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AUSD COVID Worker Publishes Cartoon Book About Testing Kids
Posted 6/13/22

By Elia Rogers

 

Over the course of the last school year, AUSD provided more than 104,000 PCR COVID-19 tests and distributed more than 35,000 rapid tests to students and staff. The tests were given as part of modified quarantines (when we were trying to keep students in classes with positive cases in school); background testing for students in grades K-6), athletic programs, and special events; and voluntary testing at our centralized sites.

Our COVID-19 Liaison Assistants (CLAs) were responsible for printing out labels, and helping to test students, log results, and communicate with families. They were crucial to this effort and worked incredibly hard to get testing to all students and staff who needed it, even in the midst of the January and May surges. 

Wondering what working on the front lines of K-12 testing is reallyAust head shot like? Based on her experience, CLA Sophie Aust - who organized the testing schedule and helped students on a daily basis - wrote, illustrated, and published Not in the Job Description: COVID Testing Grades K-12, a short book of cartoons about the crazy things kids do, say, (and try!) during the testing process. 

Aust is headed off to pursue a graduate degree in creative writing next fall, but before she left, we asked her what inspired this work and what it was like working with students in this capacity.

 

Q: What inspired you to work on this project?

I started doing doodles of the funny things kids said to me. The job is very stressful and very intense. It can be discouraging, but the kids are so funny! They have such fantastic logic, especially when it comes to COVID and how COVID works. We ask them to turn all the rules on their head. Before we would say, "Never pick your nose!" Now we're saying, "Not only should you pick your nose, but we are also going to do it for you." It's funny to see how the kids synthesize COVID through their lens. I started posting drawings of the kids on Instagram (obviously without using names), and people liked it, so I put them together in a little book. 

Q: What was the most striking thing one of the kids said to you?

They said all kinds of stuff! They often go on long monologues, so I can't write it all down. The other day this kid handed me their testing paper, and a big bite was taken out of it. I asked him, "Hey, is there a big bite mark on this paper?” And he was like, "Ya, I eat paper. But your paper tastes terrible." I said, "That's probably because it has a label on it." He was like, "There was a label, and that's probably why it tasted so bad."

Q: I know that the job was probably challenging at times. What was rewarding?

book coverWell, my team was amazing. I would not be able to do this without them. National Labs - the lab we use for testing - is really good. They will test anywhere - in the middle of a square dance, at lunch, anywhere! They are very fun to work with. The district team is very genuine, and we usually end up decompressing at the end of the day and laughing so hard we fall out of our chairs. They are a wonderful and fantastic team of people, but the kids are the most wonderful part. I tend to think like a kid, so I think they are magic. They are light - just spreading all day! You know when you have seasonal depression, and you step outside on the first day of spring, and it's 70 degrees, and you are like, “WOW!”? That's what the kids are like; it's like suddenly getting vitamin D for the first time.

Q: What was the process of publishing your book?

I self published it using an on-line service. My mom is an artist and puts out books every year. So she (actually both of my parents) were able to show me how to scan the art and upload it to the website and make a little book. It was a joint venture, and they helped a lot.

Q: Do you have any ideas for your next project?

Besides grad school, no. One of the things that we learned from COVID is that you can't expect anything. I don't know what grad school will look like, so I don't know what ideas will come next. It's just nice to know this is something that I am capable of doing.