Living through a Pandemic

Incredible how our lives teeming with jobs, errands and recreation can be instantaneously wiped clean, filtered down to only one concern:  “Do we have enough toilet paper to get us through the week?”

Going to work and school, eating out, attending movies and concerts, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, observing religious traditions—all halted.  Freeze frame life as we know it.

And the places that remain open such as grocery stores are scenes from a bad end-of-the-world Netflix show.

My son and I have traveled to market to market to cobble together meat, eggs, and peanut butter, standing in lines, standing apart.  We drove by two gun stores in Burbank, each with a line of people outside.  Just what kind of world are we living in?

One where terms like coronavirus, COVID-19 and social distancing have been added to our existence.

It is dizzying to think how much has transpired in the past week.  Gov. Newsom said on Tuesday that schools are unlikely to reopen this academic year.

Funny how the last school day was Friday the 13th.  At that time, it was clear that schools would not resume soon after spring break.  As my students left, I joked to them “Happy Fourth of July!” not knowing how prescient that was.

State testing has been cancelled, the College Board plans on administering Advanced Placement tests online, and graduation ceremonies—well, who knows?

Never before will so many people have to rely on technology to keep them connected to their work and their loved ones.

Glendale Unified teachers scheduled to return to work on March 23 most likely will remain at home, watching webinars on how to design online lessons to salvage the remaining weeks of the spring semester.

A life without doing whatever we want is unchartered territory for all but those old enough to have lived through World War II and the Great Depression.   They remember rationing of tires and sugar, meatless meals and gasless days.  It was not uncommon to ask Americans to sacrifice for the greater good.

The closest most people alive today can relate to any kind of sacrifice would have been the rationing of gas during the oil crisis of 1973 when drivers were only allowed to buy gas based on the odd/even last number on their license plate.

So the idea of giving something up even temporarily is a habit alien to most.  That partially explains why some people, mainly young ones, are not heeding the advice of government officials to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

While we want to believe that during a crisis people’s better parts rise to the occasion, toilet paper hoarding proves otherwise.  How many 24-packs of toilet paper do people need?  Thinking of other people is an ancient practice it seems.

There is a scene from “It’s a Wonderful Life” when the stock market crashes and people run into the Bailey Building and Loan to take their money out.  George pleads with his customers not to drain the limited bank’s money supply, but to only ask for small amounts to get them by in the short-term.  While some take all of their money, others think about George and other customers by limiting their withdrawals.

That’s the kind of neighborly attitude we need right now.

If we are to get through what possibly may be the worst pandemic since 1918 when over 675,000 Americans died out of 103 million, we all have to sacrifice for the greater good.

As I tell my students, the one comforting aspect when studying disasters in history is that we know when they ended.   Yes, the Civil War was horrible, but it was only 4 years long.  But those alive in the 1860s had no idea how long that tragedy would last.

Not knowing how long the current health crisis will last creates anxiety in us.  We don’t know what the coming months will bring.

The one constant that has helped my family cope with this health crisis has been our dog Noble.  He doesn’t care about COVID-19, only that his bowl has food, he has a walk, goes for a car ride, and plays with rope toys.   How delightful to be blissfully ignorant of the dramatic changes we are all enduring.

 

 

Defiant Students Rule

If you have ever thought of becoming a teacher, beware.

No one has your back.

Not administrators, district officials, or, more assuredly, the state of California.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom made sure of that by signing into law SB419 which further undermines the authority of teachers in managing defiant students.

After three failed attempts under former Gov. Jerry Brown, State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) succeeded in having the more liberal governor ban “willful defiance” suspensions in all public and charter schools grades K-8 ensuring that unruly students remain in the classroom except for only the most egregious infractions; defying the teacher is not one of them.

Teachers are no longer permitted to send out bad kids even if they continuously disrupt the learning of others, giving them carte blanche to continue interfering with the education of the good kids.

Often cited are statistics showing suspension rates among minority children are disproportionately higher than other groups and therefore a violation of their civil rights.

Special interest groups point out examples of children being suspended for such minor acts as chewing gum in class as proof that the predominately white teacher population is racist.  However, economic issues may play a larger role in determining child behavior.

Now the anti-suspension needle has moved all the way to the point where the message to teachers is quite clear:  keep all students inside your classroom no matter what.

The other message seems to be that teachers are not to be trusted in handling students in a classroom.   Politicians in Sacramento know what’s best.

In recent years, anti-suspension programs such as restorative justice and PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports) have infiltrated the agenda at faculty meetings statewide.

Since then, suspensions rate have declined, but how does one know if it because of  these programs or because teachers under intense pressure know that they don’t have the option of removing troublemakers?

Keep in mind that misbehaved students receive a disproportionate amount of attention from teachers who have to spend time reinforcing behavior matrices, scheduling restorative circle time, documenting everything, contacting parents, etc.

Teacher time is better spent on designing lesson plans and evaluating student work than serving as pseudo-therapists.

State Sen. Skinner said in a statement that “ending willful defiance suspensions will keep kids in school where they belong and where teachers and counselors can help them thrive.”

However, by keeping these kids in classrooms means that the other kids, those who always behave and obey authority figures, won’t thrive.

Just keeping a misbehaved child in class does not mean that student is listening or learning.

It is the good kids who get trapped in toxic environments with kids who come from unruly households where there is no discipline.  Where is the ACLU’s defense of their civil rights?

The system has to bend over backwards to accommodate the hooligans instead of the hooligans having to learn how to modify their behavior.

Gov. Newsom, would you want your children attend school with these disruptive students?  Of course not.  That is why the people who make the laws send their children to private schools which don’t have to abide by the laws they make; his children attend a private Montessori preschool.

The best support for a teacher is to remove the disobedient child so instruction can resume for those who are obedient.

All teachers know this including the former governor.

After vetoing a similar bill just last year, Brown said that “teachers and principals are on the front lines of educating our children and are in the best position to make decisions about order and discipline in the classrooms.”

Those who do not work in classrooms should not impose their will on those who do.