Probably also true in the north

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Photo by Joy Real on Unsplash

Texas is not the only state that has suffered in the Winter Storm of 2021, despite what you might see in the news. Andrew Exum, writing for The Atlantic, accurately depicts the frustration and difficulty the entire South is experiencing because of the double winter storms last week. From power grid failures to water system failures, this has been crippling. Schools and businesses have been closed for a week. Neither mail nor public transportation has run in seven days. Stores have no food or water on the shelves.

Some things I have learned:

1. Invest in infrastructure. Rolling blackouts across…

Is it really about education or is it about the data?

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Photo by Museums Victoria on Unsplash

With retirement from twenty-five years in the secondary classroom upon me (in May!) I have found myself doing a lot of reflection about the state of education today and my own career. I have come to a few conclusions, not all of them entirely comfortable.

American public education has seemingly morphed into one big testing conglomerate. When I look back on how my career has evolved over twenty-five years, the amount of required testing days now required is staggering, and dare I say, heart-breaking.

When my state adopted a new curriculum in 2017, that’s when I knew it was time…

We are not accustomed to this!

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Photo courtesy of the author

Snowmageddon in the South, 2021. After only four days of being snowed in, I am beginning to identify with Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

After all these decades (not saying how many!) in northwest Louisiana, I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like this snow event.

Here we are, four days into this:

1. Rolling blackouts. In neighboring Texas there are people that have been without power for days in subfreezing temperatures. In the northwest corner of Louisiana, where I am, we have had rolling blackouts on the coldest day on historic record. The power grids are failing.


But is it all about the money?

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Photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

Having a side-hustle is a good way to expand not only your income but also your experience of living.

My side-hustle is writing, and this has paid off for me in a million ways. This is noteworthy because as a writer, you have probably never heard of me, but writing has enriched my life in so many ways.

Let me explain with just one example.

I have always loved the act of writing; my earliest memories always involve reading, going to libraries, buying books. …

Our weird reaction to the weather

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Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

One of the most attractive reasons to live in the Deep South is the winter. Seldom do we suffer the frigid, biting cold that the more northern states endure. In Louisiana, if we have three or four days below freezing, that is considered winter. Those subzero days need not be consecutive.

This week our weather forecasters have been alternately giddy and panic-stricken at the prospect of an incoming “polar vortex” that is expected to bring single-digit temperatures for most of next week. Even better, we also anticipate snow and ice, they tell us.

This means almost certain power outages.


Who are you really writing for?

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Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Writing is a lonely, solitary craft. We labor over every sentence, every word as we fine tune the perfect tone, and balance the right message.

Some of us are morning creatives, others night owls. But all of us, I dare say, do our best work alone. At least initially. How many times have I been at work fine tuning a thought when someone comes in the room and starts talking to me, only to see my thoughts disappear into vapor, gone forever? At some point you have to share your work, solicit feedback and input, perhaps. …

Teachers are burned out and burned up

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The nation’s uneven, patchwork response to the coronavirus pandemic is perhaps most evident in the education system. We don’t have a single clue what we are doing; we are making this up as we go. While we have seemingly tried to let individual states and districts respond to the needs of their own communities, the result has been a mismatched mélange of approaches that has failed to meet the educational needs of our students.

Just as health care workers across the country are burning out and dropping from exhaustion, teachers are faring no better. Some of us are teaching face…

Two negative tests, three positive people

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Photo by Mufid Majnun on Unsplash

Well, it finally happened. I got a positive Covid test yesterday.

Because I teach in a high school, I feel like it was only a matter of time.

Not only that, but everyone in my house is also now positive. We don’t know where the exposure came from, but last week my husband felt symptomatic. He had some congestion, a lot of fatigue, a bit of a cough. No fever. He said he just felt bad overall.

He went to a testing center and had a 24-hour PCR which is considered more reliable than the rapid antigen test. …

Full length novels are out

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Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton on Unsplash

The final chapter of my education career begins this week.

This week I will welcome my final classes into my secondary ELA classroom.

What a ride this has been!

It is a bittersweet parting. I absolutely love my school, my colleagues, and my students. Each semester my classroom reflects the personalities of the students who make it their home for eighteen weeks. It will be quite emotional to walk out of that room for the final time, and I’m trying to brace myself for it.

So why am I leaving, then?

There is no single answer to that question, but…

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As hard as it is to admit this, I might have been wrong.

While some school districts across the country have remained closed, and while they look to reopen in coming weeks, I hope to alleviate some of the anxiety that teachers feel about returning to the classroom.

In August, I was terrified of returning to school in this pandemic — and the numbers then were so much lower than they are right now. I was certain we were all going to get Covid-19, that classes would be hopeless because of high absenteeism, and that schools would shut back down…

Pat Austin Becker

Consumer of life, ELA teacher, Louisiana ambassador, avid reader. Author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press).

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