Top Ten Worries from the Realm of Social-Isolation

I am a worrier by nature, although generally not about things like health, which I know is weird. Money? Yes. Relationships? Yes. Employment? Yes. Education? Yes. My home? Yes. I can trace most of this back to my childhood, but we'll save that for a future visit for therapy, if I ever have the time to actually go (ha). Of course I am worried about BIG things- the economy, a vaccine/therapeutics for COVID19, how this is impacting POC, what this means for people who were about to retire, etc... but this is just a glimpse into my specific life. I think that a lot of people view my social media and whatnot and think that I have it all together, since I choose to mostly highlight the positive, something I vehemently think everyone has the right to do. And I guess I do, for the most part, because I work so hard to stay steady for my son. But internally, sometimes it's an absolute shit show. 

1. That I am not doing enough work- I know I am doing a ton of work, but no matter how many hours I put in each day (and night), it never feels like enough. I know a lot of this is because it is done at home, as opposed to my classroom, and because I don't physically see my students, but I could work 20 hours a day and still feel like I wasn't doing what I needed to right now.

2. That I am not doing a good job teaching my son- Is it fun enough? Is he being challenged? Am I using too many worksheets? Am I doing math in the right order? Will he have the necessary skills for first grade? Should I do more? Less?

3. Food weirdness- I have been grocery shopping every ten days and the idea of food shortages still really scares me, especially when you read some of the headlines. Plus, it's so unsettling to go to the grocery store and not to get things. I definitely always took it for granted that I'd always have access to things like yeast and butter easily. 

4. What will happen next school year?- What will classrooms look like? How will I handle the logistics of my son being in another district, which he will just be beginning under these weird circumstances? How will he adapt? (I think academically he will be fine, and I think socially he will probably be fine too, since he's a friendly kid and all the other first graders will not have seen each other for over a half a year. If this was fifth grade I'd be a wreak). 

5. Will I lose my mind?- By four in the afternoon Monday-Friday I am frustrated, frazzled, and short on patience. I am putting forth more mental, emotional, and even physical, some days, energy than ever and I am not getting enough sleep. I am very burnt out, but I know that I have to plow forward. I am also anticipating a lot of challenges about transitioning back to going into public and work and whatnot, which have been occupying my mind a lot these past few days. 

6. What kind of pay cuts will happen down the line for teachers?- I am thankful for my job and seniority, but I know that the state is losing a ton of money and there will be K-12 cuts eventually. 

7. Will my grandparents stay safe?-My grandma has Alzheimer's and is in a tiny residential home and some relatives who are still working are living with my grandpa, who has a history of heart disease. 

8. That I will offend people by not handling my privilege correctly- I try to conscious about what I have and not broadcast it in people's faces, nor complain widely (here is different, because I know I have few readers). I didn't boast about my new laptop I bought for work (my old one was not up for the task of distance learning), I don't show my cartload of food on my stories, packages arriving, etc... But I know I am still subconsciously slipping it in, even by expressing concerns about work, since people have lost their jobs. I am able to stay home and do my work, while my family is safe and healthy, and I know that is a huge advantage. 

9. That people in a rush will jeopardize everything- People who don't interpret data correctly, people who are bored, people who are inpatient, people who hate the governor, etc... are putting way too much pressure on politicians to open RIGHT NOW. These people aren't looking at how long it took Wuhan to open are totally ignoring the experts who say too fast will be too bad. I also am ready for the onslaught of ignorant "it wasn't that bad" comments, which is what WE WANT to happen- for social distancing to have worked so that less people became sick. I don't know why I get so angry and upset by the stupidity of people I either know are dumb or who are strangers, but I do. And I don't think this should go on at this level indefinitely; I am very supportive of a phased in return to "normal."

10. That I won't get to see my seniors- I am worried our district won't end up having a real graduation or that it will be poorly attended and that many kids who I loved so much will never come back (this is completely speculative, the district says they are having one and a lot of kids are probably going to distance learning first semester, so they will be in town). The real end-of-the-year for seniors is such a big deal normally, and I make such a big deal about it, and this year we learned fifth period we were leaving, after I had seen most of my kids for the day. It breaks my heart.

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

How are you? Really? On a scale from 1-10 I would say most of my days average out at 6.75. I can wake up at a 3, feel like a 9 on our walks in the sunshine by flowers with my kid chatting, to a 7 when I am getting in a good work groove, back down to a 2.5 after I read a bad article, to an 8 while getting in a half an hour of reading or stitching time before dinner. I think this is why I am tired so often. 

