Category Archives: Teaching

Snow-Cation

“You better get writing your blog post,” Nellie texted.

Joanie was next. “Another day off!?”

Alissa chimed in. “A snow day for you! I have faith in my district this time too!”

After the fated phone call, in which the unidentified voice that I would now recognize anywhere called and said, “Hello colleagues,” I did my Snow Day Dance as Little L and Axel looked on. And then I dialed Thom.

He answered (This may seem like a small thing, but he has a toddler and an infant and it was 6PM. Him answering was even more unlikely than a sixth snow day).

“I deserved this one,” he said. And he did.

“Not that it’s going to be relaxing,” he added.

“Yeah, snow days with little kids aren’t exactly like the snow days of the past.” I remember lounging around, reading, going for a walk in the snow, watching some daytime TV…

“I’m going to be watching both of the kids,” Thom said. His toddler’s day care would be open, but because of the snow, he wouldn’t want to drive him there.

What about the baby?

“My mother-in-law was going to watch him tomorrow,” he said. “But I think this means she gets the day off from driving over here in the snow.”

And same for my mom. She has our cold now, so I’m glad for her that she gets a Sick Day/Snow Day.

At bedtime, I heard Axel telling Little L what she had to look forward to tomorrow. “Tomorrow Mama is going to be home with you! We’re so happy for her, because she got a snow day! Of course, she didn’t really get the day off, because it’s going to be a Mama-Little L-Daddy day.”

“Hey since you’re working from home tomorrow, maybe you could give me like an hour? Not a Snow Day, but a Snow Hour?”

“I could do that he said.”

Then he turned to Little L. “We’re going to give Mama a Snow Fifteen Minutes tomorrow!”

Tomorrow will be snowy with a high of 29 degrees. Above zero!

Finally, a Snow Day that is reminiscent of the snowy days I see in the books Little L pages through like Amy Loves the Snow and A Very Special Snowflake. I think it’s time someone writes the soon-to-be-famous A Very Cabin Fever Polar Vortex series.

But tomorrow there will be snow we can go out in.

Sure, I would love a day to lounge around and kick the last sinus aches of last week’s cold. It would be great to sleep in until 8. Or 7. But this is an unexpected day off. I can deal with one child; I would normally be teaching 150 over the course of the day. Hopefully Thom can deal with two.

I will be looking forward to taking Little L out in the snow. And to my Snow Fifteen-to-Sixty Minutes courtesy of Axel.

And of course, as always, I’ll be looking forward to nap time.

Thank you, Minnesota winter. And sorry to all the parents and families out there who are inconvenienced by this – I know there is a flip side.

Axel says it’s time to watch Bob’s Burgers and celebrate.

Let the snow begin.

The Polar Vortex…Continues?

“You’ll probably actually have to work most of this week,” Thom texted me on Tuesday.

“Most?” I responded. “Do you mean most, like my four normal days? Or do you mean most of my four days?” I didn’t try to hide the excitement in my words.

Since my last post, I had been alerted to the fact that Thom had spent much of then Polar Vortex week with not just his baby, but with his toddler who had stayed home from daycare because of the weather. “It was 20% fun, 40% hard, and 45% so hard that I lost my mind and can no longer do math.” 

This is why you don’t ask someone on paternity/maternity leave how their “vacation” is going.

This week was Thom’s last week home on paternity leave. For his sake, I hoped that there wouldn’t be another unexpected day off that he had to use his sick time for. 

But for my own sake, I hoped there would be.

Come Wednesday, there was talk of lots of snow! I heard a student at school ask the principal if school would be canceled on Thursday. “I don’t think so,” she said. “But it’s always a good idea to check.” 

To me, that meant a probable no. I have no evidence to support this, but I think there must be some undercover email chain for principals and office staff that lets them know ahead of time what is most likely going to happen with school cancellations. I remember the secretary at my former school smiling at me conspiratorially one day and saying, “Oh, I think they’ll cancel tomorrow.” They did.

