By Kenyatta Davis, The Seattle Medium
Dr. Virgie Harris, an eighth-grade humanities teacher at Madison Middle School in West Seattle, travelled to Washington, D.C. in March at the beginning of the pandemic when the Seattle Public Schools switched to virtual learning.
For Harris, a veteran educator including a tenure as a university professor, the transition was difficult. She not only had to adapt her teaching model to engage her students online, but she also had to teach herself how to navigate the necessary tools needed to teach in a virtual environment.
“I have years of training in in-person teaching from university and experience,” said Harris. “But with little training in technology, I found myself struggling to execute teaching by computer.”
“I was overwhelmed with trying to learn something new on the spot with no training from the school district,” continued Harris. “It was taking hours to sit at computer and learn while I was trying to teach language arts and social studies.”
The stress and frustration of COVID and trying to engage her students at the high level that she was accustomed to, began to take a toll on Harris.
“This was affecting my health and well-being in the middle of a pandemic,” recalled Harris. “I was concerned for my health, my family’s health and my students’ health and well-being. Trying to teach digitally, I was out of my comfort zone and ineffective.”
During a facetime call, Harris’ daughter noticed that her mother seemed out of her element and detected from her mother’s physical demeanor and emotional state that she needed help. She quickly recommended that she visit them in Maryland so that they could help her with the computer.
Dr. Harris said her first thought was how safe was it for her to travel across country during a pandemic. She thought about her safety, about herself being in a targeted group and risk to her family since she was traveling from Seattle which was at the time the hot spot.
She took vials of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes and boxed snacks to avoid buying or eating at the airport or on the plane.
“I preferred a direct flight because I thought it would be less dangerous and less risk; however, I was unable to book a direct flight and had a layover in Detroit,” said Harris. “There were more passengers at the Detroit airport and there was a passenger who coughed profusely with no mask on. I moved away and reported him to the gatekeeper who brushed me off saying he was not on my flight.”
Harris finally arrived in D.C., but she couldn’t fully relax until she was sure that she was COVID free after travelling.
“Once I got to my daughter’s home I stripped off all my clothes, put them in the washing machine, sprayed my luggage and began a 14-day self-quarantine within the house,” said Harris. “I continued to watch myself for any COVID symptoms.”
Dr. Harris returned to Seattle on August 1 on a direct flight from D.C. to begin work at the District and tend to her house. She once again self-quarantined for 14 days and was careful to watch herself to see if she had any symptoms.
Fast forward to today. Harris’ family wants her to return to D.C. But Harris is not as optimistic about travelling across the country again, and she’s not alone. With COVID cases rising and new travel restrictions imposed by Gov. Jay Inslee, a survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows that nearly two-thirds (69%) of Americans will not travel for Christmas this year.
While Harris is eager to reunite with her family, she says that she will wait until the climate is better.
“I know too many people who have travelled and not travelled who have contracted COVID,” said Harris. “With more knowledge and personal experience, my wisdom says be still and know He is God.”
“I don’t need to test God,” concluded Harris.