Posted in about me, storytelling, ebb & flow, mindset, food, differences

Thanksgiving 2020

Climbing Daddy and I have a tradition of going to a National Park or Monument or something similar for Thanksgiving; Tall Daddy and The Kid go to his family’s Thanksgiving.

We decided we wouldn’t go this year. The parks have never been crowded on Thanksgiving Day, but we’d have to stay somewhere. Camping is always an option, but it’s too cold to camp anywhere driving distance from here (at least, driving distance for a 2- or 3-day trip). Maybe or maybe not for Climbing Daddy; definitely for me.

Also, because the world is out of whack, maybe the parks were more crowded than usual this year. That would be sad irony.

The tradition of going to a park—and hunting for somewhere in these sparsely populated areas to eat Thanksgiving dinner—has done an excellent job of breaking the painful connections of holidays with my family.

As such, I didn’t feel obligated to even celebrate the holiday at all. No inner tension or conflict. Felt great!

But it’s not all about me (what?!), and Tall Daddy was joining us, so we made a menu.

The Kid and I made spaghetti from scratch. We made the dough as a joint effort, and aside from the one or two pieces I demonstrated on, The Kid rolled and cut all of the spaghetti himself! He was proud of his work.

Also in the morning, we made the apple pie from PostSecret. It was easy to make and tasted delicious. I decided to buy a pie crust instead of making one, in light of all the other things we were making from scratch, and that was a good choice.

The Kid went to Tall Daddy’s to spend a few hours in the afternoon (where he chopped veggies for salad) and I made two-hour crockpot bread and sauce for the spaghetti.

Climbing Daddy made some caprese on toothpicks with basil from the garden (tomatoes aren’t ready yet; hoping they ripen before it frosts). He realized The Kid wouldn’t have anything while we ate caprese (The Kid doesn’t like them—whose kid is this?!) and made toothpick snacks from apple, orange, and kiwi instead.

The meal was ample and delicious, and it kept with the tradition of spending a lot of time preparing food for one meal. That wasn’t a goal, but we did create this menu because it’s too time-intensive to have on a typical day.

I joke that I went back to my roots for Thanksgiving this year (my dad’s mom’s side of the family is all Italian), but we always had American Thanksgiving growing up, no matter which grandparents we shared the meal with. I’ve heard stories about Italian Thanksgiving prepared by the generation before, but that baton had been passed on by the time I was around.

We ate all of the salad and caprese, but we have enough of everything else left over for another meal, maybe two.

After dinner, we Zoomed with some friends and played Code Names online. (That link takes you to the game, but there aren’t directions if you don’t already know how to play the game.)

Also in the morning, in the midst of food prep, The Kid and I ran a “turkey trot.” The intention was 5k, but he hasn’t been running much and it wasn’t worth it. We ran just over two miles, and that was plenty.

Thanksgiving this year was not at all what we expected it would be, based on recent years, but we pivoted and had a great day.

How did your day turn out?

Posted in ebb & flow, mindset, parenting

Halloween, COVID, opportunity

We had a great Halloween here this weekend.

The Kid had two friends over, in their costumes and with masks. I had made an 18-piece puzzle for each of them, different color for each, and hid the pieces around the yard. The assembled puzzles revealed a joke and a clue for where they might find treats. Each hiding spot had three treats (one for each child) and a puzzle piece. Those puzzle pieces led to three more treat hiding spots. Each child ended up with a bag, a pillow box, and a coffin with candy; two finger puppets—one eyeball and one cat or alien; two books.

After the hunt, they were charged with a task: use the characters you’re dressed as and create a short play. While the final product was not easy to follow, it did not disappoint.

One of his friends yelled, “This is the best Halloween ever! Can we do this every year?”

In talking to The Kid later, he agreed that it was better than trick or treating.

I had a lot more fun than I have trick or treating.

Other friends with kids who weren’t trick or treating did a variety of things to still have something fun for the kids to do … and every one that I’ve talked to liked it better.

Which strengthens my wondering: what else would be better if we took this opportunity to break old habits and try something new?

Posted in ebb & flow, education

Pandemic teaching, two more bits

Two things that popped up this week.

First, I realized that the majority of my students are new to me this year, and I have never seen their faces. I don’t know what their noses look like. I see their eyes and their hair and that’s all. Many of them, if they showed up to online lessons, left their cameras muted.

It’s weird.

Also, it’s nearly impossible to read the room. I’m reasonably good at seeing interest, enthusiasm, and so on in the kids, especially if we’re trying something new or we’re working our way through something difficult. Now? I have to ask. And I do, and I hope to get honest answers.

Weird.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, follow-up, physical health, thoughtfulness

Reflections on the second week of pandemic teaching

The novelty of wearing a mask has worn off, and more kids are taking them off. I spent a fair amount of time during class this week showing empathy to their discomfort—I don’t like wearing one, either—and explaining why we’re wearing them. They didn’t seem to know. (That could be no one has explained it well. It could be they weren’t listening.)

One student took off his mask to sneeze. “But if I leave it on, the mask will get nasty!” I explained that they can go to the nurse and get a new mask, and take that one home and wash it. They had never considered this.

I also saw the custodian take off his mask, sneeze into his hand, wipe it on his pants, put the mask back on, and continue with his day.

People don’t get it.

One child came at me with “if oxygen to breathe can get through, the corona virus can get through.” Fortunately, I had recently read a bit about this and was able to tell her that the virus is about 200 times bigger. (I think it was actually 250, but 200 was good enough.)

In lighter news, some time this week, I stopped panicking mid-commute as to whether or not I remembered to comb my hair. Having appropriate clothes and combed hair before leaving the house has become a habit again.

We have fall break next week. I suspect the habit will weaken. I’m OK with that.

I used a different lid for my water bottle—one with a straw—and it helped. I realized, though, that part of when I would sip some water was when students had a minute to practice something on their own.

We’re not playing instruments. There’s no minute tucked in to grab a drink. But between classes it’s much easier, and when there are moments here and there, I do take advantage now.

We have a two-part plan in place at one of my schools: we’re playing instruments at home and bucket drumming at school.

Only a few 6th graders were motivated to take their instruments home right away. They started bucket drumming on Wednesday and were excited!

I realized that with masks on and earplugs in, it would be difficult to use voices to communicate, so I looked up a few ASL signs and taught those.

We have a lot of potential with those buckets! I need to come up with a good long-term plan, as I don’t have one yet, but what we were able to do in a couple of days was great.

And parents (or at least most, I assume) are happy that the buckets and drum sticks stay at school. If the kids are drumming at home, it’s been provided at home.

The 5th graders were excited to learn their band instruments, so we took a few days to learn how to open cases, put the instruments together, how to hold them, how to get them back in the case. I put videos for making a sound on their instruments in their Google Classroom where we had class for the first seven weeks of the quarter, with a link to FlipGrid. Half have already sent me a video of them producing a sound on their instrument. They’ll start buckets after break.

And on we go. While I wasn’t scratching and clawing my way to fall break this year, I’m not complaining one bit about having a week off! I’ll always take more time to do other things.

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.