Slice of Life: A Game of Hide the Water Bottle

(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.)

Sometimes, I just watch to see what my students will do in the time between learning. It’s always fascinating. In other years, this is how I first learned about Minecraft, and heard about Visco Girls, and watched students show me the Mannequin Challenge, and was taught in detail about dance moves on Tik Tok, and more.

This year, I’ve been observing a gaggle of my most energetic boys play a game in which they hide each other’s water bottles in the classroom. They play it voluntarily and I have not noticed them bothering anyone else’s water bottles. Here’s how they do it: one boy turns his back or goes into the hallway, and the others scheme inventive places to hide it. The owner returns and tries to find it, and the others give hints, if needed.

At this point, they are running out of new places to hide things in the classroom, but I’ve observed them put it behind books in the bookcase, inside a tube of rolled paper that I have, behind our class mailboxes, below the old mounted television set, buried in a box of colored pencils, stuffed under tables and desks, and more. They get very excited when they find a new hiding spot.

They tell me they have been playing versions of this game for years, which I find rather amusing, and as long as it doesn’t get out of hand and as long they are not bothering anyone else, I am content to keep them engaged in their playful game, and see where the water bottles will go next.

Peace (and play),
Kevin

Audio Postcard 2021: Three, of Six, Weeks of School

DSC01722 (2) -01 DSC01722 (2) -01 flickr photo by suzyhazelwood shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

Last year, I took part in a research project in which teachers recorded weekly audio postcard journey entries for the first six weeks of school. It was the Pandemic Year, so I was already trying to document my time as an educator in such a disruptive time, and I found the audio entries were helpful for my own reflective practice. (See my last post with all six audio files)

This year, they are doing the Six Weeks project again, and I agreed to be part of the project again, too. So far, I have recorded three entries for my first three weeks.

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

 

Peace (listening in),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Finding a Rhythm

(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.)

My wife and I were chatting the other night with a friend of our eldest son. This friend just became an elementary classroom teacher so my wife and I are checking in with him, regularly, and cheerleading him through the start of his career.

We were talking about settling down into a rhythm, and I admitted to him, even after so many years, I am still trying to find that rhythm of my new school year days, three weeks in. There is a flow that I know happens, where lesson planning and curriculum design and daily schedules and student stories and administrative busywork … it all eventually comes together so that there is a rhythm of the days.

I’m getting there, I told him, but I am not there yet. (I think he was relieved that a longtime teacher felt the same way as he was feeling, although I know he is experiencing the craziness of newness more than I am – I still remember those days).

Meanwhile, our Music Special had to take part in the classroom yesterday because of some classroom space shifting in our building for cleaning (mold). Our new music teacher has been teaching drumming and patterns. As I worked in the back of the room or wandered in and out, my students were using drumsticks on their desks to pound out drum patterns she had printed out for them.

Mostly, it sounded chaotic, but every now and then, they found a beat together, and the click click click of the sticks on the tops of desks became one solid sound, and I thought, there’s a metaphor in there somewhere about working as one and making music together in the uncertainty of flexible learning in a Pandemic.

So I am ending this slice on the idea that began it – my students and my classroom. Call it circular writing rhythm.

Peace (on the two and four),
Kevin

Slice of Life: A Library With No Librarian Is Still a Place of Books

(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.)

When I started teaching at my school, many years ago, a budget crunch meant that our school had no librarian. The library was mostly dark during the school days. It was a travesty I could not understand as a new teacher, as a lover of books, as someone who knows the power of a library and a librarian to spark a love of reading and learning.

Well, we’re back to that situation again.

The community where I teach voted down a budget last year that has meant many cuts at the school, and one of the most dramatic is that we did not replace our librarian, who left for another job, and the library is dark again.  I don’t know if we will even have a paraprofessional or volunteer in there to check out books. It’s unclear right now.  I also don’t know if we lost our budget for buying new books for the library. Gaw. (Another ramification of the budget cuts is a reduction in hours of our amazing school nurses — something else I have trouble wrapping my head around, particularly in a Pandemic).

