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.