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!

Teacher Appreciation Week

Teacher appreciation week is a funny thing when you’re a teacher, a parent, and VP on the PTO.  There are lots of hats to wear and lines to consider.

Each year the PTO organizes a week of lunches and treats for the teachers.  As VP I did a lot of the logistics and organizing for this.  I mentally refused to bake or supply food though.  :)  I did set up a “thank you note” station in the library and had all of the classes write thank you notes for teachers and staff.  Fortunately another parent was kind enough to bundle them together and I arranged for the Standing O winners deliver them to teachers.   I was a little stressed going into the week, but parents stepped up nicely and there was a great spread for lunch each day.    I was thrilled to walk into school on Thursday morning and find this:

Chalk love

It was thoughtful and sweet and (most importantly) not organized by me!  I still have no idea who did it.  There were hearts and flowers drawn all over the walkway.  It definitely made me smile.

Friday I allowed myself to relax and consider it a week well done.

Tea and cookies.

I love seeing my messy craft table where the kids have been working for two weeks turned into sweet little bundles and delivered by smiling children.

Some of the love.

Next year I will be just a teacher, no longer a DBS parent (*sniff*) and no longer on the PTO.  I bet the week will look and feel a little different for me.

Emotional Ups and Downs

We signed a contract on our house today. The one we’re selling. It should be an awesome, exciting thing, but instead we are both frustrated and cranky. We like the buyer, don’t like the agent, don’t love the deal, but agree that it’s good. The buyer came to us first, we showed her the house, she made an offer, then brought in an agent. We have been going back and forth for a few weeks now. They want more, we want more, blah, blah, blah. We were *this close* to the deal, when I got a call yesterday morning from an agent asking if she could show our house to her buyers. I said sure. This morning we get a final updated contract from the buyer and a 7pm deadline for signing. I called the other agent to let her know and she said her buyers are very eager and would still like the house. Ok. Spent the afternoon cleaning the place spotless (ha!), which is good to do sometimes anyway, and they came to see the house. I loved the couple! They reminded me so much of me and Alan when we bought this house. They have a 1yr old and are pregnant with another one. Loved the neighborhood, etc. Sadly there wasn’t much time to think. We had a really nice meeting, then Alan and I had an hour to imagine we would get a counter offer – one that was more money and less frustration. It was a nice imaginary hour. Then the agent texted me and said the couple loved the house, but not the wide-open backyard. Bummer. Not much we can do about that. So we signed the contract with the other buyer. Alan was frustrated with the buyer’s agent’s attitude and the sudden deadline. It’s not the warm, happy feeling we were hoping for. It’s a business transaction, I keep reminding myself, and not personal. It will be ok. I have faith. But boy, I am mentally exhausted now! Before all this we spent the morning at school helping to run the kindergarten open house, then back home (late) to meet a town official who can close out a building permit for our basement.

I keep reminding myself, busy summer, busy summer, busy summer. It will all turn out ok in the end. It will.

I joined the C25K running program again and my body seems to have forgotten how to run in the few weeks I was on vacation. Yesterday I was feeling TOTALLY stressed out and my neighbor, who is also doing the program, texted to offer me a ride. I said I was so stressed and busy and wasn’t going to make it. She said ok, but then nicely/gently suggested that maybe fresh air and running would be helpful. Dang peer pressure! I went and, of course, it was good. The fresh air, running, and social interaction!

On Monday we went to the lake with some friends, who invited other friends, and I invited other friends, and it ended up being a very big group. You’d think that would be good, but really it was just a lot of trying to make decisions and brief interactions with lots of people. Not quite the long chat on the beach with a bestie that I was hoping for. After an hour there Eve settled in for a snooze on the blanket. What? That’s not like her. I gave her a nice sunscreen massage and she was burning up. Eek! We stayed for a little longer, then headed home to find a thermometer. She had a temp of 103.7°!! I gave her Tylenol and dragged her to the dentist (mean mommy!) where we discovered that she has a cavity and Lex needs two teeth pulled. Ugh. Then home again. She had a temp all night and all the next day, but it was slowly coming down. She was complaining of achy body and a lump in her throat. Last night I started Googling Lyme disease. Ugh. This morning she woke up and the fever was gone and the pain was gone. All better? I hope!

Here are a few pictures of other stuff going on.

A sick Eve and a very sweet friend cuddling her.

A sneak peek at my back to school bulletin board.

I started a new Instagram for school. @dbslibrary Feel free to follow if you just can’t get enough of me. :)

A view out my new kitchen window.

An excellent book! I’d highly recommend it if you’re into YA. :) Also, it’s number 26 on my list of 30. So close!

Tomorrow we only have two commitments, both of them at home (boiler inspection and piano pickup). We are all (except Alan who has to go to work — sorry Alan — thank you Alan!) looking forward to a calmer day. I might bake cookies and visit our neighbor’s brand new baby.

I feel like I won an award!

