“Holly, are you sleeping?” My dad would ask me every night when I was a little girl. This would be after he sang “Daddy’s Little Girl” several times to help me fall asleep. Then I would pretend to fall asleep and whisper “Yes.” My dad would carry me up to my room, tuck me in, and kiss me good night.
Whenever I wasn’t feeling well I could expect a brand new coloring book, with brand new 96 count Crayola crayons. My dad would make sure that I was fully prepared to color beautiful pictures while I healed from whatever ailment I had.
My dad is my superhero. He may not wear a cape, but he does carry a toolbox in his truck. He always has been and always will be. Whenever I need him for anything at all, he doesn’t even hesitate to come to my aide.
Flat tire? My dad comes to the rescue with his tools and a spare tire.
Plumbing issues? My dad assesses the situation and uses his industrial snake drain to rectify the issue.
Starting a new craft business? My dad buys all of my start up supplies and a heat press so that I can focus on my new skills.
Suffering from post partum pre-eclampsia 11 days after giving birth? My dad rubs my head and reassures me that I will be just fine, as the doctors figure out how to lower my blood pressure safely.
Start blogging? My dad reads and likes almost every single post, even though he barely uses social media.
Dads in general don’t always get positive reviews. However, my dad is exceptional. My dad is one of those dads who was just meant to be a dad. He loves my sister and I with his whole being. He spoils all 5 of his grandsons with love, food, and trips to the store to buys toys.
My dad is the kind of dad who will finish an entire puzzle, put together an elaborate toy, and go to the park for a catch or to fly a kite. He makes sure that his complete attention is devoted to his family as much as he possibly can.
When I go to visit my parent’s house, I can expect my dad to make me my favorite dishes. I can actually smell the potatoes o’gratin right now.
He has always been about making the small gestures mean the most for all of us… especially for my sister and I. We are Daddy’s Little Girls after all. He has always been so proud of all of our accomplishments in life. He (along with our mother) is our biggest cheerleader.
So many years have passed since he would sing to me and put me to bed, but I can still hear him singing every time he hugs me.
“You’re sugar, you’re spice. You’re everything nice. And you’re Daddy’s Little Girl.”
We’re all treading water in the middle of the deep blue ocean waiting for a rescue helicopter or ship to save us. However, some of us have rafts, floats, or floating debris to grab a hold of. Then there are some of us constantly using our overly exerted arms and legs to stay afloat. Eventually those without the help of a floating device will succumb to the heat of the sun and the weight of the glistening water.
This is what it’s like to have mental health issues. We are constantly trying to tread the most vast ocean water without a rescue device. Statistically 1 in 5 American adults suffer from mental health illnesses. I am part of that statistic. I am 1 in 5. Anxiety has been haunting me my entire life. As I got older, the weight of the adult world weighed even more heavily on my shoulders. Eventually it began to affect my physical health. Then I decided it was time to get the help that I needed. I finally got my rescue device.
Here are some ways that I have been able to help my mental health thrive, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Breathing: I know it seems silly that breathing would help, but correct breathing to help ease the anxiety is extremely important to healing. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Keep it at a slow and steady pace. It can help bring your heart rate and/or blood pressure down.
2. Positive people: When you have positive people in your corner, you’re more likely to be positive. The company you keep really does make a huge difference in your mental health. Everyone who I considered a loved one and/or friend is positive. They are supportive of me, my kids, my husband, and they listen when I need to get the bad out of my system. I am also there for them in the exact same way.
3. Hobbies and Positive outlets: I have several hobbies. My main hobby as of right now is writing. Writing has been extensively therapeutic for me. I have made new writer friends, in addition to getting my feelings out on the computer screen. Additionally, I love crafting and creating, especially with my boys.
4. Me time: Whether it’s a walk, a couple of hours binge watching Netflix, a candle lit bath, or a nap… Me time is much needed. When you are a mother of young children you are constantly needed. Your billable hours are 24/7. You get paid in hugs and kisses. As priceless as that is, everyone needs some alone time with themselves. It helps me recharge my brain and energy to be ready for my days ahead.
5. Medicine: If you have an ear infection, you would take antibiotics to treat that infection. If you have diabetes, you would use insulin to balance your blood sugar levels. If you have a mental health illness, you can treat it with anti-depressants and other medications, in addition to therapy. I have been taking Lexapro since the Summer of 2017. It has made a huge difference in how I act around everyone. It has made a huge difference in how I feel as well. Lexapro is one of the medications that has saved my life.
6. Think Positive, Breed Positivity: We are able to choose how we react to others. It is in our control to choose happiness. Negativity takes away irreplaceable time. Time that you could choose to be positive and happy. Focus on the good things in life and more good things will follow.
7. Lists: Something that always helps me when I need to refocus my energy when I may be overwhelmed in my thoughts, is making a list of what I can do around my house or with my family. Lists help me follow a clear plan and focuses on exerting my mental energy into positive tasks.
8. Therapy: While you may not get an in person therapy appointment right now; teletherapy is an imperative tool during our current crisis. Most insurances (if not all) are currently offering FREE mental health appointments. Utilizing a therapist will only benefit you.
9. Healthy Habits: This is the one I’ve struggled the most with lately. Going for a walk/run/ bike ride, etc. is beneficial to your mind and body. If your body feels good, your mind tends to do the same. The same goes for overall healthy eating. Whatever you feed your body, you are also feeding your mind. I have been feeding mine a lot of cheesy breadsticks lately. I’m sure it’s been contributing to my fatigue and other health issues. This one is the hardest for me. It’s kind of a chicken and egg scenario. I usually have to get my mind wrapped around choosing a healthier lifestyle before I can actually do it. However, it’s obviously extra difficult to do that when your mind isn’t functioning at 100% capacity. Nevertheless, when I choose healthier options, I reap the benefits both physically and mentally.
10. Accepting help: I’m one of those strong willed stubborn people who hate asking for and letting others help. However, when I have let someone help in the past, it was truly a Godsend. Sometimes life is just overwhelming and we need help. Guess what? That’s okay! We’re allowed to need help. There is no rule that says we have to get through any of this alone. Help is that life saving device I mentioned earlier. Help will keep you from drowning into the abyss.
The next time you find yourself treading that ocean water remember that there are life rafts, floating debris, and so much more if you just look around. There is help. There are options, and you are not alone treading that water. There are many of us also trying to stay afloat. I hope these tools help you navigate how to ease your mind during the darkness and chaos.
Make happiness a priority, a choice, and filter out the negative. Do not allow negativity to live and thrive.
My mom always says that when a baby is conceived and/or born, someone in the same family passes on to Heaven. I think of it as a body exchange with the essence of the soul whose time on Earth has ended. Honestly, I never really bought into that whole superstition. I chalked it all up to coincidence. That is, until it happened to me… twice.
Coming from a large extended family (my mother is the youngest of 10 siblings) there wasn’t a shortage of aunts, uncles, and cousins. Being together and growing up with such a large close knit family is one of my biggest and most treasured blessings. Each family member was/is unique and special in their own way.
All of my aunts were/are like second mothers to me. Whenever I needed an ear to listen, arms to hug, and a heart to care; they were/are always there. My mother’s oldest sister had passed away when I was around two years old. I didn’t get much time with her, but I did get to spend most of my life with my other aunts and uncles.
My husband and I started trying to conceive the Summer of 2013. That was also the Summer that my Aunt Marion (whom I lived with most of my life) got very ill. She had been declining for months. Her coloring changed, and her stomach continued to fill with fluid. She would get out of breath very easily. Eventually she ended up in several care facilities to help with her needs. She had no children of her own; therefore she loved her nieces and nephews like her own… especially my sister and I.
