Posted in about me, ebb & flow, education

Reflections on a week of pandemic teaching

The district where I work had students in the grades I teach start back to school this week on Monday. It’s been … interesting. I can’t speak to whether this can be generalized to anyone else’s experience—this write up is just what my week has been like.

First, like many other things the last six months, it’s weird. Some parts are better than online teaching was; some parts are worse.

My district, like many others, has much more emphasis on sanitizing surfaces and students not sharing materials and less emphasis on aerosols. In their homerooms, students can have a pencil box or something with all of their tools in it—pencils, pens, markers, crayons, etc. I don’t want to acquire or store pencil boxes for all of my students but I have had to rethink how I do some things so they don’t need pencils yet.

We are all (or mostly all) wearing masks. I have encountered a handful of employees not wearing them or not wearing them much; it’s frustrating.

It’s hard to stay hydrated when wearing a mask all day. I’m frequently thirsty.

“Pull your mask up over your nose” or some variation of that is the current winner for statement most often used. Most of the students don’t pull them down—the masks just don’t fit well and fall down.

One student yesterday had a mask with tight elastic; it was hurting his ears and pulling them forward. I was able to rig up a strap across the back of his head using two paperclips and a rubber band. It looked a little silly, but he felt much better and wore it happily.

I’m a traveling teacher, and in the car between schools, I take off my mask, drink a lot of water, and sing all the way school to school. I don’t know if it’s the different breathing that singing requires or what, but it feels really good to put on some tunes and sing along for my car trip.

Some students are happy to be back. Others have said they’d rather do school online than school with a mask on and distanced from their friends.

Actually keeping kids six feet apart is an exercise in futility.

When I have enough space, I can seat them that way. Only a few have refused to leave their chair where I put it.

Getting them to and from my room is another matter. At six feet apart, a class could stretch out 30 or 40 yards. (My biggest class has 22 students.)

With students seated spaced apart and masked, the talkers just talk louder. It’s more difficult to know who’s talking. I’m mostly deaf in my right ear and rely heavily on visual cues. Some are still present—kids still look at each other when they’re talking to each other—and many are absent. It’s challenging.

I’ve seen each student three or four times, depending on which small group they’re in and whether they’ve been present in school. I don’t know most names yet. Both of my schools are uniform schools (students wear khaki pants or shorts and specific-colored polo shirts) which makes learning students’ names more challenging. Add masks, and it’s been a struggle. I’ll get there, but it’s going to take a little longer than usual, I think.

All that said, it wasn’t a bad week at all. Just challenging and tiring and different.

And long. I’m grateful to have the weekend to regroup.

Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 20Sept20

The Kid discovered that pushing the water towards the wall of the pool would make it splash out. It seems this took a long time to discover. I was fresh out of the cold water, sitting in the corner on the deck, trying to stay dry = good incentive to figure out how to splash without splashing.

We agreed that it would be fun to take some shots of the water splashing, and we were right!

His jaw dropped when he saw this one—by far his favorite. (It is pretty neat.)

And one from a cannonball:

Also, the garden is much happier since our temps have gotten out of the 110s and since the shade cloth went up. Here, we have cucumber- and corn-to-be. The lead photo is pre-tomatoes.

This … I wish you could smell it. Basil smells so good…

Marigolds to help keep the tomatoes happy, and lavender just because:

And finally, I like the bits of web here.

Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 13Sept20

The Kid and I went for a walk in the neighborhood.

“If you see anything you’d like me to take a picture of, let me know.”

“How about this tree?”

It’s a nice tree. And I like the howling coyote on the window grate in the background.

I really like this tree. I’ve lived here for almost 20 years and the palo verdes are still just so cool.

“Mom, I bet you want a picture of me walking up here, because that’s the kind of person you are.” I’m not entirely sure what kind of person that is, but yes, I would love pictures of you walking up there…

“Look, there’s a cat by that house.”

“Take a picture of it, Mom!”

“I want to take a picture of the cactus.”

“Take a picture of the cat, then take a picture of the cactus.”

Nearing home, I noticed the remains of a sign post in a yard that I’ve walked by at least hundreds of times. I’m always surprised by what I don’t notice…

Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 6Sept20

I love the desert. “I wouldn’t go there; it’s just brown everywhere,” a friend back east told me before I moved out here.

It’s different, for sure. And beautiful. In the seasons when more plants are thriving, it’s more conventionally beautiful. Even now, as a brutal-even-for-Phoenix summer is gasping its last breaths (we hope!), and most plants are not thriving, there’s a beauty about it.

Maybe it’s because I know that when the weather cools and rain comes (will rain ever come? It’s been a very dry monsoon…), many of the plants that appear dead will come back alive. (Zombie plants?)

Maybe I’ve just developed an appreciation for dead plants. Who knows? I’m just still in awe of the flora and fauna and landscapes here, whether in full bloom or dried up.

So when The Climbing Daddy suggested we go hiking this morning, taking Sir Nikolas Cameron along with for photos after hiking, I was game.

Of course, the most famous of the local cacti is the saguaro. Rabbits like to snack on their bases, and birds peck holes and make nests in them, finding safety from the sun and predators.

I love the saguaros and their imperfections:

Another thing I love about cactus? Dead cacti, leaving behind just their skeletons. I can’t get enough of cactus skeletons.

Maybe it was a cholla? Not sure.

Also? Cactus has three acceptable means of pluralization: cacti, cactuses, cactus. Fun!

There are always at least a few things that aren’t plants that are interesting to shoot. On this trail, it was this interesting bit of rock (“Mom! That looks like a face!”) and one of many bolts on a sign at the trailhead.

I love the layers of mountains. I’ve shared a couple of photos of Four Peaks before. Here they are again, trying to hide behind the ascending foreground. When I eventually learn editing, I’ll be able to have a photo similar to this with the foreground properly exposed. The camera can’t do it on its own, and I can’t do it in post. Yet.

The Climbing Daddy was at the (west-facing) kitchen sink the other night and suggested he take over making dinner and I go out with the camera to capture the sky. I got a bit of it.

Enjoy the beauty in the bits around you, and I’ll be back next week!