I don’t normally like to make sweeping generalizations about entire groups of people, but let me speak on the behalf of educators everywhere:  we are more than ready for this academic year to be over.  While much of the world is suffering from pandemic fatigue, take it from me:  right now, educators are suffering from simple fatigue.  

I haven’t been blogging much because pandemic teaching has drained me of every ounce of creative energy.  I’ve been writing in my journal, which is an intentionally low-tech and private space where I can vent, recite a litany of to-do’s, and otherwise be uninspiring.  But these days blogging feels too much like teaching–a task that requires me to have Something To Say and then shape that content into Something Presentable–and most days I simply don’t have the mental bandwidth.

Earlier this semester–probably sometime in March, when I was in dire need of the Spring Break that was cancelled at both of my colleges–I coined a motto that perfectly sums up how teaching during a pandemic feels when you are overwhelmed with grading, struggling to keep up with course prep, and wondering how you’re going to motivate students who are as tired and burned-out as you are:  too many tabs; not enough spoons.

“Too many tabs” refers to the constant multitasking that hybrid teaching entails.  Answering one emailed question from a student might entail checking the course management system, online gradebook, Google Doc assignment guidelines, course calendar, or syllabus.  Holding virtual office hours at one college might be the only uninterrupted time you can find to grade papers or prep courses at the other college, every day being a nonstop cycle of prep-work, reminders, and (of course) grading.  No matter how much time you spent preparing for this semester like no other, nothing can really prepare you for the whirlwind of work that is pandemic teaching.

“Not enough spoons” refers to Spoon Theory, a way of explaining the finite amount of energy any individual has for the mundane tasks of adulting.  In its original iteration, Spoon Theory referred to the limited energy folks with chronic illness or disability have to navigate the world:  completing Task X, Y, or Z might deplete all one’s spoons for the day.  During this interminable COVID year, educators at all levels–college and K-12 alike–are doing more work than ever, but with significantly fewer spoons.  At the end of any given day, when I look at my paltry pile of accomplishments alongside my looming list of tasks left undone, all I can say is “Sorry, but I’m all out of spoons.”

I can confidently say all educators feel this way because I started this academic year in relatively good shape, better prepared than many to face the challenges of a COVID semester.  I’ve taught online before, and I’m well-versed in online teaching design.  I knew the difference between synchronous and asynchronous modalities, and I understood the pedagogical benefits (and drawbacks) of each.  I already taught project-based classes where students submitted their assignments electronically, and I already used Google Docs to share handouts I could amend on-the-fly.  If anyone was prepared to teach in a hybrid format, it was me…and in retrospect, even I had no idea what I was getting into.

Additionally, I haven’t carried the burdens many of my college and K-12 colleagues have faced this year.  I don’t have kids, so I haven’t been trying to teach while overseeing my children’s remote classes.  I have a laptop and robust wifi at home, so teaching remotely on off-campus days hasn’t been a technological hardship.  I haven’t had to care for elderly or infirm loved ones; I haven’t had to grieve any family members who succumbed to the virus.  Through every day of an academic year filled with uncertainty and upheaval, I’ve had a roof over my head and food on the table.

But still, this has been an exhausting year.  Yesterday, I submitted final grades for one college; this week, I’m teaching the last week of classes at the other.  Spring is always a busy time of year for writing teachers:  at times it feels like you’ll never reach the bottom of your (virtual) paper piles.  But this year has been brutally exhausting, and many of us have been working in isolation, without the collegiality of on-campus colleagues to give us a morale boost.

Every semester feels like a marathon, and this COVID year feels like an ultra-marathon:  a test of endurance coupled with a crisis of faith. Against all odds, we educators have reached the almost-end of a semester where death itself was lurking around every corner, and we sometimes managed to do this with grace and even aplomb.  So as the end of this marathon academic year rapidly approaches, I have only one question:  where’s my fucking medal?