In July 2013, the doctors warned us that my Aunt Marion may not make it to her 81st birthday on August 12th. We all painfully watched as the cirrhosis of the liver was draining her of her strength. She slept more than she was awake. On July 25th we decided to have a birthday party for her in her hospital room, since she most likely would not make it to her actual birthday. Her mind was not fully aware that it wasn’t August. She was just so happy that everyone was there to celebrate her.
The very next day with everyone by her side, (I arrived last because I was at a baptism) she waited to take her last breath until I got there to hold her hand. During her last minutes on Earth, I whispered into her ear “Please ask God for a favor when you arrive. Ask him to send Brian and I, a healthy baby.” Two weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test.
Although the start of my pregnancy was bittersweet, I know my aunt was watching over all of us. Months had passed and three quarters into my pregnancy with my son Brian Jr, I had severe itchiness on my entire body. The worst were my legs and feet. I didn’t think anything of it, but mentioned it during my next OBGYN visit just incase. The gynecologist had me take a bile salts test. Several days later the results came back. I had a rare pregnancy disease known as Cholestasis of pregnancy. Besides the extreme itchiness, the main concern was that my baby could be stillborn if not delivered prior to 38 weeks.
I informed my family of the situation. My Aunt Gracie called me on the phone and said “Don’t you worry about a thing. The baby is going to be just fine. You are going to be just fine.” Her words sounded like the most calming sounds in nature. She said those words with such confidence. I believed her.
On March 25, 2014 my first son, and new love of my life was born. Brian Jr was a healthy 6 lb baby boy, born via emergency c-section after 29 grueling hours of induced labor. Although his due date wasn’t until April 14, 2014, he arrived perfectly healthy.
While I was home bonding with my new sweet boy and recovering; roughly a week later… both my Aunt Gracie and her husband (my Uncle Joe) ended up in the hospital days apart. However, my Aunt ended up in a coma. A couple weeks had passed, eventually there was no brain activity or improvements. Her children (my cousins) had to make the gut wrenching decision to remove her from life support. On April 14, 2014 I said goodbye for the last time to my unconscious aunt over the phone (I had just come home the day before after visiting her). With tears dripping down my red cheeks I said “I love you, love always, your Honey Bunny… and thank you.”
You may be wondering why I thanked my aunt. It’s my belief that she made a deal with God. I think that in order for my son to live, she offered up her soul. The irony of my son’s due date and my aunt’s death date was more than a coincidence. While I once was skeptical, my own experience with old souls and new souls made me a believer.
My now six year old son, Brian, often displays various mannerisms of both of my aunts. His chin quivers like my Aunt Marion, and he often hums like my Aunt Gracie. Although he has never met either of my aunts, I somehow feel like he has. They are a part of him. They are a part of me. Thankfully, I believe my mom was right all along.
When I was younger, and dreamed of being a wife and mother; I always wanted a big family. I wanted a minimum of five kids. After all, my mother is the youngest of ten children.
Years passed and I met my husband. He wanted however many kids that I wanted. After several years of teaching pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten, I decided that three kids would be ideal… and more than enough to handle.
In August 2013 my husband and I learned that we were expecting! We were both ecstatic. In November 2013 we bought our own home, and prepared it for our first baby boy. In February 2014 I learned that I had a pregnancy condition called Cholestasis. It’s a rare pregnancy condition where bile salts leak into your placenta and could cause a stillbirth. I was monitored bi-weekly and I was induced 3 weeks early to insure my son’s safety.
My first beautiful boy was born in March 2014. Although I had been around children my entire life, it was completely different than having one of my own. It was a learning curve for my husband and I. He didn’t want to overstep, and I didn’t know what to tell him I needed. To say that it put a strain on our perfect marriage, is putting it lightly. We all struggled to find our new normal. It took time and patience.
It took us both several years to even think about trying for another baby. I went from wanting five babies to wanting one and done. Our son is and was extremely strong-willed. When he wants something he doesn’t give up. That will serve him well in his future career, but as his parent, it’s exhausting. He has this infectious personality that draws everyone near. However, he also knows how to wear my husband and I down.
