Mortality and Legacy

Quincy Herald- Whig April 3, 1988

2020 has me thinking about mortality. Death seems all around. Everyday I am reminded of the value of life and being alive. Over the past weeks my life has been touched by death, none related to COVID. All lives cut short.

That is me above in the wreckage of a plane, I was the lucky one, sole survivor of small plane crash that took my parents. Lucky to spend 3 months in a local hospital where my father had worked recovering from broken bones. Lucky to have aches and scares to remind me of the moment of impact. At seventeen my life was rocked. It took time and constant pushing from my loving extended family to realize my survival had meaning. For awhile I asked why I survived, knowing it was due to where I sat in the plane. My parents’ lives were more important in the community being a prominent doctor and education advocate. I was just a high school junior. Why were they gone and me alive? My parents left a legacy on the community of Quincy, IL and with in their 3 children (My two brothers weren’t in the crash). The community celebrated their lives and dedicated a garden in their honor at the community history museum.

Quincy Herald – Whig June 1988 (Me in wheel chair)

Now 32 years later I have constant reminders that life can at any moment can end. Mortality and legacy thoughts fill my brain. How much longer do I have? What will I be remember for? Has my life been worth living or should one of my parents survived? It was only a matter of seating that I survived, what if my mother and I had switched seats?

I live my life focused on making sure it is a life that makes a difference one worth being saved. I have walked down wrong paths sometimes losing sight of this pursuit, getting lost in depressing thoughts or caught up by physical pains. Thankfully my parents memories were captured by the community in a legacy book that has faded over the years. I pull it off the shelf and refresh my focus. Working to pass on my families values and work ethic on to my 3 bright and energetic children.

Recent trip to Mackinaw Island July 2020

My oldest son, Griffin, is approaching the age I was when my parents died (17) and the twins are the same age as my little brother was when they passed (12). What would they do if I was gone? Are they prepared to exist independently? I plan on being around for much longer but these questions persist. What legacy am I leaving them? Am I making sure they have skills and values to reflect our family values?

With recent events I have gotten to spend more time the past 5 months with them than in the past. I get to eat breakfast with them, see how they learn and enjoy movie and game nights. Things that never happened growing up the son of a doctor. My children reflect my wife and me. Ecstatic that they represent my family name in the community. Although these months have been trying at times, when I return to face to face teaching and they return to the classrooms I will miss this quality time together.

Cherish your time with family. Leave a legacy with in your children. Life is short let yours reflect your values.

#WeWantToTeach

Seeing NFL players tweet #WeWantToPlay today has many teachers reflecting on the school year. The CDC can out with guidelines for schools. Soon after the guidelines are announced both President Trump and the Secretary of Education quickly announced they want schools to open despite the guidelines. Huh?

Lets think about this for a minute:

NFL players make millions, teachers make less than a players game day check.

NFL players provide a form of entertainment, teachers educate the youth.

NFL players will have access to regular testing and entertain once a week for 3 hours, teachers will be teaching 7 hours a day, 5 days a week without any testing protocol.

Which is more essential the NFL or schools.

Schools are doing their best to open, but there are so many questions that need to be answered before this happens. Districts are working hard on multiple plans for the 2020-2021 school year: Online School, Hybrid School and a return to face to face schooling. Budgets are tight without federal or state guidance on what funds will be available for the coming school year. Districts have to make guesses on the finances. Evaluate their infrastructure looking at HVAC systems and their technology capacity. Teachers are honing their skills learning as much as they can to be ready for what ever fall brings. ALL this is being done while fighting the perception that we closed.

We want to teach. We know that teaching face to face is the best mode for our students to learn and provides equity. Teachers need to know that guidelines for safety are being followed, don’t they deserve the same precautions the NFL (or other sports league) is following.

Testimony to State Education Committee July 16, 2020

Tweet that inspired me to act!

As I woke today I read an article from Michigan Advance “Michigan Teachers not invited to legislative hearing on reopening schools.” Emotions quickly filled my heart: anger, frustration, resentment. Concerned stake holders should not have to turn to media to get their concerns heard like Jessica Mathews. Instead of allowing these feelings to overwhelm me, I decided to testify for the committee via video. I hope the members listen to my words and concerns. I attempt to cover the 3 major concerns I have. I didn’t cover all of my feeling because my teacher voice isn’t the only one, I encourage who ever sees my testimony to share it and create their own. ALL involved in the educational process need to be given a voice on this matter and have their voice heard. I don’t know a teacher who doesn’t want to go back to face to face instruction but there are huge safety and budgetary concerns. Our government is supposed to be “For the People, By the People.” Lets make it that way. In my testimony I forgot to include student and parents voice. These voices are also missing. I hope the committee seeks them out. Please raise up your voice so educational stakeholders concerns are heard. Lobbyist and special interest groups from out of state should not be the primary voices for reopening our schools.

Rating: 1 out of 5.
My Testimony

Thanks for listening to me. Lets work on a plan that involves all state stakeholders to reopen schools.

Schools Never closed

March 13, 2020 is a day that will live in my memory forever. It was the day the COVID19 invaded our state. Our Governor ordered that schools close for student attendance. While our doors were shut, staff was busy working. Staff worked to clean the building. Staff worked to provide food for students and their families, Staff worked to shift instruction from a traditional model to an online model. Staff worked to create instructional and communication plans for the community. For most of the school staff this shift was huge. It required more time working especially for administration who coordinated all of these efforts. Everyone was learning a completely new job. All staff was trained to meet our students needs face to face, few on staff had ever expected to be required to do so in this emergency remote learning environment. This was a shift.

