I am living my best life.
I sleep in until 8:00. In the early days of the shutdown, my beloved Starbucks abandoned me. Only two little independent coffee shops were open through March and early April. One is just around the corner and serves cornbeef hash made from scratch. The other is a mile away with a fairly generic menu. So every morning I go on a two mile jaunt for coffee to avoid the thirty pounds I’d gain eating that cornbeef hash every day. The walk gives me plenty of time to chat with the dozens of others out on the sidewalk, something I rarely have the opportunity to do when commuting every day. The rest of the morning in and around coffee is Twitter, the news, water the garden, maybe make a trip to the hardware or grocery store. Nothing intense, just little tasks. At 10:30 I start my first “office hours” session, working on zoom calls until 2, occasionally scheduling a later session for working students.
I don’t offer “classes” per se. I just assign work, tell students to show up a couple times a week in Zoom sessions, and let them choose when. Timeshifting isn’t usually an opportunity granted teachers, much less the ability to work from home. While I love the flexibility of office hours, remote classes narrow the entire act of teaching down to one mode. Explanation has always been my strong suit, but there’s so much more to teaching. I miss the variety. I miss my job.
Ninety percent of my students were regular participants for the first month, eighty percfent the next, but those numbers will fall. Like most district and union shutdown grading agreements, ours is a spectacularly stupid policy. 1) Grades are credit/no credit only. 2) Students who were passing on the day the schools shut down are guaranteed a credit grade. In short, students with a D or higher in mid-march don’t have to do a thing and the district is legally committed to give them a passing grade. It’s amazing we have any students at all. On the other hand, the participation and learning I see my students achieving leaves my original expectations in the dust. The bureaucrats are doing a great deal wrong. My students are doing a great deal right.
After my last zoom call finishes up, once Starbucks finally reopened, I take another mile and a half trek for an iced espresso. Sometimes the late afternoon is spent in my garden, which is the entire backyard: tomatoes, corn, beans, squash, watermelon, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, basil. Weeds are a problem this year; I’m mulching with my stepdad in a couple days.
I am running an “after school” club activity that I dreamed up to give interested students some experience planning and managing a donation project. This takes a couple hours of every day, either creating products or buying supplies. Add to that the few hours a week spent driving around to student homes, delivering materials to assemble various products that we’re donating. Mondays or Wednesdays I usually head into school just to see the place, talk to my tech guy about various issues, collect any supplies I need.
My favorite restaurant has as much respect for pandemic laws as I do, and allows regulars to dine in. I stop in at least once a week, often bringing a friend or colleague, or maybe my brother. A few other restaurants are open on the same basis: the barbecue joint up the street, the pho shop I frequent, and the Vietnamese sandwich shop. The liquor store beer bar I love is still open, but Bart left the state to teach while living with his girlfriend, so I don’t go as often as I used to.
Almost every day, I walk to one of three stores for dinner groceries. On Friday and Saturdays, my nephew hangs out with us; we cook a big dinner and have movie night. I try to keep up on grading while watching TV.
My maid service comes every two weeks. Every six weeks, Lyle the stylist, as he insists on being called, comes by and does hair–mine, my brother’s, anyone else who hears he’s coming. I’m starting up acupuncture pretty soon. As is probably clear, I follow only those pandemic laws that would put a business or employer in jeopardy if they were caught allowing the behavior. I’m fairly scrupulous at school and extremely cautious in any student interactions. Most of the time, I blissfully abstain from virtuous pandemic theatrics.
My life is great. Like, Tony Tiger grrrrreat. The luxury of time, meaningful occupations both professional and vocational.
Another piece of good fortune: no one in my family is financially at risk. Parents are retired. My sister and her husband are wealthy enough to be semi-retired, although my sister still sells diet products for another five figures a month. My grocery manager brother is busy and respected in the community, regularly working with city managers, nursing home staff, and so on. My other brother spent a couple weeks unemployed but is back at work. My son is in sales, but the shutdown hit when he was at the top of a cycle and he took unemployment too. He’s enjoyed family time at home with his wife and two kids, feeling very lucky for the opportunity, and just went back to work. If all that good fortune isn’t cause enough for celebration, my renters are employed.
So my life, which I already found deeply satisfying, has improved in almost every way by being forced to work from home–the only exception being the work itself.
