Slice of Life: Appreciative But …

Cash BonusThe public sector, at least where I work as a teacher, never gets a bonus. We negotiate a contract and that’s that. So I was surprised to see our small town using some of its federal Pandemic money to give out cash bonuses to those of us who worked in municipal buildings (like schools) during the height of the Covid surges. A check arrived recently with my regular pay.

I wrestled with this comic, though, because I fear it comes across as ungrateful (which I truly am not) and that it appears I don’t fully appreciate others who worked just like I did, and are getting nothing from their bosses. I am thinking of all those people who worked in grocery stores and restaurants and hospitals, and of those other teachers in different towns who may not get this kind of benefit.

For some reason, it was the hourly breakdown of bonus that got my attention, as if my time in the building during Covid was codified into a dollar amount of about a dollar. (To be honest, it would have been more helpful if, during the Covid year, the town had done more to listen to teachers’ concerns and valued our input more, and made us feel like we were partners. I guess unused federal cash is easier to give out afterwards than cooperation in the moment.)

Peace (and comics),

Slice of Life/Day in a Poem (Day 15): Crowded Places

(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 and then all through March — every single day  …  You write, too.)

Odd to be
inside such a small space
with crowded teens
and barely a mask in place,
the high school track team
meets to celebrate
the season as
we check open windows
and wonder about

Peace (inside the crowd),

Slice of Life: To Mask Or Not

(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 and then all through March — every single day  …  You write, too.)

Our School Committee members voted the other night to lift our mask mandate at our school when we return from February break next week. They had sent out surveys to teachers and parents, but not students. That got me irritated, as they seem to consistently avoid asking students what they think, so I revamped their parent survey and had my sixth graders voice their opinions. I sent it off to the School Committee before their meeting, and to its credit, the chairman shared the students survey in the meeting before any other results.

Mask Mandate Zooming
The School Committee ignored advice from the health officials on the timing of lifting the mask mandate, but the discussions – even in the public hearing section – were civil and thoughtful, a rarity in today’s meetings (even in our town).

I wasn’t surprised to see my students voting in the majority to lift the mask mandate, as this is a fairly conservative community and students are generally just tired of wearing masks, but I was curious and a little concerned about the second question, asking them whether they will still wear masks even if the mandate was dropped.

MaskPolicySurvey (student response)

A full third of the students who took the survey indicated they weren’t sure, although I know many have thought about it and talked about it, and as we approach this moment of shift in masking, I know there are going to be some students who want to wear a mask for protection, and are allowed to, but may not, due to pressure from friends, either overt or not.

I don’t know how family decisions will play into all of this either, since we are not going to be policing which students have been given permission to wear masks and which have not.

As a teaching team, we’re already mulling on ways to make all students comfortable in whatever decision they make, and to accept and support any decision anyone else makes, as well. We’ve had discussions about Morning Meeting as a time to reinforce talk of respecting opinions in a larger community and we’ve talked about us, teachers, wearing masks, even if we wouldn’t otherwise, as an act of solidarity to any students feeling on the edge or uncertain. I am sure the administration has information going home, as well.

It seems as if every step of the way in this Pandemic, we keep having to learn new ways to navigate forward, and strategies to help our students do the same.

Peace (in choice),

Slice of Life: As It Once Was

(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.)

It’s not that I don’t ever see my students without masks — snack, lunch, walks outside, etc. — but with our state now lifting mask requirements for schools at the end of the month and my school district likely this week to follow suit at the local level (although what that will look like, we don’t quite know), I’m trying to remember what it was like to see all those young faces, to see all the smiles, to notice the full looks and emotional reactions on faces, as it once was, all the time.

In class discussions, there’s a wide range of reactions by students to this possible news of ending the mask mandate. Some can’t wait. Others seem nervous. When something lasts two years, it becomes a sort of reality, the way things are. Masks have protected, hidden and defined us in many ways.

Maybe we can step forward, carefully and guided by science, into a new reality yet again (same as the old reality) and as a teacher, I will be able to better read the room again, the way things might yet still be.

Peace (thinking forward),

PS — the downside to loosening masks? Litter. This was my morning poem today after noticing our playground area yesterday:

Beneath this snow
and ice pack of winter,
abandoned masks
litter this place –

It’s confetti, like loose parts
and colored fabric bits,
so we bide our time
to gather on it

The ripped strings
as abandoned seeds,
but nothing here’s rooted
or anchored by trees


Comic: That Dang Curve

Riding The Wave Again

As states, like mine, begin lifting the mask mandates, it’s a positive sign that we are somewhat nearing the end of this Omicron curve (although the CDC reminds us that plenty of people are still suffering from this latest variant). But what we don’t know is if another variant curve is coming. What could protect us all would be more vaccinations and more boosters. It feels as if that divide remains as large as ever, as people are divided as ever.

Peace (stay safe)

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),

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),