Wow – what a week. I have honestly never experienced such a range of emotions in such an ever changing landscape before. I know that people are probably fed up hearing about and reading about the effects of Covid-19, but I often write to process because it is something that helps me, so feel free to turn away to sexier posts because there has been nothing sexy going on for me this week.
I heard about the virus a while back, but I thought of it no differently than other viruses that have become newsworthy, and it was only a week past Wednesday that I spoke to someone who had been part of a group working on it in an advisory way on a national level. This group was made of up health professionals and scientists and I can honestly say that what she said shocked me. An eminently trustworthy source, the predictions she made, essentially went on to unfold before my eyes from that point.
Things moved so quickly after that. People were talking about it more and more. There seemed to be constant debate and constant comment about what should or shouldn’t happen and what had or hadn’t been done. There were different opinions on what was needed which ranged from complete isolation, through controlled response, to a let it happen attitude. I know that many felt that the response of our country was misguided, but I had to believe, as someone who was not allowed to isolate, that this would be a controlled response.
By nature I am probably of the mind that what will be, will be, but as more and more people hunkered down, I began to feel isolated in my inability to self-isolate. In a profession where I was surrounded by others in the same situation, we searched for something to explain the slightly crazy seeming position we found ourselves in by the start of this week. As someone whose role is to reduce the anxiety in others and reassure them, it was also important not to whip up any feeling that things were going to be awful, whilst at the same time being aware that things were going to be awful.
This article, with its corona virus simulator in The Washington Post, helped to explain the way the the virus was going to work. The three models allowed me to have some sort of an idea of where we were and what the hell we were doing. Control. It had to be about control. There were days last week when I thought of myself increasingly as one of those little dots moving around while others remained still. And as the week wore on, most of us became fairly sure that our colour would soon change.
My mood moved from disbelief that this was really happening, to sadness about what it meant, to anger about the way things looked for me and for the others in my care. I made the mistake of dipping into social media again and the outpourings shouting that we were doing the wrong thing made me feel once again, isolated. I had no choice. I had to believe that there was a bigger plan and that I was part of it. So as people voted with their feet, I hoped again that this was about control.
I read something else that stuck with me and helped me to find reassurance in understanding what was going on.
This video did make sense and it did explain what I thought was going on. And strangely I felt comfort in the fact that he stated quite clearly that “Children generally won’t get very ill, so the government can use them as a tool to infect others when you want to increase infection. When you need to slow infection, that tap can be turned off – at that point they close the schools. Sounds terrible, but makes sense. ” Well at least now I knew!
For what has felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, things moved very quickly and by the end of Wednesday, a week after I had first really comprehended that this might be something this big, the announcement came that schools would close as of Friday. Although I had begun to prepare by setting up online groups where I could teach and stay in touch, I had thought that I would have longer, and it felt devastating. I was no longer angry, I was back to being upset.
When yesterday came and the cancellation of exams became a reality, I started to crumble. With kids who were now going to take a direct hit, my loss as a teacher joined my loss as a mum and it overwhelmed me. Unable to fathom the decision, I knew that I was in no state to defend it to others and package and sell it as I needed to do, so I left work, came home and just fell apart when I walked through the door.
Really I think it was a combination of the roller coaster of emotions that I had been experiencing, the lack of sleep that this week has brought me and the personal sense of despair in a system that I am part of. I understood the reasons on one level, but on another it seemed inconceivable that we were now in this position, and as my thoughts shifted from the now lost dreams for two of my own children, I turned them to the reality for the others I am responsible for. A possible 6 months with nothing meaningful to do?
No exams, nothing to study for, nothing to break up the days which would endlessly slip into nights, having a long term negative impact on some. The online groups, hastily populated with resources would now be useless and no one would look at them. An award would be made based on evidence of learning completed so far, and 6 more weeks of learning and honing their skills through practice was no longer required. I knew this was about physical health, but now there was an equally serious threat to mental health, not just to those who were vulnerable, but to a large percentage of the school population.
It felt heartbreaking and I struggled to make sense of what I could do to turn any of it around. I had known that this thing would mean changes, some of which would not be reversible, but I hadn’t bargained on the way that change would impact on who I felt I was. Blogging is important to me. It is something I enjoy and I wouldn’t want to give it up, but teaching is part of me. It is who I am and has been for a very long time. I went to work today, knowing that this was the end of something for me that might never be quite the same again. Who knows what the world I return to will be and when that will even happen.
When something is so deeply ingrained in who you are, it is hard to give that up. It has to be a slow process of transition where you pull back and look towards new projects and ventures. And I have watched it happen to those who have retired over the years, a sense of loss of a part of them, tempered with the need to slow down and the excitement of exploring other things. But to pull it away amidst fear and uncertainty, with no real warning or planning for what the provision will be in your absence, just simply feels wrong.
I left yesterday in tears and returned again today, a new plan, a new project, but still expecting more of the same. Actually the resignation and resilience of the pupils stopped that from happening. They turned things around with their shows of appreciation for us and for what they knew we were trying to do. There is nothing like the positivity of young people in the face of adversity, to put into perspective what is important in life.
And today I closed the doors on a chapter of my life which has followed the same pattern and structure for most of my adult years. Teachers are planners and we have not been able to plan for this, simply to respond as the fallout of things beyond our control and the reactions and decisions of others, landed upon us. As the bell rang today, it marked a shift in everything I have ever known and the move to online, distance learning. I have no idea how that will work or for how long it will have to be in place.
My school is now closed to pupils, except those who are vulnerable or children of key workers, and learning will no longer take place there. We will still need to provide care for those who are there, and some sort of virtual care for those who are not. The sense of loss is huge and has felt almost unbearable at times, but the reality is that far more will be lost as the weeks and months progress, and this thing takes lives, both literally and metaphorically.
A sense of denial