“Well, I’m back,” he said.
If you understand that reference to the end of an epic piece of literature, I’m especially happy to have you reading today.
Whether you catch the reference or not, I’m back, and please permit me to tell you where I’ve been. The road included practically learning to teach all over again and what became depression.
Let’s start by saying it’s been one heck of a pandemic. For all of us. No exceptions.
We will live with COVID-19, SARS-cov-2, this coronavirus among us for the rest of our lives. It’s not going away. It will mutate, continue to mutate, and, like the flu, might be less severe or more severe year-to-year. We will always require vaccinations. With decades of science preceding the production of these COVID-19 vaccinations, experts were able to produce the first-ever coronavirus vaccinations in record time, the first-of-their-kind mRNA vaccinations. And whether they require sub-Arctic storage temperatures or just very cold storage, scientists with the assistance of governmental entities are learning how to distribute these vaccines safely.
More “shots in arms.”
So what happened to me in the middle of a pandemic? Why stop writing in late December?
Planning for a Sanitary School Year
The pandemic threw me off base more than I was willing to admit. Perhaps you can relate?
Our plan at Marian Catholic for teaching during a pandemic has been a winner, hands down. The plan grew with everyone’s input. We met as a faculty with administration daily, every morning, at the start of the pandemic last March when we first went into lockdown. Sometimes we met twice a day. Our meetings began on Google Hangouts and eventually migrated to Zoom. My colleagues and bosses are incredible. And our students are extraordinary. We supported each other, shared tips for virtual classroom management, and began the long, arduous process of learning how to teach all over again.
At first, we thought we might be out of school, in lockdown, for perhaps three or four weeks.
Remember those days?
As lockdown, mask-wearing, and social distancing mandates continued, our meetings continued also through the summer. Administration worked closely with us at every step of the way devising a plan to open the school embracing a truly hybrid model. This entailed developing dividing the student body into four groups: Spartan, Veritas, Spartan or Veritas but in school every day, and at-home every day. Spartan and Veritas students would alternate days in the building and virtual, at-home, or in-building learning. (“Veritas” means “truth” in Latin and is our school’s motto.) Then we would virtually welcome students who, for whatever reason, preferred to remain home, out of the building, at all times.
Teachers too were given the choice to teach from home for the year. Their students in school meet with them in what became remote learning centers scattered throughout the building.
We take attendance every class period no matter where students take class. Some of our international students chose to return to their home countries. They were accommodated as well, either participating live on Zoom or reviewing recorded classes set aside just for them.
That, with constant tweaking, has been our system this school year. Thus far (knocking loudly on wood right now) we have had zero cases of active in-building, school-linked cases, “Cases occurring within the same physical classroom or other physical space within 14 days of one another,” according to our COVID-19 Dashboard.
Our precautions include hand sanitizer dispensers in every classroom, wearing masks at all times when in the building, and spraying and sanitizing desks after every class period. A warning bell sounds one minute before the end of each class to remind us to sanitize desks. At the end of the day, a member of our maintenance crew goes to every room and sanitizes every desk, every contact point, with a fog-type device.
But sanitizing was only part of the story.
Learning to Teach All Over Again
With strong tech guidance and the daily and then weekly sharing online, we coached each other and learned to teach all over again. The headaches were real but we were all in the same place. Along with our managing stress, we remained cognizant of the stress from the pandemic circumstances our students were under as well. Outreach to all students was and remains constant. Without sharing names, our administration told us we literally saved lives this year. These are extraordinary circumstances, and I commonly tell my students they are being formed into the “New Greatest Generation.” Their life lessons will benefit all of us in the future, as they do now.
I’m proud of what we were able to do, but even as I was working to adapt in my classes, plan differently than I ever planned before, my ability to keep up with this publication slipped. Somewhere along the line, the journey took its toll, and I ended up in depression. That hit in December 2020. I believe that was caused in part due to a change in medication suggested by my doctor, but it was certainly circumstances too. The only way I can describe it is a heaviness that weighed me down at times. It wore me down. I hadn’t felt that way in many years. Spoke to my doctor who recommendede another doc. Following a treatment plan from this doc I did finally emerge from that terribly uncomfortable place.
I have amazing family, friends, colleagues, and students. We all support each other, sometimes when we don’t know that we’re supporting each other.
By then I had been away from eNews Park Forest for over a month. It took me some more adjustment to finally get my “sea legs” in the hybrid classroom. I’m happy to say that I’m doing well now, and it’s certainly time to begin bringing you the news again, at least one article a day.
I want to write more about depression in the pandemic. If you would like to tell your story, email me. I will be consulting with specialists too who can bring our readers tips on continuing to manage life as we wait for that eventual day when we can embrace each other again.
New Look and a Free Month for Subscribers
I did pay a brilliant tech person, Manon Michel, to redesign eNews Park Forest. You’ll notice the redesign on the home page and especially on category pages, like Law and Order. You will also notice stylistic differences as new articles are posted with fresh photographs. Much of the redesigning was “under the hood,” so to speak, putting the publication on a new, lightweight framework that should serve us for several years.
We are also moving to a new vendor for subscriptions. The new system should make it much easier for readers to login. That was a consistent complaint I heard for years, people had difficulty logging in, particularly from mobile devices. This system should be unveiled next week.
Current subscribers will be asked to update their payment information. They will also be given a free month since our first-ever hiatus from publishing.
Until the new paywall is in place, all of our content is free and open. That will allow readers to become reacquainted with the publication as we continue to update readers on what has been happening “in and around” Park Forest.
And right now it’s just me. Would you like to do some community writing for eNews Park Forest? Let me know. We can talk. Somewhere down the road I want to hire more writers.
Thank you for your understanding. My sincere apologies for my absence.
I’m glad to be back.