SOL March 31st The Year of March

I’m leaning heavily towards avoidance on this, the final day of the Slice of Life Challenge. Why is that?

Could it be that I’m not quite ready for it all to end?

That I’m not quite ready to let go of this wonderful haven of support and camaraderie from one day to the next.

Just now when it feels like I’ve got my writing stamina back. I mean, I’ve been writing every day for a month now.  And I commented on at least 4 blogs every day. No kidding!

I completed the challenge, although it feels like the real challenge is just beginning.

Let me see if a poem can close this out.


The Year of March

That time when March was a whole year…remember

“the lost semester” we called it.

I was there and you were too.

Everyone at a distance

although we were slow to learn.

The year that was March

31 days that seemed to go on without end

when we wrote like there was no tomorrow.

Remember, then, how we recovered

how long it took until we found not the way back

but chose a different path

One that held space for everyone who needed it

A path that afforded more humanity and care

than we had seen in centuries.

That was us, you remember.

We did that.

 

 

 

 

 

SOL March 30th Twitter Hiatus

With the words “I have no more clicks to give…” I took my leave from Twitter. For two days, now going on three.  I needed a break and I think the shift to distance learning sent me to a new saturation point. When my work day consists almost exclusively of type, click, swipe, download and upload, I found the swirl of Twitter in addition to be too much to bear.

That’s saying a lot. I love Twitter and owe so much to the communities I’ve joined and helped sustain. There are folks on Twitter who have become like family. I care deeply about them and they about me. So taking a few days away, while necessary has also made me wonder about how I want to shape my future engagement. It’s time for me to step back and think carefully about my purpose on the platform.

Twitter has been a huge source of intellectual nourishment. It’s where I decided to call myself a writer, publish a book, start a publication. Twitter is where I’ve connected with people who have introduced me to incredibly rich opportunities to lead, teach, contribute, share. Without Twitter, my online life grows much quieter. Which seems to be what I need right now.

As for the weekend without- I felt freshly focused, able to sustain my attention a bit better. There’s a book I need to finish reading by Tuesday and I will make it easily.  I felt more at ease with my family – not trying to cram in some witty response or skim this hot take by a friend throughout the day. Twitter encourages us to spread our attention thinly over multiple topics. Even if I pause to read a whole article and share it out with a comment or even a thread, I tend to do so with a couple of other topics in my mental queue.

At any rate, I’ve shown myself what’s possible. I stayed away for a hot minute and the world did not come to a screeching halt. Twitter will keep turning whether I show up or not. At the same time, my engagement is not only about me, it is very much about other people. If I step away, how will I convey care and concern for those who are dear to me? Where can folks who may want to turn to me for support or to submit a piece of writing reach me?  These are questions I need to consider as well. I don’t think I’m done with Twitter but I will be seeking ways to scale back my participation over the next few weeks.

Sounds a little scary but that may also be the indication of its necessity. We’ll see how it goes.

 

SOL March 29th SeeSaw Performance Art

I can see what appears to be a round knee peeking through torn sweatpants. The device is being adjusted. I see the ceiling briefly then cut back quickly to more than just a knee, but a crouched body and very big face. She’s looking at me? Looking for me? I can’t tell. She backs up a little and produces a leaf that might be out of plastic or a thin metal. It looks rather delicate, like it might belong to a dangling earring or Christmas tree ornament. She holds it up to the camera, pinched between her thumb and forefinger. As if preparing to demonstrate a magic trick, she shows both sides, turning it in an intense close-up for me to study.

She stands and walks away from the camera, turns to face it again and then tosses the leaf in the direction of the viewer. The leaf flutters past the screen. From the chair next to where she performed the toss she takes a different object. This time it’s a small stuffed animal, a frog. I know because she brings it back to the camera, jamming it into the viewer’s face for inspection. Again she turns and walks back to toss the frog towards the device. The ritual continues for 4 or 5 more objects. She doesn’t say a word but the scene is rich in communicative detail. This show is for my benefit. She is tossing at a target as I have asked her to practice. She has also, in her own way, put a startling piece of performance art into the world that I will not soon forget.

SOL March 28th Sliced Slices Slice

We’re at home most of the time now. The messy spots are multiplying and I may care later but not right now.

So many reading options before me, but I feel stalled. I feel held up by the need to stay connected which is now happening through screens upon screens. (Adding held up :: upheld)

Of necessity I need to be more inventive in thinking about what my mini lessons can look like. This results in what I would call “creative hot flashes” which wake me up early and demand to be written down, lest they disappear like smoke.

