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Going Grey

7 Jul

I noticed my first grey hairs in the 90s, while I was working in Medellin, Colombia. A student named Felipe pointed them out to me and I told him they were all named after him. He thought that was pretty funny and told his mother, who was horrified, but laughed. Felipe was that kind of kid.

The really funny thing is that the conversation with his mother almost certainly took place in Spanish, but I remember it in English.

A few years after leaving Colombia – and more grey had appeared –  I was getting my hair cut and the woman in the chair next to me asked,”Is that your natural color, or are those highlights?”.

I told her it was and she replied,” You are really lucky.”

Since then, I have embraced the grey. That conversation helped me with its acceptance. I have watched family and friends both go grey and fight the grey. My mother spent years in a deep relationship with Lady Grecian Formula, stemming the grey tide, before finally embracing the inevitable. And she wore her grey well. My brother – who, like me, has my mother’s hair – has gone completely grey.

At my last haircut, on March 16th, my stylist cut my hair exceptionally short. I think she was anticipating the closure of salons. I am now at the point where I am thinking about getting my hair cut again. But I am also thinking about how ready I am for my hair to go completely grey.

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Walking with Lucy

30 Jun

The first walk comes early
out the back door
just as the sun is coming up.
It is followed by breakfast
and a nap.

The second walk comes later, still early,
as the street awakens with
cats, dog walkers,
and neighbors beginning
the journey to work.

The third walk comes mid morning
sometimes against her will,
mostly for my benefit.

The fourth walk comes after lunch.
On a sunny day
she might lay down on the sidewalk
taking a sunbath.

The last walk comes after dinner
her tummy full we take
one more turn around the street
before returning to the house
and she puts herself to bed.

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A visit to the library

16 Jun

School ended for kids on Thursday and for teachers yesterday. That’s big news. But the best news was that I finally went somewhere new.

In normal times, I go to the library at least once a week. My last visit was on March 9th. When it was announced on March 17th that public libraries would close, I regretted not stopping on my way home from my last day at school to pick up my holds.

Two weeks ago, Multnomah County Libraries announced that they would begin offering holds pick ups. The first branches would open on June 8th. My local branch would open on the 15th. I was elated. On Thursday, I called the number they posted and made an appointment for 10 a.m. on the 15th. I can’t tell you how excited I was.

I arrived early, but they were already open. There was only one person ahead of me so I stood on the spot that marked our new norm

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The process was quick and efficient. I walked up to the table that filled the library’s doorway and gave my name. They found it on the 10 a.m. spreadsheet.

“You have quite a few,” the masked librarian told me.

“I know. I brought a bag,” I replied, holding up my library bag.

She walked over to the piles of books in neatly arranged around the lobby and grabbed  my stack. Back at the table, she placed them on a tray and slid them towards me. I stuffed the books in my bag and she slid the tray back.

“Do you need to see my card?” I asked.

“No. They are already checked out,” she replied.

I had already read one of my new books, so I dropped it in the book drop. When I made my appointment, the person on the other end of the line told me that any books I returned would be quarantined for a few days before being checked back in. It seems a reasonable precaution.

As I walked back to the car, I looked through the library windows and saw piles of books stacked atop bookcases in the children’s section. Must be the rest of today’s pickups, I thought.

Through the next window, I saw the books in quarantine. Apparently, I’m not the only one happy to be able t use the library again.

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Frozen in Time

9 Jun

Lucy and I were a little ways down the street when my neighbor came down the front steps of the Normandy Court Condominiums where we both live.

I waved.  She waved. It was that strange moment when, before, we would have moved closer to each other to chat. This day, as we do now,, we chatted from afar.

“Can I ask you a strange favor?” she asked me nervously.

I assumed she’d ask me to water her plants. It’s not a strange request – we’ve watered each other’s plants before, but so many things seem strange these days.

“Sure,” I said. “What do you need?”

She went on to tell me that, despite walking to work instead of taking the bus, she’d gained almost 17 pounds. That led us to a discussion of self-medicating with carbs and the need for second breakfast. Then came The Ask.

“I’ve signed up for Nutrisystem,” she began, “and they are sending me a month’s worth of food. Some of it is frozen and I don’t know if it will all fit in my freezer. If it doesn’t, and if you have room, would you be able to store some for me?”

I smiled. It was a strange request, but I said yes. I went on to tell her how, in the first two weeks of shutdown, when toilet paper had disappeared off the shelves, and we all felt as if time had frozen and every day was the same, I stocked up on food in my freezer. I made batches of soup and chili and stew and packed the freezer. For weeks, I didn’t touch the frozen food, unsure about what was going to happen. Over the last few weeks, I’ve begun eating them. So, I have some freezer space I can share and told her so.

We chatted a little more, then Lucy and I carried on down the street to take care of business.

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What a difference a year makes

26 May

Last year, on the last Tuesday of May, I wrote about my 2019 Summer plans. This year, I have no plans to make plans. In fact, I have a list of the cancellation of things I’d planned or hoped to do:

  • the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago
  • the Black Sheep Gathering, a fiber festival in Albany, OR
  • the Oregon Basset Hound Games, which I help organize.

I have already heard that one September event I usually attend, the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival, has been cancelled. I fear that this list might grow.