For mine and my husband’s mental health and relationship, we waited a little longer in between for our second baby. We know now that our family is complete; and we’re happy with our two handsome and healthy boys. Would I have had our second sooner now knowing what I know? Definitely not. I love their age gap. It gives me sanity, and it works for our family.
Our now six year old’s personality (which we love) brightens our souls; but at the time his persistent toddler attitude was draining us. Once my son entered preschool and was able to get out more energy with friends, as well as having additional authoritative figures in his life; it was easier for us to picture having another little human in our lives. We wanted to give him a sibling to love and to play with. We just knew it was finally time.
Two days before my older son’s 5th birthday, he received the biggest birthday gift ever… his baby brother. This time it wasn’t new to me or my husband. This time we both knew exactly what needed to be done. Also, this time we had an extra helper, our older son. He is an amazing big brother and has shown us how much he loves his little brother.
While, my six year old’s perseverance to keep us on our toes continues to be challenging; he has also proven to be an empathetic and caring big brother. We have discussed his role as big brother often. He always says (in reference to our one year old) “I know, I know… I will always protect him.” My one year old is one hundred percent smitten with his big brother. I’m so thankful that we decided to wait a little longer in between children. For us, it was the perfect age gap. Our family is now complete.
Deep breaths… in through the nose, out through the mouth. My heart is pounding out of my chest. My head feels like it’s going to explode. I’ve taken a shower, swallowed the maximum capacity of Motrin for the day, and I still can’t seem to feel better. I literally just left the doctor’s office. I’m driving home and I have my three year old with me. I have to pull over, I’m going to vomit. Too late, I caught it in my hands. Do I have any wipes? Any paper towels? Oh wait… here it comes again. I run out of the car and make it to the side of the road to empty my minimally filled stomach. “What’s wrong, Mommy?” I hear my half asleep toddler ask in a whisper. I respond as in a protective tone “Mommy, is okay. I just have a tummy ache and my head hurts.” Two days later I ended up in the Emergency room for a migraine that wouldn’t leave. My blood pressure was around 202/120. The E.R. Doctor told me that I was extremely fortunate that I came in when I did, as I almost stroked out! The following day I went to my Primary Care Doctor where I was officially diagnosed with High Blood Pressure in addition to Anxiety (although I know I’ve had Anxiety for the majority of my life).
That was almost three years ago. I’ve since been on Blood Pressure and Anxiety medications. For the most part, both are mostly under control…but certain things can still trigger both my pressure and anxiety. For example, what’s currently happening in our world. The Coronavirus shutdown has definitely played its part in triggering several anxiety attacks in recent weeks. However, writing and keeping myself occupied has always seemed to help me get back to my base.
Deep breaths… in through the nose, out through the mouth. I repeat that mantra in my head whenever I seem to lose focus. I despise rapid change. Positive change isn’t as disturbing to me; but any change needs an adjustment period. I need to be given huge changes in small increments so that my mind has time to adjust. Also, I thrive off of instant gratification. Knowing the outcome of anything is helpful to me. Our current situation does not provide that. Therefore, I’m definitely struggling a bit. Thankfully, my husband and my children ground me. They are my constant.
Thinking that the car in front of us will suddenly explode, that a random bullet will pierce through my loved one’s bodies while we’re in line at a store; and NOW that I’ll lose a loved one to Coronavirus and won’t be able to give them a proper funeral. These are just some of the thoughts that go through the mind of someone with Anxiety. It’s waking up in the middle of the night and thinking that you won’t see some of your loved ones ever again. It’s debilitating and nauseating.
Deep breaths… in through the nose, out through the mouth. I’m back to this mantra. I FaceTime call my family, text a few friends, and then focus on my husband and boys. It’s currently a difficult cycle, but I know that this too shall pass. The timeframe, I do not know… but I know that it will.
For everyone else struggling: Deep breaths… in through the nose, out through the mouth.
