But you ARE an adult, Ms. Gruber: American Educator in the pandemic edition
The world is starting to feel quiet.
My world, at least.
Now, more than ever, I am glad to be an educator because it gives me a good, solid reason to get up in the morning at a particular time, to still keep track of what time is. My job also requires that I regularly interact with humans, albeit on Zoom.
In conversation with another colleague who also doesn’t have children, we acknowledged our privilege: we can throw ourselves headlong into work because we don’t have kids of our own at home begging for our time.
We can afford to — and many do — think about our students 24/7.
I’m starting to see the cracks in myself.
In other people.
Most heartbreakingly in my students.
I am listening to Nevermind as I write this.
My relationship with this album has evolved over time.
One of my 6th graders recently referred to Nirvana as 70’s rock.
Right now, the album terrifies and fascinates me.
Just as it did upon its release,
for utterly different reasons.
This album was released in my sophomore year of HS.
Right up with Little Earthquakes it was one of the first albums
that ever made me feel seen.
Now, in my forties, it’s a tad angsty for my tastes, but some songs
still give me chills. Like “Come As You Are.”
My friend Roy taught himself
how to play the opening chords when we were in school. And I think of Roy
in my childhood bedroom, playing those chords over and over on the guitar
while we crowded together, sneaking cigs out the window and planning our next stunt.
So the song takes me back there. To Roy. Lori. Rob. Stef. Cherie. Dan. Jeff. Ryan. Our little crew. My high school years. A mosquito. My libido.
We weren’t all happy. We had shit in our lives but we thought (and in fact many of us did) we could do better by getting the fuck out of dodge and making our OWN way, not our parents’ way, not our teachers’ way.
Politics? What about it? Knew nothing of it.
Pandemic? Is that a country in the Indian Ocean?
What? Never heard of that word.
So I listen and go back to that place and just ache with pity for everyone — myself, you, my students, my colleagues.
I was scrolling the intertubes between classes today and saw an article from The Guardian which was like “The Cat Lawyer Video doesn’t teach us anything, but it is funny” and like okay, grumpy, but I actually think that the Cat Video shows humanity which is something that fucking CLEARLY we need to be taught.
Last night I was in bed catching up on the impeachment hearing (you know, making a wise choice for my mental health/sleep patterns) and I could not fathom how a congress person with even the most threadbare shred of human decency could vote on this in any way other than GUILTY.
Those senators who don’t do the right thing (and trust me, I’m NOT holding my breath for the “right thing” to happen) and CONVICT THAT MAN are guilty of a sin.
A sin against not just America, but against human goodness and decency.
All this to say, even if it all means nothing. Even if we’re just little hairless animals on two legs wobbling around a pointless planet in an arbitrary universe until we turn into dust (which I suspect may very well be true of our condition), even if that IS the truth, why not just make this little fucking span of life we’re all afforded AS NICE AS POSSIBLE.
Meaning or not, there’s some cool shit IN THIS LIFE and UPON THIS EARTH. Soak it up because, if I may be cancer lady for a moment, it goes so fucking fast and before you know it you’ve been in pandemic lockdown for a year.
I didn’t read The Guardian article.
I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
I teach my students that there is meaning behind images, and words, and events.
I teach my students that there is meaning in their existence.
That’s what we all want: a little meaning right now.
We find it in different ways, but hopefully we find it.
For me, as ever, I find meaning in my students and in my writing.
Or I make meaning from those places.
I cannot look at that sixth grader, in class on his tummy, gigantic headphones, waggling his legs behind him, and think “Fuck it. It’s all lost.”
Not to turn this into a BUT THE CHILDREN post —
BUT THE CHILDREN.
Stop regarding kids as things you need to stash somewhere.
Stop regarding them as vessels needing to be filled with rote information.
Stop regarding them as nuisances.
We’re the grown ups.
Let’s treat the kids the way we wanted to be treated when we were their age.
Think about it.
What did you want when you were listening to Nevermind for the first time? (Or whatever that album was for your generation.) What did you want from the adults around you? I wanted to not feel stupid. I wanted to be heard. I wanted someone to see me and know that I was good for something even if my grades were for shit. (My grades were ALWAYS shit, and I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. So I guess, on some level, I have a bias against “traditional grades” because they are only capable of conveying two stark messages: “You are a good robot!” or “You suck as a robot! Be a better robot next time!”
So I had the best fucking time with my Middle Schoolers today.
We learned about metaphor.
We made metaphors for Modern Times that were INFINITELY MORE ACCURATE (as they pointed out) than “we’re all in the same boat together.”
We were learning and cracking up and making these super specific weird metaphors that, on the whole, were apt for the times in which we find ourselves. (I mean, how could a metaphor for these times be anything but SURREAL.) And at one point I said, “You folks are so much more fun than adults.”
To which a student replied, “But Ms. Gruber you ARE an adult.”
“So I am,” I said. “And when I was a kid, I hated other kids. Now that I’m an adult, I prefer the company of young people most days. Go figure.”
