Teacher of the Year!!

Wha, what?!

Every year in the spring teachers in the building nominate someone for Teacher of the Year. We all have a chance to nominate, then there is a vote, then the winner is announced at the District-wide Back-to-School Breakfast at the beginning of the year.

This year, Covid-19 hit and all norms went right out the window! I maybe thought about Teacher of the Year briefly when I realized we weren’t doing the District Breakfast, but that was about it.  I assumed we were not doing it this year due to Covid.  There is A LOT we are not doing this year because of Covid! But you know what they say about assuming…

At our first official staff meeting, held virtually, of course, the principal announced the two longevity awards (for teachers who have been in the district for a long time) and then said this:  Video

I had no idea! If I even suspected, I would have done my hair and not been eating an apple! :)  The one day I woke up late, threw my hair in a ponytail, and tossed some random foods in my lunch box… turns out to be the day the whole school is looking at me!  LOL.

I feel pretty dang appreciated though!

Later in the evening I logged into the high school performing arts department’s Welcome Back zoom meeting for parents and students. When the music teachers pulled up the website to show parents, they also gave me a shout-out for all the work I’ve done on it and how awesome it is.

I work hard, for sure, and I never feel taken advantage of, but it is pretty nice to get the accolades!  And the plaque!

First day of school — corona style!

Students returned to school today for the first time since March 17th! Teachers returned for in-service three weeks ago, which seems like a lot of time, but boy did it go fast! There is a lot to do and even more decisions to make when you are opening school during a pandemic! But things were done and decisions were made and today we welcomed kids back with smiling eyes and lots of air hugs! It was weird and good and crazy and hard. Kids were on their best behaviors, for today, as we all navigated this new world together. I hope that behavior continues, though I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not a realistic hope!

On the home front, Eve has decided to participate in the fully-remote option and Lex has decided to do the hybrid options.  This meant that today Lex went to school and Eve was home. I made a deal with a neighbor friend that she would bring Lex to school and I’d pick her kids up with Lex at the end of the day. It was very weird leaving this morning and hoping that my kids would both get themselves to “school” on time. We did lots of prepping and planning, and it all paid off! Both kids got where they needed to be, did what they needed to do, and reported back that they had good days.  Whew!

First day photos are a little weird this year.  In hindsight, I wish I had made a #2020 or #coronatime (or something!) sign that they could have held with the pictures, but I didn’t.  Oh well.  I think Eve’s outfit says it all though. :)

We need to work on our group selfies. :)

I tried to take a picture of how exhausted I felt at 7pm, after a full day of school, kid pickup, and then an hour Remote Academy Zoom call (I’m running 4th grade for Remote Academy this year!). My phone decided to do portrait mode. I think it couldn’t handle my exhausted face! LOL.

2020 – the year when school supplies included masks, thermometers, and tick tweezers! 😲😱

Thoughts about back to school

We are exactly four weeks out from when I’m supposed to start back at school and five weeks until the kids’ official first day back. Assuming nothing changes. In a normal year I would be making plans, we would be checking school supply lists and back to school shopping, I’d be writing lesson plans and we would be trying to cram as much fun into the remaining few weeks. And by “fun” I mean relaxation! :)

This year is a big who knows! I’ve been reading the articles online, listening to the news, talking to my teacher colleagues, and trying to find the balance between relaxation and panic. Panic! Not even taking it account politics and racial tensions, back to school planning is overwhelming.

For my entire life as a parent, I have put the needs of my own kids first. I have done everything I could to make sure they are supported and cared for. I left a high paying job to be home with them. I got into teaching to be available after school and during the summers. I have worked very, very hard to make sure they are successful human beings. I don’t regret a single second of it, but now I wonder if my plans are backfiring. My kids did really well with remote learning. Eve is happier now that she has been in a long time! She was really struggling with middle school and since we switched to remote learning she has been so much more relaxed. She’s even wearing light gray clothes, instead of all black. :) Lex missed band class, but otherwise did really well with remote learning too. None of us are interested in wearing masks for 8 hrs a day. Lex has opted to continue remote karate and drum lessons so as not to have to wear a mask in those settings. If I didn’t have to go back to school, I’m 90% sure I’d keep them home in the fall. The other 10% is because I would actually let them have input if it was an option, but it’s not an option because I have to go back to school. I have to go back to school and be surrounded by small children who won’t be able to social distance and won’t wear masks effectively for a full school day.