Wednesday evening the snow began. I kept checking out the window, hopefully. Was it coming down hard enough? 

And then, around 6PM, as I was heating up some sweet potatoes for Little L’s dinner, the phone rang. 

It was a Minneapolis Public Schools number!

Jumping up and down, I answered.

“Please hold for a message from the Minneapolis Public Schools.” 

Oh yes! I could wait seconds to hear the good news!

“Hello families,” my principal’s voice said. “I want to remind you that tomorrow morning is Family Involvement Day.” 

I sighed. I had been duped. 

I woke up at 4:30AM the next morning as Little L coughed a bit in her crib. I checked my phone. Minneapolis Public Schools had a message on its website: “School WILL be in session on Thursday, February 7.” 

I checked the forecast. I had an acupuncture appointment at the U that afternoon and I would need to drive. 

“Do you think I should cancel?” I asked Axel. 

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad, is it?” he asked.

I hadn’t made it to the gym that morning, so I hadn’t seen Sven Sungaard’s local forecast. 

But at 11:30 at recess duty, the snow was still coming down – hard. In fact, I could barely see the other side of the field. Did I really want to drive in this? 

On my lunch half-hour, I saw the art teacher. “Congrats on your commute!” she said. She lives near school too. But much of the staff would be driving to the suburbs, or further even, South Minneapolis.

I told her that I was going to maybe drive to acupuncture. “I think it helps me stay calm. But driving in this makes me anxious. So…” 

As I filed through my phone to call and cancel the appointment, the art teacher leaned in and smiled. “I think they might call it for tomorrow. This is supposed to continue all night and the windchill tomorrow morning is -35.” Negative 35 windchill is the requirement for a school cancellation!

“Really? You think? Oh wow, that would be way better than having needles stuck in me!”

A district email said that all after-school activities had been cancelled. Then the assistant from prekindergarten came up to my room and asked if I wanted any help this afternoon because the afternoon prekindergarten class had been cancelled!

Things were looking quite promising. 

I trudged home from work, thankful indeed for my short commute on foot. 

I was again checking out the window for snow and heating Little L’s sweet potatoes, when I noticed a missed call on my phone.

It was from the Minneapolis Public Schools. 

I dialed into my voicemail, and there it was. 

“Colleagues, there will be no school tomorrow, February 8.” The message was significantly shorter than the previous FOUR messages for snow/cold days. They didn’t even state the reason, though I later read on the district’s Twitter account that the combination of snow/ice and -30 degree windchill was enough to make them think it would be dangerous for students to be waiting outside in the morning for likely delayed buses. 

Little L saw me do my No School Dance yet again. 

I had gotten 80% of the Snow/Cold days. Fair enough.

Thom texted me. “Okay, this is starting to sting.” 

I texted my friend Alissa, a former Minneapolis teacher who had moved to another local district a few years ago. “No school tomorrow!?!?”

She texted back. “I know! I’m so happy for you! We’re still waiting to find out!”

I was impressed by her ability to feel sympathetic joy — i.e. happiness for someone else’s happiness — for me. I also got texts from Joanie and Ana who had seen on the news that I had won yet another day without school. “Yay! Enjoy!” they told me.

Last Friday Alissa and I went to Happy Hour after my long one-day Polar Vortex workweek. She told me about how last Monday when all of the other schools were closed, her school district already had a staff-only day on the books; staff was still to report, but two hours late. The teachers were in a  training that was supposed to end at 4PM. At 3:45, everyone’s phones began ringing and they got the news that school would be closed for the next two days. 

“Everyone was laughing and jumping up and down and screaming!” Alissa told me. “The presenter tried like three times to get us back on track, but we were so wild that he eventually said we would just end early.” 

Both Alissa and I lamented that this “Teachers Find Out They Get Two Unexpected Days Off” moment was not caught on video.

This morning I was down at the gym watching the school closings, I mean, the news, while I worked out. They got to the “R”s and Alissa’s district was not on the screen. When they cycled through, her son’s district was! Ana’s son’s district was closed too! Ana later told me her son said, “What? Again!!?” when he found out.

