Tuesday, December 22, 2020

#sol2020 Lessons Learned This Week

This week, I have learned a few lessons about living and working in a pandemic.
  • You can do a virtual (remote) case study even if you thought you could not!  My graduate students turned in final projects this semester that were some of the best I have ever read.  Did they actually work harder to make it work in this new way of teaching/learning?  

  • Keeping the "mute" button off is an essential skill for remote classroom success.  I read several case studies that propose ways to channel that desired behavior.  (let me know if you need ideas)

  • You can have a house full of potential presents without going to a store.  You may end up with 3 of something when you only need 2 and 1 of some things when you need 3 and none of something you thought you needed.  In the end, it won't matter.  As the Grinch found out, Christmas will come without presents or boxes or tags or ribbons. 

  • You can make your own evaporated milk if your Shipt shopper claims the store does not have any!  At first I wanted to scream that I put the order in because I needed evaporated milk in order to make gingerbread cookies!  Then I took a breath and Googled, "make your own evaporated milk."  You can.

  • You will be (rightly) upset and worried and scared when you find out a family member or someone your care about has tested positive for the "sickness" we have been trying to avoid for many months. You will be anxious and you will think about the risks and dangers. You will not be able to sleep through the night, You will have moments of intense anxiety that take your breath away.  You may even feel a little like you felt when you heard the word cancer that day long ago. BUT, you can and will be calm and reassuring to the persons sharing the news with you.  You can and will drop off food and goodies and encouragement from the sidewalk without crossing into the sequestered zone. You can and will be worried but you will fill the air with hope and reminders about drinking and eating and resting and taking zinc.  You can and will rejoice in any good signs shared from the zone you cannot enter.  You can and will pray and hope for safe keeping....for them....and for all those who have many, many months before it's our turn for vaccines.....

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Reading and Responding

The "Needs Grading" box seems to fill as soon as I get it emptied. My own "inbox" fills up almost as fast with reasons why things are late or why someone needs another few hours, days..... It's that time of the semester when those of us who teach college students are trying to finish up grading final papers and projects. 

It's a "push" to get done in a tight time crunch that can hang over your head like dirigible in your office or in my case, in my living room! I try to read each and every paper carefully and score respectfully with the rubric. I try to keep my mind fresh with walks and sit ups between papers.  Most importantly, I try to give meaningful and valuable feedback. That's the hard and time consuming part.  That's the important part!  Our words matter - a lot! 

Teachers have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our students by the words and comments we share about their work.  Trust me, not every paper I get, even on the graduate level, is a joy to read and grade. Sometimes, I have to comment again and again about making broad generalizations or assumptions about students or learning. Sometimes, I have to comment again and again about conventions of English grammar or about APA format.  Sometimes, I have to comment about writing succinctly and efficiently or about writing in a manner that does not fill the paper with words rather than ideas. Teachers, all of us, have this job of nudging our students to reach beyond where they are at this moment into a place of greater achievement.  

This year, with stressors sky high for teachers and students alike, it is most important to remember our students are stressed and our words often have heightened significance.  

This year, with stressors sky high for parents and friends and neighbors and family members, it is important to remember that everyone is stressed and our words as well as our actions may have heightened significance.  

Picture Of Cloud Of Positive Words On Laptop

Monday, December 14, 2020

#sol20 Hope Amid Despair

The days are short
Often dark and and cloudy.
The news is bleak
Often filled with dire predictions,
News of incredible losses,
Positive tests,
There is despair in the air.

When the clouds part
Sunrises and sunsets are magnificent.
The weather is almost spring-like. 
The barren trees appear to be awaiting,
News of vaccines arriving
Recovering patients
There is an inkling of hope it the air
Amid the despair.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