We are lucky that our COVID-19 rates are very low in Vermont, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune. I have such mixed emotions about school. I understand that kids need to be in school so parents can work (that darn economy!) and that they miss seeing each other. I understand that some kids don’t have the family support at home to be successful with remote learning. I understand. I also know that school will NOT look like school as we know it. We will be wearing masks. We will be social distancing. We will have Plexiglas barriers and one-way hallways. When kids come back and want to hug their friends and teachers, we will have to say no. When they want to hold a friend’s hand. No. When they want to sit next to me for a story. No. When they are feeling sad and need a hug. No. No?

I know a lot of kids needs the structure and stability of school (and safety, unfortunately). I know a lot of families need the childcare that school provides. I also know that nothing will be the same when students walk in the door on the first day of school. Nothing can be the same. We will all do our best, but I hope it’s enough. And I hope my working with kids doesn’t bring the virus into our home.

Who knew teaching was such a high-risk job? Sheesh.

A busy day!

In these COVID-19 times we spent most of the days at home, socially isoalting.  Usually a big day is a trip to the grocery store.

Today we had a legit busy day!

It started with a visit from the Geek Squad because our microwave has been broken for a week.  We have living like pioneers, cooking our food over an open flame in the woods… or something like that.  Finally the repair guys came. They spread a moving blanket over the stove, removed the microwave and went to work.  Alan was in the office and the kids and I were at the dining room table, all trying to do proper social distancing.  After a few minutes we started to notice an awful chemical smell that grew stronger and stronger.  I thought they were using sort of chemical cleaner or something. Eventually we opened the windows. Alan came out and asked if something blew a fuse. The Geek Squad guys had no idea what was causing the smell.  We all endured.  Awhile later one of the guys said, “Oh no!” and they realized that they had accidentally turned the stove on!!  The moving blanket, squished between the stove and microwave, was melting and on fire! He bundled it up and rushed it outside, where it continued to simmer.  The house smelled AWFUL!!  We open the windows, Alan brought out all the fans from the old house, the guys tried to clean the stove.  It was awful. Eve went outside to keep doing her school work.  After awhile she came back in and said that it was smokier outside than inside. What?!  Alan went to look and found the blanket still smoldering, and smoking like crazy!  He broke out the hose and went to work while the Geek Squad guys continued to clean up.  Sigh.  Needless to say, they needed a part they didn’t have, so our microwave still doesn’t work!  They ordered the new part and will be back next week to fix it. We will continue living in the dark ages.  I don’t know why anyone, ANYONE, chooses to live without a microwave! :)

After that adventure we taped some signs on the car and headed down to DBS to join the HSD parade!  In all honesty, I was dreading this.  The forecast called for 100% chance of rain today and I was just imagining wet cars, windows up, kids huddled under umbrellas, etc. It seemed awful.  Mother Nature, however, cut us a break today!  The weather was PERFECT!!  We had decorated cars, students and families came out with big signs and even bigger smiles.  I felt like a celebrity! Alan came along to drive so I could wave.  It was so awesome.  I had a huge smile!

When we got back to school, Alan and I sent up the donated tent and got ready for book checkout.  After being out of school for two full months, we organized a book exchange for this week.  On Monday and Tuesday we accepted book returns.  The principal and secretary took turns sitting outside to accept books on Monday and Tuesday.  All week I took email “orders” for books. Last night I went in to school and checked in all the books, then “filled” all of the book orders.  This afternoon I sat out front and handed out books to the 20 families who had requested new books.  It might not seem like a lot, but it was great!  So many parents and kids were thrilled.  One family, with three avid readers, were arguing over who got to open the bag.  Their mom said that book checkout was the highlight of their day.  I said, “really? We had the parade today.” She said, “yes, the liked the parade, but they kept asking when they could get their new books.” :)  In another car I handed the kindergartner his bag of books and he tore right in to it.  He immediately told his mom about all the great books, then handed one to his 2yr old sister in the car seat next to him. I chatted with mom for a few minutes, then said goodbye to kiddo who, nose in book, completely ignored me.  Mom apologized.  I told her I LOVE seeing kids with noses in books! No need to apologize!

