Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. It's spring break! Yay! I am utterly exhausted, since Sawyer and I went to Yosemite yesterday- 364 miles each way, 20 hours gone from home, about 13.5 of them in the car. But it was so worth it- the waterfalls were glorious (and I think they're going to dry up early this year), the crowds were relatively thin for late March, and we had a blast together. Usually we go for a few days every spring, but COVID ruined it last year and this year since my husband isn't vaccinated still the compromise was my crazy day trip idea. 

2. I am reading Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro and am totally and completely loving it. If I hadn't gotten only 9.5 cumulative hours of sleep in the last forty-eight hours I'd try to finish it tonight. 

3. Long story short, my Etsy shop was mentioned on a pretty huge blog and now I have quite a few orders to fulfill. I am not complaining at all but it feels weird to have so many orders for people who I don't know, since I usually just use my Etsy shop for orders for friends. I'm excited.

4. Something else I am excited about is California opening up the vaccination floodgates on April 15, which means my husband can get his finally, as well any of my students who are interested. I know the appointment process will be infuriating, but it's a start. So far in my county about 1/3 of people have gotten at least one dose and our numbers have gotten so low sometimes I just can't believe it. 

5. I saw this quote on Instagram today, and it's SO in line with what I am trying to practice this year with certain people: "When you finally learn that a person's behavior has more to do with their own internal struggle than it ever did with you... you learn grace." It goes nicely with my "you can't stay mad at people you bad for" philosophy. 

6. I am so in love with Julia Turshen's new cookbook. I've cook one of the chicken recipes and am going to make the coffee cake in the morning- I can't wait to read the book cover-to-cover, like I did with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. I appreciate good food almost as much as good writing, so the combo is such a treat.

7. I stated listening to Jewel's memoir Never Broken and it's fascinating! She reads it and her voice is just so melodic. If you're an audiobook fan you have to download this asap. 

Back in the Classroom Again

A year and a few days later, I'm back in the classroom, teaching to real, live students. I am also more tired than I've been in a long time (and I'm usually quite tired). My district has chosen to do a hybrid sort of model where we are teaching concurrently to the cohorts at home, so that they're still "in class," even when they're at home (some places call in concurrent teaching, some hiflex... the name really doesn't matter). I truly think this is better for the kids- instead of being left on their own to complete whatever the teacher assigns, they're involved in the class activities and are being delivered higher-quality content. That being said, it's a huge challenge, teaching-wise, if you're trying to do it as "right" as possible (what "right" even is, considering this is so new, I'm not sure). 

Here are the positives of being back (there are many):
- I love seeing my students, even though there are approximately 8738935 square feet of plexiglass in my class, we all have masks on, and there's a fancy air filter humming in a corner
- I feel that my campus is safe for staff and students
- It's great seeing my colleagues- my friends, my acquaintances, and even the ones I find slightly annoying. Interacting with people outside of my home is a welcome change!
- My students in class are actually talking to each other, both about the book but also just small talk, too. It's so nice to see those interactions happening again
- My home feels more like my home again, and not my work 
- They have built extra prep into our schedule, so I am optimistic about the amount I'll be able to grade and plan at work 
- Our COVID numbers continue to improve in our county, so hopefully we are laying the foundation to go back more "normally" in the fall 
- It's nice to be able to not be tied to my computer every second... obviously I am on it a lot still, since I am teaching concurrently, but even trips to the office on my prep period, or walking around the front of class while the kids are working in something (we can't walk around their desks)
- It just feels more normal, after a year of feeling everything but. I like getting out of my house and going in everyday! We work from home on Fridays, though, but four days is better than nothing. 
- I am much more productive at work
- I was worried I wouldn't know the kids' names or recognize them, since we've never met in person and they're half covered, but I surprised myself and remembered probably 75% of them
- I had a very valid excuse to buy some new Boden dresses 

