Little People

As I prepare for the new, improved sanitized new year at The Young Human Factory, the little ones are squeezing in all the fun they can manage before this extraordinarily long summer vacation ends.

I heard a child’s yell of outrage in the morning. A girl of four had come up my driveway, dumped her bike on the lawn, and was walking back to mom. Seems she JUST got the training wheels off and was having trouble steering.

I went out and chatted with her mom. I tried VERY hard not to laugh at the oh-so-serious little girl. She had a doll, and her daddy mounted a doll carrier to her bike so she can take Dolly for rides. Dolly will keep her company when her sibling enters full-day school.

The Middle School Mafia, once limited to bikes, electric scooters, and the occasional dirt bike, has acquired a golf cart. It isn’t clear who commandeered it from grandpa, but they were running the road with five kids on it. Next week, their little band is breaking up. Some of them will be attending school; others are taking the online option.*

For my part, I am prepping for the weirdness to follow an abbreviated school year and continued restrictions. And I remind myself: I have to keep an upbeat attitude!

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*NOTE: Families have two weeks to decide if their child is enrolling in an online class or attending in-person classes. Frankly, I hope a good number do the former, since the rosters are ungainly: 29 to 35 students cannot social distance.

Putting the Middle-Man Back In

Please forgive the delay between posts. I was in a lovely place with spotty WiFi and, at the best times, WordPress had endless loading patterns.

This past week, I returned to brick-and-mortar stores. Having items delivered to my doorstep wasn’t saving money nor helping my community. Plus, it’s difficult to judge something like color and fit online (although fitting rooms are still closed).

It was a rather strange experience to have no Canadian visitors, to avoid other people like the literal plague, and to smile despite a mask (“invisible” smiles are high on my list of Things I Hate About Covid-19). The current coin shortage has forced me to use a credit card, putting a new wrinkle in budgeting. But there was the clearance rack (replacing workout clothes was $4.35 cheaper than anticipated) and the book I wanted was in a logical spot despite the rearranged, distancing-pattern shelves.

As for The Young Human Factory, we’re waiting to hear from the governor about what stage we’ll be in for the reopening. We are using a “middle man” regardless: lessons via live chats and online assignments). Ugh.

Covid-19 Lockdown: A Child’s View

Between floods and riots, I sometimes forgot that it was May, not summer (yes, that’s the season of floods and riots). Only two weeks are left in The Young Human Factory’s scholastic year.

As a brief writing assignment, I asked middle schoolers to imagine that they were elderly and their grandchildren asked about the historic quarantine. I wanted to share some of their reflections on the shutdown. I did not edit them except for brevity and added commentary in brackets for clarification.

“Quarantine in 2020 was honestly very boring. There wasn’t much to do because of social distancing. A lot of kids were super happy at first because they didn’t have to go to school. But later on, they became super unmotivated to do the online school work.  Lot of them missed school because they missed the lack of being able to talk to their friends everyday that wasn’t through a screen.”

“Everybody went crazy and got toilet paper instead of food. There was no more toilet paper left.”

“I started to really miss my friends and the school environment. Even though all of us would complain about being at school everyday, we took that for granted because for a lot of us, that was our main source of socialization other than talking to our parents and/or siblings. We didn’t really know when Quarantine would end because every time there would be a date that the stay at home order would be lifted, it would get extended.”

“It was very scary thinking you could get a sickness that could kill you and you wouldn’t even know you had it for a few weeks and you could cause so many people to get sick and also die. It was also very scary for the people who were having a child during the pandemic because babies have very week immune systems and could easily get the virus and die from it. It was also scary for elder people with many health issues being it made them have a bad immune system and they could also get the virus and die.”

“Corona virus was one of the best and worst times of my life, everyone in the world was moving so fast and now the world slowed down more home cooked meals, family’s spending time together, people are enjoying nature I mean this has never happened. I enjoyed quarantine because I had time too play with my brother and I had time too also play my Xbox and enjoy peace and quiet.”

“i whould tell them like any old person whould it was horrible we fought over tolite paper as clans of goons seized towns…. breakins and horders scavaged the land gasmask filters were of thin supplie but i managed to find a few as total war raged outside … and just like that you have never wanted to talk to another human person in your life now GET OF MY LAWN!” [NOTE: I told the students specifically not to include “Get off my lawn.” But instructions, like auto-correct, don’t exist in this child’s world!]

The Perils of Working from Home

C20EE642-1804-47FD-9790-6A30F674150CHow do I report a workplace accident?

