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How to be Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic

Forgive the huge title, but I just can’t express the nature of this blog in any shorter or easier way. This year of “unprecedented, uncertain, unexplored, uncharted” experiences, has one more for me: how do you make it as Teacher of the Year in the middle of a pandemic?

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First of all, just let me say that being selected as teacher of the year for my school is the greatest honor I can achieve. Any teacher who tells you that they don’t want to be teacher of the year is lying. Being Teacher of the Year is the educator’s Academy Award. And as you can see, the hardware is a whole lot cooler!

So, we’ve established: I wanted to be Teacher of the Year. I just never visualized it in quite this way before. Because to be Teacher of the Year on a normal year means honors and acknowledgement and recognition at graduation…along with the cool hardware. You are confident in your skills and you know just what to do in acknowledging the honor.

Now let’s cut to this year. I am going along, teaching my classes, boring some, inspiring others and generally lighting little fires under all of them…face-to-face, in the same old, teacher of the year way. Until the Pandemic hit. Suddenly, life has a whole new edge and so does the so-called Teacher of the Year.

While we were still in school, the Teacher of the Year was yanking her pens, paper, stapler, tape, you name it, out of the hands of startled students yelling, “I’ll do it! Don’t touch it!” And then taking the fore-named article over to the container by the door to douse them in hand sanitizer, while the unimpressed students were wondering to themselves just when the old girl had gone around the bend. Not very noble or sharing, but quite the germ-fighting strategy.

In addition, there was that added layer of Teacher of the Year finesse displayed every time a student coughed or sneezed. “I want that boy out of here, he just coughed for third time this week, and I’m convinced he’s infected!” Somehow, you might have expected the teacher of the year to be a little more sympathetic and a lot less pathetic, but the times, they are a-changing.

Now we come to that plague even greater than the coronavirus: remote learning. The teacher of the year is now reduced to sending out mind-numbingly long e-mails begging for those assignments not yet handed in…no, not from this week–you’re missing the one that I assigned a month ago–before school got out? Check the instructions I very carefully laid out for you in the remote classroom site! What? They’re not there? Hang on a minute!

Then, there are the endless videos. Until this pandemic struck, I had never videoed myself in any classroom environment because the wiggling and squirming I have to do to watch myself on film was just too painful. It does not become the Teacher of the Year. No matter, suddenly, I making videos on how to join classroom discussions or how to sew on buttons…”okay, you knot that thread like this, oops, that didn’t work, well, let’s try again…for the fourth time.” In case you’re interested, this year’s Teacher of the Year never did get it right!

I know there are many things out there much more difficult than having to navigate the waters of Teacher of the Year in a year where every teacher was pretty much teacher of the year…I just can’t think of any right now. So, I’ll put my beautiful hardware on the shelf where it catches the most sun, I’ll bask in the pleasure of receiving the honor and I will always remember it as unique. But if you see me standing stock still, looking out, as if at a large audience and smiling and nodding, you will know that I am envisioning the applause I would have received at graduation had those poor seniors had a normal one. Hey, even the Teacher of the Year can dream, right?

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May 9, 2020 · 5:00 pm

Just one of those days…or weeks…or maybe a month….

Just one of those days…or weeks…or maybe a month…Jackie Wells-Fauth

For the first time in a while, I slept soundly and straight through the night last Tuesday. That may not seem like much, but for someone of my age and activity, that’s darned near a miracle. And there was a good reason for it that was not in any way connected to miracles.

It all started when I got up for a school activity on a Saturday morning. For me to get to the bus and meet the students at 7:00, I must be up and moving by around 5 a.m. This was the start of a very long few days.

After marking down the names of the students who had the foresight to stay home that early morning, I set out with the rest of the group. A long day of competing and trying to stay awake was followed by an evening of errand running before I made my sleepy way home, avoiding the various deer, skunk, possum, etc., as I went.

Sunday was my “day off,” so I celebrated by putting up two dozen pints of applesauce. Then I did about three loads of laundry. After that, I relaxed by baking and freezing some bread.

Monday, undeterred by my weekend activities, I took another group of students to competition over the afternoon and evening. I knew we were in trouble when the leaders of that competition announced, “We have a new system that will save a lot of time.” We left that competition approximately two hours later than normal and were not home until almost midnight.

After the students left, I searched for my car keys as I needed to take the half-hours’ drive home. No keys. I searched my bags, my purse and my pockets frantically. Still no success. It was almost certain I had left the keys in my room within the school…which I couldn’t access because I had also lost my key to the building.

After searching out a co-worker and pounding on her door after midnight, I was able to obtain a key to the building and then to discover my keys on the desk…one problem solved. I returned her key and headed home, reaching the house somewhere after one o’clock in the morning.

The following morning I picked up my purse, checking as I normally do for my cash and my pouch containing my credit cards and driver’s license. It was gone. I looked again. No pouch. I frantically tore through the car, my school bags and my pockets. The pouch was completely gone.

I got in the car to leave for work, still worrying about who could have my credit cards. I put the car in gear and backed up…into the garage door…which I had forgotten to open.

It was at this point that I knew that the bad day was stretching into at least a bad week and I was at the point where I was afraid to ask “What next?” because I might find out!

I poured out my troubles to my co-workers as I prepared to call my husband to cancel my credit cards because they were missing. After I was done with the phone call, my co-worker said, “You didn’t tell him about the garage door you ran into. Don’t you think you should?”

“No, not until I have secured the best divorce lawyer possible,” I answered.

“Surely he’s not going to divorce you over a wrecked garage door,” the co-worker scoffed.

“Maybe not,” I answered firmly, “but after the week I’ve been having, I’m not taking any chances!”

 

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November 28, 2016 · 2:06 am