Report from Louisiana: Canned Curriculum Fatigue

By:  Pat Austin  

SHREVEPORT – I highly recommend retirement.

I retired from the classroom after twenty-five years this past spring and could not be happier about it. Not everyone is cut out for retirement, or so I hear, but so far, I am loving it.

Part of the equation is that it was definitely time for me to leave the classroom; Common Core scripted lesson plans were not for me. My very nature rebelled against the canned slides, the prewritten questions, and the dull activities, the endless annotation of a “text.” I railed against all of this for the last five years of my career. You don’t realize what a burden this sort of thing places on you until you get away from it, until you strip away those bindings.

As younger, newer teachers come into the profession, this method will be the only one they know. They won’t know any other way to design lessons because they’ll never have to actually create a lesson. And the rebels, the old guard, like me, we are leaving in droves.

The result will be students that all learn the same material the same exact way.

That makes me sad, but blissfully happy that I am no longer a part of it.

When school began this fall, I thought I would miss it.  I do not. As much as I loved my students, it was time for me to go. The boring, canned lessons create more classroom disruptions. A bored kid is going to either go to sleep, pull out his phone, or act out. I no longer had the energy to battle this.

I worry a little about what is happening in education today but not so much anymore that I think I can do anything about it. I used to believe I could make a difference, that I could change things. Truth is, I could make a difference in my little room with my own students, but that was it. The future of education is in the hands of the big guys like Pearson, like Bill Gates…people with agendas and companies that write tests and publish books.

It isn’t about what is good for the kid anymore, I don’t believe.

To those teachers still in there fighting the good fight, you have my support and my best wishes.

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying retired life. I get up when I want to, I don’t have to wait until a bell rings to go to the restroom or to each lunch. Lunch can be whatever time and last for however long I wish. I can spend my days in a hammock reading a book, at my computer writing a masterpiece, planning delicious meals for my family. I can travel on a whim. I can spend the entire day sitting on the edge of the Atchafalaya Basin drinking a beer and watching the boats.

And for me, that’s much better than standing before a classroom of bored students reading a canned slide and having them annotate a dull passage for the third time because some suit in some office thinks that’s how kids learn.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Hostile environment + politized classes = Bye Bye College

Apparently men have figured out that it’s not worth going into a lot of debt to be told that you’re what’s wrong with the world:

Men are abandoning higher education in such numbers that they now trail female college students by record levels.

At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5% of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5%, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse, a nonprofit research group. U.S. colleges and universities had 1.5 million fewer students compared with five years ago, and men accounted for 71% of the decline.

Now that the STEM stuff like math, physics, engineering and medicine are going woke with realty has taken a bad seat to ideology the cost benefit analysis will make even more men think twice.

But have no fear. Trade schools are still there and haven’t reached the point of wokeness and men who go into heating, plumbing, welding carpentry and electrical work, none of which need a degree will discover that they will be able to name their own price when highly educated woke folk with degrees on their wall need anything

An American Father

All Politics is local

Tip O’Neill

The last 10 months from the steal of the election to the dishonorable debacle in Afghanistan I’ve really been in despair concerning the state of my country that my sons will be inheriting.

And then I saw this:

a lot of people make a lot of money on the race racket. This man isn’t one of them and the best part of his speech at the local school board is that it made a difference:

The good news is this shows that the Race racket in general and Critical race theory can be beaten at the local level ie people stand up to fight and refused to be played. He understand that the most dangerous thing to a person’s success is an excuse to fail.

The bad news is that even after this speech Critical Race Theory was beaten by one vote.

As long as there are financial incentives for the race racket there will be people playing the race card but local action can trump it but only if people are willing to fight.

Report from Louisiana: As it turns out, state testing was a bad idea


Photo by Nicola Tolin on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In absolutely shocking news today (insert sarcasm here), the standardized testing scores for Louisiana’s students last year show a significant drop as both teachers and students attempted to conduct classes in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, there are now calls to shelve the annual school report card scores:

The letter grades are typically announced in November and are aimed at showing taxpayers how schools are performing.

