One of THOSE Teachers

I am one of THOSE teachers.

I will always fight for my students.

I will speak out when I feel something is wrong.

I will point out issues.

I. Will. Speak. Out.

I will fight for equity, fairness, and what is right. While I am labeled as ‘one of those teachers’ and it’s meant to discredit my words. It’s meant to silence me. It’s meant to send a message to others.

So, yes, I am one of THOSE teachers. I can only hope that the right people, those that CAN make a difference, ignore the label and do the right thing.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

NOTE: This is not about one thing in particular. I have been labeled this several times over the years and felt the need to express my frustration at this label which is meant to encourage others to ignore what I say.

2020: A Year in Review

I know most people feel that 2020 pretty much sucked. And to a certain extent, it did. However, for me it wasn’t so bad. Sure I missed my kiddos from March 13, 2020, on. Yes, I missed hanging out with friends and going to a music festival – it’s always around my birthday and a friend and I make a tradition of going. I absolutely missed going to see my family. It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to see my dad. I also missed going to conferences in person. And, I got fat! The sudden change in a routine did me no favors. Despite all this, I can say that 2020 wasn’t all that bad for me.

The Upside of 2020

Burying yourself in the sand is always fun!

The first few months were fine. Nothing extraordinary happened, personally. Sure there were concerns over the spread of Covid-19. Every time a student coughed another would shout out, “You’ve got Covid.” Clearly they didn’t understand the gravity of the situation – nor did we. As March progressed, things began to take a turn. March 13 was the last day I saw my class in its entirety. However, for me, it’s a bit more memorable than most. We had a field trip that day – to the beach. It may have been cold and overcast, but we still had fun. We were there learning about the environment with an organization (Save the Whales). Before we left, I got into a conversation with one of the volunteers. He was concerned about a shut down of schools. This was his only source of income and if schools shut down that would greatly impact his livelihood. I didn’t want to admit to him that I felt a shut down was inevitable. I felt for him. When we returned to school, I ran into another 5th-grade teacher. She asked if I had seen the email. I said, “No.” She proceeded to inform me that we would be out for a few weeks. Seeing as the following week was Spring Break it meant we would be out for approximately one week. Well, we all know how that turned out. As I had a bit of time before the end of the day, I was able to prepare my students. They had many questions for which I had no answers. Fast forward 10 months and we are still virtual. Our area has been hard hit.

Ah, my cheerleaders. Love these kiddos!

I know, that didn’t seem so positive. But think about it. The last day my students were together we were on a field trip. That’s pretty cool. Other positive things occurred this year. The EduProtocol Field Guide Book 3: Math Edition, of which I am a co-author, was completed and ready to release to the world in Spring 2021. When Covid lock down began, my dad insisted that we call each day. Before Covid, we spoke once every few weeks. We have a good relationship, just didn’t talk regularly. Then, my district saw the value in a new position (3 positions): Tech TOSA (aka Coach). TOSA stands for Teacher On Special Assignment. At any rate, this is a position I have been longing for over the past few years. It took a pandemic for my district to create this position. I have been able to work with so many teachers in our district. This is truly filling my bucket. I work from home. As an introvert, this has been awesome! My family stayed healthy, mostly, during 2020. Then my dad had to go and get pneumonia just before Christmas. That was anxiety on steroids for me (he has severe COPD). But, he went home! Then went back in on New Year’s – seriously, not doing anything for my anxiety. Good news is that he is doing well and slated to go back home soon.

None of this is not to detract from those who lost loved ones (350K deaths to date), those who lost jobs, homes, and/or other things. I realize I am one of the lucky ones and am thankful. I support local businesses as much as I can. When others talk about how crappy 2020 was, I stay quiet. Their experiences are valid and need to be heard.

