The announcement finally came. It was predictable and I was expecting it but it still hit hard.
On April 7, our state government announced that students would continue to learn at home for Term 2, due to start after Easter. So another three months of unemployment for me.
But, as a dear friend said to me, “You can take the person out of the teaching but you can’t take the teaching out of the person.”
I’ve been finding a way through.
I have you wonderful people in this amazing blogging community to thank for the first step. When I first wrote about losing a job I love, many people asked if there was a way to communicate with the students online. Being a casual teacher, I don’t have access to those platforms at my school but then Dan mentioned recording videos and a germ of an idea sprung up in this still fertile mind (it’s all that bullcrap I store in there).
My ‘thing’ when teaching is music. I get a lot of jokes about moving out of home when I’m working because I walk in and out with an enormous suitcase and a guitar on my back. The suitcase holds a collection of instruments and song props – my own ‘bag of tricks’ as all good CRTs carry. I’ve previously mentioned that a favourite song is “When You’re Happy and You Know It” done with all sorts of different emotions and different actions to match.
So, I took a deep breath and I videoed myself singing this song, doing eight different emotions. (Trust me, this was huge. I am not a fan of being on camera.) I then split them up into different videos and edited them to include the PCS (Pictorial Communication System) card for that emotion before and after the song.
Sample of PCS cards for feelings
The videos are not flashy. They are just me singing and playing the guitar with no great video effects. It’s because I wanted it to accurately replicate what it would be like for the kids at school. Truly. It’s not at all because I honestly couldn’t be bothered doing that much editing. Besides, there’s a plethora of flashy songs on the interwebs for the kids to access. How often will they get to see ME this term?
I also tried to keep the file size as small as I could while trying to keep a reasonable standard because some of our kids won’t have access to great internet.
Here is where I want to thank my lovely friend Naomi who has been my cheerleader through this process. She was the one I sent them to first because I knew I could trust her to tell me honestly if they were okay.
Fortunately she thought they were more than okay.
The next step was to send them to a suitable focus group. Luckily I am great friends with a number of preschoolers (even related to a few) so I sent the videos off to this treasured cohort and received a very positive response.
Last step – send them to the music specialist teacher at my school. I needed a gin and tonic before I could hit that send button despite all the previous positive feedback. Sharing your own creation with others is like sharing some deep uncertain part of yourself.
To my enormous relief, my work was received with great enthusiasm and gratitude.
The videos are on YouTube but marked as Unlisted so you won’t find them without a direct link. While I wanted them easily shared, I didn’t particularly feel like making myself available to the world’s troll network.*
However, in the spirit of community and doing new things, I’ve included one of the videos here for you to have a squizz at what you helped create. I chose Sad because this is the one the kids always find hilarious at school and the great-nephew also declared it his favourite, with a giggle.
My other task to keep the sadness away has been to build activity boxes for a couple of three-year-old coffee buddies I know. I knew their parents would appreciate a bit of help keeping these bright and active little boys occupied over the coming weeks. Along with my colleagues Fellowes and Carl, I’ve been madly producing resources over the past week to box up and deliver as an Easter surprise.
Fellowes – wooh, he’s so hot!
Carl – such a precise straight shooter
If I were to list activities that help my mental health, I would definitely include laminating with rotary cutting close behind. I’m also a big fan of Velcro. So making these resources was like being in my happy place.
I knew I well and truly had my teacher hat on when I found myself with fifty gazillion tabs open in my browser from eleventy hundred different education websites and blogs looking for ideas and resources. If you think I’m exaggerating, you’ve obviously never done lesson planning.
As is always the case, it started out as a tiny idea that probably would have fit into a standard envelope that then morphed into a major undertaking for which I had to buy a packing box for delivery.
But boy, did I have fun? You bet your last dollar. Or my last dollar. In light of my current situation, I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the virtual aisles of the local office supplies store and hitting that Buy button quite so regularly but it’s always been way more fun to spend money on other people than on myself so really from a mental health perspective it’s money very well spent. Cheaper than therapy anyway.
And this little episode during a video chat with one of my little friends after he opened his box made my day:
A: Thank you for my box of things just for me! It’s awful!
A’s Mum: Awesome. You mean awesome.
My little teacher soul has been fed and will feel able to carry on for a little while.
I’m finding a way through.
How about you?
*If you really want to see the full playlist because you’d love to see all the videos or you can think of some little person in your life who would enjoy them, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you the link.