Quotes That Stick

At the beginning of August I changed the pinned Tweet on my personal Twitter account to reflect the road trip move my husband and I made, and today I got to change it back. I’m not one for memorizing quotes, but this is probably one of the few I can still recite from memory. It’s from an article by Mikey Neumann that came out in 2016, and it has been my pinned tweet since the moment I read the article.

Before we continue, I encourage you to take a moment to go read the article for yourself here: http://wilwheaton.net/2016/02/good-enough/

If it isn’t evident after reading it what the quote is, I’ll pull it for you.

Be creative.

Be valuable.

Spread joy for no other reason than to spread it.

Leave the world a better place than the one you woke up into this morning.

Mikey Neumann (February 2016)

I almost put this on one of my bulletin boards in my classrooms! I’m sure my students would love to know I was quoting a videogame-developer-turned-YouTube-professional. At the time I was working in a position that did not allow for a lot of creativity, so I focused on the latter three statements. Once I was able to teach, I focused on all four.

Now that I’m looking for the next step in my career, I’m drawn back to this quote. What position would allow me to be creative and spread joy? How can I be valuable when I want to prioritize keeping myself and my husband healthy? What did I do today to leave the world a better place?

Usually I’d see Mikey next week at PAX, he’d buy pizza for the entire Sheraton lobby, and everyone would stay up far too late (for the first week of school) to learn more about how games make us empathetic and bring us together. Not that we say that explicitly, but it’s how we ended up in that lobby in the first place. Without that lobby this year, we’ll find new ways to make our corner of the world a better place.

Why A Blog?

At first, this started as a simple means to an end: I was required to have a blog to post my coursework for my Master of Arts in Educational Technology program. But as that draws my program draws to a close, I was surprised that I did not want to let the blog go…go with me on this journey here.

I tweet a lot. My husband and I met on Twitter in 2015. I have moved into having separate Twitters for personal and professional life, and learned how to be an ally through the medium. But there’s only so many times you can tweet a day before you start wondering “Okay, so what does this look like to the people who only follow 10-20 people? Who exactly is my audience?” I try to follow 300 people maximum at a time, but I know there are others who follow many more and much less than I do. I don’t want to take over anyone’s feeds. So a blog may help me work through some of my longer form ideas without writing a bunch of Twitter threads.

What will you find here? Lots of things. Musings on my travels, my experiences in education and technology, maybe a music review or two. I can’t promise that it will always be interesting (or continue to perfectly implement APA format now that I don’t have instructors reading my work), but I promise that I will keep writing, and that I won’t be going away when my program ends.

Thanks for reading,
Lindsay

Guilt Trips

I promise I’ll get back to some suggestions for returning to school later this week!

I’ve seen it everywhere lately: don’t forget about self-care. As an ally, as an educator, as a human surviving a pandemic. I know I have taken time to do a few things for myself already. It has looked like this:

  • Playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons (by myself, with friends, with my husband…)
  • Cooking and Baking
  • Catching up on all the Netflix and Disney+ shows I thought I’d never have time for
  • Cross-stitching

But if you look at my pre-COVID-19 self-care it looks more like this:

  • Binging a Netflix/Disney+ show
  • Traveling to see my family

I am so privileged to have a large family I love and enjoy spread out across the country. I’ve lived in five states and visited 33 to see cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. But living in Washington, traveling to visit family during a pandemic just wasn’t possible. Even after moving to Virginia (five hours south of my parents and brothers), it was still very unwieldy. So what do you do?

First test trip was in May. I brought masks, Clorox wipes, and gloves for the car. I learned that I can make it from my apartment to my parents’ on one tank of gas (barely). It was doable, but no self-care routine over the years has made me feel as guilty as this one now. I had prided myself on following all the scientific guidelines, reducing my exposure to others, and then risking it all to see my family in person? Was it worth it even with the guilt? My mental state said yes while I was there and when I returned home, but those frantic hours in the car said otherwise.

The last week has been the biggest guilt trip (pun fully intended): a trip to the Upper Peninsula with my family. We’d planned it in January after my grandmother passed to wrap up her estate and as a farewell to what we call the Little House. When the pandemic hit, I immediately assumed this would get canceled or my aunt would go alone, but as the months went by, plans were finalized, a house was rented, and my family was going. So…was I?

I did go. I thought about flying and then canceled my tickets when I saw the outbreaks from the Atlanta-based Delta flights. I drove.

Fifteen hours. Virginia to the far edge of the Upper Peninsula. Thank goodness I love singing and being a one-woman show in my car! But hotels were now terrifying. Each gas station used up one of my very few gloves. No stopping at favorite restaurants or visiting friends as I stuff snacks in my mouth with a hand on the wheel. Road trips are different now.

I’m writing this on the other end of the trip, in a hotel so I can finish up some graduate work before the due date (I have been, and probably will always be, a procrastinator). The time I spent with my family was some of the most stress-relieving time I have had since March, but I couldn’t tell you if I had to do it over if I would do it all again. I’ll quarantine when I get home and not leave the apartment and I’ll miss every moment I spent in sunshine in a lawnchair, sitting around a campfire, talking in a pavilion.

