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    17th March 2020

    Coronavirus Break Journal Entry: March 13-17

    As you may know – wait hold on – as you DEFINITELY know, schools have been shutting down, and so I find myself without students for at least five weeks. I’ve been thinking of what I might do to encourage my students to participate in some scholarly activities, and I was impressed by the idea that Kelly Gallagher had of encouraging students to write about their experiences during this time, both to practice their skills and keep their brains moving, but also to preserve their experiences for posterity (his lesson found here). I’m going to encourage my students to do the same, and as part of that, I’m also going to keep a bit of a journal, whether written or recorded digitally in some way.

    Here are the first few days that I’ll also be sharing with my students as well:

    Friday, March 13, 2020

    It was supposed to be another school day like any other. I had my senior ERWC classes first and my students would write about the differences between Into the Wild the book and Into the Wild the movie, then we would discuss and I would give them a little bit of time to work on their missing work if they needed to. A chill Friday. Then I was hoping we would have newspapers to deliver during 5th period, but I wasn’t sure because I’d sent the pages to the printer around 1 a.m. that morning.

    At the beginning of the day we were reassured that while LAUSD had decided to close schools for the next couple weeks, we LBUSD schools would still be open… but there was a foreshadowing rumble in the distance that we could all sense that things might change quickly.

    And change quickly they did during 3rd period when students started chattering about schools being closed – BEFORE any teachers got an email or announcement, in fact before the school PRINCIPAL had heard from the district. The superintendent had sent the message out to parents and the public before schools heard about it and of course parents were messaging students and students messaging each other before any of us had seen it.

    We were out from school starting THAT AFTERNOON. And not for two weeks, for five weeks until the end of our scheduled Spring Break, starting again April 20.

    There was an immediate jolt of energy that went through campus and students were excited, but then they were also worried. It was like the day before Winter Break except everyone also has a dose of anxiety.

    For my seniors, that anxiety was for what would happen to their senior year. What would happen to prom? What would happen to grad night? What about the graduation ceremony? Would they have to go to school longer during summer?

    The rest of the day was a surreal mix of emotions. Excited to get to sleep in, wondering what we would do about school for those weeks or if we would be working four weeks into summer, and whether I might be able to drive to Colorado for part of the five weeks off.

    Without papers to deliver, my newspaper students did their thing while one student tried to rally the troops to play games. We did play a couple rounds of mafia (the first one I screwed up!) and then a about 20 minutes of pictionary. Then the students left me with just my classroom and my thoughts, trying to figure out what I should do during my conference period. I cleaned up the room a bit and then tried to figure out what I needed to take home to grade or just to have with me in case I needed it. I chatted with a few of the teachers in the hall about what a strange thing it was, and then spent some time grading projects I didn’t want to take home with me because they were large posters with maps showing the travels of Chris McCandless in Into the Wild.

    When I finally got home it had started raining and I wasn’t going to go out to swim or ride my handcycle, so I sat on my bed somewhat stunned. I had nothing on my calendar. I was supposed to have a meeting in the morning Saturday, and an event Saturday night, playing guitar at a church service Sunday that was now also canceled. Such an assortment of emotions because of this development and because of other recent events in my life.

    So to distract myself I watched a soccer documentary on Amazon Prime and then although I had promised to stay away from it during Lent, I downloaded my favorite first person shooter and mindlessly played games for several hours, avoiding being with my own thoughts, and in the process staying up way past the point of exhaustion. Then it was finally time to sleep and I did so dreamlessly.

    Saturday, March 14 – Sunday, March 15, 2020

    Saturday, I decided to get busy doing some cleaning around the house, including my room. I started listening to the audiobook of World War Z while I was working. It’s an amazing book about a world where a disease that started in a remote part of China essentially turned into the Zombie Apocalypse. I started reading it a number of years ago but never finished. This time I’m listening to get advice for how to survive when coronavirus turns into a truly apocalyptic scenario. Ha.