I finished Colson Whitehead's book, The Nickel Boys, and really loved it. We are discussing it at our book club in a few days.

I am caving in and reading Glennon Doyle's books. I ordered them both and Untamed arrived first, which I think will be good for me right now. Two of my friends and I are also reading it and are going to have our own little book club for it as well.

Guys. I tried on my wedding dress last night. It's come to that. (I was actually pleased- I couldn't physically zip it up alone, because the zipper is a bit touchy, but I am pretty sure it fits). 

I think I've spent more on candles since being home than in the last year. I just want my house to smell like Bath and Body Works threw up all over it, okay? Sorrynotsorry. 

I thoroughly enjoyed watching those urgent care doctors from Bakersfield get debunked by like everyone the other day. HELLO. They're urgent care doctors. I love me some urgent care, but let's admit that they're not exactly experts at anything more than handing you an rx for antibiotics or rash cream and sending you home. But yes, let's trust EVERYONE IN SCRUBS. Their logic, statistics, everything was so speculative and it was irresponsible of them to capitalize on the fact that people are anxious to get out of their homes. 

One activity Sawyer has been doing for his school work is writing letters and thank-you notes. It's great- he is practicing penmanship, sound things out, gets to draw, and makes people happy with fun mail. Bonus: we are helping support USPS and their wickedly expensive stamps.

Distance Learning- Six Tips for Interacting More with Students

[my favorite student + me working]

I'm going to save everyone the trouble of listening to me lament the woes of distance teaching/learning. It's really, really, really hard to be thrown into it with no training or warning, and the kids have been told that their grade from the first progress report stands for the entire semester, even if they don't do one assignment (they can increase their grades, though). I teach IB seniors, who are typically motivated kids, but senioritis was already setting in, so getting them involved is really hard sometimes. I have had mixed results- there are assignments with 85% of the kids participating and ones with 35%. I feel like, as a whole, I am having some success and engaging with them, though, and here are some techniques that I've used-

1. Daily Google Classroom Questions- This has been the easiest way for me to get steady work done from kids and also shows me they are doing some reading at home. The questions usually ask for 3-5 sentences (once in awhile I'll throw them a bone and just say 1-2) plus textual support. I provide a personalized response for every single one and it's credit or no-credit, so it's easy for me to keep track of and for them to use improve their grades with. It's perfect because I can sit down and respond to ten kids, help my son with some of his work, and then jump back on and reply to a few more. 

2. IGTV Book Rec Channel on my Teacher Instagram Page- I started this a week ago, and most work-days I put up a 2-5 minutes video talking about an influential book in my life. The numbers show most of my kids who are following me are watching them, so I can rest knowing that they're hearing me talk about books like Crime and Punishment, The Handmaid's Tale, and memoirs. I think, whether they want to admit it or not, it reminds them of my literary-tangents the classroom.

3. Recognizing three students a day- I started doing this on my Instastories and saving them to a Highlight, and the views are really high. Every work day I recognize three kids who are doing an awesome job, have improved, or have done a great job at a particular assignment. It's basically the equivalent of giving a kid a certificate and I always tear up a little when they reply with so much gratitude (social isolation is making me sappy, what can I say?). 

4. Emails, emails, and more emails- I email kids for doing a good job, for not doing work, to remind them to do an upcoming assignment, and to check in to see if they are doing okay. I also email parents, although I haven't gotten many responses. 

5. Flexibility- I am typically not a very flexible teacher when it comes to a lot of things. I have well over 100 students and I need things on time, I need to stick to a carefully thought out pacing calendar, and I need to prep my students for the IB test. These are different times, though, and they require a different approach. I am providing a lot of wiggle room on turning work in, am re-figuring how much time I give kids to do the reading, and am making exceptions for kids who email me and explain their situations. My kids know that this is a HUGE deal and they're communicating with me about what's happening in their lives because of it. 

6. Being honest with my feelings and open with my at-home life- The kids really appreciate it when their teachers are human, and that's something I've always tried to be with them. I am constantly relaying anecdotes from Sawyer to them in the classroom, and life in general. It's hard to want to work for someone you don't feel you know well (at least that's how I am)! I have opened my life up to them even more now. I include snippets of my schedule and my feelings in my weekly letter to them, I share pictures of my son on Instagram, funny things that go on around home in my stories, screen shots of things I find interesting, etc... Obviously I keep it appropriate, but I find keeping that connection really important. 

