Friday, August 28, 2020

It Didn't Take Long

 My gut told me not to do it, but it's so hard to leave good money on the table when you're a teacher in the summertime.

So I went to a professional development meeting of 2 days duration in a room with 8 other teachers and a consultant.

I took my own hand sanitizer and never removed my mask while there. I didn't share pens or eat in the room, which was air conditioned to near-freezing.

We had ample room to social distance.

Ten days after the meeting, I got a notice from my district that a teacher who was there tested positive. Ten days. No contact tracing in all that time.

I had no symptoms, so I decided to ride it out.

Wednesday the 26th was the two-week marker for this event. Some of the other teachers got tested, but no one else tested positive.

This was 8 teachers. I can hardly wait for September 1, when I will be reunited with the other 60 teachers at my school. On September 8, students start arriving.

It's easy to be hyper-aware when you're bored and cold and well spaced. What about when you have 10,000 things to do, it's hot and humid, and you haven't seen your pals since March?

Well, at least I know that masks work. But now I have to buy plain-colored ones. I'm so bummed. I had a friend make me some beautiful weird ones. Can't use them.

Please continue to petition the Gods and Goddesses for me and all public school teachers. As far as Covid goes, I think it's when and not if.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Coronavirus Navel Gaze: I'm Scared, I Tell Ya. Scared.

 I woke up this morning and realized that two weeks from today I will be going back to work as a public school teacher in a district serving low-income, minority students.

I'm terrified.

Of course I am afraid of catching the virus, but it's not just that.

I'm 61 and I am tasked with teaching 14-year-olds online (from my classroom!) so that they don't fall behind their peers academically. Never mind that my students are already two or three years behind their peers. It's my job to catch them up.

It's my job to compete with PlayStation, TikTok, Discord, Netflix, and Instagram (to name a few) and to inspire young teens to read and write in plain Google docs. And get this: The students in my district have to log in at 7:34 a.m. and go through their whole school day online as if they were in class. What do you think Period 1 will be like? What do you think Period 9 will be like?

*I can't use Personal Choice reading, the backbone of my curriculum, because the students can't touch the books.

*Any literature I use will have to be in the public domain.

*Any YouTube I want to use must be approved by my supervisor. Even a one-minute clip. All approvals must be done individually.

*I will not see my students except as little thumbnails on a Google Meet.

A majority of my students will be baby-sitting younger siblings, who will also be learning online. There will be no "pods" for my kids, no tutors to help them in small groups. They can't afford it.

Anyone who has done it will tell you that great teachers are more or less performers, entertaining the audience and also providing emotional support and personal interaction with each student. How can I do this online? I don't even like talking on the phone, let alone on Zoom.

At age 48 I had to pivot into teaching because I lost my job. I can't pivot again. In any other profession I would be almost ready to retire. Instead I have to work another 9 years. I will be 71 when I submit my papers. If I live to do it.

Usually in late August I'm pleasantly looking forward to meeting 70 new young people and learning about them through their class work and their reading choices. This year it feels like that dreaded First Year of Teaching that shows no mercy and takes no prisoners.

Oh yeah, and Covid. People have already tested positive in the building.

Anyone have any ideas about how to make this work? Bueller?

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Tired of Rejection Slips, I Fight Back

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," coming to you more than 250 times a year for 15 years and counting! I'm Anne Johnson, and I have been some places and done some things. Lots and lots and LOTS of things.

Every morning I read the New York Times front to back. A few months ago I saw an article about the Smithsonian Institution soliciting "pandemic diaries." It was a gushy article about how the S.I. wants the experiences of ordinary Americans.

"Well," thought I. "I have been writing about the quarantine AND I have written about everything else going on since 2005 on 'The Gods Are Bored.'"

The Times article did not include a helpful link to where one could apply to be in the Smithsonian. So I researched and researched. Finally I found an email address that I thought would do the trick. I introduced myself, described "The Gods Are Bored," and said it includes entries about the quarantine.

I got an automatic reply that indicated my email had found its mark. So I waited.

Yesterday I heard back from a Dr. Lord, Smithsonian Institution. After careful review, my contribution was deemed unworthy of the august museum.

At my age I thought I'd seen my last rejection. But flick the ol' Smithsonian right on top of the pile ... if you can find the top. I'll lend you a ladder.

Have you ever been treated the same way for so long that you respond to the current case as if all the other cases could be avenged in that one brief moment?

