Sunday, March 29, 2020

30 Things That Make Me Smile

March 29, 2020


Because we have all been housebound for several days now,
and because some of us are looking for a little sunshine right
about now, I thought I’d write a list of 30 things that make me
smile.  Try it yourself; it might lift your spirits a little bit!


  1. My children, who are my world
  2. My siblings, with whom I share my past stories and journeys
  3. Dear friends, who are my sounding board and my sanity
  4. Uncontrollable baby giggles
  5. Flowers peeking up through cracks in the sidewalk
  6. Chocolate
  7. A stack of books to read
  8. Old fashioned letters in the mail
  9. Big fluffy white clouds in the sky
  10. The sound of ocean waves crashing against the shore
  11. The smell of the air just before rainfall
  12. Christmas carols and twinkling lights
  13. Waterfalls, lakes, and rivers
  14. Heart-shaped stones
  15. Long drives with full-blast car concerts
  16. Dancing in the rain
  17. My cozy bed when the sheets are freshly washed
  18. Bubble baths
  19. A glass of wine beside a crackling fire
  20. Playful puppies
  21. Friends reruns
  22. Hugs that say “I Love You”
  23. Beautiful shoes
  24. An exquisite home-cooked meal
  25. Holding hands with someone I love
  26. Live music
  27. Tap dancing
  28. Long walks after dark
  29. Swinging on the playground
  30. Sleeping in late on a lazy weekend morning

So many more, but that’s a start.  I feel a little better now.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Finding the Sunlight in the Shift

March 23, 2020

I absolutely believe that we find what we seek, and that we see the world through lenses that focus us on either the positive or the negative, depending on our chosen perspective.  Looking for the positive is a conscious choice.   As we continue to hunker down during our "Shelter in Place" to stop the spread of COVID-19, this continues to be true.  Of course, the world of Coronavirus is frightening and has upended our way of operating.  We have changed what normal looks like, and there are challenges and anxiety with those changes.  However, just because one acknowledges the uncertainty and stress in our current circumstances doesn't mean one can't look for and be bolstered by some of the positive outcomes we've seen as a result of our new normal.

First and foremost, we've seen an incredible dedication by many of the professionals in fields that are necessary to weather this storm:  our medical professionals who put themselves on the front line to keep us healthy and safe, the folks who are working overtime to make sure food and other necessities remain available to everyone, and the businesses who have come through for their people in order to support them with continued paychecks and health coverage, even when they may not be able to work. (We see you, and we're watching how you respond.)

In the world of education the shift has been sudden, but administrators, educators, and students have jumped in to try to create an online environment where learning still takes place. It's taken flexibility and creativity, and both teachers and students alike are doing what it takes to make the learning curve surmountable.  I have been incredibly impressed with the ongoing communication from our administrators and the support they have offered in moving our content online.  Our students, too, are wanting to make the shift so that they are not missing out on classes or learning opportunities.  Teachers--every one I've spoken with--know that there is no substitute for the kinds of relationships that are built in a face-to-face classroom, which is a huge reason many of us step foot in our classrooms day after day and year after year.  However, knowing that we have fostered those relationships in the months leading up to our grand societal shift means that our kids know how much they mean to us, and know that we are working hard to maintain those relationships while supporting their learning in whatever way that learning takes shape during this global crisis.

There are those who have looked down on some celebrities for not acknowledging their privilege when they post positive messages online.  Not everyone can simply enjoy 'time off' when worried about making a rent payment, or worried about how to get the food on the table, or even worried about how to get medical care for a loved one who is falling ill.  I get that.  There are people who do, in fact, have more privilege and therefore can take some things for granted that others cannot.  I don't, however, believe that negates their ability to spread a little bit of positivity and light when they gather their friends virtually to sing and share a song, or read books aloud for children to enjoy.  I appreciate that feeling of shared experience, no matter who is sharing it.

