We Appreciate You, Teachers

So today President Trump tweeted that schools should open.

Okay, so I take issue with what’s been said in his tweet. As per usual, there is a hint of truth with a larger dash of fake news and divisiveness. Oh, and then there’s the insecure bully at the end.

Let’s break some of this down, shall we? First of all, Europe had leadership that took the virus seriously. They shut down, wore masks, listened to science. With the exception to Sweden who conducted their own experiment and didn’t do those things and relied on Herd Immunity. As a result of Sweden not modifying class sizes or other larger changes, several teachers have died as a result of Covid-19 (article). Secondly, the US hasn’t had leadership to direct us through this and as a result folks think that they will die because the CO2 from our masks will kill us. Medical professionals are still scratching their heads over that one. What I’m trying to say is that science is hard for some, including Trump. Next, we look at the idea that the Democrats are using this as political gain. WHAT???? Which leads to the next point of divisiveness. Who is trying to use this for political gain? If you said Trump and the GOP (they allow him to get away with this nonsense), then you get a gold star! ⭐️

Back to the issue at hand: opening schools. Let’s get somethings straight. Teachers, parents, kids, administrators, everyone wants schools to open. However, most of us acknowledge that this is a virus with no cure, vaccine, and known long term effects. I’m all for science; I just don’t want to be involved in an involuntary science experiment. One that could leave me dead!

Remember in March when teachers were hailed as heroes? Where the nation couldn’t believe that we rolled with the closures and changed everything overnight? I miss those days. You promised us anything we wanted in the fall. You said we should get raises. Everyone got our of our way and we got sh!t done! So instead of politicians and administrators telling us how we should get back to school, why not let educators deal with it. We have clearly proven that we can do a far better job (again, see Spring 2020).

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

If you truly appreciate teachers, like you all claim you do, then do it the right way. You can appreciate us by giving us Covid-19 or by listening to us and funding schools properly. Oh, and get rid of state testing. There will be little learning going on. Our students, and teachers, are dealing with trauma. We need to deal with that before any real learning can happen. So what’s it going to be? Covid or true appreciation? The choice seems simple.

And one final thought: dead teachers can’t teach.

Jammin’ on Jamboard

Collaborate on Jamboard

Oh, my, word! I have been a fan of Jamboard this year. I played around with it pre-Covid-19 times. Nothing major, just getting a feel for what it can do. However, I have really started using it during this distance learning thing we are doing. Now, this picture may not look like anything special. Until you realize that two students are writing on it at once.

I had a few students stay after virtual class today. They wanted to get some extra help with math. Okay. I gave them editing rights. We discussed how to find a common denominator. Then, I had two of the students write the multiples. They each took turns finding equivalent fractions and finally, added them. The writing isn’t super easy as they were using a touchpad on their Chromebooks, but it was enough to be able to collaborate and solve.

I also enjoy the laser feature. While I am explaining or correcting, students can see exactly where I am. I was elated to find that I could assign a Jamboard to each student in Google Classroom. This really is an underutilized tool.

There are some drawbacks. It doesn’t track revision histories. So, if several people are on it, issues can arise. Not that 5th graders would ever do such things. Jamboard is not in Google Drive. You need to go to jamboard.google.com to create them. This is also where they are stored. However, if you recently opened one it will appear in your ‘Recent’ in Google Drive. It was pointed out by Melissa Hero that Jamboard is indeed in your drive. Another thing to watch out for is if several people are writing on a post it or dropping an image, they will all drop in the same location. Unlike a tool like Padlet where each new response is in it’s own location. This can get messy. I recommend when setting it up, assign students to a page using the post it tool.

Overall, I really do like this tool.

I’m Over It

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That’s it. I’m done! I’m over this whole ‘remote teaching’, ‘distant learning’ whatever you want to call it thing. It’s been 2 months since I’ve been in the classroom with my kiddos. They are over it. That’s not to say that I think we should ‘go back to normal’. I mean, there’s still this whole pandemic thing happening.

