Posted in Life, Random

The Pandemic Has Made Us Weird

I said hi to a mannequin last week.

This wasn’t one of those situations where you accidentally bump into a mannequin and instinctively say “Excuse me” before realizing it wasn’t a real person. No, I was a good fifteen feet from this mannequin when I glanced up and said, “Hi!” and smiled behind my double layer of masks. Looking back now, I’m not even sure it had a head. I just saw a human-shaped torso in a cute cardigan out of the corner of my eye and enthusiastically greeted it. This is when I realized I need to get out more.

The pandemic has made us weird. And for those of us who were already weird, the pandemic has made us noticeably weirder.

Take clothing choices, for example.

Our school used to have a “Pajama Day” a couple of times a year where students and staff came to school in their pjs. It was a fun day where everyone looked cute and comfy and silly. Ever since students came back to campus from virtual learning, many of them wear their pajamas every day. And I don’t mean cute, matching flannel outfits they picked out to wear to school. I mean old, faded pajamas that I truly believe they slept in the night before and are going to sleep in again. On the one hand, I don’t care. I’m just glad they’re at school and wearing a mask. It doesn’t matter to me that they’re also wearing ratty fleece SpongeBob SquarePants pants and a hoodie that says, “I paused my game to be here.” On the other hand, I worry that these kids will one day have to wear actual clothes to their future jobs, and I’m concerned they won’t know how to dress. On the third hand*, I sometimes wonder if there will be any jobs in the future where people have to wear something other than pajamas. **

* I told you, the pandemic has made us weird. It seems I am growing extra hands.

** I might be wearing pajamas right now as I write this at 2:00PM on a Sunday.

Our guest lists have changed in odd ways, too. In the past, we wanted to surround ourselves with the most interesting people, the ones who had the best stories to tell or exciting news to share. A few years ago, the perfect guest list for a dinner party would have included a successful doctor who could describe the details of saving a life, a teacher with hilarious anecdotes from his classroom, a journalist with tales from her intense field experience, and the friends who just returned from a trip around the world. These days, when deciding who to invite over for an intimate game night, the conversations are a little different.

“How about Name? He’s really nice.”
“Yeah, but he’s always going to concerts and volunteering at clinics. What about Name?”
“She’s a little strange. She never leaves her house, and she’s kind of a germophobe.”
“Exactly. Call her.” ***

*** By her, I might mean me. I am triple vaxed, obsessive about masking and handwashing and am tentatively available to hang out outdoors with you, provided the daily number of covid cases at my school is not alarmingly high the day before we’re scheduled to meet.

I don’t believe anyone is going to come through this pandemic without being altered in some way, and I am known to embrace weirdness, so it’s okay if you’re a slightly stranger version of yourself right now. You have a right to be. Go ahead and trade handshaking for elbow bumps, cut your own hair, and shout, “It’s just allergies!” every time you sneeze. It’s all good. But if you find yourself having a more than one word conversation with a mannequin or going to a job interview in your pajamas, it might be time for a gentle intervention.

Posted in Life, Lists, Teaching

11 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Former Teacher

Former teachers make the best employees (and there’s probably about to be a lot more of them), so if you’re looking to expand your workforce, here’s why you should consider hiring an educator.

#1: Excellent Communication Skills

Teachers are expert communicators. They can speak to everyone from children to board members to angry parents in a calm, enthusiastic manner, and they maintain a cheery attitude, even as they repeat the same thing 700 times a day. They’re good at speaking clearly, writing professional emails, and (thanks to covid) they have learned to convey a wide range of emotions from happy to shocked to sternly disappointed, with only their eyes.

#2: Fast Learners

Concerned that a former teacher doesn’t have the specific skillset you’re looking for? Give them an uninterrupted hour and see what they do with it. (The first thing they will do is look scared and confused because they’ve never been given an uninterrupted hour before. To make them feel more comfortable in this situation, try ringing a bell once in a while or screaming in the office next door for no reason.) Educators are given new technology on a yearly (sometimes weekly) basis, trained on it for thirty to forty-five minutes, and expected to implement it with 140 users the following day. And they DO. When the technology doesn’t work as advertised (it never does) and when the users haven’t been added correctly (they never are) the teacher figures it out, makes it work, and hands out two Band-Aids, a laptop charger, and a pass to the counselor’s office all at the same time. Teachers are learners. Give them a chance to learn, and they will wow you.

