It is fall break. Some teachers travel to a variety of local or even exotic locations. I applaud them. My trip would be filled with constant lists going through my head. Passing the Versailles would be a blur and a waste. Ok. France is a stretch, on a teachers dime, but our 35th is around the corner and I am preparing a major bash. Obviously, in Paris plus more. But NOT over fall break. Nope. It’s just not me. Nope.
I am the ultimate of dull. I sleep, workout, wear nothing more than workout clothes or jeans. The old ones. Yup. Dull. I clean, cook. Kinda sorta on the latter. Take out fall clothes and say goodbye to summer ones. I grade, create lessons, and organize my weeks ahead. I nap. But it is my rest my way. I remind myself how much I like to putter. I like to clean, organize, and keep a home. I do. My biggest achievement over these few days has been the creating of the best baked potato that has come out of my kitchen. It was a moment. Yup. Dull. But am I? Nope. Not. At. All.
I take this time to reset as so much of my day is “on.” This is my “off” time to get me through until December.
The first step of Peloton is “Just show up.” The epiphany is not mine, it is the company way, stated often, and a brilliant marketing tactic and a simple explanation of life. “Just show up.” After only twenty-five rides I am addicted to the mantras, coaches, entertainment, and the new fitter person I am becoming. Now, getting on the bike is not always easy, pretty, or physically pleasant. But it is my time where my showing up does equate to a better overall day due to endorphins and a mindset of positivity.
This week I taught my kids, during SEL time, about dreams, goals, and how to keep in the game when life keeps hitting us hard. My sweet 8th graders have survived unreal scenarios with no answer in sight. I reached into the social emotional learning lessons and inserted a few Peloton expressions and their little faces lit up. I guess it is true that everyone needs a little Ally Love in their lives!
Of course a lesson and a few fun quotes won’t solve the future issues looming over our littles lives. My kids find time to search me out or wait until class is over throughout the week and ask questions for which I have no answers. The frequency of their questions shows me that their stress level is going higher as the days pass. The questions are always the same but stated with their individual flair.
What will school look like next year?
Will it be scary to be back with new kids?
Will we wear masks forever?
Will the shot work?
What about the new strains?
Can we just stay virtual?
Will anyone remember me?
Will anyone like me?
That last one gets me in the heart. But my kids have been missing in action, coping with family, and trying to learn in a bubble chosen by their parents for a variety of reasons. My kids are home by choice and waiting out a storm that keeps bubbling up at every surface. Obviously, I have no answers but their fragility is noted. I shared that I am going to get the vaccine during my “lunch bunch” one student cried real tears as she thought that meant I would not be her teacher. I calmed her down and after I got off camera. I cried. Not even Ms. Love’s spirit and words could calm me down. A “Boss” I was not at that moment more like a puddle of emotions.
All of their questions are now in overdrive due to high-school enrollment on their plate. So I have adopted the Peloton mantra of just showing up into my virtual classroom. Everyday I welcome them by noting their good choices of showing up, being present, turning on the camera, and participating in school and life. This new phrase of congratulations of just showing up seems simple but to my littles they understand that this is the first step to each and everyday. To acknowledge the good choices they are making is my attempt to counter their fears and teach that no matter what the day brings we all have to decide to “Just Show Up” and tackle the day bit by bit. If mantras and power of positive thought can get this 57 year old to ride everyday because of that feeling of wow that I feel during and after the ride, just think of how consistent power of positive thought can transform my littles overwhelming fears.
It is my hope to turn my puddles of concern to strong personalities of positive thoughts for their exciting lives that await them if they are brave enough to peek around the corner.
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.