I, Joy Kirr, am a middle school teacher, author, and speaker. My 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts) classes are working to improve their lives through student-directed learning - without marks throughout the year. This is a log of my learning experiences... Want to have me speak with your staff or facilitate a workshop? Here is my PORTFOLIO.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Opportunity Not Taken

I haven't felt like I've had much to share lately that can actually HELP educators. I've got something today that I hope helps those who take the time to read it.

I'll say it again - I work in a well-off district. Not as wealthy as some, but during this school year, we've been provided extra monitors, small cameras for our laptops, and even bluetooth speaker/microphones. I've taken advantage of all of these. I've been fortunate to be able to attend the short training sessions that went along with these tools. I've watched the brief "how to" videos our main office created for us. I'm not saying that anybody but teachers teaching classes all day know what we need, but I am saying that many people in my district are trying. I've benefitted from some of this.

My own administration has also tried to help us in many ways. They've offered Q & A Zoom sessions, and I've taken those opportunities. They recorded a Q & A for our community, and I took the 40 minutes to listen to that one. Two teachers in our building have even offered an exercise routine after school a few times this year. Their own time; no pay. Some are taking that opportunity. I thought of it, but then realized I truly enjoy my walks instead.

Eight weeks in to this school year, the administration at my school offered another opportunity. They mentioned a couple of times to not worry about the cost - it was taken care of. They've partnered with a counseling service. It's a free wellness program with short videos you watch at your own pace. I contemplated it. It was supposed to help with our mindset, heartset, soulset, and healthset. It's to "help educators discover hidden hours in their day, sustain their energy through food and exercise, care for themselves through mindfulness and yoga, and embrace positivity." Sounds like a good goal.

When I first heard of it (during one of our two days provided to help us prepare for hybrid), I thought, "Not another program. Nope." Next, I thought, "It might be helpful if a couple of us did it together. We could support each other further." Then I thought, "It's free to me. It must have cost a lot of money. I should probably do it. I'll get something out of it, even if it's just a little. I'll wait to see if I hear that others are signing up."

An email reminder came. It said there were 16 videos, along with I-don't-remember-how-many pages of a workbook. My gut said, "No way. I'm not going to take a class on top of everything I'm already doing. I don't have time." Yet I still did not delete the email.

One more reminder came (oh, the emails with links embedded in links!) - this time with a time limit to get in our response. My brain said, "Don't delay!" and suddenly I was reminded of one of the lessons in this book that my friend, Rik Rowe, recommended to me.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less: McKeown, Greg:  8601407068765: Amazon.com: Books

The author warned that many opportunities will come our way, and many times we feel guilty if we don't take them. This one had all the signs - it's free! It's helpful! It's on my own time! Hurry up - this offer won't last! And it was tugging at me with each reminder that I should probably take this opportunity. Once I realized this, I put myself through a little test. I told my husband about it, and he said what he normally does, "Do it if you think it will help." I left the email reminder in my inbox. This past Friday was the due date. I let it slip by without responding. And today, I feel good about that decision to pass on this opportunity.

The author of Essentialism talked a ton about our TIME. How we use our time is so important. I need to do what I KNOW works for me. I don't have time for what I think MIGHT work for me. This program offered might be outstanding. Oh, well. I needed to take a pass on it. I've gone nine weeks now into the school year taking care of my mind, heart, soul and health. If I hadn't - believe me - I'd already have quit.

What is my priority this year? (According to essentialists, we can only have ONE priority. That word should never have been pluralized.) 

My priority: My health. Mental and physical. Everything else comes after. A benefit of COVID-19 is that I'm so much better at keeping this a priority than ever before in my life. And I've got a good base as to HOW.

I'm sharing my self-care routine once again, with a couple of additions.

  • I rarely leave work after 3:30.
  • I don't look at my email from 3:15 until the next morning.
  • I'm finding time to send good notes home to students.
  • I don't let myself feel guilty for reading an adult book (as opposed to a young adult book).
  • I'm getting outside - sometimes between classes, at lunch (when the weather is okay), and after school.
  • I'm not on a screen a ton when I get home.
  • I read fiction at least an hour before bed.
  • I'm eating regularly, and well.
  • I have a regular sleep schedule (9pm to 5am).
  • I'm using the pens I like. (Yes, even tiny things like not saving the best for later helps my head.)
  • I'm wearing my mask, washing my hands, and staying 6 feet apart from peers.
  • I'm not saying "yes" to any other positions (lunch supervision, clubs) that do not help me.
  • I'm saying "no" to opportunities that come my way that I'm not sure will help me.
  • I'm letting peers and family know how I feel - I'm not covering it up.
  • At home, I'm spending my time with my husband. (See below - Today we prepared apples to be frozen in order to make our first apple pies some day.)
Here's to opportunities NOT taken! And may those who take them get a TON out of them!