I of course gave a hoot when Minneapolis Public Schools flashed up on the bottom of the screen, which in retrospect may have looked to the other early-morning exercisers like I was cheering for whatever piece of bad news was on at the time.

On my way back upstairs I pulled up Alissa’s district’s website. I so wanted her to partake in this unexpected windfall (snowfall?). “IMPORTANT MESSAGE!” came across the screen along with a pop-up window.

This was it!

“School WILL be in session on Friday, February 8,” it said. 

It made me wonder – when Alissa decided to change districts, did she look into their data on snow/cold days? It could play an important factor for a potential student/family/employee. 

I found out later that although Joanie and Wendall’s son’s preschool was also open, they decided to keep him home that day. I’m sure the teachers who did have to teach that day didn’t mind their reduced class sizes. Joanie and Wendall, we hope to hang out with you again someday, but now Little L is sick. Go figure.

The highlight of this Snow Day was when Little L and I spotted a mini-plow cleaning the sidewalks on the street below. Snow was shooting out the top, at least 30 feet high! “Look, it’s a plow? A snowblower?” What was this contraption called? Then I saw its logo. “It’s a Bobcat,” I told her.

When Axel came home, we were still looking out the window. “Tell Daddy what we saw,” I coaxed her. 

“Bah-cuh.” 

“Books?” Axel guessed. 

“A Bobcat!” I told him. 

“Like with no tail?” He seemed puzzled. 

After we’d cleared up the confusion, we continued to watch for more Bobcats – they cleared the two bridges in the distance as well!

We have to clarify when people came over. To the untrained ear, it seems like Little L wanders around the living roo, asking us to lift her up so she can look for a “vaca” or a “vodka” out the window. 

“Bah-cuh, bah-cuh!”

Now that Thom is back at work with the rest of us, we’ll see what the rest of winter brings. It would be greedy for me to hope for more days off for myself. I got my 80%, fair and square.

But to have a friend’s best interests in mind? 

That’s just generosity.

This post was intended to be posted on the day it was begun, last Friday on my actual Snow Day off. It should be noted that a Snow Day caring for a sick toddler is much different than a Snow Day on one’s own. Hence the post a week later. Enjoy.

Once Upon a Polar Vortex

“Are you going to write about this?” Axel asked me as I sat on the floor as Little L played with her “zoom-zooms” and the microwave clock counted down the minutes until nap time. 

“I wasn’t planning on it.” 

“You should,” Axel insisted. “Your readers will want to know.”

Monday morning: While working out in the gym in my building, I see the school closings flashing across the bottom of the screen. We start in the Ns and since my workout isn’t that long, we are only to Lakeville by the time I leave the gym again. At this rate, they should just post the ones that are in session.

I check my voicemail as soon as I get back upstairs. Minneapolis Public Schools called last night after I was asleep. Ugh.

You see, usually I would be thrilled with a snow day. But I don’t work on Mondays. And so the Monday Snow Day makes me think that it’s less likely that we’ll get any Cold Days later in the week, something there’s been talk of. 

However, it is fair. I work four days a week, so I shouldn’t get to take part in all of the snow days. I should get 80%. 

I text my friend Thom who is on paternity leave. “Ugh. Snow Day. From the only other teacher in Minneapolis not happy about this.” 

“I’m going to file a grievance,” he texts back. All that sick time he was using up for his leave and school isn’t even in session…

For some reason, Little L sleeps in, giving me a sort of Snow Morning. After I shower, I get to drink coffee and write in my journal for almost an hour. I write about how it’s not a snow day for dads on paternity leave or stay-at-home moms or part-time workers who don’t work Mondays.

Little L’s music class is cancelled, which I’m partly disappointed by – what will we do all day? – but mostly relieved by – we won’t have to drive in the snow. 