But scores in math, English, science, and social studies took a nosedive that affected virtually every school system in the state.

Scores on the exams, called LEAP 2025, fell 5 percentage points in meeting state achievement targets after years of inching up a point or two annually.

This is an indicator to why so many people distrust the suits that run public education. Who in the world ever thought this would turn out any differently? Who thought these test scores would resemble anything like a normal year? Who thought it was even a good idea to go ahead with standardized testing in a year when students were dealing with unprecedented stress because of the pandemic?

It doesn’t matter how you feel about the pandemic; that’s not the issue here. Whether you believe it is a political conspiracy or the next bubonic plague – it doesn’t matter here. The events since March 2020 have affected literally everyone in some degree or another, but I’m not sure we are paying enough attention to how it has affected our at risk kids, or even kids in general.

Let me tell you what I saw.

I taught in a Title 1 school for twenty years and that’s where I was when this all rolled out. In our high school we had kids in extreme poverty, terrible home situations, homeless kids, stories that would make you weep. Not every kid was in a dire situation but by far the majority had some level of poverty at the very least. I say this only to indicate the level of stress at which these kids were already functioning.

In March 2020 we closed schools and they did not reopen until August. For at least five months these kids lost the support system of the school including the administrators and educators who look out for them, who look to be sure they have food, a roof over their head, or if abuse is present. In our school we have paid electric bills, bought shoes, found housing, provided meals and clothing when it was needed. Maybe this isn’t the job of a school, but it’s the job of humanity.

When we returned in August, our kids were so damn glad to be back in a social, structured environment, we had zero classroom management issues. But, we had other issues.

We dealt with quarantines and A/B schedules. We struggled with online classes, kids with no technology, kids with no home support, kids that never logged on. Imagine the struggle of a child trying to log onto an online Chemistry class while mom is entertaining all night, your house is filled with people some of whom you don’t know. You aren’t getting proper rest or food. Maybe you don’t have electricity. You don’t know where you are going to be sleeping from one night to another. Any number of heartbreaking situations.

And we expect these kids to learn at the same level as a normal year? And then give them a standardized test?

When our State Dept of Education announced that we would not waive testing as some other states had done, as teachers we had no choice but to do our best to prepare these kids as best we could. So many of them felt unfathomable stress over these tests. It broke my heart.

The State wanted the data. They wanted to see how far students had dropped, what the learning loss was because of the pandemic.

So now they know.

And I could have told them all along that the scores would drop. I had only half my kids in class at any given time. In addition to the quarantines and the illness, as teachers we also dealt with incessant cleaning and sanitizing our rooms and equipment. We had to modify lessons and deal with changing restrictions and guidelines on a weekly basis. Kids weren’t the only ones feeling the stress.

And so now those brilliant Suits in Education think maybe it could be a good idea to waive school report card scores. We spend a bloody fortune on standardized testing which we knew would show a significant drop yet we forked over all that money anyway, and for what?

For what?

What has been gained from all that testing?

Nothing.

And the suits in Education wonder why we rail against public education.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

The 2nd Best Non-Move I ever made Anna Maria College 12 Years Later

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Jesus via Matthew 6:19-21

My oldest son turns 30 next week and when I was writing my under the fedora piece for today (that is going up tomorrow instead) I touched on a story that brought this to mind.

Back in 2009 he had been offered a big scholarship to Anna Maria college and we went to visit the place. What I saw at the “catholic” college was less that overwhelming:

My problem with the place is one of my pet peeves. The college is a Catholic College There are old crosses on buildings and portraits of older bishops in one or two places, but I saw nothing affirming their Catholic identity. No portrait of the pope, no schedule of Masses (although they do offer daily Mass).

There were pictures celebrating the new president all over the place, banners celebrating diversity, announcements of the woman’s study courses but nothing on the March for Life later this month in Washington. The concert was a “holiday” concert. In the Anna Maria in the news bulletin board at the admissions office there was an article talking about protesting the pope in the US. That was the extent of any recent mention of religion.