Other positives are the ways every day people have challenged themselves to stay connected and engaged while being sequestered in their homes.  All over you see virtual family game nights, online book clubs and study groups, girlfriends' virtual happy hours, and zoom fitness and yoga classes.  Kids are checking in more with their parents and grandparents in addition to their friends, and parents are finding fun and interesting ways to share meaningful experiences with their kids.  We had Snapchat and Facetime and other versions of meeting one another digitally before, but now that we've had to slow down by necessity, these virtual meet ups are more focused and purposeful, even when the purpose is just fun--a way to pass time. 

For years now we as a society have been lamenting the digital age as an era where our technology has been used as a way to keep many quick, short-term, far away connections alive at the expense of the real, face-to-face, day-to-day deep and meaningful connections to those who are in our close proximity.  Perhaps when life goes back to whatever normal will eventually look like, we will have made another seismic shift in the way in which we use our technology.  It will never be a substitute for a warm hug and in-person connection, but we are indeed learning that these tools can be a means of truly bringing people together in ways which haven't been fully embraced until now.  And I believe that's a positive outcome we can all embrace.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Teachers, Check On Your Friends

March 19, 2020

I went to work yesterday after only two days off in order to meet (remotely) with my team from our individual respective classrooms.  The goal?  Get ourselves situated and be ready to deliver online content (and comfort) to our students for the next two weeks as cautionary measures for COVID-19 continue to ramp up.

My class was my class, minus the life.  My home away from home is exactly that because of the people--my students--with whom I share that space on a daily basis.  Sitting in my classroom alone in these circumstances was a little eerie, to be honest.  It was too quiet.

I am the kind of person often referred to as an ambivert.  There are times when I need space and time alone.  There are arenas where I am quiet, an observer.  I can be quite content as a wallflower or a fly on the wall.  As a shy kid in school, I perfected the art of being invisible when a social situation was overwhelming or daunting.  However, in my space, in my element, I can be quite an extrovert.  I believe in being demonstrative in my affection with those I care about. I am the kind of person who greets her friends with warm hugs or kisses, and who often greets her students with high fives at the door.  In my element, I like to talk-a lot.  Expressively, passionately, wanting to entertain, amuse, inform, and debate. Like many in my profession, I draw joy and energy from the daily interaction with my students--not just the delivery of content, but the connections I make with each of them personally as we grow through our year together.  But I also draw strength and inspiration and joy from talking with and spending time with the other people in my building: the friends with whom I've shared incredible personal and professional triumphs and tragedies across many years.  My colleagues-my friends-are the primary reason I still work on my campus after 29 years.  I love these people.

Sitting in my room--my element--alone, made me acutely aware of a sense of loss, even if only temporarily.  Teachers already know we miss our kids even after only three days.  Yes, even THAT kid.  But those of us who come alive in our classrooms also come alive in the presence of like-minded friends who work together to bring the best school environment for our kids.  The 'work husband' next door who has been your partner in crime (and in laughter) for more than 20 years.  The best friend downstairs you stop in to see most mornings to get your day started off on the right foot, no matter what's happening.  The friend down the hall who calls to you in greeting each period when you are both standing outside the door welcoming the kids into the classroom.  The secretaries who welcome you to the office each morning and share stories to brighten your day.  The administrative leaders on campus who check in regularly to see how they can support you and your students in any way they can.  The incredibly supportive group of girlfriends who make it a priority to meet together outside of school for happy hours, for baby showers, for weddings, for summer beach trips, for book clubs.  The pranksters, the jokesters, the advocates, the intellectuals, the caregivers, and the practical, get-it-done folks.  This is the environment in which I work.  These are the friends who make my every day a joy, in addition to the kids with whom I spend my days.  These aren't just colleagues, they are family.

And suddenly, that close, personal daily contact is gone.  It's necessary, in light of the pandemic, and a very real way to do our part to slow the spread of the virus, but that doesn't make it any easier for those of us who draw strength from that connection.  I am thankful we live in a time where we can still connect through virtual meetings and support each other in that way.  I can still meet, from a safe social distance, with family, dear friends, colleagues, and students.  We have to keep our distance but have already found creative and fun ways to reach out to one another. However, just like distance education is no substitute for the connections that we make in face-to-face interaction with our students, neither is an online meeting the same thing as a hug.  It will have to suffice for now, but depending on how long this lasts, it may deplete the emotional energy of those who need that personal contact in order to recharge their batteries.