I text my new friend, who I’ll call Veronica. She and I met earlier this year on the street. We were both pushing strollers at 7:30AM on a Saturday and she crossed the street to continue the conversation I had started when we had first passed each other. It was friendship built on the early-morning desperation of wanting to interact with another adult, which is as good a reason as any. Veronica is at home with her one-year-old and I guessed that not being able to go outside was making her a little stir-crazy. 

“Music is cancelled! Want to come over? You can park in our garage!” 

She was there half an hour later with Baby D, who ate his breakfast at our counter while Little L partook in a second breakfast of some baby puffs that Veronica brought to share with her. 

Sadly for us, they left after just half an hour – Baby D’s nap was coming up. Little L and I had the whole day in front of us.

Little L went down for her nap around noon – she’s been toying around with just one nap these days. I had my fingers crossed that it would be a long one. While reclining on the sofa in the media room, I thought to text our nanny who comes on Tuesdays, just to make sure she was recovered from the sickness she’d had last week. 

She said that her flu had turned to a cold but that she could function. 

Uh-oh. Have I mentioned that we are germaphobes?

Plus we’ve been waiting to see Joanie and Wendall for weeks now – their kids have been off and on sick. We need to stay healthy for the sake of our friendship.

Now, I had been fantasizing about no school on either Tuesday or Wednesday because of the projected negative 50 windchill. If it was going to come on Wednesday, I would stay home with Little L and Grandma S would get the day off. If it was to come on Tuesday, well, we have the nanny that day and I planned to take advantage of some alone time. I was thinking I could brave it to get out to my favorite café for a couple leisurely hours then walk home to my car and go visit Thom and his baby for another few hours. Maybe I would end the day with a visit to my brother, who works from home, for a quick cup of free coffee from his lobby.

But this was just a fantasy since I figured school wouldn’t be closed both Monday and Tuesday. I was sure we could get a grandma in here to sub, so I told the nanny that she should take tomorrow as a sick day. 

But a sub wasn’t needed because shortly thereafter my friend Kole texted, “closed tomorrow and Wednesday.” 

They were announcing today that we were getting two days in a ROW!? This was unprecedented. But it made sense – students had been off last Thursday and Friday for staff work days; at this point parents with day jobs must have been desperate figuring out what to do with their kids. I guess the thought was to give them a little notice.

“Staff members should NOT report to work,” the phone call said an hour later. I danced around the kitchen as Axel and Little L listened along with me on speakerphone. 

I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get a day all to myself, but it was actually better this way – staying out all day in the negative 40 temps just to get my money’s worth from the nanny seemed a bit brutal. Little L and I would get some extra time together at home where blankets and extra layers of clothing abound. Plus I would get to lay down during nap time.

I texted Veronica. “School’s cancelled. Wanna come again tomorrow?” 

“We’ll be there at 8:30,” she texted back.

I texted Thom. “You must be mad.” 

“I’m at peace now,” he wrote back. 

Tuesday was much the same as Monday. Except that because Monday’s nap had only been an hour and a half, I decided to try an earlier nap time. 

“I want her to sleep longer,” I told Veronica. “And I want her nap to be later. But she’s only been taking long naps when it’s earlier.”

“Well if she’s only going to sleep longer when it’s earlier,” Veronica said, “maybe you should try that.” 

This was exactly what I’d been thinking, so I gave it a go. Little L got her earlier nap and slept… fifteen minutes less than the day before. We hadn’t even reached noon, and I would have no more naps to look forward to.

Axel, however, lucked out, because he had been hoping we’d give him a ride to his meeting on campus. Driving through the university, I saw students completely bundled, only their eyes peeping out between their hoods and scarves. I also saw several youth wearing nary a hat.

I so wanted to call their moms and tell them.

Little L and I returned home and it was still only 1PM. 

Little L, however, had some fun up her sleeve. She took some plastic bowls, a spoon, and a little container to a spot on the dining room floor. “Bay bih, bay bih.” 

I had no idea what she wanted. 

But then she patted her chest. 

“Oh, you want your bib?” Baby bib.

