BulgingButtons

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Shut Down Checklist

When I was an undergrad, my university had a poster listing “100 things to do before you graduate.” It was fun to fill in the tiny boxes, and when there was nothing to do (other than study, of course) that poster provided some ideas. I was reminded of that poster as I stood in my kitchen the other morning thinking about my upcoming day. There were two online meetings, a pan of brownies to be baked, and some laundry to finish up. Throw in a mid-morning dog walk, and an afternoon swim, plus some grading, professional reading, and a webinar, and you have a full day. Three months ago I could not have imagined that a regular Friday would look like this, but things are anything but regular.

Without further fanfare I present my checklist. During the shut down have you…

baked banana bread

spent more time on social media than ever

completed a jigsaw puzzle

ordered online groceries

cut your own hair

dyed your own hair

binge watched Tiger King

cleaned out your pantry and threw away expired products

rediscovered a show you used to watch

cleaned out a closet

participated in a virtual happy hour

reached out to an old friend

scrubbed something gross that you hadn’t realized was that gross

alphabetized your spices

finished a long unfinished household project

made one or more facemasks

ordered something online that you couldn’t just go pick up

participated in a car parade

reorganized a bookshelf

bought a thermometer

noticed the teddy bears in your neighbors’ windows

washed your hands until they cracked

attempted to bake bread (bonus if it’s sourdough)

chalked a sidewalk with a positive message

participated in a group challenge/project

bought more toilet paper than usual

tried a new recipe

got take out from a local restaurant

overtipped delivery people

gotten crafty

used up a whole container of hand cream

rode your bike through your neighborhood

cried for a stranger

looked through old photo albums

learned to use Zoom

played board games

unfriended/unfollowed anyone on social media

stayed in pajamas all day

spent more time playing with your pet

ordered something from a small business to help keep them afloat

read a novel

made homemade soup

tried to teach your kids

done an errand for a friend/neighbor

stayed up too late

been grateful for your health

sang as your washed your hands

planted a garden

learned to use Tik Tok

participated in an online course/class

gone for a hike

gone online “live” in your pajamas

worn a mask in public

thought to yourself, “hey, that person should be wearing a mask…”

wiped down groceries

painted a wall

done a dance challenge

rediscovered an old app like Candy Crush

updated your resume

spent more time watching/reading news

worked out in your living room

spent less time watching/reading news

carved out a home workspace

planted flowers

worried about paying your bills

cleaned out your freezer

volunteered in your community

wrote in a journal

used curbside pick-up

started a project you have no intention of finishing

told essential workers “thank you”

participated in an online birthday party/baby shower/bridal shower

rearranged your linen closet

learned your neighbors’ schedules

thrown away leftovers

updated your life insurance policy

avoided pants with a button

given yourself a manicure/pedicure

realized you spend way too much time on social media

actually missed going to work/school

weeded your yard

gained newfound appreciation for your loved ones

tried to get your pet to do that cute/funny thing that you saw on YouTube

learned how to do a home improvement chore

slept too much

cancelled travel plans

created meaningless lists

And that’s where I think I’ll stop. No, I haven’t done all of those, but maybe more than I’d care to admit. How about you? How is your lockdown going?


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The Corona Virus and CQC

Don’t I mean CDC? Well, no. That’s not my department. I’m not a health expert, but I am pretty knowledgable about fourth graders, and what makes them tick. I’ve found that CQC is a valuable practice to help teachers and students feel valued, appreciated, and supported. Oh, and it’s free. It just costs time and patience.

I’m not sure where I first read about it, but CQC has become a treasured part of my classroom routine over the past two years. What is it? Nothing short of magic, in my opinion. But that doesn’t explain it, so here’s what I know about CQC.

First off, it stands for Celebrations, Questions, and Concerns. Every Friday morning I set aside time for CQC with my fourth grade students. They know it’s coming, and they value this time. In fact, on the very last day of school last year they begged to do a final CQC, so we sat in the shade of an old tree on the playground and shared little pieces of ourselves for the last time as a group.

What CQC does is give us all a platform where we can see and be seen by our community. We listen to each other, and often we find that others have experiences similar to ours.

During CQC we all sit in more or less a circle, where we can all see and hear each other. I go around and ask each child if they have something to say. Kids who are a little more shy will often respond if they are directly invited into the conversation, but nobody is forced to speak. Kids say their bit, and I respond.

It’s not exactly a class discussion. It’s generally a short exchange between the student and me, where everyone else is invited in to listen. I model appropriate responses, respectful listening, and fairness.  Later, they can have conversations with each other about what they heard during CQC.

We always start with the positive. Celebrations frequently involve birthdays (our own, our mom’s, our hamster’s…) but there are lots of other celebrations too. We’re particularly proud of achievements, as we should be. We’ve had kids earn belts in martial arts, conquer difficult math concepts, learn to do skateboard tricks, and complete 5K runs. Kids score soccer goals, finish long books, learn to dive into swimming pools, complete massive Lego models, and finally beat their older brothers in a video game. These are important moments to kids, and they deserve to have their moment. Who doesn’t want others to affirm us?images-1.jpg

Then we move on to the questions. Oh, the questions. Many of them are personal questions for me. I always reserve the right to tell kids if a question is too personal (which rarely happens). Usually they ask things like, “What’s your favorite animal?” And usually someone else already knows the answer, because it’s been asked before.