Of course that was written in the days when “Is the Pope Catholic” was a one liner rather than a legit question but I digress…

When he was offered a full boat at the local Fitchburg State college (before it became Fitchburg University) which never pretended it wasn’t a secular organization he jumped at it allowing him to live at home and continue in our parish where his faith was well formed. I was going to let it go at that until we got a letter from the Bishop congratulating us on being accepted at Anna Maria and the Scholarship and the importance of a Catholic education.

At that point I wrote a letter to the Bishop that said in part:

We were excited when Sam was accepted at Anna Maria; even more so when they offered the largest (in dollars) scholarship of any of the nine colleges that have accepted and attempted to recruit him. We looked forward to the visit to the college and liked the prospect of a college that would expand both his faith and his educational horizons.

Then we actually visited the college.

Comparing your description of the college as a “great example of a Catholic institution…” and my experience I thought of George Weigel’s line commenting on the differing press releases concerning Speaker Pelosi visit to the Holy See: “Were Benedict XVI and Nancy Pelosi in the same meeting, or even in the same city?”

it continued:

When I talked to the gentleman from admissions after the tour he informed me that this was not unusual at Catholic colleges and seemed to stress diversity rather than the Catholic identity, in fact seemed happy to reassure the next visiting student that he would not have to take any courses having to do with religion. Continuing my quote from the blog:

…It would be nicer if Catholic identity actually meant something. I’ve spent much more than I can afford over the last 10 years giving my sons a Catholic education. If I’m going to spend a whole lot more for a Catholic College then I expect a Catholic College.

I can’t reconcile your description of Anna Maria with what I saw and I can’t believe you would make that description after visiting the college yourself. While academically I believe it would be strong I don’t believe attending would foster his faith, in fact I suspect if he choose to wear his faith proudly it would go hard on him there.

The Bishop forward my letter to the president of the college who wrote me to dispute my impression and I posted both letters on the blog trusting readers to make their own decision.

Because I was referencing this story in the post I took the liberty of visiting the Anna Maria Web site curious if things had changed in twelve years and under a different president.

The front page like many sites has a rotating gallery highlighting many different things none of them involving the faith and while on other tabs you could find a reference particularly on the Campus Ministry page you will be hard pressed to find a sign of it. For the fun of it I did a search for the phrase: “Jesus Christ” on the site here were the results:

search result 7/10/21 10:20 am

two of those are blog posts from 2020 and the other two are programs offered.

Now if you search for “diversity” however…

Search 7/10/21 10:24 AM

You’d have to go to additional pages to see all the results you can find but I figured the 1st page was enough to make my point. If you search for LGBT…

search result 7/10/21 10:26 AM

Well at least Jesus does equally as well as LGBT in the search results. I’ll wager there are plenty of Catholic Colleges where he doesn’t.

Well that’s Anna Maria College 12 years later. As for my son twelve years later last week I had a rare Sunday off and so I had the pleasure of my wife and sons all with me at the 6 PM mass at our parish. Neither of my sons received communion but both went up to the priest arms crossed for a blessing. When the mass was over they asked him for confession. When they had both received the sacrament the pastor took them to the tabernacle and they received Holy Communion after mass. I can imagine my mother & father punching the air in heaven at this and as their dad I can’t adequately state how proud I was to see this.

The best non-decision my wife and I ever made still remains not moving to the Portland Oregon area after our Honeymoon there 33 years ago but I’m thinking giving Anna Maria a miss twelve years ago comes in as a pretty solid second.

BrainPop is totally OK violating the law

If you’re not familiar with the education website BrainPop, then I’m guessing you don’t have any school age children. BrainPop is a website with a collection of short educational videos. It’s pretty popular in middle schools, and its had a fairly solid reputation among educators. So when my daughter said she was concerned about a BrainPop video she watched, I was a bit surprised.

So I watched the video on Jim Crow, and for the most part, it was pretty good. It discussed Plessy vs Ferguson, Truman’s desegregation of the military, the NAACP lawsuits and the events that lead up to Brown vs Board of Education. It handles the events pretty well, not sugar coating details over what is a difficult subject to discuss.