New, Strangely Familiar Trends

I'm wrapping up a semester from my dining room table immersed in managing challenging behaviors, reading functional behavior assessments, and thinking about my students and their students!  Perhaps, that is why I find my mind wandering to the impact of this soon to be longer-than-a-year-long-pandemic-inspired-isolation on teachers, parents and children.  While I cannot, yet, talk to the long-term effects, I have noticed new, yet sometimes strangely familiar trends.  
  • This semester's case studies include never-before-seen-problem-behaviors such as un-muting during Zoom. We used to complain about students' calling out behaviors. I wonder if it' the same students in this new environment?
  • This semester, my students, even the Generation Zs, who are usually technology-savvy in ways I can only envy, are challenged by dropping Zooms, changing screen names, crying siblings, yelling parents, blaring televisions, screeching sirens,  teaching in basements, in bathrooms, on porches and even in cars! Yet, over the years, I have taught in hallways and basements and a-la-cart like many teachers before and after me.
  • My students have never-before-used-excuses such as needing to get a Covid Test.  In the past, students needed early-in-career teacher medical visits for strep tests or pink eye and they had viruses frequently! They also had school concerts and plays that sometimes arrived on a class night.
  • I know my students in ways I have never known them before.  I see their homes.  I hear their children. I respect their changing teaching environments. I share their virtual-teaching-challenges.  Yet, in years long ago, teachers used to make home visits to get to know their students and their families.  I still remember my sister's 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Apgar coming to our house! 
  • As we walked on the sidewalk, 60 feet from home, my little one called out, "People!" as if there were aliens landing. This one would scare me a lot, if I didn't know that children were pretty resilient and that without much encouragement, that young-un would be happily greeting whoever was coming.
  • As I do my early morning miles, I cross the street when I see someone coming in my direction to make sure I am not in a breath-shot of someone who might possibly come down with the sickness in the days ahead.  This one would scare me a bit if I didn't know that I look forward to meeting all my new neighbors who have moved from the city this year.
  • I hear my neighbors, my friends and my students' concerns about their students, peers, family members, and loneliness.  I hear their concerns about physical well-being and emotional health. I hear their concerns about the holidays, shopping, deliveries, money, and the future.  While my students always express stress at the end of the semester, (I do too), this year, most of it is hard and sad and frankly depressing.  Most of it is dark and sad in spite of this season of lights and miracles and hope that begins today. Yet, this season of lights and miracles and hope is arriving right on time and on schedule like it always does.....and this should give us all a bit of hope.  

Monday, December 7, 2020

#sol20 December 8 Still True After All These Years


"There is a note inside,"  he said slowly taking the folded paper out gingerly as if he knew it was important.

"Yes," I sighed as I read the note tucked carefully inside the ornament for the 40th time.  "May all your news be good news," I read with my voice quavering as I remembered that Christmas Eve, long ago, when we gathered with family to eat, sing and exchange good wishes. Those were happy times and in retrospect, we may have all taken the gift of family a little bit for granted. 

It was not my mother who made the needlepoint ornament long ago, but I learned a lot from that woman who lived happily, loved completely, and forgave easily.  I did grow to love her with all my heart.

Over the years, many ornaments have been lost as children and them  grandchildren took ornaments on and off the tree in an age-old decorating exercise.  Many ornaments were also lost as I moved or hastily packed them away.  Many more ornaments now sit in the box because my tree, when I put one up, is much smaller and can handle only a few carefully curated ornaments.  

Yet, this ornament has stood the test of time perhaps because needlepoint is amazingly strong and resilient.  This one has also stood the test of time because its message is true no matter what you celebrate or do not celebrate in your home.  In fact, in this season when so many are alone or suffering from the ravages of the "sickness," this may be one message I can still wish for everyone I meet!  


Saturday, December 5, 2020

To Send or Not to Send

 In years long past,in the days before Facebook and other social platforms connected us, I spent the early morning hours after Thanksgiving summarizing the events of my family. Then, when I had a few minutes I would draft notes to friends and family I used my core letter as a guide. It was a laborious task that I did because I loved to get "annual updates and pictures" tucked into greeting cards each holiday. 

Overtime, my letters became shorter and shorter with updates about work, care-giving, and grown children; yet, I looked forward to those cards and notes that interspersed bills and junk mail for a few weeks each year and I kept up the tradition.

Then, one year, I did not send out cards. Certainly, I had some good excuses. There were significant school, and care-giving demands plus a wedding days after Christmas.  There were no cards left by the time I got around to looking for them. I decided to skip the cards assured that many family and friends who were not with us in Bethlehem that Christmas season had glimpsed images of my family dancing and celebrating on Facebook.

Before the next holiday season, there were two little miracles to celebrate; however, in the blink of an eye, our family, at least how I defined it at that point, had ended. I could not send out greetings plastered with images of cherubic faces and adoring grandparents when I could hardly find the energy to smile.  How do you send cards saying you are crying every day and will no longer be setting up a tree, sharing the Feast of Many Fish, or gathering at a family table?