I have class daily, and that is probably part of the problem. Or maybe it’s not. Today in class one student commented that no one ever turns on their camera anymore. The student was right. I don’t blame them. When I have meetings with adults, I often turn my camera off. So I get it. This whole thing has gotten to us all.

And, no, I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’. ‘Normal’ was me being the outsider in all this. I was the ‘techie’ one. I do see this as an opportunity to push boundaries and rethink how we teach (with 30 kids in the classroom at once). I’m figuring we won’t have 30 kids in our class at once which leaves things looking different in the fall.

Another student said that they were ‘tired of doing work online’. I couldn’t agree more! And I’m a pretty extreme introvert! I want to see my students. I want to do a ‘normal’ 5K run with my friends at some ungodly hour on the weekends. I want to go to my friend’s house and hang out, in the house, not worrying about social distancing. I want to close all my rings on my watch and stop getting fat! This homebound thing is killing me. I run on the treadmill, but struggle to close those damn rings. And I even miss my extroverted friend dragging me to the beach, and concerts, and where ever. And sushi! I want sushi damn it. I have to drive an hour to get to a place.

So, while I’m over it all, I will continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, obsessively sanitize hands and anything I touch outside my home (looking at you shopping carts and keypads).

How are you all doing? Have you cracked yet? It’ll get better, this I know, but right now it’s just sorta hard.

Tales From Quarantineland

This week started online learning with my 5th-graders and I continue to learn new things about life, myself, and how to pass the time.

Google Draw RabbitMy students and I are getting used to the new format. We are doing fun things this week. Yesterday we did a small scavenger hunt. Today we drew rabbit pictures in Google Draw. We will continue to do fun things as a group. For those that are unable to join us, there is a video of the lesson. They also have the opportunity to earn badges.

Again, my dogs are loving life! We have been going for walks daily. We have even been on two walks on some days! I love hanging out with my pups! I also do yoga daily with the puppies, of course. I’ve also been able to run, still looking for the motivation to do that more.

Then there is the bad ‘reality’ tv. I have been known to binge-watch train wreck shows such as Bridezilla, 90-Day Fiance, and Vapid Wives of Where Ever. Okay, the last one isn’t a real title, but you get my point. I do have standards, though. None of the K family nonsense. My current binge is 90-Day Fiance Happily Ever After? This is so bad, I’m hooked! Where do they find these people? And it’s clear that some of the scenes are scripted.

Finally, I speak to my dad daily. He’s in the high-risk category with severe COPD. He hasn’t left his home in over a month. My dad and I are not big phone talkers. It’s not uncommon for one of us to announce, “I’ve got nothing else to say, so I’m going to go.” So we have come up with a game. Each day one of us comes up with a topic: Simpsons, 6-Star General, Board Games, whatever strikes our fancy. Then the next day, we report out and try to outdo one another. I’m having fun learning new things.

Well, that’s all for now.

Our At-Risk Kids & COVID-19

Since the beginning of this, I have been in constant contact with one of my students. Student A has a rough home life. Student A (SA) is what I call a trauma kid. There is trauma in SA’s life.

I have connected with SA this year. SA has come such a long way and I couldn’t be more proud of SA. Our district hasn’t moved to Online Learning yet. We are a week behind most as our Spring Break was the first week – March 16. So for the past 3 weeks, SA and I have been emailing back and forth. SA reached out. SA reaches out often asking many questions. I have been able to provide guidance and information.

SA has contacted me about where and when to get food. What they should do if a police officer stops them (there was a rumor going around town – untrue). The breaking point came this week. Students were able to pick up computers. Upon hearing this information, SA was excited but nervous. I asked if they wanted me to meet them at school. SA replied, “Yes, please!” Okay, I have a soft spot for them, so I said that I would.

monochrome photo of girl crying
Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

Today was computer pick-up day. SA called as they left their house. I packed up the pups and off we went. We got there at about the same time. I almost didn’t recognize SA. The spark was gone. In its place was a sad, withdrawn, scared-looking child. We chatted while waiting in line (social distancing the whole time). SA is home alone for a part of the day while mom is at work and the younger brother goes to the babysitter.

