Wednesday, October 21, 2020

DigCit Week: October 19--23, 2020


Students at my elementary school this year have become familiar with the often-attributed Superman quote "With great power comes great responsibility." I've been using that as the umbrella of digital citizenship this year of hybrid & remote learning with increased tech time via zoom (& zoom chatting), emails, learning management system, shared Google documents, Seesaw assignments, and more. Every session we stress the importance of being safe, being respectful, and being responsible. Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) have been signed by students and parents alike. 

With Digital Citizenship (or DigCit) Week upon us this week (October 19th--23rd), after 6-8 weeks of school, it's somewhat the perfect time to revisit and remind now that we're all in our "new normal" routines.

Common Sense Media, the go-to for digital citizenship, puts it simply: "This year more than ever, we are all digital citizens."

I turned two of my favorite videos of Common Sense Media into Seesaw activities, encouraging them to reflect on how we all need to be Tech Superheroes. This, along with my Superman quote, resonated with all students, kindergarten to grade 5.





During this week, take some time to help your students find their inner DigCit hero. With the more we are on tech at all ages, the more safe and responsible tech use needs to be a focus and a priority.

Here are some resources geared explicitly for Digital Citizenship Week! 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Falling for Fall

I was traveling to Western Maryland and West Virginia the first weekend of October. The drive was gorgeous as colors started popping up in the growing three-dimensional-drive as I went from relatively flat to rolling hills to the mountains. Still heavy on green, but more colors kept popping the further pest I traveled. The sky was the crispest of blues. With podcasts streaming through my stereo along the drive, I was certainly in my happy place.

Along my travels, I landed at Cooper's Rock outside of Morgantown, WV.  

Fall is beautiful...though I will say that Spring is still my favorite season with it's awakening and being a season of hope after the cold cloistered winter. Fall brings me back to school, but also to a layer of melancholy that we are circling back round that seasonal cycle again with winter ahead. But it circles me back to the beauty and brilliance of color too.

As I was basking in the shock of golden hues and red leaves amongst the greenery, I was marveling at how with every tomorrow it will look a little tad differently. Next weekend and the weekend after this, the vista will be vastly varied from today's view. 


This all had me thinking about these two Free Tech For Teacher's posts by Richard Byrne:

The wind is whipping a bit around me today as I write this--a sunny yet cooling day. A shower of colorful leaves drifts downward, bristling about, like autumnal confetti. I think that means Fall is here.

Photos from my camera from the weekend of October 3-4 in West Virginia.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Nonpartisan Election Resources


It's definitely an election year--there's evidence of it everywhere. Not to mention, this year seems heated like never before.

Regardless of your political stance, it is always good to know what is going on when it comes to candidates, platforms, and civic engagement. Especially when it's just under 3 weeks away.

Here are some nonpartisan teaching resources for this year's election to help students get a greater understanding on the importance of voting and some of the terminology that bounces around this time of the year. 

  • PBS Learning Media's Electoral Decoder: An interactive electoral map where you can not only see the electoral breakdown of past elections, but you can use it to predict future outcomes for 2020.

Image created using Canva.com

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Ready Resources for Remote & Hybrid Teachers

Two posts ago, I shared some reflections and resources about how to mentally and emotionally survive these crazy Covid teaching times. I talked about sustainability not in my typical “green” and “eco” sense, but from a mental health perspective of making it through what might be our hardest year of teaching (collectively speaking on behalf of the whole profession).

This post is sort of a companion piece. I have more resources here, but these are from the edtech perspective of how to make life a little easier for you if you are teaching in a remote or hybrid learning environment. 
Image created using Canva.com

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

TED's Countdown For Climate Change

10.10.2020

It's a poignant combination of memorable numbers, making for a memorable date ahead for this Saturday, October 10th, from 11 am -- 5pm EST.

TED is sponsoring their Countdown for Climate Change. This is a virtual event & global initiative to highlight the goals to building a better future by 2030. #JoinTheCountown is their hashtags to open communication for a cleaner, more resilient future based on creativity & innovation. One of their main points: "It's a movement open to everyone."




Detailed in their plan is to answer these 5 interconnected questions:


Among the 61 speakers planning to speak on Saturday at Countdown, here are just a few of the scientists, engineers, activists, leaders, educators, authors, researchers, policy experts, entrepreneurs, social justice advocates, conservationists, entertainers, and more. Click here to see the full line up of speakers.
  • Chris Anderson, Head of TED
  • Angel Hsu, Climate and Data Scientist
  • Al Gore, Former Vice President and Climate Advocate
  • Prince William, The Duke of Cambridge
    António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
  • Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Environmental Educator
  • Jane Fonda, Actor and Activist
To learn more about Saturday's upcoming event, check out their website: https://countdown.ted.com

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Thoughts a Month Into Hybrid School

This summer when I was introduced to the idea of "hybrid school" (where half of the kids are in class and half are remote), my first instinct was it had to be like juggling knives.

