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Feral Kittens, Feral Children
Healing wounds from isolation
Steve brought home four foster kittens from the shelter this week. We enjoyed fostering kittens during the pandemic, so he decide to do it again. But then Steve took the train to work, and the kids left for their various activities. Unlike during the pandemic when everyone was home, I’m here alone, trying to juggling my various side gigs and hustles with four tiny needy kittens, who were taken from their momma too young. All day, these babies cry, scale my legs with their ice pick finger nails, and poop in forbidden zones. Thanks, Steve!
This morning, I locked the kittens in the bathroom, so I could do a phone interview without interruption. I’m working on an article about how Kindergarten teachers and first grade teachers handled all the challenges in their classroom this year. I talked to teachers in Indiana, Florida, and Oregon this week. I lined up another slate of interviews for next week. This article is for an outlet that will focus on remedies, so let me share just some of the problems that I have heard so far.
Remote education in well-resourced suburbs like mine was terrible. I certainly complained a lot about it here in this newsletter and in real life at school board meetings. But as bad as it was here, in other areas of the country, the situation was unimaginably terrible.
One teacher told me that her school district is in an extremely remote part of Oregon with the school buildings and families spread over miles of territory. Some of the families in her school district live in isolated rural areas where they have no Internet connections at all. So, her school district had to create mobile hotspot vans, which parked in these areas that lacked infrastructure. During the height of the pandemic, the families drove and parked next to the vans all day, so the kids could conduct their online classes with teachers. Many families did not have an adult who had the time to wait in the car all day, so those kids received no education at all.
Problems, like the lack of good Internet access, certainly created major educational challenges during the pandemic for kids of all ages. But the littlest ones were extremely isolated and missed out on important developmental stages.
Kids are entering these young grades without any experiences with nursery school or daycare. In fact, teachers are telling me that their parents were too afraid to take them to the park or restaurants, so many kids didn’t leave their apartments for over a year. Parents weren’t teaching basic socials skills at home, because they were so traumatized by the pandemic and overwhelmed by economic issues. Teachers think that many little kids had no interactions even with their own parents during some very formative years.
As a result of this extreme isolation, early elementary school teachers were faced with unprecedented behavioral and social issues in their classrooms this year. Teachers are telling me about the shocking level of social deficits in small children. Just a few of the crazy stories that I’ve heard this week:
Students don’t know how to respond, when someone says their name. They don’t look up or say “yes?,” when a teacher says “Johnny?”
They don’t know how to correctly address adults, calling everyone “teacher.”
They haven’t never been in a room with 20 people, so they don’t know their body boundaries and keep bumping into people.
They don’t know the names of basic body parts, like elbow and knee.
They don’t know how to take turns.
They don’t know how to raise their hands.
They don’t know how to respond when a teacher gives a one-step instruction.
Overwhelmed with all these new rules, students are having massive, unprecedented temper tantrums.
The on-going pandemic responses - masks, social distancing, sanitizing — created huge difficulties for teachers and students this year as they tried to help students catch up.
Our kittens are slowly growing more civilized thanks to a lot of attention from me and from Steve and the boys in the evening. We talk to them, and assure them that they are good monsters, and we love them even though they pooped under the dresser. Every day, the kittens get a little plumper, and their coats less ratty. In two weeks, we’ll return them to the shelter with silky black coats and properly socialized, so those kitties will be snapped up by a permanent family.
Little humans needed this same sort of attention this year. And teachers responded. When faced with an unprecedented problems, teachers developed all sorts of new ways to support those kids. I’ll save those happy stories for another day. But just know, that the best teachers cooked up some very imaginative responses.
Teachers all told me that their energy levels were so depleted during the school day, they had to prioritize their own wellness after school hours by taking the time to run or do yoga or whatever brought them joy. And I will do the same. Sometimes when I write these pieces, I hear stories that break my heart. Other stories fill me with rage. But balance is needed. So, after I click “publish” on this newsletter, I’m going to nestle in a shady spot in my backyard with a good book.
Between the kittens and the article, this week hasn’t been too great for content creation or even reading much elsewhere.
Pandemic babies have developmental delays. School counselors talk about the pandemic effect on children. (I do have to wonder why these articles weren’t written two years ago. This was an entirely predictable crisis. People should go to jail for the harm they’ve done to the nations’s young people.)
The viral Jennifer Aniston salad looks good.
In Royal Family Gossip, the RF frozen out Meghan and Harry when they showed up for the big Queen party last week. They put them in the cheap seats in the back behind a 14-year old kid. Then M and H didn’t attend any of small family functions afterwards; it’s not clear if they were invited. They never got close to Charles or William, so there are no pictures or film clips or stories for Netflix. They presented the baby to the Queen, but their private photographer was banned. So, they left in the middle of the event in a huff.
I’m in 5K shape, so now it’s time to get into 10K shape. And starting to look at the big one.
Very excited that “What We Do in the Shadows” is coming back.
Inflation prices are freaking us out big time. I’m cooking a lot more, and we’re starting to think about alternative vacation plans this summer. I’m going to start posting videos of my cooking and travel adventures on Instagram.