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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.

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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.

 

I’ve become that person

7 Apr

Staying at home, the days have begun to blur together. Case in point: I almost missed that today was Slice of Life Tuesday.

As a result, any variation in my day is celebrated. Like a UPS delivery. Way back, I had an issue with a UPS delivery and signed up for some sort of alert. This means that, the day before a delivery, I get an email alerting me to the fact that a package will be delivered the next day. But on delivery day, the real excitement happens. I get an email with a “Follow My Delivery” option. You know I click on that and spend the next few hours following the truck as it meanders through my part of town.

It surprises me that sometimes, it comes very close to my house – only a block or two away – without delivering my package. I know UPS has a massive logistics division that has logically determined exactly when my package should be delivered on the most efficient route. I don’t mind the wait. Following my package is a fun diversion.

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Time on my hands

31 Mar

Despite the my grey hair and the many missives I receive from the AARP, I am not yet a senior citizen. This is important because it means I need to be aware of shopping times, i.e. the shopping times reserved for seniors and other vulnerable people. I know that my nearest shop, the tiny Whole Foods three blocks away, has reserved 8 – 9 a.m. for these folks.

Yesterday morning, feeling antsy, I decided to go to Whole Foods. I played the “let’s pretend I’m not going out without you” game with Lucy, but she had it figured out by the time we hit the sidewalk. The trembles started. Hardening my heart, we took a little walk and then returned to the house where I left her.

I had packed my backpack before the walk, so I could drop Lucy off, grab the bag and be out the door before she could really panic. It contained two reusable shopping bags, yellow Playtex gloves, and my wallet. I intentionally left my phone behind so it wouldn’t get germed. I also just wanted to enjoy my walk without distractions.

I knew I was a little early, but hadn’t realized quite how early I was going to be. As I walked through the parking lot, I saw a gloveless senior citizen raking groceries from her cart and putting them in her front seat, just like I do. Another person exited. He didn’t look like a senior, but he was a little further away. Maybe it was already nine.

I approached the doors, where the security guard stood. This was a new addition to the store the last time I was there. That time they mostly cleaned shopping carts, but I suspect they managed the lines at busier times.

“Am I early?” I asked as I approached, but maintained an appropriate social distance.

“Yeah, you got about 20 more minutes,” she told me, smiling, clearly not thinking of me the way the AARP does.

“No problem. I’ll just take a walk,” I replied as I veered off the other direction into the neighborhood.

Although this neighbor hood is near min and I often walk the major streets, there are many streets I don’t think I have ever been down. I peeked at porches and gardens as I walked past, trying to figure how far I needed to go before turning around and taking a different winding way home. I crossed the street when I saw people coming towards me and got to look at some different houses and yards.

It had rained really hard overnight and there were a few puddles to navigate around. I walked around a park, rather than through it, to a point where I thought I could turn around. Not having a watch or my phone made the actual time a guess. I decided that, as I walked back to Whole Foods, I would try to see if I could see the time through someone’s window. It was harder than I thought it would be. I saw mixers and plants, coffee makers and dog treats, but I could not see a clock. Not on a wall, not on a stove.

As I was about to round the last corner, I passed a house where I could see a large screen TV through the window. CNN was on, and I knew they usually showed the time in one corner or another. I slowed my pace, allowing my eyes to roam from corner to corner, trying no to look too much like a stalker. And the, there it was, in the upper right hand corner 12:07 ET. That meant it was 9:07 in Portland.

I picked up my pace, greeted the the same security guard when I reached Whole Foods, then entered the store ready to get the things I needed.

 

 

Allergic to baths

30 Mar

Lucy and I share many characteristics: we both like to stay home, we both like a cozy blanket, and we both have grass allergies. In fact, we take the exact same medication. My vet told me it was okay, for the record.

My eyes have been itchy and I have had some nasal congestion and sneezing, which, these days, makes me worry a bit. Lucy’s grass allergy manifests in a slightly different way. Her feet and tummy get itchy, and with the itching comes the gnawing and the  accompanying sounds, which are a little gross and a lot loud. The allergy medication keeps her skin under control most of the time, but every March, we have to take things a step further – all the way to the bathtub. And that is where we went yesterday.

I’ve written before about how much Lucy hates the bath. I didn’t have to chase her down this time because, after years of study, I have learned to trick her into entering the bathroom. When I close the door, though, she knows she’s been duped.

It surprises me that she falls for it, because I due her the same way at the vet and when she boards. We walk together to “the door of doom” and then it closes behind her. The only difference between the bathroom and those two places  is that I am behind the closed door with her.

As on any bath day, Lucy stood next to the door, hoping the fickle finger of fate would open it. It has never done so in the past and did not do so yesterday. I scooped her up and  set her in the tub. She acquiesced, as she always does when in this position. The terrible deed was over in ten minutes  – that’s how long the shampoo is supposed to stay on before being rinsed off. Out of the tub, a quick pat down and Lucy tears around the house, trying to regain her doggie scent.

Yesterday, though, she got the last laugh. Shortly after her bath, we went out for a walk. She did not return quite as clean as she left the house.

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Convocation commiseration

28 Mar

My niece, who has worked hard for the last four years, was told this week that there wold be no convocation to mark the attainment of her B.A. My sister and I texted for a bit about this sad situation and reflected a bit on ours.

I didn’t attend the ceremony for my Master’s degree from Portland State.  I am certain I attended the one for my Teaching degree from Brock University. I have some vague memories of a Spring day and my parents on campus. I do, however, remember the day I was awarded my B.A.

 

It was a beautiful day in June. I don’t remember the drive into Toronto with my parents. I have some memories of hordes of  Vic grads crowding  for our gowns. There might even have been a walk across campus to Convocation Hall.

convocation-hall

 

It’s funny the things I remember and the things I don’t.

I remember that, before the ceremony, as we were putting our gowns on,  we had received a card that had our name and degree on it. As we mounted the stage, we were to hand it to the MC, who announced us.

I remember being surprised when they told us that, the rolled diploma we would be handed on stage was, on fact, just a blank piece of paper. Once we exited the stage, we traded the fake diploma for the real thing. When my turn came, everything went off without a hitch.

After exiting the backstage area, we were sent up to the balcony to finish watching the rest of the ceremony. Moira Gill, who I knew from Margaret Addison Hall where I lived for my first two years, sat to my right. A young man I didn’t know sat to my left.

We were way up in the gods. Much whispering and peering at diplomas was going on as some unknown person gave the convocation address. These were the days before celebrity speakers. The young man to my left looked glum.

“I didn’t get mine,” he told us, blushing and chuckling nervously. We were all incredulous.

“Apparently, I have a library fine,” he confessed, clearly embarrassed.

We all sympathized and commiserated with the young man, while secretly harboring relief that we hadn’t suffered the same fate.

When the ceremony ended, I found my parents. Did we go out for dinner or just go straight home. I don’t really remember. I have always wondered if that young man took his family to the library to take care of his fine.

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P.S. I’m in the fourth row, fifth from the left

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