Sadly, the video fell apart for me right at the beginning and at the end. The video opens with the protagonists stuck in traffic due to a protest. But that is OK, we’re told, because the protestors are protesting for a good cause. Never mind that impeding traffic is a violation of the law, and the protestors could have easily protested without blocking traffic. But hey, its a good cause, whatever that means, and I say that because we don’t ever really know what the protestors stand for. Rather, its presented as a “protesting for more rights” sort of thing. Remember that point, its important later.

At the end of the video, we get a taste of progressive BrainPop. We’re told that all sorts of groups are protesting for their rights. What do these groups look like, you may ask?

Image capture from BrainPop Jim Crow video

My, that’s a pretty diverse set of protestors! Seems to be mostly from one side of a political aisle. But I have some questions. Why not include protestors from the pro-life movement? Why no reference to other discrimination, such as the rampant discrimination against Irish Catholics? And what exactly are immigrant rights? I thought rights belonged to citizens, or maybe I read that part of the Constitution wrong.

Apparently we forgot about this very real discrimination in American history

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. There were indications BrainPop would get a bit more, progressive, dating back to 2016. It looks like I’m not the only one to notice this either. What’s sad is that you can already see this won’t end well. Once you pick sides, or appear to do so, you immediately turn a situation into “us vs them.” When I search for LGBT on BrainPop, I get 4 results, including one for Harvey Milk, but no results for abortion, pro-life or other related terms. Is BrainPop choosing sides? It sure appears so.

I wrote the following email to my daughters teacher. My hope is that he can perhaps put some of this material into more context, and given his past record, I think there’s a chance for that. I also think many teachers aren’t aware of the creeping progressive themes in BrainPop and other educational materials that used to just focus on delivering good content instead of pushing an agenda. If your kids use BrainPop, and had to watch the Jim Crow episode, I’d encourage you to send an email like mine below.

Dear Mr. (name),
I’m a fan of open discussion about American History, both the good and the bad. My daughter Cecilia recently watched a BrainPop video on Jim Crow, and for the most part, the video was pretty accurate. I especially liked the reference to Plessy vs Ferguson, which is important to establish the proper way that the Supreme Court can correct past wrong decisions.

However, there are two disturbing points in the video I feel must be addressed. The video opens with the two protagonists stopped in traffic due to a protest. The one protagonist, a non-speaking robot, gets visibly angry at the disturbance, but the other protagonist, a young white male, tells him to calm down because the protestors have a “good reason to protest.”

This portion of the video is absurd because it overlooks key portions of the Constitution and settled law. The First Amendment of the Constitution allows the “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This right, like all rights, is subject to restrictions such as noise ordinances and safety concerns. While the Supreme Court has struck down attempts at vague restrictions, such as the attempt to shut down “annoying” protests in Coates vs City of Cincinnati, it has upheld arrests of people who engage in violent behavior and who block traffic.

To use a close to home example, there was a scheduled protest down (nearby road) in the summer of 2020. The protestors obtained a permit and had police protection during their protest. Traffic was restricted to one side of (road), which allowed for proper flow of normal and emergency vehicles during this time. This is a great example of what is supposed to happen. 

The video, however, is OK with an illegal blocking of traffic, which begs many questions. Are the protagonists OK with workers losing pay because they arrived to work late? What would they say to the loved ones of someone who died because their ambulance was stuck in unexpected traffic interruptions? What about someone who inadvertently injured a protestor because they weren’t aware of the protests because it wasn’t scheduled? These aren’t hypothetical questions, as each has happened in real life, yet the video glazes over these points like they don’t matter.

The other disturbing section was near the end, which implied that groups of different Americans needed to have “their rights” secured. It’s disturbing because it presents rights as something unequally distributed based on color, gender, sexual orientation, or a variety of other ways we can divide people into different blocks.

