A cup of coffee – #SOL21 Day 31

A cup of steaming hot coffee.  Doesn’t a cup of coffee taste better on the weekend or over vacation?  If you don’t drink coffee, replace it with your drink – hot tea, hot chocolate, orange juice, or a fancy coffee drink, which I don’t know the names of because I only drink regular, boring, old coffee.  Yesterday, I drank a cup of coffee on the golf course – even better!  I’m already on my second cup, and I haven’t had to chug down any of it.  I haven’t spilled any on my shirt or pants because of drinking it on the run, and my coffee is hot from start to finish.  I don’t believe that I have finished a cup of hot or warm coffee during a school weekday in years.

The cup of coffee is the perfect way to describe a hectic school day, which is every single day since September (honestly, it’s hectic even during a “normal” schedule).  There are many days that I find my coffee sitting on a lab table at 2:55 PM with six gulps still left.  The cream is beginning to curdle and swirl on the top of the coffee, and it is usually exactly how I feel after only two things or twenty went right over the last seven hours.  Disgusting.  Tired.  Cold.  As I walk out the door and throw the leftover contents of my coffee onto the school lawn, I imagine that I will drink a whole cup of coffee the next day.  It never happens.

So, today, I slowly drink my coffee, and if it even begins to cool a degree or two, I put it in the microwave and warm it up because I have time.:)  I enjoy every sip while I read/write/or finish a household chore.  I have a few more days of relaxing “coffee mornings” until we go back to school, and I’m going to enjoy every single one.  My goal in the last twelve weeks of the school year is to get through a cup of coffee during a busy school day.  Dare to dream.:)


Hitting the links – #SOL21 Day 30

Hitting the links in March.  I can’t think of a better way to end the month of March.  With a snowstorm, which will drop ten inches of snow, coming in two days, it made the 18 holes even sweeter.  We lost our spring vacation last year because we were teaching remote, and because I have only been golfing for three summers, this was the earliest that I have ever been on a golf course.

With the sun and the temperatures in the 70s, I forgot that it was March.  In short sleeves and shorts, I forgot it was March.  With twosomes, threesomes, and foursomes on every single hole, I forgot it was March.  When I got home and realized that my face was sunburn, I forgot it was March.  It was the perfect spring vacation day.

The round of golf gives me hope that the warmer weather is coming.  It gives me the hope of long spring and summer days with sun and warm temperatures.  With the ten inches of snow coming to Central New York, it gives me hope that it will be melted by the weekend (so I can golf again:).  We are halfway through our vacation, but today was the highlight so far and it gives me hope that it is going to be an awesome second half of vacation.

Where did the time go? #SOL21 Day 29

When I got off the phone with a representative from a southeast college this afternoon, I needed a moment.  I was completely composed during the phone conversation (although, a bit bewildered by the cost of college), but the second that I hung up, all of the memories of the last seventeen years rushed through my mind.  Where did the time go?  When did my oldest daughter get to the age where she would need to be looking at colleges?

I’ll never ever forget when she was born.  My wife had a difficult delivery, so I spent the first few hours with her.  We sang songs.  We cuddled.  I truly believe that she was smiling at me the whole time (she wasn’t – she was a newborn).  Since then, I’ve coached her, went on so many neighborhood walks with her, helped her learn how to drive, and spent many nights talking with her about life (usually listening) and school.  ALL of this came rushing back as I hung up the phone.  She will be heading to college next August.  She wants to be many states away, and this is the most difficult part of her leaving for college.  I want her to go to the local college in our city, but I also want her to be happy (she has worked so hard in high school).

I still have a few months left of this school year and her senior year.  I just hope that it moves at a snail’s pace.  The evitable is coming, and by the time that we get to that point, I will be ready.  For now, I will reminisce about all of the memories, continue to talk to representatives from northeast and southeast colleges, and wonder where all of the years went (and continually attempt to slow them down before the other three kids get ready to head to college).

Writing as reflection during these uncertain times – #SOL21 Day 28

A year ago, we used writing as a way to make sense of the unpredictable times that awaited us in the months leading us into summer.  The pandemic instantly changed the world and led us into a future like no other that we have experienced in over a century.  The normal that we all knew was disrupted, and we used writing to keep our own normalcy and make sense of a considerably different looking future.

One year ago, there were no answers to all of our questions that we had, but we used the month of March to share our feelings, fears, experiences, and prognosis for the future in writing.  We wrote every single day.  We read other writer’s writing and commented.  We took advantage and found comfort within a community of writers.  As the pandemic caused shutdowns and solitude for many people, I, as a writer, found a community of people, other writers, that were feeling the same way as I was feeling.  For me, it made it easier to deal with it all.