Things I don't do:
1. Try to get them to use a whole bunch of new platforms- I stick to the basics that they are all familiar with, instead of downloading a whole bunch of new things. I know that this is overwhelming enough as is, and, honestly I don't have it in me right now to learn 4825932598 new programs that two of them might use (or sign up for all the free trials and deal with all the new passwords). 

2. Take their lack of work personally- They're teenagers and have been thrown into a weird, weird world. I do occasionally get frustrated, but I know they're good kids and their situations are all very unique.

3. Assume that the assignments that worked in the classroom will necessarily work now- For example, every book we did had a very involved physical notebook that went with it. That definitely won't work now! 

I cannot wait to back to the classroom and start the slow process of returning to normal, but for now I am doing what I can with what, and who, I've got. 

Blogger Banter- White Noise

We did it again! Julie and I both read Don DeLillo's White Noise and ended up being split on our opinions of the text. I love that! I feel like a lot of time when I go to book club everyone loves what we read. Not that this is bad, but sometimes a little controversy can be good. Here's our conversation (beware of spoilers!):

Julz: Whelp, I didn't like it. I felt totally let down by the conclusion and I felt there wasn't any sense of resolution. I mean, what were the repercussions of Jack shooting the pharmabiologist dude?

Christine: I actually really liked it, minus a few complaints. I think I was ready for DeLillo’s style and sort of sensibility, though. He’s definitely unique (I went to one of his readings once, too, he’s an interesting man...). There’s definitely an air of pretentiousness, but I think it’s at least self-referential, which ties back to what you were saying about Murray (see below).

Julz: I thought it kind of ironic that Jack and Babette both had know-it-all kid. Heinrich seemed to know everything about everything and Denise was super perceptive.

Christine: They were all so, so flawed, even the kids (Wilder... man... they adored him, but the crying episode would have driven me crazy). I loved the contrast set up between the siblings, Babette and his other wives (so many of them!), and even Jack and Orest.

Julz: How did you feel about Murray? Personally, I wanted to stab a fork in my ear every time he soliloquized (if that's even a word).

Christine: Murray was a strange dude! He was a bit annoying, but I think it was intentional on DeLillo’s part, to sort of create the archetype of an eccentric, self-important professor. The one scene where he was talking to the prostitutes cracked me up- at first I thought he was calling oral sex the Heinrich, and then I thought he really did want to perform the maneuver... ha. I think?

Other things I really liked:

The setting- such an eccentric little college town with it’s insane asylum, mysteriously toxic elementary school, and eventual disaster simulations. The classes the two men taught? Oh man....

The dialogue- I loved the verbal gymnastics that DeLillo crafts, clearly often unrealistic, but so supportive of the thematic concepts he was pushing. It meant itself to that sort of existential crisis that Jack, and even Babette and Heinrich to some degrees, were grappling with.

Death/Dylar- Jack’s insane preoccupation with death was fascinating to me, since it’s not something I really spend a lot of time worrying about (yet, I guess). If he was someone in real life I’d tell him to shut up, but the way his character is written so fully let me suspend my annoyance. The fact that he and Babette become so obsessed with Dylar is so... sad, I guess, especially for her. Clearly she’s depressed and needs real help, not just someone trying to scam her in a hotel room. Her need feels genuine, while his a bit egocentric.

Black Cloud/White Noise- another contrast! Basically this idea that anything that takes over your senses there’s foreign can have negative effects, whether it’s something toxic in the air or invisible coming from consuming media. The idea of what you can and cannot control is important too, and how it effects people in different ways. Who is seemingly immune, who is susceptible, etc... (it feels like I’m talking about the pandemic, haha).

Julz: Speaking of the pandemic, I had to site this Heinrich quote: "If you came awake tomorrow in the Middle Ages and there was an epidemic raging, what could you do to stop it, knowing what you know about the progress of medicine and disease?" That hit a little too close to home. However, I doubt Richard III would have understood Social Distancing. Although Henry VIII was more enlightened and new to avoid populace places when plague broke out.

Obviously the white noise is a commentary on consumerism, since there's so much mentioned about product labels, television ads, and radio programs. Do you think it would have been a totally different novel if it had been written today (35 years later) what with all our prescription commercials and being constantly bombarded with ads on our smart devices?