The Coronavirus has taken its toll on so many things in my life. It’s robbed me of my village, my family, and my friends. It has taken away the remainder of my 6 year old’s first year in School. It has stripped my 1 year old of celebrating his very first birthday without the people who love him, like my parents.
On a global scale, it has ripped apart families through death and separation. It has destroyed economies and killed small businesses. People are trying to survive on their Savings (if they were lucky enough to have one to begin with). Some people aren’t so lucky and have lost everything. This virus does not discriminate. It spreads so quickly and stealthily.
With all of the sadness and uncertainty happening, there has been some positivity. There has been some silver linings throughout this awful nightmare.
My silver lining is that I was able to truly begin writing. I have wanted to start a blog for a while now. However, I didn’t have the motivation or direction. When the Coronavirus forced the shutdown of everything; it also helped give me a purpose. I wanted to bring my words, experience, and love to as many people as possible. I have terrible anxiety; and being able to write my thoughts down has helped keep it in check. Additionally, I have an extensive amount of topics to write about. I’m also able to use those topics to help others.
The global silver lining is that waterways are clearing, the Earth is healing, and animals are given the chance to roam freely in certain areas that they haven’t been able to before. People are finding ways to connect without physically connecting. We are training our brains to think outside of the box. We also have more respect for healthcare workers, teachers, delivery personnel, grocery stores workers, and other Essential workers.
Our eyes and minds are being opened to different possibilities. Some families are connecting in ways that they haven’t been able to in a very long time. They’re taking hikes, playing board games, experiencing nature, and so much more.
If you look for the good you will find it. I’ve decided that it’s time to look for the good. If you want to find some extra good and funny, check out the TikTok app. I have seen countless teens and their parents dancing together, joking, building things, and so much more.
I’ve witnessed food donations, neighborhood No Contact Easter Bunnies, cloth masks being made and donated to healthcare workers, teachers going above and beyond to make this as normal as possible for their students, and so much more. There is so much good out there. Sometimes we just have to put on our positivity lenses, and look a little harder… but I promise, it’s there.
Dear Husband, Thank you! You are always picking up where I left off. Even when you only had two hours of sleep, you still get your work done during the day, do your part around the house, and spend time with the boys. In these uncertain and desperate times, this is the consistency that I need.
I know sometimes I seem agitated, but I promise you it’s not because of you. I’m frustrated with the situation. I miss my family, friends, and normalcy. This has nothing to do with you. If anything, you are my normal; and sometimes because of that you get the brunt of my frustration.
You know when I need more wine, a shower, and a break. You know when I need you to clean up after dinner; and to do the laundry because I honestly have forgotten about it, since we have all been living in our pajamas most of the days.
When we run out of medicine, food, and any other necessities, you just go and get what we need (while wearing the mask I made you). You don’t even question whether it should be me or you who goes. You are perfectly fine with being the one exposed to protect all of us.
You made sure the boys had presents for their birthdays and Easter. I may have set up their birthday celebrations at home, but you did the hard part. On Easter eve, I was stuck in bed under our one year old and my head was pounding. You relieved me so I could get some medicine and feel better. Afterward (with almost no sleep) you finished putting the boys’ Easter baskets together and hiding the eggs.
You are my constant. Are you perfect? Far from it; but you’re my puzzle piece. You fit with me perfectly. We have certainly had our ups and downs, but throughout it all, it’s been you and me. We have been through a lot in the past 10 years together. Our struggles have only made us stronger as a couple and as a team.
It has never been your words that showed me that you love me. It has always been your actions. It’s the little things, like sending me a sweet message, buying my favorite wine so I can relax, and always being my shoulder to cry on. It’s doing what needs to be done when I am completely and utterly burnt out; all without me having to ask. Although this took time for us both to figure out, I believe we have a groove now.
Thank you! Thank you for being YOU. You are exactly who I need right now when everything else is uncertain. I love you.