I put her bib on her, and she sat there on the floor, spooning imaginary food from the trough of her bib to the bowl, for like minutes in a row without getting up. 

I tried to sneak off to do some kitchen cleaning, but this was not part of the game. 

“Mama!” She took me by the hand and led me back to this spot on the floor. Perhaps there was an imaginary table there that I couldn’t see. She patted the floor. “Mama.” 

Later when I snuck off she came over saying “ma sih! ma sih!” She wanted music! I turned the stereo on.

She patted the ground. Mama sit.

So I was part of the entertainment. I sat there, and then laid there, yawning. I had used the first hour of nap time to scan some papers that had been building up. But then there was only one hour of nap time, so I never got around to the highly important part where you get to lay down. 

Little L was so excited about her plates, bowls, and spoons that she spent almost an hour playing with them. She was so happy just to sit next to me and pretend to eat egg out of a plastic container and hand me her spoon once in a while.

My friend whose alias I can’t remember insisted that I get the IKEA kids’ dish set. I resisted at first. But today, I am SO glad I gave in. Also, you know who you are. What’s your alias!?

I thought, this is so nice. 

I also thought, this is so boring.

I decided then that there would be an afternoon nap or at least a rest period. I put Little L in her crib around 3:15. She was wide awake, but I was not. I laid down on my bed and read all the while listening to what sounded like a gymnastic routine on Little L’s monitor. Around 3:45 I went back to get her, slightly rested. I like to think she had benefitted from her Alone Time too.

We went with our neighbor across the hall and her baby down to the lobby where we sat and chatted and Little L bounced up and down on the ottoman and let a few dogs lick her. One dog, who we’ll call Squash, was wearing a bright yellow padded coat. 

My neighbor Barb and her husband came by, all bundled up, going to Ginger Hop for Happy Hour. 

“Stay warm!” I told them. 

“We will! The real fun is tonight when we’ll go on a two mile walk.” 

I laughed. 

“Every year we pick the coldest night of the year and walk two miles.” 

Wait, they were serious! I couldn’t decide whether this was an incredibly dangerous or somewhat endearing tradition. Probably both.

That night I told Axel that we should open a bottle of wine. It wasn’t every Tuesday that you didn’t have to work the next day. Because that’s right – at this point the university had cancelled not just classes but work for all employees the next day too! 

My friend Alissa invited me out to listen to an author reading this evening, but after first using Little L’s bedtime as an excuse, I eventually told her it was just too cold for me. She and another friend went though – Hardcore Midwesterners!

We were both going to have a Cold Day!

“I still have to work,” Axel told me. “But from home.”

“What? How?”

“I have a call. Plus I have a lot to do. But they sent an email saying that if we work we get comp time later.” 

“So we both have off and I’m watching Little L and you get comp time? Do I get comp time too?” 

“You’ll have to talk to Grandma S about that,” Axel said. She was getting Wednesday off from her Grandma duties. I didn’t get the impression that she was really all that excited about it.

On Wednesday morning I pull up Little L’s shade to find circles of frost covering the window.

“Uh-oh. Ay ay ay,” Little L remarks.

She grabs one of her washcloths and starts to “kee” the windows. But it will be another day until the frost begins to melt even a little. 

Veronica and Baby D come over again. Later we sweep and eat lunch and look at books. Her nap is slightly longer. 

During nap time Megan texts me from Oregon and asks if I am staying safe. I tell her that I am and that we are only going to venture out to go to Whole Foods, which has an underground parking ramp, so we won’t be out in the elements at all – from covered garage to covered garage.

“Wait? What? No. That worries me. Can’t you get groceries delivered?”

“Ahh, I’m sorry to make you worry,” I text back. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell my mom! Amazon stopped delivering groceries. I’ll bundle us up. Don’t worry.”

It was about this time that I got a phone call. And you know who it was, don’t you? It was Minneapolis Public Schools telling me that schools will remain closed on Thursday and that all non-essential staff should NOT report to work.

