Jennifer Orr: Controlling Fear
Jennifer Orr is a teacher and blogger who ponders here the problems of dealing with the current pandemic fear.
When I was pregnant with my children I didn’t drink any alcohol (aside from one glass of bubbly at my husband’s PhD graduation luncheon). Intellectually I knew that a drink every once in a while wasn’t a concern, that the danger to the fetus comes from regular, heavy drinking, it didn’t matter. Knowing something intellectually wouldn’t have stopped me from feeling shattering guilt if there had been any health issues with either baby. I would have blamed myself. I could control not drinking alcohol. There were so many factors that could impact my babies’ health that I couldn’t control. I was going to hold on to the ones I could.
I’ve been feeling similarly for nearly a year now. We went back to school in person in March of 2021. Since then, for the past ten months, I have struggled with how best to do multiple things all at the same time:
teach third graders (I’ve done that for a few years so it seems like it shouldn’t be that big a deal)
keep third graders (and myself and my colleagues and the other students in my building and my third graders’ families) physically safe from COVID
support third graders in dealing with whatever emotions, and possible trauma, have impacted them throughout this pandemic
help third graders ‘make up learning loss’ from the beginning of the pandemic
and all the other hats elementary school teachers wear on a normal basis
I feel like I did when pregnant, grasping at ways to keep my students safe, even when so much of it is out of my control. They could get hurt anywhere. They could catch COVID anywhere. In fact, given where I teach, I think they are more likely to catch it elsewhere as at school we require masks, have done a good job distancing when kids are eating, and are a highly vaccinated population.
None of that matters. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to keep my students safe while they are in my care, whether I truly have control over things or not. Right now, just like back in March 2021 and again in September, everything I think about for school is through the lens of COVID.