Woman wearing glasses and a striped cloth mask, holding a lacy knitting project that is still on the needles and looking pensive.

New mask, new skirt, new semester

I started knitting the Vita de Vie (my second!) that I got yarn for on my birthday (which was back in April but what is time anymore, anyway?). This sweater’s gonna match at least TWO of my Cleo Skirts: the magenta/purple/orange plaid one, and this new one, in purple/blue/pink stripes (hey, I just realized it’s kind of like a bi pride skirt!), which I finished sewing yesterday while desperately trying to distract myself from feelings of impending doom: 

New Cleo Skirt and matching mask
(Awkward pose brought to you by attempting to use the self-timer and get both mask and skirt in the frame. Sometime I’ll try to get a better photo of the skirt, but trust me, it looks like the other Cleo Skirts I’ve made from the Andover Kaleidoscope fabric, just striped instead of plaid.)

As you can see, I now have yet another skirt + matching masks set. I’ve been making modified versions of the masks using the pattern that Marcy Harriell shared on YouTube (original mask video & adding a filter-pocket video); instead of shrinking the pattern by folding height out, I made the masks with full size pieces, but added a (not especially well done, but whatever) box pleat on either side so that it hugs my face better and gives me space to talk. Here’s a video of me talking in (and about) the first one I made:

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be teaching in person in these masks. I’ve got back-to-back 75 minute classes, and am not at all sure how I’ll manage without eating or drinking during them. Don’t get me wrong, though – if I’m going to be forced to teach in person in small rooms with no windows, no distancing and no regular surveillance testing (as is true here), then I *want* us all to be masked, even though we’re also vaccinated, because my kid is too young to be vaccinated and I don’t want to bring a breakthrough infection home to her. (I still know hardly anything about what HER school situation is going to be!) I’m going to mask any time I’m indoors with other people until she’s vaccinated. 

But teaching in a mask is going to suck for me, for a bunch of reasons: I’m chronically hypoglycemic, so I typically lightly snack while I’m teaching, but I can’t do that in a mask, which means tomorrow I’ll need to make it from just before 10:25am until just after 1:05pm without eating. Add in the fact that I have auditory processing challenges that make it difficult for me to understand masked speakers – I can do it, but it’s *exhausting*. And on the exhaustion front, ever since the pneumonia of late 2019, I get very tired after talking for an extended period even without a mask, but it’s much worse in one. So…yeah. It’s going to be hard. 

This is now the 4th semester in a row where I can honestly say, “I’ve never been THIS exhausted at the start of a semester before.” First there was Spring ‘20, when I still hadn’t fully recovered from pneumonia. Then Fall ‘20, which I think we all thought was as bad as it could get. And yet Spring ‘21, coming on the heels of an exhausting Fall and an insurrection and so many other things, was actually worse. And now we’re here, and I’m just not sure how many “hardest semester evers” *in a row* I can actually take. And I know that in the grand scheme of things, I’m in an incredibly fortunate position compared to so many – I’ve been able to work remotely for the past 18 months, I don’t live in a place governed by people determined to prevent public health measures from being taken, and I’m fully vaccinated (though it’s also true that if I were to get seriously ill from a breakthrough infection, people would say, “well, she DID have cormorbidities.”). But even still, I am broken. I think most parents, at least of kids under 12, are. (This is a really good piece about that.) We’ve basically been abandoned by society.

And it would be one thing if the risk I’m being forced to take were a necessary one, if my job was one that absolutely had to be done in person. But it isn’t. Last year showed us that. I’m actually REALLY GOOD at teaching online, and I worked really hard to develop really great online classes for my students last year, and now all of that work is just being thrown away, disregarded, disrespected. Instead, I’m being required to risk my health and my kid’s health by returning to in-person teaching in the middle of a Delta surge to provide what will be a worse learning experience for my students. Not because I’m not going to try to make it good! I’m going to do the best I can, because I love my students. I’m a really good in-person teacher too, but I don’t know what kind of in-person teacher I’ll be when everyone’s in a mask, especially I’m burnt out and exhausted and worried about bringing Delta home to my kid. One of my most central pedagogical goals as a teacher is to ensure that I don’t ever snuff out the spark that students bring to the classroom, and in fact, help them get it burning brighter, but I feel like my own spark has been snuffed out (I’ll note that my use of the passive voice to obscure the identity of the snuffer-outers is deliberate). I hope I can get it burning again.

I feel like all of this stress is just making me a worse person – a worse friend, a worse parent, a worse spouse, a worse sister, a worse aunt (I completely neglected my niece’s birthday this past weekend because I was so consumed by stress, and I feel terrible about it). I feel like I don’t have anything left to give, and I’m just so angry about so many things. What’s going to be left of me on the other side of all this? Is there an “other side”?

Not the most chipper post, I know. I do love my new skirt, and Vita de Vie is gonna be great, too. Whatever’s left of me will at least have a pretty spiffy wardrobe of handmade clothing from these incredibly stressful times, I guess?

5 thoughts on “New mask, new skirt, new semester”

  1. Maybe you could have a high protein smoothy you can take sips of while teaching? That might give you the boost you need. Good luck and hope your students are all vaccinated.

    1. I was also going to suggest a smoothie. Doesn’t solve all the problems, sadly, but maybe it helps with one of them?

      And I’m also sorry you have to deal with all this. I’ve had nothing but sympathy for what parents have been going through these last many months. I honestly don’t know how you’ve made it this far, so for whatever it’s worth, just know that there are lots of people who recognize that you *are* doing your best, even if your best looks wildly different than it did two years ago.

  2. I’m so sorry. There are so many unfortunate things going on here. I’m grateful that I don’t have any younger kids in school anymore, so you have my sympathy on trying to take care of your own kid, your students, and hopefully yourself too! Take care of yourself.

  3. I wish you well and have been commenting to others that I simply can’t image what I’d do if I still had elementary aged kids at home. Unfortunately your being a great on-line teacher appears to have been the exception not the rule. My son observed elementary classes last semester as part of his college training to be a teacher and was appalled. Similarly he has apologized that I had to pay full tuition for his poor quality online classes.

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