Slice of Life/Day in a Sentence: Some Semblance of Normal

(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)

The classroom seemed unusually crowded and louder than usual as some semblance of normal, or as close to normal as one can get in a Pandemic, settled in, with every single one of our masked-up sixth graders returning physically to the building for the first time in a year. *

Peace (with the energy of the young),
Kevin

*We’d been in Hybrid Mode since October, with half the students in school some days.

 

Slice of Life/Day in a Sentence: Why, Indeed

(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)

Why am I spending so much of my free time refreshing government websites that don’t seem to function right in order to find a scheduling spot on a calendar that doesn’t seem to have openings for a vaccine that may not yet be in abundance enough to be readily available?*

Peace (refreshing it often),
Kevin

*Our school is coming back full, in phases, starting next week with my grade. That’s one reason why.

Slice of Life: Audio Postcard Update

(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.)

At the start of the year, I took part in a research study that asked teachers to post an audio postcard each week for the first six weeks of school. I found it valuable as a reflection point to what was (and is) a pretty hectic and uncertain time.

This week, we were asked to provide an audio postcard update on things are going, now that we are pretty far into the year. There were some guiding questions, and again, I found it useful to think about how the year is unfolding, when each week and month seems to have a different challenge.

Here is my audio postcard: (link)

Peace (voicing it),
Kevin

PS  — If interested, here is:

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

 

Comic About Teaching: Zoom Mutterings

Teacher Zoom TalkI find it fascinating how pretty much universal this is: a presenter/teacher talking out about the technological things they are doing as the Zoom crowd waits for whatever comes next. I’ve even found myself apologizing to my students to narrating what I am doing to get things ready for class when we are on Zoom.

I always imagine my students having a chuckle about it at my expense. Which I don’t mind at all. The mute button is … right … over … here.

I put this into my album of Pandemic Comics, started last year.

Peace (out loud),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

Giving Ourselves the Gift of Forgiveness

forgive“forgive” by timlewisnm is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

We’ve been in the midst of our parent-teacher conference week. Forging strong connections with families is always important, and it is even more so during these Pandemic times of hybrid and remote learning. All of our conferences are taking place on Zoom, which at times began to take on the role of a video confessional booth, although I didn’t mind when it veered into that direction.

Before we even ventured into the topics about academics or student progress, I consistently started out with the question: How are you (the family doing)? That question caused a pause, and then often a sigh, and then it sometimes opened a floodgate of response, and it was soon very clear — most families are just barely balancing the demands of their own work and lives with the school lives of their kids, and their collective nerves are frayed.

Some parents leaned in to apologize for not doing enough to help support their child’s learning during the Independent/Remote Days (in our Hybrid, we see students two days a week in the building, and then they are home for three days, doing independent work). Some families, primarily those with more than one child at school, admitted they just can’t keep up with the emails and notifications from different teachers, and have stopped looking.

More than one parent started to tear up. Many asked for more advice on how they can best support their child at home. Most said something along the lines of, “We’re doing what we can, but it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly enough.” They have not given up, but most seem resigned to the reality of the situation.

More than a few asked pointed questions about whether we are seeing gaps in academic performance due to the Spring shut-down and current Hybrid model, and if so, what would those gaps mean? I spoke reassuringly about what we are seeing, what we are doing, and the direction we are heading as a school. Parents seemed relieved by information and anecdotes.

All expressed heartfelt thanks for the teachers and the work we are doing, which I appreciate (particularly given some contentious decision-making by our local School Committee over fully re-opening the school and eliminating the six-foot-distancing rule, which families pushed back against, hard, leading to a reversal of that decision for the upper grades).

I found myself, often, urging parents to find forgiveness for themselves, to remember that we are still in a Pandemic and, unfortunately, the Pandemic is getting worse right now with winter coming, not better. I reminded them that all we can ever do, is the best we can do, and that taking care of our families is priority number one. For some, that means working from home. For others, it means trusting children to be productive in their independence.

Be kind to yourself, I told one single parent, who was distraught as our conversation unfolded. Family first. We will work together to address any school issues, I told them. You are not alone in this. Forgive yourself, for you are doing what you can in this moment of uncertainty, I reminded them. That is what our children need — love and support and stability — more than anything else.

Maybe I was reminding myself, too, as much as giving them a gift of forgiveness to give themselves.

Peace (to you),
Kevin

Local Music: All We Ever Have (Jim Armenti)

I caught a listen to this song from a local musician – Jim Armenti — that was supported by our local arts organization. I love how Jim captures our small city’s collective efforts in the Pandemic to stay safe and support each other. I hope yours, does, too.

And then a local arts/dance group made this, too, in the park down the street as a way to help get out the vote.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

And Then We’re Full In – Really?

new school bike racks

Stop me if you’ve heard this: Ignore the health experts. Misinterpret the science. Open it all up.

Our School Committee this week voted to bring everybody back to our school, in full, in a phased-in approach. This, despite a strong argument from our school district health leader (with support of the local health board) that our school, particularly our stressed and strained nursing staff, is not equipped for such an influx of students. This, despite the need for another isolation room. This, despite concerns over a new HVAC report that raised questions about air flow in places around our school, like the school nurses’ office. This, despite a long line of teachers expressing concern about teaching in classroom full of students. This, despite growing numbers of the virus in the communities, now spiking red, around us. This, despite the holiday season approaching, when many families will no doubt interact with other family and friends outside of the home.

Some members of the committee were adamant against this plan to re-open in full, but they were in the minority.

One almost expected to hear the phrase “herd immunity” by those in the majority voting forward the decision to open, in full (over Zoom, by the way). We didn’t hear that phrase, thankfully, but it felt a bit like Dr. Atlas might have been whispering in the ears of decision makers as they removed the 6-foot social distancing requirement we’ve been working with in our Hybrid Model.

Peace (calm),
Kevin

Audio Postcard: The Sixth Week of School

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

This is the sixth and final audio postcard for a research project I have been part of, documenting the first six weeks of school in a Pandemic year through weekly audio postcard. In this one, I mull over how exhausted it feels to be a teacher right now, worries of my students’ well-being and emotional health, and concerns about upticks in the virus numbers and what might happen if we reverse course with our current model (hybrid).

Here is:

Peace (now and forever),
Kevin