I hate the outdoors, I cry upon seeing bugs, and water below 85 degrees is considered freezing in my book. My two experiences with camping came at a young age. The first was a true campout on Redondo Beach with my Girl Scout Troop. One night of absolute disgust and soggy clothes mixed with sand made me quit the next day. Good-bye troop. The second, was a forced campout with my parental unit, and their friends. It snowed in the California Redwoods, in July. I headed into my tent and would not come out due to the bitter cold. At all. I was in true protest mode that was so obviously terrifying that all the ladies of the group went to a hotel. It was then that hotels are a girls true guide to camping. Let the men have the tents and the earthly experience. Not for me. Hotels or the later resorts in wooded areas with a casual hike and good wine were my forever fuure camping experiences, in fact I made it known to my then fiancé and thus we created the no camping pact shortly before we walked down the aisle with the caveat that I had to get acquainted with Neebish Island and eventually, someday in the far future go to the magical camp which my hubs painted like a Norman Rockwell meets Indian Tribe in the forest moment coupled with fantastic outdoor extravaganzas for all. Camp, here I come. Someday.
In the beginning, it was easy as a married couple to not visit. We were busy in our very exciting SF city lives. My camp was Napa. Enough said. His camp would wait. He was patient. I was stalling and panicked that any summer our camp trip conversation would not end with the sounds of corks or clinging glasses.
Soon after our bundle of joy came along, camp was calling but still not for me. Between moving and settling in our new home in the sunny and mosquitoe free state of Arizona but it was coming and I knew there was no turning back…
Our first trip was directly after our sons first birthday. It was a difficult year filled with specialists, hospitals, and tears. Camp was supposed to lessen the stressors. It did. Not in the way of an average vacation filled with umbrella drinks and sandy beaches, but it did. Maybe it was the water or the freighters rolling by one after another with the sounds of the salutes hanging in the summer air, or perhaps none of this. The memories made that year and beyond in our small island life are memories I will cherish.
Years later, our camp still has bugs and leaky things, no quick access to anything but it is now my adopted home. Year after year along with my original little Neebish yoopers plus our newest member of the yooper club we always make the trip…
We are in a situation where everyone wants to blame another for the mess we are in created by a crazy virus that came without a road map. It just hit. Created mayhem and death. The nation shutdown. We have reacted, over-reacted, under-reacted or something in between based on your political spectrum, age group, or if loved ones were involved. Now, six months later, we are still in this reactionary mode but we are no longer “in this together.” In fact we are a society at war with itself. The masks are an issue, the opening or closing of anything is an issue, and a society on a brink of economic collapse using monopoly money to survive is an issues but not the biggest. The largest divide is the daily spinning of the wheel education plan of the moment. There are no answers for anyone so the randomness of a game show spin is a method I could get behind at this point and can be done multiple times a day just to continue to confuse parents, teachers, and the kids playing along.
On the wheel, we have many options all supposedly scientifically backed by either the CDC, WHO, or any alphabet soup education group which bases its data on some factor other than the reality of kids don’t get this crap. Now, they can carry. Ah, the true problem, the adults. Ok, I am one and in the classroom, so I get it, but we have had six months and now more federal dollars for a variety of PPE, technology, and other stuffs to sanitize at a hospital level on a daily basis. So, what is the issue? The answer is quite simple, it is the gut reactions felt by humans in crisis and the politics and red tape churning and throwing up additional barriers along the way. Simple but complicated on many levels. So we keep spinning, creating, and finding winning modes of education that will ease the fear, fit political agendas, and have shears big enough to cut through the tape.
The wheel itself is divided into many parts. I will now take you through the popular spinning wins so the parent in you can see that the teacher in me is just as frustrated and hopefully we can form an alliance instead of a divide.
Our kid has gone through a medical struggle (back) and heartbreak due to the outcome. The kid we raised is smart, stubborn, athletic, artistic, and brave. It has been a haul but that is life and we are a tough family. His recent two year battle came with a miracle that has come full circle and resulted in a new career of sorts, one with no pay, gratitude and frankly the best type of life, full-time dad. DJL now a two year old mini-KWL. He is a single dad and does it all. He is super-dad and his mini-him is attached at the hip and the big guy is just as attached. It is something to see and it is especially poignant from the eyes of a grandparent.