I was not wrong.

Hybrid for me at my school means that most of our preschool through 1st graders are in school in person (with the exception of those students who’s parents opt to keep them home full time). Our 2nd through 5th grade students also have a handful of “full-time remote learners,” but otherwise they in person at school either Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday, and every other Friday. It’s definitely mental juggling trying to remember which Friday is which! We bring in our home kids daily via Zoom and Swivl to create a full class experience for our kids. We are using technology more than ever before with Seesaw, our learning management system, online resources like Google Drive, and online reading & math platforms. Our specials teachers either zoom into the classrooms for the littler ones, or travel by cart to the classrooms for our every-other-day kids. We are masked and socially distancing, the latter of which is tricky given the whole nature of being educators… not to mention it’s totally in the nature of kids to come close and be near each other.

The post “I’m a Hybrid Teacher, and I’m On the Verge of Quitting” on the Marvelous Teacher Musings website nails the difficulties of this style of teaching in so many ways.

Now that I have been in hybrid-style school for a month, entering our fifth week, I’m still finding it exhausting. We are the frontline workers. We are going in daily into what feels like a hot zone.

Daily, there’s a degree of “gearing up” to “go back in there” that I face—when getting out of bed as well as getting out of the car in my school parking lot. Lots of deep breaths and some internal monaloges of “you can do this.” (Sometimes they are interspersed with other soliloquies about hating life.) In some ways, It is getting easier. Often times, it still just as hard as it was on day one. It is just hard, and hard for everyone. I can see the struggle is real for all of my colleagues, who are buckling in and doing the best they can midst all of these crazy times. As the elementary school technology integrator, I have had lessons that have felt like my worst teaching experiences ever as I wrestled with keeping my in class kids engaged while I’ve wrestled (almost individually) with my at-homers. I’ve also had lesson sessions where it actually almost felt like “the good ole days!” I’ve also noticed that the students are completely remarkable—patient and perhaps even grateful, realizing how it feels to be back in school after 6 months at home given both our spring remote learning season and a long socially distanced summer afterwards.

The more I am living this hybrid learning model, the more I'm noticing that it is going to be "the marathon" versus "the sprint." The spring remote learning was the sprint. Everyone was in the mindset of “just get to the end.” It’s definitely a different race here and now. The end, from this vantage point of start of October, is a long way away. From this place, we are in a marathon. We need endurance, stamina, and longevity to make it to May or June. We can't keep going at an unsustainable pace. Pace—steady and slow--is the only thing that will win the race of the 2020-2021 school year.


Likewise, it reminds me of the flight prep on a plane that we get from the attendants: in case of emergency, put your own oxygen mask on first. Teachers, by nature, are planners, and there’s really nothing you can plan or control midst a pandemic. It’s a lot of uncertainty and flexibility, and adapting as things change around us. That’s tough for a lot of us to grapple with… and it is exactly why we need to put on our own mask first. (A near pun, in today’s times.) We do that through going easy on ourselves and making sure we providing space for us to catch our breath, sleep, and heal from the exhaustion of these times. The definition of resilience is having the capacity to recover from difficulties. It’s about mental toughness and adapting to the adversity that surrounds us. It is gleaned in part through self care. Those two pieces are the only thing that's going to get teachers through this time—perhaps our most memorable year as educators.

Teachers notoriously are terrible about self-care. There’s always lessons to plan, papers to grade, parents to email or call. Their own life, families, friends, and other responsibilities get smushed around all of that. But now, more than ever, we need to make sure to find the time for it. Our sanity and ultimate health need us to do just that. Here’s a list of resources that I hope you find helpful, so that these crazy times can begin to feel just a little bit more bearable and ultimately sustainable.

Last but not least, here are the 2020 Teachers of the Year and their thoughts & self-care coping strategies. 




Images from https://marvelousteachermusings.com/2020/09/12/hi-im-a-hybrid-teacher-and-im-on-the-verge-of-quitting/https://imgflip.com/i/2l7kzhhttps://www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/uploads/1/0/5/2/10525779/charlotte-3_orig.jpghttps://akchristianwomensministry.com/2019/09/10/put-your-oxygen-mask-on-first.html,

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The World Is Your Oyster: Marylanders Grow Oysters Program

There's a saying that goes like this: "The world is your oyster." 

It means you can go anywhere and do anything, you've got opportunity galore ahead.

It's interesting, because oysters do just that for the Chesapeake Bay. They are pretty remarkable and powerhouses on their own accord. This infographic gives a quick visual overview:


About a week and a half ago, I got to be a part of some oyster opportunity in the making. As one of the Board of Directors of Maryland Yacht Club Maritime Foundation (MYCMF), I got to see some environmental stewardship in action. The vision of MYCMF is to "inspire and motivate communities to connect with waterways through interactive life experiences." Our mission:

Taking part in the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program, Maryland Yacht Club was the staging center on Thursday, September 17th for a giant drop off of nearly 100 bags of oysters, with MYCMF members keeping it running like a well-oiled ship. With the help of a local school and their battalion of 5th graders, these bags of oysters were deposited into the waters of Rock Creek off the Patapsco River, which flows into the Chesapeake Bay. I was not there that day, but it stirred up memories as a delightful throwback to my days at Eagle Cove School when we got to see the kid-side of our oyster crew, with them in action.


