One year ago, Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) school district went home for Spring Break. We never returned. Like all other districts, we made a hurried change over a weekend to switch to online learning. Unlike many school districts, GOT’s district opened their campuses in August under the order and threats of Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis, who only reluctantly agreed to closure orders when forced by the crisis to do so, and Florida’s Education Commissioner, Richard Corcoran.
It’s been quite a year–the last 12 months. Waves of viral peaks in July, October, and post-Christmas followed by crescendos of deaths. Quarantine-disrupted learning being the fall norm; then having little impact in winter. Florida educators denied vaccination by their governor, who only recently agreed to add them to those eligible for a shot and then only at federally-run vaccination sites.
With retail pharmacies and FEMA deciding to follow federal guidelines, not state orders, teachers of any age may now receive vaccination from them. State-run sites still turn teachers away. Still, hope arises.
GOT took a look back at what he wrote a year ago to trace the journey.
March 6: Coronavirus. What is striking in the post is how we were becoming aware of the health crisis, but we knew almost nothing about it. Therefore, rumors swept the hallways the final week before break. GOT remembers conversations over the ensuing break about whether he would go back or seek to take leave until the end of the year. We simply didn’t know the actual risk and feared the worst.
March 13: To Teach or Not to Teach. One week later, that conversation was loud and in public. GOT published this post before the day brought an announcement from the Commissioner that districts should extend Spring Break to two weeks. Soon thereafter, the next week brought the closure order and the district spending 48 hours preparing for the switch to online teaching and giving teachers one day of professional development. The following Monday, teachers would go live with their students.
March 19: A Strict Accounting. Probably not GOT’s most popular post, but he counted up the days of work and found that teachers would be paid for five days that they did not have to work. He was grateful. It was a confusing time and everyone, including district management, was trying to find a way through.
GOT continued with posts about online teaching and what he and other teachers were learning through trial-and-error. Mixed in with those were posts about Florida Virtual School and the weakness of the virtual learning model. Those proved controversial among certain sets of social media groups.
Quick question: What does blogging and Twitter have in common? Answer: Neither is for the faint of heart.
April 16: Till Covid-19 Takes Your T-Bird Away. It didn’t take long for people to tire of the shutdown. Soon, politicians like Florida’s governor to whom we gave a new nickname, Ron DeathSantis, were pushing for schools to open. This was an early piece about the difficulties of doing so.
April 17: Life in These Viral United States. A plea for people to realize that what one person does affects us all.
April 18: The Coronabushaccountability Virus. The hope was that the cancellation of 2020 tests would cause everyone to realize that the tests are not needed. It didn’t take long for Florida to disabuse us of that fantasy. It’s a full-on press for 2021.
April 19: Jaw-Dropper. Florida admits that its testing program steals instructional time.
April 29: Three Days Grace. Did we actually consider adding three days to the school year in June to complete the required hours of school? Even when the likelihood of children flipping on their computers was low? Yes, we did. Fortunately, after some game-playing, Florida’s Commissioner of Education came to his senses and granted waivers.
May 19: Address to the Class of 2020. A wrap-up to the year and the sadness of graduating seniors about the normal rites of high school passage that they missed. At least they experienced most of their senior year on campus. The Class of 2021 has mostly learned online and have missed the entire senior year of traditional top-dog privileges and activities. At least, we are arranging a prom (under safety protocols).
As vaccination programs go into high gear under increased manufacturing boosting supply, we are anticipating the beginning of the end. It’s been a difficult year. As GOT closes out this reminiscence, the most telling lesson for him is the one many choose to ignore: we are only as safe as we protect one another. Our schools, our neighborhoods, our towns, our nation are not solitary landscapes upon which we can play out our lives with no effect on others. We live life in connection with others. If we would remember that, we would live healthier and with much less argument over rights.