Disjointed Metaphors: Thoughts as I return from Winter Break

Triage:

  • the process of determining the most important people or things from amongst a large number that require attention. (Google)

Cruise Control:

  • also known as speed control, cruise command, autocruise, or tempomat) is a system that automatically controls the speed of a motor vehicle (Google)

Every year between Fall Break (which tends to be around Indigenous Peoples’ Day), and Thanksgiving, teachers experience what we call The Crawl to Thanksgiving, or at least that’s what my teaching professor called it. See by October, norms have been established, a rhythm is present and for better or for worse, you come into the school day with similar expectations as to the previous. The unfortunate reality about The Crawl, is that it’s the longest chunk in the fall semester without a break, without a three-day weekend, without an early release; and it makes the break that much more sweet. Now imagine this, but amped up by 100% now that we live in a permanent pandemic.

As a teacher, I thought 2020 – 2021 would be our hardest school year ever. We came into the school year with a lot of unknowns, but truth be told, at least in my school and district, we fell into another rhythm, another routine. Sure it was hard at times, but I felt like the expectations of the year were firmly established, and so even if our boat was shambled, we still knew how to ride the waves. By March and April, things were looking up, staff were getting vaccinated, students could go outside, we could unmask for a bit, it seemed like we were ready to put it all behind us, and then Delta hits. Then the school year of 2021 – 2022 began.

The Crawl this year felt ever more raw because this year felt raw. Every week another community member tested positive, every week a new initiative or assessment or some other thing was rolled out. I remember just visually surveying my colleagues and seeing the wear and tear and longing for just a chance to catch their breath. Then the break came and oh it was so good and so sweet, and it was also way too short. It turns out the break was not as restful, and in fact many of us returned with an even heightened state of anxiety and angst, an almost permanent state of tautness.

So why do I bring this all up? Why do I start off my post today with triage? Well, as we return from Winter Break, I see my colleagues, and truth be told, triage is getting harder and harder to do. Speaking personally, it’s getting harder and harder to make decisions based on importance or necessity, rather the decision has sorta been to turn on cruise control and keep pushing forward. With Omicron, and staff shortages, and testing backlogs, it’s really hard to see the end of the tunnel. It’s really hard to make decisions knowing full well that everything hangs on a delicate rope, with no real net to catch us. I’m probably not alone in feeling this way, my profession is probably not the only one in this predicament, and yet it all feels so isolating.

I wonder if we’re all just on cruise control, all going the same speed. I wonder if someone decides to break/brake, and that creates a chain reaction that causes a pileup. I wonder if this pileup may actually be the point where we do get to take stock and triage, and I wonder how many of us will swerve to avoid it, or go right for it.

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