One year later, March 2021, and we are here again as a community of writers.  This year, the writing and reflections offer hope and an opportunity to glimpse at the next post-quarantine (if numbers continue to decrease) year that lies ahead.  The last two months (March 2020 and March 2021) are bookends for a year like one we have never ever seen or experienced before.  Writing has always proven to be a way that people effectively communicate and find comfort with things that they are struggling with in life.  The last two Slice of Life March writing challenges have provided us with a positive way to reflect and be part of a community during these uncertain times.

Thank you to ALL of the organizers of the Slice of Life writing challenge.

The four “B’s”- #SOL21 Day 27

The first night of vacation was a blur.  I laid on the couch from about seven o’clock at night until I headed to bed at eleven-thirty.  I was exhausted.  It wasn’t the way that I thought that I would start vacation, but the last few weeks of craziness finally caught up with me.  This morning, I woke up refreshed and ready for a week of vacation.

The day was grey and cold until the sun finally found its way into the clearing skies.  The sun helped warm things up to the mid-50s.  On our way home from lacrosse practice, my youngest daughter and I decided it was the perfect night for the first bonfire of the spring, so we stopped to get some wood and decided that after dinner, we would have a fire.

With the big basketball game tonight, we had the final “B” of the night after we picked up the wood.  We got home and barbequed before the bonfire.  You can’t barbeque without a beer.  As the sun went down, it got chilly and was perfect for grilling and a bonfire.  Due to the game starting at 9:55 PM, we needed to keep busy (to stay awake:).  So, we had a barbeque, beers, a bonfire, and tonight, we hope to have a ton of Buddy buckets.  Go Orange!

Thursday felt like a Syracuse summer day – #SOL21 Day 26

A run in shorts and a t-shirt.  A long walk in the woods with my daughter.  We were both in shorts and t-shirts with spring mud all over our legs.  Grilling with a nice Ruby Red Kolsch.  Windows halfway open with fresh evening air blowing through the house.  Is it summer?  Not even close.  Is it a weather miracle?  Pretty close to it.  It was a marvelous late-March Thursday.

Usually, a Syracuse March consists of lots of rain with many days of snow mixing in.  We don’t see the grass very much because it’s covered in the white stuff.:)  In fact, many years it even snows in April and May in Central New York.  Now, I’m not crazy enough to think that we are done with snow, but I know for sure that we, Syracusans, love a sunny, high seventy degree day in March.  We get a little crazy (see first paragraph).

Vacation starts tomorrow at 3:05, and the temperatures are supposed to dip back down to normal, but this has been an amazing week, and because of it, I’m not even upset that snow is in the forecast for late Sunday.  Before I sat down to grade on Thursday night, I took some golf swings in the yard and cleaned out my bag with the hope of playing a round or two over vacation (even if it is in gloves, a winter coat, and a warm hat).  Summer may disappear this afternoon, but it will be back soon.

Building Classroom Community on a Remote Day – #SOL21 Day 25

Every Wednesday is a remote day for all of the students in the school building.  For the teachers, they post the work, lessons, and videos for the kids to complete on this day.  If the students have questions, they can come to an office hours session with the teacher.  I started out the school year using this method, but it wasn’t working for me or the students, so it changed.  Now, I meet with my science classes and my ELA class.

I will teach a lesson or mini-lesson and the students will complete a task or activity.  I also like to use this day in ELA to review concepts that I am teaching in class, but the most special part of the week comes at the end of every ELA class on Wednesday.  On Friday (of the week before), I pull a question from Table Topics for the kids to answer at the end of class on Wednesday.  They can answer aloud or in the chat.  Here are the questions from the last few weeks:

Would you keep a secret if you knew someone would get hurt if you did?

What do children know more about than adults?

Who can make you feel better when you’re sad or angry?

If you were showing someone new to town around town, where would you bring them first?  Why?

Who is one of your heroes and why do they inspire you?

You get to pick your question – 1. How does a person become courageous? OR What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Which punishment do you dislike the most?

What are the qualities that you look for in friends?

Through the twenty-five weeks of questions, I have learned so much about my students.  With this activity alone, during the hybrid/remote learning schedule, we have created a close-knit learning community.  I use every second of ELA class time on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday to teach the kids the reading and writing skills that they need for the future, and because of this, there is little time to create a classroom community.  As it turns out, Wednesdays are the most powerful days of the week in ELA because it’s when we create a classroom community where we learn successfully the rest of the week.  Even when we go back to a more normal school schedule, Wednesdays will still include time to create a classroom community with our Table Topics answers and discussions.

