Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Summer Recharge - Pandemic Style

Stop me if you have heard this one before: "Teaching must be great, you only work 6 hours a day and you get the summers off!"  If you are a teacher, you laugh at this one whenever you hear it because you know how ridiculous it truly is when you dive into it deeper.  What teacher is really working only 6 hours a day? How many hours a day are you really working? Are you working once you get home? What about weekends, are you working on the weekend? And come summer, how much time are you really taking off?  

Over my 15 years as a teacher, I can't tell you how many hours I have worked after my contracted time at night from home, on weekends, or in the summer.  Figure in the time I have spent pursuing my graduate degrees, certifications, attending and presenting at conferences, etc., and it adds up to thousands upon thousands of hours of times attempting to improve learning for my students and improve my skill set.  And while I have always viewed summer as a time to focus on self-improvement, this year is much different.

For many, myself included, the last 2-3 months of the school year was very taxing.  Working from home remotely was something that nearly nobody had ever done before and the process of figuring out how to provide school to students was very trying.  Luckily, I was already familiar with the tools that my school ultimately decided to use for remote learning, but there was so much more to the remote learning and teaching process that was exhausting, such as coordinating schedules for teachers, students, and families, ensuring that devices and Internet were available, and communicating through phone, email, video conference, etc.  

Yes, you can disconnect & recharge! And did you also know that
you can customize a Bitmoji in the Google Chrome extension? 
Adding to the crazy that was the last few months and the continuing pandemic, I moved in the middle of May. Moving is tough in the best of times, but getting everything packed in an apartment and a storage unit, finding movers to help and trekking across the state to a new home that you have never actually seen only increased the stress. (We didn't just find a place and sign a lease, the realtor that we worked with was amazing and conducted a video walk-through of the home before we committed).  Meanwhile, I still had a few weeks of school and conducted remote teaching from my new home over 400 miles away (my principal and I talked about it and in not so many words, he essentially said that it didn't matter where I taught from as long as I was doing my job). 

Had the opportunity to meet Jim Craig and have him sign
my copy of We Win! A few months ago at an event in Las
Vegas celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice
As a result, once the school year ended, I shut myself down to reset myself and take a break from everything.  I went days without turning on my computer.  I scaled back my scrolling and participation in social media.  I still listened to podcasts, but I wasn't as actively engaged as a listener and I started listening to more non-education related shows and more music (I went down a rabbit hole of The Offspring's catalog for several hours one day and was turned on to a very early punk band from Detroit called Death by the boys from The Punk Rock Classrooms Podcast).  I watched a lot of different shows on Hulu and Netflix, namely The Office, Waco, Ozark (as of this writing, still need to finish it), and have been rewatching episodes of Trailer Park Boys.  And I have been doing some reading, plowing through We Win! Lessons on Life, Business, & Building Your Own Miracle Team by Jim Craig, the goaltender of the 1980 USA Hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union in the Miracle on Ice game before beating Finland to win the gold medal.  I have also been reading White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, using both books as an opportunity to realize my own biases about race to become a better-informed person and educator and striving to be an anti-racist.   

Fishing was slow during the trip, I only landed one small rainbow trout, but
sunrise over the lake is extremely hard to beat! 
To further unplug, I needed to get out of the city and get back to something I love but had not had the opportunity to do in a long time: camp! My travel trailer had not been out in the great outdoors for a couple of years and had been sitting in storage.  My fishing gear had also been sitting dormant, so as a family, we went to Panguitch Lake, Utah for a few days.  While I did not have any intentions to be on a device anyway, it made it much easier to avoid my phone when I arrived at the lake to learn that there wasn't any cell service.  For four days, we hiked, we fished, and we ate our meals cooked over a fire and had a great time until the drive home when we broke a spring on the camper and had to have it towed to Cedar City for repairs (but thanks to Matt's Springs, we were back on the road about 4 hours after calling for the tow truck!).  I have another camping trip lined up for later in the month to Williams, Arizona, not as rustic as Panguitch Lake, but another opportunity to unplug and relax in nature. 

After nearly a month of unplugging, I have been starting to get back into the game. I have recorded a handful of episodes of my podcasts, The BeerEDU Podcast & The Podcast by Sons of Technology. I have been working on some modules provided to Pear Deck Coaches as a way to refresh and expand my knowledge on the platform.  Since I missed the live presentation, I have started to go back to watch sessions from CUE-NV's CUE'd Up virtual conference that was held in late June. Because I am going to be teaching in a new district/school and do not know what the fall is going to look like, I'm not sure how to prepare other than brushing up on skills and looking at other ways to create lessons in a blended, flipped, or virtual format (I know I am teaching special education, but what I am co-teaching is still up in the air).  Either way, I am motivated again to grind after having some time to decompress.

My point was not to tell you about my summer, not explicitly, at least.  My goal, if you are still reading this, is to tell you that not only is it okay for you to unplug, but you NEED to unplug.  Take care of yourself. Spend time with your family. Get away (safely) if you can and leave your electronics behind, perhaps even go somewhere without cell service or put your phone into airplane mode when you get there. You have my permission to do these things (not that you need MY permission, what you do is YOUR prerogative)! You will be better for it, your family will be better for it, and when we return to whatever school will be in a few weeks, your students, colleagues, and community will be better for it!

Until next time... 

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