classroom, live in the now, racial justice, teaching

Anti-Racism: Reflecting on 15 Years of Being a Public Educator

The murder of George Floyd and the beginning of another historical life changing world event, a racial justice movement, occurred within the last 9 teaching days of the 2019-2020 school year.

The students in my third grade class and their parents may or may not have been expecting acknowledgement or a comment from their teacher about this turning point in our country. We were days away from the “celebration” of the end of an exhausting and traumatic year that was interrupted by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

Thoughts and words were shared within the classroom and the school communities during the last days of an unprecedented school year. Final goodbyes were said. Virtual hugs were given. Life went on into the transition to summer vacation.

Words.

The words that we share, read and hear, the ones that we choose to say or not to say make an impact. It may last for as long as a topic is trending. The impact of words might have the power and potential to resonate with us for however long we individually “survive” through this time in history.

The following are collections of some words that may have impacted and influenced educators in different ways over the last decade or so.

The last list, along with so many other words and names not mentioned yet, hold the power to change the narrative for educators and students.

What if these words and topics were addressed and used more frequently in structured and respectful conversations in the school setting, even at the elementary level?

What impact could these words and ideas have during weekly lesson planning, staff meetings, parent communication, and data analysis?

Would the conversations be uncomfortable?

How would students benefit from the use of these words and topics in their learning spaces?

Some teachers may agree that the topics from the first 3 word lists have always held a higher priority than the last one prior to May 25th, 2020. How important are they now, given the current state of the world?

Summer vacation during the time of Covid-19 invited many educators to get comfortably uncomfortable and take the journey of digging deep into the truths of racism.

What is one of the biggest and most important truths?

Having the choice to learn about racism is a privilege.

After the choice is made, words can either be used to try to keep things as “normal” as possible, or they can dramatically change the narrative.

Actions do speak louder, but the words are the place to start.

family, gratitude, health, health and wellness, live in the now, mindful

The Concept of Time in The Year 2020

My toddler son made a couple of big kid transitions during the past two months while sheltering at home. He outgrew his afternoon nap. He doesn’t need a stroller or anyone to carry him anymore during long neighborhood family walks.  

These milestones were never on the calendar, marked neatly in a box labeled with a specific date and time. They just happened. He definitely didn’t plan ahead for them either, (however, in the potty-training department, I wish he would). The attention span and thought pattern of a 3 year old probably doesn’t include the concept of what’s going to happen five minutes from now. When we attempt to tell him to wait because something is going to happen in two minutes, it’s sometimes a risky move; an invitation for a potential meltdown.   

With everything that has been going on in our world over the last months, thinking with a toddler mindset can be beneficial sometimes. Some of the most stressful moments that I’ve experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic stemmed from unproductive thoughts about something far into the future that I have no control over. It was either that, or I was looking back too far, sulking over silly things that I miss; ways of life and memories that are no longer a reality. 

Last year, when my father passed away, I wrote a post about looking to the future only ten days at a time, to help heal and grow through the grieving process. Now a new adjustment is necessary. Five minutes. The future that may exist in the next five minutes seems easy enough to handle, especially when the answers that I want aren’t there, and it may be quite a while until they come. 

It’s also a very grim and humbling experience to remember that so many people have fought until the end for the next, (or last) five minutes of their lives. Struggles and challenges have taken on such an intense and whole new meaning for everyone: health, life, food, finances, safety.  If a “struggle” involves not having an exact plan for something that is a non-emergency or non essential  situation, waiting for five minutes at a clip is good with me.

My son lives his life and makes his toddler moves based on what’s right there in front of him. He sometimes refers to the past using phrases such as “earlier” or  “last earlier”, when he wants to talk about something that may have occurred a week ago, or even pre-pandemic. At this point, many of us are questioning what day it is anyway, so making less references to the past could be a good thing.

The word “tomorrow” isn’t a high frequency word for my son yet either. Wouldn’t it be interesting to view life this way, even for a small chunk of the day? If tomorrow wasn’t on your radar, but the next five minutes of your future were guaranteed, how would you spend the time? I’m going to ask myself this question the next time I’m stuck in an unproductive thought or worry. Most likely that will be sometime tomorrow, being that today is Sunday. 

Until then…

How do you try to keep yourself focused on the present moment during a global pandemic?     

family, health, health and wellness, live in the now, travel

Free to Move About

Almost exactly one year ago today, I was about two-thirds of the way into a 12 hour flight to Beijing; the first stop on a family trip to Thailand. School was very much in session, so as a teacher and a mom, I had all the plans in place. I prepped for a 10 day substitute teacher for my third graders. I also made sure I followed the rules and guidelines to apply for and set up my daughter’s independent study for learning abroad while she was on vacation halfway around the world with her mom, grandmother, and extended family members. 

