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.

Little People

As I prepare for the new, improved sanitized new year at The Young Human Factory, the little ones are squeezing in all the fun they can manage before this extraordinarily long summer vacation ends.

I heard a child’s yell of outrage in the morning. A girl of four had come up my driveway, dumped her bike on the lawn, and was walking back to mom. Seems she JUST got the training wheels off and was having trouble steering.

I went out and chatted with her mom. I tried VERY hard not to laugh at the oh-so-serious little girl. She had a doll, and her daddy mounted a doll carrier to her bike so she can take Dolly for rides. Dolly will keep her company when her sibling enters full-day school.

The Middle School Mafia, once limited to bikes, electric scooters, and the occasional dirt bike, has acquired a golf cart. It isn’t clear who commandeered it from grandpa, but they were running the road with five kids on it. Next week, their little band is breaking up. Some of them will be attending school; others are taking the online option.*

For my part, I am prepping for the weirdness to follow an abbreviated school year and continued restrictions. And I remind myself: I have to keep an upbeat attitude!

***

*NOTE: Families have two weeks to decide if their child is enrolling in an online class or attending in-person classes. Frankly, I hope a good number do the former, since the rosters are ungainly: 29 to 35 students cannot social distance.

School’s out… sort of.

A little while ago, I watched the governor of Michigan’s press conference. Schools are closed until the fall. All classes will be moved online, even though the Michigan Department of Education refuses to count online classes toward the “seat hours” requirement.

This is, as President Obama once said, “above my paygrade.”

I’m going to spend my last days of vacation (official) finding materials that I can retype into Google Classrooms. Teaching another novel is out! So is, unfortunately, the back-and-forth conversations and the eureka! moments when struggling students finally “got” the material.

Well-meaning friends have already forwarded me links to companies that would be only too happy to have my contact information (as well as my students’).*  However, any useful links would be appreciated. I can always sort the chaff.


*My boss sent me a Google Classroom training session (Free!), for which I registered. When the time came to “attend,” it directed me that I wasn’t going to see the video feed but could listen in by calling a number and using the code. Thus, the educational consultant company has my personal cellphone number.

And the “training” was 5 minutes of introduction to the presenter and company, 15 minutes of verbal explanation, and another 15 minutes or so of FAQs interspersed in a salespitch.

 

Keep Going

My goodness! The only social medium I use regularly has blown up over the last three days.* Two news sites I read also went from being information-based to semi-hysterical.

But the teachers are still teaching, albeit at a distance. Today workers and bosses at The Young Human Factory gathered to pack meals and figure out deliveries. It was great to see coworkers, but also to see the parents of former students who were volunteering.

Creative writers are no different. I’ve been encouraged by those who are staying the course through the storm.  I particularly liked The Write Practice’s offering of a 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine Writing Challenge.

The environmental stress weighs heavily on everyone, presenting unique challenges. One of my home-bound acquaintances wrote plaintively, “My coworkers keep putting their naked asses on my papers.”  I can’t imagine the horror. (Note: I HOPE he meant cats, not his children.)

The veteran writer, David Farland, canceled workshops but continues sending his newsletter. He suggested that fiction writers focus on the problems of the characters in their stories:

As you consider those, your subconscious mind will become more and more grounded in your tale, and you’ll find it easier to write with each coming day. As you think about upcoming scenes to write in the evening, they’ll populate your imagination while you sleep, and you’ll often awake ready to write.

I think it’s good advice and I’m going to follow it tomorrow. Today I’m still doing quality-control via the Internet and correcting essays.


*People sometimes tell me to abandon FB, but it’s the best place to keep in touch across four continents, five languages (only two of which I speak), and several time zones.  This weekend, my newlywed American cousin made a suggestion for helping avoid the coronavirus, which our octogenarian Mexican cousin translated to Spanish and reposted – and it was picked up by other Spanish-speakers.

April… erm, May Update

It’s been a while. Life at The Young Human Factory has flooded over into el ocio (edit: leisure. My brain is not wanting to English today.) I enjoyed a lovely luncheon on Cinco de Mayo in honor of my aunt’s birthday.

However, when I take a weekend off, I must pay with another. This weekend is devoted to lawncare and catching up at work.

But all is not bleak. Below are highlights from the previous month. Continue reading

The Factory is not closed for me…

As faithful readers may remember, my job as a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory underwent a transformation this fall. I was put in charge of teaching English to members – or potential members – of the Middle School Mafia. A daunting task, but I am buoyed by the vision of them communicating without grunts, egg-flinging, and ritualistic doorbell-ringing.

For the same low price, I now deliver eight more hours a week of service AND the daily 53 minutes of preparation time was eliminated. But it has really helped my time management, since I have so little.

Weekends are not my own, nor vacations. Continue reading