P.S. It's Day 219 since I was told to stay home from school in March. I'll have some students in person on Tuesday, so I guess my count will end at 220. Two hundred and twenty days since my students have been in school. Should be a fun week, even if there's not much learning going on... we'll practice more mental health and being safe first.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Benefits of Teaching Online

Back on September 4th, I was crying ugly before dinner. I remember thinking, "This is harder than the divorce," because I hadn't cried like that since 2009.

This past week, I was just getting into some sort of a groove. I can handle this. I might not like it; it might not be the best way to teach, but I'm getting better. Then we were told we were going to go "hybrid." I have no clue what that will look like. I also had no clue what teaching "remotely" (from school, however) would look like. So... it's time for me to share the benefits of teaching students through a screen. I will be losing some of these benefits in a couple of weeks.

  • None of my books go missing.
  • I don't have to clean up blood.
  • No sign out sheet for a break. In fact, breaks to not disrupt the class.
  • I get more breaks.
  • We can't get each other sick.
  • There's not a lot of in-class drama (that I know of).
  • There are fewer distractions to our class (besides students being on Netflix or YouTube while also "attending" class, and not responding when I call on them or want to give them a shout out).
  • There are no drills.
  • I can eat stinky food at lunch, because I'm not breathing on anyone.
  • Students can have their pets in their laps.
  • I can leave all my supplies out - all over the room if I'd like.
  • We can have 1:1 conferences without disturbing anyone else (THANK YOU, breakout rooms)!
  • It's easier to differentiate by using breakout rooms.
  • I receive fewer emails on the weekends.
  • I now dance and sing at the start of each class as I'm letting students out of the waiting room.
  • I've slowed down my speech and taken my time with my words, as I feel as if everything I say is being recorded once that camera light appears. This has helped me formulate what I want to say, and I hope it helps those kids who have internet problems.
  • I've gotten better at looking at one screen, figuring out who's talking in the other screen, and managing the chat with its private and public messages. 
  • I can teach without wearing a mask.
  • I can head outside the last 5-10 minutes of class.
  • I can yell down the hallway - in frustration or celebration or just when I'm feeling especially loopy after a crazy day.
  • I don't have to wear pants (no worries - my husband won't let me out of the house without them).
  • I don't have to wipe down tables and chairs except the table I may use at lunch.
  • It's pretty quiet.
  • I don't smell student farts after lunch. (It seems as if every year there's that one student...)
  • The "touch up my appearance" button on Zoom works wonders.
  • I have an actual routine.
  • I have our supplies way more organized than ever before.
  • I can still visit with my family outside.
  • I've learned more about how to take care of myself, as it's a true necessity.

My students added my name to our question of the day!

I hope to find ways to recreate some of these with some of my students being in front of me two days a week, and some of my students not coming into the school yet. My gut says that those at home will be receiving LESS of an education than they are now. I really wish anyone besides classroom teachers could come in to a typical class and see what goes on. Maybe then community members could see the physical and mental strain we're under. They may also have ideas for hybrid that we haven't yet thought of.

How I'm taking care of myself:

  • I rarely leave work after 3:30.
  • I don't look at my email from 3:15 until the next morning.
  • I'm finding time to send good notes home to students.
  • I don't let myself feel guilty for reading an adult book (as opposed to a young adult book).
  • I'm getting outside - sometimes between classes, at lunch (when the weather is okay), and after school.
  • I'm not on a screen a ton when I get home.
  • I read fiction at least an hour before bed.
  • I'm eating well.
  • I have a regular sleep schedule (9pm to 5am).
  • I'm using the pens I like. (Yes, even tiny things like not saving the best for later helps my head.)
  • I'm wearing my mask, washing my hands, and staying 6 feet apart from peers.

Please let me know what I'm missing. What are benefits I've not documented? What are other ways you're taking care of yourself?

Sunday, August 30, 2020

My School Year Prayer for 2020-2021

My Prayer / Hopes / Dreams / Wishes for 2020-2021 - a year like no other.

At the start of my 26th year as a teacher, I pray...

...for the teachers, that they may make the connections they seek, and that they are a beacon of light to their students on this difficult journey.

...for the parents, that they find balance in work and play and school and discipline and really listen to their children and learn along with them.

...for the children, that they find school engaging, relevant, and are aware that we all love them and want to help them learn and make their world better.

...for the parent-teachers, that they find childcare and balance somehow.