Rights exist for all Americans. Abolishing Jim Crow laws was done to allow black Americans to exercise their American rights. Rights aren’t given based on people’s beliefs or how active their melanocytes happen to be in their skin. Rights are given because we are people. That’s the part about “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of Independence, or in the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” It’s pretty heady and exciting stuff when you think about it, and something we should be proud of, because it’s not present in many parts of the world, even today. 

When we separate rights into blocks based on arbitrary divisions of human beings, we put ourselves into an “us vs them” scenario. This implies there are winners and losers, and encourages people to fight those that don’t look like them. I can’t imagine a more cynical and cunning way you could destroy unity than this. The ending of the video encourages people to lump themselves into categories and fight for rights for “their side,” rather than fighting to ensure all Americans have the same exercise of American rights.

I apologize for the length of this email, but I think it’s important to point out where misinformation is hurting our education. We should be encouraging students to study US History, including the parts that aren’t the most flattering. But that study doesn’t mean we overlook laws, and it certainly doesn’t demand dividing us into different, competing blocks of people. We’re better than that. I hope you can provide a counter to this messaging that encourages our children to both learn from the past and create a better future for America.

From my email to our daughters teacher

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Report from Louisiana: Year Round School?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Year-round school.  A lot of districts do it, but I am not a fan.

Louisiana’s (new) Superintendent of Education is proposing year-round school in our state. I know that there are a couple of schools in our local district that are already doing this, elementary schools mostly, but as a teacher, I must tell you, I don’t think I’d like this.

Here’s the thing. I need that summer to recharge. While most people are under the impression that teachers get “three months off” or “all summer off,” of course that is not the case. I am about to retire after twenty-five years in the classroom, and I can assure you that I’ve never ever had three months off, and I’ve never had a summer where I wasn’t required to do some sort of professional development.

Every five years or so we have some sort of curriculum change that requires professional development…training…inservice; new technology, new gradebook software, new this, new that…all of it requires PD. Time taken out of your “summer.” 

As rewarding as it is, teaching is exhausting work. And really, this isn’t the post where I want to defend the position that teachers are underpaid for what they do, and that yes, we knew what we got paid when we went into the profession. That is for another day.

But year-round school? Nope. Glad I won’t be there for that.

Kids need the break too, you see. Yes, indeed, some of them need school all the time; their life at home might be terrible and maybe they aren’t getting meals and maybe they don’t get enough supervision and sometimes the electricity and water aren’t even turned on.

Schools have become the place to catch all of these issues that are neglected at home. We feed our students breakfast and lunch, teach them sex education, breast cancer awareness and self-examination; we do vision and hearing checks, we help seniors sign up for Financial Aid. We provide jackets and clothing for kids in need and sometimes we pay an electric bill. Schools are now social support service providers and while I love kids and will help any child in need every single time, we have to wonder if this is the job of the school.

Are we losing sight of education?

Most opponents of year-round school suggest that kids need time to be with their families, to go on vacation, Disneyland! Most of the kids I teach can’t even dream of going to Disneyland and have never been on a family vacation; some are homeless and live in hotels. Most of my high school aged students work and they work hard, long hours.

When we shut down for Covid, our kids were working. They didn’t log onto Google classroom every day to do math problems and watch YouTube documentaries; they took advantage of the time to work, make money, pay bills.

Not all of them, obviously, but a lot of them. I know this for a fact.

And so as I consider the proposal of year round school, I am conflicted. I think about these kids; they need some down time, too. They are working, they are trying to survive, they are trying to finish school. Where’s the downtime? Teachers need to recharge, too, and a lot of teachers depend on summer jobs to supplement their salaries.

Schools can provide everything else. Can’t we provide a few weeks with no school?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

School lockdowns lead to urban carjacking spike

By John Ruberry

The COVID-19 school lockdown continues in America’s biggest cities, despite clear evidence that children are unlikely to become seriously ill from that virus.

One unintended consquence of the closing of public schools to all but remote learning is more crime–and especially more carjackings. 