So 2021

Well, here we are in the new year. I can only hope that things continue to trend in a positive direction. We now have 2 vaccines. While we still need to mask up and social distance, it is a step towards being together again. I look forward to going back home (Detroit), hopefully this summer, to see friends and family. I look forward to being in class with students – safely – and hopefully as a TOSA in the upcoming school year. I look forward to seeing all my EdTech friends at conferences IRL. I can’t wait to go to the annual music festival. As with the beginning of any new year, there is a lot of hope and optimism.

My Wish for You

May your 2021 be better and brighter than the past year. May all your hopes, desires, and dreams be fulfilled. May you be happy and healthy. Have a GREAT 2021!

TikTok Rabbit Hole

Initial Thoughts

Okay, so I’m super late to the TikTok party. Better late than never, as they say. In the beginning, my only experience with the app was through my 5th graders. During class parties, my students wanted to put on TikTok videos via YouTube to dance to. I let them and we had fun. Note: I only allowed ‘clean’ versions. They knew how to search for them so I let them. So that meant that I thought is was for dancing and learning new dances. While I love dancing, it wasn’t an interest I had so I ignored it and brushed it off. That, and I thought I was too old for the app. Yeah, that was a stupid thought.


Fast forward a year or two and I stumbled upon TikTok creators showing how they create optical illusion videos. Now this is something I am interested in. Not that I want to create them, but I appreciate the time it takes to create them and appreciate the creativity in general. My curious mind also likes knowing how it’s done. This phase began earlier this year in 2020. Let’s face it, we had a lot of time on our hands this year, at least I did. I didn’t always handle the pandemic and all its restrictions in the healthiest ways. This got me curious about all the other things that might be on the app.

Then, I watched as Holly Clark began to explore the app. I watched as she began to explore and share out some thoughts on other social media pages. As she is an educator that I greatly respect and know that she is an innovative educator, I was official starting to think about exploring this app even more. Dare I say, signing up.

The final ‘straw’ was a close friend and educator signed up. She began sharing her experiences. There were a variety of people on there and it was positive and welcoming. There were so many people (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, BLM, and more) sharing their experiences, educating others, and having a voice that I hadn’t heard on other types of social media (admittedly, that is on me).

Taking the Plunge

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

So a few days ago I took the plunge. I signed up. I am hooked! As I’ve stated, there were so many people sharing their experiences and helping others. I also have seen that there can be a great deal of racism and hatred on the app (some of those I follow report on it). So I don’t want anyone to think this app is all sunshine and roses; it’s not. However, I am choosing to follow those that are helpful, educational, and bring love and light to the world. As such, I have found myself following those that belong to the following communities: BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Indigenous, Black, disabled, women, educators, and GenX to name a few.

Some things that I have noticed – based on who I follow. Remember, I am choosing to follow those who educate and bring positivity to the Internet. There are so many videos that have a closed caption feature. This is great for so many individuals, not just those with hearing impairment. So many people are sharing experiences and/or their culture. I’ve watched videos on how a woman with a non-verbal autistic 3-year-old son is helping to create a safe place for him and channeling his creativity into stickers. I watched an Indigenous man share how he handmade his headdress and bustle. I’ve listened to a non-binary trans person share simple ways I, and others, can be better allies. There is this beautiful Black woman who helps others understand how to care for curly, kinky hair (regardless of race). She even explained why young Black girls get beads in their braids. Clearly, I am learning a lot and enjoying my experience. I’ve also learned that as a white person, I can help elevate the voice of these wonderful individuals. I am trying to do my part.

Educational Potential

Of course I see educational possibilities in this. Many educators have talked about harnessing the power of this app in their classes. Many secondary teachers talk about allowing their students to show their learning of a subject matter via the TikTok app. Being an elementary teacher, this isn’t good practice as the app isn’t COPPA or FERPA compliant. Luckily, Matt Miller has created a safe mock version of TikTok using Google Slides. I used this with my 5th graders and they were very open to the experience.

Lots of educators are on the app sharing tips, tricks, extensions, and other useful resources. Thank you to all of you! But this got me thinking. What else can we use this app for? How can we harness this for classroom use aside from having students create videos? I will admit as a noob, these ideas might not be ‘new’ to those who have been on the app. But nonetheless these are my thoughts.