...for the administrators, that they not act until they know in their heart they're doing the right thing.

...for those who want in-person schooling the way it was, that they find patience and perspective.

...for all - strong internet.

...for those who are scared, that they find ways to keep covered and distant until we find a vaccine, and that they reach out to others who will lend an ear.

...for those who spew hate, that they find quiet and peace to another route to try.

...for my family, that I may not bring sickness home with me, and that they, too, stay safe and not share it amongst themselves.

...for myself, that I may find strength to combat hate with patience, be creative with ways to know my students through a screen, and that I may continue to try to look after my own mental and physical health while trying to be the best I can be in the classroom.

...for those I have left out because I still have a ton to learn in my own life, that they may know there are people in the world trying to see you, trying to hear you, and trying to include you. 💚


Photos from my school (which has educators teaching students who are home):

I threw away my footstool/seat & Yvette's (broken but usable) gaming chair. 
Karen threw away her blue round seat, too.

This is new (to me) furniture, borrowed from another classroom. It now fits 15 students.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Specific Ways I Will Be an Ally

I've been writing this blog post all summer. It was going to be titled "Specific Ways I Will Be Anti-Racist in School This Year" until I quickly realized I need to be this way ALL THE TIME. EVERYWHERE. Writing it for all to see will not only hold me accountable, but I hope it will help you, reader, with tools you can use alongside me, as an ally to our children and peers of color. I do not have all the answers. What I have here is a beginning.

From today-years-old, I pledge to do the following:

When I hear something from a peer that doesn't sit right with me, I will stop whatever I'm doing.
I will say calmly, "I'm uncomfortable with something that was said."

If I hear it in the classroom, I will stop whatever we're doing.
I will say calmly, "I just felt something shift in the room. I wonder if anyone else felt it."

I may follow up with any of the following:
  • Who else was uncomfortable?
  • Why do you think I am (or "we are") uncomfortable?
  • I don't find that funny.
  • We don't use hurtful words in our school.
  • I'm surprised to hear you say that.
  • That statement was racist. Why do you think it would be racist?
  • What do you mean by that?
  • Tell me more.
  • What point are you trying to make by saying that?
  • Did you mean for that statement to be hurtful?
  • Using that word (or those words) doesn't help others feel safe or accepted here.
  • I'm having a "yeah, but" moment - can you help me work through it?
  • I need time to process. Let's come back to that in a moment.
  • Do these words unsettle you? I have some resources if you're willing to learn more and be more comfortable talking about it in the near future.
  • We wake up each morning and want to do what's right for our students. Let's focus on the impact those words could have on all of our students.
  • Let's confront challenges together, even when they're uncomfortable.
Besides using the language above...
  • I will have these phrases ready (literally in my pocket).
  • If someone else speaks up before me, I will echo their message with support.
  • I will ask students how they want to feel in our class. We will curate their answers and make a plan as to how we can accomplish this. I will share my responses with students (above), so they have tools for helping our classroom be all we want it to be.
  • I will provide students phrases to use when they feel prejudice against them, such as, "I don't feel good when you say that" or "I don't feel respected right now."
  • When I provide book talks, I will add descriptions of the authors. For example, I may say, "The author of this book, ____ is a cisgendered Black American woman." Calling out the authors will let students know that anyone can become a writer, let students know that I support writers of all races, genders, etc., and it will help me make sure my classroom library becomes even more diverse. 
  • When students are in partners or groups, I will ask them to first find out a difference they have with each other, and then something they have in common.
  • I will post a message that says, "Black Lives Matter." I want my students of color to know they matter to me just as much as everyone else. I want them to know our class (in-person and virtual) is a safe space. (Thank you for pointing that out in a webinar on Aug. 6, 2020, Dr. Tron Young.)
  • I will create a space of curiosity - where we all have room to learn from multiple sources, especially each other's stories.
  • I hope to have an activity or writing prompt where I can ask students, "Share your earliest memory of race" or "When where you first instructed about race" or "When did being your race first impact you" or "How has being your race impact you?" (I'd love help with wording this one.)
  • I will work towards finding a way students can change the skin tone of their "reactions" via Zoom, so we see our differences in color in multiple ways.
  • I will use Rudine Sims Bishop's idea of "Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors."
  • When we are discussing ideas for school, I will inquire as to which perspectives we're missing.
  • I will continue to read (voraciously) and share perspectives of BIPOC.
If I do not speak up against biases or prejudices, it means I condone it.
I will make mistakes.
I will work towards being comfortable - with being uncomfortable.
I will renew my pledge to be an ally and to be anti-racist each and every day.
I will continue to strive to be a better person and better educator.

