Tag Archives: teaching

C-ing past Corona

0DB47822-785B-4765-87CE-FB02C5144FA6I don’t know about you, but I’m getting more than a little overwhelmed by the constant barrage of CoronaVirus related news. I’m feeling anxious and isolated and sort of cast adrift as I struggle to figure out how to do my job from home.

While I’ve been escaping with live streamed yoga classes, professional Zoom meetings and binge watching Sex and the City, it isn’t enough. For the rest of my waking hours, irregular as they may be, there are two C words beyond Corona that are occupying my time – cooking and cleaning.

Since grocery shopping is such an ordeal these days and we’re encouraged to remain at home, I’ve been trying to cook out of my pantry and my crisper drawer. Last night’s meal nicely capitalized on what I happened to have on hand – broccoli rabe, chickpeas, canned tomatoes and an open container of veggie stock.

Now, if you look at this NYT recipe you might notice that it doesn’t actually call for broccoli rabe, listing kale instead, but this is very much a recipe that one can modify according to whim or ingredients available. My take on it, after reading some of the comments on the NYT website, doubled the chickpeas and used the liquid from the canned tomatoes and veggie stock instead of water. I also tossed in a Parm rind for some added flavor and increased the crushed red pepper by a generous extra pinch.

DB984C4F-F9E3-4D70-BEEA-684206D4BAEDServed with grated cheese, it was a cheap and healthy dinner with the bonus of being delicious.

Cooking the Pasta e Ceci  was easy and satisfying – just like some of the recent home projects I’ve taken on. Since I frequently find myself wandering from room to room in my house, I’ve done a fair amount of organizing and weeding of items that I’m prepared to eliminate from my home. There’s been quite a bit of dusting also and I actually removed the three milk glass sconces from my bathroom light fixture and gave them a good washing. I learned that they are in fact not milk glass. They were just really dusty.

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On the menu for the upcoming week – Asparagus Pork Stir fry, cleaning the ceiling fans, and moderating my news consumption. How about you?

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Filed under Albany, Cooking, DelSo, Dinner, Food, ideas, News, Observations, Recipes, Recommendations, Spring, stress, upstate New York

Signs of the times

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With little else left to do, I find myself walking a lot. On the sunny days, it’s hard to not believe that eventually things will find their way to a new normal. Trees are budding and the earliest bloomers are showing off in front yards and gardens. Life continues, right?

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When the skies are grey, though, it’s more difficult to project into a future that contains all the components previously taken for granted – regular schedules for schools and work, grocery stores with fully stocked shelves, hugs with those we love. All those things we never could have anticipated disappearing in a haste that is breathtaking.

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It feels like it’s important to document what is happening, with words and images and I’ve been doing both. The photos here are from recent walks I’ve taken. I’ll continue posting photos over at Instagram, if you want to give me a follow over there.

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For now, I need to put on some lipstick, set up my Chrome Book and read another chapter in the book I’m sharing with my students using Screencastify. Maybe listening to a book being read will provide an escape from some of what we can’t avoid seeing in print.

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Filed under Albany, Exercise, Local, medical, musings, Observations, Spring, stress, upstate New York

Can’t touch this

Over the weekend I stopped at the Apple Store to buy a new phone charger for my car. Whenever I go there, I’m always amazed at the number of people shopping for computers and phones. It’s like Black Friday every single day! After a few minutes of looking around the perimeter of the store, I finally located what I needed. Since there apparently isn’t an actual kiosk or checkout area, I asked for help and was directed to a staff member who would help me with my transaction.

I handed the employee my item and the card I wished to use for payment. He swiped and then reached towards me to allow me to complete the sale. I extended my hand to accept the portable terminal, but suddenly changed my mind. I didn’t want to touch that thing.

The decision to withdraw my hand was completely unpremeditated, almost an instinct. I smiled at the man and apologized, saying that I didn’t mean to offend him and it wasn’t anything personal, but I just didn’t want to touch that piece of hardware that countless other people had touched before me. He seemed to understand my hesitation refusal and entered the necessary information himself as I provided it to him eliminating my need to handle the terminal.

As he completed the sale, we talked about the Corona Virus and the general state of germy-ness in a business which provides potential customers the opportunity to get “hands-on” with technology. I had noticed a maintenance employee scrupulously wiping down tables and display models when I entered the store, something I had never seen before. To me, that suggests an awareness of the virus and a reasonable response to the situation at this time.

It’s impossible to predict how widespread this virus is going to spread. I don’t go to the mall very frequently, but I have been washing my hands like a lunatic recently. Working in a school with hundreds of kids who probably directly contradict my own habits as stated in the previous sentence makes me a little uncomfortable. I find myself very conscious each time I assist a student on their chromebook and am trying to refrain from touching my face.