As I’ve stated, there are many people sharing their experiences and cultural history. These are things that I didn’t learn in the textbooks. Why not use the videos as sources to learn from? Hear me out (and I’ll explain how to share the videos with elementary/middle school students without using the app in class). I watched several videos on Indigenous people and their heritage and experiences. In 5th-grade students learn the four Indigenous regions across the United States (let’s ignore for the moment that within each ‘region’ the tribes that existed were unique and held their own traditions, customs, and language). What if…A teacher collected information from Indigenous people sharing this information? Yes, this can also be found on YouTube. However, part of the genius behind TikTok is that each video is one minute or less. Short, quick, to the point bits of information that students can easily digest. Another advantage of this app is that it’s visual. It’s engaging and because the videos are short students are less likely to ‘zone out’.

So how can one collect videos and share them without having students use the app. As I’ve stated, I’m super new to this so there might be an easier way. There is a feature to copy the link of any TikTok. There is also a feature to copy the embed code, but this will not work with Google Sites. Sites needs the HTML code and the code you will copy from TikTok is iframe. So, personally, I would copy the link and create a list somewhere. It can be on a Google Sheet, Doc, Slide, Wakelet, or your choice. I would NOT share this resource with students. Reason being, once the link is clicked not only does the actual video you want them to see appear, so do others that may/may not relate to the topic appear if they begin to scroll. Therefore, the viewing would be as a whole. Which has its advantage: class discussions. Is it a perfect system? No, so if you have a better idea please share out.

Edited to add: Contacting the creator to get their permission might not be a bad idea. From what I’ve seen, I would guess that most creators would be willing to allow permission and possibly even help you out.

Final Thoughts

Just like any social media app, it is what you make of it. If you want feel good material, follow those creators. I am. While I don’t have any content posted, I am gathering my courage to give it a go. There is so much to the app and there are so many on it that are willing to help and answer questions. If you were like me and thought that it was for young people and dancing, think again. While it is that, it is also so much more!

More Fun!

I really am loving my job this year. I am fully aware at how blessed I am to be a Tech TOSA in my district. I have been working with a few teachers regularly this year and it is amazing. This is the first time our district has had coaches or TOSAs since the early 2000’s. Honestly, we are all figuring out this new role together. Myself and the other TOSAs: how to best help and support teachers. Teachers: How to best use us and what questions to ask. Personally, I think the teachers are doing an amazing job in their classrooms.

One teacher came to me before Thanksgiving Break and wanted to know the best way to create a class picture using Bitmoji or something similar. This is when I directed her to Pixton. Pixton is a comic based creation website where students can create, show learning, and share their comics (be sure to sign up for the educator account). Then, over the break she played around with it to create her avatar and begin her classroom pic.

The real fun started when I was in her room earlier this week and I tried to lead her class of 1st-graders through their creations. Let’s just say, they barely heard a word I said and went for it! The results were awesome! The kiddos had a great time – as evidenced by their total engagement.

The teacher was talking to a colleague about Pixton and how much fun the kids had. I got a DM from the second teacher. This teacher also taught 1st-grade. Same thing happened in that teacher’s classroom. The kids were so engaged that they didn’t hear a word I had to say.

Class Picture

While exploring we found some fun features. The students can have various backgrounds for their class picture including space, dinosaurs, and a Christmas theme. While the free version is limited with backgrounds and character choices, the students can use each other’s avatars in their comics. This is great for story telling, beginning – middle – end, explaining math or science. There are several possibilities with this.

Christmas Class picture
Create comics with your classmates and teacher.

I’m Worried

It’s that time of year when schools start back up. There have been many heated debates about how this should happen during the Covid-19 pandemic. I assure you, no matter what you think, it’s a bad idea. Go back with social distancing: teachers fear contracting it, no collaboration, isolation while in the same room as others. Hybrid model: similar issues as going back live with the added stress of creating asynchronous lessons. Keep things locked down: the kids lose in this scenario. Then there is the virtual model. THIS is what our district is doing.