Long story short, I replied to Dr. Lord. To whit:

"Hi Dr. Lord, thank you for getting back to me. I know that every human being alive thinks they have created something worthy of historic preservation. I have done it. Since 2005 I have written a blog called "The Gods Are Bored." It includes political satire, personal experiences (I live near Philadelphia, I protest frequently), and commentary on current events. I'm not unwashed and untutored. I graduated from Johns Hopkins University, Phi Beta Kappa. I know how to turn a phrase and report on historical events. Okay, I'm not Samuel Pepys, but he wasn't Samuel Pepys when he started out. If you have a list of blogs that document life in the United States of America, my blog ought to be there."

Tsk tsk, I didn't hide my light under a bushel, did I? Oh well, like I said, it was a comeback that reflects all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, from that first short story I sent with an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to a small literary magazine in 1980, to the unannounced classroom observation by the vice principal at my school last spring. One can only be dismissed with a flick of the wrist so many times.

Dr. Lord suggests I contact my local historical society to see if they would be interested in my oeuvre. That would be Snobville/Haterfield. What do you think? Yeah. Me too.

I'll bet they didn't keep my sign from the Women's March either. Hmph. My tax dollars at work.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Prayers and Petitions To End the Presidency of Donald J. Trump

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Hurricane Isaias Edition! Ah, 2020! Not even gonna ask if it can get worse.

Yeah, so we're in the bulls-eye for a tropical storm. Earlier this year we had a straight-line-wind event that cost me the ancient oak under which I worshiped. Weather, murder hornets, seeds from China, pandemics ... Gaia is pissed. Yep.

As anyone who has eyeballs and the ability to read the English language knows, I detest Donald Trump. I detested him in 1985 and detest him tenfold now.

What happens when citizens hate and fear their leader? They petition their Gods to dethrone the chump and send him to the landfill.

Did you see that despicable moment when the Orange Menace ordered the use of tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest in order to heft a Bible in front of a church for a photo op? I did, and I about flipped my lid. We Pagans have been experiencing "Tower Time" for a while, and this seemed to be one of those moments when the Tower lost another six feet of foundation.

(For those of you unfamiliar with Tower Time, it's an event that features the crumbling of norms and a shifting of realities, both mystically and in the apparent world.)

While watching the Menace grand-standing with his book, I took to social media and said something like, "All you Christians, your children are watching this, and they are going to be looking for a whole new religion, where shit like this doesn't happen."

I got a huffy reply from one of my closest local friends, to whit: "Not all Christians support this horrible man!"

And I replied: "Well, they might as well, when he does something like this." And it's true.

Fast forward a few fraught months of pandemic, and my local friend sent me a message that she would be in my neighborhood and would like to stop by. I am blessed with a gigantic front porch, so I fluffed the rocking chair cushion and rolled out the red carpet. She visited this week.

Of course most of what we talked about was the election. But the conversation took an interesting turn.


Friend: Oh yes, I have a Christian friend, and she is very, very devout. She knows her Bible front-to-back and quotes it frequently. She goes to a prayer group every Saturday morning, and all they pray for is the defeat of Donald Trump.

Anne: What a coincidence! I know any number of Pagans who are working on the same thing, But we're not doing it in such a nice way as a prayer circle. We're howling at the moon and building bonfires and pouring libations and making freezer spells.

Friend: What's a freezer spell?

Anne: Never mind.

Friend: Well, the important thing is that good Christians are opposing Donald Trump and will be voting against him.

Of course that is important. If some Christians don't oppose Donald Trump, he'll be re-elected by a landslide. But I stand by my original social media post. Those church ladies sitting in a circle on Saturday morning and praying for Trump to be booted to the curb in November are doing a righteous thing. However, they are not doing everything they can do, or even a modicum of what they should be doing.

Trump will go, one way or another, and the "evangelical base" will remain. It's a voting bloc, and I can assure you that it would never listen to a Pagan perspective. The only people who can curb the evangelical base is other devout Christians. And they aren't doing it. They're sitting in their well-appointed cathedrals on Sunday, singing "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" and listening to center/left sermons. Oh yes, they vote. But how many of them, when given the choice between a radical left wing candidate and a radical Christian zealot, will choose the r.l.w. candidate? It's a toss-up. Maybe not even.

My friend fails to see the danger for her faith going forward. Her own son is an atheist ... but would he be if he heard Other Voices in Other Rooms?

Listen, you heard it here first: When your faith group behaves in a way that brings harm to others and to the planet, you best get in there and do some in-house discipline. I don't see mainstream Christians having the spines to take this step. And when you don't take this step, when you tsk tsk and pray in a little circle of close friends, you inherit the wind. Your children will look elsewhere for spiritual guidance, or they won't look at all.

Altar Call: If you find the Christian church and its jealous God morally and spiritually bankrupt, fling Witch Annie a comment! You have choices. Can you feel them in the air? Yeah, we call that Tower Time.