I don’t cast blame on my principal, who did the best she could with the budget she was given, and she was able to keep Art and Music and Physical Education through creative scheduling, etc. I’m grateful for that.

But to lose the library (not lose, maybe, as I am sure we will come up with a plan to bring students there to get books .. I hope) from our regular school day, as a place of literacy and instruction and fun, is difficult and unsettling, and I am still grappling with that change as our school year begins.

Peace (and books),
Kevin

Slice of Life: And So The Year Begins …

(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.)

 

 

 

On this day
before the
first days
of school,
the dreamers
in us remember
long nights of
wonder and
worry, the
unknown spinning
us forward
into something
unfocused
and still a
bit blurry;
each year begins
with a single
step of pause,
then comes
the hurry

Peace (at the start of it all),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Stop Me If This Sounds Familiar

(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 was pretty successful in my attempt to not think too much about the new school year throughout the month of July (we ended our year at the end of June). Now things are creeping back into my head, day and into the night, and I am beginning to feel that anxiety increase again.

Someone on Twitter dug up this comic of mine from last year, a comic that seems appropriate again this year, as the Delta variant upends the plans for the start of the new school year.

Educator Insomnia

To be fair, I don’t even know how Delta will affect our school opening in a few weeks. I live in a state with high vaccination rates and the Covid numbers are still fairly moderate. But any elementary school, where kids are too young to be vaccinated, is sure to be a place of concern for families and staff, and students.

And I noticed our public libraries and spaces are shifting back to mask mandates for everyone.  More people are masking up in grocery stores. And my high school son remarked that he just can’t even think about starting a year in remote. My wife, a school librarian, and I are having more conversations about Covid, again.

Suddenly, the return to school is back to the forefront of our lives, and ‘normal’ still remains a distant memory.

Peace (thinking it out loud),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Hold On To The Positive (Comic)

(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.)

This is a comic slice, the latest edition to my collection of comics I have been making since the Pandemic began as a way to deal with the turmoil. With this school year over, I am in reflective mode.

Hold On To The Positive

Peace (in panels),
Kevin

Memory Drop and the Pandemic School Year

I Don't Remember When

This was inspired by a real conversation I had with my teaching colleagues on the last days of school … seriously, we were having trouble remembering when things happened. It was that kind of year.

Peace (recalling it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: This Is How The School Year Ends

(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.)

In the short but provocative novel Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher, the classroom of sixth graders has a tradition that they enact whenever someone is set to leave the class during the school year (either by moving or some other event). They conduct a Rock Ritual. The way it works is that the student who is leaving chooses a mineral or stone from a class collection, and then each classmates passes the rock around the circle, telling stories of the student who is leaving. That student takes the rock with them, with the idea that the rock has collected the words, stories and memories.

When we read Flying Solo in the middle of the year, my class of sixth graders all asked if we could do our own version of the Rock Ritual at the end of this crazy Covid year. I said yes, of course, and this morning, on our last day together, we will gather in the classroom to have our ritual (using Ring Pops instead of rocks).

Yesterday, we spent part of our morning with a sheet of all of their names, writing down ideas for the stories we would tell.  (Frequent Question: Can we write about ourselves? Answer: Of course). You should have heard the noise and laughter, and sharing, even though I suggested we wait until today’s actual Ritual to share (this is a rather boisterous and louder-than-usual class of sixth graders that is relentless in its socializing).

I’ll have to circle around another day to really reflect on this year of teaching and learning in the Pandemic, and all that I have learned and wished I had learned, and everything else. For now, I will settle into a final act of Community in the Classroom, as we tell stories of our time together in a year like no other.

Peace (and tradition),
Kevin

Slice of Life/Day in a Sentence: Blurry Brain

(The Slice of Life Challenge in March is hosted by Two Writing Teachers as way to encourage teachers-as-writers. You can join in, if you want. There is also a monthly call for Slices on Tuesdays. You can write then, too)

Four hours of in-person teaching immediately followed by three straight hours of parent-teacher conferences on Zoom immediately followed by two hours of facilitating professional development on Zoom leads to what only could be described as a very blurry brain.

Peace (wide awake and ready),
Kevin