. Now sometimes when I ask her to put her Kindle or her play laptop away she says, “Just one minute Daddy I’m doing work.” Which is cute and sad all at once.

As we inch closer to the start of school I feel myself getting more anxious and stressed which I know is not unique. I am not special every single person has their own obstacles ahead of them.

But going back in September face to face means a lot of things will change again for my family and I like how much my kids will see their grandfather who’s radiation treatments this summer weakened his immune system. We will be keeping our daughter out of the Pre-K she was suppose to start and she loves school. We did our best to keep that alive this spring by keeping her schedule somewhat reminiscent of what she was use to at her Learning Experience daycare with circle time, “class photos”, putting together activity booklets (my wife did that), going on nature walks, etc., all while making sure we have all we could to our students.

It wasn’t easy and it won’t be easy but we figured it out. We used spring break to figure out a plan and continued to tweak and adjust our methods and style to best reach our students. I was in communication with parents on a regular basis and routinely asked for student feedback since this was something no one had experienced before. It took about a good month of hard work, but ultimately we both had established a really good routine and setup to the point where I found my remote lessons were on par with my in person ones and honestly, some were probably more engaging and effective remotely based on the content. Now obviously I cannot speak for every teacher. But this is the effort that my wife and I both put in. With that being said, I would never judge a student’s effort based on anything besides what they personally put forth.

My wife and I also started preparing for long term remote teaching as we saw what was happening around the country with schools closing almost as quickly as they opened. So my mother in law moved her remote work station downstairs, my wife has set up in the office, and I have converted the guestroom into a very teachable space. Remote learning can work when it’s done properly and when it’s the focus of your planning. Besides the safety concerns hybrid learning, just by the way it will be setup, is not very conducive to a learning experience some expect. Even pre-recording lessons would be better in my opinion. I’ve used a flip classroom model since 2012 when I had to have surgery during the school year and Skyped with my class everyday. My lessons were more focused, there were less distractions, and more time for enrichnment activities.

In other districts it’s already become obvious that the easy way out, the easy way to nix a plan that was created before we even knew full remote was an option, has been to go fully remote and say the decision was “forced” due to a lack of staffing, putting the onwnest and “fault” on teachers. Honestly, if that’s what needs to be said, if that what it takes to insure maximum health and safety then at the end of the day, I’m fine with it.

This is not a game I am ready to play. Because this was not and never will be about us as teachers, staff, administrators, board members, or even parents.

It’s about our kids.

My kids, your kids, our communities kids.

"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." -John Wooden