Resources I've used to help me with what I plan to say or do:
Would you like to join me in this pledge? Put your name in the comments below, along with your Twitter handle, and I'll connect with you once a month to see how we're doing and where we can use more guidance.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Day 141 - Sports During COVID-19

I'm fascinated with what the nation (U.S.) is trying with sports...

I'll focus on the NBA for this post - they just started playing their games two days ago. 

First, the players, coaches, referees, and everyone involved with the NBA (of the 22 teams that chose to play in Orlando, FL) are in a bubble. They have been since July 7-9. They can order food from five places if they don't want the food there. They can't leave. If they do, there's a hotline others can call to report them. Their families aren't there. They play games (like ping pong). They fish (in a stocked lake). 

Then there are the visible changes (photos are from my television)...

All players hooked elbows and kneeled for the anthem.

There are fake fans (when there aren't ads or points or a team name) on screens behind the benches:

And behind the nets:

Some on the spaced-out bench seats are wearing masks.

Players on the bench wear shirts that say, "Black Lives Matter."

The floor says, "Black Lives Matter."

On the back of their jerseys, they can choose their last name or there is a list of social justice phrases from which players can choose:
     Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can't Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Si Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am a Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group Economics, Education Reform, and Mentor.

Coaches have a badge on their shirts that say, "Coaches for Racial Justice."

I think this all fascinates me because I'm constantly thinking about heading back to school. In fact, when I hear "athletes," "players," or "coach," I often substitute, "students" or "teacher." If we could be in a bubble... If we could all wear masks and have the space to social distance... If we could get paid for not playing... (HAH! That's a joke, parents. Just a joke. I'm not in the sports entertainment industry, so I don't expect to get paid for not teaching. I heard just two nights ago that I'm "essential," yet I shouldn't be working - just as hard - from home...)


Golf is doing okay. It's a no-contact sport. Players usually stay away from each other.

In baseball, there is no bubble. The Marlins have at least 18 positive cases of COVID. They're being sent back to Florida by bus. The positive cases there... woah. The mound says "Black Lives Matter." Some players kneel for the anthem.

In hockey, they're trying to play the playoffs. No bubble. No news there yet.

In football, at least 30 players have opted out. They'll get $150,000 anyway.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Day 140 - One Teacher's Summer

I watched a school board meeting last night.

I heard one parent state that teachers have been out this summer ("vacation, restaurants, bars, protesting"), so what's the problem with returning to the school building? (Even though, once again, teachers are not deciding these things. And, once again, I'll say I, too, want to return to school when it's safe or when we can maintain six feet distance.)

So... I thought I'd document all the things I've done outside my own home this summer:

  • Grocery shopping every week - with mask on and distancing in place.
  • Sometimes we pick up food from a drive through. (We're saving a TON of money not going out every weekend like we used to.)
  • I picked up four house plants (didn't even get out of the vehicle - they put them in the back seat).
  • Social distance lunch (three of us) to celebrate a teacher who retired this year and give a gift. In case you're wondering - no hugs for this coworker.
  • Backyard planning with a coworker - never closer than six feet - not even heading into the house to use the restroom.
  • Front yard distanced lunch with two other teachers.
  • Social distance walking (me in the street, because I'm the "rebellious" one).
  • Social distance bike ride (one).
  • Played tennis with Hubby.
  • Front yard distancing at my parents' house. I decided to hug my parents on Day 100 - with a mask on. I know some teachers who still haven't hugged their parents yet.
  • Walks and bike rides.
  • Still learning my Spanish on Duolingo - 581 day streak as of today.
  • I went to my school building to pick up my book for a book club. No need to go past the foyer.
  • Two nights of camping for our anniversary - just Hubby and I. Hiking on our own, driving around, just the two of us. Here we are that day in June:
  • Drove one day to Illinois Beach and one to Warren Dunes State Park to swim in Lake Michigan. Loved that everyone kept their distance both days.
  • We hit golf balls at a driving range once (so far).
  • Each of us got our hair cut. Our second one is set for August.
  • I plan on going to the school building next week to take out the extra furniture I'd purchased myself to make our room more comfortable for my seventh graders. I'll wear gloves and a mask and not need to see anyone.
Maybe I should mention that day we... nope. We didn't do anything else this summer. Unless you count taking great care of the lawn and landscaping and house and puzzles and television and reading and writing and listening to music and making our own meals and ordering $180 worth of scrubs + masks when we heard school was starting "all-in" and keeping myriad ideas in mind until we heard I was going to teach remotely. THEN I could finally start planning. I've now had four days of planning for my next school year... on my "summer vacation." I want to do my best for the children.

