January 3, 2022- I sit here in my living room, and think that a year ago I was in the company, of first a pack of coyotes, howling and warning me not to go any further east-then amongst a small family of cattle, who let me pass after I spoke to the bull, in a low and steady tone. I was then alone, wandering steadily south and west, through the night-until eventually I reached the highway-and by 9 a.m., the following morning, I was back here in Home Base.
That was one struggle made in solitude. I did not have the same experience today-as I was pitching in with the first day back, at our local middle school. Today, and tomorrow, my charge is a young man with whom I have worked on several occasions before. His inherent, and infectious, blithe spirit is coupled with an intense work ethic-so we got much accomplished today and will do so again tomorrow. Besides, the students collectively are glad that I am here, sharing their morning cold and gradual return to a structured environment-after the two weeks of time off, that brought varying degrees of happiness and cheer.
I also talk with my colleagues, and hear stories with a common thread-Stress, leading to burnout and the departures of many who started the academic year. I could, very easily, jump back in and be on the job more or less fulltime, thus chucking the messages I receive from my spirit guides- and the plans emanating from that counsel. I would then be one finger in the dike. Such false egotism is not the answer to the larger problem, however- and is barely a bandaid, no matter how much the kids and I love one another.
Classroom teaching, especially in the Special Needs classes, must be reworked. High stress situations-with much of the stress caused by Federal and state reporting requirements, and by the egos of those who enforce these mandates, call out for teaching to be accomplished by two certified instructors in EVERY class. There also need to be paraprofessionals, as there are now-but these individuals also deserve both continuous training opportunities and a serious upgrade in pay. Even when, as in this school, the students respond quite respectfully and consistently to a grounded, well-organized learning program, the team approach allows for due attention to be paid to extrapedagogical concerns-like record-keeping for the powers that be, without the least jeopardy to the students’ well-being.
For now, I will help out in certain schools and classrooms, in the months and days when I am called to stay close to Home Base. Enough other people are doing this, around the county, that most classrooms have one form of coverage or another, on most days. The long term, though, calls for a serious reworking of the classroom format.