“We WILL have class as scheduled on Friday, February 1. We look forward to welcoming all staff back to finish the week strong.” I ran into the bedroom where Axel was on a call, pointing frantically at my laptop where I had pulled up the MPS website showing “No School on Thursday.” His eyes bulged in jealousy and astonishment.

Soon after, Veronica texted. “Minneapolis is closed again! Does that mean you’re off?” She must have gotten a call because she and Baby D take classes through Minneapolis ECFE.

“Yes! Want to come over again? If you’re not too sick of us yet?” 

“If you don’t mind us coming again we’d love to!”

“You are really lucky you met her when you did,” Axel tells me. It seems unlikely we would have met strolling the streets this week.

On Thursday I get up early to go to the gym downstairs again. It is currently 23 below air temperature; the wind chill is colder. My body is starting to ache from the lack of moving, I think, or I guess possibly the cold. I see on the news that many people have lost power and that crews have been working – during the night!? – to fix it. They show images of workers wearing masks.

I also learn that local churches have opened up their doors to provide more beds for people who are homeless – how could anyone sleep outside in this? Then I see an unrelated bit about a local man who is sleeping outdoors in a hammock just for fun. 

When “Minneapolis Public Schools” flashes on the bottom of the screen I do a raise-the-roof dance on the treadmill. 

After Veronica and Baby D’s visit, Little L and I go out for a walk in the halls. We check the mail, which we haven’t picked up all week, but alas, our box is empty. The saying about “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” does NOT include the polar vortex. Rightfully so.

Little L and I have a good day and in the afternoon Nana J stops by – she and Grandpa J got the day off from Little L-care, but she still wanted to see us and bring us some food. I cleverly schedule the visit for after nap time and before dinner time – the time of day that seems to go on and on. After further consultation with Veronica, naptime will now happen around noon, because short or long, that is the time of day when I need a break.

All in all, I’ve done pretty well. I got to take advantage of 75% of our four unexpected days off, which is pretty darn close to my part-time appointment. The only way to make it perfectly even would be if Minneapolis called right about now to say they changed their mind about Friday.

But I’m not banking on it. For now, I’ll bundle up and head to work and finish the week strong. And with a one-day week, it shouldn’t be all that hard.

Which at this point, shouldn’t be all that hard.

Lounging Around

My classroom is right next door to the staff lounge. 

This comes in handy in the following situations: 

  1. Putting  a cup of instant coffee in the microwave, going back to my room to change from my winter boots to my school shoes, and returning to retrieve it.
  2. Same as #1 but with tea and checking my email.
  3. When there are potlucks or a random box of Triscuits in the staff lounge, it is easy for me to return for seconds – or thirds – later in the day.

Valentine’s Week, there was plenty of food in the staff lounge thanks to the generosity of families and staff. I made my way over to have seconds on salad and thirds on brownie bites. 

Two unopened bags of M&Ms sat on the table. I resisted.

But that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about the M&Ms. The next morning when I put my instant coffee in the microwave and hit the number “2,” I checked. 

They were still there.

When I went in later to retrieve my lunch, I walked over to the table where they had been sitting.

I saw a pink triangle of plastic – The M&Ms were gone! And they had left the remnants to tease me. 

“Oh no!” I exclaimed, loud enough that the few staff members checking their phones and eating their lunches introvert-style looked up and asked what was wrong. 

“There were M&Ms,” I explained. “I was really excited—“

And then, on a table in the center of the room, I spotted them.

My breathing returned to normal; my shoulders relaxed. 

I grabbed the bag and poured myself a generous handful and returned to my room.

About ten minutes later, I returned to make a post-lunch decaf instant coffee and grabbed another large handful.

By the time the day was over, I had made quite a few trips over to the lounge. But because the bag had been sitting there all day and someone else had opened it, I was able to tell myself that most likely it wasn’t just me who had polished those pink and red circles of goodness off.

The question remains, though: There were two bags. What happened to the other one? 