In the midst of raising littles you often miss their favorite show and their intense understanding of character and plot. The mimicked behaviors that are character requested during the developmental shows for little people learning, and the delight in their eyes when they hit perfection of the character moves. Now, I see it all and always tell my son, to slow down and watch it all. It goes fast. So fast. I see his side also, I have done all of it, as my hubs was and is a workaholic who has slowed a bit to cherish the grandfather role, and for that I am grateful.
Long ago, KWL was my mini-me and I see the same in their relationship that we had long ago. Insert Hugs. My former mini-me, at two went to grad school with me, literally walked ASU and went to classes, held the door for the students, and ate Cheerios, colored and practiced sounds and letters. At two and a half we had all letters and numbers through ten mastered, an obvious result of ASU. Insert Laugh. I knew he needed pre-school but neither of us were ready and besides after class there was a happy meal at the Memorial Union. By day I took notes, by night I studied. In between I clipped fingernails, wiped faces, cut up food, played, and prayed my picky eater would eat. Our relationship was tight. In fact, so strong that pre-school was a tough separation for us but we both survived and both flourished. He with his Montessori buddies and me with student teaching and a diploma. The night I walked Gammage for my masters he literally waited in the wings of to see me get what we both earned. As I walked off the stage, I got a hug, and I am sure we all had a McDonald’s dinner. I am sure of that. That is our past, but those times along with many more days like it created the adult he is today.
As parents, we constantly question ourselves, I no longer question. Nope. I am good. I did my best and now I cherish the moments of watching their practical daily life. I find odd joy in the nail clipping, face wiping, consistent feeding (no prayers needed), playing, reading, counting, and constant exploration with high doses of love. I get odd joy in seeing that my former mini-me picked up some skills along the way and is tirelessly using them on his best little person. Now, I sit back and enjoy all the moments, the ones I lived and the ones I missed. As a grandparent I am especially good at the Blues Clues movements and Tea Time, even when it is poured from our tummy as we are into the letter T right now, pretend play, counting, Little Tykes basketball and hugs. I like my hugs the best and look forward to watching my mini-child grow into his own adult and if blessed watch him with his child as they navigate the waters between the constant work and joy our children bring.
Every year teachers start in the same manner. Potlucks, back to school meetings, district cheer sessions, more meetings, and time spent readying our rooms for the year ahead. It is a special time and a highlight of mine, as it marks the dreams I shape for the year ahead, and the next students that cross my path. This year will be a tad different as most teachers, parents and kids are living in the harsh realities outside the classroom doors. I want to escape from all of this as often as possible, for my kids and myself, and bring my students into the world of creative writing and the bravery of colonists that wanted a new life, as I teach writing and history, and these scenarios fit my yearly curriculum. Our escape will allow us to travel to a different time and place, and for a moment or two the heaviness of life will be taken away. I long for this, but I still do not know how or when any of this will take place.
The struggle with all the logistics of the school year, aka the unknown, and the waiting pattern that leaders are painfully putting us through, make my mind race through the various possibilities of the year to come. The questions always outweigh the known at this time leading me back to the same questions. Online or off-line? Six-feet apart (ha) or in our former reality mode armed only with a facial shield for the protection of a virus that can simply go right through my colored choice of the day? Do I wear gloves, or leave my pretty fingers www.dashingdiva.com to chance?
With nine days and counting to my technical start date, I have no answers. None. I wait, knowing that this year there will be no potlucks or in-person meetings and the decoration of our rooms will come in slow stages, with time limits and less “fun” in our rooms for hands to touch. This, however is our moment, our year, and I am ready to shine for my kids, and elbow bump each and everyday. If I only knew when and how. My wait continues and I look forward to its end.
