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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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Throwback Thursday – College Applications

Since my son is in the throes of this momentous process, I thought I would take the opportunity to compare and contrast his experience with mine.CommonAppLogo-small1

First off, I applied to colleges in the mid-1980’s, long before not only internet, but personal computers. Every application was paper, and had to be requested from the university (or just arrived in the mail unsolicited), Each one had to be filled out in ink, either by hand (frowned upon) or by typewriter. Of course if you made a mistake, it would show, even if you used correcting tape or fluid. Accuracy was important. So was lining up the printed lines on the application with your responses. It was easy to make even the most carefully thought out application appear haphazard and sloppy.

My son has the luxury of using the computer for his applications. His responses are neat and clean, and there’s a common application that many of the universities utilize, so he doesn’t have to input his data over and over. He can also word process his essays, then paste them into the appropriate fields depending on the school to which he’s applying. I can easily look over his work, and suggest minor edits that he’s likely to implement, since they don’t mean starting from scratch.

Just like Dad's old typewriter, my friend from applications all the way through graduation.

Just like Dad’s old typewriter, my friend from applications all the way through graduation.

When I did applications, letters of reference had to be handed to my teachers, along with pre-addressed, stamped envelopes. Each university expected the letter to be composed on its own form, no photo-copies allowed. Test score reports and transcripts were handled in much the same way.

My son, on the other hand, just needs to login to the test score company to request score reports, and there’s another website that handles his transcripts. His teachers are happy to provide letters of reference, since they keep a file and copy and paste it as many times as are necessary. The whole process is fast, easy, and painless. Well, pretty painless. There are still costs involved, but the time and stress that are saved are immeasurable.

I wish all of today’s resources had been around when I was applying to colleges. I would have tried for more scholarships, for one thing. I would have saved a ton of time, for another. I’m glad my son has these resources. Now to sit back and wait for the results.


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Throwback Thursday – Tech Toys

apple_mac128I know it’s late, and it may not even be Thursday anymore where you are, but I had to get this off my chest. I miss the old days of technology. There. I said it. Maybe it’s only because my expectations were so much lower then, and maybe it’s because I’m currently having fits because my phone and my computer don’t want to play nicely together (and I HAVE to get those pictures off the phone!), but it seems like tech wasn’t as overwhelming back in the day.

Here are a few tech blasts from the past that you may remember (if you’re as old as I am).

1. The old daisy wheel printer. Remember carefully tearing the sides off the paper before you handed in your assignments?

2. The first little Macs. Oh my, were those groundbreaking. I remember a friend had one in college, and it was totally radical. I mean, it had like six fonts and everything!dysentery

3. Printing out pictures with computer characters. My brother had a young lady pinned to his wall that was created entirely out of keyboard characters. Geek.

4. Flip phones. I loved mine. I kind of miss it, even if it wasn’t smart.

5. The original Oregon Trail game for the old Apple computers that seemed to be in almost elementary school in the country. A whole generation of kids wound their way westward and tried to survive the digital versions of  hardships the pioneers faced.

What do you miss? Dad’s Betamax? Your Tamagotchi? How about the old 8 track player in your brother’s van? I’d love to hear some of your memories from years gone by. Pong anyone?