I get very few cards, now, perhaps in part because I do not send any.  I do wonder about those, like me, who post  rarely and those who avoid social media. I wonder if they know I still think of them? I wonder if they know I still keep them in my heart?  I know the cost of stamps and cards is crazy. I know that others' lives are filled with work, children, care-giving, and the demands of trying to survive this Covid era I know that Facebook, Instagram and Messenger have changed how we communicate and how we share our stories. 

Yet, this year, after years of therapy and now many months of physical and social isolation, I am wondering if this year should be a year to dust off the old address book and reach out with a card?  After years of putting my head in the sand and minimizing celebrating the miracle of daily life and health, should this be the year I remember the real gift of the holiday is to present?  

I am sure of two things this holiday season: 

We all need to remember we are not alone - even if it feels that way.

Without going to stores, I do have more time to draft totally personal notes.

So, that is my dilemma: to send or not to send Christmas cards......

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Teachers: Lights in the Darkness


The sky was shades of gray against barren trees as I headed out for an early morning-stress-coping walk.  Yesterday,  a day of pounding rain had rearranged the piles of leaves into mountains of soggy reminders of a long, hard fall; thus, I felt like I was trudging rather than walking in the early morning.

As the leaves weighed down my feet, my mind connected with teachers, everywhere, trying to move forward and meet curricular and student needs while their hands and teaching strategies are dragged down and challenged by the ever changing rules of Covid-era-teaching. 

Some are teaching purely remotely trying to connect with students they have never met in person.  
Some are trying to teach in person AND virtually at the same time.
Many are working in hybrid models that turn into virtual models at the sign of a positive test. 
Many are finding out that their teaching model is changing when they wake up.
Most are exhausted from modifying curriculum and lessons late into the night.
Most are frustrated as they reflect on the challenges of meeting student needs, administrator requirements, and parental expectations.
All of them are learning to meet the needs of students in ways never imagined in staff development.
All of them are concerned about their students, their colleagues, the future.

So this dark morning, I want to celebrate teachers who really are lights in the darkness even if they feel like barren trees at this moment of time. 

No teacher ever has done what you are attempting to do this fall.
Take care of yourselves.   

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Light Amid the Darkness

 The lights began piercing the darkness
Before turkeys went into ovens.
Professionally trimmed trees and eaves,
Lovingly dressed gardens and tree homes,
Carefully draped porches and shrubs,
Garishly filled Santas and snowmen.

In years past,
I might have thought,  
"Why are they rushing the season?" 
This year,
I might have thought,
"How can we celebrate amidst the pandemic?"

I think I might have some of the answers:
We are looking for hope despite fear,
We are seeking peace within despair,
We are seeking normality in spite of disruption,
We are hoping for smiles rather than tears,
We are trying to ease the sadness,
We are wanting to fill the holes at tables,
We are running full speed into 2021,
We are trying to find light amid the darkness.
I think it might be helping.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

#SOL20 Thanksgiving is NOT about Turkey and Gravy

After I started hosting Thanksgiving, long ago, I cautiously began to morph dinner by eliminating "required" sides such as mashed turnips, canned cranberry, creamed onions, green bean casserole, chocolate covered mints......  I also, cautiously, reduced the number of "sides" and even pies. While I still mashed potatoes, that one time each year, every dish was healthier.  No one, not even my mother, complained.  

In fact, the year I introduced a brand new cooked whole-cranberry-orange sauce along with "au jus" rather than gravy, dinner got rave reviews.  I was sure Thanksgiving was not about the meal; instead, it was  about reflection, companionship, and giving thanks.

So, this year, while, Covid numbers skyrocket and most of us are wearing masks and socially distancing, if we really love and care about our families and friends, most of us are going to be apart.  If companionship is the only meaning of Thanksgiving, then either we pull the covers over our head and sleep through the day, or we do things differently!!!  So, I'm thinking we might do this holiday differently and focus on refkection and giving thanks....with a side of companionship.

Option 1: Take a page from the Pilgrims and serve vegetables and some fish.  Let's be honest, they ate lots of scallops, mussels, shrimp and probably lobster.  Order fish from your local market, pay ahead and pick up. Go out on limb and serve smashed potatoes - so easy -and make a salad with cranberries and maybe  oranges.  In 2020, we need to reflect on gratitude for the Pilgrim's tenacity.  

