Week 8 #8Weeks of Summer

This post is week 8 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

How is your school/district stating your start of school is going to be different this year?

In June we had three plans ready to go:

  1. School as regular – Of course, that one is easy. Just like a regular school year, we would have been ready for this, but that is not going to happen for sure.
  2. School online – As we have done since 1 March 2020. We are ready for 100% remote learning. We have been tweaking it and improving it since we started. Building the plane in the air, so to speak, as our principal would remind us often.
  3. Blended learning – We also have a plan for having half the children in the school at one time. We helped and the administration spent much time during the summer weeks getting ready for this scenario.

Now, this week we got the word from the Ministry of Education that schools will be required to offer both remote and in-school learning. So, we had a meeting with parents on Wednesday. They had so many good questions! They have a hard decision to make now–whether to send their children to school two days a week and three online or keep them home for five days of remote learning from home.

We still have a few weeks for things to change due to the country’s COVID-19 status. I’ll update this post as needed. Wish us well!

America’s Medical Leadership

Last evening my husband and I walked to the pharmacy for anti-itch ointment. My husband chatted with the pharmacist for a bit. They talked about pre- and post-covid prices for rubbing alcohol. They discussed how long they each thought covid would continue. Then the pharmacist asked if we had seen the video from America about covid and how it wasn’t actually as bad as we are making it out to be.

My husband and I looked at each other, wonderingly. He pulled out his phone and turned on What’sApp to show us the now infamous video of Dr. Stella Immanuel.

Screenshot by Houston Chronicle from YouTube

He emphasized, “From America.” And it was amplified by the president of the United States. What a time we are living in!

My husband told the pharmacist that he tries to listen to the CDC and WHO and trust that they are giving more measured guidance. He agreed, but of course, we had no indication that he was going to delete that video and not share it with the next customer when the subject came up.

Then this morning as I was writing this post, I received a text message in a WhatsApp group with the same video clip showing the ever-present Dr. Stella telling no masks were needed because there is a cure for covid.

America has become a very different world leader under this administration.

I prefer the wisdom in this video by a Kenyan health official:

A Trip to the Cold Store

Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org

Today I went to the cold store, which is a short walk from our home. I take the lift down to the parking structure and use my garage door opener to open  the shuttered door. Then I walk out of our building, across an alley, and into another building, through a long hallway and out the other side, turn the corner, pass one store front and go into the next, a small store that has fresh fruits and veggies, milk and juice, and everything else a tiny grocery store could have. One of the beautiful things about Bahrain is there are no food deserts. Everyone has access to cold stores in their neighborhoods.

We go to our little store regularly to return our empty five-gallon drinking water jug to trade for another one. We buy a few groceries as needed–fresh okra, green beans, wilted grapes when they are the best-looking fruit, or something needed for a recipe like canned mushrooms or whole coriander seeds.

Today, though, I only needed a full water bottle. I was being kind to my husband because at his age those bottles are not easy to carry, especially in this weather. Today the high was 108 degrees and the humidity was 63%. It’s the kind of weather that makes my glasses steam up for half or more of the walk to the cold store.

Fortunately, the store employs some young men who make deliveries. One of them, a new guy I hadn’t met before named Anshad (AN-shad), came and helped me by carrying the water bottle to our flat. Then I had to go back down to close the garage door behind him.

“Have you been to Kerala yet?” he asked as we rode down the elevator.

“No, not yet–but I definitely want to go and stay in a houseboat in the backwaters.”

“It’s beautiful. Be sure to go to Meesapulimala, too,” he said, as I opened the garage door again.

“Esapaalimalay?” I said, trying to mimic any consonant or vowel sounds I heard and keep them in fairly the same order. I had no idea what he was saying. Later I read about it and I realized all the many things I still don’t know about Kerala, a southern state in India where a lot of my friends are from. There is a Ghat mountain range; this is the second highest mountain in the western Ghats; it’s 8,724 feet high. So many beautiful places I have never seen, never thought about, never wondered about. Even though I have a bachelors degree in geography, I have never learned anything about the physical geography of India.

Meesapulimala,” he repeated.

Then I took my phone out. I let him take it from me as I fumbled with even knowing what letter to put in first. He typed in trekking at Meesapulimala. 

I thanked him, said goodbye and came home to look up some of the images and experiences you can have hiking in southern India.

I am constantly amazed that the world is such a big and beautiful place.

Also, I’ve been thinking of this young man, who has left his home country and works in a cold store in the Middle East, probably sending money home to his family. He is at least bilingual. Maybe trilingual or who knows how many languages he can speak.

In other news today. My husband and I were discussing a reading about King Hezekiah in Isaiah 39. The king made some leadership blunders. God made a prophecy through Isaiah that explained all the bad things that were going to happen to Hezekiah’s offspring and lineage. His response: “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.”

