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"Ketchup Day" (a small, manageable rant)

Monday, I cancelled a meeting. Tuesday, we ordered take-out. Wednesday I worked 11 hours without leaving my school building, barely saw my kids, and fell asleep on the couch, exhausted and body-shaming myself because somehow I'd also eaten take-out for lunch and dinner. Today, my students are having a "ketchup day" (from the AMAZING facebook group, Bitmoji Craze). Why? I'm giving them a "ketchup day" to do all the things that may have fell through the cracks. They don't get to cancel something that they miss. They don't get to decide the rhythm of their days, and they aren't eating well either. Or sleeping enough. And, they are teenagers, so they are probably body shaming too. I'm feeling for my struggling middle school students, perhaps now more than ever (and I always have a soft spot).

The incredible challenge for students to organize all of the information that is being hurled at them by well-meaning teachers (me included) can be crippling. Students don't know how to turn off Goggle Classroom notifications, so my daughter has thousands of emails. Some teachers have due dates and others are more fluid in their expectations. That's great (I'm all for flexibility), but there are some students who get lost in the ebb and flow of the changing expectations.

Other students are dealing with even more complex issues. Spotty internet (if they have it at all). I know some kiddos in my neighborhood use the Tim Horton's wifi. Parents out of work. Sick relatives. Kiddos who have Covid who are afraid to tell people because they are embarrassed. Kiddos with mental health issues who have lost access to their counseling and supportive adults at school.

So, my rant is this: if you haven't canceled a meeting, missed something you needed to do, eaten poorly, felt badly about yourself for some reason or other, let your house get out-of-control messy, or dropped the ball, then I commend you. Please, by all means, teach these chaotic, messy, developing and overwhelmed students some tips to help them keep all the balls in the air. However, if you are more like most people I know, extend grace to your students, and importantly, yourselves.

They probably won't know how to thank you correctly, as this is all strange to them too. They might grumble and complain as some of my students did today when I simply emailed them their test and said it had to be done right now. They might roll their eyes. But, they might feel their load lightened just a bit when a caring adult steps in and helps them juggle it all. Let them know that it isn't just them. We are all having missteps and dropped balls, less than stellar days, and dashed hopes. When we recognize this pandemic for the traumatic event that it is, I hope we are able to forgive ourselves and students for being less than our best.

A long time ago, a therapist told me, "It is perfectly normal to feel irrational if there is an irrational situation. It is only when your house is burning down and you act like nothing is happening that we should be concerned." Just a thought: some days lately, it feels like the house is on fire and we insist on doing the dishes.

Manageable rant over. Carry on :)

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