Christine: I totally think this would be different now; I kept wanting to scream at them to just Google Dylar, but then I remembered they couldn’t! We’re so immersed in the noise... there’s no escape.
The few issues I had:
The dialogue- while I did like it, occasionally I Would lose track of who was saying what, which is annoying. I read a Chuck Palahniuk memoir/writing guide recently and he takes about how much he hates that style.
The end- I am fine with the way it ended in the sense that he was so self-congratulatory about not killing the guy and then helping him to the hospital. He wasn’t a killer (except I actually thought he might kill himself after he talked to Murray). I even found the scene at the German clinic kind of hilarious. More than anything it bugged me that he drove the car back, covered in blood! It was his neighbor’s! Rude.

Julz: It’s so interesting how two people can have such vastly different perceptions of the same book!

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

[the things we do for our students]

I want to keep this on the more upbeat side today, because I am in a good mood, and don't want to get cranky, so please know that I am well aware that our world is in a state of chaos and that I am fully aware of my privilege as someone who still has her job and is healthy (I am trying to give back as best I can, I promise, I just don't want to sit here and pat myself on the back as to how). So, disclaimer written, moving on.

I really, really love the Bad on Paper Podcast now. I have moved from a lukewarm fan to an enthusiastic one as of late. Both of the women are single, living in NYC apartments, and are still posting every week. They offer honest takes on how isolated they feel, how they are adapting, and what this means for their careers. 

I am also listening to Wine Girl by Victoria James, a memoir of a the youngest sommelier, and am really enjoying it. I am not super into wine, so I was a little concerned when I downloaded it, but it is much more about her life and the industry.

I let Sawyer sort of direct our science/social study topics, prepping things he voices interest in. We've done bugs, dinosaurs, and a few other things, but right now he's super into maps, so I downloaded a pdf from Teachers-Pay-Teachers and it's been super fun. He made a map of his bedroom the other day and took it so seriously. 

I have two packets of yeast left and there hasn't been an at the stores lately- I am going to use one to make homemade pizza tonight. My dreams of a sourdough starter are evaporating (unless I order one...).

I am almost done with Elton John's memoir and then I need to read Colson Whitehead's newest by the end of the month. Our English Department book club used to meet every three or so months... we've now decided to do one monthly. This is definitely a good thing. MAKE ME READ MORE BOOKS!

I have started an IGTV channel on my teacher account where I talk for a few minutes about influential books a few times a week and so far I've gotten some good feedback from the kids! My first book was Crime and Punishment, my second Charlotte's Web, and the third The Handmaid's Tale. After I do a dozen or so I'll try to do a post here about why I chose the one I did.

Sawyer's birthday is this weekend and I went through a very sad period several weeks ago once I realized it would be spent in lock down. We had originally planned on taking him to Disneyland, but he had no idea, thank goodness. His heart was set on taking cupcakes to his class, which I have promised him we'll do when this is all over (even if he has moved schools and it's cupcakes to his old teachers, of even his new class if his teacher is down with that, who knows). I let myself be sad for a few hours, but then sprang into action. I ordered a ton of Avengers decorations, including a life-size cutout of his favorite, Spiderman, stuff for his cake, and presents. The best thing is that I put out a call to certain special people in his life to send me video messages that I could edit together and people have SHOWED up. I tear up every time I think about it- a few family members, friends of our family, both kids and adults, and the best- several videos from his teachers and the kids that are still at his school. I think it'll be nearly ten minutes! Now to not cry while he watches it... I'm also going to suck it up and pay to rent the new Trolls movie, which we have been listening to the soundtrack for, and basically we'll play to his heart's content all day. 

Reasons You May Complain About Your Child's Teacher(s) During Distance Learning

I am very fortunate to have had zero problems with the parents of my students during distance learning so far, and for the most part have been so happy to see such support and gratitude from most parents for our profession these days.


Some people, including some fellow teachers, which I do not understand at all, have the audacity to complain right now.

During a pandemic. 

A pandemic that allowed some teachers mere hours to prepare to exit their classrooms for months. 

So, just in case anyone has questions, I have some guidelines as to when it's okay to publicly complain about your child's teacher(s) during a time of rushed, mandatory distance learning.* There are times were contacting a school or teacher is definitely warranted, but other times maybe not. 