Two days later on Saturday, the oysters were again "on the move" on a sunny, windy, feeling-like-fall kind of day. These baby oysters were destined to exchange their 2-day home in the creek at Maryland Yacht Club for their home for the year ahead. Marylanders who wish to donate their time, effort, and their docks sign up to be part of the Marylanders Grow Oysters Program. Currently, over 1,500 volunteers who own water-front property hang oyster cages from their docks to help grow these baby oysters. This protected aquatic environment is vital for their first year of life. In June, these oysters will be relocated to oyster sanctuaries.


We were the oyster pick-up point for folks who live on Stoney Creek, Nabbs Creek, and Rock Creek who signed up to harvest the baby oysters. Really, a small cog in the wheel of the whole program for the entire state of Maryland. For about an hour and a half during the 4 hour Saturday pick-up block, I was there to lend a helping hand if needed. However, I must say, it was a pretty smooth process, already underway! 


Fun Facts from the day:
  • Baby oysters are called spat once the oyster larvae has attached to empty, cleaned reclaimed oyster shells. Several oyster spat can attach to the same shell.
  • One bag of oysters is the equivalent of 3 oyster cages.
  • One cage holds approximately 150 oyster spat.
  • Once they have been harvested for the year, the spat will be approximately 1 inch in diameter. They will be planted in local oyster sanctuaries (often called oyster beds or reefs) where they will go to work filtering the tributaries and becoming home to many marine species. 
  • Oysters can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.
  • Numbers from the day:
    • Stoney & Nabbs Creek had 26 oyster growers with 82 cages hanging from their piers.
    • Rock Creek had 71 oyster growers with 197 pier-hanging cages.
    • Come June, that means we will plant approximately 42,000 oysters on the Ft. Carroll reef (the "forever home" of these li'l guys.)
  • Speaking of guys, oysters begin as males, but can change their gender as needed over their lifetime.
   

May the world be your oyster... and thanks to the 97 area folks who are helping to grow oysters locally, taking that opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves. Such gratitude for these environmental stewards who are raising oysters which will filter the bay. By volunteering like this to do something bigger than themselves, they have made it possible for all of us to go forward and enjoy the beauty and benefits of the Chesapeake Bay.

The world is our oyster, indeed!


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Climate Change, Coronavirus, & Katherine Hayhoe

There's a line from the 1996 movie "Jerry Maguire" where Renée Zellweger's character says, "You had me at hello."

Much in that same way, climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe (who I've written about before) had me at "Global Weirding." Truly, what could be better terminology than that for both global warming and climate change.

Here are two pieces she did at the end of March 2020 when the pandemic started growing exponentially five months ago.  In the first video, she shows how climate change is not a causation of Coronavirus but but certainly a contributing factor connecting the two as a threat multiplier.



Her second video shows how the pandemic is affecting carbon emissions and air pollution. 

Global Weirding logo from http://www.rewire.org/pbs/not-sure-global-warming-try-global-weirding/

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Honoring Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been heavy on my heart and mind since her passing last Friday night. She really has become such an American icon over her 87 years. It's been inspiring seeing the tributes to her on both social and mainstream media. 

A friend of mine went to lay flowers at the Supreme Court to honor both RBG and to dedicate a flower to special women in her life. I was touched to be one of the women she chose to include in that. 

When I think of the powerhouse that RBG was, I am a bit in awe. Another friend posted this list on social media, along with the comment that no matter which side of politics you are on, all women owe a lot to the trailblazer we call Justice Ginsburg. 


Looking at this list, I'm reminded of the many times, even now in 2020, women still struggle for true equality, despite how far we have come. What comes to mind are the number of times I've called about some account for our family, however the account happens to be in my husband's name. On those calls, I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "Since the account is in his name, can you put him on the phone so we have him verify that we can speak to you?" I get the idea of account verification and appreciate it to a degree, but it frustrates me and makes me feel like a second class citizen every time... especially since they seem to have no problem cashing the checks when I write and send them in! 

I grew up in the '70s & '80s and saw my own mom as a trailblazing working mom, ahead of her time. I recall times she talked about getting criticized for that and the rise in her position which she worked hard to achieve. 

I remember when I just had my first born and was looking for a "mommy and me" group, and some chastising I heard from stay at home moms about being a working mom myself. I remember thinking, "Parenting is hard, shouldn't we all just be on the same team?"

Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for all of that. And much much more. We thank her for her many years of service to our country and all of us for her time on the Supreme Court and every fight that she fought to allow us our human rights and privileges!