Option 2: Take a page from the Native Americans, particularly the Wampanoag tribe from New England.  They were vegetarians for the most part during the harvest season. So, THIS YEAR, this epic year, have a vegetarian Thanksgiving.  I'm thinking roasted squash and potatoes, sauteed beans and corn with  cranberries on the side. 
Option 3:Take a hike. Walk on a rail trail or hike up a mountain. Reflect on the courage to go to somewhere you have never gone before.  Eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with nuts as your sides.

Option 4: Respect the MANY, MANY pilgrims to these shores and have Tacos,  Plantains, can Google ANY country and PICK any food to focus on for you dinner...........ANY COUNTRY.  in some way,this might  be the MOST American  of Thanksgivings.

Option 5: Order IN Sushi, Pizza, Thai, Kot, or any other food including pizza you and your family will like. Most restaurants are hurting and will appreciate our companionship.

Option 6: I've read that Zoom has extended their 40 minute time restrictions and  we can all have a bit of companionship. 

Option 7: Reflect on your blessings at this moment.  It's been a very challenging year. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

Jake Mattered

More than one time, he went on adventures with his beloved family. There was a lot of hiking, swimming, fishing, canoeing, and exploring even when he was visually and hearing impaired and crippled with arthritis is in later years.  

More than one time, he got loose and some of us went up and down the street looking for him while others drove around and around yelling for him. Some of us were sure he had run into the woods chasing a deer or a cat or a car, and would be lost forever. 

More than one time, he got worried  when he was left behind and tore down his grandmother's (and his great-grandmother's) curtains as he struggled to find his parents sure that he had been abandoned forever. His mother became a master at in the moment, on-site curtain repair.  

More than one time, he ate chicken, even though everyone else ate primarily a vegan diet. That is what you do when you know he needs protein to keep his diabetes in check. 

More than one time, he accepted the new people and pets his mom brought home. There was the Dad who liked to hike and was great at snuggling. There were grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and friends. There were babies who appeared small and helpless but cried all night and soon became toddlers who crawled and pulled his hair. Those toddlers became children who laid on him and sometimes accidently stepped on him. There was a stray cat who needed a dog-dad's love and and a crazy puppy who terrorized him, trusted, and later reminded him to breathe.

One time, he was in wedding pictures, as the bridal party prepped and the bride, in full regalia, walked him down the street moment before she walked down the aisle. Some people even wondered if Jake had been instrumental in making that event happen!

One time, he was in a shelter, not sure how old he was or what the future would have in store until someone came along and offered unconditional love for all of his days. 

One time, there was a dog named Jake who mattered to all who knew him.  He left us this week, but will continue to inspire us to live intentionally and love unconditionally. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#sol2020 My Words Matter

It was a short walk this morning between virtual library time and virtual word study time under skies that were dark and foreboding.  We were only planning to walk to the end of the block to see the blow-up lawn decor that had popped up at a nearby house. I looked at the skies even as I agreed to go, and reminded myself that it had been dark and dreary on and off for weeks with hardly a drop of rain enriching our dusty ground.  So we headed out, without an umbrella or rain gear! It was just going to be a short walk!

After appreciating the multiple, amazing (to kids) blow-ups on that lawn by counting, studying, comparing and describing them, I was coerced into going down the block just a wee bit to see a few more decorations (no where near as fantastical)......and then, it started!

Slowly, just a mist began to fall; then surely, a full on, long awaited rain event began! So there I was stuck in the rain a few blocks from home!  I suggested we walk/jog as fast as we could safely go in the now full on rain while singing to try to make the rain go away.  "Rain, rain, go away, come again another day.....," we sang at the top of our lungs as a we made our way home!  

It was only a couple of blocks but miraculously, even before we turned into our driveway, the rain stopped!  The sun did not come out and the skies did not turn bright, but for just a few moments, the rain reduced to a mist barely perceptible when standing under a massive old oak. 

"Wow, my words matter," she muttered thinking aloud that her words had altered the course of the weather.  

"They sure do," I though silently as we went inside just before the skies reopened.  

I hope she always knows her words matter.  I'm reminded my words, your words, politicians words.......everyone's words matter! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Thinking: This Fall

  I'm thinking about teachers, children, 

Returning to classrooms

Not cleaned like hospitals,

Returning to Virtual living rooms,

Manned by those who thought zoom meant fast. 