There is this organization called the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award Committee that does an annual book award (hence the name!).  They select 30 new young adult novels and kids around the state read and vote for their favorites.  We have been doing that in the library and voting was just this week.  This is their 60th year and the committee had an art contest asking students in grades 4-8 (the grades that can participate in the book voting) to design a poster celebrating reading and 60 years of this Dorothy Canfield Fisher book award.  Guess what?!  One of my students won!  She did all the work, I just promoted the contest and submitted her entry, but I kinda feel like I won a little too!  :)  She gets two signed copies of the winning book (still being voted on) and she gets an award and recognition at the award ceremony!  I was hoping to take a few students there, but now I’m totally going to do it!!  I’m just waiting for them to announce the date!  I’m so excited for her.  :)

Enrichment

I run an enrichment group at school where twice a week I work with a small group of kids who can afford to miss some class time.  The sessions run for 3-6 weeks, depending on the topic, and teachers chose which students to send.  For my upcoming enrichment group Eve’s teacher chose Eve to go.  I was talking to Eve about it the other day and said I was thinking about doing either electricity or book reviews.  She wasn’t thrilled with those options.  :)  She is pretty set on doing a research project about the topic of your choice and presenting it in the way of your choice (prezi, glogster, poster, Google presentation, etc.)

Tonight while I was laying with her I told her I just didn’t feel prepared for an enrichment group about research.  She said, “That’s ok mom, we can do it together this weekend! We’ll start with a rubric.”  The conversation went from there.  When I left her we agreed to work together this weekend on it.  When I went to check on her just now I found this:

Eve’s rubric

I love that girl!  We’ve got education in our blood!

An awesome day of professional development!

* I’ll bet you don’t hear that title sentence very often!
** I haven’t blogged in so long that WordPress forgot who I was and made me log in again. :/
*** Happy November!! It’s a good month (says the almost old lady!)

I spent today at Vermont Fest 2016, an education conference with a technology focus. According to their website they are the “premier fall education conference,” so it’s pretty cool that I go to go. I started at a BORING session about grants and quickly excused myself and headed to the Innovation Space for some hands on learning! I saw some cool new STEM toys and got to make my first ever paper circuit card!! I am in love! I’m going back tomorrow to make some more. I’m also going to buy some supplies and make holiday cards with my enrichment groups. I’m excited already!

No denying this lady is turning 40! The woman who taught me how to do this wanted to post a picture on Twitter. I’d like to say it’s because I’m so cool, but I’m pretty sure she took pictures of everyone who did a project. :)

Inside the card you can see the copper tape and LEDs.

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I posted a little more info and a few more photos on the library blog. Check it out if you’re interested.

The one down side to my professional development day is that I had to leave right at the end and didn’t have time to stick around for the door prizes — and they had VERY COOL door prizes!! I had to leave to get back in time for Lex’s parent/teacher conference and truth be told, I considered being late just so I could stay for the chance at winning a prize! They were supposed to start at 3:45 and I had to leave by 4pm, but they hadn’t even started by 4pm so I didn’t stick around. I hope they have more awesome door prizes tomorrow and I hope I win one!! :) I did come home with a rather large collection of vendor pens, a full belly, and a head full of ideas, so I guess that’s pretty good too.

Library blog

Hey all, in case this blog isn’t fascinating enough, check out my new school library blog. (You know you want to, Mom!) It’s filled with exciting things like library schedules and book awards! Of course I got a picture of Eve up there already! (Truthfully, I’m not sure yet on the media release situation, so I thought it best to stick to pictures of kids I know for now.) Enjoy!

Also, did you see I just did three blog posts in one evening? That’s my quota for the week! See ya next week! :)

Open House

This post is a few days delayed, but better late than never.  Thursday was open house at school.  Each grade does a 10-15 minute presentation of their curriculum, but I wasn’t sure if I could get out of the library that long, so Eve and I went for a sneak peek at her classroom.  She showed me around, we did the scavenger hunt, and got full access to the teachers (ha!) until 6pm when Open House officially started and I scooted back to the library.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for library attendance, but I was pleased that it was packed for the entire time!  Kids stopped by to introduce me to their parents (while I desperately tried to recall the kid’s name in my head!) and parents that I’m friends with stopped by and it was very nice all around.  The hour flew by!

I love seeing Eve’s work.  Her poetry is amazing to me, and not just because it’s often about how much she loves me. :)  Lately she has been sitting in her bed at night writing poetry.  She has a great one about the holidays, and the “mom” poem she wrote me a few weeks ago.  At Open House she showed me her, “I am from” poem that they did in class.  I love it!

Eve is an excellent writer… you just have to decode her spelling! :)

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Week one done

We made it through the first week of school and now we are celebrating the long weekend with a “no-plans” weekend.  :)  Other families are off on exciting Labor Day vacations, and we are cozying down in PJs with the weekend comics and a big mug of tea.  That’s the way we roll.

I had a fairly easy transition into my teaching, with just one class the first day, no classes the second day (but lots of learning about the tech at school), and four classes each the last two days of the week.  I was exhausted Wednesday night (my no class day!) and feeling nervous about the next day with four classes.  I put the kids to bed early and myself to be immediately after them.  Thursday rolled around and the day was great!!  Four great classes!  Friday was the same.  I’m sure they won’t always be great, but I’m super happy about how the first week went.  :)

Eve is enjoying her new mixed class with all of the kids in one room.  It’s a big group of students and teachers, but so far she’s happy.  She also got an award for showing Caring, Safe, and Responsible behavior all week long.  It’s a new program they started this year and Eve was thrilled to be one of the first students to get it.

Lex made it to school happily each day.  He has homework now that is often online, so we need to come up with a way to keep track of that.  In the past homework was on a piece of paper that could sit on the table until it was done, but now he’s a big kid and things are changing.  He had a field trip to the lake where they did team building activities and tie-dyed t-shirts.  He had fun.

Everyone is happy to go back next week… after a three day weekend!