For my teacher friends out there, here are some digital resources if you are wanting to honor the legacy of RBG in your classroom.
A final word: It's been overwhelming and disheartening to see how quickly our loss of "The Notorious RBG" has become a political conversation given her passing & ultimate replacement so close to the election. To that, I say the best way to honor her is this:


RBG quote created by @Eco With Em at https://www.facebook.com/ecowithem/posts/3598148363580564--she has a very poignant and insightful post about the loss of RBG on her Facebook page from September 20th, equating the current times with the Australian wildfires from January and how perhaps we all have the seeds of change inside us that take so much upset to have them come to grow. It was a powerful nature metaphor for dealing with difficult times & can be found at https://www.facebook.com/ecowithem, Screenshot list from unknown, Letter block photo credit @Ann Mooradian

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Blue Mind Days & Hours Outside, Summer 2020

This is my 3rd summer counting up hours outside, and my 2nd summer monitoring my "Blue Mind Days."  

The former is pretty straight forward, and it stems from a website promoting 1000 hours outside during the course of the year--so 250 seemed like a reasonable goal with a straight seasonal division by 4. 

My "blue mind" days are days I've purposefully spent by or in water. Sitting just next to my backyard pool doesn't count--I have to be in with that. Bathtubs and kitchen sinks also don't count. 

Summer seems optimum for this little personal experiment because time opens up in different ways during the teaching days of the school year.

Both numbers for me were down this summer, due in large part to orchestrating a lot of tech PD and set up for this Covid-centric school year that we're embarking on. Many weeks were 9-20 hour work weeks during my "summer off." (Already a misnomer for teachers!) Add in, it was pretty steamy midsummer, making my outdoor work habits an indoor activity. But, I was surprised to see how respectable they were in comparison to the last two years (check out the two links above). 

I know for me (as I was outside almost the entirety of the 3 days of Labor Day weekend just last week) are the great equalizers for me. The breeze in the air, the vibrancy of color, the scampering and fluttering of wildlife, and the buoyancy and reflectiveness of the water do all the things that physiologically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally they are supposed to do. It's always a sad goodbye when temperatures start to drop because I haven't transitioned the magic of all of that into the mindset of winter quite yet. But lucky for me, we've got a lovely fall days ahead. With these Covid classroom teaching days, I plan to be outside as much as possible!

Photo compilation created with my photos of my calendar tallies & the PicCollage app.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wildfires & Hurricanes: Two Devastating Side Effects of A Warming Planet

Wildfires are burning everywhere it seems right now--especially everywhere west of the Rockies. At least that's how it feels when you go to the U.S. Wildfire Map or the Global Forest Watch Map. Glowing orange skies in California and reports for friends in Colorado and Oregon are not comforting. I'd imagine their air quality isn't comforting to them either! As if we don't have enough reasons to wear masks with Covid 19!

The wildfires in the West Coast with overly-dry land is about as comforting as hitting the peak of hurricane season on September 10th when there were there were 7 active systems in the Atlantic Ocean. Only 2 were named at the time, though the other 5 had potential of moving beyond "tropical disturbances." Thus far for the 2020 Hurricane system, at this writing we had hit 17 named storms. Annual average is 11-12 storms. There's even a potential (if we keep going this year) of hitting Hurricane or Tropical Storm Vicky (yours truly, though spelled differently). Of course, if we judge 2020 by memes, we're of course destined to get lucky and land there! There's some other speculation that we will use up the 21 storm-slated names, causing us to have to use the Greek alphabet. The only other time we had to do that was in 2005.

Hurricanes & wildfires are two of the major effects of climate change and warming global temperatures. 

For fires, the problem is visible in this visual (from the Union of Concerned Scientist "Infographic: Wilfires & Climate Change: Visualizing the Connection in 5 Sets of Photos & Charts"):

The Union of Concerned Scientists also have some thoughts on hurricanes in their "Hurricanes & Climate Change" report published July 16, 2008 and updated June 25, 2019. Factors that have intensified hurricanes with time include:
  • rising ocean temperatures
  • rising sea levels
  • increased melting of ice-coverage over land
All of which create greater coastal storm surges, causing water to go further inland. Greater population density over time in coastal areas doesn't help.... especially with approx. 40% of the U.S. population living in these coastal areas. 

When you look at the United States map under the layer of impact of both wildfires and hurricanes, we're at a great environmental impact. With our bandwidth not only stretched but maxed right now in 2020 with the pandemic, environmental issues seem to slip to the bottom of the list. One could argue that is really doing us a large disservice--especially as Covid 19, wildfires, and hurricanes may potentially all be vying for FEMA money (Federal Emergency Management Agency) down the line.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it's that you never know what lies ahead. Here's hoping that we have already seen the worst!

