“But the thing worth doing well done/has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident./The pitcher cries for water to carry/and a person for work that is real.”
—Marge Piercy from “To Be of Use”
I have found my “work that is real.” I discovered it early, retired from it, and returned to it part-time as a substitute in February, 2019. Teaching.
When I see the email’s subject line, “Do you plan to work with ESS?” I am not surprised. Last summer my school district turned the management of substitute teachers over to a national outfit Employee Self-Service. As of January 2020, the system took over, but because I now knew several teachers and had found a bit of a “home” at the nearby middle school, I was fine with it.
Of course along with everyone else, my work stopped abruptly in March, a week before the scheduled spring break. Our district took some time getting itself restarted, but it did resume, continued feeding those who depended upon it, and delivered devices to those households that opted to go online. Additionally the iconic yellow school buses rattled almost empty delivering books and supplies for those who preferred that.
Just last week the local paper published its reopening guidelines for next fall. The Oregon State Department of Education has okayed three models and allows districts choice. Complicating that decision—as if we don’t already know—is the requirement for social distance: 35 square feet for each person. Lincoln County has decided on the “hybrid option,” primarily with A and B days and cohorts to accommodate both distancing and consistency of contact. The first group is scheduled to start on Thursday, September 10, the second the next day.
That, however, doesn’t help me. Substitute teachers generally don’t see much action until October anyway. That question, “Do you plan to work for ESS?” supersedes all my other concerns. The email asks us to take a survey; it consists of three items:my name, the district name, and the question,”Do you plan to return?” followed by a box for comments. The deadline is August 1, 2020.
I’m only certain as I navigate the sea of this virus that I should not return to substitute teaching. That I will turn 69 in September figures prominently in my decision, but the reality of not participating in my real work pierces my heart. There will be alternatives; I know I will find a way to be useful because necessity, invention, all that.
I procrastinated writing this post today primarily because I didn’t want to commit with written words. That’s how I know I’ve found my truth—for now. I will comment and request that when there is a vaccine, I be given another opportunity to respond. Who knows when that will be? No one— but I, like everyone else, will do my best until that time comes.