I love shopping the sales for my look of the new school year. It has changed over the years but my staple has been a comfortable preppy mix. In higher financial years. I wore cashmere cardigans with my loafers and khakis. Now, as I am in the prepping stages for retirement, I have learned to dress up but down on a budget.
This year, teachers will be wearing everything from hazmat suits to scrubs and everything in between as we trudge back to our unknown CDC guidelines. If that is your look, fine but it not for me. First of all, I would sweat to a size not seen since my own youth, perhaps not a terrible idea, but not healthy. Nor, did I get a degree in medicine. So probably sticking to my usual school friendly attire. It works, it is comfy, and no dry-cleaning needed. In the old days (before teaching and parenthood) I was fancy, living in my prior chic retail management attire. To afford luxury in San Francisco, I hid clothes in cubbies, drawers and back rooms, waiting for the ultimate sale. Looking like one of our patrons, was a must in our handbook, but not on my manager salary with so many other winery and foodie needs to be met along with the mundane bills.
My days of fancy suits, heels, and chic black dresses are out of the picture as I wore them to their magnificent death, and mourned their passing to a new state of pinterest musings. So where did I turn to look teacher stylish and machine washer friendly in the sanitizing year(s) ahead? My look will no longer be cocktail party ready or even business happy hour ready, for that matter, but I it want to be a step above the “let me cut your meat or tie your shoes fashion.” I no longer teach primary and have given up the the many pocket apron for the multitude of passes, stickers, stamps, pencils, erasers, whistles, keys, and of course kleenex. No, my kids are in the 8th grade and while their maturity is debatable, this year all of their materials must be in a plastic baggie, for only their use. None of us can share anything. I can’t give to them or them to me, odd but true. Nonetheless, no extra pockets needed. Good-bye apron. Good-bye. It was never me.
My journey, this year, begins with face masks and chains, of course. The face mask will be a staple in my district. I have two. Both fit like crap, so I am still searching for the perfect fit, breathability, and ones to coordinate or at least not look to surgical for the school setting and my 8th graders standards. One has to try to be cool. It helps with the building of relationships and the establishment of community.
Mask making is not my thing so I will go to etsy. I will buy seven and launder weekly. While there I plan on buying a couple of mask chains as I will need to remove my protective shield, often, when no one is looking so that kids can actually hear clearly. Other than that you sound like a bad order on a drive-thru microphone. Education, unlike your favorite fast food establishment, can’t afford to get the order wrong nor can it be returned. This is (insert grade) your students only shot at this year. We must get it right even with some oddities.
Next up, define your current style and remember your sanitizing routine. I live a preppy comfy life-style but I like to have a little flair to my outfits. Think Paris on a budget and an easy washing instructions. My go-to items this year are:
4. Button down solid shirts, especially white. www.chicos.com They never wrinkle. My lifelong goal is one in every color. But they also never go on sale. Ever.
5. My favorite tee’s are from Old Navy as they are soft, forgiving and long. I also hit this big box store for below the knee summer dresses for our 110 degree starting days. Since our weather and room temperature is high they only make it a season but they are cheap and establish a little more on trend feeling for the beginning of the year which makes me feel pretty in 110 degrees, which is not an easy task. www.oldnavy.com
6. Tennis shoes, or loafers daily. Sandals are forbidden in our district and frankly not a fan. Everything from adidas to cole hahn, puma to sketchers. I don’t have time to run around afterschool so I buy everything on Amazon and shop the sales. I recently updated my closet and stored my heels, so I will be shopping throughout the year for a couple more looks, colors, and fashion statements. My kids love my kicks. Again, it is an odd bonding moment which I treasure. www.amazon.com
7. I try to accessorize daily with scarves collected from travels, which this year can double in my mask forgetting days. a couple simple pieces of jewelry and a multitude of Oprah and Dorinda approved reading glasses (shoutout to RHONY). www.peepers.com. I like to standout just enough but be able to get as dirty as needed because teaching, at any grade level, is not a clean business.
