The worst week

The Worst Week

Wow – what a week. I have honestly never experienced such a range of emotions in such an ever changing landscape before. I know that people are probably fed up hearing about and reading about the effects of Covid-19, but I often write to process because it is something that helps me, so feel free to turn away to sexier posts because there has been nothing sexy going on for me this week.

I heard about the virus a while back, but I thought of it no differently than other viruses that have become newsworthy, and it was only a week past Wednesday that I spoke to someone who had been part of a group working on it in an advisory way on a national level. This group was made of up health professionals and scientists and I can honestly say that what she said shocked me. An eminently trustworthy source, the predictions she made, essentially went on to unfold before my eyes from that point.

Things moved so quickly after that. People were talking about it more and more. There seemed to be constant debate and constant comment about what should or shouldn’t happen and what had or hadn’t been done. There were different opinions on what was needed which ranged from complete isolation, through controlled response, to a let it happen attitude. I know that many felt that the response of our country was misguided, but I had to believe, as someone who was not allowed to isolate, that this would be a controlled response.

By nature I am probably of the mind that what will be, will be, but as more and more people hunkered down, I began to feel isolated in my inability to self-isolate. In a profession where I was surrounded by others in the same situation, we searched for something to explain the slightly crazy seeming position we found ourselves in by the start of this week. As someone whose role is to reduce the anxiety in others and reassure them, it was also important not to whip up any feeling that things were going to be awful, whilst at the same time being aware that things were going to be awful.

This article, with its corona virus simulator in The Washington Post, helped to explain the way the the virus was going to work. The three models allowed me to have some sort of an idea of where we were and what the hell we were doing. Control. It had to be about control. There were days last week when I thought of myself increasingly as one of those little dots moving around while others remained still. And as the week wore on, most of us became fairly sure that our colour would soon change.

My mood moved from disbelief that this was really happening, to sadness about what it meant, to anger about the way things looked for me and for the others in my care. I made the mistake of dipping into social media again and the outpourings shouting that we were doing the wrong thing made me feel once again, isolated. I had no choice. I had to believe that there was a bigger plan and that I was part of it. So as people voted with their feet, I hoped again that this was about control.

I read something else that stuck with me and helped me to find reassurance in understanding what was going on.

This video did make sense and it did explain what I thought was going on. And strangely I felt comfort in the fact that he stated quite clearly that “Children generally won’t get very ill, so the government can use them as a tool to infect others when you want to increase infection. When you need to slow infection, that tap can be turned off – at that point they close the schools. Sounds terrible, but makes sense. ” Well at least now I knew!

For what has felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, things moved very quickly and by the end of Wednesday, a week after I had first really comprehended that this might be something this big, the announcement came that schools would close as of Friday. Although I had begun to prepare by setting up online groups where I could teach and stay in touch, I had thought that I would have longer, and it felt devastating. I was no longer angry, I was back to being upset.

When yesterday came and the cancellation of exams became a reality, I started to crumble. With kids who were now going to take a direct hit, my loss as a teacher joined my loss as a mum and it overwhelmed me. Unable to fathom the decision, I knew that I was in no state to defend it to others and package and sell it as I needed to do, so I left work, came home and just fell apart when I walked through the door.

Really I think it was a combination of the roller coaster of emotions that I had been experiencing, the lack of sleep that this week has brought me and the personal sense of despair in a system that I am part of. I understood the reasons on one level, but on another it seemed inconceivable that we were now in this position, and as my thoughts shifted from the now lost dreams for two of my own children, I turned them to the reality for the others I am responsible for. A possible 6 months with nothing meaningful to do?

No exams, nothing to study for, nothing to break up the days which would endlessly slip into nights, having a long term negative impact on some. The online groups, hastily populated with resources would now be useless and no one would look at them. An award would be made based on evidence of learning completed so far, and 6 more weeks of learning and honing their skills through practice was no longer required. I knew this was about physical health, but now there was an equally serious threat to mental health, not just to those who were vulnerable, but to a large percentage of the school population.

It felt heartbreaking and I struggled to make sense of what I could do to turn any of it around. I had known that this thing would mean changes, some of which would not be reversible, but I hadn’t bargained on the way that change would impact on who I felt I was. Blogging is important to me. It is something I enjoy and I wouldn’t want to give it up, but teaching is part of me. It is who I am and has been for a very long time. I went to work today, knowing that this was the end of something for me that might never be quite the same again. Who knows what the world I return to will be and when that will even happen.

When something is so deeply ingrained in who you are, it is hard to give that up. It has to be a slow process of transition where you pull back and look towards new projects and ventures. And I have watched it happen to those who have retired over the years, a sense of loss of a part of them, tempered with the need to slow down and the excitement of exploring other things. But to pull it away amidst fear and uncertainty, with no real warning or planning for what the provision will be in your absence, just simply feels wrong.

