A Speech Teacher's Pandemic Story

Smiling woman in green cardigan and shamrock socks
Woman's hands pulling up shamrock socks

I am a Speech Language Pathologist working in an elementary school in Marin County California.  One year ago, the first week of March 2020, my daughter and I spent an afternoon shopping. On this shopping trip, I bought an outfit to wear to school on St. Patrick’s day, a green cardigan, shamrock socks, and sparkly black boots. I love to surprise my students with silly, fun outfits to celebrate days throughout the year.

At that time, we had been hearing about Covid. It was on our mind.We had heard there was a case in Marin, and we were concerned. There were no safety measures in place, no one had heard of wearing a mask in public. I had recently returned from Portland, meeting my younger grandson for the first time. He was born January 27, 2020. In fact, I’d been traveling up to the Pacific Northwest to spend time with my older kids and my grandson in Portland and Seattle about once a month up until then.

I had my St. Patrick’s day outfit ready to go after that shopping trip the first week of March. I never got to wear it.  On Wednesday March 11, 2020 the administration from the school district where I work emailed us letting us know that the school may close briefly due to the rapidly spreading virus, but our district was going to try something new. We had closed for several days at a time over the past few years, for flooding, for poor air quality due to wildfires, for “Public Safety Power Shutoffs.” With the potential school closure due to the virus, the district wanted us to try something new, we were told.

We were asked to try to teach remotely, if the closure were to happen. That was on Wednesday. All of us nervously checked our email between classes. Were we really going to go forward with this experiment? Teach remotely? How were we supposed to do that? There was no template, no guidebook. Where would we start? We asked the administration repeatedly if we were going to go forward with closure, and experimental on-line teaching. The answer was, we’re not sure yet. Late in the school day on Friday, March 13, we got word that, indeed, the school would close effective immediately, and we would teach online- for two weeks.

Because the final word came so late in the day, I didn’t have a chance to stop by my second office located in another school, meaning I didn’t have all of my materials. But it would only be two weeks, right? To make a much longer story short, I haven’t taught from my classroom since that Friday, a year ago, March 13, 2020. The changes happened head-spinningly rapidly.

My small, three person family has spent an entire year in our small apartment. Myself, my colleagues and our administration figured out- from scratch, how to continue our comprehensive educational program remotely. I was not able to see my older kids, or my parents in person. My Dad turned 80, My older grandson turned two, and my younger grandson, the one who I saw just after his birth, the last time I was in Portland, turned one. All without me being there to celebrate with them. Thankfully we were able to have a few socially distanced, outside, masked up visits as my parents visited and at another time, two of my older kids.

My colleagues went back to teaching in person in a “hybrid model” over a period of time, but I remained remote. I fought with the district’s expectation of me returning to campus while the virus numbers grew in our area. I was able to continue working from home. A week ago, I learned that after many false starts and dashed hopes, I was able to get an appointment to receive my vaccine. It feels like I won the lottery, The day for my vaccine has finally come. The past year is a blur, a black hole of time. Somehow we are back in March. As I go the the county vaccination site, I am donning the green cardigan, the shamrock socks and the sparkly boots I bought all those months, a full YEAR ago, as I am getting immunized against Covid 19.