challenges

A Cautionary Tale

The countdown is on.

A few weeks until summer ends and school is back in session…or is it?

My district ended last year with over 40 unexpected days of digital learning due to COVID-19.

Now it is 6 weeks later.  Numbers of cases that seemed to be trending down in my area have sloped back northward.  School districts are starting to try to make decisions about how they will open schools. Cue the special meetings, surveys, and plans (subject to change, of course). Also cue the opinions, the feelings, the exceptions, the arguments, the fears.

Colleagues have asked me many times throughout my career if I would want to become a school administrator.  My answer is always a fervent and unequivocal NO.  Times like this only magnify those feelings.  I don’t envy the public scrutiny that leaders are under in this seemingly no-win time.

I understand…

A significant portion of the economy depends on schools being open.

Many kids have their best access to food, learning, and social / mental health resources when they are in school.

Being taught (in person) by credentialed professionals is what we believe works best for most students.

At the same time…

Many teachers and school workers are themselves vulnerable to serious COVID-19 cases, or live with and care for other people who have those underlying conditions.

This virus is still new and developing, so science is still catching up to understanding what it is, how it moves, and so on.

Our schools are mostly based on kids being close together and moving with organized freedom throughout buildings and surrounding areas.

All the money and power at stake make every decision a politically charged and controversial one.

Then there are the logistics questions that come along with schools opening…

How do kids ride a bus?  How do they have recess? Can they sing? Can they play sports? Will there be field trips or assemblies?  Anyone who has worked with elementary school kids knows that kids love hugs and playing together which often involves contact.  How do I police that? I can’t even start about the masks, or what happens when a suspected case pops up.

Will all the fun stuff just be stripped away? 

In the end, I know this:

No choice will make everyone happy.

No choice will keep everyone healthy.

No choice will meet everyone’s needs.

We will be doing the best we can given what we know, and know that what we know might change at any given time.  Not an easy position for any of us.

I went to a branch of our local public library recently.  They opened up the buildings a few weeks ago.  This gorgeous, light-flooded, award-winning building, created for people to congregate and spend time reading and learning, is full of caution tape to keep people out or at least moving.

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I’m not sure there is enough caution tape to insulate school kids and workers from what we are facing. Our best protections will be patience, good faith, positivity, resilience, flexibility and showing kids and colleagues that we care about them in every way we can imagine.

 

 

family

A Cast From the Past

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Sometimes you run across a piece of paper that stops you in your tracks.

I was going through some boxes of old family “stuff” when I found a large old brown envelope of sympathy cards.  After sifting through several of them, I realized they were cards sent to my maternal grandmother when my grandfather, her husband, passed away.

Holding those cards transported me back to when I was about 6 or 7 years old.  He was the first person that I can remember dying.   I recall I had a solo singing Jingle Bell Rock in my school first grade Christmas program. I wore a green dress with candy canes on the bib and a white blouse with a scalloped collar.  I remember my mother wasn’t there to see me sing.  At that age, I couldn’t really understand what was happening.  Why my mom sat slumped over on the bed, her back to me, sobbing.

All I knew was my mother wasn’t there to see me sing.

Flipping through the cards now. So many beautiful cards, most simply finished with a signature. Names I didn’t know. People who loved and remembered.

Then, a different kind of card.  No lilies or angels or cursive sympathies.  Flat. Engraved with black letters. Someone had given a book to a library as a way to honor my grandfather’s death.  And it was a book about fishing.

It was a full circle moment for a couple of reasons.  First, I am a librarian.  So a book memorial has special meaning for me.  And then, my daughter, Dianne, who bears the name of my mother, loves fishing.  So knowing there is a book out there, in a library somewhere, all about fishing, to honor my granddad felt both sublime and bittersweet.

Finding that card was like a cord running through generations. A moment of connection with a long distant past. I had no idea my grandfather loved fishing, even though he lived a stone’s throw from Lake Chautauqua.  It was a smile down from a man lost decades ago as well as his daughter, to me and my own daughter who shares her name.

