It’s not unusual for me to have a period of time at the end of the school year to feel a little listless, a bit lethargic, a little bit tired. It’s usually a recharge time after the mad dash to the end of the school year.
I feel that this year, but it’s different. The mad dash was so different, with all the traditions either gone or changed, and the usual winding down energy seems to have gone out of the sails with the distance learning element. I bet many of my students feel the same way.
This morning, as part of the June Five-Day Open Write with Ethical ELA, the facilitator’s prompt was about tapping an emotion for a poem. I went with Lethargy as my emotion, and end with the hope that energy will spring us all forward.
I do have projects yet to be planned (an online youth writing program in July around Interactive Fiction, planning for the Fall, tapping back into thinking about the Write Out project, etc.) and I still have poems to write, and other things, including family getaways and a new puppy with lots of energy. I’ll soon be doing my traditional summer pull-back from blogging.
My wife, son, puppy and I were on a hike in a state forest quite a distance from our house, as we decided to get away from our familiar terrain into some place new.
There was a long, winding path that led to a waterfall, not too impressive with our lack of rain, and we were on our way down the trail, towards the car, sort of both acknowledging and ignoring any other hikers, as we walked.
“Mr. H? Mr. H. Mr. H!”
A voice called out and caught my attention, and there, on the path, was one of my former students, one of those kids from the class that I only saw regularly on a video screen for three months, on the trail with his family.
His face lit up. Mine did, too.
There was real joy in seeing one of my (favorite) students out in the world, on a trail, nowhere near either of our homes. From a six foot distance, we chatted and laughed, before he headed up and we headed down. It was just one of those small lovely human encounters that can unexpectedly make your day.
I listened to the new Dylan album (Rough and Rowdy Ways) and it’s pretty good, with him in more control of his voice and some lush production at times, as well as some old-school blues. To think he’s been doing this — releasing music (some great, some not so great) — for nearly 60 years is pretty amazing, even if you are not a fan of Dylan.
This morning’s poem is about Dylan and listening to him in my earbuds:
my ears are ringing
with your singing,
the way you’re always
is a poem
is a story
is a commentary,
exposing shadowed light
with a turn of phrase
forgotten in the night
We’re all still lifting
so many songs of self,
sixty years of music
sleeves, yet you belong
to somewhere else
The last live concert I went to was for jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington, and it was such a great show, as his compositions weave funk, jazz, Afro-beat and more into complex pieces of art. I created a Pandora station based on Kamasi Washington and was listening intently to his music again, and I found this poem in the back of my mind this morning.
I’m here in this space
of song with your horn,
reveling in the something
beyond echoes of Shepp,
Shorter, Bird, Cannonball,
Kirk, Sanders, Trane;
This exquisite, complicated
melody brushing up against
rhythm, heartbeat, rhythm
as you’re singing your history,
with your saxophone,
I facilitated a workshop with colleagues the other day on using Google Classroom with students, but first, I brought us all into a collaborative document to write and reflect together on the previous three months of unanticipated Distance Learning. I was curious to know the pros and cons of our work now that we had a moment to take a breath together. The chart above gathers some main themes from what we wrote about, together. I suspect there might be some universal themes from teachers in other places.
Two CLMOOC friends, Wendy and Terry, were playing around with a site called JazzKeys and I was curious. It’s a site that turns the typing of words into music, and it’s a small bit of loveliness, really. I tried it out and dug it, the way a poem has a soundtrack built on the physical typing of the letters themselves.
What I found was that I was tried to write in a certain rhythm, as I was listening to the jazz piano play with every keystroke. Although I wrote the poem on the spot, I redid the poem at the site a few times because I am apt to make spelling errors with my quick finger typing method, and I decided not to keep them. I wanted a clean copy (although one could argue that a poem written, rife with errors and music, might be more authentic and interesting)
One tradition at our elementary school on the last day of school is that the entire staff comes out to the front of the school and the buses with students drive around and around (and around) the bus loop so we can all wave goodbye and welcome everyone into summer.
Not this year, obviously.
But the principal wisely organized a Reverse Parade, in which we staff members lined up on both sides of the school parking area (with social distancing and masks on) as families drove cars with their kids to the school and slowly made their way across the grounds as we cheered and waved and shouted, “Have a good summer!” to each other.
There were more than 300 vehicles, I’d estimate (and maybe closer to 400) as the line stretched from the school parking lot way down the street. I guess we all need some closure to the school year, and for families, this was an “outing” and the “event” of the day, no doubt, as kids made elaborate signs to hold and car windows were painted with beautiful pictures and words.
I saw many of my sixth graders, maybe for the last time for a long time (as they move forward to the regional middle school). I felt a little sad, again, about not having proper closure with the class, as would normally happen. A wave through the window of a car is nice, but still lacked a finality to a school year.
In mid-April, I wrote and recorded an audio diary entry about what it meant to have been gone from our physical school for a month. With the three month mark the other day as we held our Step Up Day ceremonies with sixth graders, and with another visit to my classroom as it was being dismantled for summer cleaning, I decided to do a second audio journal entry. Maybe I’ll come back for a third entry in August, gathering some reflective ideas from the moments we are in, with the impact of the Pandemic on us as teachers and learners.