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Back to School 2.0

Today is our first day back to school since March 13th, the Friday before Spring Break. That afternoon, after we’d left school, we received notification that we would be out an extra week after Spring Break and that when we “returned,” it would be for online classes until at least April 15th.

So, today is Back to School Day.

I really should have titled this post Back to School 5.0 because y’all, we here in the Florida Panhandle have had to go through the Back to School experience five times since 2018 (the year we got hit by Hurricane Michael).

I went to my classroom last Monday to grab a few things I thought I would need to work from home, and let me tell you that walking up to the school on what should have been a loud, busy morning, was weird.

There weren’t many people on campus. In fact, we weren’t allowed to visit without permission from an administrator. I wound up seeing two people that day – all from afar.

The only gate that was unlocked was the one past our cafeteria, so I had a bit of a hike.

I walked through the courtyard where students are usually occupying tables – either eating breakfast or visiting with their friends.

I saw a random pencil on the ground and exhaled a deep sigh of sadness. It’s funny how a small object like this can bring about a strong feeling of wistfulness for what was, once upon a time, normalcy.

As I entered my building, I first noticed the stale smell of unmoved air.

We had, after all, been on Spring Break.

It was also dark. We usually have both sets of lights turned on.

Walking into my room reminded me of the first time I got to visit it after Hurricane Michael.

I saw the things that had been left sitting out before the world as we knew it changed so completely . . . the game of Uno that my students had played on the rare free day I’d gifted them with . . .

The thing that got my heart so much was seeing the calendar that hangs from the bulletin board beside my desk.

I always have the days crossed off in anticipation of when I’ll be entering my room again, and seeing March 23 all ready for me was so sad. It reminded me of the date that was hanging there when we got back from our hurricane “vacation.”

PTSD y’all.

It is a real thing.

Oh the feelings of deja vu from that 2018 post-hurricane return to school . . . such as the agenda on my whiteboard . . .

The saying on my letter board (unchanged from the first day of school, I’m afraid) . . .

Preview(opens in a new tab)

Teachers live for their routines. Truth be told, so do students.

I gathered what I knew I needed – the stuff I’d already added to my “pick-up-from-school” list on my phone – and what I thought I might need (not stuff on my list).

I know I took stuff I probably wouldn’t need, such as the boxes of yarn and knitting needles under my cabinet. They’re specifically for kids (I used to have students who knit during lunch), so I’m going to offer them up for grabs in my neighborhood’s Facebook group.

My take-home pile included some of the lesson packets I’d copied before Spring Break. Of course, my district is having us follow their own scripted curriculum, so most of my plans are out the window now, but last Monday, everything was still fluid.

I stayed about thirty minutes before deciding to leave.

Y’all, this is my home away from home, so it was bittersweet. As much as I love being home, I’ve created a space that is comfortable to work in, and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be in it for who knows how long was hard in that moment.

See you laters are never easy.

On the wall in the hallway outside of my room, I noticed the list of test dates I’d taped up – dates that no longer mattered (do I hear clapping?).

I also saw the prom poster I’d hung up, and oh word, but I felt so badly for my students.

As of this writing, the prom is still up in the air. Honestly, nobody is holding their breaths, but our kiddos – especially this class of seniors – has been through SO MUCH since Hurricane Michael, so they’re not giving up hope just yet.

One could say that this doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, and you’d be right; however, it’s one more thing for our kiddos to deal with, and I think it’s okay to admit that it’s hard.

And so we move on to the next chapter – one that will be fraught with more highs and lows as we begin the process of educating our children virtually.

I’m a bit anxious because I like to anticipate issues that might crop up, but I’m also smart enough to know that no matter how much I plan, this will ultimately be a learning process for all of us.

I pray that we would all be mindful of this, and that we will be quick to grant grace to one another as we will surely make some mistakes along the way.

Please pray for those of us in education as we begin to establish a new normal for ourselves and the students we serve.

Five Minute Friday

I saw Joyce’s newest post and the mention of the Five Minute Friday linkup, and I thought it might be fun to play along.

adjust

Disclaimer: I know it’s Saturday, but y’all my life has been nutso this week, and this is pretty much the first chance I’ve had when I’m pure and out exhausted and can sit and think of stuff besides all things teaching, which we are officially resuming in these here parts on Monday – via online means, of course.

