I’m Over It

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

2020 One Word: Risk

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Risk

Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

I realize that this word is very similar to last year’s, Do. At first, I was going to scrap RISK because of what I wrote. In short, I said that I would DO things outside of my comfort zone. Then, I realized that doing something outside your comfort zone is NOT the same as taking risks. Yes, when you step outside your comfort zone it is a risk. However, that’s not what I’m aiming for this year.

Let me explain. When I ‘do’ something it’s scary. And while risks can be scary, it’s not that scare the living daylights out of you, you might be completely insane for even attempting this. THAT is what I’m looking to do this next year.

Many know that my family had a rough year in 2019. We lost my aunt and uncle (married 50 years this year) and my aunt’s brother all within a four-month period. I was very close to my aunt and uncle. They were like second parents to me. They were my dad’s oldest and closest friends. So how does all that relate to risks? Everything! I can choose to do things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Or I can choose to take risks. I don’t want to have just done things, I want to find out what the possibilities are if I just take a few risks.

One large risk I am looking at is leaving my current district after 22 years. An even bigger risk, I willing to relocate. Both those ideas scare the living daylights out of me! But instead of having that fear hold me back, I’m trying to look forward and think positively about it all. For anyone who really knows me, you know that I’m not a fan of change. Change is hard for me. One great example is what my district IT head did to me. Knowing that I hate change (most likely tipped off by my principal), he began an eight-month heads up campaign. Actually, it was more like a 10-month campaign. Very early on in the school year, he mentioned that my Apple computer, which I loved, would be taken at the end of the school year and the following year it would be replaced with a PC, which I’m no fan of. I love this story, because well, I got played. Kudos to him! The transition when handing me the PC was smooth. Honestly, he most likely did it to make his life easier. I knew it was coming and wouldn’t freak out. Either way, well played!

So, as you can see, I’m not a fan of change. That was just for a stinkin’ computer. Now, I’m looking at a change in districts and possibly town. THAT is a risk. I’m not saying I want to do crazy things on the reg, just a few more throughout the year.

All The Sales!

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Here it is, early July. I should be enjoying some well deserved time off, yet I can’t stop prepping, reading, researching, and thinking about how to make next school year even better. It doesn’t help that on many social media platforms, teachers are posting pictures of classrooms, libraries, and resources. Then, there are the ones that post about sales and purchasing items. This is where I get a bit uncomfortable.

I have been teaching for over 20 years so I know all too well the amount of money a teacher invests in their classroom. I was a beginning teacher who spent more money than I ever should have fixing up my classroom, investing in books, and supplies. No beginning teacher earns enough to do that, yet we buy these items.

More recently I have adopted the attitude of, “Naw.” As in, “Naw, I’m NOT buying pencils, notebooks, lined paper, folders, etc. for my classroom.” I have not moved schools or districts. I still teach in a Title 1 district.

man wearing pink polo shirt with text overlay

Photo by Artem Beliaikin @belart84 on Pexels.com

So what changed? I changed; my attitude changed. Maybe I’m a bit more enlightened and less naive than I use to be. Trust me this is a new thing for me. I have students who can’t afford back to school supplies. I have students whose parents choose not to purchase supplies. I understand that it’s not the child’s fault. But, when did it become MY responsibility to purchase said supplies? If I have 30 students and purchase 2 folders per student (1 for classwork and 1 for homework/home communication) at a cost of $9.99 for a box of 25 (according to Office Depot), that means I need to purchase 3 boxes (I need 60 folders). That means I just spent $27.97 (plus tax) on my classroom out of MY OWN POCKET. What?! That wasn’t even for the ones with prongs. Then there are essentials like pencils, pencil sharpeners (that NEVER last), bulletin board border (gotta make the room look pretty), organizational tools, and other basics. Then if you want to do flexible seating in your classroom, most districts won’t pay for that so there’s more money out of your pocket (yep, did this one last year). Some of the costs might be minimal. I bought bed risers for raised desks for around $10. Not a big deal, right? Again, when did THIS become my problem?

Teachers, by nature, are generous and nurturing. The system has totally exploited our kindness and has, in some cases, come to expect that we will purchase what we need out of our own pockets. We need to STOP this! I know what you’re thinking: “Schools aren’t funded properly”, “My students can’t afford ____”. And you’re right. Schools aren’t funded properly. Many families can’t afford supplies. However, why should schools be funded properly when we continue to fill in the gaps? Why should schools offer to buy the folders when we happily do it and then feel great when we hit a sale (yeah, hitting a sale and saving money feels great, not gonna lie)? But we need to step back and realize that we are part of the problem.

So, I am trying VERY hard NOT to spend any money in my classroom this year. I will ask my site to purchase needed materials: folders, crayons, markers, pencils, etc. This is not going to be easy, but there really aren’t any other professions (we have bachelors and masters and doctorates; we ARE professionals) that spend their own money to make their environment better and successful. Yes, there are certain items that a professional, such as a nurse who buys her/his own stethoscope, but do they need to purchase paper, folders, pens? No. And neither should we.

I know this was a long rant and most likely not so popular, but I hope it made you think. Until we demand to be treated like professionals, we won’t be. Until we stand up for ourselves and demand districts spend their money on students rather than admin, buildings, etc. nothing will change. If you can’t pay your electric or heating bill will your district do that for you? Most likely not. So why do we pay for things that the district should be paying for?

NOTE: I am fortunate enough to have an administrator who will pay for the basics out of site funds. However, many are not as fortunate. This post was spurred by ALL THE SALES that I see being shared ‘for teachers’.