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),
Kevin

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),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Goals for the New Year

(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.)

With my students back in the building in our Hybrid/Cohort model, we spent some time yesterday morning after the Winter Break charting out some goals and aspirations we have for the new year.

Sharing our writing was a way to connect after a few weeks on vacation and a few weeks in Remote Learning, and as always, I shared out my own goals with the kids, too.

Mr H Goals for 2021

For many of us, the Pandemic was a common theme (mostly, to be done with it in some way or another). I guess that would be a common theme everywhere these days.

Peace (aspiring towards it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Assorted Odds at the End

(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 don’t have any Slice Moments in mind so … here are some odds and ends for this last Slice of Life at the end of 2o2o …


“Did you write your note to the tree?” is something my wife and I harp on with our boys. Our holiday tradition is for all of us to write short notes to our future selves, and stuff the paper scrolls inside glass ornaments. When the ornaments break, as they do, we read what our past selves wrote, in the present. I wrote my note the other day, trying to capture 2020 without too much gloom and doom. I wonder what my future self will think when it reads it?


A holiday song that my friend and I wrote and recorded a few years ago, and now share out each holiday season, just got its 500th listen via YouTube (it is also on other streaming platforms, but that data goes to my friend). I know it’s not about numbers, and never about earning anything from it, but that a few hundred people might have enjoyed our musical Gift of Peace song brings me joy.


A Writing Project colleague and musical friend sent an email to me, and a few of his other musical friends, wishing us happy tidings and including a video of him playing a Wilco song, as a musical gift of sorts because he had just finished reading Jeff Tweedy’s book about writing songs. I listened to his cover, and then I went back to the original (War on War is the song) and then I spent the morning remixing the song into my own version, sending the song back to my friend, as a gift in return. It was a nice creative diversion that reminded me of how much I enjoy crafting songs in different ways. My remix bent the song in a different direction.


I’ve been purposefully trying to NOT think of school yet, to give my brain a break. But an email chain from a student, leveraging the school email system to reach out to friends, pulled me in, briefly, and then, I began to lesson plan for next week in my mind, and started thinking of how our principal told us right before break to write out our goals for the school year, and how the School Committee is meeting tomorrow to figure out what next week looks like, and their decision will solidify my lesson plans ….


I almost never read a book twice but when I read Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song collection of essays sometime before the Pandemic that mixed nature and spirituality, with life itself (even with the odd twist that I discovered him as a writer after he passed away), with a voice of Doyle that was so inviting and full of wonder, I decided I needed to read his book again. So, one of my boys bought it for me, and when I told my wife about the book and why I wanted to read it again, she nodded, and said: “This seems like the right time for that kind of book.” Indeed.


I swung by my friend’s house the other day. We’re in a band together. We stopped playing during Spring and Summer, and then resumed for a bit (socially distanced in his basement) for some of the Fall, and then stopped again near Thanksgiving. I grabbed my saxophone so I could do some practicing here at home, to stay in some shape before we get back together again. I miss playing rock and roll. It was good to see him, and we chatted about music. I loaned him a book with a music theme (this is what we do when we share books with each other) and he told me he is going to send some new music tracks that need lyrics. I nodded and waved.


A neighbor walking their dog stopped me, and told me he liked my short story that was published in the local newspaper recently. It had come in second place in a local competition. He asked what I was writing these days. “Poems, mostly,” I told him, and he seemed a little disappointed, as if he hoped novel or short story would be my answer. I guess I could have added “blog posts” but what I should have said is, “Something, often small, every single day.”

Peace (in snippets),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Snow Day Play Day

(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.)

The other day, we had our first Snow Day of the school year. Leading up to it, there had been plenty of discussions among administrators and chatter among students about whether we would have a “no school” day when the storm arrived, because we had just gone full remote, working from home, due to a sharp rise in virus infections. Many other school districts (like my son’s) were already full remote and any snow day would still be a school day, from home, because it would not matter the condition of the roadways.

Our superintendent, for various reasons (including the sheer size and rural nature of some parts of our district), however, went the way of traditional Snow Day, and so we had the day off.  The next morning was the most animated morning of stories from my students that I have witnessed on Zoom in quite some time. I couldn’t hold them back. I didn’t.

There were tales of sledding, of building jumps on hills, of crashes, of trying to construct snow forts, of shoveling, of snow fights, of jumping off back decks into piles of snow, of pets in the first big snow of the year. Their faces were lit up with the memory of going outside to play (safely, I kept hoping).

I shared about our puppy’s first energetic forays into the snow that morning of the storm, and how she leaped and ran and tunneled through the snow with pure rush and abandon.

Silent Sunday

This first Snow Day was a mental and emotional break, one that perhaps all of us needed, as we grapple with the demands and limitations of teaching and learning through Zoom and Google Classroom and other platforms that engage us, but keep us removed from the world each school day, too.

We need more opportunities for them to be kids.

Peace (and play),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Maybe You Were Un-Googled, Too

(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 first, I thought I was alone. Then I realized, nope, it’s not just me. It’s everyone.

Google had crashed down and with an hour until students, I sat there, at table, on our first day back into a Remote Learning status, wondering how I could reach kids if they didn’t have access to Gmail and Google Classroom. We still had Zoom, I figured, but kids follow the links and codes they keep in email and in Classroom.

Huh. I was stumped.