I've held myself accountable and had this type of summer for a few reasons:

  • I want to stay healthy.
  • I want my family to stay healthy.
  • I want our nation to kick this virus.
  • I want to go back to school safely and be with (stranger's) children again.
I don't assume all parents are out and about with their kids not distancing or wearing masks. I have seen some, but I would never say a blanket statement about all parents, or really about any one "group" of people. This summer has been a struggle for many. We're in a pandemic.


Ideas that I heard at the meeting that I hope educators can do this school year:
  • I'd love to be able to meet the students before we start - somehow, someway.
  • I'd love to be able to meet 1:1 somehow with kids (maybe our homeroom?) each week or so to set goals and check in on progress and create new goals if needed. I hear it's not safe to meet 1:1 virtually, so I hope districts find and share ways to make it safe.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Negativity Switch

On my walk this morning, a block away from my home, the massive construction truck is on the same street as me, no signal on to turn, so I go to step off the curb to cross -- and he turns, cutting in front of me. I back up, hold my hands up, and think, "No. I'm NOT going to let myself feel like this all day today."

The next truck I see is actually one of those asphalt-scraper rigs, heading slowly down the street I'm still walking along, and I wave good morning. He waves back with a smile. I think, "This could cancel out the negative encounter I had this morning. THAT'S the kind of "cancel culture" I need right now.

I've learned that it's human for our brains to focus on the negative.
It's even got a name: Asymmetric Effect with Negative Bias. YUCK. I've had this affliction before.

I've got to cancel out these negative thoughts when I can. Here is what I try:
  • When I spot an educator shaming another educator on social media, I make sure to thank another teacher on social media - or maybe the one being shamed, depending on the situation.
  • When I have an appointment I am not looking forward to, I schedule something afterwards that I DO look forward to.
  • When I stop by Facebook and see scary posts, I look for something to share that's helpful to others.
  • When I'm breathing in too much toxicity from my laptop, I head outside to breathe a deep breath in nature.
  • When I start to worry (again) too much about our future, I remember that action helps me move forward and past the worry, so I choose to DO something.
  • When I think someone's acting like an idiot, I find something new to learn.
  • When I get off a difficult phone conversation, I purposely spend some time alone in the quiet (or outside with the birds and traffic noises - just no talking).
  • When I am bombarded with reminders that we're still in a pandemic, I stop and decide to notice things for which I'm grateful.

Another one I tried one time in my life and I'd like to try more often...

  • Hear negative self-talk? Repeat positive affirmations to yourself.

Sounds like a plan.

Can negativity truly be canceled? Nope.
I can, however, pause, then switch my thinking to try to turn if off for a bit.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Health Advice Should We Go Back to School Buildings

One of my (myriad) older cousins (David) has been a surgeon for longer than I've been teaching (>25 yrs). I wanted to share his advice far and wide. Planning helps me get through mental stress, and I hope this helps those heading back. Please let me know in the comments what else you will be doing to keep yourself safe.

Should we head back to school buildings:

At the end of the day the only way to minimize your individual risk of contracting the virus (and therefore spreading it to anyone you live with— doesn’t mean you will, but seems more likely than not) is to minimize your contact with people.  ALL people. The more you limit your exposure, the better your odds.  Still not 100%, but better.  

IF you go to a high risk environment (not necessarily as high risk as the nurses caring for Covid patients)— and I would consider any group of people in a closed space for ANY period of time high risk— then what can you do to minimize risk of bringing it home?  Well, no one knows for sure, but the medical people will: 

— Wear clothes that are easy to wash. Take them off in an antechamber (ie garage) put it immediately into the wash (high temp).  If the washer were in the garage it’d be ideal, but otherwise the space between the garage and the washer/whatever the dirty clothes touch needs be considered contaminated
— Leave your shoes either outside or in the antechamber (now a contaminated space)
— Typically they then go directly to the shower (either naked or in underwear depending on level of paranoia, I suppose), wash (including hair) in warm/hot water
— Get dressed in clean clothes
— The next day repeat— ad nauseam
— Remember, the idea is to keep your house a clean zone.  NOTHING comes in without being cleaned (ethanol/bleach/heat/UVC). I try to consider the car a clean zone as well (Purell on entering), but recognize it’s really not.

The concept is this will prevent any virus on your clothing/self from coming into the house.

It doesn’t do ANYTHING about your contracting the virus yourself.

