Category Archives: Slice of Life

SOLC Day 23: Making Connections

We’re still at it–the “it” being remote learning while our schools remain closed. On our 6th day I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know when we started this last week.

  1. Remote learning is not the same thing as teaching. I’m able to push out learning activities and provide feedback, but I’ve yet to get the teaching part in order.
  2. Technical glitches are a given. There is a constant barrage of technical questions from my students and their parents. Where is the attachment? It says file not found! My attachment won’t load. Where do I do my writing? My stream is gone!
  3. Related to number 2, we are lucky to have responsive tech support in my small district! Today my email cries of help were met with a productive Google Meet session with one of our tech team members. I got help troubleshooting, established a reasonable work around, and even squeezed in an extra question about Google Meet!
  4. I love Flipgrid! Posting a prompt each day–both written and as a video that I make as an invitation–allows my students to show each other a glimpse of their interests at home. They seem to enjoy it…and so do I. I just wish there were a way to comment that wasn’t limited to making a video back. (If any of you know a workaround for this, please share!)
  5. My students love to chat! I knew that they loved to chat–as in verbalize–in the classroom. But I learned quickly last Monday just how much they love to chat (like texting) on the Google Classroom pages. Which also means that I’ve been thinking about ways for them to connect that are less annoying that hundreds of emails in my inbox.
  6. So today, I decided to schedule an impromptu classroom meetup through Google Meet. I posted a note on our classroom page, letting kids know a couple of hours in advance that I would post a link to Meet…and gave brief directions about how to get on. I decided not to email parents this first time, just see who would come and figure out from there how it would work. Right on time, about half my students along with my co-teacher and our science teacher starting to pop onto my screen. At first with no volume…but eventually at full volume. I was able to get them to all mute themselves and then I called on them one by one to unmute and tell us all how they were and what they were doing. They absolutely loved being together…and then toward the end of our time one student discovered the chat feature–so I explained where it was to all of them and let them go wild chatting. Emojis began to fly along with the Hi and I’m here kind of posts they seem to love best. I gave them a one minute warning on the chatting and then wished them all well and signed off. I’ve already had an email from a parent thanking me for making her child’s day!
  7. I still haven’t figured out how to get everything done–including my report cards–in a reasonable time . But I know more about how to manage this new learning context than I did last week. I’m thinking about how to use our Meet tool in two different ways–one for a sort of “recess” like today, and another to support student learning in more specific ways. I’m still worried about the kids who are not as present, staying on the fringes of this remote learning thing. Are they having tech problems, are their parents too busy trying to work from home to help them, are they home alone without help? I hope to answer some of those questions in the days to come.

What’s happening in your learning context? How’s your homeschooling or remote learning going? What is working for you? What isn’t? What connections are you making?

SOLC Day 22: Taking Time

Taking Time

She breathes in

The daily brine

Ionic medicinal

Clearing the mind

Walks at a brisk clip

Quieting

Relentless wrist taps

To close the fitness rings

Is there time to linger

To look closely

At the spiral of shell

Notice its glossy curves?

Slow down to watch

The dragon lifts

On the elevator of wind currents

Overseeing the shoreline

Pause, look, listen, watch

Don’t congregate

Breathe in, pay attention

Make ever moment and every ion count

®Douillard

SOLC Day 21: Spring Has Sprung

The sun rose early today, spreading its energy and light around like confetti, creating a party-like atmosphere, lightening the heaviness of this difficult time. And it’s the weekend! Even though there is work to do, today I’ve tried not to work. I’ve read, watched some mindless Saturday television, Facetimed with my grandsons (oh, to be 4!), walked on the beach, and even braved the grocery store.