I left yesterday in tears and returned again today, a new plan, a new project, but still expecting more of the same. Actually the resignation and resilience of the pupils stopped that from happening. They turned things around with their shows of appreciation for us and for what they knew we were trying to do. There is nothing like the positivity of young people in the face of adversity, to put into perspective what is important in life.

And today I closed the doors on a chapter of my life which has followed the same pattern and structure for most of my adult years. Teachers are planners and we have not been able to plan for this, simply to respond as the fallout of things beyond our control and the reactions and decisions of others, landed upon us. As the bell rang today, it marked a shift in everything I have ever known and the move to online, distance learning. I have no idea how that will work or for how long it will have to be in place.

My school is now closed to pupils, except those who are vulnerable or children of key workers, and learning will no longer take place there. We will still need to provide care for those who are there, and some sort of virtual care for those who are not. The sense of loss is huge and has felt almost unbearable at times, but the reality is that far more will be lost as the weeks and months progress, and this thing takes lives, both literally and metaphorically.

Related post:
A sense of denial

Posted in Submissive Musings.

25 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry, MIssy … your professional and personal concern is not misplaced … we are ‘self isolating’ here in BC, Canada … emergency measures have been ramping up daily for the past couple of weeks. Our Chief Public Health Officer holds a daily press conference. People worldwide need to pay attention to this and not brush it off being something been blown out of proportion or something that doesn’t apply to them (yes, younger people can be affected). Keep your distance, no matter where you are or what you do, wash your hands often and keep them away from your face is the advice we hear daily – it’s something Frank (in the high risk category) and I are heeding … stay safe … sending hugs … nj … xx

    • Thanks nj. I am glad that you are keeping safe and that measures are being taken to protect you. I think that most people are being sensible and what is happening is a process that we just need to get through and come out the other side of. It has felt overwhelming emotionally at times and it helps to be able to write it all down really. In some ways it is lucky as I feel that I can be of some help but I am also taking the recommended cautions where possible. Glad that you and Frank are both safe and well ❤️

  2. There will maybe less teaching and surely in a different form for the foreseeable future. But it is not going away for good. I try as much as possible to see this self isolation as a way to discover how we can do things differently, to see alternatives and to do some more introspection. I have a feeling the amount of blog posts will go up in the future 🙂

    • I think you are right on all counts, blog posts and doing things differently. I will still be teaching but finding new ways and hoping that I don’t miss something I should have picked up on. Thank you xx

  3. This is my 4th attempt to leave a comment-I think my phone is trying to drive me around the bend. I have resorted to typing it in a note app because every time I needed to correct a typo the browser closed!!!!! I apologise in advance for this very long comment….

    So, here we go.

    I can completely understand why the recent events have had such an effect on you. I know you to be an empathic person and you care deeply for the people who come into your life. I also know you will be doing your absolute best to continue to support the students.

    I too have watched twitter. I have for a few weeks now had very little human contact save from MrH, so Twitter has been my way of feeling connected with the outside world. I think that some of the reactions on social media have been selfish and from people who have no ability to comprehend how their statements affect those who have no choice but to put themselves in harms way as you and your colleagues have done. I can completely understand how they have upset you.

    The people who took the decision to isolate themselves well before the government deemed it necessary, seem to have then created a narrative that people who did not, were doing so with disregard for others safety. This is simply untrue. Key workers like yourself, nhs staff, ambulance, police and firefighters, doctors, shop workers, drivers, post office workers, have no choice but to leave their homes and put themselves in harms way. When those people then started complaining about how hard it was- well let’s just say my news feed is quieter after I muted them.

    I also understand why you feel adrift knowing you will have no work for a few months. It isn’t easy to be without occupation even when it is temporary, and I encourage you to allow yourself to feel upset, if you let the feelings out, bottling them up will do you no good at all. It is something similar to grief, the loss you feel and you have to go through it.

    I have faith in you, faith that you will endure this and that you will emerge stronger than ever.

    The next few months you will find other things to occupy your time. You already have some things at your disposal, your blog is a space to work through and Express your thoughts and feelings; your dog can be walked for exercise; your online friends are here for you, and you could always increase the number of chat nights to enable you to connect with adults.

    Whatever the future holds for you, know that there are many who are grateful that you stayed in work, caring for children, while you were required to do so, and I hope that the online forums that you were able to set up for your students are helpful to them.

    I wish you, and all your loved ones the very best, and that despite your unavoidable exposure you remain well. X

    Sweetgirl x

    • Thank you sweet. I know that you understand and have really appreciated the support and check ins that you have given me so far. I think it’s a great time to take stock of the things and the people that matter and are important to you and a time to invest in those. ❤️

  4. I read the pain between your lines, the pain and almost-defeat of all that has happened too quickly. I say ‘almost-defeat’, because I also see the strength in your words, YOUR strength, because even though you had little time, you have set up ways to support your students during these times, and you are still out there making a difference, being there for the children that still come to school, while putting yourself at risk. You are a strong woman, Missy, who are allowed to let the tears flow in these strange times, to grief for what you have lost, and then to be strong again and do what you need to do. Just like Sweet said, I have faith in you, and remember the friends who are there when you need a shoulder to lean on. Much love to you and yours.