SA is not the only as-risk kid. This got me thinking. We talk about equity and the pros and cons of online learning. Yes, there is most definitely an equity issue in our nation. Students with no internet. Rural areas with no or poor access. Equity concerning students with IEP’s. And yes, those are important and should not be overlooked. But what about students like SA who NEED to be connected? Those students who are suffering alone and in silence. They NEED to have the opportunity to connect. I am happy that SA can connect. I’m really hoping that the simple daily meeting help SA.

Please reach out to all your at-risk kiddos. They may not be doing as well as you’d hope. I’ve also had former students (all at-risk) reach out to me.

Quarantine Day 348

55282260-7616-4E30-9406-2D73445B52F8Okay, it’s not really day 348, but it sure feels like it. I’m starting to get into a pattern/groove. My dogs are still loving life. I’ve learned a few new things.

 

 

 

  • My extroverted friends are struggling. To them, I send virtual hugs. I understand the virtual thing and phone calls don’t fill your bucket.
  • Routine is key.
  • Hygiene is still optional.
  • Rolling out of bed and slapping on a hat to have a meeting is GOLD.
  • Former students are reaching out. I have heard from a few former students over the past week. They just send a quick note to say, “Hi.” These students have been seriously at-risk kiddos. They are struggling. They need connections. We need to be there for them.
  • My butt is sore from sitting on a 1940’s dining room chair. They seriously lacked cushioning back then.
  • Getting outside for a walk is GOOD! Not only do my dogs love it, but it helps to make things feel ‘normal’.
  • As I’ve suspected, my dogs sleep all day.
  • The teachers in my district have been amazing. They have tried to do their best to step up and dive into this new way of teaching/interacting.

While things are not ideal, we will get through this. Stay home as much as possible. Social distance when you do go out. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected.

What I’ve Learned From Quarantine

I’ve only been out of my house 3 times in the last 10 days. And those were limited. As a homebody, introvert, I’m good with it! However, a few things have begun to emerge:

  • Personal hygiene has become optional – I’m pretty stinky.
  • One armpit is stinkier than the other.
  • My dogs still love me, no matter how stinky I am.
  • I finally found the time to clean some things.
  • I suck at dealing with paperwork.
  • I got started on clearing out my garden in preparation for the upcoming year.
  • I’m way more like my dad than I care to admit.
  • This week has made me more serene.
    • Homebody
    • Dad: Now that they told me I can’t go out, I want to. (re my rebellious side)
  • My extroverted friends went nuts after 3 days.
  • I do need to walk outside every day; even if it’s to check the mail.
  • I’m still doing laundry regularly. Go me!
  • I will either come out with a drinking problem or being able to run a 10K.
    • Yeah, some of you may think I already have/do both. You’re half correct. But which half? haha
  • I need to step up my stretchy pants game!

 

The Other ‘F’ Word

The other ‘F’ Word

Anyone who knows me knows what my favorite ‘F’ word is. I say it a lot! But this time I’m talking about the Other ‘F’ Word: FIDELITY to the Curriculum. How many times have teachers heard this in staff meetings, PD, newsletters, or collaboration? I know I have heard it A LOT the last few years. And it makes me want to hurt someone.

And here we are living in a very different world than we were just a week ago. California schools are not in regular session, we are all hunkering down in our homes, and districts are scrambling to figure out what to do and how. You know what I haven’t heard? “Fidelity to the Curriculum’. That has been a nice change.

I have seen teachers mobilize, create and share resources, and rise to the occasion. I have been actively brushing up on apps, watching my feeds for ideas, and listening to others. I am amazed at how awesome teachers truly are. One thing I haven’t heard is ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’. And you know what is happening? Awesome things. Creative things. Inspiring things. Innovative things. Teachers are AMAZEBALLZ! Yeah, with a Z!