One of my coworkers was there for another purpose (handing out Finding Our Strides t-shirts), so we took this picture and posted it to Facebook to remind families to stop by. We were both smiling, then laughed at ourselves for smiling with the masks on. :)

The weather all week has been iffy, so the director of the parks department, who also has a kid at DBS, offered to let us borrow a tent for our book exchange this week.  It was awesome! It kept the rain off the principal and books earlier in the week, and it kept the sun off of me this afternoon! The forecast still said rain, the clouds were dark, but the sun was strong and kept breaking through. I felt very fortunate to have a tent over my head as I sat at a picnic table covered in books!

By the time I got home the forecast had changed from rain to hail, with a tornado warning! I showered (COVID germs all day!) and then sent the kids up for early showers.  Then we all watched UP as the storm rolled in.  (It has since passed and we didn’t get hail OR a tornado! We did get lots of heavy rain though!)

After months of little to nothing going on outside the house, today felt like a real whirlwind of people and excitement!  Last summer this would have been just another Saturday.  But on a Friday. It’s a weird world.

We are looking forward to a sunny, no plans Saturday!

Home Learning – Day 2

Hello all, we are on day two of home learning.  Day one passed in a flash.  All the teachers and all the kids and all the parents trying to connect to all the things… kept all of me busy for a very long time! But we got through it, most people got up and running, and most people were happy. I left mid-day for a brief walk in the sunshine, which was great and helped me clear up a support issue that had me stumped. Nothing like a change of scenery to clear your mind! The email influx continued today. Lots of parents, some more patient than others. Some shared their frustrations with the situation. We all concurred and reminded each other to go slow, and take a breath, and we can get through this together.

My kids are enjoying home learning, though it has resulted in a lot more screen time for all of us. Something I don’t love, but they don’t seem to mind. :) Yesterday brought frustration from one and tears from the other, but we got through it, sorted things out, solved the problems, and got through our day.

Once the tech support need lightens I’m going to have to focus on our own schedule at home. If this goes from two weeks to many more, I need to develop a routine that doesn’t involve us on the computers non-stop. Today I was thinking a 4pm family game time would be lovely. Of course today at 4pm I was still working. :/ Then I had to remind myself the same thing I’ve been reminding everyone else. Go slow. Take a breath. We can’t do it all immediately.  We’ll get through this.

The best part of my day, was when I took 10 minutes to check in on my Library lessons.  I found over a dozen kids had left comments about how much they really liked the book I had read (recorded myself reading) and shared with them. They told me about parts of the book they liked, and that it was good I was still reading to them. One kid, completely unprompted by me, recorded herself reading The Book With No Pictures and shared it with me. She said she was reading it for her cousin and thought I would want to see it too.  She giggles the whole way through the book. It was fantastic and I literally LOLed many times! In the middle of tech support hell I hadn’t realized how much I missed the kids.  It was nice to reconnect with some of them, even just virtually.

Here was Eve’s Day 2 Advisory session:

Dog on head? Check! Cat on lap? Check! Full of giggles? OF COURSE!

Or maybe it was later in the Day 1 session?  I can’t keep track. It’s all blending together in my head! Today the governor issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which I guess is a nicer, Vermonty-er way to say shelter-in-place or lock-down. I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my daily life, since we’ve essentially be home since last Wednesday.

