Two months since the last post. In those two months, the university that I teach at went from hybrid courses to entirely online, and our plan for Kenzie’s virtual learning fell through leaving us scrambling to find care within two weeks of school starting. The initial goal was to hire someone to head up Kenzie’s pod. Pretty much since March, she’s been in a pod with two neighbor families, whom we met at day care. So these kids have known each other pretty much since birth. Strangely, despite living within two blocks of each other, they all go to different elementary schools. So that complicated things a bit. Anyway, all families agreed on one woman…we sent her an offer, she accepted. This was at the beginning of our South Dakota trip. The weight that was off my shoulders was immense. Then we return from South Dakota and she backed out due to health concerns. Two weeks before school started. Every single family scrambling to figure out how to juggle virtual learning with job responsibilities. You can’t just throw a tablet at a six-year-old and expect them to figure out what to do. They have only just started reading, they’ve only just started school.
Just thinking back to that week, I feel my heart clenching under the weight of all that uncertainty. Plus, prior to the pandemic, I’d taken on some new course preps at work, which is wonderful for my personal and professional growth, but not so wonderful when your household is basically held together with spit and rusty bobby pins.
Luckily, the City of Evanston, less than a week before school started, threw together some camps. They’re expensive, but there wasn’t much choice. Also luckily, our fellow pod parents decided to send their kids to the same camp, so socially, Kenzie is absolutely thriving. The camp is wonderful. Temperature checks and verbal interviews every morning, no one but the about 10 kids and counselors in the building, and we definitely feel like she’s safe.
It’s working. Kenzie wakes up around 6:30a. By 7a, she and I are working on school assignments. We get about half of the assignments done in the morning. At 8a, she has her morning meeting with her teacher and classmates. Then we roll into the car, and she’s in camp from 9a-6p. I bought her a digital watch with multiple alarms on it, to remind her when her synchronous classes are, and set up a Google calendar widget on her iPad so all she has to do is click a link to join her class.
But while it’s all working, everything’s getting done, it just makes me so sad to hear a six-year-old say, “Ugh. I have soooo many meetings today!” Because that’s not what first grade really should be about.
That said, we are lucky in so many ways. We found that camp. We can (barely) afford that camp. We can continue affording that camp for as long as we need to, provided we’re both still employed. It looks like we’ll both be employed for the foreseeable future. And, and this is what makes it all really work, we ended up with a wonderful first grade teacher who has given us the flexibility to get schoolwork done when we can. She’s not easy, but she’s flexible, and that relieves a lot of stress.
Ah…she also supported us when I went ape-gazookas over administering standardized testing to first graders a month after school started. We opted out. I learned a lot. But I was so angry that the district would administer the test, even when the testing agency issued a statement that said, due to the lack of standardization of testing environments, testing technology, and access, results would be unreliable. Plus, the test is adaptive, so in addition to all the emotional stress these kids are under, you’re basically giving them a test that ends up with them feeling stupid. I’m an educator. I am absolutely, 100%, all for testing and setting benchmarks. But with kindergarten and first graders, those tests, during this time, are just inappropriate. Before we made the decision, I reached out to Kenzie’s teacher. She called me on a Sunday morning, because she wanted to let me know that she…and pretty much all the kindergarten and first grade teachers, agreed with my stance. I mean geez…they’re just starting to read. They’re just starting to learn how to navigate user interfaces. With her teacher’s validation and support, we ultimately decided not to have Kenzie tested. This was probably the first time that I’ve truly, truly advocated for her. I wondered if I would regret the decision in hindsight, but thus far, I haven’t. We can always do the test later, when everything’s steadied up a bit.
And with that, Yellow Martha is officially back up and running. I’ve missed having this outlet.