The Internet is down… #SOL21 Day 24

On Tuesday morning, I was the first car to the middle school parking lot.  After an awesome morning walk, I was ready for a glorious day.  My car clock read 5:58 AM, and I knew that for the next two hours I was going to crank out a ton of work (planning, printing, grading, and prepping).  As I logged into my computer, I sensed something was wrong.  I could not print and I could not get to Google Drive.  The Internet was down.  Ugh!

When 8:00 AM rolled around and I had my first period science class in front of me, the Internet was still down.  No big deal.  We were going to do The Burning Candle lab and the Beads in a Bottle lab to introduce the chemistry unit.  I don’t remember doing this, but at some point over the weekend, I saved the reflection documents onto my desktop, so the kids took out some paper and we reflected the old-fashion way with a pencil.  This would happen in third and fourth period as well.  The classes were engaged and the discussions were insightful and awesome.  The problem: The remote students were not getting the same information.  This means making videos of everything that we did when the Internet was back up.  Thank goodness that I had time at 11:30 AM.

11:30 AM came and went and STILL the Internet was down.  In ELA class, we were supposed to finish the mythology unit with the reading (a play) of Jason and the Argonauts.  The kids were so excited for our second myth/play with their classmates on Zoom.  The Internet was still down.  We read the play as a class, but we missed the ten students that usually are with us via Zoom.  And, it was another video that I would have to create for the students that missed the class.  Thank goodness that I had a few minutes at 1:45 PM.  I could at least get one video created and posted.

1:45 PM came and went and STILL the Internet was down.  Finally, at 2:15 PM, the Internet was back.  Unfortunately, I had kids in the classroom, so the videos would have to wait until the end of the school day.  I was preparing myself for a thirty minute video session when I received an email that the faculty meeting (that was canceled) was back on.  Ugh!  After eight hours of no Internet, thirty-eight emails from students wondering about class (they all stated that they knew the Internet was down but was hoping that I would get the email and get back to them during or right after class = still scratching my head about this), and a faculty meeting, I was leaving work with a ton of work to do.

I made up for my missed time on Zoom with a two and half hour Zoom board of education meeting (my second one of the week and it is only Tuesday:).  After cranking out an hour of school work, I was cooked.  It was time for bed.  My last thoughts of the day were about how we, the teachers, have been told to put everything on the Internet, but today, there was NO PLAN when the Internet was down.  Ugh!

A morning walk – #SOL21 Day 23

A morning walk is the best way to start the day.  Even after a long weekend with very little sleep, the morning walk is the perfect way to start the week.  The only time of the day that writing ideas flood my brain.  The only time that I get peace and quiet.

Morning Walk

Deep darkness of the early morning,

Greeted by the first chirps of the day,

Crisp, cool air, nature’s alarm clock,

The day has really started.

The eerie stillness of the dark,

Not strange or scary, but comforting,

A comfort of a spring morning,

The day has really started.

Passing the lone neighbor,

Signals the end of the peace,

So many more spring walks ahead,

The day has really started.

Have a great day!  Happy writing!

What is Matter? #SOL21 Day 22

What is matter?  No, what is the matter with you?  That is what the young sixth grade ears thought that they heard on this sleepy, but sunny, Monday morning.  After a long weekend of basketball watching (our city’s college team is in the Sweet Sixteen), the students were tired and unfocused (at least on science).  But, my next question got their attention.  What is chemistry?  Followed by me lighting a hot plate to melt ice – I like drama (actually, I can’t stand drama, but the kids love it).

Over the last thirteen weeks of school, we will be consumed by mixing, boiling, heating, and the atomic numbers that make up the periodic table.  The students can’t wait.  Their teacher can’t wait.:)  With the social distancing requirements moving from six feet to three feet, we will be able to converse and work with manipulatives more easily.  We won’t be able to share manipulatives, but we will be taking turns working through the investigations and lab activities.  We will work in pairs to collaborate and reflect.  This will be the first time during this school year that the students won’t be watching videos of the investigations and lab activities that I premade before class.  SUPER boring.

This is the perfect way to end the school year in science.  Last year, we progressed through the chemistry unit from home in the fully remote school setting.  Lots of reading, lots of videos of me doing the labs, and no hands on chemistry.  Tomorrow, we start with a burning candle and the impact that oxygen has on a burning candle.  If I don’t burn down the classroom, we will be off and running with three months of sixth grade chemistry.  The perfect mix to finish the school year.:)