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.

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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 In its place was a sad, withdrawn, scared-looking child.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.

Check-In with Flipgrid

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Last week I went back to Michigan due to a family emergency. I didn’t think I was going to be out of the classroom, but as it turned out I was. I was out for an entire week. The week AFTER Spring Break. Not great timing especially since I was out the two days before Spring Break. I knew I had to tone set with my students. Some would be thrown off by my absence.

Ms. N's Message on FlipgridThe question became: How am I going to communicate with my students? At first, I thought about doing videos on YouTube. Easy enough. I could record on my phone and upload. Then, after talking to a friend, I decided that Flipgrid was a better option. I could keep it private AND use the students’ names. I wanted to remind O to clean up, remind A to do work and not surf the web, and give shout outs to those who I was sure were doing the right thing. This worked out well. I was in contact with the sub and could customize my message each day. The kids really enjoyed it and LOVED hearing their names in the morning.

How fortunate that we live in this time where we can connect with our students from thousands of miles away.

Kindness Coin

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Ben's Bells Kindness CoinAt some point last year at a Google Innovator event I was given one of these. I liked the idea of passing along a note to recognize kindness in others.

I recently ran across it again and incorporated it into my classroom. I introduced the idea to my students telling them that when they saw someone being kind, it could be passed along to that person.

Fortunately, my students have really taken to the idea. Each day I see this being placed on someone’s desk. I love that my students do it without making a big deal about it. At one point it was missing for a few days. One of the students asked where it was and what happened to it. I reminded them to keep it going and it showed back up later that day.

A little kindness going a long way!

Size Matters

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Yesterday, Friday, I had 5 students absent. When everyone is present, we have 26 students in our class. They are an awesome group of kiddos. I’m really enjoying them, but when I had 21 yesterday in class, it was so nice!

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Let me explain. First of all, it had nothing to do with which students were absent. It had everything to do with the number of students physically present. I know 26 isn’t a bad number to have (last year I had 31 – THAT was too many). However, 21 students made it so much easier to squash undesired behaviors before the student had a chance to fully commit to the behavior. It allowed me to target individual needs more effectively. Don’t get me wrong, we had some name calling and general playing around but it was easier to manage.

So when school officials, politicians, or policymakers say that handling 31 is the same as handling 21, they clearly have either never been in the classroom (as a teacher) or have been out of it for far too long. There is a difference. I felt so much more productive and impactful than I have in a long time. I felt as if I really was making a difference and reaching all students.

If you are in a position to make a difference in your community, I urge you to do so. Go to school board meetings or talk to teachers. Because in the end, size really does matter!

And yes, I will be happy to see all 26 of them Monday morning!

Stop Peddling Your Product

Warning: this is going to be a bit ranty.

Dear Everyone,

I am a teacher. Maybe you have seen in the news lately that many fellow educators across the nation are protesting. One item on the protest list is a living wage. Ya know, pay us what we are actually worth. Treat us like the professionals that we are – that would be another item on the list. And this is where I’m going to focus: treat me like a professional. Stop allowing merchants to peddle their product during my workday.

pexels-photo-823301.jpegTo the merchants – be they insurance, savings plans, ‘bookman’, or whoever – STOP PEDDLING YOUR PRODUCTS TO ME! Now, some of them I can choose to ignore. If I don’t want the cutesy items the ‘bookman’ is selling I don’t buy it. If the insurance man is in my lounge, I don’t have to engage in conversations with him. However, I ask do you go to doctors’ offices and ask to sit in their break room to sell life insurance? Do you go to other local businesses to talk about the great supplemental insurance you can provide? Look, I get it. You need to make a living. You share your knowledge with us and that’s fine, but there must be a better way than exploiting a teacher’s kind nature.

To the districts – STOP ALLOWING THESE PEOPLE TO PEDDLE THEIR PRODUCT ON ME DURING SCHOOL HOURS! This was never more apparent than this past week. Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. For the most part, it was awesome! Our PTO treated us like RockStars! Thank you, PTO! Then there was our mandatory staff meeting. The one with an insurance person trying to sell me supplemental insurance. Yes, you read that right, during Teacher Appreciation Week I had a MANDATORY sales pitch to attend. Really? Okay, there was one moment worth remembering the sales pitch. That moment where the person openly stated that he/she has your back. If your doctor won’t write that doctor’s note for your insurance, no problem “I will…”.

Yeah, I’m still a little irked by the whole situation. But knowing that someone is willing to write fake doctor’s notes for me made it a little bit better.

Countdown

pexels-photo-280264.jpegThe end of the school year is upon us. Today someone pointed out that we only have four more weeks of school. That’s not a lot of time. I know many teachers, and students, are in full ‘countdown mode’. Meaning, they are counting down the days until summer. I can’t fault them. The idea of a long vacation sounds wonderful. Time to do all the things that I’ve been putting off: steam cleaning the carpets, revamping lessons, relaxing, training ‘bat dog’ (aka Goldilocks, the 4-month-old puppy). Except, I don’t countdown. I used to, but I don’t anymore.

A few years ago I read a post (I can’t remember who wrote it) that changed my viewpoint. Basically, counting down sends the wrong message to the kids: learning isn’t that important. Learning is exciting and we should want it to continue. I am paraphrasing, but that was the message. I originally agreed, but have since changed my thoughts slightly.

While counting down and sending the message, “I can’t wait to get out of here” is what got me to change my thinking it’s not how I think now. For me, this time of year is bittersweet. I know what makes my kids tick. I know what will set them off. I know what to look for in others. I KNOW my kids. We are a family. We operate like a well-oiled machine. And now, I have to say good-bye. I don’t want to. I want to continue learning and growing with them.

Today I had a student upset about a personal problem. The student confided in another student. It warmed my heart to see the other student being compassionate and a good friend. We are a family and our family will be splitting up in a month.

It took us a long time to get to this point: us being a family. This is why I don’t do countdowns. I want to give it my all until the last day. I want to keep our family moving forward.

And next year I will start fresh. I will cultivate a new family. I will reflect on my new family in one year. I will be sad that we will soon go in different directions, but I will also marvel at their growth.