8. Makeup. I am one of those simple freckle faced gals but I love lashes, lips and nails. My new fascination is Dashing Diva nail wraps. If coordinated ten minutes and out the door, I swear. Since I am not. Fourty-five minutes for at home salon experience at a fraction of a fraction of the cost and they look great. www.dashingdiva.com
So, wherever your journey for prepping your look for the year begins. Perhaps, it is hair, nails etc. Or perhaps you are teaching from home. Or just revising last years staples, remember this is the first year the kids will see you, so make it special and wear lip gloss under your mask and a new lengthening mascara or just do your nails. Confinement and our beauty goals have not always connected. If anything this little touches to new outfits will make you feel loads better as you brave the unknown.
July 19th. There is no true answer for our state (Arizona) in sight but many options that boggle the mind and put constraints on the families we serve.
The dawn of a new era of education is around the corner. Teachers wait, parents wait, kids wait. In the beginning, long, long ago (March) I did feel the lockdown and online education was about safety with a mix of true panic. The schools, to their own admission, did not handle true valid education well, we were more like the Titanic, just trying to survive with few getting to shore. While teachers spent hours a day attempting to teach, it was utter chaos on many levels due to the newness of the word lockdown, fear, frustration, no internet for many families coupled with language barriers. My Spanish improved, but not by much.
I still miss my kids I stopped seeing in March. They lost out on their 8th grade year but as they march onto 9th grade their memories of 8th grade losses will fade as their new lives begin. As a teacher, these losses are engrained in my soul with the only bright spot on my horizon my next classroom and my new beginnings. To me, every year is a fresh start, from decor to lessons. I love change and frankly, no class has ever been the same in eighteen years. The art of lesson creation and relationships with my students are my strengths. Both may be lost, as we still wait for our final orders from the talking heads that truly run education with money and politics at the forefront. Kids seem to be lost in the shuffle and this is more apparent this year.
In Arizona, many districts have pushed back real in-person learning until October. What will they gain, what will they lose? That is the question? We are now prepared with fancy platforms and bitmojis, but we are forgetting the parents needs and the social aspect of learning. For what? Safety, money, fear? Other districts, depending on your view, are either brave or crazy, will go forward with in-person learning with choices. My school falls into that category. Frankly, I feel the choice is empowering for all involved, as just forcing parents into another three months of homeschool light sentence is one that teachers are beating the drum for but parents have not seemed to weigh in yet, we will see their reaction come fall, through the registration numbers. Parents will march or stay put based on the obvious economic constraints, the difficulty of online education and true grasping of the material and the social nature of the classroom. Or they will stay due to loyalty to the school and fear of the disease. We do not know.
So, this blog has found a purpose. My writing will take you on my 2020-2021 journey filled with the realities of the continued saga of Covid-19 and the educational disaster we are facing in the coming years if we continue to be hold kids and parents hostage
Eventually, my musings will morph into an ebook based on true stories that share a glimpse into the real world of public education in a time where flexibility will be key.
This year you were gone too soon. But with or without me you are heading to high-school and you are ready! I will not be there to hold your hand and dry your tears, but I do have some advice:
Be open to new friends. This will be a time of ups and downs and a definite growth period that some friendships last and others do not. It is not your fault, it is life.
Be Kind. I know as elementary teachers we drill this into your head, but what do you want people to remember about you, after these four years are said and done. Besides you get invited to more parties and have more friends. Who does not want that?
Trust yourself. You are a great group of kids and I trusted you with everything in my room, my wallet often in plain site, and was crazy enough to give you a pass to walk around the school, when times got tough for you…without too much fear on my part. I trusted you. Now it is time for you to trust yourself and your instincts as I trusted mine with you and that worked out pretty well.
Do Whatever itTakes. You will need to challenge yourselves to make the grade, the team, and the new friendships. Do everything you can in your power to get the job done.
Get to know your teachers. It sounds crazy but they want to know you. It is those that throughout the years that have shared pieces of their lives with me that have become the ones that I will never forget. Teachers like to listen and to share. So now it is time to find your new Mrs. L.
