Winter Break Recharge

Parts of the fall semester can feel like an absolute slog. Some weeks flew by thanks to the occasional day off or early dismissal for town hall or parent-teacher conferences, while others seemed to move slower than molasses.

Teaching 9th grade has proven to be an incredibly rewarding experience, although certainly not without its challenges. Naturally, it’s a transition grade, and I like to think that I’ve done a decent job of helping my students acclimate to the expectations of high school. Some students are still figuring it out (that the school uniform is enforced, negative repercussions for failing to do work, etc.), and I hope that some of my students are able to figure these things out before the “fall” semester ends in late January for NYC public schools.

Aside from taking a day off for side effects from the bivalent COVID booster, I was able to make it through the first part of the year with almost 100% attendance. Per an MOA between the DOE and UFT, teachers get a total of 10 days for COVID-related absences, including vaccine side effects and for actually testing positive for the virus. From what I can tell, the MOA is virtually identically to its 2021-2022 iteration. The only difference I noticed in a quick skim is that the 10 day bank of absences includes days for testing positive and experiencing side effects, whereas last year’s MOA included 2 specified days for side effects.

As fortune would have it, I tested positive for COVID on one of the home tests distributed to students and staff by the DOE. The good news is that I won’t be missing any days of work due to the start of winter break. The lousy news is that this wasn’t how I thought I’d start my winter break. Thankfully, my symptoms are incredibly mild, limited to a small cough and what I’d estimate as a 95% loss of taste and smell. The irony is not lost on me that I tested positive for COVID on the same day that the DOE closed its Situation Room.

Even though my sense of smell and taste is virtually nonexistent at the moment, and I’ve been completely exhausted since testing positive, I’m going to do my best to enjoy the holiday and new year with loved ones. I’m doing to do something that I don’t think I’ve ever done before – completely put all work related things away for the next 6 days and enjoy my break. I’m sure everything will be just fine when I log back in on Saturday to prepare for the upcoming week.

One lesson I had to learn early on is that the work will always be there. There will always be a lesson to plan, student data to gather, etc. As appealing as an empty inbox or fully planned lessons a week in advance might seem, they’re not always realistic for a first-year special education teacher. I’m certainly not a time-management guru, but I think I’ve done reasonably good for juggling full-time teaching along with going to grad school and some union-related stuff on the side.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that there’s been modest interest from folks who follow my blog – namely those are are substitute teachers or considering an alternate teaching certification program in the NYC DOE. About once a month, someone will send or message me a blog post of mine, and it feels good knowing that others find value in my humble perspective on these things.

For now, I’m going to go enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake. Thanks to everyone who has followed my little corner of the internet, and I hope to get into a more regular writing routine in the new year. Take care, and I hope that you have a joyful holiday season with your loved ones.

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