When you should most definitely consider complaining (to the school):

1. If your child's teacher doesn't make an effort to connect to your family or doesn't respond to emails in a timely manner (let's say 1 business day)
2. If the teacher doesn't give your child work (or much work... this will vary depending on grade level and subject, but let's say a worksheet a week is not acceptable)
3. If the teacher threatens to lower a child's grade; in the state of California this is not allowed
4. If the teacher does something to make your child feel less-than, insulted, attacked, etc...
5. If you don't have technological resources and the teacher refuses to provide a packet assignment for pick-up (or whatever your district has decided the alternative to be)

When you should most definitely NOT complain:

1. If you feel like too much work is assigned. Your child's teacher is working hard to prepare and post that work, and, as stated before, the grade cannot go down if an assignment here or there is missed
2. If your child will not do the work. The kid is yours- you are the boss. This would be an excellent time to revisit the expectations of your home and adjust accordingly (yes, there are exceptions with kids who have true behavioral or health issues, but if this is not a relevant concern, perhaps I may suggest limiting screen time until school work has been done?)
3. If you don't like the type of work being assigned. We are all working with technology the best we can without anywhere near ample time to prepare
4. If you feel like you or your child are getting "too many" notifications from their teacher. Again, that teacher is working really hard to deliver content, provide feedback, and build that bridge between school and home. 
5. Your child's teacher wants to have frequent Zooms/Google Meets- They want to see your kid's darling face and check their knowledge. Yup, it means setting up the tech if your kid is little and making sure no one drop an F-bomb, but, again, the teacher is doing this in order to check on your kid, not judge your home-decorating. Sometime you might have to skip them- teachers get this. 

Suggestions for acting on concerns:
1. Be kind and explain- We want to help, I promise. We do not want to be criticized or told what to do, though. If you and your spouse are working around the clock and are caring for lots of kids, tell us. A modified plan can be made.
2. Ask around- what are the other parents in the class thinking and doing? 
3. Do your best before complaining- Before getting upset from the get-go, let things settle down and see what your family can manage before complaining to the teacher.
4. Have your child talk to the teacher if they are old enough- Sure, a first grader is going to have trouble articulating concerns, but a sixth or seventh grader could probably begin this process, a parent then stepping in if they can't get things resolved.
5. Adjust notification settings- Before getting too annoyed, adjust the notification in your apps so you aren't getting as many, but maybe set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to check in manually so that nothing is being missed 

I get it- many parents are trying to juggle helping their kids with schoolwork while doing their own as well. Same here- I spend between 7-10 hours a day on educating my child and my actual students, and prepping lessons for both (my son hasn't gotten work from his school, since it's private and we aren't paying tuition). And I'm not saying to not complain- just maybe to your spouse or your friend on the phone as opposed to social media or making calls to a principal on the daily. We cannot as a society expect teachers to educate during this time if we are criticizing how they are doing it. 

*This does not apply to students with IEPs or when true exceptions in regards to health or behavior are factors

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

I never thought I'd have this little free time working from home, honestly. I didn't think that distance learning would be quite this time-consuming. I didn't think that I'd have it easy, but I honestly feel like I am working round-the-clock right now. I don't want to whine- I am so incredibly thankful for my job right now. This whole distance teaching-homeschooling Sawyer- taking care of house- attempting to take care of self situation is intense. This is something I always grapple with and I try to know my audience; you don't want to complain about xxxx to people who wish they had xxxxx or they have xxxxx worse than you. Luckily I am friends with a lot of teacher-moms who I can vent to (and vice versa).

I went grocery shopping today and it's just so not fun anymore. The mask, the lining up in the morning if you want to get a jump on the good products, the wiping everything down, the massive meal plans for 10+ days, the freezer tetris... sigh...

Anyone else thing the bonus episode of Tiger King was a little lame? I mean Joel was funny and self-deprecating, but as a whole it was a little bit of a let-down.

I have been listening to Dua Lipa's new album and it is SO GOOD.

Reading! Still making my way through Elton John's memoir, Me, and then also White Noise, by Don DeLillo, which Julie and I will be discussing soon. 

Here's something fun: Sawyer and I finished reading the first illustrated Harry Potter book and we watched the movie over the course of a few nights. He loved it! Voldemort on the back of Quirrell's head freaked him out a little bit, as he couldn't wrap his head the whole concept (which is admittedly pretty weird for a little kid).

