The Impact of COVID-19 on Our Game
I am not even sure where to start with this one. I have had several messages come through the “reviews” on our blog asking about how COVID has impacted us. Some people want to know why I stopped posting for several months, while others want to know how were are continuing to play through all this. I am going to be frank and say that it has been very hard.
Social isolation can be devastating, even when you are surrounded by family that care about you. If you haven’t gathered by now, we have a family of five. When the order to shelter in place came, we were prepared with supplies and we had already re-arranged the house to accommodate a short-term lockdown. Not wanting the game to progress too far without other players, we choose to pause the game where it was. After all, with everyone staying home, it should only be a few weeks before COVID burned itself out. Right?
Weeks turned into months and we rearranged the house again to provide a more indefinite work-from-home and remote learning solution. The reality that this might take a lot longer than a few weeks set in pretty quickly. In order to satisfy our desire to play, but not get too far ahead of the group, we opted to play a few family-only one-shots. We played this way once or twice a month for a while.
As soon as we could get vaccinated, we did. The kids wanted desperately to return to in-person school so they could see friends and get out of the house.
The following may make you mad, so consider yourself warned. I am including it only because it will help you to understand the mental health issues we were dealing with. It’s a lot of drama that you may want to skip.
As the kids returned to school using distance learning, we quickly found that what the schools/government said and what they did were in no way the same. In our area, every school had to provide a plan to the state that described, in detail, how both remote and in-person learning would be handled. That included things like how/where homework assignments would be posted and collected. Remember that…
Our youngest was the hardest hit because her new teacher was an anti-vaxxer and anti-masker. Beyond that, she would not let remote students interact with anyone. We watched in horror as she taught the class with no mask and forced in-classroom kids to remove their masks on a regular basis. Our youngest was distraught and spent months watching this happen, knowing that several of her life-long friends were in that classroom. We contacted the school several times, but the only reaction was that we received emails notifying us that screen recording, screenshots, and recordings of in-class activities was forbidden under the penalty of expulsion. The teacher changed her camera so that only her eyes and the top of her head could be seen on camera for the rest of the school year. In-class students were never shown on camera again.
As stress mounted. on both students and teachers, we began to hear instances of verbal abuse come across our child’s computer. Hearing the teacher utter phrases like, “Don’t be stupid” and “Shut up” became common. Distance learners were disconnected from class and not allowed back in for hours, sometimes for the rest of the day, if the teacher became aggravated. At-home students were muted and ignored for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. Questions written on paper and held up to the camera were ignored. Any online students caught using the online chat system to communicate, even if it was to help each other with questions/assignments, were punished.
After we managed to get the adults in our house vaccinated, the kids returned to in-person learning. We agreed to this only on the condition that our youngest child would be placed with a different teacher. For the last two weeks of remote learning, the teacher refused to acknowledge our child’s existence. No homework was in her weekly packets, no assignments were graded, etc. Returning to school and a new classroom, our girl thrived and her grades shot up immediately. With the exception of dealing with the typical student-to-student conflicts, everything was almost normal. Unfortunately, shortly after returning, her teacher began having repeated absences related to a family member’s health problems. The substitute immediately had problems. Probably the worst Incident was when he kept the kids out on the playground in 80+ heat with an 8+ UV index for multiple hours and not allowing them to have access to sunscreen or water. That day child came home with her mask coated in vomit. She explained that she asked to go to the nurse and was refused. After she vomited in her mask, begged the teacher to let her get a fresh mask from the classroom, but he forced her to stay out on the playground wearing the soiled mask. We reported the incident. That person is still substituting, but he did apologize to her.
Fearing that our child would be expelled if we continued to complain, we stopped reporting these issues. It is getting close to the end of the school year. We just decided to ride it out and hope nothing really bad happens.
Our oldest, who is in high school, faced a completely different set of problems. His school was much more strict about adherence to the masking and social distancing policies. However, they didn’t enforce any of the remote learning guidelines & procedures on the teachers. Despite the clear guidance that all teachers were to post and collect student assignments using a single, state-approved online tool, not one teacher followed the plan. Every teacher was allowed to set their own rules about how and where assignments would be given out and collected. Some teachers went so far as to post different types of assignments to different websites using different software (i.e. Blackboard, Teams, Outlook, OneNote, & OneDrive). The net result was our child was forced to track down and turn in assignments in completely different ways for every class. Despite numerous complaints to the school administration, nothing was ever done to enforce the school’s state-approved distance learning plan. We were informed by a teacher, who requested we not quote them, that over 40% of distance learning students were expected to fail this year, a direct result of the failed distance learning program.
Despite in-person meetings and assurances that all of the teachers understood the ADHD accommodations they are supposed to provide our son, they were regularly ignored. Teachers often took the “letter of the law” approach to interpreting the accommodations. For example, our child is supposed to receive regular prompts to remind him of deadlines and extra time to complete work. Multiple teachers took the stance that these accommodations only applied during timed tests. If a student was verbally instructed to turn in an assignment at the beginning of class two weeks from now, no additional prompts, reminders, or explanations were required. If an assignment was posted on one of the non-state-approved message boards, no additional prompts, reminders, or explanations were legally required. The administration took the position that “in a couple of years these kids will be going to college and they needed to be prepaired for that.”
With the kids back to in-person learning and in an effort to get our kids some extra-curricular socialization, we devised a plan to get the party back together and start regular games again. We purchased a shade shelter, plastic tables, and enough chairs for everyone that wanted to join us for backyard D&D. At first it was outside, socially distanced with masks on. As CDC guidelines were updated, we made masks optional and moved the chairs a little close together.
To make things easier, parents and their kids were seated together. We never have more than eight players at one time and we scheduled two weeks between sessions. That is where we are now… bi-weekly games outdoors, under a shade tent…as weather allows.
Everybody is happier now that we can see friendly, smiling faces and kick some bad guy butts. We still don’t have all our players back at the table, but we can see a time in the not-too-distant future where that will be possible again.