I can feel that burst of energy coursing through my veins, running through my marrow, clearing my mind and unwinding that tight knot in my shoulder. There are so many people out today. The neighborhood is teeming with walkers (keeping their distance, of course), dogs, and bicyclers. I noticed someone up the street blowing bubbles for their children to chase in the front yard. The folks in the cul de sac near us had their patio furniture spread out into the street to allow for socializing with social distancing. I waved to the mail deliverer as I picked up the package on my front porch and my husband was profuse in his thanks to the grocery store employees who were doing their best to make shopping in the time of coronavirus as enjoyable as possible.

And the beach was glorious! We had another negative tide this afternoon, exposing a huge stretch of walking beach. While some white clouds hunched along the horizon, the expanse of blue dominated the sky. Wildflowers are blooming, adding their brilliant yellow to the usually monochromatic palette of endless shades of blue.

Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days–and while we always seem to need rain–I am selfishly rooting for sun. Once spring has sprung, I don’t really want to push it back into the box! (Although I do admit, sunny days seem to be harder for people to maintain their social distancing!) Hope you’re also finding some ways to enjoy these first days of spring and a bit of downtime to recharge your batteries.

SOLC Day 20: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I love plants. I’m drawn to their simplicity, their complexity, the subtle variations in color, the brilliant bursts of color, not to mention the smells and textures and the tenacity they exhibit.

At best, I’m a fair weather gardener. I always have the best of intentions and I love to pick out this plant and that one, sure that I’ll get it planted in the perfect place in my yard or in that beautiful ceramic pot I just have to have.

In reality, most of my plants arrive as gifts, frequently from students and their families. As they enter our home, they claim their position in the kitchen garden window (it’s one of those windows that pushes out, creating a sort of mini greenhouse). Lucky for them, my husband has a green thumb and works hard to keep all the house plants alive and well. He mists the ones that need mist, waters the ones that need water, and leaves those that need little mostly alone.

But every now and then, in a flurry of decorating and cleaning, I purge that window box exiling those that are overgrown or straggly or on their last breath to the back yard. (With the exception of the orchids–they get to stay in even if they are not looking their best!) The exiles take their place along the edge of the patio where they can take advantage of the sprinkling system, ensuring that they will be watered with regularity. (It doesn’t rain much here, so irrigation is essential!)

It’s been raining most of the month of March here (we seem to be trying to catch up on rainfall totals for the entire year), so we’ve turned the sprinkler system off for the time being. With a rain-free day today, I decided to take a break from endless Zoom meetings and worries about student remote learning (Google Classroom glitches) and wandered out into the back yard.

Who knew that dandelions can grow tall…like knee high? And that all phases of dandelion bloom can be represented at the top of a single plant? I love dandelions, so I left these to thrive…if only temporarily until my husband heads out.

Then I wandered over to the exile zone…and wow! Those exiles have banded together to become a beautiful wild garden! Lavender reaches high, waving its fragrant blossoms. Aloe, like a giant spiked serpent, peers out from beneath. Swirls of succulents show their perfect Fibonacci sequence–math and nature perfectly intertwined.

But the piece de resistance (imagine that said with the perfect French accent) is the fuschia plant that I was certain was dead. It is vibrant and healthy…and when I tried to turn the plastic pot it is growing in, it didn’t budge–the roots have reached out of the pot into the ground. Such a gorgeous harbinger of spring!

I can’t take credit for any of the beauty on display in the backyard. Luckily this wild garden mostly takes care of itself (with a little help from my husband). But I am delighting in it today as it lifts my spirits and brightens my day!

How is your garden growing?

SOLC Day 19: Searching for a Second Wind

Is it really only day 4 of the school closures? Today the lift felt heavy. It’s not actually my teaching day, but that doesn’t alleviate feelings of responsibility: to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. And then to top things off, our Google Classroom has decided to stop loading the stream. Students starting commenting that their lessons had disappeared and soon after a parent emailed confirming that they could no longer see anything past March 17th.

My immediate response was panic. How could our lessons go missing? We had put so much work into creating them. And while I, too, could not get my stream to load, I could see the lessons/activities in the classwork section, Phew! Our district Ed Tech Coordinator is working to resolve the issue, soon I hope.