Yesterday I was the first day where everything felt like SO much work (and actually I wrote a lot of this post then and didn't post it, which was good, because I was able to edit out the grump today). Not that everything other day has been easy, but just way beyond the normal effort. Today was so much better, and I attribute two main factors: going to bed thirty minutes earlier and not reading the news in the morning. I've also had more contact with the outside world- the grocery store and Target, and then a Zoom department meeting with sixteen colleagues, several of which I am friends with. 

I made the Dalgona coffee everyone has attempted and it wasn't too bad. I need to work with the ratios to suit my taste, but it will be an occasional treat for a hot day (it takes a lot of milk for this day and age of limited grocery shopping). Next time I'm going to add some of my normal vanilla coffee creamer to the milk, which I think might counteract the bitterness. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

If you hate social distancing than you have to suck it up and play by the rules: wear a mask in public, stay home unless you must work or do something essential (groceries, doctor, bank deposit, etc...), practice good hygiene, and don't hoard medical supplies. The rules apply to everyone, the end. 

Sawyer has had quite the social calendar lately- he  doe share-and-tell with friends a few times a week, FaceTimes two of his friends like once a week and yesterday he got to do a Zoom meeting with some of the kids from his class (he goes to a private school and they are providing child care for students of essential workers). It's been so good to see him interact with those his own age again. He didn't know about his class one yesterday, because I was a little worried it would fall through, so the look of surprise was pretty great.

Dr. Fauci said that he believes school will return in the fall, which made me feel so excited and hopeful, since there are a lot of people in the education community saying otherwise. Of course we have to prepare for the worst, and changes will have to be made in a lot of ways, but hearing his optimism was so nice. 

I keep forgetting Easter is approaching. Luckily I anticipated shipping issues several weeks ago, so I did all my basket shopping already, and also ordered all of Sawyer's birthday presents and whatnot too. I have a dinner planned and we'll do our usual bunny cake and egg dying. We have never done a lot for the holiday, so it feels like it will be normal. 

I keep falling down the rabbit hole of  educational subscription boxes for kids- the Little Passports one seems super cute... NOT THAT WE CAN GO ANYWHERE RIGHT NOW. 

The other day I didn't feel well, something totally unrelated to The Virus, and it really scared me because the idea of needing to seek medical attention right now seems like such a no-no. I just keep thinking about all these people who may be newly diagnosed with cancer, or people who have household accidents, or whatever. There are so many other non-covid related reasons to need to see a doctor and now the healthcare system is so... complicated. 

I am having a lot of trouble not working these days- it's one of the problems of working from home. I feel compelled to work all day, which is not the way it's supposed to be. Emails, fine, since I need to be accessible to students and colleagues as much as possible, but I need to set some better boundaries. Hats off to all of you who work from home on the regular!

I am reading Lauren Wilkinson's American Spy and it's so good! I hope to finish today so that I can start one of Don DeLillo's, which Julie and I will post about together in a new Bookish Banter post. 

Three Things I'm Being More Flexible About These Days (and Three Goals for the Week)

I. Like. Structure. And order, routine, lists, and self-discipline.

But, we're living in a weird time, so I've had to lighten up in a few areas, which is challenging for me, but important. I thought I'd share in case you also need a push to give yourself permission to be a little more flexible:

Phone Time- Prior to this fiasco I was trying to be really strict on myself about screen time. Now I am still fairly so during the "work" day, but afterwards, especially after Sawyer goes to bed, it's a source of social connection. The past two Friday's I've gotten together with friends on House Party, I'm in a few Marco Polo groups, plus all the Instagram banter. It makes me feel better.

Stepping back from the news cycle- This is similar to the previous; I try to stay away from it during the work day, so that I can focus on being Sawyer's teacher and my students' teacher. I don't need to get obsessed with information that I literally can't do anything about. I am incredibly worried and sad, but I am doing what I am supposed to do in my home, so being glue to CNN constantly isn't going to help. I take a little time before breakfast to catch up, and then maybe once in the late afternoon, and once at night. Be informed, no obsessed. 

Distancing myself from people who make me anxious or annoyed, even if I feel obligated to them in some way- I know this sounds vague, but I let guilt and obligation run the show sometimes. Not right now! I have to protect my sanity so that I can be a good mom, a good teacher, and good to myself. I have started muting tons of people on social media, am offering quick polite replies if I don't want to invest my energy in a lengthy conversation, and am refusing to engage in conversations that might cause me unnecessary stress. 

Also, three goals for the week:

In bed earlier- I have been going to bed way too late and am still being woken up fairly early. Just even thirty minutes will help.

