Who Stood Behind You This Year? #SOL21

I’m 7 school days away from the end of the most challenging year of my 23 year teaching career. I’ve taught in person for the majority of the year though I did teach remotely for a short time in September and again between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I spent the first two and half months of the school year teaching a 2nd grade hybrid class where every day I had 14 students in person and 5 students join my class remotely. I’ve heard this modeled referred to as “the unholy hybrid model” and I have to say, I agree. Thankfully, my district realized this wasn’t best for K-2 students. Sadly, my 3-5 colleagues have continued teaching this way the entire school year.

We teachers have been through a lot this year. Personally, I could not have made it through this year without my husband by my side every step of the way. While I went off each day facing the risks of exposing us to a possibly deadly virus he worked from home. As he worked from home he also assumed many of the domestic duties that we used to share. Laundry, cooking and dishes pretty much became solely his responsibilities. While we planned our meals together and I pretty much did all the grocery shopping, he’s been cooking and doing all the dishes for the entire school year. This school year has left me exhausted at the end of each day. We would have starved if I was responsible for the cooking and our kitchen would have looked like the kitchen in The Man Who Didn’t Wash His Dishes.

We went away this weekend to celebrate his birthday so we didn’t do our usual menu planning and grocery shopping for the week. I texted him at lunchtime to let him know I couldn’t get to the store after school. Between after school meetings and needing to be ready for tomorrow it just wasn’t going to happen. I knew we were running low on most things but he texted back a thumbs up emoji followed later in the day by “I’m working on dinner now.”

He pulled together the most amazing mediterranean influenced dinner of marinated grilled chicken, grilled vegetables, brown rice and an amazing garlicky sauce. I could have been convinced he ordered take out from our local Greek restaurant but I actually watched him cook it. Coming home to our nightly dinners has been the highlight of my day this year. Most nights if I even attempt to start doing the dishes he just waves me away. I never could have made it through this year without him and I can’t thank him enough for all the love, help, kindness, patience and understanding he has shown me this year.

Teachers, we’ve had a rough year but many of us have had family and friends who have stood behind us and held us up throughout this year. Give them an extra hug and kiss this evening.

Part of the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Hallway Rainbows Day 17 #SOL21

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today we took a departure from regularly scheduled curriculum and read the Irish folktale Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potato as retold by Tomie DePaola. In the story Jamie O’Rourke catches a leprechaun but instead of taking his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow the leprechaun convinces Jamie to take a seed for a giant potato. We followed up the story with a simple rainbow craft.

My class was overjoyed with the thought of doing something so carefree. Everyone set to work and they were beaming with pride as they finished. Much to their dismay, I told them I would be hanging the rainbows up in the hall rather than having them take their creations home today. We haven’t done many things like this during this unusual school year. Our time is short due to procedures we need to follow to stay safe at school so there’s not a lot of time for “extras”. Managing materials to do things like crafts can be overwhelming this year. No sharing of supplies or patterns adds more prep work to do anything out of the ordinary but I was ready to have something to decorate our hall space.

Rainbows are a symbol of hope to me and as I hung my students’ creations in the hall I thought about the joy and care they put into this simple craft. I put each child’s work above their coat hook to greet them tomorrow morning. As I stepped back to survey my work, I was filled with hope. The hope that the end of this pandemic is in sight as most of my colleagues are being vaccinated, the hope that school might start to look more normal soon and the hope that life might return to what it was pre-pandemic. I’m holding onto the hope of our hallway rainbows.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

The Last Day ~Day 10 #SOL21

At the end of every school day I change the date on my whiteboard to the next day we will be in school. Today was no different. Today I wrote Monday, March 15, 2021 on the board. Today was the last day of school before our shortened spring break. A break that was shortened to prevent everyone from traveling.

As soon as I wrote the date, it struck me, the last day before spring break. The feeling came rushing back and almost took my breath away. The last time I wrote the date on the board on the last day before spring break we never returned to our classroom. Monday, March 16, 2020 remained on my whiteboard until June when I returned to my classroom to pack it up for the summer.

The memories of this time last year have been coming back this week in different ways. Over the weekend I realized I should have been waking up in a sunny and warm location as we usually try to escape the cold during spring break. While planning for the next few weeks on Saturday, I realized my 2019-2020 planbook was no longer going to be helpful as it’s blank. I came across unfinished work from last year while planning this week which brought back the sadness of not finishing the year with a wonderful group of second graders. Then, writing the date on the whiteboard this afternoon actually sparked fear. The reminder of the start of this pandemic life we’re living right now hit me harder than I expected.

Despite the memories that are returning, there is hope. Our state is finally working on a vaccination program for teachers which should get started later this week. Several family members and friends are in the process of getting vaccinated and locally, our numbers are going down. These are all good things. The memories will continue to come over the next several weeks but I’m hopeful that we will also start to see a return to normal over the next several weeks and months and maybe, just maybe, school will be back to normal next year.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

Every. Single. Day. Day 9 #SOL

Pandemic teaching is hard whether you are in person or virtual.

Inspired by my teammate at hardley an artist who is a first time slicer this year and is graphic novel slicing daily.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

It Returned Today Day 8 #SOL21

It returned today. I was prepping for a phonics lesson and pulled the materials out of the plastic pouch I use to organize the plethora of materials for each lesson. I started rereading my lesson and reached into the pouch to pull out the other materials I needed. There they were. 

