How do you say goodbye to students you have never met? This year was virtual. My students are bubbles of all different colors and images. Just bubbles. Some, greeted me daily, others were hit and miss due to all different types of reasons. Now, don’t get me wrong I could recite a poem, grab some quotes, and call it a day. But that is cheesy. I am not, and truth be told, while my bubbles hated to share their faces for that next level interaction, we connected. I fought for those that struggled, texted and called parents daily, and begged for students to not give up when their lives were crashing around them. I am that teacher who cheers students on throughout their lives, and feels privileged to take home much more than a salary. I have memories for a lifetime and beyond. While never meeting my students I feel a connection that might be deeper than other years. We fought a pandemic together. Pretty strong. So this group deserves not only my gratitude but a few memories that made our year a bit brighter.
So 8th Grade class of 2021…Thank you for:
1. Laughing with me when for the 9,000th time I made a technology error, lost the meeting, forgot to record, re-record, figure out Kami and of course how much you hated Kami.
2. Going on a virtual field-trip with initial hesitancy and some sadness. We made it to the Capitol, with alot of help. All of your questions and grace made me proud.
3. All of your daily sweet greetings and 👋
4. Seeing your faces, once in awhile.
5. Your honest feelings about the pandemic, online life, and your hopes, fears, and dreams made my days in my bubble special.
6. Your constant questions and desire to be your best in a virtual surrounding which was challenging each and everyday.
7. Watching your excitement when the highschool counselors came to present and all the questions afterwards, along with the excitement of leaving the computer behind and celebrating school as we once knew it!
8. Your fear of failure and how all of you pulled yourself up out of virtual boredom to cross the finish line.
9. Having to tell you that promotion was virtual and how your sadness and excitement poured through the messages. Both feelings valid but filled with compassion for others.
10. Finally, thank you for being part of our countries future. Work hard, follow your dreams, spend your money wisely, and vote using research and your smarts to make our country a better place, travel, laugh, sing, and reach for the stars. You are our future! Congratulations!
Next year I will begin my 21st year of teaching. This year was hell. We can all agree. But what was worse than teaching to my little lost bubbles, was the digging deep to not emotionally lose them, and crying during the times I truly almost did. I found myself lost in my own shell as a teacher to the mysterious virtual world I lived inside. My normal soft hearted ways turned tough. With every new build of a virtual modules with countless varieties of materials needed to reach my peeps, another wall went up. The creative work allowed me to hide from our year long reality. I just kept busy. Each wall I built protected me from the kids truly difficult lives, and my own occasional pity party. Losing a year of human connection especially for a teacher is odd at best. It was hit and miss in the beginning but now I cannot remember what it is like inside the not so virtual walls of education. To me that is scary.
As I stated my chosen virtual world was sketchy at first but now part of me absolutely loves this new gaming world due to the creative methods of teaching, and let’s just say after twenty years I have done it all, literally. So this keeps my spark going. But that teacher part, the heart part, aches. That is something I cannot get back. However, since I am a positive gal I found a huge silver lining. My knowledge of technology went from a solid low single digits to triple digits on an average day. I began with just the basics of social media platform knowledge and texting with one thumb, which still plagues my cell saviness, but I am quick, know the lingo, and can challenge you on any tech platform to date. Ok. Not worth a year away from humans but the skills are priceless for my students and ultimate bragging rights for this old gal.
This post began with our recent “celebration” of the anniversary of hiding away from a virus that attacked the life we once knew. So much has changed. As a teacher at this time of year we start planning for next year. However, I do not know my next years direction. So the planning will have to wait. I am unsure of my school and grade level and at spring break this is frustrating but understandable. Districts around our state and the United States are still figuring out where our kids have been, as many have floated in and out of the public system long enough to be part of school, but educationally lost and without an actual daily home of learning. This did make me cry at night, in the beginning, but with the fortress I have built during this travesty, the tears have stopped. I am not proud of pushing away my feelings, but I had no choice. My long game was to survive the reality and damage education went through this year.
Next year, wherever I land, I will ring in 21 with joy and hopefully a softer heart. The outings will increase, the smiles will come back, and life will begin to make sense again. As for this year. I believe kids and teachers will eventually be ok. We all need a long summer of hugs and tons of fearless outings to welcome back a life after Covid-19. I will not forget this year, but perhaps, I will take more away from it aside from being ultra tech savvy. Just perhaps, I will enjoy life more sweetly than before and that will bring my hardened heart back to life.
Our freedoms and personal liberties are what makes this country great. When taken away it leads to chaos, depression, and sheer madness with the countless petty rules that do not make sense. If we as a country are continuing on this path of “masking up” we need to have common sense rules that are inherent to our freedoms that we are granted by our constitution. With that said, yes Covid-19 is real but we can each make decisions that are practical and safe for our own health. We need to drop the heard mentality. It is not healthy and we will see long term issues for years to come.
The little big-town of Prescott does it right. The schools are open, safe, and working with their parents. While many families have chosen a virtual method, it is by choice not force. You can walk into a business without a mask and restaurants are booming with all the safety protection in place. It is a happy town filled with people living life by their own rules with most abiding by the choice mask for themselves or using the six foot rule. I felt safe, happy, and for the first time in almost a year I forgot about our personal liberties being robbed on a daily basis.
Yesterday, was the first day I strolled a store, outside of a market without gasping on my own recycled air in the mask of the day. It was fantastic and reminded be what life was like long ago. With the holidays around the corner we are being told not to gather, keep the elderly in their nursing homes, and are again stocking up for another shutdown. I think our founding fathers would be livid that we need to be told, forced, fined, and curfewed into personal responsibility. I argue that we do not. We need facts, high-risk groups need to hunker down, and we need to have respect not judgement for those that do not need to live in a bubble. Let them live. Let businesses thrive and not fade away.
While I will bubble up in the big city for my own safety. I will be heading out to my favorite escape more and more for a dose of everyday life and a reminder of the American spirit and personal freedoms.
Daily, I greet my sweet circles, AKA my “shy” virtual 8th grade Social Studies students. My love for them is overwhelming and my reason to get up and go down my hall, into my den, begin my classes, create new curriculum, record video and audio, track down missing students, daily grading and more. The work is the same as in person, but different, difficult, demanding, challenging, fascinating, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. My emotions fluctuate daily and the shortened commute (2 minutes flat) plus my absence from the stress that surrounds our ever bouncing educational system is a huge plus for my health and sanity. As the days pass I still long for small humans. Or do I? Are my growing feelings and pride over my little circles natural or unnatural. Whatever it is, it is virtual education, and I am at the helm. Now, I chose this life for my own personal health reasons, that was my decision for me, not for all in the education world, and not for all kids. My current circles are not going back to traditional. Their zipcode is at risk and many of their homeschools are still closed. These are my 8th graders, my future promoters, and they push me to make this year the best that it can be in this wild educational video game. Where kids are still kids and teachers are the daily video game. While not as popular as COD (Call of Duty) but a definite bitmoji style of fabulous.
As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into our second quarter my world is beginning to feel natural. Oddly so, to the point of my thinking that I might not ever enter the traditional environment again and finish out bitmoji style.
At the time of this blog. I can be whisked back into real-world teaching tomorrow or never. I do not know. None of us know. Some of my sweet circles are cracking at the edges and some are crazy confident in their new world. But when a teacher switch happens they all crack…I see it. They tell me. We work through it with words that I find, sometimes out of thin air, to patch the hurt. Most of the time I patch up pretty well and when it is too big, I call for backup fast. My sweet circles have a hold on me and at the end of the day, I am grateful for them as they make me be the best teacher I can be, no matter the environment.
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.