Finish at least two books- I am a solid way into three right now, so this seems doable. 

Five student check-ins a day- I am trying to email five students a day to check in on them, and I was doing well until spring break last week. I need to keep doing that! It's important for them to know I care and am thinking about them, and it also helps me stay connected to school. 

Homeschooling a Kindergartner, as a High School Teacher

I wanted to take some time today to talk about how I have approached teaching my kindergartner at home the last three weeks, and will continue to do so for the rest of the school year. First of all, a few several disclaimers, in no particular order:

- This is what works for us; there is no one-size-fits all approach and I'm not here to tell everyone what they must do, I'm simply providing ideas if anyone wants them
- I am a high school teacher; I teach IB English to 12th graders. I am also credentialed to teach high school biology, and also elementary grades, which is where I started out. I have never taught lower than 4th grade, though (I student taught 3rd and 4th, and taught 5th grade for three years and then 4th for one). 
- My son is an eager student and is on track, if not a little ahead, in language arts and math. I don't get hung up on Lexile levels (confession: I hate them as a high school teacher) and I am not formally assessing him.
- I make up a lot of things on my own, but I also look at things online (especially Pinterest for crafts), have gotten things from Teachers Pay Teachers, and also have some workbooks that I've picked up over the year
- I am constantly working on my own classroom work throughout the day. I instruct him a lot, by modeling, but once he is released to independent practice on a new concept or reviewing something I jump onto Google Classroom or am planning. I plan out his lessons each night and I really try to be strategic so that I am delivering instruction to him and my students. Basically, between Sawyer and my job I am busy with those two things from about 8:30-4:30 every day, and then I work at night after he is in bed on planning for his next day and doing more work for my students. I have less free time now than ever! But it's okay.
- Sawyer didn't get a spring break, since I didn't want to ruin our newly established routine, and I didn't stop working myself. It's fine. Really! 
- I only have one child. For this, it is definitely easier, but also remember that I am his sole companion, so this can be tough at times when he wants to play or show me things constantly. 
- His teachers sent home nothing; he goes to a private kinder and they are under no obligation to do so, at least this month, since they waived tuition.
- We get fully ready and dressed before the school day starts (fine, I don't really put on a full face of makeup or curl my hair, but the idea of not being in our pajamas and starting "the day" is a good transition).
- Our day is structured and there is a lot of learning and practicing going on; this might not work for everyone, but I really do think it's important that there is an attempt to keep kids learning is essential. 

That was a long disclaimer, but what can you expect coming from me? 

Here's a general run down of our schedule:

8:30-9:40 (Sight Words and Phonics)
- 10 minutes of independent reading for him (I help as needed)
- Sight word practice (we go through the ones he has on a ring and then either come up with sentence that he writes from them or do some review worksheets). We spent the first two practicing what he already had and then I added two new ones this week. Sometimes we use Bananagrams, Scrabble, or Upwords, to also practice.
- Lately we have been working on digraphs- ch, sh, and th. There's a lot of brainstorming of words, doing worksheets, drawing pictures to go with the words, etc...
- Twice a week he does penmanship, writing each upper case and lower case letters from memory
- He reads a phonics book to me; we have tons of the boxed collections that I kept ordering from Scholastic (now I am so glad).

9:40-10:00 Snack break and a scooter walk around the block

10:00-10:15 We usually read a story and do a comprehension activity that's based to some sort of broader mini-unit we are doing for the week. The first week it was Iggy Peck, Architect, last week it was The Nowhere Box, and this past week it has been camping books. 

10:15-11:15 Math
- Number fluency chart, 11-20 
- Addition and subtraction practice- for this we use worksheets, dice, objects, and whiteboards
- Some sort of other skill- shapes, graphing, inequalities, etc... 
- I am trying to make this a mix of worksheets and interactive activities (like hiding dinosaurs with math facts all over the house that he has to solve)

11:15-12:15 PE (aka one hour walk around our hilly neighborhood)

12:15:12:45 lunch

12:45-1:30 Science
- The first two weeks we continued learning about bugs, since that was what he had been doing in school and was excited about continuing. Now we are doing dinosaurs (his choice... I am not the hugest fan)
- Usually I do two things, choosing from quick youtube videos, part of an episode of The Magic School Bus, books that we already have, and crafts

1:30-2:00 Independent coloring or "centers" (aka play while I do more work)

2:00-2:10 Share time- We share with some friends of ours on Instagram video, which gives the kids a chance to talk, ask questions, and see people who don't live with them

2:10-3:25 rest time in his room alone (this isn't really homeschooling, but I think it's important that parents are giving themselves a formal break in a safe way that allows their child to sleep, rest, or play independently).