It made us think of the resident of the White House. I wrote this haiku:

Hezekiah trump
architect of disaster
“but I will have peace”

Photo by aki kp on Unsplash

The Isolation Journals, Prompt #102

The prompt this week: Reflect on your earliest awareness of a disconnect between what the world said was okay and what you instinctively felt wasn’t right. How did you react? What action, big or small, did you take? Since then, how have your beliefs changed or stayed the same?

This was difficult for me because my childhood and youth were not ones of activism or seeking social justice at all. Instead, I feel I was always attempting to prove myself and my competence in whatever I did. To be smarter, to throw the ball farther, to be better than the others. I’m not sure why, exactly.  I didn’t come from an activist family, but rather I came from a family in survival mode. Seven children and a father who died too soon. For the most part, I was safe and had enough, but I wasn’t thinking about others. 

One example I noticed pretty early on. The world said it was okay to have people in positions where they weren’t fully qualified and that made me angry and responsive. Even as a child and teen, I noticed among teachers and others in authority. I remember in high school when our creative writing teacher promised we would put together an anthology of our work at the end of the semester. However, there seemed to be no plan to do that or any attempt to collect our work or recruit a team to help or anything. The end of the school year was quickly approaching. I don’t remember the conversation we had, but I must have approached him. However, the result was that I collected the work of my classmates and made the anthology myself, typing all the submissions on ditto masters and printing copies for the whole class using the machines in my business class.

Another example is when I worked full time during the summer after high school. It was a great job working in the nursing administration department of a hospital. I was an assistant to the administrative secretary of the hospital nursing administrator. Everyone was highly competent and I loved the satisfaction and pride this job gave me. (By the way, the job was part of a federal job creation program called CETA. I was eligible because our family’s income was low. That job, which paid minimum wage during the summer,  transitioned into a really high-paying part-time job that put me through college. Looking back, I think that was a CETA success story.) Anyway, at times, some of my hours were spent typing policy and procedure manuals for nursing supervisors of the various units. It was fascinating work. It was in my interactions with those supervisors that I noticed some were much more qualified than others. I remember more than once thinking I didn’t want to type policy and procedure manuals, I wanted to be the supervisor who could come up with effective policies and procedures.

How have my beliefs changed or stayed the same? First of all, by God’s grace and mercy, I have become more understanding of others, more lenient in my judging, and more accepting of others’ imperfections. When I was younger I was ruthless to my teachers and authority figures. Just the ones whom I felt were unworthy of my respect. (Oh, my, it’s embarrassing to admit that! What kind of warped evaluation tool I used to determine competency, though, I have no idea.) Anyway, grace has come to mark my acceptance of others now. I’m not 100%, to be sure, and I have a tendency to call out BS, but maybe I’m better at doing it privately now. An important addition to my thinking is that I have come to notice my own incompetencies and realize that others have to put up with me, as well!

Today is Monday, Day 153 in Bahrain quarantine time, and Prompt #102 in The Isolation Journals by Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO of FEED.

Week 7 #8WeeksofSummer

This post is week 7 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Describe the mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities you provided during #RemoteLearning?

We used asynchronous learning activities last spring for KG-grade 5. I tried only one Zoom meeting the first week of online school. That was when we were all trying to find our way and figure out how to “be creative,” as we were directed. It was also before the mandate came from our administration telling us we would not be using live meetings any longer for the lower grades. The synchronous learning meetings would be for only those in grades 6-12. That was disappointing for me, as I greatly enjoyed seeing them.

In our one Zoom meeting we played Kahoot! I did advertise it as optional because this was in early March and so many of my grade 5 students were not tech-independent and a lot of the parents hadn’t even figured out how to use Zoom yet. Later I used the Kathoot! asynchronous version of the games and that was fun too.

Toward the end of the year, my department took permission to hold “open hours” for students, optional drop-in times for those who needed it. I enjoyed seeing my students for writing conferences, question answering, and just everyday, anything check-ins and show-and-tell.

I figure the way I did the lessons asynchronously was easier than doing live classes each day, but I’m not sure about that, to be honest. I made instructional videos posted on YouTube, and students created responses on Flipgrid and Padlet and created and shared work on Google Drive.

Now this coming year I’m nervous to see the plan is to go back, using a blended schedule. Half the kids will come on Sunday and Tuesday and the other half will come on Monday and Wednesday. On their at-home days, students will complete online lessons. So, it looks like we get to do both–in-person and online. Thursdays will be a catch up day for the students, and hopefully the teachers.

So many questions and concerns, so many details still up in the air. Then in today’s news, this headline: “How the U.S. Compares With the World’s Worst Coronavirus Hot Spots” There was Bahrain, looming high above the U.S. in daily cases per capita.

This is not an easy time on our mental health, is it? (I pray it won’t also affect our physical health.)