Luckily, we start our day a bit later in the mornings than other schools as we are an elementary building and so by the time we were getting near the start of the day, Google had been kicked back to life by some engineers somewhere. There were a few glitches (an activity I had planned using Google’s Jamboard got funky on us at one point and we had to abandon it).

I’ve written many times of our reliance (all of us) on single platforms, and how precarious that can be, and yesterday’s outage at Google showcased just how roped in we are into its many educational applications, and how school can come to a screeching halt if it falls apart (a number of high schools in our area went to a two-hour remote delay because of the Google problem).

I don’t have any solutions, and when we talked about it at our staff meeting, it seemed as if no one else did either, other than to shrug it off as another technology hurdle that Google seemed to fix quickly enough. Maybe so. But I’m not so sure, although I have been impressed that Zoom and Google and other educational platforms have remained mostly standing and stable with all of the push to online learning across the country and world.

Yesterday, though, it felt like a reminder of how delicate the tower is, and how one pin, pulled, might make the entire system collapse on us. And then what?

Peace (pushing the reboot button),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Rat Invades the Classroom (via Tik Tok)

(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 had just been reading a piece about how a crowd-sourced movement on Tik Tok was collaboratively producing a musical version of the animated movie Ratatouille (about the rat cooking in the kitchen) and thinking of the creative marvel of connections, of using small videos to sketch together something larger.

The New York Times writes:

The result is a virtual show unlike any on Broadway. There is no director, no choreographer, no stage crew. It has come together organically on TikTok, where users have only a minute to catch people’s attention.

The next day, Ratatouille was in my classroom.

I noticed it first during our Morning Meeting, where a student volunteered to lead our greeting, and the greeting had a rat/cheese theme along the lines of: Pass the Cheese, Rat.

Hmmm, I thought.

Then later, when another student was testing out Quicktime for video, a group of students immediately and rather spontaneously sprung into action, doing a little dance and singing the melody of a song from the movie for the video.

Huh.

I made a comment about the Tik Tok collaborative adventure, and one of the students, who had been watching friends dancing and singing (but wasn’t sure what they were doing), looked at me and said: “I can’t believe my teacher knows more about what’s happening on Tik Tok than I do!”

For a daily create for DS1o6 yesterday (a site for daily creative activities), the prompt was to use a Bart Simpson chalkboard, so I referenced, tongue in cheek, the moment of the kids all dancing and singing.

tiktokbart

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Here Come the Rains, Again

(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.)

We looked out the window of the classroom. It was dark and getting darker and it was only just before lunch. The rain was pouring down in sheets, obscuring the world but giving us an interesting soundtrack with our windows slightly ajar.

I looked at my sixth graders. Most shook their heads, no, in frustration of the inclement weather. A few gave me a hopeful look, so I opened the metal green door and invited anyone who wanted, to run outside, gulp some fresh air on a rainy mask break, and come back inside, ready to write.

Perhaps this separated the adventurous among them, I thought, or maybe, the desperate, the ones for whom wearing a mask an entire day (except for snack and lunch) is wearing thin. I stood there, in the middle of the doorway, raindrops rolling down my neck. On a few faces, I saw the childhood joy of just standing in the rain, and then the quick jolt to get back inside the dry classroom.

Later, at home, thinking of this, I had my Trombone Shorty station on Pandora and a cover of the Eurythmics came on and it just seemed like perfect timing. I can’t find that Shorty cover at YouTube but here is an unplugged Eurythmics version.

Peace (raining upon us),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Waiting On The Line Of Idling Cars

(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.)

There’s no one to blame, really. What with the lower grade classrooms now “full in” (everyone back) and a decision by the School Committee in the summer to limit who has access to school busing by setting a distance requirement and families wary of sending kids on the buses for safety reasons, to begin with, the result at our school is an endless line of idling cars each morning and afternoon.

Yesterday, three of my students told me they were waiting in their parents’ car for nearly 20 minutes just to get dropped off at the door to enter the school. In the afternoons, the six-foot distance rule means the gym is full of students, and the hallways are now spill-over zones. It means when our work day ends, there is no way to leave the parking lot on time because the cars keep coming (not for much longer, but still).

The waiting cars snake from our back parking lot, to the main thoroughfare, past the Post Office, and nearly to the intersection with our local state highway. All those cars, idling. And with the cold weather approaching, even more so.

I’m afraid to tell my wife, whose pet peeve has long been car idlers, and the impact those idling engines have on the air and climate. She’s written letters to newspapers about it. She’s pressed our kids’ principals at our own neighborhood school to take action against parents sitting in running cars at the end of school days.

And I’m with her on this — all those cars, engines running, can’t be good for the planet.

(The School Committee is tinkering with its policy on who can ride the bus to help alleviate this a bit, but I suspect most families are in the pick-up line because of concerns about Covid19 and buses, even with the protocols and safety measures in place).

Peace (sitting here, thinking).
Kevin

One Of Those Days (Wrong Shoes Blues)

wrong shoes blues

You ever have one of those days?

I drove to school the other day and I was getting the classroom all ready for the morning — the scramble to make sure everything is just right — when I looked down, only to realize that I had two different shoes on my feet.

Somehow, in the rush to get out the door to get to school and with my mind crowded with lesson plans and the day ahead and everything else on my plate, I had inadvertently put one shoe on one foot and then grabbed an entirely different shoe for the other foot, and never even realized it until that moment of pause (and giggle) in the empty classroom.

Weird.

Those are the kinds of days that just make you stop and laugh and shake your head  … Crazy times.

Peace (walking it forward),
Kevin