Slice of Life 2020: I feel badly for…

the kindergartener who was finally figuring out how school worked.

the 1st grader who was learning how to read.

the second grader who had just made a new friend.

the third grader who just moved to a new school.

the fourth grader who just connected with their teacher.

the fifth grader who had started spending his whole day in the classroom.

the sixth grader who was wrapping up her last months in the school she has been in for seven years.

the seventh grader who just found someone to sit with in the cafeteria.

the eighth grader who wanted just a few more weeks in middle school.

the freshmen who was hoping to play his first season of high school baseball.

the sophomore who was working through her first AP class.

the junior who was going on a trip overseas.

and the senior… who can’t visit the colleges she was accepted to, who is missing his final spring sport season, his senior prom, her moments with her best friends, her senior breakfast, his senior trip,  his graduation, her graduation party, 

and the college freshman who was making her way through second semester.

and the college sophomore who had just scored the perfect internship.

and the college junior who was brought back from her semester abroad.

and the college seniors who can’t look for jobs or graduate in a grand ceremony or who can’t be a part of the traditions their school plans for them after four long years of college.

I feel badly for them all. Regardless of where your child is in the journey of their education, they are all missing something. No matter how great or how small… all these moments missed matter.

Slice of Life: Tuesday, April 7th: Why is this so hard?

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Why is this so hard? This is a question I have asked myself over and over again as I have planned for instruction throughout this distance learning work for the past three and a half weeks.

I have 29 years of teaching experience.

I am teaching a grade level I have taught for 7 years.

I am teaching content I have taught for 7 years!

Why is this so hard?

So here are some of my answers.

  1. Teachers are by nature ‘people’ people. We live to work with, be with, collaborate with, spend time with… people! We have lost that right now. Sure we can do it through any number of video conferencing apps, but that’s not it. I miss my morning coffee with my colleague when we share random ‘stuff’- our families, our hobbies, funny things we’ve read, etc. I miss the many ‘check ins’ with my friends who I have worked with for over 20 years. I can text, sure. Not the same. This is hard.
  2. Kids… I miss my kids. Yup… seeing them virtually to. But I miss the banter in the morning as they arrive. I miss the check in discreetly as they work. I miss watching them on the playground. I miss their silly conversations. I miss teaching them. I miss how easy it was to teach them when they were standing right there. This is hard.
  3. Curriculum… here’s the thing. I work in a good sized district and have amazing coaches and consultants who work tirelessly to support teachers. They truly are amazing. They have worked determine standards to teach and provided materials. Amazing stuff… truly. But here’s the thing… we’re also a workshop district. And I LOVE workshop. I spent most of last week trying to make this workshop… creating materials (virtual notebooks) and pausing in my videos to have them follow the structure of a workshop. It’s hard.
  4. Autonomy is gone. OK… so that may be a little dramatic, but the reality is you have to keep things somewhat streamlined when you are working across schools. So we are all working towards standards. We are mandated to complete videos, but not too many. We are asked to communicate, but not too much. We are told to provide consistency, but not grade anything. That is REALLY hard.
  5. Everything takes longer. Meetings. Assignments. Feedback. All of it takes longer than if we were all in one place.

THEN: I can ask you a question and get a response. Two minutes. NOW: I draft an email. I wait for you to respond. I respond back. Time. Time. And more time.

THEN: I ask my kids to open up their notebooks and write down five things they could write related to social issues. Three minutes. NOW: Create a Google Doc. Write the directions or videotape yourself explaining the directions. Anticipate questions. Answer said questions. Post the assignment, Schedule the assignment. Answer any and all questions about the assignment. At least an hour.

So this is hard. I know some parts will be easier. But… admitting that it’s hard. Knowing that it’s hard. And accepting the hardship… that is half the battle.

SOL #31: Reflections on the month

What a month it has been… so in the spirit of reflection… I have decided to take today’s post and make it all about the past month.

  1. On the first of this month, I never imagined where I would be on the 31st.
  2. I love writing.
  3. I struggle with politics.
  4. I have learned a lot about myself and others.
  5. I miss my parents and my brother… a lot.
  6. I am an introvert… I love being home and with my family with no pressures to go out.
  7. I am an extrovert… I miss people and enjoy the virtual connections I am making.
  8. Teaching is hard… and even harder virtually.
  9. I have seen college friends that I haven’t seen in four years.
  10. One of my dear friends and college roommate has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
  11. I celebrated my friend’s birthday virtually with her and some of our closest friends… and I was thankful for that.
  12. I really love writing.
  13. I don’t enjoy making dinner every night.
  14. I love my dog… even though I was the one who didn’t want her (not her, per se, but rather a dog).
  15. My eldest son decided on where he was going to school for the next four years.
  16. I like to be in control of the things that I do.
  17. I have spent a lot of time with my children. And it has been more positive than negative.
  18. I miss spin class and have searched to buy a spin bike, but know I will want to spin again when this is all over.
  19. My youngest son is very independent with his schoolwork and I am proud of him for this.
  20. I don’t miss the hustle and bustle of after school hours.
  21. My oldest son knows how to cook… well.
  22. My internal clock wakes me up at 7:00 AM without an alarm… not bad.
  23. I have enjoyed each day writing this month… even the hard days.
  24. I do not enjoy sitting at a computer all day… this is why I teach.
  25. I enjoy going out to dinner. (See #13)
  26. I am thankful for the health of my family and friends.
  27. I enjoy my boys as young adults. (See #19 & #21)
  28. I’m not good at being told what to do. (see #16)
  29. I want to keep writing.
  30. I need to make a plan for writing.
  31. I will write as we move forward into the month of April and beyond.