I wasn’t expecting them but they were there. Neatly clipped together in stacks to finish when we returned. The familiar handwriting, neat and precise, not always common for a second grader. Letters written to our phonics mascot, Gus. Letters written right before spring break last year. Letters written by students who would never return to my classroom.

We are approaching the time last year when we didn’t return to school after spring break. I thought I had already been through all of my students’ belongings when I packed up their second grade treasures last June. I didn’t expect to find anymore reminders of what was lost last spring. I didn’t expect to revisit the grief of a third of a school year lost with a kind, caring and compassionate group of second graders. Unexpectedly, it returned today.

I am participating in the 14th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge by Two Writing Teachers. This is my third year of daily slicing during the month of March. Thanks for stopping by!

#guestteachersrock Day 5 #SOL21

This year more than ever I am thankful for guest teachers. These individuals agree to go into numerous buildings and expose themselves to hundreds of strangers week after week. Teachers traditionally push through many days because it is an incredible amount of work to prepare for a guest teacher. This year we can’t do that in order to comply with our health and safety plan so we can keep our entire school community safe. The slightest twinge or sniffle has us considering the risk we put every person we encounter at during a typical school day.

I was faced with this decision in the wee hours of the morning so I opted to write the plans and hope one of my colleagues didn’t have to cover my class. Thankfully, a guest teacher was able to step in and with some help from teammates, administrators and my classroom paraprofessional she was set for the day.

My class was having an earned reward for the afternoon but the system we use to show videos is not reliable for guest teachers so in case it didn’t work I gave a few other options for how to celebrate this afternoon. A longer afternoon recess and some free time exploring Apps we don’t get to use often would still be a treat for my kids. I told her to tell the class we would watch the video next week if it didn’t work out for today.

I learned through a text the video system was working perfectly and all was set for our afternoon reward. That was a huge relief as I know the kids were looking forward to it.

A few hours later I saw an email stating the internet is out across all district buildings. I can’t ever remember the internet going out across the district. On top of that, despite the beautiful yet windy sunny day, the Real Feel temperature is too low for outdoor recess. I’m helpless here at home and I feel guilty for the stress the guest teacher must be experiencing. We cannot operate schools without guest teachers and especially this year when the need has been even greater. I’m so grateful to the people who have chosen to serve us and their entire community in this way.

I probably need to pick up a Starbucks gift card this weekend. #guestteachersrock

Part of Slice of Life Writing by Two Writing Teachers

Lesson Adjustments Day 4 #SOL21

Today’s math lesson was yet another that had to be adjusted to comply with our health and safety plan. There have been many. These adjustments have left me longing for what my colleagues and I have come to call “normal” school. My 2nd graders should have been working in groups today to clip plastic chain links together to form chains of 10 and then make a chain of 100 with their partners. The chains of 100 are then connected together to make a chain of 1,000 that we take into the hall to gain an understanding of its length. There should have been a buzz in the room during this activity but instead each child received their own container of chain links and made chains of 10 at their own desk 6 feet away from their classmates.

Today, I made the chain of 100 clips though I tried to make them feel a part of this activity. Disinfectant wipe in hand, I collected a chain of 10 from each child, wiped it from end to end and connected it to the previous chain. The excitement grew as the chain got longer but it wasn’t the same. Fortunately, they didn’t know it wasn’t the same as they exuberantly counted by 10’s as each chain was added.

Tomorrow, I’ll make the chain of 1,000 clips after the chains we created today sit untouched for 24 hours. I’ll stretch it out in the hall and standing 6 feet apart we’ll count by 100’s to 1,000 with the same enthusiasm as we would if school were “normal”. It won’t be the same but they are learning, growing and gaining resilience as they navigate this unusual year in 2nd grade.

A Part of Slice of Life Writing by Two Writing Teachers

The Simpler Things Day 3 #SOL21

Tweet, Tweet! “Time to line up!” I announced to my 13 squealing friends.

“14, 13, 12, 11 . . .” I called out, ensuring we lined up in order so we can maintain distance from the playground back to our coat hooks and finally into our classroom. At times I feel like I’m leading the marching ants but this is school during a pandemic.

“Hands out! Gloves off!” I reminded everyone as I made my way down the line with the hand sanitizer.

As I approached the door it hit me, “Oh, no!” I cried.

“Mrs. H. did you forget your keys again?” one of my students asked.

“That’s the third time!” another exclaimed.

“Yes, I forget the keys again.” I answered.

For the third time in two weeks I texted my teammates asking for help. Knowing they headed in before me and were deep into teaching their calendar activities, I only waited a minute of two before I started marching my ants to the front of the building.

“Stay apart, don’t run, stay in your place in line.” I reminded them as we made our way around the building.

As we approached the front door I saw a parent had already buzzed to get in the building. We were inside shortly making our way down the hall. Once again we gathered all our belongings so I could use every second we had left to do our calendar activities.

“Coats on the back of your chair, backpacks on the floor, hands out!” I called as I made my way from desk 14 to desk 1 sanitizer in hand.

This is pandemic teaching. There are so may things to remember that I can’t even remember the simple things like attaching my badge and keys to my pocket in the morning. In my former teaching life I never forgot something like this, but not anymore. Keeping myself and my 13 students safe is my top priority. Making sure every safety procedure is followed takes a lot of head space each and every day. There’s not much room left for the simpler things.

I long for the day when there will be head space for the simpler things.

A Part of Slice of Life Writing By Two Writing Teachers