Saturday, September 12, 2020

September 12th

The "Memories" piece of Facebook is always interesting. It is a 1/365 daily slice of what you did last year, or 4 years ago, or sometimes even 10 or 11 years ago is really an interesting little time capsule. (Sometimes it surprises me just how long I have been on Facebook!) It's touching to see those endearing pictures of my kids when they were far smaller than they are now, the witticisms that I posted solely to make myself laugh, or the wise words I needed that one day 5 years ago that really still resonate today.

Facebook memories can be poignant as well. Take yesterday, September 11th. We all know the horrific tragedy that took place 19 years ago in New York City, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania when terrorists weaponized our airplanes without thought to the lives onboard. We all can instantly go back to "where we were" that day, and feel those same emotions on a guttural level. 

My Facebook memories yesterday shared with me my thoughts and comments from 8 years ago:

Think most of us today will be thinking about the date, of exactly where we were 11 years ago (as if it were yesterday), and looking to the skies with trepidation as well as gratitude. May a circle of unity and cohesiveness embrace us all today, just like it did in the aftermath of 9-11 back in 2001.

To which, I wrote this yesterday, while I shared those same sentiments from 8 years prior:

8 years ago and yet still rings so true here at Year 19. We came together then as a country, united in collective mourning and resilience. Standing up together in love and support, as one nation. Sadly it took that immense tragedy to get us there. Looking back at those moments and our solidarity against the common enemy, let’s use some of that same fortitude and conviction of the heart as we look at all the turmoil we have been wrestling with this year: the incredible loss of life & normalcy due to Covid, the devastation of California’s wildfires, and the racial injustice that has caused a tsunami across our country. Now, like then, is the time to come together with love, strength, & support of each other, our fellow Americans. 
I remember in 2001, my folks were traveling throughout New England, Canada, and Newfoundland shortly after 9-11 on a five week "Follow the Fall Foliage" adventure. They have story after story of the amazing people they met along the way, especially when in Canada, who were wholeheartedly supportive of them, my parents, as Americans, and for what we endured as a country. The world was so giving and so genuine with each other. Americans were so giving and genuine with each other in the aftermath. 

These stories of my folks, and my own experiences from September and the Fall of 2001 when I was living in Tampa, stay with me. 

Maybe too, it's because of those, I was particularly struck by this article a good friend of mine shared, written by Scott Saxe just yesterday entitled "Spare Me the Hypocrisy, America." It mirrors my morning thoughts as I shared my Facebook memory.  We are all part of the collective American family. We are enduring some hard times right now. We need to be there for each other. We need every day to be "September 12th" in every way.

THAT is the true meaning of #NeverForget.

Facebook Memory, screenshot from my Facebook Memory feed. Photo from my camera, and my GTG 9-11-2019 post, detailing how this 9-11 monument was constructed of steel beams from the original World Trade Center site from September 11th, 2001. https://www.greenteamgazette.com/2019/09/remembering-911.html

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Backyard Butterflies

This is our second summer of harvest of Asclepias syriaca...that's common milkweed to you and me. My husband doubled our plot this summer. Despite the fact that we're about 3-4 weeks later in seeing any visitors than we did last year, we finally have been recognized on the monarch mapping system as a safe place to land. We are now reaping the bounty of that harvest with the whole variety of life stages of Danaus plexippus: The Monarch butterfly.

  

Yesterday's count showed me 35 chrysalis at various places in our back yard & 5 caterpillars on a very stripped patch of milkweed. Those little 5 are going to have a hard go of it as there are no milkweeds left! Seriously, my photo dates show fully blossomed and leafy milkweed from just two weeks ago! Amazing how much they chowed down in that two week time period!

What also has really struck me is the great distance some of them have gone to set up their chrysalis shop. A couple even scurried quite a ways to create their chrysalis on the netting of our backyard lacrosse goal. Not your safest spot, li'l guys!!

 
It all struck me by Barbara Kingsolver's book Flight Behavior, which I read earlier in the summer. It's the fictional tale all about monarchs and their surprisingly northern migration resting spot due to the warming result of climate change. 
 
Along the way, I ran across this Native Pollinator lesson plan from National Wildlife Federation. It has more than just monarchs, but is a great resource. 

I have a feeling, next year our Milkweed & Monarch plot will be even bigger. It's been wonderful being a part of putting beauty into the yard by way of my backyard.


photos & video from my backyard.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Back to School Stats

School, hybrid style, started on Wednesday. 