To minimize THAT you need to: 
— Prevent any of your mucus membranes (lips/mouth/eyes) for coming in contact with the virus
— DON’T touch your face!!!!
— You can touch whatever you want with your hands (but minimizing contact with people- who may not/certainly won’t be as diligent as you--shaking hands etc). You have to consider your hands contaminated the whole time and don’t touch anything/decontaminate (soap and hot water/Purell/ethanol/bleach) frequently
— Remember, cloth/disposable/surgical masks probably DON’T protect you (there may some minimal protection, but only against droplet/direct gross contamination)— they are there to protect everyone else from you
— If you wanted to TRULY protect against what is almost certainly an airborne threat you’d need to wear an N95 mask and goggles.  I DON’T think you should attempt to reach this level (I don’t think it’s possible, actually, for a bunch of reasons including you’ll never find them, won’t wear them properly secondary to discomfort/poor practice, etc)
— Unfortunately, closing your eyes fast isn’t even in the realm of being helpful.  Your face is not contaminated (severely) as are your clothes and the air you breathe in. I told him my uncle I probably don't need goggles as I can turn away from sneezes... 😬


David said more, but it was about parenting and how the kids may not be being so safe right about now... we've seen this in person and online, so I don't need to add that here.

For me, this means I'll do the above. Plus... 
     -- I will wear my glasses instead of my contacts.
     -- I will most likely go with the scrubs option (at least on top - Hubby wants me to get the bottoms, too, as he thinks my jeans won't last through so many washings). 
     -- I will not be bringing any physical work home. Forget the backpack. 
     -- I might purchase recyclable water bottles for a bit, unless I can have Hubby put out hot soapy water in the sink before I get home to toss my much beloved water bottle in it.
     -- I will bring cold lunches in brown paper bags and have garbage instead of my reusable lunch bag.
     -- When I take my mask off to eat, I will only hold it by the ear loops and then place it face down on a clean surface like a Tupperware container specifically for the mask.
     -- I hear it's great to wipe my face when I do take the mask off - with simple facial wipes.
     -- I will keep my car key in my pants pocket.
     -- I will wash my hands/arms liberally before heading out to the car, and I won't touch anything on the way to the car.
     -- After my shower, I will make sure I spend some time outside. Being out in nature really helped me mentally and physically in the spring, and it's been helpful all summer long.
     -- I will search high and low for - and use - these disinfectants - in the car, wiping down my phone, I.D., and... ?
     -- I will continue to eat healthy, drink my probiotic, and get outside to exercise daily.

What are your tips? What have you heard that can help us stay safe?

P.S. How can I pass up these pants that are called "Joy" ??  I never knew there were such cute scrubs! I'll fork out the moolah. It's not like I'm buying anything this summer anyway.

Days 121-126 Ramblings

Sunday, July 12, Day 121 - Trump wore a MASK for the FIRST time in public. Well, to be fair, he wore it to visit wounded service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Seriously? It's Day 121. Over three million Americans have died from COVID.  
Mecum auto auction was on television. I noticed many white men spending lots of money. I also saw masks and face shields and somewhat social distancing. I also heard the difference in speech of those with masks on and those with only face shields.

Monday, July 13, Day 122 - Rice University in Houston is going to host some classes outdoors - some in circus tents.
Our library opened! They still have curbside service, and I have to say I only touched the ONE book I checked out.

Images that have made me go, "Hmmm..."

Wed., July 15, Day 124 - More than 11,000 Children Test Positive for Coronavirus in Florida
Also... you can get a mask with YOUR FACE on it. I'm considering this clear one, though.
Also... Our superintendent hosted multiple Zoom sessions (with more to come for at least a week) to answer any questions we had about various items.
Also... I seriously practiced WEARING MY MASK IN THE HOUSE. I tried for 25 minutes.

Fri, July 17, Day 126 - 
What if #45 had SHUT DOWN the U.S. for three full weeks? Would businesses be up and running totally now? Would students and teachers be ready to go back to the buildings? I hate lingering on "what ifs," but this annoying bugger keeps biting me in the butt.
I love that many educators in my district are joining - and sharing thoughts - on our three book clubs this summer that focus on equity.
My district approved a resolution (?) last night at the BOE meeting: 

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Day 120 - Hope

After three days of trying to stay away from the media or news or... everything hitting us left and right, and after three days of dealing with a migraine and heartache, I am emerging today, I am fresh from my first haircut since February, and I'm choosing to focus today on HOPE.

