Friday, March 27, 2020

SLICE #27- Lessons from Distance Learning

It is Friday.

The end of a long week of remote learning.

Yesterday, between classes and meetings, I was online for 13 hours straight.

Today, I am in my second of six classes, and I am tired.

The presenter is great, but I am having trouble concentrating.

My eyes are drawn to the participant thumbnails on the side of the Google meeting.

Most people, myself included, turn off their cameras, so all that you see are their names, and some kind of initial or photograph.

My eyes are drawn to movement from one of the people who have not turned off their camera.

It is a woman, about forty, standing in her bathroom.

She is wearing dark colored leggings

and nothing else…

I watch,

along with I don't know how many of the other 250 session participants,

as she grabs a lacy white bra off the counter,

and fastens it,

leans forward several times to adjust her girls,

and pulls a long-sleeved t-shirt over her bra.

The show goes on for almost two minutes,

and I keep waiting for the tech guy to darken her screen

but that doesn't happen.

All day I have been thinking about that poor woman

who by now is probably mortified

by her digital indiscretion.

Her friends and colleagues

are probably all talking about her,

Her principal has probably heard.

I am sure she is considering moving to another state

or perhaps changing professions.

I shudder thinking about all of the mistakes

I have probably made this week.

I have decided that rule #1

of remote learning should be

"Always put your bra on before the session starts,

because you never know who might be watching."

Thursday, March 26, 2020

SLICE 26- It's hard to watch your kids screw up

It's hard to watch your kids screw up.

Even when they are adults.

Son #1 has had a rough year.

In August, he got in a car accident.

He totaled his car and broke his femur.

His car was not a new car.

It was actually about ten years old.

But it was a working car.

In October or November, he got his insurance settlement.

His half was $2200.

And he immediately started looking for a car.

He found what he thought was the perfect car.

A 25 year old Saab.

I was not so sure it was all that perfect

and advised him to take it to our mechanic to get it checked out.

He refused.

It was perfect.

And so he bought it.

It lasted three months.

He finally sold it for $300.

To a junk dealer.

A couple of weeks ago he got his taxes.


A trusted friend sold him an old truck.

A 25-year-old-truck.

"It's always worked great," he said.

Last week it wouldn't start.

A bad battery cable.

He's still not working,

because he still can't be on his feet for 8 hours

or do heavy lifting

so I loaned him the money to have it towed.

And get it repaired.

This week, the serpentine belt,

whatever that is,


The friend was going to help him fix it.

If I just went and bought the belt.

And then they had a disagreement.

And he didn't come.

And my son drove his limping old truck

To the mechanic.

The diagnosis was bad.

And so he sold the truck

for $300

To a cousin who likes to tinker with old cars.

And once again

my son is carless.

It's hard to watch your kids screw up.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

SLICE #25-- In Which I Forget How to Make a Sandwich

Today has been a teeny bit hard.

OK, maybe more than a teeny bit hard.

Actually somewhere between pretty hard and really hard.

Today was so hard I forgot how to make a sandwich.

I spent the morning, 3 hours straight, in my basement doing online tech sessions. We are learning all these new-to-me apps. I can do the basic stuff, e.g. Google Classroom, Slides, Docs, Flipgrid, Padlet, etc. but I don't do a lot of fancy stuff. And this morning felt really fancy. And it was the kind of PD where there is three hours worth of material poured into one hour, so you don't get any time to practice or mess around, you just watch someone else do it. And take notes frantically hoping you can remember to do it yourself.  And get more and more stressed.

So I staggered up from the basement at noon to make some lunch and get outside for a breath of fresh air before the next three-hour go round started at 1.

And I should mention, I pretty much have the same thing every single day for lunch-- a turkey sandwich, either on two slices of light bread, or one slice of whole grain. This week it's whole grain because that's what I found at the grocery store last weekend. And when it's regular bread, I only have one slice, except I cut it in half.

And so I got the bread out, and the turkey out, and the mustard out and started to make my sandwich.

Except I forgot to cut the bread in half. So I spread the mustard, and laid out the lunch meat, but then I couldn't figure out how to where the top had gone.

And I probably stood there for 30 seconds, staring dumbly at my sandwich, trying to figure out how to make a top.