Stats felt like the way to start reflecting back over the week: 

  • 28,218 step, mostly at school, 2 days of which were over 10K (and this is from a girl who wrestled with a raging new case of sciatica this August, on top of 2 bad knees)
  • Wednesday I taught sixteen 15-minute tech lessons to 8 classes (8 in the morning to the hybrid half that came, 8 in the afternoon to the other half) covering how to find our "hybrid home-day" zoom links (which for us are on Bitmoji Boards) and also how to login to Clever (a single sign on platform that allows for "1 stop shopping").
  • Thursday, I taught ten 35-minute tech lessons to our 1st-- 5th graders with computers so they could practice logging into Clever, their Zoom links, and either Seesaw or our learning management system which we are newly using for upper elementary. Add in wiping 5-9 computers between each session to thoroughly disinfect.
  • Friday, I repeated my Thursday schedule for the other half of the children in this hybrid situation.
  • Total number of lessons taught in 3 days: 36
  • Parent Zooms for new remote-only parents: 1 (approx. 1 hour in length)
  • Number of emails to the tech help desk (which I am a part of): Too many to count
  • Number of days it took me to completely lose my voice: 3 (although, by the end of 2, it already was on the major decline toward being highly hoarse)
  • Add in, our Swivls have just arrived on campus. (Goodness, at least 25 or so.) These will help bring our at home remote learners into our class alongside with the half of the class that is on campus every other day--so there's teacher training ahead too. 
In this Covid-new-reality world, sometimes it feels like a race against the clock. We are working like the dickens to try to get our students fully acclimated to all the portals and platforms so they know what they are doing for the "if/when we go remote." Hopefully it's at least after we all know which end is up and what we are doing. (Kids & teachers alike!!)

This certainly is a school year like no other. I'm certainly glad I have the 3-day weekend ahead to physically, mentally, emotionally, and vocally recover. Especially since more tech training days for students are ahead and scheduled for next week. Luckily not quite so progressively packed, but it'll make for another full week again. The joys of being a technology teacher (which I do really love, but I do sorely miss the good ole days prior to 2020 teaching)!

For all the teachers and students out there (and the parents who are navigating their children's learning as well).... Give yourself some grace this fall, and just know, we all know how hard each and everyone of you are working to do this all with masks on, with the aroma of soap and hand sanitizer in the air, trying to socially distance while also helping yourself, your students, and your colleagues in this new time of learning. 

I'm ending with an image I made for my homeroom teachers and shared with them the night before school started--was that only 4 days ago?


Images: Back to School Statistics created at www.canva.com using the graph from https://www.cleanpng.com/png-united-states-bar-chart-progress-chart-carter-comm-3903623/preview.html. First Day of School Bitmoji Board created using the Bitmoji app and Google Slides.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Let the Games Begin

Today (Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020) this week is when we "let the games begin."

All systems go.

Ready or not, here it comes.

Wednesday (today!) is the day I officially go back to school, starting my 28th year of teaching. (Man, that's a longggg time! I can still remember that first year of teaching, 28 years ago, in great detail!)

The start of school look so different to everyone this year. For us, we are going back partially--in a hybrid fashion (aka: every-other day). We will be full on "in" for our first graders and younger. We will go alternating days for our 2nd through 12th graders. Teachers will be in-house 5 days a week. All divisions have a 5-day remote learning option, if parents opt in for that. All divisions have someone (or 5+ someones) taking advantage of that remote option.

It goes without saying that this will be by far the most different--and perhaps difficult--year of teaching ever. 

In the age of Covid, we send our 18 year olds out to college, hoping that the school stays safe and healthy, responsible, and in session. We hope they can miraculously sustain the entire semester.

Yet as elementary teachers, we are uncertain when it comes times to receiving our wards via the school/school system. We see it as a tough situations with germs abounding, with the littlest ones wrestling with keeping their masks on their face and knowing what 6 weeks of social distancing even looks like. Schools are a little scary right now. But as educators, we go forth. Hoping and praying that we all stay healthy, and we all can do our best for our students.

As I head back to school, knowing teachers are uncertain of their future, we embrace hope. Sometimes, hope is all we have. It certainly beats embracing fear factor or burying our heads in the sand. As educators, what we do is take care of others. We love our students, and would do anything for them. We miss them and our classrooms--and it's been a long time (since March) for most of us  Let's hope we can get back to the business of teaching, staying sane, safe, and healthy. It certainly will be "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" ahead this school year.

In the immortal words of Moira, Johnny, David, & Alexis Rose, I found this tribute from the cast of "Schitt's Creek" (which was created for our 2020 spring graduates) highly fitting as a tribute to all teachers out there. [Schitt's Creek was my go-to binge show this summer. I "Loved me those 6 seasons" (which I maybe watched in a whopping 2 weeks)!!] The Roses make me smile every time!


Teachers, regardless of your format as you re-enter school, be strong, be tough, and be downright awesome. It's going to be a year that you won't ever forget...and a year of patience, creativity, fortitude, grit, work, compassion, innovation, intensity, and empathy. Mask up, sanitize, and don't ever forget to breathe. You can do this--we can do this--and we all will rock it!


Saturday, August 29, 2020

World's Largest Lesson: Global Goals For Sustainable Development

While researching the late Sir Ken Robinson, I ran across this video series about the World's Largest Lesson. Created a few years ago, this ties in the with United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development, with their target date of making "our planet fair, healthy, and sustainable by 2030." Both were written by Sir Ken Robinson. And... with the second one narrated by Emma Watson, and the first narrated by Malala Yousafzai, how can it be anything but amazing?!

