I was at the Think Indigenous education conference in Edmonton, Alberta, when everything went sideways. Done for the day, I was getting ready to go to a play at the Citadel with my principal when we got a message that the performance was cancelled. It wasn’t long before we received notification that the Think Indigenous conference was also finished.
It was a long, strange drive home to the Saskatchewan First Nations community where I live and teach. For the sake of friends and school, my oldest daughter had been staying with one of my sisters in the town where I grew up; a town that happens to be about halfway between Edmonton and the community where I work. Apart from where I could find some toilet paper, my biggest concern was whether I should take my daughter out of school and bring her back to my house. I decided that I shouldn’t play into the fear, and should wait for the official announcement. It turned out that I should have saved myself and my father some time and gas because that announcement came only two days later. I was forced to impose upon my dad to bring her to a meeting point between the two towns. I can’t complain, though. Canada’s Prime Minister and Premiers made intelligent decisions based on medical advice and solid facts, unlike our southern neighbours who were let down by their “leader” at every stage of the crisis.
The first week of isolation was the hardest. As an autistic high school teacher, graduate student, and single mother, I was facing the upheaval of my routines on every level. My administration simply didn’t have any answers to assuage my concerns or give me direction. The reality is that I couldn’t flip into planning for online education because many of my students don’t have devices or internet access. On the other hand, planning for paper packages presented a different kind of challenge. I knew from experience that self-directed learning was something many of my students struggled with. The breakdown of executive functions in the face of crisis wouldn’t improve this situation. I can’t say I’m seeing evidence to prove this initial assessment inaccurate.
On the mommy side of things, I was grateful my daughters were both teenagers. They’d been young during the SARS scare, and I remembered worrying about what would happen to them if I were to get sick. They didn’t know how to open a door or use a phone, so they would not be able to notify someone that something was wrong. My anxiety was mitigated by the fact that SARS didn’t spread to where we were located, and school was never cancelled. My anxiety level would have been astronomical if I’d been facing my current circumstances back then.
The combination of not having any quick answers and my daughters being teenagers turned out to be a blessing, because I did not react well to all the changes and uncertainty. For the first week, I was barely conscious. I was awake for an average of four hours each day. I didn’t cook or do anything around the house that could be considered productive. The second week was a little better, but only because I knew I had to get some work done for my Master’s program. It wasn’t until week three that I began to snap out of the funk, which worked out alright since that is when my administration finally got some direction from the province. In retrospect, it was like the universe told us all to take a beat and feel things.