Back to The Factory… again.

Reader B4thugthagod asked if working from home wasn’t easier than being at The Young Human Factory. The truth is, I never stopped going to work. Because it was a “pause” and not a state-mandated shutdown, my colleagues and I were required to work regular hours.

And because it was a shutdown, I worked 9-12 hour days, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. Recording instructional videos, converting in-class work to Google-friendly documents, and answering dozens of questions (mostly by cutting-and-pasting the directions the students didn’t read) took extra hours.

Last week I stopped offering a daily 8-12:30 Google Meet-ups because of proctoring tests. The only students who used the virtual meetings were done with their work and lonely. (One student showed me his entire rock collection and motherboard repairs for over an hour.)

There have been recurring problems; e.g. the students mark work as “done” so their parents are happy, but they submitted nothing – or nonsense. For example, a student wrote ” “I like cheese” instead of an introductory paragraph. I tried to nip this behavior in the bud by contacting all parents of “missing work” students the first week. I printed off each nonsensical document, scanned it, and emailed it to the child’s parents.

Some – not all – students corrected that document, which I re-ran and graded. But most played the same trick later. After I entered zeroes in the gradebook, the parents cracked the whip. Last week, my inbox was flooded with hundreds of notifications about work submitted 15 to 20 days late!

There’s a misconception that The Factory is a utility company. When the electricity is shut off, students finally pay the bill and the power comes back. In truth, students are like jobbers who shirk work and then, on payday, are outraged that their neighbors are flush with cash.

It’s Sunday afternoon. I’m writing this while waiting for lunch to finish cooking, after which I must go to The Factory to finalize the Marking Period. (After which, everyone will decide to Pay the Utility Bill.) Then I’ll set up the weekly lessons (and a test over a novel!)

Things are going to be ugly for a while longer.

April Update: Factory Edition

Yes, I’m still alive. (In answer to Nann’s query.) However, everything around me seems as if it’s in a suspended state of animation. And on fire.

The latest coronavirus “pause” has been extended. “Pause” means The Young Human Factory, located in a county-wide hotspot, is closed to all but staff and a few choice young humans who need extra quality-control.

The Great Lakes State is in the throes of a surge (along with our neighbour Ontario). The official response is maddening. The state requested more vaccine doses; request denied. But good news: the US Department of Education (DOE) waived the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. Surely the students will be safely home for another week.

No. The DOE denied the state request to waive spring tests. Thus, the Factory is closed to students – except for mandatory test days.

I am already running around like a headless chicken. This latest is just “the sugar on the frosting,” as a sweet French-speaking lady put it.  

Late-breaking news… %&*$&#!!!

Today is Sunday. Churches have just opened again for normal operations, so I was gung-ho to attend and going through my last-minute check.

Stockings without a rip? Check.

Mask secure? Check.

Ringer turned off? Check… wait a minute. What is this notification from work?

I scanned it: “Please check your emails…. face to face pause… increase in Covid cases….”

GAH!! The Young Human Factory is closing again!!

We’ve been through a lot, particularly those who have been quarantined more than once already. Yes, more than once. The quarantines are based on contact tracing, which is like a game of Six Degrees of Separation, but less fun and no Kevin Bacon whatsoever.)

After all the restrictions, all the care the kids have been taking, the assigned seating at three separate lunches and two separate cafeterias, not to mention their teachers getting vaccinated* – my students will be freaking out and furious tomorrow.

Heck, I’m freaking out and furious TODAY. I just hope by waiting until after lunch, I won’t have as much competition for the printers and copiers. (Then again, making packets for nine days of absence is a lot of printing and copying!)

*****

*The first shot was on a “snow day,” when inclement weather cancelled classes. It was kind of cool to see all the administrators, teachers, and support staff who braved the trek.

School is coming back!

The governor of Michigan has decided that schools can open up in 2021. I am so glad.

I was at The Young Human Factory past midnight two days this past week. Each day, I read and responded to more than 125 emails. Virtual meet-ups? Did them. Long phone calls? Yes. Making videos of everything from grammar lessons to “How to Do Today’s Work”? Heck, yeah!

And then my poor students had to do the work, which was bad, and read the directions, which was… worser. (Actual vocabulary of middle-schooler.)

My favorite conversation this week occurred when I received a desperate plea from one of the Brainiacs (the contentious members of the Middle School Mafia). He was encountering problems doing a grammar practice.

Brainiac: [Detailed explanation of the problem.] I can’t figure this out.

Me: You did not read #3 on my instructions today. Therefore, you have failed your first reading comprehension assignment of the day! Ha ha!

Brainiac: Oh poop.

In school, this Brainiac would have been in the honors class with other Brainiacs, who would tease and laugh. The back-and-forth conversation of class is the most fun, especially when peers help each other learn by repeating what I just finished saying. (Fun fact: A teacher can say “Read the directions” forty times, but when a student says “Read the directions” the first time, the other students hear it.)

I look forward to hearing “Oh, poop” in person.

Panic in Detroit, or Every Breath You Take

I have always read the biggest newspapers in the area: The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. The following is a screenshot of today’s opinion.

The headline certainly reflects the piece.

At first glance, it seemed the headline writer had gone full sensationalist. Reading further – because how can one not? – I saw the headline matched the tone. I want to tell Mr. Stern, “Take a moment, relax, and just breathe.”

But that would be advocating homicide.

Seriously, the entire thing reads like poor satire. The columnist worries “because the person in front of me in the grocery line is wearing a mask below his nose — expelling a cloud of radioactive COVID dust that I cannot escape, short of dropping $50 on the conveyor belt and trying to outrun the security guard.”

I think my elderly parents have a much better attitude about Covid-19. They socially distance, limit interactions, wear a mask, wash their hands thoroughly, and pay attention to health habits: regular sleep, regular exercise, and vitamin supplements. If they avoid people with bad hygiene – including mask-wearing etiquette.

They want to live, yet they don’t succumb to feelings of despair and… well, whatever sentiment pervades that column!