• Amber Chandler

What phase is this?

My kids and I were talking and discussing the fact that Covid-time is completely different than "real time." We just passed the 6 month mark since the Great Pause (my nickname for the beginning phase of quarantine). We were actually, weirdly, reminiscing about "back in Quarantine."


My family, probably just like yours, was REALLY incredibly busy back in early March, particularly if your kiddos are into music. Spring is concert season and All-Area and All-State, and those types of things I can't keep straight. So, when the Great Pause began, I was wildly optimistic that this was going to be a time to just relax. Almost like a giant snow day. I missed seeing my students in person, but I was in constant contact and things went about as well as could be expected. I thought of this time as a forced slow down. Governor Cuomo, who I have actually protested against regarding state testing, became a rock star, and we'd gather around the television together for updates, like it was the 6 o'clock news from my childhood.


Then, the next phase, which I tend to think of as the "In Between." We were out of school a little early, but it wasn't exactly summer, and in New York we couldn't do anything anyway. My son and I played a lot of basketball, my daughter practically became a prairie woman, making homemade rolls, cookies, and pastries. She started her own business during this time and we delivered her treats around Western New York, leaving things on porches. We were allowed to go out into nature, not something my family is really into. We are more dinner and a movie, or coffee shop and bookstore people. However, we found ourselves at Glen Falls, Chestnut Ridge, and Sturgeon Point. We ate Chinese take-out in the car, where my husband brought his own plate and real silverware.


The next phase, the one we've just finished, has been the Work-All-The-Time-What-Day-Is-This Phase. I'm the Director of Summer School, and our Union President, so I was busy with that work, but for some reason it seems my family was doing the same over-the-top amount of work. My husband miraculously landed a new job during a pandemic, so he's been putting in the extra time to ingratiate himself and figure things out. Zoey got a job bussing tables and doing dishes at Pisquales, and she's worked about 20 hours a week all summer. Oliver began skateboarding and there was a pretty amazing run of that until he broke his arm a few weeks ago. He was working though--he went from not being able to skate to being able to "drop in" within a few months. That was cool until a freak accident sent him to the hospital with stitches and an arm broken in three places.


Now, my question, and I think maybe everyone's question is "What Phase is This?" Perhaps you had some different phases than I described here, but everyone I've talked to has been able to sort their own phases. The problem though is this: right now, I don't know what is going to happen next. That is particularly scary because I've been in school for 41 of my 46 years.


If I know anything, I know what the first day of school feels like, smells like, and all the feels it brings. Excitement. Fresh start. New notebooks. Planner pages. The cooler nights, and the butterflies.


Right now though, I'm in disbelief that school is actually happening next week. This is the first time in my life that I haven't had a picture in my head of what it will be like. 6 feet a part. Only 14 kiddos at a time. Not seeing students every day. My own kids at home without me there, somehow, hopefully doing what they are supposed to do. Masks. The masks. I just can't even. We have been full supporters of mask wearing in my family, but wow, it is hard to project my voice through them. I've bought a few clear ones so students will be able to make out my face and read my lips.


But even now, if I push aside the uncertainty, I've found great activities, updated my website, and decided to dust off an oldie but goodie, The Pigman, for our first novel. I'm preparing webquest and Google Forms, and I made a "meet the teacher" video for my website for those students who won't start school in person.


Tonight, on a whim, I took my son to Tony's and then we went to the beach to watch the sun set. We haven't had that kind of easiness that usually fills our summer. My dad passed away in the spring and my brother a few weeks ago, and frankly, all that has been weighing on me hasn't allowed for much lightness.


And, as I pulled in the driveway from this small adventure, I found myself thinking, "What phase is this?" Almost immediately, I thought, oh, this is the "Find Your Footing Phase." I don't know what is going to happen in the next few weeks, or even months, but at some point, I'll look back and say, "I just had to find my footing" to completely remake something I've done for 41 YEARS in basically the same way. The thing is, it isn't just a find my footing phase, it is the same for my own kiddos and the students I'll have.


I have my work cut out, but I know that by helping others I usually find my way. I've got 124 new students, two of my own children, and a husband to help find their footing. Though this is daunting, it's kind of the whole point of teaching, right? We've go this teachers.


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