It is no longer just conservative media calling attention to the link to the school lockdowns and carjackings in big cities. Although CBS was artful in its report in a story last week. “Investigators say the trend is driven by 12 to 15 year olds with time on their hands during the pandemic,” CBS News said. These kids have more time on their hands because their schooling consists of Zoom instruction something CBS omitted in its story.

Last month a 66-year-old UberEats driver, Mohammad Anwar, a Pakistani immigrant, died while clinging to his vehicle in Washington DC after being tased in a carjacking by two girls, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old. A bystander took video of the crime–which has gone viral. 

“You know, idle minds are the devil’s playground. And a lot of these kids, they’ve been idle for a year and a half now without going to school. And that’s been a big problem,” Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo told Fox News last week.

In that CBS story referenced earlier it was also reported, “The number of carjackings has exploded during the pandemic. Carjackings have increased by more than 100% in Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. They are up more than 343% in Washington, D.C.”

Let’s look at Chicago. The pusillanimous nature of the local media creates an opening for straightforward sources. One of those news sites is Hey Jackass! and it reports the raw numbers of carjackings. Well sort of. Stick with me on this one. In 2019 there were 603 reported carjackings and 1,396 last year. So far in 2021 there have been 404. But here’s the kicker. “Carjacking data comes directly from the CPD’s own data set,” Hey Jackass! warns, “so add 20% to obtain the true number.” 

There’s a lot of speculation about why carjackers commit their crimes. Thrill is probably one of them, but also often vehicles are carjacked to aid other crimes. Perhaps it’s a mix of the two. Just last night, another great local crime site, CWB Chicago, told us of a 55-year-old woman who was pushed to the ground inside a Target parking lot as her Audi was carjacked. The criminals drove away with her car and the one they arrived in, a Kia, which was likely carjacked near the University of Chicago a couple of hours prior. Percentage-wise since 2017 the arrest rate for Chicago carjackings has been in the single digits, according to Hey Jackass!

On April 19 Chicago’s public high schools are scheduled to re-open, although how that occurs varies from school to school. Of course the recalcitrant Chicago Teachers Union, citing new COVID-19 numbers, is opposed.

Mental health among students has suffered during the lockdown

Once the school lockdowns end–and I believe they will one day–don’t expect the carjackers to give up their horrible hobby. 

Businesses in Chicago, already suffering from 13 months of lockdowns, rioting, and looting, are receiving another hit. Suburbanites, for good reason, are afraid to travel to the city. And the carjackings occur in all neighborhoods, rich, poor, and in between.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Report from Louisiana: Teacheritis

Photo by Dan Dimmock on Unsplash

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have about three months left in the classroom until I retire. I hope I can make it. It’s close…so close, yet seems so far away.

I have loved teaching; I’ve loved my kids, but I am so done with administrative decisions that devalue the human being in front of that classroom. I know every single job has its drawbacks and there are those ridiculous things that irritate a person everywhere they go. I’m not alone.

I am sure that part of my current negative attitude is more due to the fact that I’m about to be able to walk away than that my workplace is unbearable, because it is in no way unbearable. I love my admins in my school, my co-workers, my students, and my classroom itself.

And if this was a normal year, without Covid, it would certainly be better. But, y’all. I am exhausted just thinking about these next few weeks. This has been the most difficult year of my career.

Tell me if I’m being petty or ridiculous. It won’t hurt my feelings.

I have to be in my classroom or on duty to supervise kids at 6:55. I have first block planning, so I don’t have a class until 9:05, but that first block planning is often taken over by meetings, trainings, and on rare occasions covering another class. We will give the ACT test in two weeks and I won’t have a planning period then, but, mostly I have first-block planning.

My first class is at 9:05 and runs until 10:40. Next class, 10:45 – 12:15. At 12:15 students have lunch and beginning this week they will eat in my classroom as we attempt to make-up those snow days. I am required to have some instructional video or activity for them during this lunch period. And I must, of course, be in the room to supervise. Then my last class comes in at 12:40 – 2:15.

I have to go from 9:05-2:15 without a restroom break, unless I call someone, anyone, to come relieve me for a minute.