Fridays have a culminating project from whatever little unit we are doing; the first week he was an architect and built his own city, the next week he got to decorate a large box like the character in the book, and this week we set up a tent in the backyard to go camping.

Once a week we read a poem and he does his own drawing based on it- he loves this and asks to do it daily. 

Things I need to work on:
- I need to stop planning the night before, like a rookie, haha. I hope to sit down this weekend and plan the entire week out, including printing everything I need. My students at work are back from "spring break" on Monday, so I feel like I need to even be more structured and organized to juggle all of this and give everyone what they need
- I need to let him do more dot-to-dots and color... that's what he loves and it's fine
- I need a more systematic approach to math, which I hope to plan this weekend as well
-  Taking a look at the standards a little more carefully

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

First of all, I hope everyone is healthy, handling their time in whatever way works for them, and is staying in their homes (unless they have an essential job). I don't want to sit here and lecture people on what they hopefully already know, but, please stop going to your friends' houses to hang out, letting your kids play on playgrounds/going to sports practices, and being in the "bubble space" of your neighbor when you chat. The more people are careful the quicker this will decline and the faster we can get on with our lives.

On that matter, California schools are closed for the rest of the school year, which I have been predicting would happen since we left work on March 13. If people look at China, it took over three months to lighten restrictions, and they shut down things a lot faster than we did. It's data, plain and simple. Does it suck for our students? Yes! My kids are seniors and are missing out on so much, besides content. Does it suck for teachers? Yes! We love our jobs, we care about our kids, and we know that playing catch up will be a huge challenge. But, in the scheme of things two and a half months isn't going to ruin anyone's entire academic career (especially since we lose so much time at the end of the year to testing, various activities, etc...). In order to flatten the curve, to save lives, and to allow our medical professionals to tackle this virus, people, everywhere, need to stay home unless they are an essential member of the workforce. Yes, young kids don't get terribly sick from the virus, this is true (and great). But, what happens when the teachers and other staff members get ill (or die)? Or when these kids bring home the virus they picked up at school and give it to their guardians at home? Then there are the adults on campus for student pick-ups, supply deliveries, special education services, maintenance issues, etc... Not to mention that most schools don't have the  man-power to be cleaned properly every day. It is horrible and I don't want to be out of my classroom, but when we look big picture at society in general, you have to see that there are way too many variables in schools that can increase the spread of the virus. It's a hard choice and it's going to have consequences, I'm not denying that. I want my own kid at school! He's an only child and is missing out on socializing and content (although I think we're doing okay there). But let's say one of my high school kids get it. They then bring it to school and pass it to their girlfriend, the three friends they were passing their phone around to for Tick-Tock viewing, the librarian they accidentally sneezed on while checking out a book, and one of their six teachers. Those people contract it, and then repeat the process. This can happen at any grade level; younger kids can still have the virus and not really show symptoms. It has to be this way. If you want this whole thing to get under control, it just has to. 

One last thing: I am an incredibly impatient person and a control freak. But, I am also realistic and I trust the models on community spread. I control what I can control in my home now- my daily schedule, how I present content to my students, how often I contact them ("Man, every time I get a notification on my phone there's a 50/50 change it's coming from Google Classroom from one of my teachers"), what I make for dinner, and when I do all my household cleaning. 

Now, some good news: every single one of my students have joined Google Classroom, 90% of them have done at least one assignment, and I am nearly caught up on the grading I brought home from before the closure. I am rereading The Awakening to teach with them next, and it's one of my favorites.

Sawyer lost his first tooth! He was so excited and, long story short, it almost fail down the drain since the big even happened in the shower. Judging by how small his (loud) mouth is and where that adult tooth is growing, I need to start saving for braces asap. 

What I'm watching: Tiger King, baby. 

What I'm listening to: the memoir Wine Girl by Victoria James (I am not a huge wine drinker, but this is really interesting!

What I just started reading: American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson (so far, so good)

Current favorite apps for socializing: Instagram, House Party, Marco Polo, and Zoom (Facebook can suck it... there's way, way too much junk on there that ends up making my anxious