But my easy living barely compensates for the fury. I am aghast at the utter waste and devastation caused by this needless national shutdown. I’m furious at the media which openly advocates for policies rather than trying to inform the public. Disgusted at governors who caved to the media. Incoherently, snarlingly hostile to people who see nothing wrong in placing their (or others) peace of mind above the well-being of children and young adults. I try not to rant about it and in real life, anyway, I succeed. Most of the time.
At least the people in my community share my disdain, whether they say so or not. Surveys say my neighbors support the shutdown laws. Observations say otherwise. The parking lots are full. Stores are crowded. Lines are long. Apart from rush hour, traffic is pretty heavy. Mask wearing is barely what’s required by law. No one’s huddling in their houses. It’s a deep deep blue region. People will starve before they give Trump the satisfaction of a protest. But random, frequent conversations reveal I’m not alone in my annoyance and anger.
It’s Twitter and the media, the outside world, that flummoxes me with the constant reminder of the mindsets that got us into this mess. The other day, mild-mannered Damon Linker said, without apparent shame, that schools should be closed as long as need be to ensure that children don’t infect vulnerable adults in their family. When I asked how long he was planning on locking kids down, preventing them from living every day life, he asked angrily who would console his children if they infected him and his wife both of whom are in high-risk categories. Now, I don’t want Damon Linker’s kids to feel guilty, but wouldn’t it be much less catastrophic if he just kept them home? But no, he feels that since many others have the same vulnerability, schools should stay closed. That’s a whole level of entitlement I don’t get. I do not take the thousands of deaths lightly. Neither do the many other people who find this lockdown unnecessary.
I remind myself frequently of my tremendous luck and fruitful, happy life in lockdown, to keep my mood as balanced as possible.
The disconnect between my comfortable circumstances and my anger at the decisions that forced this life upon me can be disconcerting. Were I younger, I’d probably spend all my time fuming and none just enjoying the freedom. But I was self-employed for twenty years, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel a shiver of the economic devastation the pandemic would have brought down on me had it hit had the pandemic hit during one of my earlier careers. So I enjoy the sun, the walking, the neighbors, the coffee, the garden, the time spent with students. I try not to obsess about events–now, see, don’t get the wrong idea. I obsess all the time, but mostly about my own life. The world I leave for others to worry about, usually.
Anyway. While reviewing this piece about my terrific lockdown life, I suddenly asked myself if I could do anything to feel even more productive and happy. And the answer came back instantly:
I could write more.
May 27th, 2020 at 2:15 pm
[…] Source: Education Realist […]
May 28th, 2020 at 11:16 pm
What a wonderful idea.
May 29th, 2020 at 6:32 pm
Which part? Oh, writing more. Ha.
May 31st, 2020 at 3:23 pm
June 3rd, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Well, Ed, strange times, but I hope you’re enjoying people finally going after a public-sector union that doesn’t represent teachers. And it looks like everyone has decided you were right about the lockdowns too!
June 3rd, 2020 at 9:00 pm
I hope so!
On the public sector unions, I don’t know if you were prescient or if you posted when I made this tweet, but for those of you who didn’t see it:
June 15th, 2020 at 7:35 pm
June 16th, 2020 at 1:40 pm
Nice balanced take.
Can you please help me try and find one if your old posts, it was about no child left behind basically being the right calling the lefts bluff on equal outcomes, if we spent more money. I searched nclb and no child left behind and came up empty.
Am I misremembering?
Thanks in advance.
June 17th, 2020 at 6:04 am
Thanks! Is it this one?
Fallacy behind all reform:
“I’m no fan of progressives, so it’s pretty amusing watching them sputter. They can’t say, “WTF? We never thought everyone would actually achieve at the same level, dammit! We wanted everything to look equal, so that we could browbeat employers and colleges! Tests are racist!” Besides, it’s their idiotic mandates we’re all being forced to live up to now, and they had no more basis for demanding them than reformers do in enforcing them.”
June 19th, 2020 at 3:35 am
Thanks, that’s a very good article but I don’t believe it’s the one I was seeking. The one I’m thinking of was less expansive in scope. It was more just about leftists wanting more money and the right saying fine , but we will demand you get results then, to which the left basically immediately cried foul, knowing in their heart of hearts they were embarking on a fools errand. I’m probably misremembering some , but I thought it was mostly pertaining to nclb .