What can the education world: nation, state, county, districts learn from this?

we got this

Get out of our way! We don’t need curriculums. We got this! We don’t need you to micromanage every minute of our day. We know what we are doing. We are better together. We have banned together to create great things for our kiddos. WE are getting it done. WE are leading the way. What can the education world learn? Teachers will lead. Teachers will get it done. Teachers wait for NO company.

Get out of our way and let us teach!

We have proven to be the leaders in this. We can’t forget the companies that have stepped up to help us out. Although, I am giving them the side-eye. They’re like the crack dealer getting you hooked then wanting money. I haven’t seen one curriculum company step up. I’m sure the testing companies are sad not to tell us how much we, as teachers, suck. We, the teachers, got this. Get out of our way!

Moving forward

So what will this look like in a year from now? My biggest hope is that real education reform will happen. We will change how we deliver content to students. I’m not talking about distance learning. I don’t think it would work well in my community. What I’m saying is that we will move away from ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’ and more to creativity and teacher autonomy. Can you imagine teachers working together to create innovative and exciting lessons? That’s what’s happening now! It’s across districts, counties, and states. I really want districts, counties, and states to take note and make changes.

Believe in your teachers! We are proving day after day that ‘we got this’. We don’t need no stinkin’ curriculum.

Keep being awesome teachers! We got this!

Credit to Kim Voge @KVoge71 for the title.

Extra Practice

This year I began using ‘Classroom Economy’. The students have jobs, earn money, and rent or buy their desks. Students have several opportunities to earn extra money. This is important because their monthly paychecks are less than their rent ($1000).

One way they can earn extra money is to solve math problems. I post two problems for anyone in the class to solve. I will only take the first correct answer. One is generally more difficult than the other thus allowing students to challenge themselves. The harder problem will earn them $50 while the easier one will earn them $20.

I was able to snap this photo of a student, who NEVER passes up the opportunity to make extra money, practicing the skills that she has learned. Added bonus, we leave the process a student takes on the board for all to see and learn from.

Math Practice

 

Struggling

depressedI don’t normally write about my personal struggles here. Struggles in the classroom, sure. My personal life, not so much. As my grandfather used to say, “No sense in complaining, no one wants to hear about it.” However, I have talked with several educators who have similar thoughts/feelings to varying degrees.

So, here it is. My job might be killing me. It’s definitely making me sad, depressed, anxious, worthless, and invisible. Not everything is specific to my site or even my district. Things like ‘the test’, ‘preparing for the test’, advancing students – whether it’s EL’s, those in reading, those in math, whatever. It’s all becoming too much. Notice, nowhere in my list did I mention that students were the issue. My students and I have a comfortable routine and a great relationship.

“Fidelity to the curriculum”, “innovation”, “assess”, “you don’t have a ‘can do’ attitude”, “fix your face”, “fill out these forms to have a meeting about your concerns”, “assess”, “analyze”, “reflect”, “assess” it’s all becoming too much for me. While all this may not be my personal experience, it is our experience as teachers. I have a pair of shoes that say “Do what you love” and “Love what you do”. I wear them to remind me that I love teaching when it’s just the kiddos and me. Unfortunately, it’s becoming harder and harder to remember this.

I’m struggling and I know I’m not the only one. Those that are making decisions are not doing so with the best interest, or even what’s right, for the students. It is taking a toll on those of us who are ‘the boots on the ground’. I could go into the ‘why’ behind it all, or at least what I perceive as the ‘why’ but there is plenty of reading out there that documents this. No need to beat a dead horse as they say. We can continue to point out the why but I would rather actual change start to occur.

So to any others who may happen to read this, know you are not alone. I don’t have any answers. I only know that I am one of those that are struggling right now. Hopefully, by writing it down I can release some of the crummy feelings I’m experiencing and get back to a happier place.