Ok, it’s 8pm and this post is pretty rambly. I’m going to (attempt to) step away from the computer for awhile. It snowed a bunch last night. It was cold and wet today. I hope the warm sunshine comes back soon.  G’night all. <3

PS. If you want more (and better) things to read, check out this blog started by my friend and author Andi Diehn.  She is a great writer and her daily posts have been a highlight in my days this past week.  Mere Countrywoman

The world has gone crazy! (Coronavirus takes over)

Wow! What a whirlwind week it has been!  Exactly one week ago we were in school, wondering what the status of school in Vermont would be for the foreseeable future. Other schools in other states had started closing down due to the rapid spread of the Cornonavirus (aka COVID-19).  Because of my role, the principal had asked me a few days earlier to look into a few tech-related questions associated with closing school and transitioning to elearning. Friday afternoon he was pulled into a meeting at the Superintendents office and the Governor of VT was scheduled to speak in the evening.  We were all (mentally) prepared to be shut down.  But nope, Governor Scott said that schools will remain open. By Saturday schools within an hour from us had started closing and by Sunday the state of NH closed down their schools. Governor Scott made an announcement Sunday evening saying that schools in Vermont would also be closing and had to be closed by Wednesday, and that parents could optionally keep their kids home all week. There was a lot of confusion about the whole thing and we all waited anxiously for word on Sunday night about what the plan for Monday would be. It felt like a surreal snow day situation. Late Sunday night we got word that school would be open for students on Monday and Tuesday, then support staff would stay through Thursday and teachers would stay through Friday. We went in Monday to about half the student population, and by Monday night we were all feeling the rush. Our Wednesday staff meeting got canceled, the professional development I was supposed to do all morning on Wednesday got moved up to Tuesday with the boss finding coverage wherever he could for me and the other teachers. I had sub coverage on Monday and Tuesday while I rushed around, getting things setup, getting accounts made and Chromebooks organized and staff supported. It was wild. Kids had cracked and bleeding hands from washing so often. The run on Purell and toilet paper was a constant source of amazement and conversation. On Tuesday we had about 25% of the student body and staff was told we would have Wednesday to finish prepping, but that’s it. By 5pm Tuesday, when many of us were still there, prepping and handing out Chromebooks, we got a message from the Superintendent that staff should stay home Wednesday, but admin would be there for the whole duration. As of Thursday, admin were told to stay home full time too. It was crazy! Like every minute things were changing and even sometimes when it wasn’t officially changed, we all had the feeling that it would be changing and were acting accordingly. It was nuts.

Now we are all home. The time is sort of a blur. The kids are in “vacation” mode and I’m in email hell. Flipping a whole district from school-based to “home learning” is a big undertaking, and to do it in three days is insane! The internet is exploding with companies offering free services for closed schools, free books, free video chat, free apps, free this free that.  All that’s great, but trying to keep track of any of it is insane. I’m now supporting 300+ people remotely, learning how to use new products on the fly so I can support teachers who are asking how to use them, trying to prep library lessons, and (kinda) keeping track of my own kids. Trying to stay on top of emails. It’s nuts.  All the gyms have closed and some have switched to Livestreaming workouts. Karate has closed, but is now doing workouts in a Zoom session (like a virtual conference where everyone is wearing a gi and armed with bos and sais). Even drum lessons will be done remotely starting Monday. That should be interesting.

Also, my kids are supposed to be elearning too! Lots of emails from their schools and their teachers. “Home Learning” doesn’t officially start until Monday, a fact which both kids remind me of, frequently. Next week will bring more emails as parents and students try logging in and using all the new tools for the first time. I’m hoping by the end of next week things will settle down. My boss was nice enough to lower his library expectations (though I have not) so I can focus on the tech.

Hopefully by next week we’ll have settled in to this new normal. We are currently closed until April 6th, but the general consensus is that we’ll be closed (much) longer than that. The unknown makes everything even harder to plan for. What a weird and surreal experience.

On a lighter note, I’m so thankful that I work with kind and flexible coworkers, that the technology exists to make this type of transition happen, and that my own family is healthy and well and not worried for our own health or financial stability. I’m thankful that the weather is warming and the days are getting longer. Can you imagine if this had happened in January?! At least now we can get outside, take the dog for a walk (the hilariously naked dog), and breath in the sunshine and fresh air.

Hang in there world, friends, and family. We’ll all get through this and I’ll see you on the other side. <3

And now, your moment of zen…

Huxley joins Eve for her morning Advisory meeting.