Then there are the questions meant to stump me. I simply tell them I don’t know. These are usually questions of theology or science. They don’t really want the answer, they want to know what I’ll say. Often I’ll say, “I don’t know. That would be an interesting question to discuss at home with your family.”

And naturally there are also the real questions. Often these are school related, about schedules or field trips or why we do things a certain way. These are good for me to hear, so I know what kids are wondering or have misconceptions about. Often kids just want to understand why things are as they are, and this gives me an opportunity to help them understand. Sometimes they ask a question that makes me rethink something we’re doing, and sometimes I make a change based on our discussion.

After the questions we make time for concerns. As an educator you have to be very careful with concerns. You have to listen objectively, and reassure kids in a way that is caring, and nonjudgmental. You also have to let kids know you’re there to help them if they need help, but sometimes they might want to share their concerns privately. You are, as an educator, a mandated reporter if a child reveals to you that he or she is in danger.

The concerns they share most are concerns about pets. I listen. I affirm that what they’re saying sounds concerning (unless it’s something mild, then I tell them I believe it’s mild), and I usually tell them to ask an adult at home about it. Often the situation is already being dealt with, so I can say, “I understand why you’re concerned. It sounds like your parent (caregiver) is taking care of this situation.” When pets die, and they will, I tell them that I’ve felt the sadness of losing a pet too. I also tell them that it’s normal to feel sad when someone or something we care about comes to the end of their life, and how it sometimes feels unfair that their lifespans aren’t as long as we would like them to be.

Some of the concerns may make you feel uncomfortable. One of my students last year had an uncle who died by suicide, and she was devastated. I had spoken with her mother, and had private conversations with her, but she didn’t speak to any of her peers about it. At least not until about a month later. Then, at CQC, she told her classmates that he had died, and that he had taken his own life. Every child in that room felt for her. There were tears and hugs and that child felt how much we loved and supported her as she worked through her pain and grief.

Why do I do CQC? I do it so every child feels heard. We learn about each other’s strengths, each other’s achievements, and each other’s worries. We learn to trust one another and we have a safe place to share what’s on our minds. We lift each other up, and we become so much closer as a result.

One thing I will always remember about this Corona Virus pandemic is the fact that it was a topic of CQC long before schools closed. Even before the first fatality was announced in the United States, I had a little girl who was concerned about it. Each week, for several weeks, she brought it up. It seemed far away, and not very likely to have much effect on us, but still I addressed her concerns with care, each time she shared them.

I didn’t tell her don’t worry about it. I didn’t tell her it was nothing. What I told her was that I had heard it was pretty bad, too, but I didn’t think it was currently a problem in the United States. Even so, I said, I am not able to predict the future. I also told her that it was a good idea for all of us to make sure we’re washing our hands appropriately, coughing and sneezing into our elbows, and wiping down our classroom regularly. No panic, just action.

Well darned if that little kiddo wasn’t right to be worried. And I can tell you, every single one of my students knew ahead of time that it was something bad and it was likely heading our way. Why? We talked about it. Not with hysteria, but with the facts as we knew them. Knowledge gives us power, and I’d like to think my students were a tiny bit more able to handle the subsequent school shut down as a result of those talks weeks before it happened.

Now we’re online, and it’s Friday again, and this morning we did CQC. It’s somebody’s grandma’s birthday, and they’re going to do a drive-by. Some else is missing out on a trip to Disneyland. Another is feeling sad for his brother, who will be missing his high school graduation. The celebrations still exist, but they’re different. The questions have a lot to do with when school will open and what it will be like and whether they’ll be prepared for fifth grade. And the concerns? Well, they’re not so different from yours and mine.

 

 


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When You Aren’t Looking

There was supposed to be a meteor shower the other night. What could be better than a sky full of shooting stars to wish on? Especially right now.

We headed to the backyard, beverages in hand, to wait. The lounge chairs had their comfy cushions on them, and it was the perfect temperature. We reclined and gazed at the sky.

It was nice, being out in nature, even if our present definition of nature was our suburban backyard. We talked and laughed and all the while kept our eyes on the sky.

Nothing.

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What we didn’t see

At least nothing that either of us could see. We joked that while we were facing South the light show would be happening behind our backs. Maybe it did.

We were out there for almost two hours. Two hours of reconnecting and relaxing and escaping from the reality of our collective lives right now.

Still, no meteors. Eventually the conversation overtook the sky watching and then, it happened! Or, I think it happened. Maybe.

I’m pretty sure I saw a lone shooting star (meteor, whatever) in my peripheral vision. I realized it was like looking for love. It seems that when you try really hard it eludes you, but when you relax and allow yourself to be present without that singular focus, the world opens up.

I think there’s a lesson there. Be present, count your blessings, and those shooting stars will appear in their own good time.