Working from home? Or not?

The discussion comes up each time we get a new teacher on staff.

“Can we work from home?”

The answers begin as vague, and end as…well, you’ll see.

“Well, it’s teaching. Of course you’ll work at home sometimes.”

“Um, kind of. I like grading tests on the couch with my laptop. Essays, I’d rather grade at my desk with the two monitors.”

“On snow days, I answer emails from home. That’s all.”

“Work from home? If you call in sick, you’ll use a sick day, but you can keep working at home if you want.”

“Truth be told, you can work from home, but you won’t be paid for it. You’ll still need a sick day.”

And therein lies the dilemma. How much will a teacher do for free? I fell victim to the New Virus on the Block and missed almost a full week of school. But I teach online! I can do a lot of my job from home! And we don’t call subs at my online school (well, most of the time). I don’t have to leave sub plans! So…how much will I accomplish in between medication breaks and naps?

Follow this with a deep sigh and a gulp of whatever fluid is in the glass at my side. I’m really messed up either way. If I dig in my heals and do nothing because, well, I’m not being paid, I will really suffer when I go back to work. If I do too much from home, I’m setting a precedent I may not be able to meet in the future. But if I…and what about…and I really should be able to…oh, heck.

I did what I do: I made healing my priority. I remembered the day in the Emergency Room when the doctor wanted to keep me overnight and I said “No, no! I’m a teacher! I have to leave sub plans!” To make a long story short, I went to school at 10:30 PM on a Sunday night to leave plans. I made appointments for follow-up testing and rested all day Monday. My class behaved abysmally, and I caught hell for it. I vowed never, never again would I put my work before my health.

My home page looked like this.

Translation: 48 items my virtual red pen.

Translation: 48 items my virtual red pen.

I graded a lot, and I replied to a few emails from families. And then, I took medicines and rested. A lot.

I have virtual mountains of virtual papers to grade and a long, long list of phone calls to complete. I will bring fluids with me in the form of Snapple or cranberry juice, and I will pack a large orange in my lunch. If the additional drinks and vitamin C don’t help me recover physically, they’ll remind me that I’m still healing. I’ve been sick for over a week, and it’s okay to spread the catch-up work over the span of another week.

Meanwhile, I’ll make sure Amigo has all the fluids he needs. He’s the next sufferer in the New Virus on the Block.

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Hoarding in a Cubicle

There’s not much room in a cubicle, and mine is slightly smaller than most. Due to a design flaw, I don’t even have a shelf where I should. Currently, my small bookshelf sits on the desk like a hutch. I haven’t decided if I like it or not. It’s working for now.

Some hoard pencils. Some hoard scratch paper. One item I’ll admit to hoarding: facial tissue.

tissue with lotion

tissue with lotion

That’s my good tissue with lotion for allergy and cold seasons. If you turn the other direction, you’ll see this.

a cube in my cube

a cube in my cube

 

This tissue is plain, no lotion. I use it for cleaning my glasses or handing out to people who need it but don’t deserve the good stuff.

extra tissue boxes donated by local credit union

extra tissue boxes donated by local credit union

These boxes will refill the Green Bay Packers tissue cube when it’s empty. I think I’m ready – for now.

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Kaepernick and his Bully Pulpit

A bully pulpit by definition is a “position of authority that provides its occupant with an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue.”

NFL players may not have positions of authority, but they definitely have an outstanding opportunity to speak out on any issue. When Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the National Anthem, people noticed. People in the media noticed, and many asked Kaepernick why he’d made the choice to sit rather than follow standard etiquette during the Star Spangled Banner.

Here’s where the bully pulpit comes in. Any ordinary fan could sit or kneel, and no one would notice. Any ordinary office worker could choose to sit rather than follow flag and anthem guidelines. There might be consequences, but no one outside the office would know. Professional athletes have an opportunity to make a statement in a very public way. Remember Green Bay Packer Reggie White? He made religion a part of his mission in life. When Reggie retired from football, he lost his bully pulpit. People knew who he was and what he had to say, but he no longer had the renown he’d enjoyed as Minister of Defense. What did he do? He joined the Carolina Panthers.

Agree or disagree with Kaepernick’s actions, support his movement or not, it’s impossible to look past him kneeling while the rest of the team stands. He sticks out. He’s on national television. The photographers surround him. Spectators will pay attention.