That’s the remains of the 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

Given my klutziness, I’m surprised it lasted so long. It was one of my few new purchases when I moved into my second apartment (prior to that, M’e the Fashionista supplied a plethora of utensils and cookware). It survived tumbles into steel sinks and linoleum floors, but a stone countertop takes no prisoners.

Cleaning up the mess: wow! I swept, vacuumed, and ran wet paper napkins over various surfaces to pick up the fine, sharp particles. Somehow, none of the flying shards hit me, although they traveled even as far as the livingroom.

A less tangible hazard of Working from Home (WFH) has been Parkinson’s Law, the business adage that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. At the beginning of the shutdown, I ended every day – often in the wee hours of the morning – exhausted.

It wasn’t surprising in March, considering the sheer volume of mandates, updates, and queries that arrived in those early weeks. Continue reading

A Happy Accident

My online classes go live next week, but today I had a little shakedown cruise to see how my 7th graders did. A little assignment (about 20 minutes).

The biggest problem is identifying who’s who. Many members of the Middle School Mafia REFUSE to be themselves, choosing instead usernames like SpazzAttack360. Then there were two unfortunate boys who, using their mothers’ phones, joined under their moms’ names.

A couple hours after the assignment was posted, I received a message from an unknown name, asking, “Did you get mine?” I checked and answered, “I did. But I don’t know who you are, Miss Magic!”

A very long reply followed. It started with – and I quote – “Hi! I am a fourth grader and I was helping my cousin get on and it accidentally signed it on my google account and I got an assignment and I decided just to do it.” It segued to an elaborate apology.

I laughed so hard, imagining a little girl trying to sneak into class with the “big kids,” most of whom find reading and writing a bore.

After I told her she could stay in the class, she messaged me back quickly: “Thank you so much I am so happy” (sic)

I can’t die of Covid-19. I have to stay alive long enough to have this girl as my real student!

Be Concise

The Boss figured out that we need regular “office hours” every day, rather than compulsory check-ins multiple times throughout the day. He also set a class schedule for our young humans, so they know when lessons become available and when they’re due.

I’m grateful.

Too bad we can’t figure out a platform, or how to get me access to my locked Google account (which was locked 6 years ago and I’ve been using another school account). Another day, another vexation.

Last week I started getting blinding headaches, the kind in which water seems to be streaming down in the corners of my eyes and slowly moves forward until my vision blurs completely. Something similar happened a few years ago and I was told it was a migraine.

Why now? I have work to do! Continue reading

Out, but not About

Yesterday I cleaned fallen limbs from the front yard. Last weekend’s windstorm broke dead sections from the treetops; they exploded on impact. It took quite a while to gather all the finger-length pieces (the perfect size for jamming the mower’s belt).

Eight people passed by during that time, including a family on a motley assortment of bikes and foot-operated scooters. Continue reading

School’s out… sort of.

A little while ago, I watched the governor of Michigan’s press conference. Schools are closed until the fall. All classes will be moved online, even though the Michigan Department of Education refuses to count online classes toward the “seat hours” requirement.

This is, as President Obama once said, “above my paygrade.”

I’m going to spend my last days of vacation (official) finding materials that I can retype into Google Classrooms. Teaching another novel is out! So is, unfortunately, the back-and-forth conversations and the eureka! moments when struggling students finally “got” the material.

Well-meaning friends have already forwarded me links to companies that would be only too happy to have my contact information (as well as my students’).*  However, any useful links would be appreciated. I can always sort the chaff.


*My boss sent me a Google Classroom training session (Free!), for which I registered. When the time came to “attend,” it directed me that I wasn’t going to see the video feed but could listen in by calling a number and using the code. Thus, the educational consultant company has my personal cellphone number.

And the “training” was 5 minutes of introduction to the presenter and company, 15 minutes of verbal explanation, and another 15 minutes or so of FAQs interspersed in a salespitch.

 

Shutdown: Shut it ALL down…

My state’s governor is working on the final wording of the order to completely shut down schools, from public to parochial. Although it’s my vacation week, the depression has set in.

I became a teacher because I love teaching students, helping them, and watching them grow. The only thing I dislike about teaching is the paperwork. Now it’s all paperwork.

Things taken for granted…

…in no particular order.

  •  Seeing people regularly. We never bothered to get each other’s contact information because See you at work! See you at church! See you around!
  •  Restaurants. I’m surrounded by wonderful eateries,  all of which are closed. I hope they survive the shutdown.
  •  Cold medicine.
  •  Charity shops. With the arrival of warm weather, I put on last summer’s wardrobe. Everything is too big; I just have to deal with it for now.
  • The public library. E-books and online services are still available, but it’s not as satisfying as walking between the shelves and perusing titles.
  •  Walk-in hair salons.