This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers.

A little background. In July, our school board made the tough decision to go back virtually. They were faced with nothing but wrong choices. This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers. This was preceded by several weeks of debates, parents and teachers giving public comments, a previous meeting at which the decision was postponed. My point is that our board took this decision seriously. Then, here in California, the governor created guidelines based on Covid numbers as to which schools would be teaching virtually and which could entertain the idea of going back face to face. Then began the task of figuring out how to do this.

Of all the conversations that were had: how to do all virtual? What will it look like to young learners? How will we do OT? What will intervention look like? How can we prepare teachers in 3 days (all the PD we get normally with the calendar)? How will we get students the supplies needed? How can we get books into kids’ hands? What impact will this have on students’ mental health? How can we keep kids engaged? We also needed to adhere to the compliance pieces that the state rolled out. And so many other questions and discussions. No where in there did we – district or nation – address the mental health of educators. This is probably one of the biggest oversights of this situation.

It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness.

This virtual thing, on such a mass scale, is new to everyone. While districts are communicating, each has come up with their own plan. Some are doing it better than others from what I’ve heard, but I don’t believe anyone is doing it with great success. That is not a criticism, rather an honest statement. How can anyone or any entity do something with great success the first time? It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness. The key will be to adapt as we go along. The districts that stick to their original plan will most likely fail.

This is the schedule our district has adopted. A/B groups for TK – 5 and whole groups for 6 – 8.

Our middle school has done this for four days and our elementary has done it for a day or two. Teachers are drowning. Let me be clear on this. While teachers feel overwhelmed and underprepared, they are giving it their all. There isn’t a teacher in our district that is taking it lightly or giving up. They are all looking for the silver linings. I am in awe of our teachers.

Not only are our teachers struggling with this new model, but our families are too. Many teachers don’t see how this model is sustainable. Our teachers are online most of the day. They are exhausted and then have 1/2 hour to have office hours, check work, give feedback, and contact families, and plan lessons.

Now, let’s compound the virtual learning issue by adding Covid-19 Slide to it. It’s like the summer slide, but Covid related. According to a research firm, “The report estimated that, on average, students could lose seven months of learning during the pandemic, compared to 10 months for Black students and nine months for Hispanic students. ” (Georgia State University). So for a district like mine – Title 1, 100% free lunch, and a high percentage of Latino students – this is even more stressful. That means a 5th grader coming into this is really more like a beginning 4th grader IF they were at grade level before the pandemic hit. If that 5th grader was below grade level before March 13, the gap is even larger. Not only do we need to teach the standards, but we need to fill gaps. Then, there is the dreaded state test. NOW would be a really great time to explore their actual importance to education (Hint: they’re not. They only are important to the test makers because they make money. It’s a racket.) If you worry that your child/student is behind, don’t worry. This is a global problem. All kids are ‘behind’. And let’s face it, they are arbitrary measures to begin with. The kids will be fine in the long run. Point being, the teachers have to teach the standards/content that students have difficulty accessing.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on

So what can be done? If you’re a teacher, be kind to yourself. You don’t need to do it all. If something isn’t working, speak up. You might not be the only one with those thoughts. Know that it will get easier. Rely on others, collaborate. If you’re district administration, listen to what your teachers are saying. They are the boots on the ground and are experiencing it in real time. Better yet, shadow a teacher for a day or week. Experience what they do daily. Don’t even think of uttering the phrase, “Fidelity to the curriculum.” Reach out to teachers to find out what is working, what isn’t, and where more support is needed. If you are a policy maker, for the love of all that is good, cancel all standardized tests for the foreseeable future! Create policies with actual teacher input.

To all of my teacher friends, I am here for you. To parents, please be kind, forgiving, patient, and understanding. Teachers are human. They have families. They are worried for your child’s education, too. They really are doing their best.

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

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.

I’m Over It

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on

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

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.