I do not love watching or hearing myself on video but I think many of my students do. Their responses, which in some cases fall in the range of performance art, tell me that I need to keep showing up as myself.

Every day I do something or even several things that are physical. I walk, jog, lift, stretch, or dance.  I need these things but I am also tired of feeling like I have to.

Mr. 12 and I had a conversation about feedback. He hates it because he has an ego, he admitted. I said, I get it. I explained why I was reading an editor’s comment on something I had written now in the morning rather than before going to bed last night: Rested I can be more open to feedback. Neither of us takes well to being judged negatively. We’re two of a kind in that.

Even if I crave a particular kind of conversation, the thought of making the first move, scheduling the time, drains me before I begin.

The weekend and I have entered into a new kind of friendship.

SOL March 27th Placeholder Curriculum

Never thought I would be able to say,

“Coming to you live from Mrs. Spelic’s living room, here is today’s spectacular lesson on tossing and catching!”

But here we are. Mostly sitting in the same boat; separated, of course.

I am duly impressed with my colleagues who plow on with their mini lessons and with students who share their work in so many different ways. My specialist colleagues and I carry on as best we can. What this new modality does afford is the possibility of getting to know our students and their capabilities individually differently (if that makes sense). While it’s possible to know and evaluate children’s skills in a classroom, there’s certainly plenty that gets lost, goes under in the large group. Now that each child is responding on their own to each assignment we can acknowledge nuances we could not before.

I’m also not coping with behavior challenges. I can’t claim that a child is not listening or failing to follow instructions. Based on student responses I can make guesses about how well my instructions were understood. Or about how closely parents are involved in helping. At this stage, I could care less about skill development in tossing or catching or jumping and landing.

My role here in this distance learning scheme, as I see it, is less to deliver substitutes for what we would have done and instead to provide movement opportunities that invite fun practice. I want to be mindful of parents’ time and energies as they do their best to manage all of the things at home. So I keep things short and simple: 3-4 minute videos to either follow along or introduce an idea of an activity. Kids can do these on their own or with siblings or parents or whoever else may want to join (pets!). In many of the videos, there’s no talking, just background music and me demonstrating. For the older kids I’ve taken resources from youtube to offer some choices, then ask for their feedback.

During this time of social isolation on the one hand, and intense family bonding (of necessity) on the other, I do believe that we as teachers (often with our own family challenges) need to remember that this is not going to be a good time for great teaching and learning. There will be highlights and bright spots, yes. Let’s celebrate those. But we also need to stay realistic and compassionate and generous with ourselves and each other.

What we can offer now is a placeholder curriculum suffused with extra portions of care, empathy, calm and humor. We’re only human and we’re also hurting. Let’s keep that in mind as we distance ourselves while trying to maintain those strong ties with our students and our families.

SOL March 26th Out of Sorts :: Sorting It Out

Holding up :: on hold

out of sorts :: sorting it out

keep going :: keep up

waste not :: not wasted

no turning back :: no back turned

overdo :: do over

step over step :: overstep

pass time :: time past

siren song :: song of sirens

emergency stimulus :: stimulated emergency

word choice ::  choice words

turn over :: overturn

come over :: overcome

distance learning :: learning distance

 

SOL March 25th Fragments Assembled

So my 12 y-o says to me in exasperation: “You are a handful!”

And I guess that’s about right. When I showed up this morning he offered me this rap, though:

“Oh, you’re up late today, up late today

Go Mommy, go Mommy

Got that beauty sleep, that beauty sleep

with the shiny skin

She looks rested, looks rested..”

All this, while I shimmied and popped to his rhythm.

A great way to start the day!


 

When I start my “teaching” day and peek into SeeSaw, I’m first checking to make sure my activities are in the right places and then to clear any responses that need to be approved. It’s only 8:40 and already some kids have gone straight to the PE activity. I think it’s funny to see who does that. 2nd graders who are like “yeah, that reading and writing, I’ll do that later. Let me make up a tossing game first…”

If you see me on Twitter ragging on distance learning, it’s not because of my own experience, it has more to do with what were asking of kids, families and teachers during a time of international crisis. If I can offer my students an activity that gives them joy and a desire to practice something, that’s fabulous. It’s also a remarkable privilege to enjoy the conditions to do that so seamlessly.


 

Getting dressed, I ask: am I dressing for running or for writing and such?

My answer is: both.


 

Yesterday I went to my therapy appointment on the wrong day. I was on time, though. The appointment is today. Surprisingly I was not too bothered. It was a silly mix-up on my part. I forgave myself in a heartbeat. I went to the store and bought toast, red wine and chocolate.

My otherwise asynchronous life seems to be spilling over.