I finally make my escape outside today after being confined to barracks for ten days of isolation. Ten days inside can not legitimately count as a circuit break – and a mini-break would have been much more preferable – but I surprise myself by emerging back out into the sunshine in search of vitamin D, feeling slightly rebooted, very grateful and only too aware of my newly discovered neediness.
Before I start another blog of self-wallow and naval-gazing, I should acknowledge the blessing of being able to isolate on the back of a negative Covid test after coming into contact with a colleague who is still having a horrible, horrible time recovering from a positive result; you would not catch that colleague banging on about being cut off from the world or having her rights taken away. She is a diamond and I am shallow and full of self-pity in comparison.
Anyway back to me. When a teacher (moi) has to isolate, it spins into the most bizarre parody of home-schooling; the students are in the classroom while you play ‘whack a mole’ at home in response to school emails and rely on amazing colleagues to cover your gate duties, classes and student meetings even though they are shattered and in need of half term/a circuit break/ a trip to the Bahamas. As a control freak modelled on Miss Trunchbull I can now reflect that my personal homework this week has been much more taxing and rigorous than anything that I set remotely for my own students.
Handing over control to other people during this isolation has made me realise how fiercely independent I am – and what a pain in the backside I can be because of this. What an epiphany to discover that Ms Fix-it can safely go off grid for a while unnoticed and what a lovely thing it is to be so well looked after by other people.
This brittle old schoolmarm is really just one big softy. Revelation.
Being an aficionado of WFH through Covid Times, Favourite Man (FM) has found the whole experience amusing. He is a native of Corporate Land so I was perhaps naive to anticipate empathy about being torn from my classroom when he has not been near another colleague or client for months. Admittedly he found the situation more entertaining after I had received my negative Covid test result (a mini examination for which I vainly did much over-night cramming on Google) and thereby legally able to carry on in as normal a fashion as Jimmy Covid has allowed since March.
Secretly I think FM also warmed to the idea of having someone at home with a slightly better line in chat – and a greater capacity to boil a kettle – than his rescue cat.
FM wisely allowed me a few days to decompress before noting my Pavlov dog tendency to schedule my working day around my school timetable. My query of, ‘Have I missed the bell for end of lunch?’ seemed to amuse him although he later begrudgingly commented that, ‘teaching seems to be more full-on than I thought, ‘ . He then erased this faint praise by adding, ‘ I still think you could lose that whistle from around your neck and I can function quite adequately without your red ink feedback on the shopping list. It’s a food run, after all; there is no house cup to be won by performing negative splits up the fruit and veg aisle’.
Anyway, I am surprised how quickly this old teacher has adapted to some new tricks; I can report that the low stakes testing I have been subjected to this week has shown that I can work in a different learning style if I just cut myself some slack .
For the record, my self-reflection on the following isolation home work tasks is as follows:
Go for 10 days without wearing lipstick: 9/10
I got to the penultimate day without a smidge of warm rose or cheeky minx lip gloss and then broke my winning streak when I realised that I had to Zoom in to take a Year 11 presentation, film an assembly for Sixth Form and complete my appraisal on line. Reader, this is shallow I know, but lipstick is my go-to mask of choice when raising the ante – I feel invisible without it. Sadly I later discover that I have performed two of these tasks with my camera off…
Go for 10 days without wearing a kitten heel: 10/10
Gold star on this one. I did not wear shoes for my whole isolation (well, just those trainers last weekend for that ridiculous two hour shuttle run) and I can now embrace an autumn bed sock with relish. I have a slight concern that my feet have relaxed and splayed to such an extent that it may take more than a shoe horn to get me suited and booted ready for work tomorrow, but I am now so relaxed that I won’t worry about this just yet.
Go for 10 days without driving: 10/10:
This was definitely the hardest challenge for me as I do my thinking when I am driving or running and both were off limits through isolation. Admittedly I could have gone and sat in my car but I felt Dora would have persuaded me to drive around the block – and I did not want the neighbours thinking I had reached new heights of weirdom (they are still recovering from my sun-rise shuttle running from the weekend). After my initial battle with isolation, I determined to channel Monica from Friends and let, ‘rules control the fun,’ so I turned my back on Dora the temptress and just rewarded her with a full valet when I came ‘out’ yesterday. She is still sulking but I feel if I respond to her plea to check her tyre pressure, and have a little karaoke sing-along as I drive to work tomorrow, we will be travel buddies again very soon.
I believe that I have moved from presenting myself as a fully hands-on, independent fifty-something – with some quirky trust issues – to a bona fide Disney princess. For example, even though I have never completed an online grocery shop in my life (on account of my belief that you can not trust a stranger to pick your fruit for you – who wants to risk a pappy pear, I ask you?) I can now admit that FM (a stone age carnivore) is in fact capable of shopping appropriately for this picky vegetarian. I found myself writing daily shopping lists just for the heck of it and even rediscovered the joy of a takeaway curry even though no-one else in the house wanted to eat one with me. By the end of my isolation, I had become such a prima donna that I was refusing to answer the door to anyone (even though I seem to have completed a lot of on-line clothe and makeup (mostly lipstick) shopping arguing, ‘It is against ‘the’ rules, I have been told not to handle cash and I could still be a super spreader, so hurry up and put that lovely delivery man out of his misery’.
Although I love running and boot camp, I have even quite enjoyed messaging my non-sick note to the sun rise crew during isolation saying, ‘I would so love to join you, but Boris says I simply can not,’ before rolling over and setting the alarm clock to repeated snooze. The good news is that in a nod to shaking off my slothdom, my coming out party consisted of a two hour OUTSIDE run; the bad news is that I nearly missed the meet-up because my body clock will now only listen to an absolute GIT (Greenwich Isolation Time). I will need to reschool myself on this; there is a danger that my menopausal resignation to sleep could be misconstrued as teenage apathy when I am back in the classroom tomorrow.
So, I have promised myself that I will return to reboot camp this week for home schooling has also revealed that I lack the self-discipline to subject myself to this type of body torture. I will need to prise those kitten heels back off my misshapen feet and persuade Dora that we have a big wide world to explore again as long as we can get back home before 10 pm – after all, it would be unfair to free up too much time for FM – he is bound to be missing me, my shopping lists, my witty banter and he is certain to suffer from caffeine withdrawal in my absence. Thank goodness that in seven days he has a half term/circuit breaker/mini break to look forward to with Princess Dragonfly.
We need to use the week to focus on getting ‘our’ shopping time down if we are to be serious contenders for the Supermarket Sweep application I submitted during my time away from school. I may be rebooted and chilled but I refuse to be outclassed.