SOL #30 Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

My least favorite question in the entire world is ‘What’s for dinner?’ It is like nails on a chalkboard. To avoid this question, I have trained my family. Each Sunday, I write our dinner plans on a whiteboard in one of my kitchen cabinets. Open the door, there is the list of meals.  This has significantly reduced the number of times I hear the dreaded question.

However… something new has occurred since our Stay Home, Stay Safe initiative. I am getting this question at breakfast and lunch time.

Now I shot down that breakfast piece day one of our ‘Stay Home’ adventure… no, there will be no fresh pancakes, bacon, and french toast each morning. That will continue to be reserved for Saturdays and Sundays. Nope, my friends… Monday through Friday, we got the same old food. Cereal, smoothies, yogurt, protein bards… have your pick. Nothing has changed on your breakfast menu.

As for lunch, my boys have been making their own lunches since they have started 7th grade… so three years for one, and six for the other. What has changed? Well, nothing! The same food resides in our kitchen. The same deli meats, leftovers, yogurt, cheese sticks, mini chips, cookies… you name it. The items are all still there. If you were capable of putting those items together into a lunchbox for school… why yes, you can put them together for a lunch at home.

So today, 14 days into our ‘Stay Home’ adventure, I announced our new lunch plan. They were not to ask… they were to help themselves to anything and everything in the kitchen to put together a lunch for themselves.

I had a Google Hangout with my students at lunchtime so they really couldn’t seek out my help. When I finished and entered the kitchen, I found a mess. (I know I asked for it!) But I also found one eating grilled cheese and soup, and the other eating an omelette.

I stood. Silent. They both looked up.

“Mom, what are you having for lunch?” they asked.

“I’m not sure,” I smiled.

SOL #29: The blue line

“Ma’am. Please stop and step behind the blue line,” he says with an edge that stops me in my tracks.

“I’m so sorry. I didn’t see the blue lines,” I respond quickly to let him know I am a rule follower.

He looks at me uncertain if I am being truthful or I’m just clueless!

“What can I get you?” he starts.

I place my order minding the blue line and stopping myself from leaning forward towards the register. A man walks in. He does not see the blue lines.

“Sir. Please stop and step behind the blue line,” the man at the register states with the same stern tone used on me.

“OH, sorry,” he replies, “I didn’t see them.”

I hold my giggle. (I giggle when I’m nervous.)

I finsih my order and don’t move. I don’t know what to do with my credit card. Should I use cash? No… I want to use my credit card because nothing needs to be exchanged.

“You may step to the credit card machine,” he says noticing my hesitancy.

“But I have to cross the blue line,” I say not wanting to be reprimanded again.

“Yes, I know. But I have a blue line, too. You may move forward and I will move back,” he explains.

I notice the blue line of tape on the other side of the counter.

“Thank you,” I respond and move forward to pay.

I leave the register, but don’t know where to go. I must leave the blue line, but I mustn’t move forward. I can’t move back because the man behind me is behind his very own blue line. I search the floor. It is a series of blue lines. I’m confused and uncertain. I look over to the end of the counter and notice a blue box. A series of four lines at the end where food will likely be picked up.

I move into the box. I look back at the man behind the register and the man ordering. I notice a woman coming in the door. There aren’t enough blue lines.

A brown shopping bag is placed on the counter.

I grab the bag and make my way along the very back end of the counter area and make a decision.  Tomorrow, we will eat lunch at home!

SOL #28: Stepping Back

There are moments. Defining moments. When you stop and tell yourself, finally, after much thought… I need to step back.

I need to step back from saying yes all the time.
I need to step back from always being there to jump in whenever anyone needs a hand.
I need to step back from the extras… the many, many extras that come at me and I can’t say no to. I don’t seek them out… they are just always there.

I am the one. The one who helps create things. The one who helps with problems. The one who is a sounding board. A critical friend. The person who always ‘just has a minute’. The one who takes the extra task. The extra load. The extra job. The cheerleader.

Why?

Here’s the thing… right now, I don’t know why.

Is it because I want the accolades? I don’t think so… those don’t come and I don’t really care for fanfare.

Is it because I need to be needed? Maybe sometimes I like to think that my intelligence and experience are worthwhile and valued. Or perhaps that I need to know that things are taken care of.

Is it because there is work to be done and I know how to do it, so why not? Yeah, I think that’s pretty much it. I see work. I do it. And hope that it helps someone.

But you see… right now… this week… I don’t see the value. Sitting here. Late at night. Sad. Upset. Even angry. None of it is worth it. While others sleep. Rest. Relax even. While others don’t worry about Monday or the next Monday. While some don’t think about any of this right now… I sit here, trying to figure it all out.  And I will. Maybe not right now. Maybe not tonight.

But I will say no… not because I want to, but right now, because I have to.

SOL#27: I cried…

I cried…

for the friend whose mother is in a nursing home and she can no longer visit daily.

I cried…

when I read about families not being with loved ones when they are dying.

I cried…

when hours and hours of my work was not acknowledged or mentioned.

I cried…

when I thought about not seeing my parents for weeks and weeks and weeks.

I cried…

when I learned my student didn’t join us yesterday because he was overwhelmed.

I cried…

when I thought of the student who didn’t join us and I don’t know why.

I cried…

when I thought of the amount of work that is ahead of me.

Yesterday I cried.