Returning to an uncertain future,

Defined by numbers, statistics,

Until someone or someone close to someone

Gets sick.

I'm thinking about all those college teachers, students,

Returning home, already,

Returning to rooms to learn, virtually,

Redefining learning, growing, college-life.

I'm thinking about all those parents,

Managing a changing learning world

Where the only thing that is certain is uncertainty.

It's hard for all the stake holders in this fall scenario.

Even administrators who are trying

To balance needs, wants, resources,

Socio-emotional and academic learning.

Monday, September 21, 2020

#sol2020 Things I Never Could Have Imagined


I've spent a lifetime in schools, as a student, teacher, mentor, and THOUGHT I had heard and seen everything; however, this fall, I am teaching grad students, observing a kindergarten virtual school, and homeschooling a preschooler, providing me with some interesting observations on learning remotely.  There are many things I never could have imagined. 

  • "You will have to pretend those due dates aren't in the syllabus because school hasn't started!"
  • "It looks like a cat is coming to writers' workshop today.  Can cats write?"
  • "I don't want to color.  I just want to play"
  • "I'm walking home, professor, but I hear you loud and clear."
  • "Not sure who sneezed, but bless you."
  • "I'm not sure what the number of my Breakout group was?"
  • "Un-mute yourself."
  • "How do you do observations virtually?"
  • "Stop playing with your mouse!"
  • "Pay attention." **** some things are normal....teachers have been saying this forever....

Saturday, September 12, 2020

This is Not Normal

 A good blog post, like a good small moment, focuses on one topic.  But when you haven't written for a month, and even though you have been nowhere and done nothing worthy of mention, many moments have passed and it is hard to focus on one when you finally decided to write!  That is where I am this morning as the air has turned, promising fall is near and summer is ending.  

While cooler temperatures and searching for a sweatshirt are familiar, there is little else that is this September. Like SO many teachers and students, I am teaching virtually, online through Zoom, a platform I, like most others, did not even know existed until recently.  Now, if I had been a savvy investor, I would have bought stock in this platform and watched it zoom!  Of course, I never thought of that.  I did not think about the long term implications of this pandemic until I had to do so....

For the record, Zoom school is not easier for anyone.  Yes, you can teach in sweatpants or shorts and learn in pajamas.  Yes, you do save time commuting, traveling, busing, and perhaps packing lunches.  Nothing else is easier.  The planning end is immense and frankly daunting.  The goal of meeting students where they are and helping them each grow and learn is frankly daunting. How can you keep students engaged when you cannot coerce with proximity, stare to corral attention, or empower with encouragement?  

For the record, in person school is not easier either as sharing, cooperating, and eye to eye connecting is the heart and soul of learning.  Yes, the kids have someplace to go for a bit; yet, the worry is intense and the risks daunting.  How can you keep students engaged when you cannot coerce with proximity, stare to corral attention, or empower with encouragement?  

So, here's a shout-out to the teachers, pod-teachers, brand-new-thrown-into-teaching, zoom-newbies, administrators, parent-educators, grandparents-in-charge, and everyone else struggling always, or at least at times, with the unbelievable demands on your time, energy, love and patience.  This fall/year is not/will not easy - for everyone.  

To my former colleagues, who are still in the trenches, to my former grad students, who are now teachers, to my son, and my nieces, who are teachers and parents and students, I wish you all a safe school year.  To my grandchildren entering the murky waters of kindergarten and to everyone one of you working with kids who find learning challenging, know you are heroes.  Be on the lookout for stress and share compassion. This is not anyone's idea of normal.  

Thursday, August 13, 2020

#sol20 August 2020 Anxiety

I watch them walk past 3-4 times each morning
In a steady stride and often wave a greeting from afar,
One day I was close enough to acknowledge
Their serious, regular workout routine,
"It sure helps the anxiety if we walk 5 miles."

I talked to a friend who is listening to books on tape,
All kinds of book about ancient civilizations,
Modern science, social problems.
I admired her dedicated reading routine
"It alleviates anxiety."

I watched a jogger move through the summer downpour
That followed weeks of relentless heat
Almost unfazed by the weather
In an often stressful-pandemic-summer.
I wondered what stressors would have contributed to 
" I needed to run in spite of the weather."

