Hi from Cartagena, Colombia! I have just finished my first week of “Distance Learning,” from the teacher perspective. I am a 6th grade Math and English teacher and have recently gone from a normal full time teaching job to a lot of blurred lines teaching at home. Over the last week of government mandated quarantine, I have learned a couple of things about myself, I need separation between my job and home life and I don’t live in the present.
I feel like this whole Corona Virus snuck up on me. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was worrying about field trips, NHS meetings, prepping for my next class, and how I can move up professionally. Then suddenly, none of this matters anymore. I remember getting back from my field trip on Wednesday the 11th of March and being told that my next field trip would be cancelled because they were taking the initial steps of preventing the Corona Virus. I spent the rest of that week telling my students, “You are safe! They wouldn’t have us at school if it wasn’t safe. This is all just a political movement.” Then, things took a turn as I received an email Friday after school that we would be going to distance learning. Distance Learning? What does that even mean?
After spending the weekend going through a whirl of emotions, we returned to work on Monday for Distance Learning professional development. I felt like I was a new teacher all over again. Everything I have been in practice doing for the last 8 years of teaching, I would not be able to do any more. I feel like the expectations of delivering material had changed so much that I kept flipping between not caring and caring too much. This was the beginning of a week when I lost sight of where my job begins and ends.
After our one day of professional development, we were told that we could work from home the rest of the week, beginning online teaching on Wednesday. From this moment on, I spent the rest of the week not sure when to stop working. Normally, I keep my teaching life very separate from my home life. I don’t bring work home, I don’t like to talk about work at home, and I don’t lose sleep over work. This goes the opposite way as well, when I am at school I don’t spend time talking about my husband, pets, or my daughter. I keep them separate, so I can get the job done! This staying at home ruined this. Now I was working late hours into the night and feeling guilty when I was not working. I was playing with my daughter and feeling guilty when I had to teach. I had several days of just feeling very unsettled. Would I get in trouble if I played with my daughter during my prep? Am I letting my daughter watch too much T.V.? What time should I really set my alarm clock?
My two worlds collided and I realized that this was not going to be easy. After reflecting over this inner struggle with my husband, we realized that we would have to draw some boundaries and be supportive talking these feelings out. After a long weekend, I at least now feel like I can acknowledge that this is something that I am having difficulties with. I hope that as times goes on, I will feel more at peace drawing these boundaries.
One Day at a Time
Something else that has been weighing on my heart is that I need something to look forward to, COVID-19 has taken that away from me. Firstly, I live race to race, training to tone my anxiety down. I literally can’t even train anymore because we have a mandatory #quedateencasa 24 hour quarantine for the next 19 days. Where could I even run? Fortunately, I do have 13 floors in my building that I can run, but I found out why I haven’t been doing stairs since high school, my knees can handle that anymore! Therefore, I have had to given up what I feel like is part of my soul, running 4 times a week.
Secondly, Corona Virus has taken my family away from me. I look forward to seeing them every summer. My sister even was going to spend Semana Santa with me. Colombia stopped all incoming and outgoing flights for the next 30 days. I know that it doesn’t seem like the end of the world, but this all really hit home when my administration sent us an email telling expats that would not be renewing their contract that they should return home to the U.S. in fear that they would not be able to do so later on at the completion of the school year. This made me lose faith in the future. How can I move on knowing that there is not trip home to look forward to?
This is what led me to what I am going to call a mini break down. I have no trips to look forward to, no people to look forward to, I can’t look forward to my next run to burn it all off. I have nothing. I can’t even look forward to going out to eat! This is when I realized that I am so busy planning my next big thing, that I can’t even live in the moment. I have a friend that keeps talking about taking it one day at a time. I can’t even understand what that means? I live week to week and month to month, not day to day! Fortunately, my husband talked me down from that one. I guess that this experience will at least force me that we can only live day to day and enjoy the small things.
So, here is my attempt to enjoy the small things, reflecting on each week, learning from my experiences, and not getting cabin fever. If nothing else, I can look back at this chapter of my life as it was just a little quarantine…