How are you dealing with this potential health crisis? Have you made any changes to your routines to avoid contact with crowds? Are you considering altering travel plans? Has the Corona Virus impacted you and your family?

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The cost of Free Lunch

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Monday, YALSA, the young adult librarian services arm of the American Library Association, awarded the 2020 nonfiction award to Rex Ogle’s Free Lunch a small book that left a huge impact on this reader. The memoir tells the story of Rex’s first semester of sixth grade in Texas. He’s just entered middle school, a milestone for which he was very excited. He’s a hardworking and bright student who loves to read and values the routine of school. In addition to his schoolwork, Rex shoulders a tremendous amount of responsibility at home caring for his 2 1/2 year old brother and preparing meals since his mother “doesn’t cook.”

 

And, he’s poor. Really, really poor.

 

Rex lives with his mother, her boyfriend, and their child, in a two bedroom apartment in which all of the furniture items can be counted on one hand. Rex sleeps on the floor in a sleeping bag, storing his meager wardrobe of ill fitting, but clean, clothing in cardboard boxes left over from the family’s most recent move. They move a lot.

 

There is never enough food in their home, but the threat of physical, emotional and verbal abuse fills the otherwise empty rooms. Grocery and school supply shopping expeditions are balancing acts between getting what is needed and not angering a mother who rages against every perceived societal injustice with a loud and confrontational voice.

 

Reading Rex’s words on the page prompted memories and strong feelings for me. We were poor, too. While my mother never was abusive, she also was not particularly interested in the emotional needs of her own children or sensitive to the pressures of fitting in socially. I just don’t think she had the resources to explore either of those avenues.

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I shared Free Lunch, along with Hey, Kiddo, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s National Book Award Finalist graphic novel memoir, last week with my 7th grade students. The theme of the presentation, and the books I pulled, was families. I talked a little about the infinite number of household compositions that can be encompassed by the word Family. I told the kids about the embarrassment Ogle felt about his home situation and poverty and explained that I knew what he was talking about because of my own experiences growing up in a single parent household, being dependent upon welfare, and receiving free lunch.

 

When I was a kid, there were times when we had to devise ways to heat up food (pre-microwaves) when there was no gas for the stove. Hot water wasn’t always available and sometimes in the winter there was no water whatsoever because we had neglected to leave the water dripping on cold nights and the pipes had frozen. Most of the time, in home laundry was a luxury we didn’t have and I have memories of clothing drying near the wood burning stove upon which we were dependent for heat. 


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Hours of my childhood were spent in the overheated offices of the county social services building waiting as my mother reapplied for assistance. I learned at an early age that toilet paper, soap and aspirin were all considered nonessential and thus not able to be purchased with food stamps. And the embarrassment of free lunch? I’m very familiar with the shame of having to publicly admit that my family did not have the means to provide me with a midday meal.

 

My lesson finished with a “blind” book selection activity in which I asked students to close their eyes, reach into a bin filled with assorted books and withdraw one. As they lined up to perform the task, I explained that none of us get to pick the family that we’re born into and I requested that they sit down for 5-7 minutes with their randomly selected book and just read. Following their quiet reading, they had the option to borrow the book or opt for an alternative title. The choice, just like what might come next in their own lives, was theirs to make.

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Filed under aging, Books, Education, girlhood, News, Observations, Recommendations

For the love of sixth grade

Can you find me?

When I was in sixth grade, I had the coolest teacher ever. I now suspect that Mr. Warbrick, the first male teacher I ever had, was fairly new to the field. Teachers who so enthusiastically do their own thing, I’ve come to learn, are either fresh and green or comfortable veterans.

The memories that stand out to me from that year of school are consistent for the way our activities made me feel – excited, interested, capable, respected and fun. Aren’t those the emotions school is supposed to inspire? Our classroom, the former library, was a suite of three rooms. We were tasked, as a class, to agree upon a theme (we chose jungle), sketch out a design and then paint our main classroom space. The smaller room on the right became the designated reading room, which we furnished with a couch we had fundraised to purchase. The smallest of rooms was a kitchen and, again, we worked together to raise the money needed to buy a secondhand refrigerator which we used to keep our lunchtime ice cream sandwiches frozen until class movie time.

I learned a lot that year. Things like how to do the hustle, what it feels like to be recognized as more than merely the girl who’s always reading and the possibilities of what can be achieved with collective effort. It was a fantastic academic year for me despite the fact that I recall nothing of what we studied during official class time. The lessons I learned were more about how to be a human being.

As I approach my twenty-fifth year in my profession, I find myself becoming more reflective of who I have been as an educator – and who I want to be. I’ve shared a library for the past fifteen years and, while collaboration can be stimulating, this year I am feeling compelled to break out a bit and do things a little differently. My way.

I want to create an atmosphere which allows children to grow, while also reflecting my experiences and viewpoint. I want the library to be welcoming and comfortable and I want to make connections – between myself and students, kids and books, and information and the world.