... and the less positive things:
- Like I said, I am not used to teaching concurrently and I am constantly afraid that I'll forget to unmute myself when we're transitioning or won't be showing the right screen to the right people. I know it will get easier, but I want to integrate the kids at home into our physical class as much as I can, so I feel the pressure (albeit self-imposed)
- It's weird, plain and simple, to be teaching in this sort of ultra-sanitary, careful, distanced environment
- We are basically completely digital now, and I hate grading this way. I miss my piles of literal papers that need tending to 
- My students used to sit in groups of 4-6 and I did a lot of collaboration, whether it was discussing, projects, or presentations. Not now! I really miss it. I'm trying things out with sort of setting my room up into zones that they can at least talk at each other over the plexiglass and do breakout rooms online
- There's still the possibility of having to do the big state standardized testing this year, since the federal government is pushing it. It's totally absurd
- Trying to get things at home squared away has been really stressful. My son is in school part of the day and my husband, who works at home, can't commit to pick up and drop off. Luckily my family can help out, but they're not local so it's been a lot of logistic finagling 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. Sawyer and I have a countdown for Sunday when my mom comes! So exciting! Despite millions of phone calls and FaceTimes, we haven't seen her since Thanksgiving 2019 (I cannot believe a whole calendar year went by without me seeing my family) and now we get to in five days. She will be down for five days, will go home for my spring break, and then my sister will replace her to finish the school year. We went from no family for well over a year to family straight for nearly two and a half months. 

2. I am reading Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters for a book club this weekend and its really good. It's educational (I admittedly don't know a lot about trans culture), interesting (the story is unconventional, but totally gripping), and the writing is solid. 

3. My son watched that Netflix Movie Yes Day and I was really disappointed in how the mom was represented. I consider myself a fairly fun mom, but I run a tight ship and my lists have lists. It's hard running a family, even when you just have one  kid! The mom deserved a yes day! I was super irritated with how privileged the kids were, how no one wasn't concerned with the massive damage the kids' party caused to the house, and how dumb the concert scene was. Also, another unwanted side effect? My son fell in love with the song "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" and now we've all had it stuck in our heads since last Friday. None of us know any of the actual words, so it's just that line, over and over and over again.

4. Speaking of privilege, my new car beeps approximately seventeen times every time I get out of it and I have no clue why. 

5. I don't buy many cookbooks anymore, but Simply, Julia won my over, after seeing so many Instagram posts with it and then hearing her on the Bad on Paper podcast. It arrives tomorrow and I can't wait to try something new!

6. For the past two weekends I've had friends over outside and it makes me so thankful for nice weather. We've had a bit of rain lately, but I'm hoping most of it is gone! Last weekend I made these cinnamon rolls for our little backyard coffee date and they are, without a doubt, the only recipe I'll use for them now. 

Going Back

English teachers love the full-circle device in literature- so deliberate, so serendipitous. There's a feeling of closure and precision that the author has so carefully crafted, one we feel gleeful upon discovering. I'm susceptible to this notion in other areas of my life, so the fact that we have received the word that we're going back to the classroom a year after shutting down in-person learning seems meant-to-be. Should it have lasted this long? That's complicated and not the point of this post, so I'm not going to digress (for once). Am I ready? Yes. 

Since our county's numbers came back low enough today, we head back into the classroom Monday, for a hybrid schedule (I'll see my kids twice a week, at fifty percent capacity, once online and once in the classroom). Our COVID cases have dramatically fallen, for various reasons, along with most other places in the country, so I feel that we can reconvene with a level of safety that wasn't there before (please note I teach 11th graders, many of which have had the illness move their households and have had it themselves. Some have seen family members suffer greatly and a few even die). I, and many of my colleagues, have received both vaccinations and our classrooms have medical-grade air scrubbers, plexiglass shields, cleaning/sanitizer products, and a partridge in a pear tree. Masks for all, temp checks, social distancing, new drop-off procedures, cohort schedules, reduction in consumable materials, and whatever else I'm forgetting. The swiss cheese model in full effect. 

I cannot wait to see my students again- to do all the academic stuff, of course, but to also laugh with them (do you know how hard it is to joke around together as a class on Google Meets?) and monitor their work a bit better. I know my kids are a great group, given the perseverance and dedication they've shown since August, under less-than-optimal conditions. I keep joking with them that I'm going to arrange them in order of our Meet grid so I can remember who they are. For the last decade I always tell my students that I wish we could all just come to school and hang out and talk about books- I love the content and the discussion (the grading and the meetings I can do without). 

It's not going to be easy- we are returning to a way of teaching that we've never done before. I'll be concurrently instructing my students at home while teaching those in class, meaning we'll all be together doing the same thing. We aren't supposed to walk around the classroom much, so I think it will work. At the end of the day it means by students are going to receive double of me talking about reading and writing, so CLEARLY it's a win for them. 