On The World's Largest Lesson website, there are a wealth of free resources (including lesson plans) and ideas for taking action as students. 2030 is a mere ten years away. 

With every year, it becomes more daunting, but we can certainly do the important work, if we put our minds to it! These videos certainly serve as inspiration!

The World's Largest Lesson pt 2 - with thanks to Sir Ken Robinson and Emma Watson from World's Largest Lesson on Vimeo.Videos from https://vimeo.com/worldslargestlesson/english-malala and Part 2:  https://vimeo.com/178464378, Part 3: https://vimeo.com/266852848

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Honoring Sir Ken Robinson

 
For a more decade, Sir Ken Robinson has been known as a rock star--at least with teachers and when it comes to his viral social media. His infamous 2006 TED talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" still is one of the most-viewed TED Talks of all times. For that reason combined with his push for innovation, imagination, & creativity in education, it is with great sadness too learn of his passing at the age of 70 last Friday (August 21st, 2020).

It got me thinking about how his philosophy is sort of the heart of this blog: GTG. Creativity is the foundation of innovation, which is the key to solving many of the problems of our world. Additionally, he was an avid environmental activist. For that reason, it is fitting to honor him. 

In looking into Sir Ken's history, I ran across his New York Times bestseller The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a New York Times bestseller he co-wrote with Lou Aronica. It seemed only right to read. In it, he discusses the importance of marrying your personal talents, natural attitudes, and your own passions to reach your "Element" in order to achieve a future in which you thrive. It ties with those "21st century skills" especially given the global & technological change growing exponentially this last decade--and beyond into the future!  

It really causes you to think about it all in the wake of the pandemic and the necessary changes we had to make for spring remote learning... and hybrid learning (for me) this fall. In fact, he has a thoughts on this subject, just this past May.


He also spoke of imagination and empathy in part of his longer 2011 speech at the Dalai Lama Center for Peace & Education. Empathy seems to be a common theme these days in many places.


For more on Sir Ken Robinson and his brilliance and inspiration--or simply to pay tribute yourself to an amazing man who left this planet far too early, check out the following:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

The Benefit of Trees

I ran across this infographic about the benefits of trees--urban trees in particular. It reminds me of the concept of "forest bathing" (which also reminds me of our get-away trip to the New River Gorges area of West Virginia and all the tree greenery that surrounded us.



Visuals like this help keep us centered, especially this year when everything seems constantly up-in-the-air with the uncertainties of living in a pandemic.

Glancing back at the infographic... maybe there's benefits in treehugging too!

Image from https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Benefits-of-urban-trees_fig1_322785015 and uploaded by Maibritt Pedersen Zari

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Our Oyster Graduates

A friend of mine posted this video on Facebook recently. It is a video montage of an early fall day ten years ago at one of my favorite places: my former school where I was the 3rd grade teacher. I've often said it was perhaps the greenest school in America!

Oyster Day became an annual tradition at Eagle Cove School. Typically our eldest, the 5th graders, won the right and privilege to put on the hip-waders and be the ones to get in the water to put the oyster spat cages and bags in the water. In this video of a decade ago, though, the 4th & 5th graders were both on their annual team building outdoor trip, based on the way the calendar dates fell. So this special year, our 3rd graders, as the oldest on campus that day, earned this surprising privilege. As their 3rd grade teacher, I can guarantee, I had a lot of ecstatic kids in my class that day who got to do the really cool, big kid, important stuff.

I think it's fitting this year (AND at this time of the year) because my 2010 third graders are heading to college this fall. They are the ones that experienced their senior year spring in the middle of a pandemic and remote learning. They are the ones who had a topsy turvy, unique, & unexpected graduation. Our seniors at my current school had a socially-distanced graduation on the school campus lawn, with paper-faced faculty posters stuck to chairs so the students could have an audience there supporting them. Our seniors received their diplomas in a special, almost militarily-scheduled, individualized Diploma Ceremony, crossing the stage... all the while being video-taped, and this footage was sewn together to create a Zoom-style graduation that no one ever expected. The school did it right, and the faculty, staff, and parents were proud. As I watched our 2020 graduation (where many of my former 3rd graders were graduating), I was touched, and often thought of those environmentally-active third graders of a decade ago.

Now, as we have hit this point at the end of summer, these once-third graders are heading to college. Some heading to campus while others are readying for a semester online at their own homes. For that reason, this video seemed more than just memories to me, but a tribute to all of those former students of mine as they head off into their next adventure. Masks in hand, ready to put on when they get to campus... maybe getting a Covid test along with all their text books... and ready to dive into this next chapter. May we wish them well as they pack the car, deck out their dorms, and find new passions and pals. They will rock it! Of this I know!


