This Too Shall Pass

One of the concepts that has really helped me (both as a teacher and through life in general) is the concept of impermanence.

I don’t enjoy exercise, but setting a clear end goal definitely helps me keep going. While I’m exercising, I’m often out of breath, tired, and aching. So counting down to my last set or my last few minutes reminds me that those feelings won’t last.

pooped

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Learning Loss

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the COVID-19 pandemic had been in full force for a year and a half. Vaccine rates were up and both new cases and death rates were down. And everyone was tired of closures and social distancing and, you know, the effects of an international plague. People wanted to “get back to normal.” 

My school, and many others, opened up fully in-person. But as cases started increasing again, teachers, parents, administrators, and pretty much everyone started noticing that something else wasn’t “normal.” Students didn’t enter their new courses with the same level of academic knowledge and skill that previous cohorts had. Their behavior was different. And their attitudes were different as well. 

The phrase “learning loss” had been trickling through educational discourse all through the previous school year, particularly with regard to the disparity between students from wealthier families, who were more likely to have better access to resources for effective remote instruction and better support, and students from poorer families, who were less likely to have access to those same resources. Educational achievement has always correlated closely with wealth (or the lack of it), and think tanks and pundits were warning that the pandemic was likely to widen that gap.

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Failure

I started getting involved in community theater around 2014 or so. I almost missed out on my first play; the audition form said that some people would be cast without needing to be called back, so be sure to check the cast list even if you didn’t get a callback. Well, I just figured that was them trying to soothe the fractured egos of those who got rejected, so when I didn’t get called back for any of the roles, I figured, meh, they picked somebody who was a better fit. 

Well then a day or two after the cast list went up, I got a call from the stage manager who asked if I was still interested in the role. Apparently, it wasn’t just them being nice, and they really DID cast me without calling me back; that’s actually a thing that does happen.

Unfortunately, it happens the other way around, too. Back in the summer of 2018, I auditioned for a local production of Mamma Mia. I really, really wanted the part of Tanya; it’s the role played by Christine Baranski in the movie. And I got called back. But of course, when you get called back, that means other people get called back, too. And they’re the ones who are in serious running for the part.

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Cyrano de Bergerac, the Supreme Court of the United States, Representation, and Donuts

I was thinking about women on the Supreme Court as I got ready for school one morning in late February. I think this was mostly because I had dreamed about a new appointment that night. 

That dream was probably influenced by one of the books I was currently reading, which talked about the effects of explicit gender bias, and how that without deliberate countermeasures, lead to non-gendered situations having a lingering implicit bias as a result. So I had been thinking a lot about representation, and culture, and society, and the interconnections between them.

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The Myth of “Balance” as a Teacher

So, before I get started, I want to give a short message to any teachers who happen to be watching this. And that message is, “You can skip most of this, because you already know it, because you’ve lived it.” So, fellow teachers, thank you for your service, and you can scroll down to ‘What Can Help‘ for some practical ideas for how to juggle all of the expectations that are placed on us. 

Students are often surprised when I tell them that I don’t expect English class to be their top priority. To me, this just seems like basic rationality. Demanding that MY CLASS be the most important thing in anyone else’s life would demonstrate levels of arrogance and entitlement that are at the very least, unhealthy.

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On Standardized Testing During a Global Pandemic

This blog post is an adaptation of a video I created, available here.

Back in February of 2021, the news broke that the Department of Education announced it would NOT be setting aside the “accountability requirements” as required by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

This shot my blood pressure through the roof, so let’s take a step back and breathe for a moment. No, I’m not abandoning this topic. It’s just a moment. And, be honest. Chances are pretty good that you need this moment as much as I do. (And I really need a moment.)

So. Quit slouching. Move your spine. Remember the cervical and sacral areas, too. Shoulders play an important part. Hold yourself more open. Straighten. Release. Empower.

Remember that what we do matters. And that is not just a statement of responsibility, but of opportunity.

Breathe in slowly. Deeply, but without creating tightness. Pause. Release, just as evenly.

We can do this.

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What Does It Mean to Be Special?

Did ‘Fox and Friends’ Call Fred Rogers an ‘Evil, Evil Man’?

Okay, so first of all, yes, they did, and yes, it’s so incredibly wrong and horrid and shameful. Let’s get THAT out of the way first.

However, in addition, I have a fair number of thoughts on the opposing mindsets shown. Buckle up, friends; I have some general idea of where I’m headed but I’m not sure how I’m getting there, so this may be a long, meandering ride.

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It’s Okay to Dislike a Book

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I finally finished The God of Small Things. Spoiler alert: I did NOT like it. I tried to be very gentle in what is a strongly negative review, because apparently, a lot of people really, really like this book.

Since I’m an English teacher, there’s often this assumption that I like books and I like reading. Well… it’s kind of like music. I like some music. I would guess that I might even like most music. But there’s some that’s repetitive or dissonant and I just don’t like it.

And that’s okay.

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Purpose, Depression, and Self-Care

Teaching remotely has been challenging. That sounds like a bad thing, but challenges are opportunities, despite often being unpleasant to go through. Some of that opportunity is the freedom to explore what I think should be accomplished in the courses I teach and why I think those things matter.

But at the same time, there’s a bit of resentment that comes with that, because I know that freedom isn’t going to last. A lot of the online programs that I’m getting to try out are offering access only for this school year. After that it’ll be proposals and purchase orders and budgets. It’s exhausting. Just thinking about all of the hoops teachers have to jump through to get to do something new or different is discouraging. I understand that it’s important to consider decisions like that carefully; I definitely support wanting to make informed decisions. But it’s also an awful lot of work for something that may not even happen.

And that then chips away at my sense of purpose. Why should I bust my tail developing plans and activities for something that’s so temporary? I have curricular materials that work well; anything new that I develop will have to take the place of something else. Moreover, the learning environment will be different, so I’ll need to adjust the plans for that as well.

Why bother?

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