It's a strange new world we've suddenly found ourselves in, and that strangeness continues to morph and develop daily.  There are people who are dealing with very real stressors as a result of this, such as the illness itself, loss of income, anxiety over an inability to obtain staples for the home, concern over potential 'shelter in place' orders.  Loss of daily connection and disruption of normal access to support systems is also a very real concern as well.  Check in on your friends, and not just via text.  They want to see your faces, see your smiles, even virtually.  Those people you normally think of as upbeat and positive may still be positive and may very well be still reaching out to help others in whatever capacity they can, but they may not have their normal means of replenishing their energy--and they may not want to show that need to others, so as not to further burden someone else.  And when you run into them in real life--at the grocery store searching for milk or butter, or out in the neighborhood taking a walk because getting a little exercise will release some feel-good endorphins--and they reach out to hug you out of necessity and habit, don't harshly rebuke or chastise them.  Gently remind them that you are practicing social distancing for everyone's health, but don't automatically assume that they are willfully flaunting recommendations.  It's going to take awhile to redirect natural instincts that have, up until now, been positive ways to bolster their mental health and well-being. 

As we navigate this new normal together, whether it be for two weeks, or two months, or six months, it's important to remember that everyone processes trauma and stress in different ways, and that our ways of coping might not be someone else's. It might not be the way our friends need to cope; it may not be the way our students cope.  Our students are missing their friends, but they are also missing their teachers; we teachers are missing our students, but also our friends.  And as many different ways as there are to cope, what we do have in common, all of us, is that we are all human, we are all connected, and we are all here to support each other in the best way we can.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Life Reimagined-At Least for Awhile

March 17, 2020

Dear Students,

I want you to know I miss you already--I really do.  I know when most of you heard we might be shutting down the school for a bit, you might have been excited.  You might have loved the idea of getting a little bit of an extra 'vacation'.  Trust me when I say that many of your teachers were right there with you.  And yet...

I know many of you were also a little concerned.  Some of you were worried about the COVID-19 virus and were wondering if we were going overboard, or if maybe, just maybe, this was something that was bigger and scarier than we were really willing to wrap our brains around.  You might have been worried about your parents or grandparents, or other loved ones who are immuno-compromised.  And some of you were worried that the other stuff you were worried about might seem petty and small in light of the bigger crisis going on around the world right now.

You know what?  You have every right to be worried about both the global pandemic AND whether or not your senior prom or your graduation might be postponed.  Those are perfectly valid feelings.  Honestly, just last week I was talking to some of you, saying that I really didn't think those things would be affected, but if you've even watched a snippet of the news in the past week, you know that things are changing rapidly, hour by hour even, and the honest truth is that we just don't know.  The adults in your life, charged with offering you both guidance and structure, simply don't know.  Trust me when I say, though, that we are doing our best and are trying to be flexible with the influx of information so that we can best provide for you.

I've always cringed when people--even people in the world of education--talk about what happens in 'the real world', as opposed to what happens in school.  ("Well, in the real world, if you did that...")  But I have always thought that was a belittling, narrow view of things.  Your real world is whatever time and space you're inhabiting at a given time, and therefore the world of high school is no less real than the world of someone who earns a paycheck at a nine-to-five job.  High school is the real world for you right now, and that comes with certain expectations and norms for you.  It comes with work and stress and deadlines, of course, but it also comes with dreams of prom and graduation ceremonies and other senior activities, and from seeing your friends every day.  It comes with expectations of relationships you've formed through the daily interaction with your teachers and your classmates.  It comes with an understanding of a system you've been engaged with for 12 years now.  For some of you, it may come with the safety of stability or food that may be lacking at home.  And losing that--not knowing how long it will last--can be incredibly disconcerting to many of us.  A vacation means we know what we're going back to at the end of a specific time period, but this uncertainty in the world right now means we don't, in fact, know what--or when--we'll be going back to our 'real world'.