Holiday Concert

The high school holiday concert was last night. The dress code was black on black, with a tie for the boys.  And Lex put on a tie!!  I was shocked. He wore Alan’s tie and Alan’s belt, and everything else is new.  I think it might even be his first time in a button down shirt!  The boy has come a long way and who would have ever guessed that percussion would be the path to get him there. <3

Lex in a tie

The concert band had four songs, one of which called for a theremin.  The high school doesn’t own a theremin, so the band director asked Lex if he wanted to play the part on an iPad. He did.  He was nervous and said he made a few mistakes, but I think it’s great and the audience loved it.

It was cool to have him front and center for that piece, because normally you don’t see much of him in a concert. :)

The band

 

Leaving is hard…

… even if it’s just for two days.  I’m at a conference today and tomorrow.  I stopped by the front office at school on Wednesday afternoon to let the secretary know that I left the sub plan on my desk.  She said, “I don’t have any note of you being out.  I have no sub for you!”  Ack! I got approval from the boss and did all required paperwork!  Apparently he forgot to tell her.  She scrambled and found me a sub, and I felt bad, even though I did everything right.

I told Alan last night that he’d have to bring both kids to school because I was leaving early. He asked why I was leaving early, so I reminded him of the conference. I told both kids about it at night when I was putting them to bed, both seemed surprised. Holy moly, I’ve been talking about this for weeks! So much for my prepping.

This morning Eve work up late and in a total funk. She was crying and sad about everything. I felt bad both leaving her and leaving her for Alan to deal with. This evening she called to tell me the dog chewed up her shoe.  She only has one pair of shoes. :/

Sigh. The conference is going well at least.

Fun with paper circuits… or in this case, ribbon circuits!

The view’s not bad, if you like all that white stuff!! :)

Book Fair

Another book fair has come and gone.  This year, to accommodate the new parent/teacher conference schedule, I ran it from Wednesday to Tuesday, instead of the usual Monday to Friday. It made for a weird week, but it was nice to have the weekend off.  The book fair takes 110% of my energy! I “open” it at 7:30 each morning, run it throughout the day, whenever I don’t have library classes, and keep it open until 4:00pm each day.  On conference days I keep it open until 6pm.  It’s fun and the kids love it, but I’m always happy when it’s over too. :)

I love the trees in front of the school.

This year Clifford came to visit!!

Clifford visited several classrooms and brought a friend along to read stories. I coordinated and took pictures. :)

We had nearly $1000 more in sales this year than last year, which results in more Scholastic Dollars I can spend on books and supplies for the library and classrooms.  It’s well worth it.  I’ll be ready for it again this time next year. :)

Oh, baby!

I am having a very good time with Lex’s health class homework.

He came home the first week of school and told me he’d have to take care of a robot baby for a 12hr period.  He was *very* uncomfortable with the idea. There was also a vague option of an “alternative assignment” for those who couldn’t do the baby thing, and he seriously considered it, but since he didn’t even know what that alternative assignment was, he ended up talking himself into the baby.  He talks about it a lot and I know he’s trying to work himself up for the task. He decided he wanted to have the baby on a weekend, and have it activated on a Sunday… but when?

At high school open house last night the health teacher reminded him that he only had two weeks left, which means just two weekends.  We talked him in to taking baby this weekend. The teacher set it to activate on Sunday from 10:00am-10:00pm, times he chose so he can wake up and prepare himself before baby activates.

I got home from school today and he said, “Sooo…. I brought home a baby today.”  LOL!  Other kids have named their babies, but Lex is 100% resistant to that.  :)  He cracks me up.  He also keeps talking about all the baby noises it will make, and he calls them “ambient noises.”  LOL! I’m having so much fun with this.  I said, “You mean coos and baby gurgles?” He said, “I think of it more like Minecraft ambient noise.”

When Eve got home she was equally weirded out by the baby.  Much to my surprise though, she seems to be warming up to it.  We watched a show this evening and she cuddled the baby the whole time.

I can’t stop laughing about this whole situation and Lex’s extreme discomfort.  He’ll do fine, but he’s just so worried about it.  Last night he says, “Oh, no, I just realized I’ll have to shower during that time…. what should I do with the baby?”  LOL!  I told him he could probably ask someone else in the house to look after it while he showered.  :)

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to take any pictures of him with the baby because I don’t want to stress him out too much…. just enough to make myself laugh!

Happy weekend all!