Somewhere in the school is someone who was thinking about those M&Ms just as much as I was. Because their classroom isn’t as conveniently located, they must have taken them with them.

Smart move and probably best for my health.

I could have – and would have – eaten another bag easily.

Summer Vacation!

I hesitate to write this post, because we’re not all teachers or students.

For those of you who are, I really hope you are on summer vacation by now. Today is my first day of summer freedom.

For those of you who aren’t on summer break, I’m sorry. You might want to stop reading. Or get a new career that operates on a school-year schedule.

But it’s not just teachers, students, and parents who are keeping track of the school year. Every May and June, most of my friends, regardless of their connection or lack thereof to the school system, ask me, “How many days left? Are you counting? When does school end?”

They seem to be genuinely excited for me!

Either that or they’re really good at faking it.

The school year is a rhythm that we are used to, having most likely grown up on this schedule. So even if summer doesn’t mean vacation for you, maybe it means something else. Short work days on Friday? Weekend bike rides? Staying up later than usual?

To all the teachers out there, congrats.

You now have no excuse not to read my posts.

School’s out. Happy summer, whatever that means to you.

Be Good-at-Hope

This is what I remember from 2008 and 2009…

Calling my friend and coworker, frantic, because I’d gone to the polls before school and the line was so long that there was no way I’d make it on time. Walking into my classroom half an hour late, my friend supervising my students as they practiced writing their names.

“The lines were that long?”

We both knew it was a good sign.

Driving through the intersection of Broadway and Lyndale in North Minneapolis and seeing our then-mayor, RT Rybak, standing on the corner holding an Obama-Biden sign.

The tears streaming down my cheeks as the Obamas took the stage in Chicago for President Obama’s acceptance speech. 12:02AM on a school night! There was no way I wasn’t staying up for it.

That all of my kindergartners knew Obama’s name on election day. I’m pretty sure they didn’t know the name of his opponent or that of the president at the time.

My student K, who wrote that his dream was to work for “el prezidente” when he grew up.

Our school giving us access to a live stream on Inauguration Day. Watching on the big screen as Barack and Michelle confidently walked down Pennsylvania Avenue bringing hope to the country.

The pride I felt as my students – mostly Hispanic and Black – witnessed a person of color become the 44th president of the United States.

I remember feeling proud of our country. I remember hope.

Be Good-at-Adjustments

After nine years as a classroom teacher, I am now a Spanish “specialist teacher.” You know, like when your second grade teacher dropped you off at music or art class for an hour. Only I teach Spanish.

I set my classroom up, thankful that the space didn’t come with any inherited hand-me-downs in it. Less is more in my schoolbook.

Before I started, I got expert advice from the experienced specialist teachers including the Phy Ed and art teachers at my old school and the art teacher at my new school.

“You need seating charts for each class for the first day,” they all told me.

Done.

But in some aspects, it’s taken me longer to catch on.

The week before school started I saw the art teacher hanging table numbers from the ceiling.

“That’s cute and artsy,” I thought, and went to my room, where I taped down different colored puzzle shapes onto the tables as I’ve done for nearly a decade.

Sometimes, you just have to learn the slow way.

By the end of the first week of school, the red puzzle piece had completely come off “mesa roja.” The blue and the green pieces were coming off, and the noise of students picking at the tape was depleting my teacher patience reserves.

You'd want to pick at this too, wouldn't you?
You’d want to pick at this too, wouldn’t you?

It hadn’t occurred to me that training 24 students not to pick at tape was much more feasible than training 150 students to control their urges to grab that loose piece of Scotch.

I walked to the art room and asked my colleague how she had hung her table labels from the ceiling.

“And could I use some yarn?” I asked – not the first time I’ve had to mooch off of her.

Too high for students to reach
Too high for students to reach

The result is amazing. I no longer listen to the picking of tape or become filled with anxiety over table labels being destroyed.

If only I could learn all of these lessons by listening to and observing others. But sometimes it takes the noise of fingernails on the packing tape to turn theory into practice.