So, yes, it's perfectly normal to spend some time worrying about the 'what ifs' and 'what will happens', but try not to live there.  Look forward with hope and flexibility and creativity.  At school, we are working toward making sure you can access learning and services you need for however long that needs to happen.  Roll with the changes, know that it's not going to be a perfect process right away, and also know that that's okay!  There will be a learning curve for all of us, and we will need to be able to grant each other grace.  Aside from school, though, there are lots of things we can do as we proceed through this ever-changing environment.  Of course, practice good hand-washing and social distancing, as has been recommended by, you know, EVERYONE.  But also, Facetime your friends who bring you joy, help out your parents around the house (who are also stressed, by the way),  sing, create art, read--a lot!--and write, even if it's just a journal for yourself.  Binge-watch your favorite TV shows, or watch that movie you've been meaning to watch on Netflix.  Stream a yoga class online, or even sign up for an online dance class you can attend from your living room.  Send goofy Snapchats to your friends.  Try cooking a new recipe you've always wanted to try--tell your family you'll be the cook for the night!  It's all about balance, and finding joy in doing things at home, either alone or digitally together, in order to maintain our peace of mind and positivity while doing what we can to slow the spread of the virus within our community.

In the next few days, we'll all have a clearer idea what online learning will look like for us, at least in the short term.  Will we know how long we'll be there?  Probably not.  That's okay.  We'll take it one step at a time, and we'll be flexible as we re-invent our real world, for however long we'll live in this particular time and space for education.  Feel free to ask questions, and I'll be honest enough to let you know when I don't know the answers, but know that we're in it together.  I miss your smiling faces, and I'm excited to get back to the business of what we do: learning together and building each other up within our classroom community.  Whether we're sitting next to one another in a building or we're supporting each other through the online world, what we do best is helping each other grow and connect and learn from one another's perspectives.  This new 'real world' won't change any of that for us.

See you soon,
Ms. L

Friday, February 14, 2020

Valentine's Day

February 14, 2020

I have never regretted the love I gave away to anyone...not to the ones who loved me back, not to the ones who didn't, not to the ones who suddenly stopped, and not to the ones who faded away slowly, imperceptibly.  I have not regretted giving away love romantically, passionately, familially, or platonically. Put love out into the world, my friends. Happy Valentine's Day, y'all. ❤️❤️❤️

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Once

February 9, 2020
It's strange
and sometimes somewhat
unsettling
to think that there used to be
places, events, moments, things
that used to be ours
and now they're
yours
or mine
or even yours and mine
separately.
It's even more strange and
unsettling sometimes
to remember
to realize
that we are okay with this.
You are,
and I am,
separately, on our own.

Found Poetry, Book Title Edition #3

February 9, 2020


Here today,
Dreamland, under the
never sky...the spectacular now.
No time for goodbye.

In twenty years,
what was mine, gone.
Too far.
Waiting for normal.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Found Poetry, Book Title Edition

February 3, 2020


In twenty years,
where or when you reach me
...an invisible thread, written
   on the body--
the distance between
lost and
found.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Reflection

January 31, 2020


This body, too big, too soft to warrant notice,
has been molded, shaped, designed
by lovingly guarding and caring for
the parts of you you could not face
the parts of you you could not hold
and still see the you you wanted to see in the mirror.
I tucked them away, holding them for you while growing heavy
with the weight I took from you.
You hid them where you knew they would be safe
from disdain or scorn--
loved, and understood.  Comforted and caressed.
And I grew with the weight of it all,
satisfied that the softness and the size of me
was your oasis
Until
One day, you looked at the shape of me
and could only see your reflection, and all that you wished 
to turn away from.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Found Poetry, Book Title Edition

January 24, 2020



One moment...incendiary.
Catalyst.
Everything, everything-
things not seen, big little lies.
After the game,
emotionally weird.
Vanishing acts...