According to the clock on my notebook, I am now exactly 11 hours into my new life as a welfare queen. So far it hasn’t been too bad. I spent the first 8 of them sleeping (“Typical!”), one of them drinking coffee and listening to Rachel Maddow – who, I must say, no longer relaxes me – and two of them following the WhatsApp escapades of my (former) colleagues while starting to tie up the loose ends of my 37 year teaching career.
(Speaking of which, does anyone out there need a couple thousand of . . . whatever these things are called in English?)
As far as my former workplace is concerned, there is really nothing for me to do now but sit back in my new throne and watch from a distance how things play out in the school. Meanwhile I have lots to learn about the ins and outs of my new employment status. For instance, can you use food stamps to buy Coca Cola and chocolate? Am I going to get retrained for some new career? And if so, is basket weaving an option? How many job offers can I turn down before I risk losing my monthly handout? Am I allowed to take up golf? Will my blog posts become rambling, half-finished scribblings that reflect my structure-less days? I’m starting to think this sozialschmarotzing might be more complicated than it looks.
My team members are somewhat in a state of denial in terms of what is happening right now. The two left standing haven’t quite realized that they are basically on their own, while the three of us that have been (supposedly) temporarily laid off are all secretly evaluating our current situations and options and wondering if it is time to just move on. We all fall on different places in the spectrum of possible outcomes:
I hold out some hope that the fourth option will happen, but I confess I am closest to the third point right now. As if to confirm this feeling, two emails just came in since I began writing this paragraph (!): two more families announcing that they are taking their kids out of the school. Along with the six that are graduating this year, we are now up to a loss of 12 kids and I expect we will be hearing about at least 3 more by the end of today.
What has been fascinating to watch is the contrast between my husband’s school and my own. At the risk of him getting a big head, I have to say that he’s been Master Class in crisis management. The school closings were announced on a Wednesday evening and by Friday, his school had an entire learning platform up and running, all the teachers had been brought on board and all the students got training in how to use it. Monday morning, they all got up, checked their schedules and started teaching/attending virtual classes from home. Several times a week, my husband video conferences in the evening with a set of his teachers to share experiences with the platform or to plan some new creative project for the students. I listen to these group discussions from the next room and marvel at the laughter, the competence, the clarity, the solidarity, the productive and reassuring tone of the conversations.
I’ve had a tiny bit of those things in my conference calls with the team, but mostly we have just been reeling from crisis to crisis and helplessly watching the parents’ organization crumble in the chaos and conflict.
(Oh! By the way . . . I just realized the date . . . “Happy April Fool’s Day!”)
When the dust and ash settle somewhere down the road, I wonder how various parents and team members will feel about the decisions they made in panic. I find myself looking back at certain moments and thinking “What I should have said is . . . (XYZ)!” But, in general, I’m not sure I had any power to influence developments. Also, even as a kid, I never liked the rollercoaster. Knowing now that someday soon I might be able to get off of this one is not entirely a bad feeling. Luckily, I have had some experience in losing jobs – and even in losing jobs due to an international crisis. 9/11 cost me my course at a Marketing college when I couldn’t get back in time for start of the academic year. The end of my Business English teaching was not entirely unrelated to the 2008 Meltdown. And now Covid-19 is killing my Hummingbird.
But maybe, just maybe, some small group of dedicated families will find a way to resurrect it. And maybe, just maybe, I will be able to contribute a little to its inception and new design.