I hear the anxiety of parents
It's time to decide even as colleges shutter
Districts delay, backpacks sit waiting,
Good reports from small, specialized schools vs.
Scary scenes and numbers from mega-schools,
Leading to resounding
"I really don't know what to do."

I read the social media posts from teachers
Heading back to school in spite of challenges,
Wondering how institutions that cannot provide tissues,
Wondering if cleaning procedures will really happen,
Wondering how to teach without papers, small groups,
"Writing to share my stressors," perhaps.

I read the posts from teachers
Trying to become masters of virtual classrooms
Wondering if they can make lessons come alive
Engage reluctant learners, provide forums that encourage learning,
I'm one of them,
"Taking long walks, writing this blog,
Hoping to become a Zoom Master,
Hoping we can all be patient and persistent
In an August of no right or wrong answers."

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Thinking About: Hamilton

Over the long weekend, I watched Hamilton thanks to Disney. I was grateful for the "bargain price" of 6.99 vs $$$$.  The music, the cast, and the historical-fiction-musical-infused perspective of America's story were worth the price! 

Lin Manuel Miranda's depiction of Hamilton as progressive and anti-slavery is not historically accurate; yet, the depiction of Hamilton and America's founding fathers as people with economic and political vision combined with a need for power and prestige is part of America's story.  The movie has spurred my thinking, reading and questioning!  

I knew Hamilton was an architect of our economy and was on $10 bills! I didn't know much else and so, many decades after my last history class, I started reading everything I could find about Hamilton and other founding fathers. 
I've been reminded that Hamilton authored many of the Federalist papers that proposed 3 branches of government and he, as well as most if not all of our founding fathers were owners of slaves even while penning documents that "All men are created equal."  

I've been reminded about the power of controversy to spur reading, thinking and learning. If only we could inspire our students with books, films and talk so they want to know more about prejudice, racism, sexism, immigration, privilege, climate change, pollution, health care, education, welfare, critical they can be a part of the change in the  course of our nation's story....

Thursday, June 25, 2020

All Over The Place

During this first week of the summer,  NY, NJ and CT are beginning to quarantine people coming from states where the virus is increasing. As I (and many others) was debating if it was worth the risk to get a haircut at the finally reopened salon, Disneyland postponed a planned opening for mid July.  

I'm pretty sure I am not alone as my thoughts wandered to how they could even monitor the zillions of roads into these NY, NJ, and CT?  Then, my thoughts wandered to how all this will impact colleges in these states that are set to open in 6-8 weeks and schools that are set to reopen soon after?

We can't deny it; summer will end and fall will come,  College, public school, and private school administrators have been talking about it for MONTHS and now, kernels of plans are being announced even as the numbers are increasing in so many parts of our country!  

It is clear that many, many individuals have fallen behind during the era of remote school. With parents and caregivers returning to work in many places with limited camp, pool,j ob, or play options, our students of all ages as well as their parents and their teachers are trying to figure out next steps.

One thing seems true: plans, opening dates, and schedules are SOFT (like Disney's revised opening) and ALL over the place! 

In today's briefings, I noticed:
So, as I mull my own plans and syllabi for the fall, my thoughts are ALL over the place.
 While I guess this is all normal in these abnormal times, I guess it's why I find myself mulling over Facebook fueled mind-boggling puzzles such as this:
Let's be honest, I'm more likely to solve this puzzle than figure out what "school" will look like in the fall!

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

#sol20 Sprinklers

It was very hot,
The fancy-blow-up-pool-filler
"In transit,"
The mind-blowing-pineapple-pool still waiting,
So, I turned on the sprinkler
Used long ago for new grass.

It was no frills,
The water gently flowing,
The new-experience-excitement still building,
So, I too put on my suit,
Used long ago for swimming pools.

It dredged memories
The long, boring summers,
The endless, hot-humid, nothing-to-do-days,
Used sprinklers (and fire hydrants) 
For peek entertainment.

It was a reminder
That overlooked activities
(Sprinklers, drive in movies, puzzles, reading)
Right now
During this pandemic-slowed-summer-avoiding-crowds
Might be recycled 
For this summer, 
Perhaps, for the future.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day: Ramps, Reminders

In the days leading up to Father's Day this year, I noticed a ramp, linking the front porch with the sidewalk, at a house where I knew the father had fought a hard battle against C-19. It took my breath away. It was a physical reminder of the serious impact of this virus on families, even the lucky ones. 