Right now, some days are so hard, you forget how to make a sandwich.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

SLICE #24- I miss my homies

I'm on the leadership team at my school.

Today the district came out with a bunch of information about what remote learning is going to look like when we return from what was supposed to be spring break, next week. The information included some classes that start tomorrow. We weren't sure that everyone is checking email every day, so we decided that everyone on the leadership team should call a few people.

I just finished making my six phone calls.

It took awhile.

Not because there was that much information to share.

Mostly because it was so really good to talk to the people that I usually see and talk to every single day.

R and I talked about going to the grocery store.

E and I are huge baseball fans. Last summer, he and his wife, and K, the first grade teacher and I went to several games together. Tonight we talked about when baseball might start, and dreamed of warm summer nights, and beer and hot dogs at Coors Field.

I texted K because it was starting to get late and I didn't want to call and wake her up. I shared that I had been learning from Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher every morning. She wants to check it out.

I miss my homies.

I wish we could go back to school.

Monday, March 23, 2020

SLICE #23- Confessions of a crappy notebook keeper

Can I just admit this?

I am a crappy notebook keeper. As in, considering I am a writing teacher, and that I learned from experts like Don Graves, Ralph Fletcher, Jane Hansen, and Linda Rief, I totally should be much better at this than I am.

Don't get me wrong, I've kept notebooks of some kind or other, off and on, since I was in junior high. I still have many of the notebooks I kept in high school and college, piled on a shelf in my closet.

I have a favorite type of notebook-- spiral bound, heavy cardboard or plastic cover. I like them 3/4 size, not full 8"X11", probably because they are easier to carry around. And lined, because I can't write straight without lines, and I don't like when my words go downhill.

I almost always have several different notebooks going- sometimes intentionally for different purposes, or sometimes just because I misplaced one, and started another one, then found the other one.

But these days, I am seriously doubting my notebooking expertise.

It's been going on for a while actually. I want to be more consistent with the keeping of notebooks. I even signed up for a Facebook Group, 100 Days of Notebooking. I only lasted 25 days. Mostly, I think, because people were so creative, and so artistic. And the things that they produced were so beautiful. And my notebook was so uncreative and unartistic and un-beautiful, that I felt embarrassed sharing it. So I quit. I still belong to the group. And I still admire people's gorgeous notebooks. But I don't post on that page myself.

I've been watching several people talk about notebooking while I have been home for the last week. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher are doing an amazing thirty minutes of PD every day. Today, they talked specifically about their notebooks. And Kelly has this really incredible record of life during the Corona Virus. Penny started out planning to draw a fish last weekend and ended up with this incredible collage. You should totally go to You Tube and watch their Day #6 presentation. And Ralph Fletcher is also doing a really cool series on notebooking. And one day, when I get my schedule down better, I really want to watch Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's series on notebooks, because I've heard that it's terrific.

I really, really, really want to be a person who has a beautiful notebook. I dream of having a notebook like Paula Borque, or Penny Kittle, or Linda Rief. You know, one of those that is beautifully lettered, has lovely and creative collage illustrations, and is deeply profound besides.

I think about it a lot.

I've been trying to learn to Sketchnote for two years. I've bought several books. I follow (ok, actually stalk) a bunch of people who do it on Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes I practice it. But not nearly enough. And so I'm still not very good at all.

I like art. I like to draw. I like collage. Today Penny Kittle recommended a book called SKETCH. And said that the woman who wrote the book doesn't see herself as a natural artist, but she practices art for ten minutes every day. And because she practices, she has gotten better. I'm going to order that book.

But I really don't quite know about those fancy notebooks.

When I write in my notebook, it's usually quick and dirty. Just stuff I want to think through or process or remember. I don't usually take the time to make it pretty. Most of the time, I'm lucky if it's even legible.

And yes, there is also the typing thing I need to acknowledge. These days, I much prefer typing to writing. There are a lot of days when I don't write in a notebook, but I do write something on the computer. I tried several of Ralph's notebooking ideas, but I didn't do them in a notebook, I did them on my computer. Typing is a lot faster for me than writing by hand. And I don't get the balance thing as to when I should be writing in a notebook and when I should be typing on the computer.

I'm thinking a lot about notebooks right now....

Sunday, March 22, 2020

SLICE 22/31- Does someone know something I don't know?