    Rebel xox

    • Thank you so much Marie. Your comment has really given me a lift and brought a tear. Thank you for all of your help, support and encouragement over this period. It has helped me so much ❤️

  5. This is a powerful piece. My family have been feeling cautious from the get go, but while they are all now home based I am doing 2 days in my office practicing social distancing. I feel I can keep myself occupied with dogs/writing/ blogging & reading but I know my OH is going to struggle.

    What you say about young people in education really hit home and explained a lot more than I had perceived. My youngest is about to graduate, so all the uncertainty you describe comes into effect. Add to that the teaching strikes which happened this term, studies have been heavily affected – poor soul was impacted by syllabus and marking changes for GCSEs and A levels too. I am glad you discussed the mental health issues our young people face, because now I feel better placed to support my child. I hope you find a way to pull things back from the edge with your children also- the years of study have not been wasted, they have still learned and grown, it slightly hangs in the balance how examining boards decide to ‘recognise’ that.

    Big hugs to you, once you have re-grouped you will rally and do justice to this because you are an empathetic, intelligent human and I admire you.

    • Thank you so much Posy. I am so glad that you were able to take something from it as I was really just processing I think. I feel much better and ready to try to put plans into place now ❤️

  6. You and so many others have a huge sense of responsibility and duty to others. There is great courage in doing this even as you ponder your own uncertainty and fears. A hero isn’t the one who jumps into action without fear, the heroes are those that consider it their duty to carry on despite the fears and the dashing of hopes and dreams.

    It is galling that essential workers who have stoically accepted the requirement by authorities to continue to work and support the people that rely on them have been subject to social media attack.

    This has been a really tough week for you and there will be more to come as everyone adjusts. That your primary thoughts are with pupils says a great deal about you. That’s the type of role model those pupils will remember in years to come.

    I hope you and yours come through this and flourish. 🌹🌹

    • Hi Melody. Apologies as your comment had found its way int spam for some reason. Thank you though for you kid words as they really mean a lot. It all feels very strange and I think we are all pulling together as communities a bit more now than initially. I hope that you are safe and well ❤️

  7. I do think young people seem to have conquered that “lets be positive” angle and fair play to them – we have to all have some form of hope that things will return to normal – better than normal. But i understand it is heart breaking for people like u who have worked so hard to get them up to a point where they are ready to sit exams and then – BAM. Not a nice feeling i can imagine.
    I find it interesting about the reliable source saying about the predictions. I too heard from one in Scotland that they had these predictions ready last November. If only i had known i could have bought my loo roll early!
    xx

    • I’m not sure that they predicted the loo roll crisis. That came out the blue from the social media scaremongering I think. Thank you for your kind words of understanding and as you say, onwards and forwards we go. Better to be positive I think and you will be pleased to know that my post for F4T is much more of that ilk ❤️

  8. I am so sorry, missy <3 There's no words for what's going on, we're all shell-shocked in a manner of speaking, how quickly things have turned upside down. My heart broke for you when you said you broke down as soon as you got through the door. My father used to be a teacher and we weren't strangers to seeing him get upset because he cared about the kids' wellbeing. Like everyone else, I hope these circumstances get back to normal, for everyone. Sending all my love to you, HL and the kids. If you need to vent, feel free to message me anytime xx

    • Thank you Violet. I think it is difficult to explain sometimes so it helps that you understand. I just sobbed and I think it came from feeling overwhelmed. As you say we become very emotionally invested ❤️

  9. Missy, thank you for sharing your feelings from this week. I am sorry to hear that it was so difficult, but very understandable considering the role you’re in. In my area in the Northeast US, we have been “social distancing” for the past week here. I worry about the children and families who are under particular stress and experiencing economic uncertainty. As for myself, I am working to balance the demands of work, demands of kids at home, and still being present. Someone shared this poem with me and it helped me to slow my breathing and take the edge of my anxiety a little bit: https://www.uuworld.org/articles/poem-pandemic

    • Thank you. That is lovely. I wish you luck and strength for all of the juggling you are now required to do. I think things look different for many of us at the moment and we are required to take on new roles and shift to fill gaps that weren’t there before ❤️

  10. So well expressed Missy. I’m right there with you as my world has also been shut down and my only contact with those I care for is digital. This whole thing is simply unimaginable.

  11. Sorry I am late reading this, like you I found last week difficult for different reasons. But we did communicate on twitter. I completely understand how this is making you feel. That sense of helplessness and also that in some way you are part of a system letting young people down. But I think we can all see that this is for the best. In the long run, 2020 will be a weird year when life was beyond abnormal. But for most of us it will be a memory and life will have returned to some kind of normality. I guess we want to make sure as many families as possible can think that way. Lots of love xx

    • Yes you are so right Julie. Some words of wisdom so thank you. I feel much more positive now I think. Like you say it was all quite a shock and felt unbelievable. I think it still does but as people we tend to adjust quite quickly 🙂

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