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.
50 is a badge of honor in the Peloton world. I earned it. After my ride I danced…part tik tok and all embarrassing…no one was home. I inserted the word beast all day in every possible and impossible use just to tie me back to my tabata ride with Robin. The feeling I held with me that day and since this accomplishment is ecstatic as a beginner in the Peloton family. This is just one step one of many that I want not for the spin but the feeling afterwards. All these years I thought I would fall in love with a fitness routine. No. It is the moments after, that you fall in love with, that keeps you coming back. Ok the music and trainers are awesome, but it is the after.
My rides are saving my sanity. In a course of one week…deaths hit too close to home and my age, I became another pin cushion for Pfizer as I turned in my golden ticket for THE second shot, and muddled through the slight after feelings as the vaccine does it stuff. This was enough during an already over covidized lifestyle along with my yearly “I hate testing” mode that came kicking and screaming a few weeks weeks early. To add insult to injury my being raked over the coals for my ideals that state testing is the answer to everything or anything. It is my my opinion, but it was canceled quickly.
As a teacher, such speak is foreign to the trained union ears, but I have never have liked testing. Never. Ever. It brings out the worst in all teachers as they try to race to the top of the heap only to be publicly shamed if that years group does not measure excellence. FYI not every year brings testing success for a variety of reasons. It’s true. I have had great scores in my life, blue ribbon years in fact. How, I just teach. Thats all. You can’t push a score, child, or base your entire career around a number, but some do. I just teach and during testing I create cheers, dances, chants, and allow kids to breathe, chew gum, eat jolly ranchers galore as I just monitor and cheer.
As part of the canceled teacher culture. I am keeping to myself, teaching to my kids, smiling, and riding with numerical purpose. The new age of teacher (or those fixated on the score) has never understood me. We can’t all teach the same, test the same, be the same, and turn pages of text at the same time. However, we should all teach to the same standards at the same time with our materials of choice and share our knowledge and curriculum creation talents to bring the best to kids. If you love Common Core that’s cool, but in my opinion it has killed the overall creative spark of the teacher. Just my opinion. I love different. I create new lessons every year. I have never used the same plan twice. Ok, just one…but it’s really good. I will never change. Never. Truth be told I actually love a good test that shows a childs real growth or non-growth with the added caveat that the test must matter not for a pie in the sky score but true advancement. Give me any test that is meaningful to the tester and I am all over it as the purpose has changed. No longer is it a number it is a number for the child not the teacher. Big difference. We need a great test like Cambridge, ACT SAT, Stanford 9 that is used for student advancement. Not our current battle of the scores for only the teachers, districts, and states etc.
So how does my Peloton 50 celebration equate with my recent frustration surrounding my yearly testing woes. It is the difference between wanting the number and riding with no purpose. I worked for the number, I made the number happen. Our kids, especially our little humans don’t care about the number they just want the stress to go away. That feeling they have in their tummies and heads when some of our great teachers go overboard and our kids don’t see a connection to the test and life. Give it connection and we will see real scores that match to capabilities from our kids. But for now we are just ringmasters trying to squeeze out effort that many kids see no overall reason to give or just keep spinning with to please a system. Real meaning to testing will allow us to truly see the light of day. We would have invested kids, teachers teaching with true meaning, and correlation to the score and success which would have a higher impact on true data.
That’s all I want. That and my next Pelotin goal 100 by 4/19. Is it really too much to ask?
NCLB is the worst policy that still stands. Find the data, test the child, re-test the child, find the data. Rinse, repeat but don’t leave them behind. Ever. While I do not have data to prove that NCLB has failed. I have observations. It has upped my stress levels, given no rocket scientist data points, or increased my value as teacher. The societal view of my profession has dropped, many our leaving, and our kids data is not stellar as compared to other countries, states, zip codes etc. I am a tester approximately 25% of the year and a data digger on my spare time. NCLB has done nothing for the state of public education and everything for the state of charter or private education. They test, yes they do. But for purpose not whimsy.