So instead of student responses today, I found myself in hours of video conferences. All were worthwhile, but they add up to lots of time sitting in front of a computer. And that is exhausting. I am really glad that I selfishly took some time when it wasn’t raining late this morning for my daily beach walk.

I rushed down the beach, feeling the cool breeze in my face as I noticed the mounding white clouds in the distance. The tide wasn’t low yet…I couldn’t wait til then, there were video calls scheduled during that time. (And as it turns out, it was raining then too!) I came across a group of sandpipers dancing in the surf. They raced in toward me with each wave and headed toward the water as the water receded. I danced with them, my camera low, trying to catch them in motion.

Taking time for myself is essential during these stressful times. I need that walk on the beach more than ever: the time to let my mind wander, to breathe deeply, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to move my body. I found a bit of a second wind. I know I’ll need another walk tomorrow to refill that wind supply!

SOLC Day 18: Looking for the Silver Lining

I’m tired of rain, I’m tired of the corona virus, I’m tired of endless breaking news with more stories of closures, infection, and dire economic consequences.

So…I’m making a list of those things I am appreciating today.

In no particular order:

I appreciate all the book suggestions from slicers in response to my blog yesterday. They have curated an awesome list for me to chose from…now I just need to pick one and get reading!

I’m thrilled that my mom has decided to stay with us for the time being. While my dad is in Yuma (really, a snowbird from San Diego?), it’s good to have her here rather than isolated 30 minutes away.

I’m lucky to teach in a place where parents are involved and care so much. I can see the evidence of parents following up with their children in response to the learning activities I post daily on Google Classroom during the school closures.

I’m grateful for Flipgrid. The daily prompts I’ve been giving my students lets me see their precious faces and hear their voices each day. And I’ve been enjoying making my own as an invitation to them. The challenge–a new prompt each day. We’ve shared favorite stuffies, how we stay active and healthy, our current book, and tomorrow…how we spend a rainy day. Anyone have ideas for additional prompts? I definitely need more–especially since our school closure just got extended by two weeks! (And that is likely optimistic)

And…I managed to squeeze in a between-the-raindrops beach walk with my husband! It was cool and breezy…and blissfully empty. I power walked my usual distance and still got back home in time for the scheduled Zoom call on my calendar.

Okay…I feel better already now that I spent some time thinking about the silver lining to today’s frustrations. And I’m looking forward to your Flipgrid prompt ideas for my students!

SOLC Day 17: What Are You Reading?

What are you reading these days? I was going strong with my personal reading as 2019 came to an end…and then came 2020 and my reading hit the breaks! According to my Goodreads account, I’ve completed only 6 books this year!!! (That does not count all the books I read to students, the amazing blog posts I read daily, the countless articles about coronavirus, professional articles garnered through Twitter and Facebook…)

I just finished The Paris Wife, a novel based on Ernest Hemingway’s first (of 4!) wife. It was okay, but not amazing. A better book I read recently was How to be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals by Sy Montgomery. The frame was interesting and I loved thinking about the ways an octopus, dogs, chickens, and even ostriches contributed to the “good creature” Sy developed into through her interactions with these animals. When We Believed in Mermaids was light and quick, not entirely believable, but enjoyable. I read Where the Crawdads Sing when it first came out–loved it–and find it hard to top. The new Malcolm Gladwell book Talking to Strangers was completed at the end of September. I’ve read, but I don’t seem to be reading now.

I feel like I’m struggling to find that book–you know, the one that pulls you in and offers you escape. Not the one that feels like going up endless flights of stairs that end in nowhere.

So…what are your favorite books to read lately? The ones you read as the adult you, the books to escape, not to recommend to your students. What are you finding compelling? (Not necessarily “high brow” or make-you-a-better-person reading.) I’m hoping to crowd source a list to keep me going over the next several months–and I’m determined to get myself back on track with my personal reading.

I need you guys…start suggesting!