It was a reminder that even after days, weeks, months on a respirator and even after weeks, months in rehab, homecomings often include wheelchairs and other life-changing, long-lasting signs of the battle. 

It was a reminder that many families are facing this holiday without their father, grandfather, uncle, loved one.

It was a reminder that even as stores are planning to reopen (around here) and even as barber shops and hair salons are planning for a new normal, this virus and it's impact on lives is profound. 

It was a reminder of a lingering image of my own dad and his days, along with so many other dads, in a wheelchair, too weak to walk but still fighting to read, the NY Times, at the table.

It was a reminder of all those dads who will be working/distant/estranged, wishing they were with the families.

It was a reminder to wish all those dads who are changing diapers, coaching teams, planning fun, cooking dinners, working hard, and trying their best, a happy day.

It was a reminder to think about and pray for all those missing their dads or who wish to be dads.
It was a reminder to reach out, if you can, or remember, if you cannot.

Ramps are reminders that life and loved ones can change in a moment.
10' Aluminum Wheelchair Entry Ramp & Handrails - Easy Installation ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

#sol20 School Days, Dear Ol' PreCovid Days

I've been reading the guidelines for returning to school in the fall and like most others, find the concepts of "catching up on lost learning," and "learning while social distancing" daunting, at best.  Yet, I know that virtual school via "homeschooling" is challenging, at best ,and not a viable option for many families.

I'm pondering tiny classes meeting outdoors under tents, shade trees, and in areas formerly referred to as neighborhood playgrounds or baseball fields? I'm wondering how schools might look without buses or lunchrooms or shared materials or small group instruction!  I'm worried about how we can meet the needs of students who need intensive individual learning plans. 

It's a big task to rethink schools beyond our "quick fix" of distance learning; I am confident that there are options because schools are certainly not static forums for learning. Our PreCovid 21st Century schools were drastically different from the learning environments of our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. 

So this reminder of the "good ol' days Pre Covid" is a "shout out" to all the teachers, students, parents, caregivers and administrators who did their best their best this year and who are going to spend their "summers" trying to come up with plans to meet curriculum mandates and to provide inclusive, differentiated instruction for the diverse learners

School days, School days,
Dear ol' Common Core days,
Objectives, assessments,
accountability, rule.
Curriculum driven, and test-score focused, too.
Kids brushed their hair and put on shoes,
Backpacks, water bottles, 
and snack sacks went, too.
We shared whiteboards and I pads and 
books each day.
We stressed over scores, grades and 
end of the year evals,
When we were carefree PreCovid.

Monday, June 8, 2020

#sol20 Learning During Tough Times; Hoping for Better Times

Buongiorno, Buon Pomeriggio, Buon Giornata, or Buonoa Serata

I'm pretty sure I am not alone in my self-reflective moments during this time that may become known as pandemic-economic depression-civil rights awareness-induced-change-in-how-we-live-work-think-about-communicate-with-others. 

To be honest, I've been thinking about what is most important and what I do not want in my life. I've spent more time planting (and then watering) flowers and cooking (and then eating) simple but healthy meals without running to stores for one more thing. I've missed family, friends, students, and travel. I've tried to help others navigate online learning, manage financial stress, deal with the emotional challenges of uncertainty. I've learned to live (well) without a new top from TJMaxx or clutter from Home Goods.

To be honest, my closets and drawers are not (yet) organized, most windows are still covered in construction dust, and my gardens are far from weed-free; however, I'm starting to learn a new language!  

To be honest, I had gotten a "Guidebook to Italian" shortly after I booked a dream vacation shortly before the pandemic shut down travel. I never even opened the book because, that dream vacation looked unlikely before the book even arrived!

To be honest, I was feeling like I was not accomplishing much this pandemic until a friend mentioned Duolingo and her own journey towards becoming bi-lingual so when she could travel.....

To be honest, at first is was hard,very hard. But, I've been at it every day for at least 30 minutes for 12 days now and not only is it getting harder, it's getting easier at the same time. Plus, I am feeling challenged and learning and looking forward, all good things, during these tough times.