    It felt good to be moving around the house. Doing laundry. Organizing. Getting rid of stuff. Vacuuming. It made me feel useful and I had positive feelings. I also baked a bunch of potatoes and yams that I had bought a few weeks ago, which gave me food for that night and enough for leftovers. I enjoyed sitting and playing guitar for 30-40 minutes. It was weird to spend another whole day around my house, but at the end of the day I felt satisfied and less like I needed to distract myself from my thoughts. It was a good day

    Sunday started much the same as Saturday except that I forgot that I did have one meeting scheduled that was still happening. Fortunately, when Benny texted me asking if I was coming to the planning meeting for our church’s Spanish worship nights, I wasn’t doing anything important and was only a five minute drive away. That meeting ended with homemade jambalaya and it was nice to get outside and see people. But now it was time to face a real challenge…


    I steered my car into the Food 4 Less parking lot and rolled in with my personal shopping basket (borrowed from the Colorado State University bookstore ten years ago). I was surprised at how much food there still was. I got almost everything I wanted except eggs and flour – well and my basket was full – so I went to the checkout and only waited in line a normal Sunday afternoon amount of time. I stopped by Albertsons on the way home to see if they had flour (yes!) or eggs (no…) and using the reusable bags in my car I also picked up a few other things that I didn’t have room for in my basket at Food 4 Less.

    Shopping was more or less successful, except that when I got home I found that the milk carton had split and was leaking a little milk. I quickly put it in the sink and transferred the contents into a mostly empty milk carton in the fridge (after emptying the old milk first).

    What else happened Sunday? I went on my bike for a long ride, almost two hours. I brought my headphones and was listening to Caedmon’s Call, a band that I really liked when I was in high school and college. There was a break in the rain in the afternoon and so I got out, but the conditions were still blustery and cool. By the end of nearly two hours in the wind, I was tired and started to bonk the last 15 minutes or so, just totally out of energy. It had been awhile since I had time for a long ride and it was very satisfying, but I was also very tired.

    After that, more of the same. Guitar, cleaning, and OH! I bit the back of my tongue or something and could hardly swallow anything without being in pain. It was terrible. I don’t know how it happened and that the effect could be so debilitating but wow was it painful.

    Monday, March 16, 2020

    After another hour on the handcycle, I went to get my car serviced. I originally had the service appointment for Tuesday after school, but with my open schedule, I called and they still had an opening for the day.

    I expected Subaru Orange Coast to be deserted, but it was not. It was still fully staffed and there were still customers there, visiting both the service and sales department. I chatted with Charles, who I worked with buying my CPO Forester last year, then sat down at a table to eat the lunch I packed (should be no surprise what I ate if you’re a student who has been in my classroom during lunch – peanut butter sandwich, fruit, but no yogurt or granola bar like normal. I took out my school-issued iPad to check my email and start formulating plans for what I could offer to my students.

    I read Kelly Gallagher’s Coronavirus lesson plan, which had been shared by another teacher in the English department. It focused on having students record their experiences during a historical event that would be remembered for decades or longer. It seemed like a good idea and got me thinking about what this event could really compare to in terms of disruption to schools and society.

    I was a senior in high school on September 11, 2001, and I will always remember seeing the second plane hit live as we watched TV as we always did at the beginning class – normally to see the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange (school started at 7:20 a.m. Colorado time, and the exchange opened ten minutes later). We were all stunned all day long, and we knew that there would be changes, but none of those changes affected our day to day life the way that this coronavirus event has been affecting everyone.

    We still went to school the next day. We didn’t worry about going to the grocery store or staying in to avoid contact with other people. The biggest effects for the general public was the changes in airport security, access to certain public property, such as reservoirs with large dams or other spots deemed at risk for a terrorist attack, and – as we found out later – the NSA’s extensive collection of our personal data and communications.

    These massive changes in schools, stores, restaurants, travel, entertainment and sports, the financial markets… seemed similar to wartime changes, the great pandemics of the past, or perhaps even the Depression.

    And what does it all mean? Why are we doing all this? Is it an overreaction? Is it the right thing to do? We’re staying home from school to protect students and their families from a virus, but we don’t do anything significant to protect them from mass shootings perpetrated by other students. Will it be successful in curbing the virus and life will go back to normal in a few months? Or will it come back every year like the flu? Will there be more pandemics like this in the near future and this is just the beginning of a dystopian reality? I don’t mean to be dramatic because at the moment I’m not really worried about it, but I also can’t help but think…

    Tuesday, March 17

    I’ve spent the better part of the afternoon and into the evening writing this and coming up with ideas for what I can give to my students this week and next, posting a few questions/assignments on Google Classroom. This morning I listened to more World War Z while getting ready, and at lunch I started watching a docu-series on Amazon Prime about the Australian cricket team playing test matches, something I knew nothing about but find fascinating (they have a ton of great sports docu-series, especially every season of All or Nothing – Brazil’s soccer team, Philadelphia Eagles football, New Zealand All-Blacks rugby, Manchester City soccer. Every season is an inside look at what it takes to be at the best of a sport. Now I’m going to do a little exercise and stretching at home, then maybe a bit more guitar. I’m not bored yet… should I be?

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    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.