Sometimes I get a teeny bit creeped out by the whole social media thing. Usually, it has to do with Facebook or Google sending me advertisements for things I have recently purchased, or thought about purchasing. A couple of years ago, for instance, a first grade teacher friend and I were looking for white t-shirts. Her class was doing a unit on Mo Willems and Field Day was coming up. The kids wanted to make Pigeon or Gerald and Piggy T-shirts to wear on Field Day. We googled children's t-shirts and for weeks after that, we got advertisements for little boys' underwear. I kept thinking the school district was going to fire us for being pedophiles.

That "advertising connection/pollution" happens all of the time. I just bought cookies for my mom, so now I'm tempted by pictures of yummy desserts several times each day. Several weeks ago, I was stuck in a huge traffic jam next to a Rolls Royce. I wondered, as I sat there for over an hour, how much a Rolls Royce actually costs, so I googled it (for those of you who are now tempted to email me about irresponsible phone usage, I literally was at a full stop, for more than an hour) and now I get advertisements for ridiculously priced luxury cars several times a week. On a more mundane note,  I want to some minor bathroom remodeling, so right now, I get pictures of bathroom cupboards every day. 

This week, though, the advertising craziness reached an all time high. I have started getting advertisements for jobs. Clearly, the people who are sending the ads don't know anything about me. Driving an 18 wheeler shows up pretty much every day. Whoever is sending the ads doesn't know they are talking to a woman who struggles to parallel park her car in front of her house several times each day. 

And then there are the ads for nurses. If I thought there was anything I could do, I would be glad to volunteer in a hospital right now, but again, that's pretty much out of my league. I'm really healthy, but I'm over 60, so I'm considered high risk. I don't particularly like blood, although as a veteran teacher, I apply a mean band-aid. I don't do vomit, it makes me gag even after thirty plus years of teaching. Nursing does not seem like a likely second career. 

Today's choices include RTD Bus Cleaner (whoever sent this has clearly never seen the inside of my car, my own mother told me it looks like I live in the car a couple of weeks ago), KFC line manager (do you have to be able to cook? Or like KFC?), and Warehouse Worker (OK, I could probably do this, I carry our Scholastic Book Orders from the office to my classroom, up a flight of stairs and half a city block down).

I keep wondering though, why am I getting all of these ads for new jobs? Does someone know something I don't know?  Is a new career looming on my horizon?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

SLICE 21/31- A teeny bit of normalcy

Today started out with a teeny bit of normalcy.

I went to Weight Watchers.

I've gone to Weight Watchers pretty much every Saturday for the last three years. It's part of my Saturday morning routine.

OK, I didn't actually GO to Weight Watchers, because the physical facilities are closed.

But I did go to a meeting via Zoom.

And there was a lot about it that was the same.

Cheri, the leader I have had for the past three years, led the meeting.

Mary Ann, who usually weighs me, and Denise, the other weigh-er, were both there, helping with the technology.

Lots of the people who usually attend- Deb, Cassie, Alice, Jean, Jessica, who also goes to my Monday night Bible Study, and about twenty more were there, most in sweats and t-shirts, many nursing mugs of coffee, some looking slightly sleepy.

We followed the same format we usually do- people shared how their week had gone, and then Cheri moved into the topic for this week. We set goals for next week. Mine was to track what I ate  honestly and completely. Oops. Today was not too pretty in the point department.

And like I do most weeks, I came away thinking about what people said.

One woman, about my age and single, talked about how much she needed to physically TALK to someone every day, not just text, or email. That made sense to me. There's just something about having an actual conversation. I need to work harder at calling people and making connections.

Another woman talked about how tired her husband was this morning. He works in the oil industry. Yesterday, he had to lay off two of his co-workers. And I thought about how blessed I am to have a stable job. It's not always perfect, but I love my job, and I won't get laid off.

Cheri really put everything in perspective for me. She said that she led a meeting on Friday, and at that meeting, there was a mom, who is an ER nurse, but has been out on maternity leave for the past five months. On Sunday, she will leave her family-- her husband, her baby, and a two-year-old. She said she probably won't get to go home again until she gets sick. I've been thinking about that woman and her family all day.

I left the meeting feeling really energized, and ready to move forward with my day and my week.

It was really nice to have a teeny bit of normalcy.