I am not going to lie. 2020 broke me. I am sure you can relate. Adjusting to the seismic shift in life caused by the virus, the economic upheaval, and the significant attention paid to systemic racism has created a weariness. And what will the future hold? Teachers, planners by design, are being asked to wait and see, be flexible, and prepare to teach online and in the classroom.
With all of the uncertainty and stress, there is no better summer than 2020 to practice self-care.
Although I have lived on 40 acres for sixteen years, I have never had a spring free from New York State Regents preparation and the exhaustion that yields. Enter the spring of 2020 and the cancellation of everything, including standardized tests–now I have time for baby chicks!
A neighbor offered us two free chickens to begin our journey. My husband saw me pick up the bigger of the two and smiled. He had been observing me and worrying about me for weeks. However, when I was with “Chicken” and “Nugget,” he saw my face light up. That was early April. Now, at the end of June, we have 18 birds and an extremely expensive chicken condominium for them to poop in.
My paternal grandfather, a hobby farmer, introduced me to those delicious brown eggs. My cousins and I would collect the eggs, serendipitously feed the birds, and run from the rooster. My grandparents’ acreage was my childhood sanctuary. Maybe I am trying to self soothe during this time of uncertainty. Possibly, I have a bit of the “quarantine” crazy. Whatever it is, the chickens are good for me.
Taking an intellectual approach, I read everything I could about chickens–going as far as joining a private Facebook group for beginner chicken tenders! I now understand why my grandfather was obsessed with the varieties of these glorious, albeit stinky birds. I remember how he scrolled the catalogs that came in the mail, trying to find unique chickens, even a “green” one for my youngest cousin.
My route to restoring my equilibrium is a bit unorthodox. Some might say I am a bit crazy. I call it meditation. When you take those adorable fluffy chicks from the box and put them in a heated brooder, you bond with the animals now under your care. My children named them, and we watched them grow.
As we moved the birds outdoors, each animal’s personalities emerged. As a family, we often sit outside as these creatures entertain us with their funny gait and their chest-bumping fights. The chickens allow us an escape from thoughts of sickness, politics, and strife.
I also annoy people with “Fun Chicken Facts!” Did you know that chickens know their names? Did you know that chickens put themselves to bed in the coop on their own every night? How about the fact that chickens can travel up to 9 miles an hour? These are details that people want to know!
At the risk of being like Tina Fey eating cake on a Saturday Night Live skit while the world is burning, I say to my fellow educators, put your oxygen mask on. That “fresh air” can manifest itself in books read, walks taken, long naps, etc. It might not be training chickens (although they are fantastic), but it needs to be something to help you rejuvenate your soul because the 2020-2021 school year will be another bumpy ride.
As for me, you will find me trying to train my chickens to come when called, and to play on their chicken swings!
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