Countless times throughout this pandemic and quarantine I’ve heard “But they will fall behind.” This is in reference to all the kids currently missing physical school. Here’s the thing, the entire World is going through the very same situation. As far as students not being in school, there has been a huge setback for everyone. Therefore, they can’t fall behind if they’re overall on the same playing field as everyone else.
During this time, so many people are either working from home, furloughed, unemployed, and/or are essential workers. Every one of these are consequences to our current situation. Every one of these can and will most likely cause mental health instability. Therefore, imagine what the fragile mind of a child is going through right now.
I did my Master’s Thesis for Elementary Education on how important proper transitions are to children. Extreme change for any child (especially one who already has underlying mental health and/or learning disabilities) can be devastating. It’s difficult for adults; children are exponentially more effected by extreme change. For example: If I tell a child “It’s time to come inside” without any warning, the majority of kids (especially PreSchool and Kindergarten aged children) will not respond well. Some may even throw a tantrum. However, if I start by saying “You have 20 minutes until it’s time to go in… 15 minutes… 10 minutes… 5 minutes… Okay, it’s time to go inside.” The response will be much more favorable. Abrupt change takes us from our safe space and brings us to a place of worry.
I know personally, my 6 year old has had extra behavior issues, more tantrums, and has been giving me a hard time doing physical worksheets for school. My son is anxious, he misses his normal routine, his friends, his teachers, and he misses being able to go places. He misses learning in his school environment. Even though I’m a former teacher; it’s just different at home.
Even though I started out trying to have a “normal routine” (nothing is truly normal during a pandemic), both of my kids (yes, even the 1 year old) didn’t take well to the change. Home is the safe space. Home is meant for exploring, imagination, make believe, testing limits, and comfort. Home is where mommy helps build forts and daddy plays video games. Home is NOT where we normally have “school” all day.
Every day is a new learning experience for me as a mother and former educator. Every child is different and learns differently. My 6 year old son doesn’t like being told (by me) to do worksheets every day. He does however LOVE Science experiments. He does LOVE building things and using his imagination. So, that’s what I’ve decided to run with lately. His behavior is ten times better when we are doing these things. He learns so much better through playing and doing. Worksheets just aren’t going to work for him every single day. I’m so thankful that his School District has provided learning packets. I’m thankful his teacher has provided resources. However, I’m most thankful that no one is requiring anything of him.
In this time of uncertainty and confusion, what kids need most right now is one constant. They need the parents they have always had. They don’t need parents barking orders to complete assignments. They do need hugs, kisses, playing, movies, coloring, exploring, nature, and overall LOVE. If you do want to focus on something academic besides letting your child/children explore, then read to them. Read them almost anything. The more vocabulary that they hear and/or see, the more they will retain.
I promise you this… a few months of a more relaxed educational experience will not break your child. If anything it will give them a very possible much needed mental break. Let them be kids. As parents, use this opportunity to focus on things that schools can’t. Teach your kids to ride a bike, plant flowers, cook passed-down family recipes, bake chocolate chip cookies, be responsible for their rooms, use their manners, and anything else that is valuable to your family. Best personal benefit of focusing more on your child/children’s mental health, is that you will ultimately and simultaneously be working on your own as well.
While I’m at home quarantined with my family, you have to leave yours. Some of you have chosen to live somewhere else until this nightmare ends, in order to protect the ones you love the most. You give deep kisses and long warm hugs, not knowing if you’ll be able to do that in person ever again. So many of you FaceTime your family instead of reading them bedtime stories while they lay on your lap; because you want to protect them from this epidemiological disgrace.
You are sacrificing your loved ones time, your health, and possibly your life…for strangers. You are barely sleeping, and then waking up every morning to a never ending nightmare. You do all this with limited protective equipment and a reduced amount of colleagues, to fight this invisible killer. Yet, you persevere through the fear.
