Before reading this, please put this on in the background: Chika's Tiny Desk
This has been my soundtrack to quarantine, when I've really needed to hear good music to feel a little bit sane. I've also been finding joy in DJ D-Nice's IG live sets; his soul sets have been breathtaking and so important to my mental health. Please let me know what you've been listening to during these times.
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"We are in unprecedented times" is already a cliche, but I have to begin there, because it's true. It is March 25th, and my last day of work was 12 days ago. We have been in our 2 bedroom apartment 23 hours a day since, save for one of us running to the market to get food and a walk in the woods to move our bodies. I feel fortunate that I am a teacher and for the time being, I am still being paid, but there are so many people who have lost their jobs and must stay at home until this pandemic clears. COVID-19 (or Coronavirus) was something many people thought was a scare tactic in an election year, but with over 400,000 people in 156 countries contracting this virus since December where it began in Wuhan, China, it has quickly changed the routines of our daily lives.
At this time, schools in Michigan are closed until April 13th, which will be a month of "remote learning". Research that I've read lately says that the peak in NYC is still 45 days away, and that we could lose up to 2.5 million people in the United States; many say that we should not expect to return to school this year, though our president is more concerning with money than saving lives, and it's despicable. It has been tough to keep in touch with my students, many of whom do not have computers or reliable internet at home, so I've been trying to text and email (and hope they get their email on their phones), and find them on the interwebs. I feel my age in the way that I communicate online, which is mostly facebook and ig, knowing that most of my students are mostly snapchat and tiktok-obsessed, and there are lines that turning 40 this year will not allow me to cross. 😝
I sent home stress-relief packets to my students with some articles to read, but mostly work about self-esteem, knowing your worth, developing yourself, positive affirmations, coping mechanisms for depression and anxiety. I didn't send home "work" because I can't grade their work, anyway. Also, I can't imagine why they would be concerned about doing work at a time like this, I'm sure not focused on it. For equity reasons, all work is enrichment work, and not required, which I'm excited about because my students lose out the most on their education in this situation. I want to make sure they have enough to eat, that is a bigger priority to me.
It has been even tougher to try and manage connecting with my students, keeping the house in somewhat working order, and figuring out how my own kids can and should still learn while quarantined. Their school sent home packets that we work on occasionally, but I am a high school teacher and phonics are not my specialty, so we have adapted project-based learning at home, too. We read books in a new reading nook I created in their room, we planted seeds and have been taking care of them, we draw and do yoga stretches, we have dance parties, we bake things almost everyday, we identify bird calls and leaves on our walks (my 9 year old self would definitely approve).
It has been tough to navigate time and space to ourselves in such a small area, and truth be told, I've found myself working in the kids' room because it's the only quiet spot in the house, but I am humbled and grateful about how much we have around us, our ability to get through tough times together and grow closer in the process. On day 1 I wrote "omg, how can I do this?" but I am learning this, too, with the help of a partner who sees the look in my eye and says, "go."
The only place we can go is the woods, which I walked alone today because I needed to feel my breath quicken as I pushed up a hill and paused at the water to say nam myoho renge kyo under my breath. It is scary to know that this virus is everywhere, and I want to keep everyone safe, not just everyone in my life. This is why I stay home -- for my grandparents, for my mom, aunts and uncles, for elders and immunosuppressed folks in my community, for the homeless and incarcerated, for nurses and doctors and medical assistants and grocery store employees, gas station employees and delivery drivers, for postal workers.
Look out soon for another dispatch from a 2 bedroom apartment in the Midwest. May you be safe, healthy and stay at home to flatten the curve.
Lauren, Mulay, Nas and Sali Diop