The Horrible New Normal

I am a 46-year-old elementary school teacher, mother of two middle school boys, and wife to a service advisor at a car dealership. When the pandemic hit, pretty much every aspect of my life flipped upside down. I had to suddenly teach my third grade students remotely, with which none of us had any experience. To say this it was a challenge is an extreme understatement. The spring and end of year semester was very different from what greeted us when we got to fall. In the spring, there was very little instructional time, and we were instructed to build social emotional relationships more than anything. Once fall hit, everyone was expected to do the same amount of work as in years past, but in a whole new format. It was challenging with my third graders because they do not have the skill set that older students might have with technology.

My sons have the technology skillset, but lacked motivation, attention, and follow through with work. They had both been A/B students pre-pandemic, but in the first quarter they became D/F students. We had many frustrational moments as a family trying to sort out their difficulties and figure out systems that worked for them to get their work finished. The school system has been constantly attempting to make plans in which students can get back into schools on a part-time basis by splitting them up into opposite days, but the leadership has been lackluster, and so there have been multiple shifts back and forth between modes of teaching, in person versus online, and as a teacher I feel like I have whiplash.

There is no sense of certainty or consistency, and that makes it even harder on top of everything else. I do feel fortunate that I never lost my job nor any income, and my husband was considered an essential worker and his work never closed down either. They did have a very slow period when the lockdowns happened in the spring; however, his work was able to secure a loan to pay employees despite this. Our daily lives have become very empty and filled with anxiety. When the weather was nice, walking was one of the main activities that we did to get out of the house. In the late spring, summer, and fall months we were able to see family and friends outdoors and distanced, but now that winter has hit we are essentially stuck inside and it feels very bleak. I never realized how many things that we took for granted in “normal” life, such as going to the movies, eating inside a restaurant, or having a family Christmas gathering. The mask will forever be a symbol of these times, and my hope is that we will not have to wear these forever- that things can get back to something resembling our old lives.

The extreme turmoil of having the worst US President in history has also not been easy through this. It was bad before the pandemic, but the level of bad increased exponentially, and I felt so helpless and angry, with voting being the only real thing I could do to change things. Now (January) the vaccine is here, but the slow rollout means that we will need to wait for several more months to even consider a return to normalcy. It’s maddening having to wait, but we have no choice in the matter. I’m simply hoping for this to end as soon as possible because this feels unsustainable.

This story is part of a Educators collection.