I’ve never participated in this linkup before, so I’m a little nervous. I am a wordy sort of girl who takes loads and loads of time to write. However, I’ve had my students do timed free-writes before, so now the shoe will be on the other foot.

And I’m setting my timer NOW.

So, here I am, and today’s word is adjust.

This is a word that does not often sit well with me. I am, after all, a self-ascribed overachieving control freak. The thought of having to adjust doesn’t usually sit well with me.

The Lord is probably laughing right now because adjust is exactly what I’ve had to learn to do over the past year and a half.

In October 2018, I had to adjust, in more ways than one, after Hurricane Michael hit my beautiful corner of the world.

Everything was closed, including schools. We were out a month, and when we returned, we had to meet in a middle school down the road from our high school campus. Talk about adjusting! Our classrooms were smaller, and our schedules went from a whole day to half of that since we had to share the campus with the actual middle school teachers and kids who were based there.

Then, two months later, we adjusted again when we were able to return to our campus; but there were even more changes. Three-quarters of our teachers were housed in portables a half mile away. Nearly everyone was displaced.

So, adjust is something I’m learning to do – especially with this pandemic we are living through.

My schedule has completely changed; I’ll be teaching remotely beginning on Monday.

Many of my lesson plans went out the window. I’ll be facilitating an online program now.

And y’all, my timer just went off, but I need one more minute to close this because this post just cannot end here.

Told you I was wordy!

Adjust doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It is, as I’ve recently discovered, the springboard to the next thing coming down the road, which God is preparing in advance for all of us, if we’d just take the time to recognize His hand in our current circumstances.

The Hodgepodge is Back!

From this Side of the Pond

Y’all, I am so excited that Joyce has revived her weekly Hodgepodge! One of the blessings that the COVID19 quarantine has given me is the free time I needed to resurrect my own languishing blog. I’m sure you understand how the minutia of life can bog us down and prevent us from doing some (ahem) of the things we want to do.

Anyhoo, let’s move on . . .

If you’re not familiar with how this works, what you do is copy the questions, paste them on your own blog, answer the questions (on your blog), and then post your link at the end of Joyce’s post. The best part is visiting other people to see how they answered. I’ve made some great blogging friends this way.

So, let’s get to my answers.

1. Howdy Hodgepodgers. It’s kind of fun to be back, isn’t it?  Last time we met was September, 2018. Tell me something big-important-happy-or sad that’s happened in your life since that date. Just one thing. We don’t know how long this current isolation situation is going to last and we might need to dole out our news bit by bit.

Gosh, since many of you already know that my town got hit by Hurricane Michael on October 10, 2018, let me share a different BIG happening.

My Chicky got engaged right before New Year’s – December 30, 2019, to be exact.

Her guy, let’s call him B, called the Mr. a few days beforehand and asked his permission.

Be still my heart!

But, true to the male species type, the Mr. didn’t think to ask B when he planned on popping the question, so we sat on the edge of our seats for DAYS waiting.

We were actually grocery shopping when Chicky called, and I knew this was what she was going to tell us.

Imagine being in the produce aisle, talking to someone you’ve run into, and quickly explaining that your daughter is calling to tell you she’s engaged, and you need to run.

Is she not the cutest thing?

2. Might as well get this out of the way early on…COVID-19. On a scale of 1-5 how serious are you about keeping your distance? Explain. fyi-I didn’t create the scale but have seen it several places online. Also fyi-we won’t only have virus related questions each week, but for this first one it feels right.

1-Not at all, living normally 2-Cautious but still going out 3-Going out as needed, mostly home or working from home, still seeing friends/family 4-Extremely limited, only going out when unavoidable, minimal contact with people 5-Full lockdown, no one in or out

I’d say that we are at a 4 right now. I have run a few errands – mostly last week. We were out of town visiting family when things got super bad, so when we got home, I had to have groceries. Although I used Publix’s delivery option the first week, I still found myself in need of items, so I went right when the store opened a few days after my delivery, scored toilet paper as I walked in, and did my shopping. It was unnerving, let me tell you.

Publix delivery for the win!

