Dad is Life and Life is Dad…

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.

I love you KWL.


The Unknown

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.

Bring Your Own and Eat in Your Car?

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 to chance?

Online Face
In-Person Instructions

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.

Elbow Bump = Hugs
The Next Generation Needs Us

School Attire 2020-2021

Does My Mask Match?

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.

Oscar de la Renta. Always a fave.
Um. No. Just joking.
Might be popular? Ugh.

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.

Wild Days aka new unit of study.
Basic Beige aka as testing.
Sparkle Central aka Friday.

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.

Fresh and friendly and covers all the colors of the masks you own and want to show off this school year.
Simple, classic, and up my alley.

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:

1. Cigarette pants.

2. Colored denim, as blue denim is a district no-no. So, I will hunt Chico’s denim all year and stock up, especially on black denim. I buy all year long as the sales hit the stores or online.

3. Blazers and cardigans (last chance) or

4. Button down solid shirts, especially white. 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.

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.

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). 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.

Never have enough!
Nope not cashmere but perfect.
Colored denim and fun kicks puts all teachers in the cool category.

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.

On rotation.
Dashing Diva Nails under those gloves will make you smile.

Summer Countdown

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.

Yes, it”s me.

Greetings From the Other Side of the Computer

Parents have made their current feelings about schooling at home very known, and rightly so, during this time of upheaval. They are stressed, confused, and without the amount of educational guidance they have on a daily basis. The teachers, staff, curriculum, and all that surrounds their kids lives has vanished? Well, not quite. The districts, administrators teachers, and classified staff are right beside you. Our physical presence is invisible, but our online footprint, is getting stronger by the day. While, we are not there when you cry out of frustration over a math problem, or after the hundredth request for your child to log-in. But we are here and we are crying right alongside you during a crisis that will define us all and change our educational landscape as only time will tell.

Teachers were not mentally prepared for this, as we are social beings. This is not in our toolbox of tricks. Across the United States the heart-strings of teachers are being tugged in a myriad of ways, shapes, and forms, all leaning to despair. My mental state was initially one of sorrow, but due to watching the cases on the rise it was difficult to ignore or even fathom that we were going back to school. I was prepared for the worst case scenario and began to gear up for what was possibly to come, while mourning the loss, and slowly accepting the new reality.

Those first two weeks of limbo/mourning/and personal online education allowed me to get myself into the mindset of working from home, listening to the frustrations of the parents, and trying to create work that can be done without a major breakdowns for myself, my students or the parents. I cried for my kids. I cried just for me and for my co-workers. I cried for my parents. Then, I let it go so I could move on as we are stuck with this new education, and our kids need teachers who are not trapped in the mud of gloom and doom. Support is needed for all of our students but especially those in the 8th grade or the high-school seniors. They are the ones that feel all is lost. My students are 8th graders and now they will never celebrate the end of elementary school with their peers. The loss is of the memories that they will never create. This is a huge hurdle, that we as teachers and their parents will have to help them navigate and cross this road with care so they feel they are ready to move on academically and emotionally. As one of my students eloquently put it in an enrichment assignment I created. “I was robbed, rushed, and I question my ability to be ready for high-school.” I understand those sentiments, and again I cried.

This war does not only exist within our emotional state. While we are in a tech generation, many students are not savvy. While they text, You Tube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, their online educational skills are sub-par. As for the low tech teacher it is now their time to dump all their one-time learning professional development moments into a huge pot, stir it up, and pull out what is needed and use. Now. This is frustrating for all but the learning curve is waiting for no one. Teachers, kids, and parents are asked now to be ready to take on a task that hit us like a brick and we are stepping up to that plate as fast as we can so we can bring students the education they need. We are teachers it is what we do. After this crisis is over we all will be able to take what we are doing now to enrich our every day face to face instruction and parents will be able to oversee their students work with a better understanding.

For now the curve is steep and never-ending for all parties, administrators, teachers, parents, grandparents, care-givers. Each side of this mountain looks different and shares that same front line mentality. Teachers are just on the other-side of the monitor and while I cannot feel your stress, I understand. Simply speaking, I am a message away. Contact me and I will contact you…probably too much. We will get through this together and I truly believe that we will come out stronger with a better vision for what education should become in the years to come.

For now, however, we pray and I go back to my weeks work, argument writing.