I would think "It's amazing what a haircut can do for your outlook." Yes. I know this is true, but I also see signs everywhere - through the murk and distractions - through the politics and news - signs that I need to continue to have HOPE. It may sound corny, but a quote a friend shared with me on Facebook is back in my brain today -
"Do not succumb to discouragement." ~Sr Pastor Dr. Michael Eaddy

  • My students have been posting helpful links on Instagram (probably other social media, as well, but I'm only connected to them through Instagram). Posts about Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, atrocities across the nation (and how to help), clothing lines from which to steer clear, why voting for Kanye won't help, reasons WHY others should care about soooo many causes. 
  • Students in my area are signing petitions and attending school board meetings...
  • Commercials on television, ads on my phone games, and news broadcasters all show others wearing masks. This message is from Uber:
  • Artists are doing their thing - helping us see so many sides of the angst in the world. (Alicia Keys HERE)
  • Sports are trying to start up again - in bubbles. Athletes are understood when they say they're skipping the season to keep their families safe. My hope here is that teachers are provided grace when we say we, too, would like to keep our families safe.
  • Athletes are speaking out against injustice - with players in their own leagues, with owners, with sponsorships... I am seeing beautiful role models. My pick-me-up show is PTI - I suddenly follow sports way more than I used to. Thank you to ESPN for sharing how Dream reacted to this woman:
  • I'm seeing posts about what educators can do to stay safe if IL schools truly are to go back to the school building full time in a month. I'm also seeing that some schools are sharing ways to keep some students and educators safe through hybrid models.
  • Just under 50 participants in my district signed up for the book club I'm co-facilitating around So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
  • I had a two-hour talk with two other white women regarding race and the anti-racist LiveBinder yesterday. It, too, was promising. We had tons of questions and knew we'd mess up. Still, we kept the conversation going.

There is HOPE in this world. Some days it's hard to find through the pandemic, politics, killings, threats, arguments, slander and bullcrap. Today I am physically and mentally healthy enough to see it, notice it, name it, and share it.

PLEASE try to take the breaks you need. Please reach out to others when you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to listen. You are NOT alone. I'll be reaching out when needed, as well.

Oh, and a haircut may have done me some good, too...
 I'll never again not think of haircuts as a luxury.
Before - and - After

Updated 7/16/20 (Day 125):
  • My district has three book studies going on this summer to help educators and administrators keep the conversations going about equity.
  • The line above - means educators who were quiet on Twitter for a bit are becoming more vocal about their ideas about How to Be an Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. I have hope that this means they'll continue to use their platforms to share more widely with the world. If I don't see them on Twitter, I have hope that they'll become more comfortable sharing more publicly at some point. Their tweets from a district chat last night show me they believe it's important.
  • My district's superintendent is hosting tons of Zoom meetings in this week ahead to answer questions from all staff.
  • My mom and I had a great (Google Duo - like FaceTime) talk last night. We both cried, and yet we're learning more about how to talk to one another about the tough issues.
  • This thread from a doctor is so amazing, as it brings up so many OTHER issues I haven't really heard others share (yet).

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Day 111 - Fears & Worries

Note: This is not one of my posts I would share with the world. This is reflection. This post helps no one but me. It's writing I have to get off my chest. I suppose many of my COVID posts are like this... hence not sharing via social media. Reflection can be therapeutic.

I WANT to be back in school.
I want to sit with my students in a group and facilitate their tough discussions.
I want students to socialize with each other and learn from each other.
I want to see their smiles and hear their stories.
I even want to help them LEARN!

That being said, I'm fearful and worried about everybody being in the school building again, and I just have to write about it.
  • My husband is 68 years old. 
  • My parents (who I am able to distance from right now) are 76 & 85 years old.
  • We struggled mightily to find substitute/guest teachers when there wasn't a pandemic.
  • Some students come to school sick due to not having care at home.
  • It will be on us to be the constant reminder to "keep your mask over your face."
  • What type of learning can happen when students that are there are worried about getting the virus?
  • What type of learning can happen when students need to stay in their seats all day and aren't allowed to get in partners or groups?
  • How will we walk in the hallways between classes?
  • Some seventh graders lose things. All the time. Will we have backup masks in each room?
  • Eating in classrooms? It's kind of difficult to eat with a mask on... Supposedly I'm exempt from being required to eat with students. Will that staff need to be hired? Who will volunteer for that?
  • I hear that we'll have to monitor the bathrooms to be sure students aren't "congregating." And how are we supposed to do that while we're monitoring our classrooms down the hall? And then why am I seeing these students congregating in the neighborhood without masks?
  • If planners for this next school year are meeting remotely, what does that say about opening schools?
  • We may suddenly be back at home if someone contracts the virus. 
  • What we might be doing is not an "online course." I've read that online courses are effective. I'm glad. It also has nothing to do with what we tried in the spring. Online courses are CHOSEN by students. Classes are spaced out or completed on students' own time. Those who voluntarily take online classes most likely know how to prioritize and organize more than our K-12 students, or they have someone at home helping them along.
  • One of my students on our last Zoom meeting of the school year said that they were going on vacation the very next day with at least one other family. One of their friends shared via social media two days ago a huge gathering (100 or so?) at a local park where (although it was a quick video) I didn't spot anyone wearing masks. And that was just the latest post that got me even more fearful and had me write this post today. It is my fear that these will be families who will send their child to school, along with children of those families who need to send them because they have no other options.
  • I'm worried about some of the questions Sarah posted on this thread. (Update: Her blog post is listed below.)
  • I laugh and cry when reading this thread from Jen Roberts.
  • I'm worried I won't be the teacher they need.
  • I'm not worried about getting sick. I'm worried about my husband and parents getting sick. I'm worried about how my husband and parents would RECOVER from being sick.
I have a feeling I'll be adding to this post as the day we return to school buildings gets closer.