On Monday, I ran to my school to grab some much-needed instructional material and a few other items like my essential oils diffusers. Even then, I saw two people, said hello from a distance, and carried on. Schools in the state of Florida are “out” until April 15th . . . for now. Teaching is supposed to resume on the 30th though.

The Mr. has had to go by his office to grab a few things to work from home, but he’s pretty much staying home as much as he can. He has Crohn’s disease, so his immune system is compromised, and he can’t afford to get sick.

3. Raise your hand if you think you might run out of steam in the cooking department before it’s all said and done? What’s something delcious you’ve cooked or eaten in your own kitchen in the past week?

I actually only cook a couple of times a week, so I’m not finding myself doing more than usual. Thankfully, most restaurants are offering curbside service, which I took advantage of on Saturday when I saw that one of my favorite places was offering margaritas to-go. Ahem.

4. What’s a television show or movie you’ve seen recently (it could be an oldie) that you really liked?

I finished watching The Circle on Netflix.

The Circle on Netflix

I’d started this series a few weeks back but stopped because some of it made me cringe a little. I wound up going back to it and am so glad I did. It’s about a group of people who use a social media forum called The Circle to communicate with each other. They aren’t allowed to see each other real-time but can only chat via a Facebook-like app. This allows some of them to misrepresent themselves, which others either suspect or don’t know at all. It’s a competition where they essentially vote each other off until there’s one winner.

I found it fascinating and so relateable given how we use social media today.

5. Share something funny you’ve seen or heard this week.

Oh gosh, y’all. I know that this virus is serious, and trust me when I say that I do not think it’s a laughing matter. My heart hurts for those who have lost loved ones or are either sick themselves or are watching those they care about fight it. I’m also stressed out, majorly, for those providing care to the sick. It’s so overwhelming.

With that said, moments of humor are good for the soul. As a teacher, I have especially enjoyed all of the homeschooling/parent/teacher memes and videos. I hope that parents will give teachers a little more credit now that they’re getting to facilitate their own children’s education.

This video got me though. All of it is TRUE! Ha!

6. Insert your own random thought here.

Can we just talk about all of the fur baby love that’s happening right now?

Raise your hand if your baby is as happy as mine now that they’re living neverending weekends?

I watched a news segment Monday evening that talked about how pet adoption numbers have gone up exponentially during this crisis. As the mama of four adopted fur babies (well, Gambit actually adopted us), my heart soared when I saw that.

Hope you guys are practicing safe physical distancing protocols (I like this term better than social distancing) from your non-furry friends.

Faith Looks Ahead

Oh, how Sundays have changed the last couple of weeks, eh?

We, along with probably millions of people around the world, turned in online to hear this morning’s sermon.

Actually, the Mr. and I listened to two of them. Sinners be needing the preaching, let me tell you (spoken in my Southern drawl).

First, we turned to our home church’s message, and y’all, I took notes (even as I knitted on a long-suffering shawl).

I think a common theme of sermons of late is fear.

We watched online church with the in-laws last weekend when we were visiting, and fear was the topic that day.

Today, our pastor, Craig (such a fabulous speaker, by the way) used the context of Numbers 13, when Moses tasked twelve spies with scouting out the Promised Land and the report they carried back, for this morning’s message.

When the spies went out, they saw lots of good things – a land “flowing with milk and honey,” but they also saw challenges in their way: “The people who live there are strong, and the cities have walls and are very large.”

Isn’t this what we’re seeing during this pandemic? Sure, we can all identify the silver linings – unexpected free time, job flexibility, the opportunity to learn new things – but we are also facing giant hurdles: the possibility of sickness, financial strain, and social isolation.

Just as ten of the spies focused on the negatives, we too have that tendency. And you know what? That tendency is based on FEAR.

Hello God. I hear you talking to me for the second week in a row.

My pastor advised us to replace feelings (based on fear) with facts.

Y’all, this can be a hard pill for me to swallow. I am a girl who operates under an umbrella of emotions. Sure, reason follows – eventually – but feelings . . . well, they kind of rule my life.

Here’s a bullet list I made of some of the main points that followed (the stuff in parentheses reflects my personal thoughts – not the pastor’s words):

  • Fear distorts reality.
  • Fear is contagious (hello hoarders).
  • Fear always leads to poor choices (hello immature Spring Break boy who declared that he only cared about living his best life).
  • Fear tempts us to focus on ourselves and our own inadequacies.
  • Fear tends to paralyze us (hello anxiety).
  • Fear causes us to question God and His motives.
  • Fear causes us to abandon our faith and give up on God.