My point is we were learning and collaborating and laughing and I have to believe there’s value and meaning in that.
I mean, maybe I’m a fanatic.
Maybe I’ve gone radical where it concerns education
and writing (hell, I’ve all but done away with any sort of traditional structure in these posts). Maybe we get more radical, more passionate when our backs are against the wall. Teachers? Our backs are against the wall.
Students are falling apart.
Traditional systems of educational power (state boards, principals, et al) are struggling to adapt to this new reality. Some are falling apart of their own volition, some are falling apart despite attempts to hold the old ways up, others are holding onto the old ways even as the old ways begin to actively rot and stink to high heaven. (I’m talking about education and America at large.)
Parents are blaming teachers.
Teachers are blaming administrators.
Administrators are blaming the state.
Parents are blaming administrators.
Teachers are blaming parents.
The grown ups are arguing as well we possibly should, but maybe we could make it more . . . I don’t know . . . civil?
I can only speak for myself, but I can assure you 1) I fully believe online education is NOT as good as in person, but here we are and 2) I spend more than 8 hours a day in my office at home working on student/school stuff 3) and then I need to write about it on this here Medium blog to decompress/make sense of my days.
My wife defers to exercise and prayer for solace.
I defer to the keyboard or notepad.
And I confess
I care too fucking much.
I wish I could let go.
Turns out I haven’t come to full terms with this “new world.”
Turns out I am fundamentally powerless against certain forces.
Particularly as a woman. Particularly as a woman who is “aging out” of relevance as far as patriarchy is concerned. Women’s wisdom is always tossed out unless we are loud as hell. Same could be said for virtually every group of people on the planet who have been harmed by White Supremacy (white male supremacy + woman hating = white women internalizing and reinforcing racism AND woman hating, even though they are harmed by both).
Some might say EVERYONE is harmed by white supremacy, but I do not think that is true at all. Take Trump (I’m sorry, but the man is the direct reason for this perpetual season), you think he’s been harmed by White Supremacy? He’s a fucking psycho. Psycho white people love White Supremacy and the advantages it provides. To hell with everyone else. These people believe NOTHING has meaning. Life is just a mean, ugly power grab.
I am sorry to these people.
Nonetheless, we need to stop letting these people control systems that belong to us as communities: education, healthcare, all organizations and business, really.
We need to stop tolerating white men (and women) who bully their way to the top in a frantic grab for power.
Let’s take care of each other.
Let’s make this little time we have on earth less hellacious than it, intrinsically, has to be what with, at the very least, the whole “awareness of own inevitable mortality” thing (and yeah, Elon Musk, et al., you can buy up all the good property on this continent, but you’re probably still going to die).
I’ve always dealt fairly well with deep change. I’d say I’m good at “adapting,” but this pandemic shit is really, really testing that strength.
What I mean is that the Cat Lawyer video, the one that “has no meaning”?
I thought it was about adapting.
I thought when Cat Lawyer (Rod Ponton) offered to “go forward” AS A CAT it was a lesson in adapting and persevering. Not explicitly. Not deliberately. Just because I have eyes and can observe human behavior.
Maybe it’s because I’m a pleb. I’m not in the 1%. I can’t just “do whatever I feel like with impunity.” Frankly, as a woman, the latter has never been my lot even in pre-pandemic times.
All of my kids — from 12th to 6th — have been complaining this week of odd exhaustion. Their sleep schedules are disturbed. We talked about this in each of my classes, briefly, today. We offered each other tips for sleeping better: hot tea, melatonin, ambient music, boring podcasts, no blue screens in bed, exercise . . .
This is a byproduct of the pandemic. I am certain of this. The kids aren’t sleeping well just as the adults aren’t sleeping well because we’ve been cooped up for a YEAR. A whole fucking YEAR.
And I just want us to all remember, as we watch the second impeachment trial, that COVID would have happened with or without the rabid, immoral bastards in the GOP (Trump at the helm for some reason I will never be able to grasp). COVID is not a political problem. At least not at its source.
The fact that one year after the pandemic struck the so called “best” country on earth is still cooped up on fucking lockdown of one kind or another IS political.
We are suffering because the Trump administration was inept.
Worse than inept, they were indifferent.
That is a sin against the citizens of this country. Every single one. Dead or alive after this pandemic ends.
My students are losing their minds.
I’m not being hyperbolic.
Some of them aren’t even aware it’s happening, but I notice in these freakish conversations we’re all having about the SAME “sleep problems.”
The cracks are showing.
Cracks that were made deeper and more fraught by the action or rather INACTION of men (and a few women) who swore an oath to the good of their constituents.
Where is the good in this?
We are literally losing our fucking minds because we gave THAT much power to ONE stupid asshole.
And we’ve been handing power to stupid, belligerent, violent assholes since the beginning of time.
I’m sick of it.
I hope you’re sick of it, too.
Now what do we do to go forward in good faith and progress?