The left really does serve the purpose on a meta level of trying to make things more equal, but has to keep one eye on the sky and one eye in reality, otherwise it becomes too utopian and if there’s no proof of concept , people that can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. The failure of left wing organizations is a lack of accountability, and to look at public schools we used to teach Latin in high school now we teach remedial English in college.
The right is in charge of building hierarchies, buy they need to be merit based/ and not just mandarins , and someone having 100 billion times as much as someone else can never be a natural hierarchy. The right fails when organizations become too hierarchical, and information only flows in one direction, top down and the leaders are solid, generals give orders to privates , and privates are discouraged from talking to generals , no matter how pertinent their info.
Charles murray has some great statistics in coming apart, about the difference in 1960 between being middle class and being rich being approximately 2x, most commonly sold car the Impala was approximately 23k in today’s money, most expensive domestic car was the Cadillac at like 46k and alot if people drove Buicks instead because Cadillacs were too ostentatious. Housing was similar with the average home being sold for approx 123 k in today’s money’s, homes in Chevy Chase Maryland ( arguably America’s most tawny suburb at the time) going for like 242.
What was Diane ravitchs, conversion? I read left back years ago after seeing her on book tv on cspan I think. I thought she was a life long leftist who was honest enough to admit you couldn’t blame right wingers for the sorry state of schools because they hadn’t controlled them in any time in recent memory. And she admitted it was right wingers who fought removing latin from schools not the left. The only way to acheive equality is by bringing down the best , we have almost no examples of bringing up the rest.
Speaking of do you have a list of reforms or curriculums that you advocate, think make a difference.
Admitting my bias I’m a radical decentralizer , home schooler, maybe even unschooled, who loves JT Gatto a d wants to put a stake through the Prussian model, I love Montessori, and I love the viggo mortenson movie ” captain fantastic” even though I’m pretty right wing.
But I’m convinced we need to go back to phonics based on my own experience and the book why Johnny can’t read.
I’m curious what happened to the” tools of the mind curriculum” that po Bronson talked about in “nurture shock” that vastly improved executive function in children through structured play.
I would really like to hear dr Leonard Sax’s( the collapse of parenting” thought on the subject.
I think a return to one room school houses , might improve accountability , ownership and efficiency on the part of teachers . I see alot if reforms actually as make work schemes for teachers, blumenfeld said that explicitly in why Johnny can’t read i think.
It makes perfect sense to me that places like Frisco Texas ( per Steve sailer )have smaller acheivement gaps because they actually teach the 3 r’s, unlike progressive schools more concerned with talking about lgbt issues and inculcating global warming theory.
I’d like attempts to remove lead from children , along with other elements of our toxic burden.
Per the CDC over 3800+ areas in the US have water at least 2x as bad as Flint.
Lead has been proven to cause adverse health at 1/5 the the level that we start monitoring children at, it’s relatively easy to remove with mega dose vitamin c, and it’s even I would say to have a huge effect on crime , especially violent.
I’d like to see McGuffey readers introduced.
Also I’d like to see Children especially teens have more time for sleep allowed ( again per nurture shock/ po Bronson showing a lack of executive function / lack of sleep presents very similarly to the apathy we see as being a teenager. And Wisconsin added more School buses allowing teens to go to school the same time as younger kids, and SATs in one year improved like approximately 100 points.
The book willpower by Roy baumeister is seriously worth a read ( one if my very favorite books of all time) I believe you can get it free at b-ok.xyz/b-ok.cc if you don’t mind ebooks.
Thanks for the response ER
Sorry about the info dump
June 20th, 2020 at 3:02 pm
Of course, when the schools taught Latin, only about half the relevant age group went past 8th grade.
I think some of the studies in Willpower have fallen to the replication crisis. For example, it turns out that the Israeli judges took the easiest cases early. The different conviction rates later weren’t caused by depletion of willpower.
June 20th, 2020 at 10:14 pm
Thanks for bringing the first one to my attention.
The second one I was aware of and it was never obvious to me why judges ruled one way or the other was proof of willpower, I’m not aware of any other specific claims having been refuted through further experiment.
August 19th, 2020 at 5:57 am
[…] By the way, reviewing classwork adds hours to my week, in case you think it’s all daily walks and a few zoom calls. […]
November 27th, 2020 at 9:41 am
[…] No one in my family is suffering from these idiotic pandemic shutdowns. It’s truly a blessing that we’re all still gainfully employed. Hell, my investments are even slightly ahead. […]