“I think the challenges came in waves. At first, it was learning how to teach via distance learning. I felt so sad for my students. I knew they needed me, but I couldn’t be there for them in a way that was most productive. It was heartbreaking to not get to say goodbye.”
Sarah Felker has lived in Portland for the last 20 years and works as a reading specialist in the David Douglas School District. She, along with her five assistants, work to improve the lowest K-5th graders on their reading skills.
Sarah shares the challenges she faced learning how to teach via “distance learning” while worrying for her own children — who have also been figuring out how to navigate distance learning/separation from their friends (and her 13 year old daughter’s devastation at the cancellation of the much-anticipated educational, “right of passage” Washington D.C graduation field trip, in May).
She voices her concerns about returning to school in the fall — and applauds the state of Oregon for mandating that people wear masks anytime they’re inside a public space (which began on July 1st).
She narrates the stories of this — “unusual” summer vacation situation, and how her family has been spending time in a socially distant and responsible way — which involves a lot of homemade bread baking, of course, as well as the occasional takeout order of “fancy food,” and appreciating more time to be “in the moment”
“Watching a yeasted dough rise is actually quite satisfying. I guess just being ok with a slower pace and remembering that it’s ok to feel bored sometimes. Our lives are so busy and fast paced that I think it’s jarring to suddenly slow down this much. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable with it, but then just let it wash over you and make the most of it.” She shares on the uncomfortable art of learning how to slow down.
Read more about Sarah Felker’s COVID Chronicle from Portland, Oregon, below:
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced during quarantine/the COVID crisis?
“I think the challenges came in waves. At first, it was learning how to teach via distance learning. I felt so sad for my students. I knew they needed me, but I couldn’t be there for them in a way that was most productive. It was heartbreaking to not get to say goodbye as well. The second wave was feeling worried for my own children, who were also learning to navigate distance learning and being away from their friends physically.
I have a 10 year old son and a 13 year old daughter. My daughter was self-sufficient with Google Classroom and got through all her work independently. It was the social aspect that I worried about with her. 13 is an important age to socialize with friends. I was also sad that her trip to Washington D.C that she had worked so hard to raise money for was canceled and that she didn’t get the customary 8th grade send off from middle school.
Now that we are officially on summer break, new challenges have emerged. Namely, figuring out what to do! The kids have learned how to hang out with friends responsibly. There have been movies on the deck, Minecraft on the porch, walks to the coffee shop, bike riding, roller blading and just chatting from a distance. We’ve also been eating a lot of homemade bread!”
Is there anything you feel that you’ve learned through this experience, you can share as inspiration to those who are feeling a bit defeated by everything?
“Watching a yeasted dough rise is actually quite satisfying. I guess just being ok with a slower pace and remembering that it’s ok to feel bored sometimes. Our lives are so busy and fast paced that I think it’s jarring to suddenly slow down this much. Allow yourself to feel uncomfortable with it, but then just let it wash over you and make the most of it.”
Has this experience in any way changed the way that you order your personal priorities in life?
“I don’t know that I’ve reordered my personal priorities. I’ve always been focused on my family and cooking, I just have a lot more time now to be in the moment. I have started running, so I guess I’ve become more focused on my health (besides all the bread).”
What has your local community been doing to fight the rate of transmission and how has this impacted you?
“Portland has done a great job promoting social distancing and wearing masks. In fact, the entire state [has since been] required to wear them in public indoor spaces starting on July 1st.”
Has this travel ban/quarantine situation impacted any especially important future plans you had laid out?
“It impacted Spring Break plans and my daughter’s DC trip in May. We’re hoping to still do a few of our normal summer trips (beach, Silver Falls, Black Butte), but we’ll see! At the beginning of quarantine, a comedy show I was going to be in was cancelled.”
What has been your general daily routine so far during the pandemic?
“Get up around 8:00 a.m. to find my son in his favorite chair playing Minecraft. Make coffee, check email, read my book. My daughter gets up around 9:00 and sits in her favorite chair to engage in her favorite activity (reading). My husband joins us not too long after. Some mornings I make a proper breakfast and sometimes it’s toast or cereal. At some point, the kids usually make a plan to do something with a friend (bike, walk, Minecraft, water gun fight…etc.). I water the garden. I go for a run several times a week. Sometimes my husband and I tackle a house project.
Sometimes we’re lazy. We play family games, we talk to neighbors, we go for walks, we brave the grocery store as infrequently as possible. We’re lucky to have so many options and so many people around us to keep our spirits up. My mom and my sister live close, so we visit outside frequently. In the evening we eat dinner, hang out outside if it’s nice, sometimes have a fire pit. We often watch a family movie before bed.”
What have you been doing to keep your spirits up on a day-to-day basis?
“Visiting with neighbors and family. Reminding ourselves how lucky we are. Running. Playing basketball as a family. Occasionally ordering fancy food. Playing family games. Cooking and baking. Watching movies. Maybe drinking a little beer.”
Any other thoughts that you’d like to share?
“It seems so surreal to be living through this. It feels like something I might read about, but not actually experience! I worry about what school will look like in the fall, but I’m trying not to focus on it, and enjoy my summer.”
“In my spare time, I like to do stand-up comedy. We’ll see if that’s ever an option again!”
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