Anyone hearing this song in their heads?

As my pastor began wrapping up, he said something to the effect that our fears aren’t conquered by looking at what’s ahead but by looking back at what God has done for us in the past.

Y’all, in 2018, we were hit by Hurricane Michael. In case you don’t follow all things hurricane-related, it was a Cat 5 storm. It destroyed the landscape around us, our homes, businesses, and most of our churches.

Eighteen months later, we are not back to normal. We are better than we were though, thanks to God’s grace and provision.

We can look back and see where we were October 10, 2018, and where we are now.

God is raising us from the ashes, and He will do it again.

I love what my pastor ended with.

Faith.

Looks.

Ahead.

Ok, so maybe he didn’t punctuate it that way, but as the author of this blog, I can take such liberties.

God gives us seasons of grace for so many reasons. I believe one of them is to sustain us through the tough times when His presence seems somewhat sketchy.

He is with us during the easy times, and He is with us now.

I keep hearing Donald Trump mention the “invisible enemy” during his press conferences.

Well y’all, we have a (somewhat) invisible hero – God.

I say somewhat because we can see Him reflected in nature and in other ways, but you know what I mean.

We need to focus on Him, not the one who wants to steal our souls because you know that this is exactly what he’s going to do. He will try to use this to turn people’s hearts away from Jesus.

I pray that during the toughest of days, we keep looking ahead to the One who will light our way out of this present darkness to, ultimately, the Promised Land.

Lemonade from Lemons

Well hello there! Did you miss me?

I came to my blog this morning thinking that I’d last posted during Christmas.

Shock of all shocks – it’s been since August 17th!

What the heck?

All I can say is that this school year was nuts BEFORE the virus hit.

I kept wanting to write – had a need to write – but life, y’all.

Just so much life.

Meanwhile, my friends, Rebecca and Jo, kept on keeeping on – one a bit more regularly than the other – but both were still writing.

My inspirations.

So today is happening.

In case you don’t know me, I am a high school English and Reading teacher in Florida. We are currently on Spring Break. Shortly after we left school on Friday, we got the news that school would be out the week after the break. A few days later, we learned that we will be out until April 15th. Who knows. The virus – this world – so crazy.

You might remember that my sweet little town was hit by Hurricane Michael in 2018. The damage that Cat 5 hurricane did to us had us living in a very surreal world for months and months. We woke up every single day asking ourselves if the whole thing was a dream.

Well, folks, here we go again.

Since I haven’t woken from that dream yet, I am starting to settle into a routine.

I decided to make a list of some things I wanted to do while social distancing. Top of the list was blogging.

So here we are!

I am trying to make lemonade from lemons.

This is going to involve more walking and blogging (not at the same time), a lot of knitting, a little bit of gardening, some reading, cooking, and Netflixing (because we’ve made that a word).

I’m also working on my lesson plans. We had to write a week’s worth of virtual lesson plans in case the unthinkable happened.

Well, it did, so we will teach those lessons. In my case, I’m tweaking what I’d planned for my English 4 classes. I’m also learning how to use Zoom, have set up my Google Classroom, and am working on adding some videos to my YouTube channel. Kids can’t object too much if they’re getting to watch YouTube, right?

I can’t help but be struck with the irony of this entire situation. We always say that we want more time to do things. Well, folks, be careful what you wish for. We have that in abundance now. The caveat is that we have to do them without many people, which, truth be told, isn’t all that bad to my introverted self. However, not being able to go to the store without the concern of contracting the virus is very disconcerting, to say the least.

I think that, besides social distancing, our attitudes are going to determine how we come out on the other side.

We can either chew on the lemons we’ve been given, pursing our lips in the process, or juice the heck out of those suckers, add some sugar, and savor the sweet taste.

Yes, life certainly hasn’t served up the most palatable of dishes; however, it’s our choice how we take in what we’ve been given.

So, let’s chat! What are some things you haven’t had time for in recent days, weeks, or months that you’re going to work on now? How are you making lemonade from lemons?

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