I feel as if whatever way we go, there will be educators and parents and educator-parents who will be worried, fearful, and feel they have no choice as to what to do based on income, family, and position. I don't have the answers. I'm just fearful and worried. And yes, the income for our household is on me.

And I WANT to be back in school.
I want to sit with my students in a group and facilitate their tough discussions.
I want students to socialize with each other and learn from each other.
I want to see their smiles and hear their stories.
I even want to help them LEARN!

I'll be smiling in front of students, no matter my fears. I'm aware I'll be setting the tone. I've purchased two masks with messages for my students: "I am here for you." "Let's learn." I wish this one didn't command others to "smile..." It may just be my yearbook photo, however.

Update 7/3/20 - I was intrigued by this idea, yet know it's very unlikely to happen.
     I never added ISBE's recommendations... HERE they are.

Update 7/12/20 - More stories to read...that I might not actually read myself.
     3 Arizona Teachers Test Positive for COVID-19 After Sharing Summer School Classroom, 1 Passes Away
     How Many Sick Children and Teachers Are Worth It?
     Nobody Asked Me: A Teacher's Opinion
     Mask to Mask Instruction May Be More Problematic than Distance Learning
     Nation's Pediatricians Walk Back Support for In-Person School
     'I Don't Want to Go Back' Many Teachers are Fearful...
     Thinking about Reopening Your Schools? Read This First...
     Photos: How Hong Kong Reopened Schools, and Why It Closed Them Again
     No One Wins, But No One Dies...
     Facebook thread...
     What Teachers Want You to Know about Reopening Schools

Update 7/18/20 -
And to those who are thinking... what about everyone else? Why should teachers not have to go back to work? How are they so different? (Note - I did NOT tweet this, as I know there are sooooo many pieces to this puzzle that I don't even know about, in addition to the pieces I DO know about, and again, I do not have a good solution.) Not so different? Try being surrounded by 150 preteens/day - many who don't even wash their hands during flu season. We can go back to work remotely, like many others have done. There is no easy solution, but we have a few weeks to hear other ideas. Plus, as a nation we could try three full weeks with masks and distance.

Some Students Should Go to School; Most Should Stay Home - opinion piece from 7/17/20

I Spent Three Weeks in School with COVID19 <-- Will in-school be like this??

Friday, June 26, 2020

Day 105 - Documenting

Friday, June 26 2020

We went camping for two days and two nights at Lowden State Park - not too far from home but "far enough" to provide a respite from the "real world" (except for the gnats and mosquitoes). We didn't talk to hardly anyone, stayed offline for the most part, and didn't go anywhere we'd need a mask. Here are some sights that reminded us we're in a pandemic:

And two from the morning we left, providing hope:

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Day 102 - DOING Something

Day 102, Tuesday, June 23 2020

My parents came by today. They came to give Bob and I a golf-type game for our anniversary! Very nice. We talked about the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and it got "spirited" as Bob said.  We're in different places. We've read and seen different things in our lives. It's very difficult to have conversations that aren't "spirited."

I do feel like I'm DOING something now, however. The librarian at one of our elementary schools in our district and I are going to facilitate a book study!! We've decided on So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo! I am so very excited! (My sparse notes for it are here.) Another teacher in our district decided to facilitate the How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi!

I am excited to lift the voice Ijeoma Oluo through her book. I'm so fortunate to work in a district that provides so many opportunities to learn and share.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Day 101 - Messes

News from today, Monday, June 22 2020...

          ...and they probably saved lives. Check out the ratio here of masked and unmasked patrons...

My mom is excited to hug me when she stops by tomorrow...

And then this.
What the???

And this.
I don't know about you... but I think this is a mess. I think it's a good mess.

There's also this.

I finished my anti-racist training today. I'm learning. I'm listening. I have guidance.