Day 3 of Lockdown, after a full 7 hours remote teaching in my garage classroom. Read with Cake’s Going the Distance cranked up to 11!
There’s nothing like a pandemic to bring folks out of the house.
BC (Before Cornavirus), I ran 20 miles a week, and our lovely bay trail had some walkers, maybe a runner or two, and I recognized most of them. We waved, and went on our way. But really, it was mostly an empty run — which is the way I like it, especially after a long day teaching. Running is an integral part of my self-care — it’s not just about physical fitness, but spiritual balance, a practice especially vital during the last year, dealing with a recurrence of the brain tumor I’ve lived with for 11 years, along with 8 months of oral chemo (which is now complete, thankfully).
Read more on my relationship with exercise and the culture of the “Perfect Cancer Patient” here, in a graphic essay from a few years ago.
Indeed, running is my meditation, my daily spiritual ritual, one I turn to during hard times — like now. And now, more than ever, as a person with a chronic condition, trying to keep myself and family safe while teaching online for hours in a musty garage, I need that practice more than ever — that time alone, to run in nature, to regain balance, composure.
AC (After Corna), during lockdown, the whole community seems to be out walking — whole families, couples, little kids on bikes. On the one hand, it’s beautiful to finally see our community out enjoying nature together, away from the lure of the screen, holding hands, smiling, playing, taking advantage of the joys of the Great Outdoors.
On the other hand (which has been throughly sanitized), it’s a flippin’ pandemic!
Thankfully, it’s not nearly as packed in my neighborhood as this cartoon jests — and, folks are generally very respectful, great with social distancing. It’s nothing like the absurd outing on Stinson Beach last weekend, which got all of Marin trails closed. And in truth, if an area was as packed as this toon, I wouldn’t go there at all — and if I happened upon that crowd, I’d just turn around, rather than play Virus AvoiderTM.
And while the cartoon shows my perspective as a runner, trying to maintain 6 feet the whole way, it’s not just about me. I’m a big, hairy dude, and while speeding along the trail, sweating and heaving as I do, I imagine else on the path is performing the same calculation —
How the hell do I get away from that Bigfoot?
As a runner, I think it’s my responsibility to watch out for others — not the other way around. We are the faster traffic, and more likely to come up quickly on folks who don’t have a chance to react, or prepare mentally. Thus, now I map out my runs in advance to make sure I’m in empty areas, and ones without “choke points,” where we are less than six-feet apart. I try to find the widest paths possible, especially ones without any blind corners. Further, if I see people that are on a path I want to take, I’ll just wait for them to go by, or find another path, rather than having to rush past their social distance bubble.
Overall, I work to be a good citizen of the trail — including waving and smiling! — so that the new folks enjoying the outdoors feel safe, and after this is all over, while maybe want to stay outside!
The below image is from “The Perfect Cancer Patient” with illustrator Marc Parenteau (co-written with Gayle Sulik)
All my comics are here: https://adambessie.com/2019/06/30/collected-comix/
EPISODE #1: Face/Off
Please stay tuned right after this comic for a reflection on how a whole nation’s teachers are going remote for the first time, including me for the first time.
The last week has been a bit like building an airplane while it’s taking off. I converted all 4 of my classes online in the last week — and I’ve never taught online. Sure, I’ve used course management systems, and have students have online discussions, and upload their essays to the cloud. But I’d never taught online — and this was by design.
Since I started teaching in 2002, I’ve been a face-to-face instructor. I was drawn to teaching by the live energy of the classroom. Teaching has always felt a bit to me like jazz, a work of educational improvisation. I’d come to class with a plan, with a composition for the day, a script. But this script was only just a means to get to the real work of the day — the music, the music of students real, live voices actively engaging in learning. The sopranos, altos, the laughter, the silence, the scratch-skritch of pencils and pens. Every day is different, no lesson exactly the same, no music the same.
Will there still be this music remotely?
Sure, there are many fabulous online instructors, those who have chosen that medium, and worked on it as a craft. But what of the rest of us, those teachers whose craft and talents are working in a live community?
Right now, I write these words at the kitchen table next to my son, who would normally be at recess right now, running with his friends, together, face-to-face. Instead, he is on a laptop, doing a series of standardized math exercises, and blowing fart sounds in my face.
My wife and I are homeschooling, as all Californians will be now. We grieve this, as we love our son’s local public school, and its vibrant community. My wife is also a public school teacher, and for the first time is working online. (Right now, as I write, she is on Google Hangouts with her AP Euro students). We share our garage — which we hastily converted into an office — to work with our students remotely. We’re taking trainings from our tech-savvy colleagues who have been working online for years, all the while having Zoom meetings with our departments, sharing tips and tricks with each other, all while actually meeting with the students remotely (who themselves are often taking online classes for the first time). I imagine our son’s teacher, Ms. B, is doing the same thing in her own remote teaching bunker, as millions of teachers are across California, across the US, across the world.
We’re all working together to keep the music of the classroom alive, the music that has been silenced by this pandemic.
I leave you with these final thoughts from one of my comics, as we all consider what will be the legacy of this remarkable moment, when the world’s classrooms all went silent, and we all escaped into the cloud: