“That’s how (blank) felt when…”

We were bowling Friday night. Picture this: a group of teachers and spouses, most dressed in their Friday Green and Gold, gathered at the local bowling alley (and Pokemon gym) for a post-holiday party. I managed to catch several Pokemon critters while we were gathering. Chuck captured a local craft beer for himself and a glass of white zinfandel for me. And then we bowled.

None of us – okay, few of us – were any good at it, so spares and strikes were exciting. It was reminiscent of the Pepsi commercials featuring Odell Beckham and some ordinary everyday folks celebrating their own achievements. Remember “This must be how Shelly felt when she won that purple bear”? I came back from a that’ll show ’em spare announcing to my team “This must be how Aaron Rodgers feels when he throws a Hail Mary!”

And it built from there.

Strike! “This must be how DaVante Adams felt when he scored that touchdown!”

Spare! and a strike to follow! “This must be how Clay Matthews felt when he caused that fumble and recovered it himself!”

Gutter ball. “This must be how Brett Favre felt when he retired – the first time.”

A missed split for a missed spare: “This must be how Odell Beckham felt when he punched a hole in the locker room wall.”

You can imagine the inspirations for these.

 

This must be how Richard Rodgers felt when he caught that Hail Mary against the Lions.

This must be how Mike McCarthy feels every time Aaron Rodgers throws a Hail Mary.

This must be how Jordy Nelson felt when he got speared in the ribs by that dirty hit.

This must be how Mason Crosby felt when he kicked off and then had to tackle the receiver.

This must be how Tom Brady felt when he got caught deflating his footballs.

Yeah, it was getting lamer than lame as the beers and the gin and tonics got tallied up and we returned our ugly shoes to the counter. In our defense, it was Friday the 13th, a full moon, and we’re teachers, for heaven’s sake!

So readers, let’s leave it at that. Play the game with me. What would you say to fill in the blanks? “That must be how (blank) felt when (blankety blank) happened.” Now put your Diet Pepsi down, and think on it. If it takes a little while, just remember that the 23rd time is the charm. Hey, it worked for Shelly.

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Potential Violence – Too Close to Home

It can happen anywhere. That’s the scary part.

Earlier in the day, Amigo mentioned he’d heard a news update of a suspicious package at Trump Tower in New York City. The situation cleared up shortly after that announcement. I thought to myself, “I wouldn’t want to live in a Trump property right now.”

In the early evening hours, as I was texting with my sister-in-law, I saw an update come up on Facebook. It was from a teacher friend.

Scare at the mall. Got a call from daughter that everyone was to evacuate and police are there. Anyone know what’s going on?

Over the next hour, we learned that police had been called to the mile-long shopping center we locals call The Mall. Stories varied: evacuation, shelter in place, welfare check, possible suicide attempt. One, two, or even three people with weapons, thought to be guns.

It seemed each and every news outlet had a statement. Limited statements, of course, were released because there wasn’t a lot of official information. I thought to myself, “As teachers, we train for incidents like this, but danger can happen anywhere.”

I’ve trained in Non Violent Crisis Intervention. I’ve intervened in fist fights between kids bigger than I am. I’ve taken what we call “ALICE” Training – Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. In terms of a large place like a mall, with crowds of individuals and strangers, it’s a whole different situation.

A woman who had been in the mall’s food court mentioned two groups of young people arguing and flashing “signs” at each other. She moved her young children away from that area, and soon afterward heard an emergency announcement. Gang fight? I thought to myself, “I know we have gangs in our city. I’ve worked closely enough with our liaison officers to know they’re here.”

Another statement came out – rumor? Maybe? – that two people were in custody, and police were looking for a third. And then we heard that police were seeking a man who might have had a gun and might have been headed for the mall. That individual was not found, or wasn’t at the mall to begin with. I thought to myself, “A crowded public place, seeking an individual who may or may not be dangerous, and in the meantime hundreds of folks are scared to pieces.”

Eventually, my friend posted in large font that her daughter had been evacuated and was on the way home. It’s a relief to her, to her family, and to all of us who fear the growing violence in our world getting all too close to home.

I’m not a mall shopper. I’d rather browse the clearance racks at a local department store that doesn’t anchor a mall. I’d rather support our downtown’s small businesses. I’d rather shop vintage and even thrift stores. And now? I’m even less likely to head to our local mall.

I fear – well, I’m less fearful about the random shooter style violence and more fearful that nervous people will take the law into their own hands. I fear that folks who celebrated the passage of a state concealed carry law will carry weapons with them when they go shopping. I fear that those carrying guns will cause more violence rather than prevent it.

I’ll pick up a newspaper tomorrow morning, but the most important news came over Facebook minutes ago. My friend’s daughter arrived safely at home.

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It’s all in the fortune cookies.

Chuck is a tolerant sort. He knows I have trouble throwing away the fortunes from the cookies that come with Chinese take-out food. When I cleaned out my work desk last spring, I found two (only two!) in my main desk drawer. A few days ago, we ordered Chinese for lunch at work. As we gathered together away from our desks, we shared both the humorous and the thoughtful on the little slips of paper in the cookies.

Mine.

Mine.

I might have more faith in it if there were more than two weeks left in the current year.

2016 has definitely been a roller coaster. The apocalypse of November 8 was a highlight, er, lowlight on the calendar.

Now, to the future. 2017 has the potential to bring to reality all the fears of 2016. The question: how can I resist the negative? Where are the best opportunities for activism, opportunities that will have an impact?

Meanwhile, I’ll settle for a photo of this fortune. I don’t need to keep it any longer. In two weeks, it’ll be history.

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Action

In the words of others, it sounds easy.

It’s time to turn our anger into action.

Take one action each day. Write a letter. Send a postcard. Make a phone call. This friend posts her “One Thing” on Facebook and shares opportunities for others to join her in staying active. One Thing.

Speak up when you can, Show up where you can, and Stand up with whomever shares your values. This activist friend used this, her new motto, as the heading in her email. The email continued with an upcoming event at which she hopes many will show up, stand up, and maybe even speak up.

From The Art of Non Conformity, I found this gem:

We’re not going to change the world, but you can. You are the only life you have ownership of. You are self-governing and can use whatever powers you have for good.

From a leader of our local teachers’ union came a similar thought.

I cannot go back and change history; while Act 10 and recent elections may not have resulted in our favor, I can control my mental well-being. There are plenty of attacks on public education that are trying to derail its progress and undermine its significant importance. I do not need to be one of the complainers. My goal is to initiate positive conversation and look at the glass as half full.

In the words of others, it sounds easy. Correction: when I listen to others, it reminds me that taking action isn’t easy, but it is important. No, not important: essential. I will see the glass as half full, not half empty, and stand up and speak up to keep the contents of that fragile glass in place.

Pour me a cold one, someone, half full if you must. And then fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a very, very bumpy ride.

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Math Encore

My students had two prompts from which to choose: Peer Pressure or My Role Model. I remembered this. Try it. It won’t take long. Seriously. It’ll only take you a few minutes.
WHO IS YOUR ROLE MODEL?

1) Pick your favorite number between 1-9.

2) Multiply by 3

3) Add 3

4) Multiply by 3 again (I’ll wait while you get the calculator….)

5) You’ll get a 2 digit number….

6) Add the digits together to obtain your score.
Now scroll down to find out what your score means.

I’ll go get a cup of coffee while I wait for you to interpret your results.

Keep scrolling (I had to keep the answers under the fold in case you’re one of those people: the people who will skew the math to match the result they want).

Now with that number see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below :

1. Barack Obama
2. Michelle Obama
3. John Kerry
4. Aaron Rodgers
5. Tom Hanks
6. Simone Biles
7. Oprah Winfrey
8. Ellen DeGeneres
9. Daisy of Compost Happens
10. Meredith Viera

P.S. Stop picking different numbers.

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Teachers have Many Talents – Foreshadowing?

Browsing the archives, I wondered if this post could be considered foreshadowing. At the time, we teachers were very worried about the future of public education. We’re still worried, and we set that worry aside daily while we focus on the task at hand: educating our current students.

It was one of the average days at the lunch table and an average teacher conversation these days – what to do if we get laid off, our salaries go down, the governor gets his way, or all of the above. It was the kind of day when we reflected on our own capabilities and wondered aloud where our futures might lead.

One of the more productive discussions came about through mention of LinkedIn. Many of us have LinkedIn accounts, but few of us are actively using the site. This discussion led to skills and resumes.

Teachers, we realized, develop many professional skills beyond classroom teaching. Heck, we virtual teachers learned new ways of delivering instruction as soon as we stepped in the door and logged onto our computers. When I opened my LinkedIn account and started to check off skills, I was pleasantly surprised. As we sat around the table and listed each other’s strengths, we started feeling more confident and even a little calmer.

Time management. Prioritizing. Meeting deadlines. Learning new software and doing it quickly. Organization. Keeping records. Analyzing. Reading. Writing. Making coffee. Okay, I slipped that one in just for fun.

The point, if our lunch table group had a point, was that we are skilled professionals. We’re not “just” teachers. We teach and we do much more. If public education goes south in a hand basket, each one of us will find a way to make a living, pay the bills, and feed the family.

And if public education crashes and burns under stupid state programs, er, ineffective policies, the children of today and tomorrow will suffer. And that, my friends, is the real loss. 

We’ve lost a handful of teachers since this post first aired. Some went into private sector jobs; others retired. Some left the virtual school world and moved back into traditional brick and mortar settings. This post may have foreshadowed those losses. At this point, we’re having a hard time hiring a paraprofessional (teacher aide) because the job is a lot of work and the pay is low. As long as educators and support personnel watch the field go downhill, fast, foreshadowing on this note might not be surprising.

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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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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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