#3: Calm Under Pressure

Teachers remain calm in stressful situations. We are used to having unexpected (and unusual) circumstances pop up in the workplace, and we handle them swiftly and without panicking. Even when we may be freaking out inside, we remain cool, composed, and unruffled to the outside observer. Situations in which I, myself, have had to remain calm include but are not limited to the following:

  • A student sticking a paperclip in his eye
  • A student sticking scissors in an outlet (This actually happened next door, but I had to watch both classes while the teacher escorted her shocked (literally) student to the nurse.)
  • A student vomiting in my trash can
  • A student drawing Pennywise-the-clown makeup on his face during my lesson
  • Having to keep my students in my room for an extra half hour because there was a bat in the school that had to be caught before we could release them into the hallways again

#4: Great Public Speaking

Educators are comfortable in front of large groups of people. We know how to get the attention of a crowd, and we can project our voices when the mic doesn’t work.

#5: Masters of the Pivot

The definition of flexibility in the dictionary should have a picture of a teacher next to it. Teachers are excellent planners. We create engaging, educational lessons properly paced to fit within our forty-five-minute, one hour, or ninety-minute classes. But we know, when creating them, that the chances of the lesson going exactly as planned are slim. Anything from a technology outage, a fire drill, or a disruptive student can throw off the best laid plans. That’s why we’re always ready to pivot. Swap the writing lesson for reading time. Take a walk outside to escape the heat of the broken air conditioning. Do Friday’s lesson on Thursday, or reteach what the class learned on Wednesday if they’re still struggling with the material. Changing plans is part of the job when you’re a teacher. We’re better at it than anyone should have to be.

#6: Strong Organizational Skills

Teachers must have systems in place to keep track of who’s absent, who’s missing work, who’s failing, who’s in the restroom, and who’s allergic to peanuts. They have to differentiate every assessment for each student’s individualized learning plan, and they have to keep data on each student’s progress. This takes an organized mind and (for me personally) a lot of different colored pens. (Side note: Teachers love office supplies. If your company wants to up your sticky note game or needs advice on the best brand of marker, hire a former teacher.)

During hybrid teaching, the need to stay organized increased tenfold. Suddenly teachers’ desks looked more like the workstations of air traffic controllers: multiple monitors, a dozen tabs open, headphones, the dings of various messages and notifications interrupting every other sentence, and the poor teacher coordinating it all. (Please note that none of us want to do that again, but we can. We did. No planes crashed on our watch.)

#7: High E.Q.

Companies today are beginning to see how valuable it is for their leaders to have strong emotional intelligence in addition to intellectual intelligence. Being able to relate to others, to empathize and connect as humans, is essential to creating a successful staff. Employees are happier, less stressed, and more motivated to produce quality products when their emotional needs are met in the workplace. Teachers are ahead of the game when it comes to E.Q. They’ve been trained in Social Emotional Learning and have both participated in and led numerous team-building exercises. Educators know the power of intrinsic motivation. They know that students won’t perform their best if they don’t feel safe in their environment, and they won’t reach their full potential unless they care about the work they’re doing. If you need someone to build relationships within your workforce and help your organization feel more cohesive, what you need is a teacher.

#8: Boundless Creativity

Teachers are problem solvers, content creators, web designers, and miracle workers. In addition to teaching, we also have to decorate our classrooms and hallway bulletin boards, participate in random dress-up days throughout the year, and constantly come up with fresh, engaging, interactive lessons to ensure that our students aren’t bored. A teacher’s creativity knows no limits. Try us.

#9: Assorted Skills

Teachers have skills you might not even know your company needs. We’ve been trained (yearly) to deal with seizures, peanut allergies, asthma, fires, tornadoes, lockdowns, cyber security, suicide prevention, bullying, covid protocols, active shooter scenarios, the proper way to use an epi pen, and how to safely clean up blood. You’re welcome.

#10: Lunchtime Entertainment

Former educators have endless funny stories to tell about our teaching career, the kinds of things that sound made up but aren’t, so we can keep your team entertained on lunch breaks. Plus, we all eat super fast, so we’ll be finished long before everyone else.

#11: Appreciative of Perks

Teachers are used to doing a lot of extra work for no extra pay. Everything from bus duty to cafeteria duty to academic coaching to after school tutoring fall into the category of “Other Duties as Assigned,” and these minutes taken away from conference periods, lunches, and evenings are rarely compensated. The kind of perks we’re used to are jeans passes (You get to wear jeans on a day that’s not Friday! Yea!) and snack size candies in the lounge. If you give a former teacher stock options or a bonus or the ability to go to the bathroom whenever they want, they will cry with gratitude.

*

All joking aside, teachers are some of the smartest, hardest working, biggest-hearted, most creative and passionate people on the planet. They’re just looking for a chance to make a difference in an environment where they’re valued for their skills and effort. Their resumé may not wow you at first glance, but if you give them a chance to learn, and if you treat them with respect, they will blow you away with their work ethic and dedication. Hire a former teacher. You won’t be sorry.