Maybe I just need a bigger balcony.

We Have Some Questions…

Sorry, I couldn’t help myself to the Hamilton quote title.

Most of the online discourse I have seen in education this week has revolved around the big question: “How do we return to school in the fall?”. Personally, I am moving away from my position in Washington so I’ll need to find something new in Arizona. There are many sides in this debate and a lot of questions that need to be discussed, but I want to share a list posted on Twitter by David Walrod.

What I want to look at is their Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Return to School document. Understandably, many are worried about students returning to school, and I would like to redirect some of that attention to the staff that make sure that students can be in a school with adult supervision. FCPS is the 11th largest district in the U.S. as of 2016 data, but these questions are applicable to districts regardless of size (Digest of Education Statistics, 2018). The question I empathized with most was this one:

6. What protections will be in place for staff members who work with multiple classes per day or work in multiple schools including elementary specialists and resource teachers, middle and high school teachers, staff who are split across multiple schools, and itinerant related service providers? Elementary specialists regularly see over 500 students per week. Itinerant providers can work in 20 or more sites. How will these staff members be protected with this highly elevated risk compared with other staff?

Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the FCPS Return to School, 2020

The past three years I spent as an itinerant and a music specialist. In my district, music itinerants taught classes in at least two schools per week. My second year my schedule looked something like this:

Lindsay’s 2018-2019 Teaching Schedule. Each color denotes a different building.

I saw 15 classes twice a week (with the exception of Class P, the primary music teacher at that building taught them the second time each week…that might be a future topic). Each class had a minimum of 24 students, around 360 students total across three buildings. If we went back to school now this model would be impossible for several reasons:

  1. I could not safely have 24 students in a classroom having students six feet apart for proper social distancing (CDC, 2020).
  2. The amount of exposure I would be risking (on behalf of myself, my husband, colleagues, and students) traveling to three different schools throughout the week.
  3. As the second or third music teacher in these buildings, I do not have a large room or ventilation in most of my spaces. How do we ensure safe airflow for students?
  4. With singing being a dangerous activity, the amount of time and materials necessary to properly sanitize instruments in between uses, what do we teach to students in music?

Now the last question I have been able to find answers to already, and feel comfortable answering as an educator. The others should be handled at the district level or higher. I think the question becomes “Is it worth the risk to have itinerants constantly exposing themselves and others to high-risk situations?”

I believe the answer is no. We will see answers in the coming weeks and months to what itinerant positions will be in the 2020-2021 school year and I truly hope to not be disappointed.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Social Distancing. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/social-distancing.html

National Center for Education Statistics. (2018). Enrollment, poverty, and federal funds for the 120 largest school districts by enrollment size in 2016: 2015-16 and fiscal year 2018. https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d18/tables/dt18_215.30.asp?current=yes

Top 10 Teacher and Staff Questions about the FCPS Return to School. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://docs.google.com/document/d/11DMvuV2P4TKmdMPuyBGiZ4N5jmhL3Q3I74DyyDv9mwQ/mobilebasic?fbclid=IwAR14QeWyonpEStovJLZUGDusZc-yIpoDddYZ1jEvHTnZMmTxmuHHbfsEYyc

Hello There, and Then Goodbyes

This year of teaching was a heck of a year, but the first thing I teach every year is the welcome song I do with my kindergarten students. Here’s a recorded example I made for a guest teacher in October of this school year:

Hello Song and Intro YouTube video made for guest teacher, 2019.

The world and education has changed drastically since then. More recently, I re-recorded the Hello Song during our first mode of distance learning for students to listen at home:

It’s one song that I know each kindergarten student knows. After October conference week, I start having a student helper sing it with me each class. It can be intimidating to make sure each student gets a turn and it seems fair to them, but I have found a few things that I do to make it easier:

  • Go in alphabetical order by first name, and keep a copy of class lists in this order somewhere
  • If a new student joins the class, they go to the end of the list (so they have time to learn the song and get excited to lead)
  • Write the names of all the helpers on the board before your day starts
  • If the student is absent that day, put a dash next to their name. This reminds you when you’re erasing the names for the day that they weren’t here.
  • RECORD WHAT DAY STUDENTS HAVE TURNS. They will ask you and say they haven’t had a turn yet. Being able to show them exactly when they had a turn usually satisfies them.

I love seeing how each student responds to their turn. Due to distance learning in my district, we weren’t able to have everyone sing in front of the class before we left the classroom. Additionally, students did not have any music work assigned until May 4. Once the classroom teachers added us to their Seesaw classes, the students really enjoyed their specialist activities!

I ended the year with the same song I started the year with: our Hello There song. You can check out my Seesaw activity here. Feel free to browse my other activities I created for my kinders as well!

The videos I got back were adorable. Some students did the hand motions, some did their own introductions, and others just sang Baby Shark. It was a perfect way to end the school year and my time at Kent Valley ELC – seeing my growing singers and being able to tell them that they will make great music in first grade.

It’s a weird time to be leaving a position in the midst of all this, but I’m looking forward to whatever the next step in my career will be. For now I’ll enjoy finally living with my husband and a summer finishing my master’s degree.