Video created by Carl Treff, from https://youtu.be/XQtRmi3VjME, Image from https://theamericanonews.com/2020/03/24/college-bound-in-the-time-of-coronavirus-heres-what-class-2020-can-do-to-succeed/ and https://www.okaloosaschools.com/programs/hs/college-bound

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Environmental Education Resources for Remote Learning

The best way to learn about the great outdoors is to get right out there. But, for those of us who are educators facing an uncertain fall of hybrid or remote learning, it could happen that outdoors is not really a place we get to with our students. Even if we are hybrid or fully "brick and mortar," teaching, there may be new parameters in place where field trips or bus transportation is limited due to physical distancing or trying to keep our "bubbles" small.

Here are 5 places to go to with a wealth of resources to help bring some virtual learning opportunities into your classroom, especially by way of computer, back yards, or school grounds.


Image created at Canva.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

When Less Is More

I've just finished reading"The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store" by Cait Flanders. In it, she details a life of minimalism and how she arrived there in one year with by imposing her own "shopping ban." In truth, it also details her several-year "journey of less" in all aspects of her life. Less shopping, less clutter, less debt, less food & snacking, less weight, less mindless TV watching, less social media, less drinking, less work, and much more.

Minimalism has always piqued my interest--as evident on my bookshelf (filled, ironically, way too many books) but in titles such as "Simplify Your Life" and "Inner Simplicity" (both by Elaine St. James), "Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less" (by Greg McKeown), and "Simple Abundance" (by Sarah Ban Breathnach). I've watched  "Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things." But it sometimes is hard to be a true minimalist when you have teenagers and a husband and a dog, all of whom have differing opinions.

It wasn't intentional, but I ended up reading Cait Flanders book right after spending 30 man-hours this summer with all of the above participants (minus the dog) overhauling the basement. When you have teenagers,  you don't necessarily need the "Magic Treehouse" books, or Lincoln Logs, or Playmobile guys, or dress-up costumes, or stuffed animals anymore. It was a process that was probably at least 5 years overdue. I tend to be very organized, so I can organize a lot of stuff and not look like a hoarder. However, we had certainly surpassed that point in the basement. It was a big job. And it stunned me a little bit thinking of all the money over the years that had gone to all of this stuff we were getting rid of. But, as my husband reminded me, it served a purpose at the time, and that time had passed. This certainly was a strong tie in to Cait's own realizations and her journey as well.

I tackled the lion share of the job, but I couldn't even start the project on my own due to overwhelm. As a family, we created 4 blocks of time where all four of us worked for only one hour at a time, cranking through as much as we could in that hour. Those blocks of simultaneous 4-man-hours helped accomplish a lot in a concentrated time. They cut through my sentimental "maybe we should keep it" moments. They were far more cut-throat! Multiple truck-loads of stuff were donated--bags of books included. Old crafting items went to school to be up for grabs. Several bookshelves were grabbed from the curb by our neighbor. We still have a pile of stuff that we're considering selling (or it may come to donating) as I'm really just ready to offload those items.

The memorabilia was my hardest part, with boxes of never-scrapbooked items, but I organized those into one tub per child of keepsakes. Apparently I thought it'd be a good idea to save every kindergarten handwriting page my daughter ever wrote, so we had a lot of recycling as well.


The room is still a work in progress as we have some odds and ends to fix (one of which may involve a handy man), but it is a world of improvement. It's not overstuffed and cluttered. It's actually spacious and inviting. It goes with Cait's concept of "Whenever you let go of something negative in your life, you make room for something positive."

Likewise, as I was wrapping up Cait Flanders' book last night, I reflected on some of her broader thoughts. The basement overhaul has been tied also to my daily treks on the exercise bike (also in the basement) to improve my overall health and stamina--which in turn has started helping to shed a few pounds. This, in turn, has also led to more veggies on my plate. Cait's quote "Every small change you make pays compound interest. It helps you make another change, another mind-set shift, another decision to live in a new way" seemed to be whispering right to me. Ironically too, it's cropped up as I'm simultaneously reading James Clear's "Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones."

Having never been much of a shop-a-holic, both Cait's book and my basement have led me even further away. I don't need more. We have enough. Along those lines, I'm trying to read more books on Kindle (including Cait's) as books are my shopping downfall! I'm grateful for what we do have, and I know that some of our stuff will be the same stuff we will later be getting rid of. The landfills truly don't need more, and I wonder how much I'm greenwashing myself with all my donations simply to avoid seeing someone else throw them away! In reading Cait's journey and taking my own, it makes you look at your priorities through a fine-toothed comb... and that was only my basement!

You can learn more about Cait Flanders on her website or by following #TheYearOfLess in social media. Maybe it, or my basement story, will inspire you to make the best out of "less" in your life.


Cait Flanders' book cover from https://www.amazon.com/Year-Less-Shopping-Belongings-Discovered/dp/9386832933 & all other photos from my phone & basement.