Started on Thursday

Started on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022

This  was the first week of school for our new year, 2022. 

For all who are/were teachers, January generally also marks the mid-point of the school year.

It’s the fourth day of the week…. and it’s incredible how exhausted we teachers are already.

> Covid (both Delta and Omicron) is rampant here. 
> Our small local hospital is full. 
> The ambulances and the helicopter are getting a workout transporting people who need ICU support to Fargo and Sioux Falls
> More than half of our teachers are out with Covid. 
> Our school has been on remote teaching since Monday. 
> The Tribe closed their admin to all but essential workers and next week, will be 100% “work at home.”
> Our tribal Covid home-support program, which delivers food and medication, checks on those who are sick with Covid, and transports those needing a ride to/from both testing and treatment appointments for Covid are currently working around the clock to try to meet needs.

[There are approximately 884,660 people in South Dakota.
And nearly 4 million cattle.]

Today, after teaching Gr. 5 math online all morning, I contacted all 28 of my math students’ families to check in on them (and to figure out why so many are not doing their assignments!)

Several are quarantined due to a confirmed exposure from among their extended family. (I told them they should try to work on their math anyway… as long as they are not sick or too anxious). Three are awaiting testing confirmation as they and family members deal with fevers, coughing and other Covid symptoms. And two families can’t get their student online because their Chromebooks are in a relative’s house….and that relative’s house is in lockdown due to Covid. 

When I sit and reflect on times like this, I am so aware that elementary math instruction is practically irrelevant in the daily life and even the near future of the students we teach. It’s not that I don’t believe in learning math… I absolutely do. Yet, somehow, memorizing your multiplication tables or learning how to do a long-division algorithm just doesn’t seem to rank so high against dealing with Covid and its effects. With so many of our families, life in general serves up traumas and challenges that so easily push aside not only math, but school itself. When we then add in a multi-year, multi-fatality pandemic and a minimally functioning healthcare system… 

That said, I have fifth graders who sign in to our virtual classroom and hang out there while they work on their other assignments. They value the connecting and I would be glad to share my repertoire of fifth grade knock-knock jokes if you want.

Added on Monday, 1/10/22

We’re now going to be remote teaching/learning through January 21. We simply don’t have enough people to staff the school. 

I’m grateful, since I really don’t want to get sick. And, I’m also grateful because I am mentoring a student teacher this semester and am teaching her how to teach online. She’s loving it…and so am I! 

She is living here at the convent for the semester. As in the past, it is so very hard to find decent/not-decrepit rental housing in Sisseton. So, we (SDS) were glad to extend hospitality. 

Payton grew up over on the Pine Ridge Reservation and has both Lakota (there) and Dakota (here) relatives. She knows the language (Lakota) and culture and really connects with the kids well. Both her mother and her father are principals of schools, so she comes from a family of educators.

I kinda wish we could duplicate her to fill in the gaps in our teaching team! I’m glad she’s able to be part of this experience. I’m sure she will learn a LOT!

Payton and I trying out a very messy art project-
it was fun, but FAR too messy for kids! 
Heck…. it was far too messy for adults!