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family

Mother’s Day Moments

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Mother’s Day during the pandemic.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Honestly, many Mother’s Days in our home pass without too much fanfare. My own Mom is no longer alive and some years are harder than others.  It’s also one of the busiest days of the year at our family’s restaurant, and often that is the focus. More years than not I spend working at the restaurant just to help be sure people are happy. (This doesn’t really bother me. I always say those are the kind of days that pay my kids’ college tuition.  This year it’s more like my mortgage, but you get the idea.) I worked this year as well.

It may not surprise you that the gifts I often enjoy most are cards.  Taking time to write someone a meaningful note is a rare treasure.  I’ve gotten several amazing cards and letters from my kids in the past years. When my youngest asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I said “fifteen pound dumbbells” with a belly laugh.  Stores have been out of fitness equipment for months since many have set up home gyms during corona.  But then I just told her my real answer:  a card. Honestly, I don’t expect anything, especially right now.

So the night before Mother’s Day, when my son asked me if I would be around in the morning, I had no idea what to expect.  There would be a delivery, he said.  I was touched by the very thought that he would have something delivered.  I figured maybe it would be flowers, since I do have a great love for unique blooms.  I was floored when a bag was dropped on my doorstep and I pulled out this amazing super sparkly tumbler he had made just for me.  Yes, it’s awesome and I love the Georgia Bulldogs.  But even more amazing is the fact that only about 5 days earlier I had complained about needing a bigger insulated cup to increase my water consumption.  My workplace closure has brought my water intake way down since I don’t have my infused water any longer.   So not only is it a personal design, it showed that he heard me and responded.  What a heartwarming gift!

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My middle daughter made our whole family dinner on the Monday after Mother’s Day.  She made tacos, which are my food love language.  Fresh guacamole, all the fixin, and she is a healthy eater herself so it was all more or less in my eating goals.  Even protein baked goods for dessert!  She also gave me some lovely hydrangeas, some of my favorite flowers, and a candle in my second favorite scent.  (That’s a story for another post).  Finally, a card with all kinds of beautiful words.  It was a beautiful, thoughtful evening.

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Lastly, in an unexpected turn, my youngest walks in the house with a pair of…you guessed it…15 pound dumbbells.  I was in shock.  She went to two stores…the first had nothing.  The second had all of 3 dumbbells and unbelievably they were fifteen pounders.  Ah-May-Zing.  !!!!  I’ve already used them several times.  Yay for less frustration in workouts.

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Of course I saved all the cute little handprint and rhyme Mother’s Day gifts from their elementary school days.  They are precious!  But to be heard, seen, and known as an individual with interests, goals, and preferences by my kids is a different sort of celebration, and in some ways all that much sweeter. 

 

 

challenges, perspective

Digital Doomsday

Without warning on or around March 14th school halted in my area due to the pandemic events. This meant digital learning began for students, mine included.

A day. A week. Two weeks. It’s temporary right?

The first few days teachers, parents and others adjusted. Nobody thought this was for the long term. Kids got behind in their work because they were never really given expectations for long term digital learning. And let’s face it, digital learning and homeschooling isn’t for everyone.

Teachers are doing the best they can virtually but if your child isn’t a kid who likes to work online for hours at a time you are screwed. I fall into this category!

Let’s take gym class for instance: you have to design a workout circuit just like a personal trainer. You have to type out the instructions and make sure you included all the requirements. Then you have to video tape it to prove you did it. What if your phone isn’t the latest and greatest? What if your family isn’t the physically fit type? Can they even help you? And don’t forget then you need to upload it. Even if you are self-conscious and don’t like to video tape yourself.

I can definitely say showing up to class to play with a ball and my friends is so much easier and at the same time it’s beneficial physically and emotionally, This is just one example of what my child misses. I can confirm this because I not only miss my workout time with friends, I miss the routine of it and the group learning.

My child is social. She misses her friends. She misses lunch chats. She will miss her yearbook signing this year. She will miss saying good bye to her friends. She will miss many experiences unfortunately like cheering on her friends at a baseball game. Giggling at the park with friends and sharing a hug. Touch is another thing missing. No handshakes. No high fives. No hugs. Those embraces are needed especially for those who struggle at home.

My child copes but that coping will have an impact as she transitions to high school. Her love for school may be tainted. Her rebellious side may come out due to all the frustrations of having barriers for a while.