I got started last week with 15 orientation classes for 6th graders. It was a hectic three days, but I was exhilarated. We talked about areas of the library and dystopian literature and the amount of pressure – social, academic and athletic, students feel and I vowed to not add to that burden. That doesn’t mean we won’t tackle academic tasks, just that we both need to remember that these students are eleven years old.

My students were awesome and I’m filled with gratitude that my job is to work with all these kids. I’m so lucky – and my goal is to make as many students as possible feel exactly the same way. I think it’s going to be a very good year.

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Filed under Education, favorites, Librarians, Libraries, musings, Observations, Schools, stress

I’m your Mom, not your pimp

I’m really concerned about today’s young people* and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what a shitty world in which the next generation is  growing up. Does saying that make me sound really old? If it does, so be it. Unlike much of today’s youth, I can live with a little criticism and negativity.

It may not be fair to make comparisons to my own young adulthood since my situation was a bit different, but when I consider the responsibilities which were foisted upon me at a young age, I have a hard time accepting how lame dependent my sons continue to be on their Dad and me. Don’t misunderstand me – I’m appreciative of the fact that we can provide them with financial and other types of support, but their collective inability to navigate through life without relying heavily upon us, strikes me as kind of bizarre. I’m only half kidding when I say that I’ve wondered at times if they would starve if we were gone and they were faced with a manual can opener and a pantry filled with canned goods. I honestly don’t know if they would even know where to begin.

It’s a similar situation when it comes to finding a job, something both of my younger sons have been needing to accomplish (shout out to the fully employed LL!). Apparently, one of my sons had no idea as to how to actually obtain employment. When I asked him how his friends with jobs may have found their way to employment, he said they “knew people.” I suggested he might want to either search online help wanted ads or visit some retail/restaurant spots and ask for applications. Radical, right? How could he not know this?

What prompted me recently to actually utter the phrase that titles this post, relates directly to finding a job. As he was walking out the door to walk to school, my 14 year-old  asked me to “get him some babysitting gigs.” Keep in mind, he’s the youngest grandchild on both sides of the family and knows nothing about actually taking care of children. When I asked him about his skills when it comes to diaper changing, he informed me that he’d like to start with older kids, like 3 or 4 year-olds and then work his way down to babies because babies are harder. He may not be experienced, but he isn’t dumb.

Maybe you need a babysitter? Or a son?

 

*am I alone in this?

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Filed under aging, Albany, Boys, DelSo, Education, family, ideas, Local, moms, musings, Observations, relationships, Summer, upstate New York

The miseducation of Megyn Kelly

EA35741F-D438-4A06-BCD2-191A164884E8Last spring I ran a half marathon in NYC, kind of a bucket list item if I were to have such a thing. I originally registered for the race because a childhood friend brought it to my attention and it sounded fun. Anything to go to NYC, you know?

It wasn’t the cheapest half I’ve ever run, but I was ok with the entry fee because it was an all women race and I think there may have been some charity component to it. Until I saw that Megyn Kelly was the media sponsor for the event, that is. Then, in all honesty, I considered bailing because, yes, she bothers me that much.

195CD914-570A-4548-A772-0D5CFDE6FBE8Why? Because anyone willing to sit down with, provide a forum to, and pose for photos with, a man who denies that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School ever occurred, is despicable, in my opinion. I’m not going to even mention his name because I find him so reprehensible, but I’m sure you know about whom I’m speaking. I have some understanding about journalism and the fact that media professionals don’t necessarily endorse the beliefs of those they interview, but, this guy has deeply offended and caused pain to families who lost their children in a horrific way. He doesn’t get a pass, nor does she, in my book.

Yesterday, I hosted a Halloween related event in my library and I was a bit dismayed by the some of the behavior I observed. We had set out some snacks for the kids, like you do, but failed to stand guard at the table where the huge box of goldfish crackers, Oreo cookies, clementines and candy corn were being offered. Without direct adult supervision, the middle school kids were shockingly selfish about helping themselves to as much as they wanted to have without consideration of the fact that the kids behind them might end up with nothing. I was kind of appalled. I wanted and expected better.

Reflecting on it last night, I couldn’t help but see a parallel between the pattern of actions of Ms. Kelly, beginning with that controversial interview referenced above, and those of the children yesterday afternoon. There’s a sense of entitlement and lack of consideration for anyone but themselves that, quite honestly, repulses me on some level.  This failure to demonstrate empathy for parents who have lost their children, and, on a much smaller scale, those who may not enjoy the same treats we have due to our own greediness, distresses me.

What do we expect from our children? What should we expect from personalities who want to be in our homes via social and more traditional media? I want and expect better. How about you?

 

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Filed under Education, Libraries, Local, moms, musings, Observations, politics, Schools, television, upstate New York