Now What?

A COVID Tale from the Hallway

Hello there and welcome to the Hallway!  I’m doing great and I hope you’re doing amazing, too.  This week was quite a roller coaster ride.  Let’s go!

You know, there are times when you just have to laugh.  If you were writing a story, at some point an editor would say “Enough!  It’s just not plausible anymore.”  It’s usually at that moment when real life laughs – it seems a little gleefully to me – and goes on about its business unconcerned with our feelings on the matter.  And so it was for us this week.

On Monday, the hallways welcomed this year’s new teachers.  Brave, focused, energetic souls who are starting their careers in one of the most unprecedented times in recent memory.  Unlike typical years, we met instead with “smiling” voices, no handshakes, and masks on our faces while standing 6 feet away from each other. Instead of discussing classroom management and their first days of teaching, our first conversations were around how to access the QR code on the front door to take the COVID-19 screener before entering the building.  Instead of going over curriculum and planning with our instructional coach, our next admonishments were to stay in their rooms to get their classrooms set up for filming for Zooming and what time to “come together” over Zoom for new teacher meetings.  The whole process was surreal at best, and yet our new crew powered on with enthusiasm, good cheer, and a commitment to students they haven’t even met yet.  They’ve rolled up their sleeves, jumped into the fray, and started doing the work with the rest of the team.  Love it!  That all by itself is probably enough “weird” for one week, but the week was just getting started.

Added to that was our district’s “hallway” mess.  Central Office was still recovering from the shock of our Superintendent taking a job in another state, leaving us without someone at the helm in less than a month.  We were already trying to plow an entirely unfamiliar field what with the new demands of COVID and trying to design a robust distance-learning environment from scratch.  This new wrinkle was certainly adding some additional pressures onto an already unusual start up.  The most common statement Admin heard all day was, “I don’t know yet, but I’ll get back to you as soon as I do.”  Of course, when every question you ask has no definite answer, you begin to get the feeling that you better make sure you keep your own boat afloat and keep moving towards the last known destination point for the moment.  Just keep rowing, just keep rowing!  Administrator’s did just that, keeping “radio contact” with each other in the form of Zooms, email, phone calls, and text messages. We did our best to coordinate our efforts and share our solutions from hour to hour.  Meetings on, meetings off, schedule changes at the drop of a hat – just add a dash of chaotic to keep it all interesting!  I’ve never needed or loved my 4 Quadrant Grid (thank you Dr. Covey!) more than I did this week.

Additionally, the state had put out an 1,100-page document a few weeks ago on how to proceed with instruction in light of us all missing an entire quarter last school year.  Although it is a bit vague on the logistical specifics of how to “do school” in these COVID-induced conditions, it is an impressive curriculum document.  It presented a good plan for what to emphasize, standards-wise, to make sure students get back on track.  Of course, that means adjusting all our own internal pacing guides and focus standards.  Not a bad thing, but not a usual huge project to take on right at the beginning of the school year.  Add onto that the state’s pivot (and impending requirement) to shift our reading instruction programs to structured literacy, and we’ve now added another 25 lb weight to the rather heavy rucksack of new, different, heavy and hard that we’re already carrying at the moment.  This week has now brought new resources to learn, new materials being delivered to disperse, and an entirely different instructional approach to implement all while we’re not even face to face with the students.  Oy vey.

Underlying ALL of that is little old us (my principal, Dr. Amazing, and I) – still trying to get the building construction finished and the school ready to open.  Outside doors that don’t lock, alarms that can get set even though said doors aren’t shut or locked, the conference room with electrical issues (like no power in the outlets), rooms without enough or the right furniture while other rooms have too much, and a rather mountainous-looking number of boxes and supplies that still need to get unpacked and put where they belong.  Curriculum is being delivered from vendors, the district curriculum store house, and one of the other elementary schools from whom we’re inheriting 9 teachers and about 200 students.  And it all gets put into the cafeteria on pallets and in piles for us to inventory, sort, and deliver to the appropriate rooms in the building.  All while we’re literally having to create every handbook, roster, and PR announcement from scratch since we are a brand-new building merging the student populations of three buildings into one.  Can I call my plate full yet?  

Tuesday was more of the same work, except our Board of Education met that night to make a decision about which revision of our school calendar would be adopted, based on surveys and input from all stakeholders. 

Wednesday brought the details of the Board’s decision.  Teachers report August 17 and administrators, coaches – basically EVERYBODY – go home for a week and return August 12.  My principal and I just stared at that announcement and schedule for about a full minute before we looked up at each other.  Thankfully, we both have the same sense of humor and appreciation for the absurd.  We both shook our heads and smiled.  “Well then!  I guess we have a lot to do today before we go home,” we said and flew into a five hour frenzy of work to finish 470 welcome letters and get them ready to go out, lots of phone calls and emails to staff to NOT come in the next day, and a complete revamp of our schedules for PD and other staff activities that had been due to start the next day.  

Thursday dawned and found me back in the hallway in my own house.  Again.  Like during the COVID “work at home” sequestration.  Like Dorothy waking up from being in the Land of Oz to find black and white Kansas again. Déjà vu, anyone?  I’m almost a little afraid to think what happens next.  Maybe just brace for impact.

It was quite a week in the hallways and I have a feeling we’re just getting started.  Semper Gumby!  (Ever flexible!) 

Thank you so much for spending your time with me!  If you liked what you read, please hit the subscribe link , hit a like, and share it with those you think might also like it.  Keep smiling and I’ll see you next week in the hallway!