As adults we wing it. As teens they are still learning. Their brains are still developing thus they may have impairments socially, emotionally or cognitively. The balance of school, home, activities is much needed part of development. I had not written about this part of being cooped up because it makes me worry not just for my kid but others. Families with violence, hunger or financial struggles.

I worry for the well-being of not only my kid but others who have different struggles. My child misses connections with people which I understand as I am a people person. What about the kids who need their special ed teacher and their accommodations to work? Can they adapt to a home school environment that might include a screaming 2 year old sibling? What about the kids who have a tough home life. Maybe even abusive home life. School is their escape. How do they cope?

School has been cancelled for the rest of the year where I am. Sporting teams have cancelled seasons. Obviously there is good reason but the impacts of this pandemic will have an effect on students, student athletes, friend groups, grades, attitudes at home and so on.

I often think of others who have it far worse than me. The single mom with two kids juggling work and judgment for taking her kids with her to an essential job because nowhere is open to care for them. The needs of the front line medical workers who have to face emotionally draining days and if they return home then become teacher or maybe the teacher role falls on the spouse who is already worried about their spouse on the front lines.

Can we catch a break? Don’t the powers that be think maybe three days a week is enough school given the environmental challenges? What about the teachers who have to adjust to planning digital days vs school days? What about staff meetings online and irate parents. I can only imagine the stress in that occupation.

I didn’t even mention nearly every household has financial stresses added to the mix. Homes today are under siege of stress from corona and all of its side effects that will hit the commoners hard in time.

Our mental health system is not prepared for the need that is about to hit as hard as the pandemic has hit schools, businesses, families and healthcare workers.

I predict a lot of PTSD in near future for many age groups.

celebrations, coaching

Growing Up Fast

They may not be fully grown but they represent a few of my maturing players. Many team colors over the years but the same great kids and lots and lots of memories.

I have known this group since they were in elementary school. I wasn’t their only coach but I was fortunate to have them with me for a few seasons, reasons, tournaments and so on.

We built strong bonds. We built trust. We giggled. We traveled from state to state many times and boy do we have car stories to tell. They got better in the sport they love. They had their glow up. Now they are in high school. Almost ready for college.

They are now working as volunteers to pass their knowledge on to the younger kids coming up in the ranks. Something they probably didn’t imagine when they first suited up in their lacrosse gear for the first time. This picture was taken in the state of Alabama about 5 years ago.

I have a front row seat in watching them excel as leaders on and off the field. They don’t get paid. They work hard. They are role models. From brace-faced young girls to whistle-blowing officials. These girls have grown up all things lacrosse. They are now choosing to volunteer in the sport that has afforded them so much. This gem of photo was a first 3 v 3 tournament in the Sunshine State back in 2016.

These girls may not see the value of what they are doing today but they are leading by example. Those they are mentoring and will later mentor others. They will springboard off this leadership experience as they head off to college. Their team bonding will crossover into the workplace one day. This keepsake photo was after a hard fought championship game in sunny South Carolina in 2017.

They are tomorrow’s workers. They have a solid foundation. They will be successful. I will enjoy watching them grow into greatness. How can I not include the toy soldier photo from a holiday tournament held in Georgia every year. One that is festive and full of crazy costumes and most notable is the cold temperatures and bad weather that comes with a December tournament.

This is why I coach. I love being a part of these girls’ stories and I love having them a part of mine. From costumes to travel and beyond the sport of lacrosse has bonded these girls for years. They are there for each other when times are challenging and they push each other when the need arises.

As many of my lacrosse girls approach adulthood, this is my big thank you for letting me be a part of your journey. I remember so many of my coaches throughout life and the lessons they taught me. I hope my players remember me one day and the memories we made.

So many hurdles for these girls and other athletes who had their seasons interrupted because of the Coronavirus scare. Uncharted territory. The closest reminder for me was 9/11 however none of these girls even remember 9/11 as they were not born yet. What a crazy reflection in this growing up post.

I now feel old and experienced in life having seen the Gulf War, 9/11 and now Coronavirus. Crazy to think my parents talked about the potato famine and I get to tell stories about the toilet paper famine.

This post is for my three musketeer trio and those junior coaches that paved the way before them. You know who you are.