My educational fantasy is copying the English system. It’s ok to give them credit for a system that works (we won the war) and of course modify it so it is less class oriented. We should have exams, we should have top curriculum, we should have standards that truly point kids to university. But we don’t. Most of the world uses the Cambridge Curriculum and leveled exams that are administratered after all instruction has ended. Again, a fantasy. A few schools/districts are dabbling with Cambridge a system and curriculum with varied reading materials that don’t all come from a text. Real reading out of books. The idea. And their history comes from actual documents think Gilder Lehrman, not our washed out textbooks, which we continue to refurbish at great cost. Give me books and documents and I can create anything. But I am an antique. The new teachers unless they feel education in their bones do not have this gift. So give them a real curriculum to follow…Cambridge. If Arizona was brave and we spent the money once for this amazing stuff we would turn out kids ready for 100 level university classes instead of turning our 000 level students.
You get my idea. Less constant testing and a superior curriculum would have increased our overall numbers in our public schools. Instead, many districts will be closing buildings due to our parents fatigue with a system that is broken. All of this hurts my heart. I am an Arizona public school kid, a public school teacher and all I want is better. My question is how much longer are we going to wait?
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.
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.
Recently, education has a new buzz word, self-care. This obviously named term is different to each teacher. Most, I fear just sleep. The profession is tough. I take two days into each holiday break and hide from all humans. This sounds insane and cause for a nice padded room vacation, unless you are a teacher. It is the daily movements or lessons that cause me to become a shrinking violet, it is the mental stress that never leaves my side along with the constant pressures of data, testing, and the reality that our kids live in this crazy world. One that no amount of data can guide. Our kids love or hate us, with no bearing on who we are, but who they are in their lives on that particular time of the day. It makes days challenging and I love that factor but it is also exhausting, bring on the buzz word.
So another weekend begins. I start with true momentum. I get dressed. Then I take a nap. I look at Facebook and get true FOMO when I hit Instagram. With my senses completely overstimulated I launch into the realities of the weekly mindless chores, that I hide behind just to gather enough strength for the week. It is not the physical or the creative demands that brings me to my knees. It is the issues the kids bring into the room and how we need to whisk all their baggage away so learning can happen. The impossibility of this notion brings me back to self-care. On Saturday, I do not move. I am too exhausted. If I tell you I did something exciting over the weekend, even a movie outside of my home. I am probably spinning a tale. My FOMO is always high with no jealousy at my friends adventures, but always wondering what it would be like to have enough strength to have a weekend where home necessities and events could intertwine.
So instead of self-care that revolves around outside enjoyment, spa days, or other intellectual moments, mine will always be about sleep. On Monday I always hit the ground with vim and vigor as long as coffee is by my side or my true addiction Diet Coke. In the midst of writers workshop on Friday I thought I lost my soda, as I roamed the room and scanned countless essays. I teared up. That is not a good sign my friends, but it will have to be as the week is long, my kids are needy, and I will always love being the exhausted teacher that I was meant to be in this world.
I have a new blog without a proper post and lacking a title. In my world, this is nothing new. Today, is the day that was focused on the deleting all my former work. Yes, all.
While I was recognized by a few of the blog gods for my wit and candor in several pieces, it had to go. My darker past, which happened, sucked, and all survived, has left the blogger circles. In my eyes the words had to be trashed. The deleted forever button, by the way, is a hard button to press. No regret. Entering the decade with a renewed writing focus that hopefully will inspire teachers and parents and maybe earn a buck or two in the process. This blog brings our crazy educational system to light showing the good, the bad and the truly ugly. We do not live in one category. Education is messy.
My newest creation Following The Child takes you through my days with a look into the society of today with tongue in cheek tone. The objective of my work is to give you glimpse inside day in the life of a world where I try balance 90 students a day along with the other demands of the profession.
Disclaimer Teaching was not my initial calling, it was broadcasting. My voice and looks were never quite right unless you lived in Silver City New Mexico. That is another story. So due to my deep love of fashion and spending other peoples money (and my own need for money) I landed at a high-end department store in management, where I promptly bought most of the store. Exit stage right and into a masters program that would lead me to where I am today. A broke teacher, who still loves to shop, and has great stories. So stories I will tell. Finally.
These are my stories and thoughts about the current state of education. All formed within the walls of my classroom. The districts, campuses, or the students will never be named. My blog is a collection of human interactions that I have lived through and thoughts about the constant change of education. My initial blog title was The Adventures of a Relatively Sane Teacher, but my love for pedagogy won, and I decided on Following the Child, as a Maria Montessori fan and trained teacher, I felt it better served my classroom and the community I build yearly.