My question for the young man is this: did he think through the consequences of his actions before he knelt? Did he realize that he would stir up a storm? Our first amendment gives him the right to speak out in this way. Was he aware that the world would be watching? Did he make his choices privately, or did he make his decision knowing that as an NFL football player, his bully pulpit was second to none?

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State Count Day – a semi annual event

In a brick and mortar school, State Count Day is simple. Encourage your students to show up, take attendance, and sign the attendance to verify its accuracy.

In a virtual school, we need to document attendance in slightly different ways. I send out an email first thing in the morning (from home! before I get to work!) reminding parents of the numerous ways they can prove that their children are enrolled with us.

  • email, including names of students
  • take online attendance (Mark P for Present)
  • call the school or teacher to verify enrollment
  • Attend a virtual class (I held a homeroom meeting for just that purpose!)

I sent my instructions out with a Read Receipt so as soon as a parent clicked on the email, I received confirmation. We only use those as documentation if we’re desperate.

Meanwhile, I taught three virtual classes: a homeroom meeting, my regular Friday morning Social Studies, and my high school music class.

It was a busy day. (hahaha, Captain Obvious, I know)

On top of this, I was starting to run a fever. Chuck has a virus of some kind, and I’m afraid it’s my turn. Neither one of us likes being ill. The one who is relatively healthier cooks up the chicken soup, basically.

In conclusion (I’m already sounding like an English Language Arts teacher), I wasn’t the most pleasant to be around, so I posted a guard outside my cubicle.

Hee. Hee. Hee.

Hee. Hee. Hee.

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To Stand, or Not to Stand

It’s been 15 years since we lost our innocence. 15 years since two hijacked planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, another dove into the Pentagon, and a fourth was downed in a field in Pennsylvania as the passengers overcame the hijackers.

The attacks left Americans reeling. We drew together then, lit our candles, honored the helpers and those who died helping. Many, many flags flew, all at half mast.

Today’s talk of patriotism isn’t related to this anniversary. Today’s talk is about etiquette: expected behavior toward the United States flag, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the National Anthem.

Here’s a summary. When the flag passes in a parade or the flag raises during a ceremony, people are expected to stand. During a parade, onlookers may also applaud. For the Pledge of Allegiance, those in attendance should stand and show the “citizens’ salute” of placing the right hand over the heart. When the Star Spangled Banner is played or sung, those present will stand. The hand over heart salute is optional. Applause is not necessary, but may be allowed.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick quietly refused to stand for the National Anthem at a recent game. Unfortunately, a camera was on him, ensuring that millions of fans were watching, too. He explained that he knelt during the Star Spangled Banner to express his concern about social injustice in the U.S.A., in particular the systemic racism rearing its ugly head across the country.

When someone in the public eye makes a statement, verbal or symbolic, there will be reaction, strong and widespread. I’m not sure Kaepernick expected the firestorm ignited by his personal protest. He drew both criticism for being a spoiled rich guy and support for choosing a nonviolent manner of exercising his freedom of speech.

So here we are, watching NFL football, as much of the nation does on autumn Sundays. We’ll fire up the grill and dust off our cheese heads. And each time we hear the Star Spangled Banner before a kick-off, will we look around to see who is standing and who isn’t? Or will we listen quietly, mouthing the words, remembering the day the hijacking that shook our safe and innocent world?

 

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Foraging again

I’ve been driving past this small, overgrown garden for weeks. This patch caught my eye each and every time.

Onions! Walking onions!

Onions! Walking onions!

These onions, the Egyptian walking onion variety, were HUGE. They had sprouted bulbs on top, as these onions do, and a few had fallen over to plant the next generation.

The appearance of the garden led me to think that someone wasn’t taking the time to care for it. The owners probably wouldn’t miss a few clumps of bulbs. But I wanted to be ethical and above board with my foraging. So when I saw a man in the driveway loading a car seat into his vehicle, I pulled over and asked him. He was more than willing to let me come over and harvest bulbs for my own patch, and he even warned me that they’ll spread.

I knew that.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon when I tucked my phone in my pocket and grabbed a shears, gardening gloves, and an empty banana bag. I encountered a few Pokemon critters on the way, and walked my way toward hatching an egg or two. Trust me. Poke-fans will understand. The banana bag was about half full when I packed up to walk home again.

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bulbs separated and ready to plant

bulbs separated and ready to plant

Forager Daisy strikes again! Next spring I’ll have more green onions than I need, and they’ll plant the next generation with or without my help.

