Posts Tagged ‘covid-19’

Slice of Life Tuesday: Letters to Mrs. Levin

July 13, 2021

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

Each June, I ask my fifth graders to write me a letter reflecting on what they’ve learned in our years together – what they’ve learned about language arts, and what they’ve learned about life. I ask them to make it heartfelt, sincere, and handwritten. This letter is what I will remember them by.

My tradition is to wait to read them until a summer day when I’m just turning that corner between relief that school is over and sadness over missing my loveys. Then I sit down with my folder full of letters and read them, one at a time.

It’s a veritable treasure trove! So many hearts, gathered together in one place.

I’ve been doing this assignment for several years now. Each year, I can predict how the crop will go. There will be some sweet, thoughtful notes. There will be perfunctory letters designed to fulfill the nature of the assignment. Some will astonish me. Without fail, each letter, regardless of length or depth, brings me every child’s essence distilled on paper.

“Do you like the cat?” and “Can you please write back?” Yes, and absolutely yes! All of this, down to the cartoons and doodles and parentheticals, sums up a child I’ve taught for five full years.

I’ll be honest. Sometimes I struggle with this assignment. I don’t take praise well. Compliments make me uncomfortable, and I don’t like the feeling that I’m asking for them or expecting them. So, I feel strange (arrogant, even) asking children to write letters that may wind up with them telling me I’ve done a good job. It feels self-serving. I can’t shake that.

But life is short. It’s important to reflect, to consider our evolution and growth. It’s important to see who helps us along our way, to articulate our gratitude, and to recognize the power that words carry in our relationships. And now that I’ve begun writing the children back, it’s much easier accepting their gifts of love and sincerity knowing I’ll be able to do the same for them in return. It feels good.

A handmade bracelet in my student’s favorite colors: crafted with love, looked over by a jealous doggo

This morning, I sat down with my folder of letters, and WOW. The whole experience was…unexpected.

My students expressed themselves with a level of trust, honesty, reflection and vulnerability I had never before experienced. I asked them to write from their hearts, and they responded with such openness that several times throughout the reading I just had to stop. Absorb. Feel. It was ovewhelming.

It shouldn’t have struck me so hard. I mean, c’mon. I’m a teacher. Teachers know it’s our job to reach our kids. It’s our job to make them feel seen and heard, valued and understood.

But I had grown so close to my students. I’m more attached to my students this year than I have in quite a while. They have my heart.

All of this astounds me. How is it possible to spend the last year and a half seeing one another only through a bunch of pixellated boxes, yet still come out of the experience so tight-knit? How is it possible despite not having our hugs and handshakes, not having moments to lay eyes on one another, not being able to build on that in-person energy together?

What is it that allowed us to strengthen our relationships in the face of our limitations? What was so different about what we created this year? Was it because we had to be so purposeful with our time and attention? Was it because adversity brought us closer?

I can’t completely say. But I’m determined to figure that out. And once I do, how much more will be possible once we’re back in person? The very thought is exhilarating.

Now. If you need me, I’ll be with my stationary, my Flair pens, and a folder full of letters. I’ll be spending the next several days telling a group of eleven year-olds how much I love, admire, and appreciate them.

Next step: mailbox!

Slice of Life Day 2021 Day 13: If Only

March 13, 2021

Today marks Day 13 of theĀ Slice of LifeĀ challenge. Join me as I work to write every day in March – and beyond!

If only, last year, as we hastily made copies
and gathered books
and held cramming sessions
on how to use Google meet
we had stopped

and sat on the floor
in a circle
the kind of circle
where sometimes you pass
a rock or a stick or a trinket
and everyone takes turns
and everyone shares
for a moment

If only, last year, as we loaded backpacks
and gave high-fives
and said our “see you soons”
we treated the day
as the last day of school

with hugs
and reflections
and closure
and notes to our future selves

it might have made the missing
not easy
but easier.

So…How Are You?

September 16, 2020

“Plugging along.”
“About as well as I can be.”
“Chugging along.”
“Just fine, which is all about any of us can ask.”

These words come out of my mouth repeatedly. Perhaps you find yourself giving the same responses.

To tell you the truth, that really is where I am. I’m…okay, I guess. I’m doing fine, which is perhaps the best I can do.

Enter a dear writing colleague, Fran, and her keenly insightful writing on what it means to thrive. Please, please, please go and read her work.

