This is our plague year (to borrow from Joseph Fink, creator of the podcast by the same name), and we all know it.
The majority of us have been in some sort of lockdown/work-from-home/social distancing since March of 2020.
I remember the talk running up to my last day at work. Students were nervous, and those from China had been sent boxes of surgical masks by their families. They asked if it was okay to wear them during class. We were all worried, but not sure what to do.
In early March, Saturday the 7th, I attended a party at a friend’s house – my last party for a *very* long time, it turned out. We joked about clicking ankles instead of giving hugs. None of us wore masks.
By Friday the 13th of March, I had cancelled all my in-person classes and writing lab sessions for the remainder of the academic year. I’ve been working from home ever since.
In the months that followed, I’ve seen countless job opportunities be cancelled due to Covid-19.
I was lucky, sure. I found new employment during the plague – but it did require me to move away from my partner – almost 5,000 miles and 7 hours, to be exact.
I have made an international move, started a new job, learned not only to teach online but through an entirely new course management system, and completed a book manuscript – all in the space of 8 months.
I have been lonely and overwhelmed.
I have worried about my parents, both on the edge of the high-risk age rage. Not to mention my mother is a nurse who works at a state hospital. I have been worried about my in-laws, both solidly at high risk.
A teacher, mentor, and friend died this past year from Covid-19.
I’ve been increasingly anxious about the state of American politics, where an ever-growing number of people have publicly signed on to fascist rhetoric.
Because the school I currently work at mysteriously decided we didn’t need more than two weeks between quarters (so I had grading and then course prep to do), I have only had three days off since September.
In short, it hasn’t been a normal year. Not for any of us.
Why in the world are we trying to pretend that it is? That 2021 is somehow magically different?
Why are we pretending that it is impossible to make up for this year in work and school?
Why is it that, while we’re all working two to three times harder, no one seems to admit we all need a break?
And a long one.
That we could all be a lot kinder to ourselves and take it easy. That we can make up for lost time later.
That we’ve been suffering more than enough anxiety?
Even a brief search of Google reveals nearly 283 million results (with 10 different articles on the first page alone) declaring, “Students are falling behind!”
As if to say that we can’t fix that by changing how we teach and what we expect in the next few years.
We lament that people are losing jobs and housing and healthcare. That they can’t afford to feed themselves.
Yet, we pretend to be flummoxed about how we could possible change that.
And I just can’t stand it anymore.
If I can plan less for my students to do while still meeting basic outcomes. If I can be lenient enough to accept assignments even weeks late. If I can drop assignments that really aren’t necessary, so can everyone else. We don’t need to press on double-time as if nothing’s wrong.
I’m completely emotionally exhausted. Burned out.
I know everyone else is too.
Isn’t it time we honored that?
Isn’t it time we made plans for a “new normal” that doesn’t include complete and total burnout?