Day 33 of full remote-instruction.

Dear Diary,

Chicken nuggets. That was the hot topic that somehow ruled the conversation and topics chosen by the middle school class during our game of Holiday Scribble Head at 8am this morning. Chicken nuggets as ornaments, chicken nuggets sledding, those were some of the ways that the artists creatively incorporated the food into their holiday theme.

I have mentioned in previous entries that 3rd grade is my sweet spot; it still is. When 3rd grade approached the drawing game today, the competition was on, and they chose the most obscure situations to draw. When classmates guessed, the situations were so ambiguous that the guessing led to dead ends!

As for my own children, remote learning brought out a serious side.

Oscar’s P.E. class had a winter scavenger hunt in the house. This led to him tearing apart his bed, dragging it feet away from the wall trying to get a warm blanket to present to the screen in the kitchen. When he couldn’t find something that began with the letter “w” for winter, he was visibly crushed, almost in tears.

In the afternoon hours, Estella’s ELA class must have engaged in a historical Christmas game, one that involved collaboration within breakout rooms. From Estella’s room, I could hear a strong little teacher voice leading her group of four 3rd graders. “Okay everyone, please mute yourselves while I read the passage.” “So-so, I’m going to ask Mrs. Teacher to join because you are obviously not participating.” “Everyone mute. So-so, you can carry on with the passage.” Estella continued to lead her group with instructions, keeping them on their time schedule, fielding questions, and somehow keeping her sh*t together when it seemed like her classroom management plan was derailing. I may have sent a message to her teacher requesting her assistance in the break out room before Estella lost her patience with her group members. I just couldn’t help myself.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, I overheard Oscar making strange noises and begging his teacher to let him open the gifts she sent along in the instructional materials bag for this week.

Today I used the blurred background setting in Google Meet to conceal the watercolor painting of bare breasts that is prominently displayed above the piano in the living room. Although I could cleverly position head beside the Christmas tree to block the painting in the background, the blurred background gave me more comfort knowing that nothing inappropriate was visible during online classes.

As I depart ways with my diary entry on this last day of school before Christmas break, I want to share some reflections taken from this year:

This pandemic has brought on a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, and negativity; however, I am thankful to have found the silver lining in the many positives as a result of our common experience.

I am hopeful to enter the New Year with the self-discipline needed to regain control of my waistline. I am also hopeful that when I return to in-person learning in a few weeks that I can actually fit back into my work pants. This is questionable.

The lines of support, from loved ones, family, friends, and of those with whom I may not have close relationships, have been unbelievable.

I miss singing with others in a choral group. God, I miss this.

Rattling. That is how to describe some of the conditions and circumstances observed of our precious students from educators all over the world. We, as educators, have been unofficially and involuntarily invited into the intimate settings of households. We have been welcomed with hospitality and patience, and in some unfortunate cases, have also witnessed what we knew but had not already seen

In 2020, I made a life changing decision to transfer from my comfortable secondary position to elementary. I desperately needed a change to help improve my mental health and to reaffirm that art education was indeed my calling. I am thankful that I have been welcomed by young artists, by new-to-me faculty and staff, and that my sense of self, worth, and the passion I have for teaching art, has been refreshed.

Technology has transformed how we live in this moment. We have been able to connect with family on a regular basis. We, as a family, have been able to attend church together almost every Sunday because of Zoom and Facebook Live. I have been able to connect with parents and relate to parents on a different level than I ever have before because I now share the commonality of having youngsters. These parents are so gracious with their time and with their communication.

Impressive doesn’t even touch the dedication to education that I have witnessed from my own children’s educators. I have observed my children’s teachers staying late into the evening hours, their cars parked at our elementary school that is within eye shot of our home, preparing for the school days to come. The take-home materials and Google Classrooms are jam-packed with instructional materials that can easily help students transition form in-person to remote-learning. Thank you. All of you.