“Do We Open or Do We Close Now?”

“If we open we’ll be in trouble!

If we close we’ll be in double!

Do we open or do we close?”

Yeah. That feels like the refrain of my life right now. I’m three weeks away from teacher-work-week and the Covid numbers in my state are rising slowly and steadily. Colleagues and former colleagues are on Facebook daily, posting their worries about opening or not. It’s like this lovely little Dante-esque limbo. Yay for uncertainty!

The fact is, like so many of my colleagues, there’s this sense that we are yoked with the economy’s success. If children can not go back to school, parents can not go back to work. Parents will continue to live within their own financial limbo (or purgatory given the issues with unemployment versus bills) and, hey, Christmas is just around the corner.

Just down the road from my house is a strip mall in which a brand new store opened on March 15th. Within six weeks, it had store closing signs draped over the front doors.

I worry about the economy. As a civil servant, my salary is directly tied into taxes, and with the economy seemingly trying to go belly up, then I look at my bank account and wonder how long I can stretch it. At this moment, I am okay. I have the finances to take us through a rough patch, but I really don’t exactly want to consider that possible reality.

I noticed language in my contract this year related to furloughs and changes in pay. I have been told that those points have always been in contracts (a friend even read his contract from a year ago and found those points). Regardless, I am uneasy. I want to work. I am ready to work. I want to be safe. I want my family to be safe. I want my family’s needs to be cared for.

I am not scared of Covid-19. I am not in the various demographics of people who are most likely to suffer or die due to the disease. Furthermore, I take precautions: wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer, practicing social distancing, not going to places unless needed. I try to exercise logic and common sense with my decisions.

I think what I’m exhausted by is the constant questions:

  1. Will we open? For my county, yes. But with lots of caveats and conditions.
  2. Will we be kept safe? As much as humanly possible when dealing with a thousand plus teenagers who all have different concepts of cleanliness, hygiene, and disease prevention awareness.
  3. What comes next?

And that, my dear friends, is the great IF that no one can answer. The masks are not perfect preventatives. Social distancing doesn’t necessarily work 100% of the time. I’m not even certain if I’m supposed to clean my desks between classes and with what products and if I’ll have gloves to accomplish this.

I fully expect that we are going to shut down at some point in the school year. I fully expect that all of my best made face-to-face plans will have to turn into virtual lessons which is difficult in a rural county in which wifi/internet is contingent on wind speed and sunbeams. Please know that I’m not complaining. The superintendent and central office in my county are installing wifi units in as many places as possible so that students can at least have a place in which they can download and upload material as often as possible. My administration is being as proactive as possible.

I think it’s the IF’s that are driving me crazy. The sense of uncertainty. I know how to protect myself against this disease, but that doesn’t mean that I’m completely safe. I know how to build lessons that will work great in the classroom but am not certain how they will fare in the digital world. I am teaching three virtual classes and am pouring everything I can into those classes, but I’m not certain if anything will work because I’m not a technological genius and I’m trying all of these new apps and software thingies and….

I just don’t know.

And I hate not knowing. I’m a teacher. I’m supposed to have all the answers. Right?

I’m sitting on my bed right now, listening to the train go through town, its horn blaring as it crosses each intersection. I can hear the muffled hum of traffic as it passes my home. I am so familiar with every nuance of my little world and the corner that I have come to love. And yet….and yet…I just don’t know.

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