In closing, you will always be my kids, but now you must leave. Always remember to Never Say Never to challenges or obstacles because if you fold you will not see the beauty in achievement. It was an honor and a privilege to be your teacher and please come visit.
I went to the grocery store. This in itself is a mistake, but this particular trip brought to mind the movie The Stepford Wives. The clip that stands out is the grocery scene. The ladies make their way through the aisles with heels, hair, and attire in perfection. Their faces forward never glancing at a list or squinting at a product name or sugar count. Just going up and down the aisles in search of something not found in the store…freedom. This same feeling has been mine during all of my adventures to the various stores I have visited during shelter on place aka lockdown.
Of course my recent trip was without the fancy hair, makeup, and as always sporting my lovely readers over the mask. This look causes random blind moments, and possible run-ins with the other customer carts or customers, thus breaking all sorts of rules. Trust me. Since oxygen and reading are necessary. I now found myself wanting to rebel. When no one was near I quickly whipped off the mask to catch a breath and grab the correct item or any item as I feared being seen breaking an invisible code. Quickly, I re-masked and staggered to the next item on the list.
The art of feeling free, at least to me, has been lost. That day we as the masked zombies of Stepford strolled we all seemed to be looking for the lost greetings, smiles, and random conversations to pass the time while hunting for the best priced cake mix, or is that just me? Perhaps. Happiness has been replaced by fear and control, needed or not, it is control.
The quest for food, especially the desire to buy three of anything has been my only outing for two months. Like a caged animal, I have braved only the grocery stores along with the possible germs to feed my crew. I have been found dancing and crying in front of paper goods and the meat aisle while others pass and give me a nod noting that they understand. Buying three Quest bars gave me the same satisfaction as childbirth.
Groceries, I thought, would give me back the feeling of being free. The choice to pick my own produce, instead of employees who usually get it wrong with each and every purchase. Now, please know I hate grocery shopping and cooking…but when the homelife demands were issued, it has been part of my unsinkable daily life. I created a predictable day and if out of sync I started feeling like Chicken Little.
Of course none of this is normal, and we all have our feelings and stories that got us through to our phase one and the opening up of our worlds, cautiously and of course by choice but I still do not feel free. No, I feel watched, counted, and shamed for wearing the mask or the choice not to wear one. I have not made peace with any of this. If you have, let me know. I need your insight or your denial of the situation. My heavy thoughts have been rooted in our constitutional founders and what they must be thinking during these times. As tomorrow gives us a new sense of freedom in Arizona, I will celebrate with a hair appointment. That’s all. Perhaps out of fear, perhaps due to the control over our lives that has become second nature. I am not sure.
No one has a formulated understanding of what the next school year will bring. Personally, I keep replaying the commercial where the father is gliding down the aisles tossing with abandon anything that remotely could be used for school. The kids in this scenario have their heads down and follow in either embarrassment or the dread of school. While kids want to return come fall, they will not be rushing our doors as they have had an extended holiday of sorts without their friends, which is the only reason they are coming back. Friends. OK, there are some out their that missed the inner teachings of school and what we offer in the classrooms but they are coming back for social well-being with a significant lag in skills. I already see it in the virtual world, and I have accepted it, and adjusting my curricula to a slower level until I can get them revved up. I am not worried about the task at hand or curriculum or tests, I am worried about them.
To be honest, I do not hear from all my kiddos through their attempts at work. I input, it sits in a variety of classroom files and platforms, and they are making their decisions to either take a break, parents choosing to tackle their own homeschooling curricula, or challenge their parents to the extreme with the daily school battle. I believe for many it is the latter. I am sorry.
In these quiet times of transition to the new world of education, my Following the Child methodology, has never been handier. This week alone I switched platforms to lend creativity for students who are craving a bit of change. I received more attempts at work in one day, than in a week. That said the platform, KidBlog, only works for writing teachers but for the next month we will explore a variety of prompts instead of demanding essay, after essay. My initial ideas fell flat, and change was needed. For those teaching at school or home I suggest it.