You hold the phones of your patients, so they can FaceTime their families (some for the very last time). You comfort those who are rightfully scared, and rejoice with those who are recovering. You give needles, set up I.V. Bags, monitor vitals, set up ventilators, do CPR, call Time of Death, take a breath of relief when the two cold metal defibrillators bring your patient back to a bouncy line on the monitor. You cry. You laugh. You love. You cry again and again. You want to wake up into a different reality. You want your family, your friends, and your more carefree life. You want people to stay home so you can do your job without the extra stress of more diagnoses.
Your heart is gigantic and your mind is empathetic. You show us all what it’s like to be a hero; even though you don’t do it for that title. You don’t do it for the praise. You do it because it is your calling. While you are fearful for your life; you are more fearful that you will not be able to help more people.
I know it’s your job, but Thank you! Thank you for doing so much more than your job. Thank you for holding the hands of your patients, for calming their fears, and for listening. Thank you for being on the frontlines of this war. Thank you for fighting for my family. I will do my part for you. I will stay home. I will be responsible. I will do what I can to make your lives easier. I will advocate for everyone to do just that. I will sacrifice seeing some of my own family members. I will sacrifice seeing my friends. I will do whatever I can to make sure you can focus on getting ahead of this plague.
Nothing will ever be enough to truly show my gratitude. Embrace your hero status, and be the badass rockstars that you are. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Gratefully and Lovingly, A Responsible Human, Mother, Wife, Daughter, Sister, Niece, and Friend
We, as humans, are not meant to do multiple mutually exclusive activities at once. As a mother, I often multitask; but to do a full time job, homeschool, take care of the kids, and take care of the house is a lot more than we all bargained for. Many teachers are currently having to do just that. They are being asked to do something our minds and bodies were not built for.
Recently I interviewed (via FaceBook Messenger) four teachers. Two of the teachers teach Early childhood and Early Elementary. The other two are Middle and High School Special Education teachers. After interviewing these women, I am truly in awe of their ability to give their students the best online education that they can in the short amount of time they were given, in addition to their own familial responsibilities. Some of the participants have decided to remain anonymous. However their input during their interviews were still invaluable.
My first interviewee was Heather. She teaches Pre-Kindergarten (ages 3 and 4) while also attending to her own two young children (5 and 2 years old). The demographic of her students are mostly Caucasian from the suburbs of Pennsylvania. The school Administration requires that she does a LIVE Zoom lesson from 1-1.5 hours daily. The students are not required to participate. However, the class participation (the children going on Zoom with their family’s help) has been anywhere from fifty to seventy-five percent of Heather’s class.
I asked Heather to give me a rundown of her schedule within that timeframe. She said that she starts at 9:00am. The kids typically talk amongst themselves and then she starts with some songs and exercises. Her pro-tip is to keep the students on mute, until it’s their time to talk. If you have children, then you will know that multiple 3-4 year olds, definitely need to be muted for anything computer related when they don’t really have the same physical structure as typical school.
Overall, Heather has figured out how to keep her own children occupied during the 1-1.5 hours of online teaching. She gives them activities and snacks during that time, but her 2 year old still wants mama as much as possible. While there is definitely a learning curve, Heather seems to be handling the overall stress of the situation very well.
I also interviewed a Kindergarten New York City Charter School teacher as well. She wishes to remain anonymous, but has given me great insight. I will be referring to her as L.C. As most of us know, New York State is one of the hardest hit areas for the Coronavirus currently. Therefore, Remote Learning is essential.
L.C. does not have children of her own. She lives alone; which can be extra isolating during this uncertain time. She said (regarding Online Teaching) “It has been actually a good challenge for me to learn a new way of teaching, and since I live alone, it has been a way to connect with people. It has taken the stress and anxiety away from our current reality.” I find this to be very refreshing and honest.
L.C.’s district wants her to be available for her students from 8:30am-3:00pm. She is required to have at least one LIVE video. However, her district would like at least two videos in total (One live and one pre-recorded). The expectations regarding grading as of now, is that there will be no grades counted for the final quarter of school.