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Back to Virtual School – Daisy Style

(almost an encore)

Back in my regular classroom days, preparing for school meant something different. Here are a few examples.

  • Then: I’d browse the school supply ads and stock up for students that I knew couldn’t afford supplies.
  • Now: I stock up on canning supplies and fresh, local foods so I can feed my family through the winter.
  • Then: I’d plan at least a week in advance, usually more, to spend time in my room setting it up for the students’ arrival. It would take several days.
  • Now: The entire staff moved to a new building with almost no advance time. We worked like crazy to get everything unpacked and into our cubicles so we can work efficiently. This is the only item that’s different this year.
  • Then: I’d get the calendar up to date, noting staff meetings and parent-teacher conferences and any other commitments outside of the regular hours.
  • Now: I’ll get the calendar up to date. This item is still necessary.
  • Then: I’d spend a few Saturdays at school preparing my room and catching up with coworkers.
  • Now: I spend Saturdays at the farmers’ market or in the kitchen working on stocking the pantry.
  • Then: We’d order pizza on my first day of school with students.
  • Now: We still order pizza on my first day of school with students!

I also make a point of spending time outside. It can be as simple as weeding or watering the garden or reading a book on the deck, but getting out is an important ingredient in self-care. Back to school means back to my cubicle and much, much more. The process may look different on the surface, but underneath the hustle and bustle it’s the same: getting ready for a new group of kids and parents.

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School Starts for Teachers

It happens all too quickly. Teachers go back Monday for a series of meetings and a little time to prep, or prepare for the First Day of School. My Fitbit alarm is set to wake me up early so I can have breakfast and get going. I’ll either meet the gang at our new office and carpool over or I’ll park at the “old office” building and walk from there to the meeting place, the largest high school auditorium in our district.

When we arrive, we’ll hear the usual welcome, the “theme” for the year if there is one, the various award winners and 30 year pins. And then, we’ll head back to our own schools for meetings, meetings, and more meetings.

And on Thursday, the students arrive.

This is a good time to set goals. I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution type; my “year” begins in late August. In addition to the usual “learn new curriculum” goal, I have to set a professional goal that is measurable and attainable. Oh, yeah, teacher jargon!

The goals that matter most, however, are those that cross the personal/professional line. I hope to make a positive adjustment to the new office, its location, and the configuration of cubicles. We are all in one room, so the potential for noise level is more than a little scary. Adjusting to this is high on the Goal List.

Add to the Goal List the idea of investing in School Climate. If the apple jelly turns out (from the apples picked on the new office site), I hope to bring enough jelly in to share with the whole staff. Big goals, I know. I try to make contributions while not creating my own emergencies, if you know how that goes.

The highest and most important goal is one I pursue outside of school, but a goal that has huge effects on teaching. This goal has even heavier effects on student learning and eventual student success.

  • Goal Number One: vote for and help elect legislators who understand and support public education.
  • Congress: Tom Nelson
  • Senate: Russ Feingold
  • President: former leader of Children’s Defense League, lifelong advocate for children, Hillary Clinton.

 

 

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Family Foraging

I may have mentioned that the school in which I teach is moving to a new location. I visited the new building last Saturday, said hello to my principal as she was unloading boxes in the basement (we have a storage room!), and took a closer look at the location. A few observations:

The landscaping is overgrown. We noticed milkweed and black eyed Susans in the midst of lots (TONS) of day lilies, lilies of the valley, hostas, and more. Chuck, my chauffeur, overheard the principal saying that maintenance would be tearing out everything behind the building, including aging playground equipment. He asked if we could dig out the milkweed and black-eyed Susans before the big digging machines came in. She said yes.

On the way back to the Momvan, I noticed one of the trees alongside our new office building was an apple tree! I haven’t identified the variety yet, but we looked and tasted and decided to come back for a harvest. I’m now working on version 1.0 of apple jelly. It might end up being sauce, and that’s okay. I have plenty of apples in the garage waiting for me.

As we dug up the milkweed and the flowers, we discovered a like-new, unused compost bin. Principal will ask maintenance what’s happening to it. I have tentative permission to bring it to Habitat ReStore rather than let it go to the landfill.

The results of our foraging around the new-to-me building —

  • 2 large buckets of ripe apples
  • several Black-eyed Susan plants
  • a large bucket full of uprooted milkweed
  • a few seed pods from the aforementioned milkweed
  • the bucket I filled with milkweed (found buried in the hostas)

All things considered, I think I’m going to like the new location.

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