My desire for a small change was not just for the sake of curriculum, keeping busy, and guiding a schedule for their days at home. It is not for the exercise of the mind before the dawning of a new age and stage enters our classrooms, it was for my heart and my own selfish need. I need to hear from my kids and know they are OK. Their lives are at times tenuous and a far cry from white picket fence safety. Just knowing they are safe is enough for me in a world turned upside down, inside out and with no starting date in sight.
For now the thirty or so that actively turn-in work will have to be my hearts reality to enjoy the knowledge that they and their family is safe. My real worry is the fall, the sanitized life we will have to lead, the crowded classrooms, and the levels both behaviorally and academically students will come into rooms bearing. The difference will be drastic as it varies from state to state but welcome as we will be open. I fear not as quickly as we would like, but open.
Parents you are our true heroes and I know you are dying to glide giddily down the school aisles. But once the purchases are over the goodbyes are said, please don’t run away. We need you more than ever as our tasks during 2020-2021 are daunting.
Once in awhile you feel you reach someone, you give them the ideological nonsense and wisdom in your head to make them want to reach for the brass ring. I did that, all year, and even reached out to others to help this students dreams come true. Then he chose to fail. Right in front of my eyes just stop wanting, caring, or trying. And he let me know in an email to what he calls me “Moms.” He got sucked back into the world of his family with just a few more weeks left to go, he was almost there. Almost. GCC full-ride with work-study with the coach and a full load of classes. Gone.
I failed. Or that is how it feels, once again all the feelings of failure as a little girl growing up co-dependent come back, but this time a tad smarter…just shook my head and went on, still with a knife in my heart…but not my problem. No, not at all. If it was that easy to let go. If only it was. Note to all future teachers if you hail from co-dependent tendencies become anything but a teacher, it hurts too much and obviously the pay does not heal the heart. For me it is too late, and frankly my love of teaching overrides all of my past wounds, but the feeling of a student just giving up is absolutely sickening.
Oh, I am sure there is more to the story that I will never know, I only got the excuses…being kicked out of the house, no one to drive him to a USTAF track meet and thus giving up a scholarship. Something does not smell right, but all I see is the quitting. Then I start thinking and that is a dangerous game, was I lied to…or just does he truly live in the most awful situation in existence? Who does not drive their child somewhere, who kicks them out for absolutely no reason (this would be the second time, thank you), who ignores one son and sings all hail to the chief to the other son…who does this? Parents who cannot parent, do not want to parent, or do not want to be bothered by the extra that comes with a child with a talent or at least a dream. But I digress. This is not a parenting blog, and I am truly no expert.
So today I must move on with a knife in my heart and allow the pain to subside and then leave me comfortably numb, which is the state I prefer once August rolls around. Never quite getting there, but something that in a low socio-economic status school with difficult students is a state of being that would allow me to survive with less wounds. Never attained this state, but I am tending to wear them well as the years go by, and now realizing my desired state of bliss is probably just a dream-like fantasy. These are the same kids I adore, who need a softy like me, but hurt me day in and day out. My heart always a few sizes larger than my brain, I cannot grapple with the idea of why not my kids…why can’t they have it all.
It always comes down to parents, family situations, how many family members in jail, or how many times they have been in juvenile detention, or the working during school to put food on the table or help pay the monthly bills. Not extras, but living. If I could only block out their real lives, they could have a life, but with cards stacked against them before they enter it is only for a few to rise to the top, and those are the ones with a normal family structure and desire or lack of fear to leave their comfort zone.
Days like this I want to run to the nearest helicopter school and apply, and while these kiddos still go through pain, it is different, it is relatable, it is todays normal, so to speak. What I see is horrific on a regular basis and frankly do not know how many more years I can do this? How many more years of terror can I see? But the one thing that brings me back from the brink every year is a student(s) that you want to pour your heart into to watch them get a life that is past their dreams.
That is what brings me back, that is keeps me going. That is why I teach. Today is just harder. Today hurts. Today I failed.
As of today…no word on this student. I now don’t consider it a failure but growth for me and a huge chance for him that he was not ready for…