Not so bad, you think? Right? Hey, at least your day ends at 2:15, right?  No, not right.

Papers must be graded, lessons prepared, presentations done, copies made for the next day. Grades must be entered into the online gradebook, and then you have parent conferences or calls to make. There are the Behavior Tracking Forms to be filled out, emails to be read and responded to, and other random paperwork that comes across my desk. Time must be made to meet with or check on my mentor students. And don’t forget the cleaning and sanitizing because of Covid that needs to be done to the computers and desks.

Truly, I’m exhausted.

I honestly know on some level that it’s because I know the end is nigh, but really, it’s so easy to feel like the tasks just keep piling on. Nothing is ever taken away, just more piled on.

Okay, so I’m venting. 

I think it’s really best that I retire now, at 25 years, rather than go to 30 years for a little more money. I don’t think I have the tolerance or the energy to do all of this. I’m not sure I’m giving my students my very best anymore.

And that breaks my heart.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport, at Medium, and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

Report from Louisiana: In-Person School is Better

By: Pat Austin

As hard as it is to admit this, I might have been wrong.

While some school districts across the country have remained closed, and while they attempt to reopen in coming weeks, I have come to the decision that having kids in the classroom, in person, is better for them.

In August, I was terrified of returning to school in this pandemic — and the numbers then were so much lower then than they are right now. I was certain we were all going to get Covid-19, that classes would be hopeless because of high absenteeism, and that schools would shut back down two weeks after opening. I was scared I’d be constantly battling kids who didn’t want to wear a mask. Everyone would see that this was a failed experiment to reopen during a pandemic and we would be sent back home for virtual learning.

“We should stay virtual!” I screamed into the void, terrified.

I was so wrong.

Is it a different kind of school year? Yes.

Have we seen cases of Covid? Absolutely.

Have we had multiple students and teachers in quarantine? Sure, we have.

Have staff members become gravely ill? Several, yes. Others, not so much.

Should we shut down again? No way.

Education has never been a one-size-fits-all endeavor and for many students, virtual classes do not work. I teach ELA in a Title 1 high school and many of my students do not have internet access or computers at home. When we shut down in spring 2020, so many kids slipped through the cracks and never logged into their lessons. Many had little to no support at home.

I know now that these kids need to be in school. I see the benefit every single day. They need the support and the relationships that we give them. They need the structure. They need the socialization. They need so much more than we are able to give, even outside of a pandemic.

It’s true that I spend most of the day cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, computers, desks, you name it (despite research that says Covid-19 is probably not spread that way.) And it is true that my classroom is crowded; we truly cannot social distance in the room; my student desks are about two feet apart. We wear masks and to be honest, the students comply better than some of the adults. Because my classroom windows do not open and there is no ventilation, I bought an air purifier. Maybe it helps.

Even though my students seem truly glad to be in school right now, I do worry about the toll all this might take on their mental health. So many people are without jobs right now and so many of them were in deep poverty even before the pandemic. Add that to the daily stress of sick family members, concern about becoming ill themselves, and worry about what the future holds, well, these kids are juggling a lot right now, just like their teachers and their parents.

Much of this is out of my control and I’ve had to accept that.

But, honestly, as far as classwork goes, not much has been different. In my tenth grade English classroom, we’ve read books, done gallery walks, written essays, analyzed literature, written narratives, basically all of the same things we would normally do. There has been less group work, but we have adjusted.

The bottom line is that kids are resilient. They adjust so much more easily than adults do.

There is growing concern that the new coronavirus variants, which are so much more contagious, will raise the number of cases in schools. This may be true, but it just means that we will increase our vigilance, keep our masks up, and distance as much as we can. We will be fine. Eventually, teachers in Louisiana will get vaccines.

In our district we still have a lot of parents opting for 100% virtual education for their children and I respect that choice. I will never vilify or criticize anyone for doing what they believe is best for their family and for their own health. If this pandemic has taught us nothing else, it should be that we ought to be civil and respectful to each other. But I would tell those parents that as teachers we are doing everything in our power to keep these kids safe.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.