To be honest, I've always put learning (apprendimento) and reading (leggere) ahead of cleaning (puliaia) closets to the chagrin of my mom who would sigh as I sat with a book (un libro) when I was supposed to be cleaning.

So, please (per favore) if you are looking for me early in the morning (mattina) or late in the evening (sera) you might just find me with my phone (telephone) and learning thanks to (freeDuolingo

Someday, in the (hopefully) not so distant future, I hope the pandemic and economic depression have eased and the civil rights awareness has increased. Someday, I hope there will be good times when I will visit (visitare) and hug family (la famiglia) and friends and use (uso) what I am learning while exploring and traveling.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

#sol20 June 2 The Era for Silent Protests Has Passed

I tried to write a SOL post last night,but I could not focus as recent violent interactions have left me upset and angry.
      Today, in spite of Blackout Tuesday, I'm writing to remind myself that silence is not an option when our core beliefs as a society are violated.  Certainly, Black lives matter, every single one. Certainly, racism and antisemitism are wrong. Certainly, violence, threats, use of money or power against any one of us is wrong. Certainly, our treatment of both immigrants and Native Americans is wrong. Certainly, if we are quiet, or complacent, then we are complicit, and that is wrong.

     So here is a SOL memory. Long ago, my family moved to Alabama and as we did in a new town, we visited the local Catholic Church to introduce ourselves. We were there only a few minutes when someone talked to my father and we left. He talked to my mother in hushed tones before addressing the situation. "We won't be going to church here," he said firmly, "as they do not believe as we do. Some people think the color of your skin makes you different.  That is not the case. God created everyone of us in his image."  Sadly, my family's small action, like the silent protests of so many did not change the culture of racism that exists many decades later.

      Certainly, we must do more than "silently protest." We must be outraged by all acts of violence against our fellow man and talk/write about it.. We cannot sit back and allow citizens or police to be injured or killed.  We must protect the right to protest without hurting others and join them with our feet, voices, and wallets.  We must protest through the electoral process when it is time. We should all actively revisit history so we can change the course of our society. We must actively protest with words, actions, wallets, and ballots. The era for silent protests has passed. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

#sol20 Do or Don't

"Don't go past this line," I heard myself say as one of my little friends rode his 12 inch bike like he was training for the NASCAR circuit. As the words hung in the air, he continued past the line looking towards me to see my reaction and I heard Peter Johnston reminding me to rephrase my comments in a positive direction. He did stop after a second, louder, strong reminder, but I was left reflecting on my own (and others) choice of words.

I overheard an exhausted mom and dad on a family on an evening bike ride with three young riders.
"Don't ride so fast around the corner."
"Don't go in the road."
I heard an exhausted mom and dad trying to keep their kids safe as they played.
"Don't go there."
"Don't put your feet down."

I remind my students ALL THE TIME that our words matter.  Our words are perhaps our most powerful tool for ensuring the kinds of behaviors we want and for preventing behaviors we do not want.  Yet, perhaps because we are all stressed from the uncertainty of our lives right now and exhausted from trying to stay home, to socially distance, to pay bills, and to be safe, we (that includes me) all need to remember OUR WORDS MATTER. 

So, "Ride up the the stop and turn yourself around."
"You are doing a great job staying in the middle of the sidewalk."
"Pick those feet up so you can go faster." 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

#sol20 Memories of Barbie!

"What's in that box?" my little friend asked as we cleaned the garage.

"This was my Barbie case  when I was little, but I think the Barbies are your Mom's," I said remembering my original Barbie with the black and white striped suit and most anything of interest in modern times had been taken by my niece long, long ago.

I opened the box cautiously not sure if I would find...something requiring me to put the whole box in the garbage. But, the inside was as it was left when some little cousins played with the Barbie remnants long after my little girl, had abandoned them. Truth be told, my daughter (and I) were really not "into" Barbies and usually played with them when others were visiting.  I guess you could say we were "social" Barbie girls!

Back in the house, I got rid of a Barbie with a broken neck and cleaned others while my little friend excitedly explored the old dolls and new to her outfits. On a rainy afternoon after months of quarantining, Barbie put a smile of my little friend's face.

While I've never been a big Barbie fan, the memories of styles from Barbie's early days (ugh) along with the prices of outfits ($1.50-3.00) that somehow survived intact for decades put a smile on my face as well. Perhaps I should rethink the timeless and ageless Barbie?