My husband and two-year-old son stayed home and held down the fort. My father was still alive. He stayed back too, mostly at peace with the ladies of his life embarking on this big life-changing travel adventure.

Now it’s March 18th, 2020. Since then, dad passed away nine months ago. Other family members and friends have also become ill or died. And of course, most recently, and unrelated to the loss of those loved ones and purely by strange coincidence, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. 

I’ve spent the last four days scrambling, collaborating with colleagues, and piecing together “remote learning” plans for another group of third graders who I’ve had to leave, this time with no real date of return, due to school closures. 

 Over the course of the last 365 days, my family and I have been through a journey of travel and grief; life changes, hope, and social distancing. I’ve lost track of how many versions of “The New Normal” I have lived through to this point since March of last year. 

I still bring myself back to that Air China flight from SFO to Beijing. I was scared and anxious. I didn’t know what to expect. Things that happened around me were already so different from what I was used to, and I hadn’t even set foot on new land yet. I had to adapt right then and there. 

Currently, I continue to move freely about this airplane cabin of life, confined to my own home, hours on end. Fear of the outside. New ways of navigating the interior, and forced to adapt. There’s nothing to do but make the most of the situation, meet basic human needs, find entertainment value in things, and keep the blood circulating. Eventually, I’m hoping that I and everyone else will land.             

A year ago, I had one of the most beautiful life experiences that ended up helping me through some of the most difficult ones down the road, and I am thankful everyday for that time in my life. Even though at one point I was anxious, and wasn’t sure it was going to end, I wouldn’t have gotten there without that long flight.

balance, declutter, family, gratitude, health and wellness, live in the now

Keep the Original

December brought on a big wave of house reorganization and another much needed reminder of the People Not Things philosophy. The story remains pretty much the same since I started this blog. 

I still have too much stuff. 

I have more than enough. I went “shopping” in cabinets, closets, and the garage. I rearranged and recreated new living spaces all around the house. I transformed my living room with less than 3 simple furniture moves and now I have a new and noticeably better open space that also sometimes doubles as a behind-the-scenes home gym. 

The inventory is constant. I just hadn’t stopped and evaluated it since the summer. My kids discovered new old toys; awkward additions to their brand new Christmas gifts. I was reminded of how much blank paper I have in the house. Unopened printer ink cartridges that I forgot about sweetened the deal.

I still believe that I have enough craft supplies to entertain the most bored child who ever walks through the front door. I came up ahead and “made money” with gift cards that were freed from the junk drawer. Free crafts and caffeine might make for an epic rainy day experience. If it happens to be a high UV day, the family and I will be thoroughly protected from the sun AND from germs for many years with the amount of sunblock and hand sanitizer that I found.

The rediscovery of all this great stuff came with a price, even though I didn’t make any new purchases. I easily spent hours sorting through piles, bags, and papers. My kids had their share of screen time sessions (when they weren’t playing with their old new toys)  as I wrangled clothing, shoes, and USB charging cords. 

I learned the same lesson all over again. Every item or group of items in my house requires varying amounts of time and attention. Reusable grocery bags sometimes delay the departure to the store by about two minutes due to the trip back inside the house or to the other car to get them. On a cold day, three to four warm winter coat options are nice to have, but storage and maintenance, along with the decision-making process could easily add up to the equivalent of total coat-wearing minutes altogether. 

The one item that holds the most value after this recent decluttering session is one of the new board games that my daughter got for Christmas. She asked me to learn and play the game with her at the height of the “stuff shuffle”, and I was a bit stressed. Initially, I didn’t have enough patience to focus because I was devoting my time and my thoughts to the things that needed to be put away. It was a poor showing of being present.

Luckily, my board gamer husband and YouTube stepped in, and we all learned to play and enjoy it around the family table. I then realized that the neatly stacked pile of other board games (new and vintage), that are rarely played deserve time and attention. Playing Plastic Bin Tetris for an hour in the garage to either put something away or apprehend an item isn’t as fun. 

A reminder.

I’m once again trying to slow down the stream of incoming items that arrive here. I am aware of the inventory. I have a lot of stuff. I have the people. The amount of time and energy however, are unknown and limited. Some of the clutter will outlive some of the people. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s real. 

So instead of cleaning the cleaning supplies tomorrow, I’m going to enjoy all the things that will never fit into a basket or a box on a shelf in the cabinet: Eye contact. Hugs. Holding tight and laughing. Sending a genuine text to say thank you. Tastes and smells, and certain sounds that keep me grounded. Letting go and breathing.

I’ll never be able to store these things away and rediscover them later in their original form. But there’s time for all of it now. I’m sure of it.

I’ve cleared the space.