Slice of Life: One Zoom Morning (Time-Lapse)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I know this is strangely narcissistic, but I was curious to know what I looked like, teaching remote via Zoom, and even more so, what would that teaching look like in time-lapse video? So, I did it. Here it is.

The other morning, during our Morning Meeting and then into our Vocabulary Lesson, for about 50 minutes, I let my iPad snap moments in time-lapse. It’s intriguing to see myself through that kind of lens, and I was curious about visual clues of interactions with students.

Here are some observations:

  • I seem to be smiling a lot and laughing quite a bit, which I want to note, is how I hope I am interacting with my students via video feed;
  • I seem to be talking more than listening. I know that students are also talking and sharing and participating, but maybe not nearly as much as I am;
  • My face demeanor changes once we transitioned from Morning Meeting (where everything is about playful connections) to the actual lesson on vocabulary, as we moved into talking about the work they had done;
  • It’s strange to see oneself like this, but a version (in regular speed) of this is what my students see each day we are in Remote Learning (this week, it continues a few more days).

Peace (looking in, looking out),

Book Review: Stamped (Racism, Antiracism, and You)

Jason Reynolds reminds us again and again, This is not a history book. But it’s a book of our history, of our country’s racism and of how our country finds itself where it is, with huge divisions over race.

Stamped (Racism, Antiracism, and You) is Reynold’s ‘remix’ of Stamped From the Beginning (by Ibram X. Kendi), exploring how the construct of race continues to divide our nation. It arrived before all of the protests this past summer and fall, but it’s a book of that moment, too, of understanding the anger, and maybe, hopefully, providing a spark for change in the way we talk about race.

Reynolds, his narrative voice is loud and clear and  always very provocative, is a powerful guide in examining critically how slavery led to the place we’re at right now, today, and how institutional structures (and the people in power who don’t want to lose power) have long been designed to divide us as a nation. He advocates love but shines a light on injustice.

Reynolds divides people into three main categories:

  • Segregationist (who divides)
  • Assimilationist (who appeases)
  • Antiracist (who loves)

And while these divisions seemed a bit too simplistic, I think, they do capture some of the range of how people address, or don’t address, racism. The book — aimed at a young audience — seeks to frame each of these three categories through historical events and people, with Reynolds’ (and I suppose Kendi’s) critical lens on full display.

This book provided me, a white suburban teacher, another way to keep thinking about my own understanding of race. It is written primarily for a middle and high school audience and the book ends with a powerful call for change, for young people to be the generation that finally confronts race and forges a path forward.

“Perhaps they (the Black Lives Matter movement), the antiracist daughters of (Angela) Davis, should be held up at symbols of hope, for taking potential and turning it into power. More important, perhaps we should all do the same.” — from Stamped, by Jason Reynolds, page 243.

Maybe that’s what we were seeing in the streets all summer and beyond.

Peace (more necessary than ever),

Music: We Won’t Be Missing You

I wrote and recorded this song – We Won’t Be Missing You — over the summer, as part of a larger Pandemic song collection called Notes from a Quiet Corner (listen over at Bandcamp, if you want).

I wrote it after watching Trump tell lies after lies about Covid when he was still trying to lead the daily briefings, rambling on about the spread of the virus, about the impact on people’s lives, and how he would then pivot the conversation to its impact on himself and his own businesses.

It wasn’t pretty. It still isn’t.

Now that the foot has nearly kicked him out the door, I figured I would share this song again.

Here are the lyrics, if curious:

We Won’t Be Missing You

I hear a whole of talking but I don’t see a change out here
You might be on the screen but we don’t have to hear
I see your mouth still moving and reality disappears
If you listen to the whispers – the whispers are everywhere

We don’t surely know
where this is gonna go
When you’re gone
We ain’t gonna shed a tear

I know you got a lot of money and you think that makes you cool
then you turn your back and you act so frickin’ cruel
If I had to find a reason – I might resort to fool
But all those people listen so what are we gonna do?

We don’t surely know
where this is gonna go
when you’re gone
we won’t be missing you

I got my own news station playing inside my head
it’s got static and its tragic, to hear what it is you said
the world’s gone crazy and all you wanna know instead
is if the hotel’s standing and the money flowing again

We don’t comprehend
how this is gonna end
when you’re gone
we won’t be missing you
(bandcamp link)

Peace (shouting it),

Book Review: Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss)

Someone here at my blog in a comment suggested this book by Margaret Renkl (a name I knew from the editorial pages of The New York Times) and it was just a lovely collection of short essays that thread the natural world to her family history. Thank you, Patricia, for the recommendation.