I am incredibly fortunate that our childcare is handled, since that is a huge wrench in this system for most people. My son goes to school Monday thru Thursday in the afternoon, and while my husband is working from home, his schedule is not conducive to him covering pick-up and drop-off, so my mom is coming for a week and then my sister for the two months after spring break (and I know this is no one's concern, but we are compensating them- this is a huge favor, since they are both from Central California). It's so exciting, since we haven't been able to see them in almost sixteen months and they will both be fully vaccinated. For once it all worked out!

It's been a really long year that I know has made me a stronger teacher, and person. Going back isn't going to be easy, but, like I tell my students, we're pros at being flexible and changing course.

My biggest concern? Wearing shoes all day again. 

Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts

1. So this person blocked me (lets call them the androgynous "Casey") on social media for a reason I'm not entirely clear about but resulted in some boundaries that were ultimately best. "Casey" has now unblocked me on Facebook so that they could see my posts in a group that they are previewing (I am not an admin on the group, but I was checking to see if another friend had joined yet and was like "whoa, I shouldn't be able to see this name, what is happening?"). I spent my walk this morning pondering next steps- I could a) give this person a taste of their own medicine and block them right on back b) have fun with it and maybe block them a day, unblock them a day, etc... c) just let it go because I am thirty-seven and I find the whole blocking thing a bit dramatic (minus cases of danger). Ultimately, I have chosen the last option, just because at the end of the day I don't have extra time to play games and it's hard to really be mad at someone you feel bad for (and if that person is reading here, I genuinely hope you find something to bring you happiness and light in 2021). 
2.  Does it feel like there are more books than ever coming out on a weekly basis? Or is it because I'm more active on bookstagram now? I cannot keep up! It's a good problem to have, but I'm wondering if it has to do with the pandemic and pushing publication dates, and that they're all coming out now. I cannot believe how many I have bought so far this year. 

3. Sawyer and I have started a super scientific project- every week we make a new milkshake to see what the best possible add-in to vanilla is. The first week was poptart (it was okay) and this past weekend we made M&M rice krispy treats (so good). It's silly, but it's a fun little thing that helps Sunday afternoons not to seem so work and chore-heavy.

4. I had a wonderful realization the other day- the stupid pandemic has not ruined any of the relationships I hold most dear. My friendships have stayed either the same or have gotten even better (regular book clubs, texting groups, constant Instagram chats, outside visits, etc...) and I talk to my family all the time. I've been able to support Sawyer academically and recreationally, and my husband and I haven't gotten a divorce after being stuck in the same hours together for a year, so that's something. I think that's the thing about being a well-adjusted adult- I haven't felt worried that when "this is all over" I'll have to rebuild connections with people, since they were so solid going into this. I am so thankful!

5. I read James and the Giant Peach to Sawyer last month and now we are reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It's been so much fun to revisit some favorites from my youth. My husband has been doing the same thing with movies with him, so it's been cute to see them watch things like Indiana Jones (not the second one... apparently it is too scary- I haven't seen it), The Goonies (I hate this movie- I didn't see it as a kid, so there is zero nostalgia factor for me), and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. 

6. Was anyone else a member of one of those CD clubs when they were younger? Columbia House and BMG? I convinced my mom to sign up for me, and I lovvvvvved saving up my allowance to get new ones. I haven't thought about those in ages, but for some reason I randomly remembered yesterday. 

7. I bought a new car (very new... only three miles on it!) over the weekend. It has a lot of little features on it that I do not understand AT ALL and have already had to pull out  my owner's manual about eighty times (Julie, you were right!). I am not a car person at all so I'm not super jazzed. I like the idea of having something super dependable and with a lengthy warranty, though, and I don't have to worry about maintenance for several years either. Time to whip out my calculator and figure out how to pay this sucker off asap!

8. There's a lot of uncertainty and complications about when high school will go back in my county (they're going to be changing the color-coded tier system we have a little bit soon), so I'm in limbo. I have my childcare standing by, which I am eternally thankful for. It's just really, really frustrating that it could be in a week and a half, which is right before our spring break, or after. Again, the flexibility of our childcare help is a huge relief, but I'd like to know so that I can be ready. It's a huge adjustment not working outside the home for a year and then having to do it. When we go back we will probably be teaching to the kids at home at the same time, which will be an adjustment, but will also let me cover twice as much material, which is awesome! 

9. Just so everyone knows, I am fully aware that there are frequently typos here. I just don't have a lot of time for editing- if I took the time that would call for I'd never get anything posted. Yes, I understand the irony of the English teachers having typos and I am totally here for it! Ha!