Things are starting to open up, but I am leery of venturing out. So, I decided to compile a list of things I could do to have a terrific summer staycation 2020.

  • choose a location then read books and watch movies about that place
  • knit a blanket or large sweater when it is hot outside, but cool inside with AC
  • learn something new – a craft, a simple musical instrument

With only three weeks (11 days!) of school left, I am resolved to focus on the positive. I am thinking of other things I can add to the list to make summer staycation 2020 as fun to anticipate as last year’s trip to Montreal.

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Packing up the room

19 May

Two years ago, I was told on the last day of school that I would be moved to a different grade and team. I had anticipated this news and had started packing up weeks ahead.

Last year, on the last day of school, my entire hall was told we would be moving to a different hall. I packed my room in one day, fueled by frustration and anger.

This year. Oh, this year!

This year, we are being given three days to pack up. Only one teacher per team can be there on any given day. A spreadsheet sign-up has been sent out. The school will provide boxes and gloves. It will be a bring your own mask party.

I hope pack up 2021 is less eventful.

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Zoom reality

12 May

I have to admit, I love the informal dress code of this new normal. And yet, despite my love of this informality, I try to “dress up” for meetings. Usually, that means wearing a shirt with a collar.

Last week, I had an important meeting with people I didn’t know well. I wanted to make a good impression so, before putting on the collared shirt, I brushed my teeth. I knew they wouldn’t be able to smell my breath, but that fresh minty flavor makes me feel fresher and more alert than coffee breath does. I returned to my bedroom. Should I wear the red shirt or is that too flashy? I wondered before grabbing  my light green  polo shirt from the drawer. I put it on. I was ready.

The meeting started with intros before rolling into business. As someone was speaking, I reached my hand up to play with the buttons of my polo shirt. But the buttons weren’t there. I focused my eyes more intently on the screen as my attention diverted to my errant buttons. With slow and subtle moves, I felt around. There was clearly something hard and buttony there, but I couldn’t understand why it was covered in cloth. I stifled a groan when the realization hit me:  my shirt was on inside out.

Can anyone tell? I worried. Continuing to divide my attention between the speaker and the screen, I scanned my image. The collar was outside and laying the way a collar should. The buttons were clearly not visible, but neither was the stitching that might have revealed my gaff. Thank goodness I chose the green polo.

At this point, I relaxed and rejoined the meeting with my full attention. There was nothing I could do to fix the situation, and – I hoped – no one could tell.  As the meeting wound up, I vowed that, next time, I’d skip brushing my teeth and be certain I had my shirt on properly.

 

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Behind the mask

5 May

Everybody in Whole Foods, the nearest grocery store to my house, wore a mask. Most wore gloves. That day, I was only wearing one glove because, when I got there, I discovered I must have dropped one between my front door and the store.

I had my list and wandered purposefully, paying attention to the yellow markers on the floor that helped shoppers understand the concept of six feet. It was a short list, mostly fresh items, and before long, I was in the checkout line. Here, too, there were yellow lines. Display shelves had been moved to help funnel people the most socially distant direction.

As I waited in line I watched the two clerks. One was still checking someone’s groceries, the other finished up and then cleaned. She sprayed they belt as it ran, wiped down the card reader, sprayed and wiped the counter, before wiping down the counter. Then, she made eye contact with me.

I walked over, smiling. That’s when it hit me, she couldn’t see my smile. And yet, I knew she was smiling because I noticed the crinkle around her eyes. We are going to have to start learning to read new social cues,  I thought as I unloaded my groceries.

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I contemplated this as I walked home. There weren’t many people on the sidewalks, but I veered into the street as I neared people. I didn’t look for social cues about who should step out of the way. I have always had a big personal space bubble. My idea of six feet is really more like thirty.

As I mounted the stairs to home, I found the missing glove. I threw it into the washing machine along with its mate and the face mask.

 

Questions and answers

21 Apr

Officially, I have office hours. All the teachers in my district do. And yet, I get interesting questions by email at all times of the day (and night). I thought I’d share a few of these with you today, with my answers.

Q1:Screen Shot 2020-04-21 at 6.07.28 AM

A1:
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Q2:
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A2:
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Parents are in the mix, too. Especially since we started getting in touch about students who have not turned n work or participated in online activities. And then, there are the random ones, like this, from the parent of a former student whose son is in a friends class:

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I haven’t replied yet, but at 55, I felt like she was making me a job offer.

Learning to navigate

14 Apr

Just before we knew we had to begin online teaching, I saw this tweet from Pernille Ripp:

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I took it to heart.

I mentioned it to my principal the day I went in to school to collect the materials I’d need for online teaching.

I mentioned it to my teaching partner and any other teacher I’ve spoken with.

I did two Webinars last week to learn more about online teaching and the presenter said the same thing.

As the expectations for teachers have shifted from two ungraded lessons a week to four lessons a week and 5 hours of “office time” with grading still TBD, I have held this idea in my heart and mind.

We have kids who have to share devices with siblings – maybe even parents.

We have kids with little quiet space in which to work.

We have to shift our perspective of what and how we teach.

So, thank you Pernille Ripp, for writing that Tweet. It has been my compass as we navigate these uncharted waters.

 

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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