Schools shifted from their normal operations to new 2020 pandemic operations in similar ways as businesses. Lead by administrators as guides teaching staff embarked to discover how best to meet all of our students needs. Exploring all options available. Reaching out as best we could. This required hours of work. Creating new plans and a new path forward. Staff ended up working like first year teachers learning how to deliver lessons on the fly. It was hard for students too. Without the normal structure of the school day, students struggled with online schedules. Teachers ended up supporting students on-demand. Teaching shifted from instruction during school day, to instruction on demand 24/7. It added news stresses to an already stressful job.

As the debate rages about “reopening” schools in the fall, let’s remember that although the buildings were closed, SCHOOLS WEREN’T CLOSED, they SHIFTED. The media continues to use “closed” when describing schools. This devalues all the hard work that happened and continues to occur as teachers want to be prepared for fall no matter how we are asked to deliver lessons.

This summer has administrators working on multiple plans for fall. Everyone of them desires to return to face to face instruction when safe to do so. Teachers are full of anxiety on how the fall will look in their classrooms. Busy learning about every online learning method that they can. Hearing the so many shout out that schools need to “reopen” knowing we never closed. All in education worry about our students and what they are missing during this shift to learning from a distance. Now as districts are finalizing their 3 pronged plans, politicians are threatening funding if we don’t “reopen”.

Schools don’t have to reopen, most are delivering summer school programming right now. All districts have teams of staff working on best modes for delivery of lessons this fall. Educators are working hard so success is found in the fall for what ever road the local leaders feel is safest for us to head down.

Just remember Schools never closed. We will continue to shift as our community needs to provide education for ALL of our students.

The Hood Dilemma

hoodie

The hoodie!  A staple in our students’ wardrobes. Most adults wear them too. SO why does the hood provide so much discussion and conflicts in schools?

Many schools have rules banning the wearing of the hood. This rules is created out of good intentions. Schools want a safe and engaged environment. Hoods impact both the school safety and engagement. Students often wear earbuds under hoods. Earbuds playing music can lead to students running into each other in the hallways or not engaging in the lessons in the classrooms. In some cases students hid vape devices under their hoods. Hoods also conceal students identity to cameras around school campuses.

Do all of our students have these intentions when wearing a hood? No absolutely not. Most students like the feeling of the hood, like curling up with a blanket. In the winter students enjoy the warmth of the hood, especially when up to 10% of the bodies heat can be loss through ones head. Tired students like to hide in their hoods, resting their hooded head on their arm as it lays on their desk.

So what is the dilemma?

criminalize

Is a school rule banning hoods, criminalizing it? I think not. It is teaching our students how dress for different situations and follow the rules/norms for an situation. In my school the rule is explained to students. Most students follow regularly. A few need gentle regular reminders, I just give them a look and show a hand motion of putting the hood down; no issue arises and no conflict. Of course there might be 1 or 2 in a grade level who want to make it an issue by fighting the rule, this just leads to a discussion where teacher and student come to a mutual understanding of expectations.

Our society is full of norms/expectations. School need to teach students how to follow these expectation. Many businesses have rules banning or requiring certain clothing.

service

Isn’t the hood rule similar? Don’t we want students to be rule following citizens in our society? It shouldn’t be a dilemma, just a discussion of expectations.

ON A Side Note: I also always tell my students if they don’t like a rule they can go through the process of changing it. Explaining the process and  how to make changes to make our school better.

Why I didn’t make your meeting …

meeting

Do I really need to explain myself? No! but I need you to know I feel guilt every time I miss a scheduled meeting. I feel I need to explain myself. Yes, I made a conscientious decision to miss your meeting, that obviously was important. I feel that my time can be better utilized. So let me explain.

I wake up early to make sure I am ready for my day with students. I arrive before 7 AM even though my report time isn’t till 8. I need to make sure my copies are made, room is set up for the students, my website is updated and lesson plans in place. I often check in with co-workers about students and if time permits take care of correspondence. Twice a week (Mondays and Wednesdays) I have students arrive at 7:30 AM because I voluntarily have a video production news cast. I enjoy working with these students who have a passion for what they are doing. It takes up an hour per week in the morning and lunch time (30 more minutes) on Wednesdays to make it happen.  My works days are busy with instruction any free time is used to reflect and collaborate.

When the last school bell rings (3:10), my attention shifts to my children. I am the father of 3. Twin eleven year olds in fifth grade and a fifteen year old in tenth grade. My twins school ends at 3:50, They walk home but I try to get home as soon as I can to help them get going on homework. These two are active. Many days they have after school activities  like scouts, dance, sports and science olympiad starting between 4:30 and 5:00. My Fifteen year old is a three sport athlete and active in boy scouts. This means after school hours require a chauffeur because they are filled with meetings, practices and games. My wife and I are busy making sure that there are no conflicts on the calendar.

I want to be involved and attend your meeting. I don’t shy away from work and appreciate the opportunity to share my voice. If I can’t make a meeting it is because something is conflicting on my calendar. You might not deem my conflict as more important or might ask that my spouse cover if possible. Sorry but my schedule is managed by me, something more important is on the calendar.

Thank you for including me. E-mail me the minutes. Keep inviting me. I will attend when I can. I will contribute when I can. Just think about your schedule and if I randomly tried to fit a meeting in it? The question comes up when talking with my wife: “Why can’t teachers meet during their work day like other profession?” Great question. It seems to make ALL the meetings, to be FULLY involved, one can’t have children or extra activities. It is hard on all educators. We are all busy with family, spouses and outside activities. We can’t make them all.