Posted in Life, Teaching

A Weird Kind of Nostalgia

Ten years ago this May, three days before my husband left home for a week-long business trip to Hungary, I did something incredibly stupid.

I drank after a toddler.

I know, I know. How could I be that dumb? I KNOW little kids are gross. I KNOW they’re little bags of boogers and cooties. But when our friend stopped by with his daughter and she asked for a glass of juice and only took two sips of it before abandoning the rest, I let my “Don’t be wasteful” mindset overcome my “Do not poison thyself with the vile germs of a child” mindset and drank the rest of it.

Two days later, I learned that the child in question had hand-foot-and-mouth disease*. The next day, just as the hubby was leaving for the airport, I woke up with a fever.

I don’t get sick a lot. A cold here, a little food poisoning there, but for the most part, I tend to stay away from illnesses because they’re gross. So this was the first fever I’d had since… I’d become an adult. At least as far as I could remember. And it was NOT FUN. I stayed in bed with a 102° temperature for twenty-four hours. I must have fed my cats at some point, or they probably would have eaten me, and I vaguely remember letting my leashed puppy out the door to run into the waiting arms of my sweet neighbor so she could walk him for me (without actually entering the house of the sick) but that’s it. Otherwise, I slept, moaned, and eventually sweated myself awake, confused, hungry, and REALLY regretting drinking that juice.

When I’d showered and eaten a piece of toast, I Googled hand-foot-and-mouth disease to see what I was in for. The internet told me I would begin seeing symptoms three to five days after exposure (check), have fever for twenty-four hours (check), then a sore throat for one to two days, followed by red sores on my (you guessed it) hands, feet, and/or mouth. As I finished reading the article and swallowed my last bite of toast, I felt the bread crust scrape down the sides of my already tender throat. This is going to be fun, I thought. And it was. (Just kidding. It was not fun.)

A week later, the spots on my hands had almost completely cleared up—thankfully, I didn’t get any on my feet or mouth—and by the time my husband returned to the country, I was pretty much back to normal.

And I never drank after a toddler again.

The end.

But it’s not really the end because today, I found myself looking back on this experience with a touch of nostalgia.

It’s not that I want to shiver, sweat, cringe, and itch my way through a week of hand-foot-and-mouth disease again because I don’t. I really, really don’t. But there was something so satisfying about being told exactly how the virus would run its course and then having the virus do exactly that. Y’all, I’m a teacher. I LOVE it when things follow directions. Lately, that’s the most frustrating thing about covid. It’s not following directions.

Omicron is sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day***. So far this week, I’ve had eighteen students absent, and our admin team is spending all their time calling families to let them know their child was exposed to someone who tested positive for covid. We’re supposed to stay home if we’re sick and get tested if we think we might be infected, but Googling omicron symptoms brings up a dozen different articles saying a dozen different things. It feels like allergies, it feels like the flu, it comes with a fever, it doesn’t come with a fever, it starts with a sore throat, it includes an upset stomach, it feels like a cold, it doesn’t feel like anything at all because some people are completely asymptomatic…

This vague advice makes me question every sneeze, sniffle, cough, and eye twitch, but ultimately, I keep going to work and teaching whoever is there and waiting for the email to let us know how many new cases our school has that day.

We are ALL tired of covid. I know that. I feel it. I wish I could snap my fingers and make it all go away. Since I can’t, I have a new wish. I just want it to start following directions. Tell me exactly when I’ll get sick and how and for how long. No more rogue viruses. Make covid follow the rules like everybody else.

That’s all I ask.

Here’s hoping that all of my readers are safe and healthy. I hope none of you have covid (or hand-foot-and-mouth disease either) or that if you do, you have a light case. Get vaccinated, and encourage your loved ones to get vaccinated too, and hang in there with me as we make our way through this mess. We can do it!
*sanitizes hands for fiftieth time today*

* No, hand-foot-and-mouth disease is not something farm animals get**. It’s a virus that is common in human children and less common (but really, really not fun) in human adults.

** Ok, I was wrong. I just looked it up, and foot-and-mouth disease IS, in fact, something that farm animals get. So the people who said to me, “Isn’t that a farm animal disease?” probably didn’t totally deserve the mean looks I gave them. But HAND-foot-and-mouth disease is a human virus. Because humans have hands. #science

*** Coincidentally, cedar fever is also sweeping through our schools like cedar pollen on a windy day, and the fact that its symptoms are so similar to omicron’s nebulous, varied symptoms is not helping anything.