While each essay (some less than a page long, some two or three pages) could easily stand on its own as a piece of marvelous writing, the entire Late Migrations (A Natural History of Love and Loss) is best viewed from above, as she masterly weaves and threads her observations of the deep South (Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee) into the lore and stories of her own family’s roots in the same areas in the rural South.

I kept stopping and thinking, how did she do that? I heard echoes of Annie Dillard and others, for sure, but her voice is her own, and her observations of the birds and trees and roots and forests are full of insights of the world outside our doors. (It connects nicely to my last book ready, Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald, too.)

Reading this is a master class in the structuring of stories, and some of the sentences in this collection were so beautiful, so rich with imagery and insight, that I found myself reading them a few times just to let her words linger in my head (and inspire poems, which I will share another day).

A bonus is that her brother did the illustrations, and each one is an evocative work of art, tied to the writing and stories of Renkl, pulling visuals into the essay collection with perfect balance. The cover, for example, also could easily stand on its own, and the fact that it is her own brother just gives the artwork a little more magical power, I think.

Peace (outside in the world),

Slice of Life: No Need For LED (Frontline to the Fad)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I started noticing them in the Fall. Maybe you did, too, if you are a teacher. Whenever we were in our Remote Learning (as we are again, this week), a few kids at home would dim the lights in their rooms where they were working, so their faces became shadows and silhouettes, and a string of colored LED lights along the doorways and walls behind them would create an eerie glow in the room.

Pink. Blue. Green. Red.

Following the holidays, what had seemed like a sporadic trend has become a full-blown fad, and unfortunately, the students who need the quietest space and least distracted space for thinking, the ones on learning plans for a range of issues, the ones who are struggling with Remote Learning and need the most support … those students are the very ones who have the most LEDs blinking in their spaces.

I’ve asked some students to turn them off in the past, but we never had a blanket policy. I guess I want them to be able to make where they learn, their own, with their own bits of personality. I don’t mind the periodic dog or cat coming into the video window, or even the antsy child who sometimes gets up and shoots a nerf hockey puck before settling back in.

But the influx of colored lights means we may need to institute a “policy” on LED lights soon. What it makes me wonder is, what were the parents of these children — the ones who need more focus, and less distractions — thinking when they bought strings of LED lights for the space where their children would be doing schoolwork? It’s hard enough, for the students and for us, the teachers.

We never knows what’s going to be all the rage next, do we? But teachers have the frontline to fads.

Peace (lit up),

Music Monday: Whispers in the Flames

The last few days, I’ve been working on finishing up a song that has a little more rhythmic kick than the last few songs I have worked on. I wanted a bit of rock and roll in the mix. This one rocks more in headphones, I think, as there are some instrumental nuances to the sound.

The lyrics are reworked from a song draft I had done previously, and the music was a mix of live instruments and Garageband loops. I think the Hammond organ parts really give the song some personality.

Peace (in whispers),

Class Discussion: I Should Have Been Prepared But I Wasn’t

Fail Road“Fail Road” by fireflythegreat is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As a teacher who often brings up current event into my sixth grade classroom, I should have been better prepared for talking about the riots and storming of the Capitol Building on Wednesday by Trump supporters, but I wasn’t. I don’t know why not. Maybe I was still trying to process the news myself. Maybe I was worried that talking about it would start me, as the teacher, on a political diatribe against this administration’s effort. Maybe I didn’t know what families had talked about and didn’t have a clear sense of lines.

But the topic came up, rather quickly, when one student asked, in a sort of whisper, if I had seen “the news about DC” and how terrible it was that people had died and another student, who has long been an open Trump supporter, called the breaking in of Nancy Pelosi’s office “a beautiful thing.” Another chimed in about images of broken windows and selfies that the rioters had taken and posted.

This took me aback, particularly the ‘beautiful thing’ coming from that particular student, whose personality is so peaceful, calm and nice. To hear them celebrate insurrection alarmed me. I took a breath, and led a quick discussion about the line between street protests and rioting, and didn’t even venture (yet) into how misinformation can be used to foment violence. We also chatted about the peaceful transfer of power in the United States as bedrock of Democracy.

I’m not sure I did a good job leading that discussion, to be honest. I’m trying to figure out how to approach it again today with information and respectful talk.

This PBS Resource is helpful for framing discussions.

Peace (bringing it),