(You’re welcome.)

Like any powerful writer has the ability to do, she left me with more questions than answers. She left me with wisdom and a new perspective on how we as humans always need to grow. But she also left me in the discomfort that perhaps there is something not-quite-right about what I’m currently asking out of life right now.

The answer is no. I am not thriving right now. I can’t think of one part of my life I’d characterize as “thriving.” Growing, yes. Changing, evolving? Absolutely. But these movements run deep and pace themselves slowly. To me, thriving suggests a bursting forth, a positive leap ahead.

The more I think about it, though, there may be another dimension to my own current “failure to thrive,” something I haven’t yet fully explored:

I’m not thriving right now because I don’t feel it’s fair.

Too many among us are living the worst of their fears, their traumas, their loneliness, their poverty, their inhumane treatment, their grief. I don’t feel right claiming to thrive during a period so marked by pain and suffering.

So many people need more from this world right now. And to me, working past survival and into “thrive” mode makes me feel I am demanding more than my share.

I’m sure there’s more to explore here. There’s something to be said about claiming our space in this world, about sitting in the discomfort of our growth, and about giving ourselves permission to be the most of who we are regardless of circumstance.

For now, though, I will take my somehow-getting-along-okay and my slow, deep sea changes, and I will wear them proudly. I’ll just…keep…plugging along.

Joy in the Time of COVID

September 8, 2020

So many moments of wonder,
Of joy
To hold high and to honor –

A real live letter from a student pen pal
Colleagues who find strength in one another
The college son who just feels like a chat
Blue skies, uninterrupted
A new recipe that works
Walks with friends
Watching people you love do what they love

All these moments of wonder,
Of joy
Flutter and wave about –

And yet.
But still.

I cannot remember the last time,
Passing by a flag,
That I have seen it raised
Half mast.

The Answer Is…

April 17, 2020

No, I’m not posting a continuation of the story I started earlier this week.
No, I’m not surprised that e-learning in our state now extends until June.

Yes, I’m glad I was “with” students when I heard.
Yes, I’m heartbroken and sad.

No, I’m not quite sure entirely how I feel.
No, I’m not sure where I’m going to “put” this information.

Yes, I’m going to keep up my daily pep talks.
Yes, my dog Peep will still be my trusty co-star.

No, I’ve no idea how to talk daily about new stuff for eight weeks.
No, I’m not sure how I will keep things fresh and new and exciting.
No, I’m not sure how many new motivational mantras I’ve got in me.

Yes, I’m going to keep going anyway.
Yes, I’m going to keep connecting to my students.
Yes, I’m going to worry about my loveys.
Yes, every single one.
Yes, and their families too.
Yes, we will get through this.

No, I don’t know how.
No, that doesn’t matter.

Yes, we will get through this.

#SOL20 Day 27: What Needs to be Said

March 27, 2020

Dear Families,

I probably shouldn’t be writing you this letter over Spring Break, during a time when we should all take distance from school, but I confess my brain is just not in vacation mode. You and your kids have been on my mind a lot over the last weeks.

There’s a lot I don’t know:
-what will happen in our community;
-how long we’re going to be at home;
-how our current situation will affect us in the long term.

But here’s what I do know:
-we are all in unknown territory;
-your job is HARD. Really, really HARD.

All of a sudden, our families are constantly under the same roof together, and it seems as though there are expectations coming from all directions. Everywhere we turn, it seems like there’s some new list for all the ways we should be making the most of our family time. Ways to achieve that Instagram- or Facebook-worthy ideal. Or another resource for activities to try. Or another website. Or another expert. Or another information source. And hey, don’t forget about self-care!

So here’s what I really want to say to you.

Yes, starting next week, I will continue to provide the activities and work to keep your child on track with our Navigate learning. Yes, I will continue to provide resources and activities to keep their brains busy, both through Navigate and support of other teachers.

But to me, it’s not just about activities. What’s most important to me is keeping my commitment to the social and emotional health and growth of your child. That means keeping our classroom community going strong through our communication on Schoology and/or Seesaw, and it means being here for your child, whatever the next weeks may bring.

I also want you to know I’m here for you as well. I encourage you to keep the lines open. Let me know how this time is going for you and your family. Stay in touch! If there’s a way that I can support you in any way via email or video conference, just drop me a line.

These are difficult times. Remember that you matter. That your family matters. That we can do this, together.