Some statistics about L.C.’s students: They are predominantly African-American. The majority of students (26/27) have been involved with Remote Learning. The parents have been extremely involved. They want to learn how to help their children succeed in this new environment.
Something I found inspiring is what L.C. mentioned in the last part of her interview. She stated “I am looking at this as a way to help out our larger community. If I can help by just being available to ‘watch’ your child for an hour then I did something today.” This statement is why teachers are the backbones of our country.
My next interview was with a Middle School Special Education Teacher. She also wants to remain anonymous, therefore I will refer to her as L.T. She teaches grades 6th – 8th. L.T. also has two children of her own (3 year old and a nursing 9 month old). Her husband and her usually take turns throughout the day watching the kids (as he also works from home). Her day is typically supposed to be from 8:00-3:00pm with a one hour break for lunch. However, with lesson planning, and juggling her own kids’ schedules, her work day lasts much longer that.
Small groups of Special Education students (of all ethnicities and socio-economic status) join L.T. in Remote Learning. This allows her to give specific instructions to all of her students. Additionally, parents have reached out for guidance on how to help their children thrive in this new environment. It’s a learning experience for everyone. Her district recommends the slow and steady approach. It can be overwhelming for everyone; therefore slow and steady will help everyone get the best results.
L.T. said something that really struck a chord. She said “It’s important for teachers with young kids to know that it’s okay if I can’t ‘do it all’ right now because while I have a job to do, I also have mom responsibilities that has to take priority. ‘Grace’ is one of my words for 2020 and I think now more than ever I need to manifest that.” This is so imperative for all of us to understand. Yes, most of us have jobs to do while we’re at home, but we have to give ourselves grace and be parents and partners first.
My last interview was with Erin. She is a High School Special Education teacher for High School students, as well as Post 12 students ages 18-21 in a Pennsylvania suburban school. Her students consist of mixed demographics. They are also all at different learning disability levels.
Erin mentioned that 70-80% of her students have been involved with this new forum. No parents have reached out as of yet, but she is more than happy to help them if they do. The expectations from her School District, is that Remote Learning work will count as 10% of an overall Grade in addition to the other 3 quarters. Therefore, it will count, but not enough to bring down a student’s grade too much.
Additionally, Erin has two small children at home (4 year old and a nursing 1 year old). Both of them require attention and it can definitely take its toll mentally. Due to the obvious change of routine, she has noticed that her 1 year old has wanted to nurse more often. She still is balancing her home life and work life as best as she can given the circumstances.
Erin said that what she started doing to help her with the mental load of everything is Alone Time. What is Alone Time? Between 7:00pm and 8:00pm everyday, everyone does their own thing separately. The 4 year old plays in her room, the baby is asleep, and Erin and her husband do their own separate things as well. She said this has helped her stress and anxiety during this crisis tremendously.
Not All SuperHeroes Wear Capes:
Teachers may not be on the frontlines saving lives; but they are creating material they’ve never created before. They are using their knowledge to figure out how to teach all students of all learning types, genders, race, ethnicity, etc. They are giving parents of younger children (and some older ones) a much needed break. They are engaging students through a screen. They are giving their all when the world is crumbling around them. They are shielding their students from the idea that the last time they’ll be in their class will most likely be through a screen and not face to face. Oh, and most of them are doing this while they also have a family of their own to take care of.
On a personal level, I witnessed my 6 year old sit still and pay attention for 45 minutes during a Zoom meeting with his Kindergarten teacher and his class. I watched in astonishment, as each child waited their turn to speak. They listened to their teacher talk to each one of their friends and them. My son hasn’t sat that still for me… EVER! So, I may just ask his teacher to just leave the Zoom video running for all the kids, and she can go about her day. I mean… it’s kind of a genius idea, right?
Teachers… Thank you! Thank you for sacrificing so gracefully. Thank you for loving your students and your family. Thank you for balancing everything, even though it should be impossible.