One Summer Class Down…

I just turned in my grades for one of my two summer classes. I will officially be on “summer break” (insert hysterical laughter here) on 7/22ish after I submit grades for my second class. My hysterical laughter comes from the concept of being on break. I had a student once who wrote a paper about how he wanted to be a teacher so he could get paid all summer and not work. He got a lengthy and very pointed comment from me at that point, which I’m certain he never read. I hope he goes into teaching and discovers just how much that summer pay is. And how much not working he gets to do.

During break I need to do the following:

  • Figure out how, exactly, this whole RISE thing is supposed to work
  • Create syllabi for all 6 of the classes I will be teaching
  • Create calendars, assignments, and exercises for all six classes
  • Choose readings for those six classes
  • Do this for the entirety of the semester, taking into account the need for multiple approaches to class, for multiple types of situations, and types of students, and varying needs of everyone in the western world
  • Figure out when and where I’m supposed to be teaching (still in the air a bit, which is both reassuring and scary)
  • Decide on a good way to keep up with my running and writing (writing – HAHAHAHAHAAAAA more hysterical laughter there) during the semester

I’m never very comfortable with uncertainty, but I’m really comfortable saying exactly how I see this semester playing out. Anyone who has had a kid, been a kid, or known a kid, and is in current ownership of a working brain (surprisingly few people these days) knows how illness travels and spreads, so none of this should be a surprise. Obviously, though, for some, it’s a major brain twister.

Here’s what’s going to happen: Schools will open up again, with limited face-to-face teaching, cautions in place, mask wearing, all that sort of stuff. Students will go to school ill – we know this will happen because it ALWAYS happens.

It happens with students at community college as well as at private school. It happens in elementary schools. It happens at high schools. It happens because either the student (who makes the choice) fears the outcome of failing to attend class – will they miss something urgent? Will the teacher think poorly of them? Will the student fail the class due to excess absences (a concept I struggled with pre-pandemic and in the pandemic world, have much less issue with: there should be no issue with absences, ever, for any reason, in my opinion)?

So a student attends class while ill, most likely with COVID. What will happen as a result? The questions are myriad and mind blowing:

Should all members of the class quarantine? What about the people who had class with those who had contact with the ill student? What about the teacher?

If we don’t quarantine all the people in the class, what do we do when people begin falling ill in even more record numbers? What do we do when the teacher is ill? What’s that? Get a substitute? What about when all the substitute teachers are already in use? What about when the substitute teachers are ill?

One student can shut a campus down – it’s that simple. And that student doesn’t even have to do this knowingly. Do we think the students are going to adhere to this social distancing stuff? Consistently and carefully wear masks? Wash hands? One of my campuses is having students sign an agreement that they, the students, will maintain good pandemic etiquette, essentially.

This is laughable. All we have to do is look at the mindset of these kids – it’s not their fault, it’s just human nature: infallibility. To a certain extent, failure to believe we are going to live forever would lead many of us to hide out in our caves and just never venture into the sunlight. There are just too many scary opportunities for death, destruction, dismemberment and other unpleasantness in the great big world.

In this case, though, the typical belief of a young person – that death and disease happens to other people – is going to be the downfall of the whole system. “Of course I’m going to wear a mask to class. I just don’t need one when I go to the coffee shop. Where we stand in line. Together. Closely.” That’s all it takes and bam, you’ve got an illness working its way around campus at the rate of a gas fire.

And let’s forget the students for a second here – what about the teachers? The number of adjuncts working at various colleges around the country is staggering and frightening. If I, as an adjunct, have to call in sick, I have to take a hit in the pocketbook in the form of missing hours. I also have to take a hit in the form of paying for someone else to take on my class. So I lose pay, and I take on the responsibility of the college in paying someone else to do my job. What real life incentive is there for me to do this? Aside from, oh, I don’t know, not being an asshole during a pandemic?

Throw in there the ability for some people to just be so stupid that they think COVID is political, that the wearing of a mask, or the washing of hands, or social distancing, is a comment on anything other than THANKS BUT I DON’T WANT YOUR GERMS.

I’m old enough to begin getting cynical and mean, as well as casting an eye across my fields where I grow my fucks and seeing that it is, indeed, barren.

If someone – including someones in my own family – want to choose to believe Fuckface von Clownstick over the educated, researched, intelligent findings of people who actually KNOW THINGS, then I have no trouble with them getting ill. You are free to choose not to wear a mask. You are not free from the repercussions of your choice.

Unfortunately, your choices have repercussions for a lot of other people, including me. Choose to come to class sick because you are worried about your own grade? Congratulations, you just made me and the entire class sick – we now have to contend with the repercussions of your decision. You are not alone in your wrongness – you have just pulled an entire group of people into that wrongness with you, and they possibly have done absolutely nothing wrong to be there.

Schools are going to open up, students aren’t going to follow the guidelines, or parents of small children won’t follow the guidelines, or parents of adult children won’t follow guidelines, or most likely – ALL OF THE ABOVE – and then schools will close.

After countless people have gotten sick, passed the illness to others, and some will die. A lot will die.

But by God I’m going to create that calendar that will work for every possible incarnation of my classes: hybrid, face to face, semi-hybrid, early ending, early beginning, no Labor Day, and finally, OMG we have to quarantine again so we’re completely online, which we should have done to start with.

Terry is my spirit animal.