Covid-19 Teeth Cleaning

Today’s Slice of Life at

Today was my regular teeth cleaning, though it wasn’t really regular. I was three months late due to the dental department closure for some months in the springtime. Even now that they are open, it wasn’t regular. It was a Covid-19 teeth cleaning.

When I came into the room, I felt conspicuous, especially when they asked me to remove my mask. Of course, I would need to remove my mask. What was I thinking? The periodontist and the assistant were each decked out with double masks and a boldly-marked FACE SHIELD.

They both meticulously used hand sanitizer and then put on a pair of rubber gloves. They busily set up the work station, getting all their tools lined up. The assistant poured me a cocktail of betadine and water to rinse my mouth.

After getting everything set up, they removed and disposed of those gloves and then put on a new pair. At this point, I was clearly feeling like I myself was the virus from which they needed protection.

As I sat there, occasionally opening my eyes, I saw a trio of images. In the center was the dental light focused on my mouth, on either side the periodontist and the assistant. I couldn’t help but notice their attentive and vulnerable eyes under their shields. I wondered how many of my droplets were able to reach those defenseless, exposed orifices. I felt guilty and prayed I didn’t have Covid-19.

Fortunately, teeth cleaning is a fast and furious process here. It is not for the faint of heart, indulged or coddled. He is on a mission to get through all four sections of teeth before giving the person in the chair a break. Three tools were put into my mouth, a water jet, a suction and some kind of an ultrasonic teeth cleaner. I began breathing deeply and slowly. He began traveling on the lingual mandibular route. Then surprisingly, two of the tools escaped. I closed my mouth over the suction, happy for the unexpected break. Then he continued on the labial mandibular teeth, jumped up to the maxillary, turned and scaled every surface along that route. He then did another u-turn around my wisdom tooth and continued on the front of the upper jaw. No more breaks to be had until the end.

In the next moments, he gobbed that gritty polish onto all the surfaces and scrubbed it off like lightning.

I looked down at my watch. The whole process had taken 13 minutes.

Today is Day 168 in Bahrain’s Covid-19  time.

Insights from Remote Learning

This post is week 3 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What insights do I have about my students after remote learning? 

That is a question I have considered over the past few months. When thinking about the children I know. I have known them in the classroom in both kindergarten and grade 5, as I had the pleasure of teaching this same batch twice. I know them in person and now I know them in a different way too–how they were when learning at home.

I often thought about their teacher for next year, should we have to continue remote learning in the fall. He won’t know them like I know them.

He won’t know that the students whose work may seem comparatively mediocre are working on their own, empowered by their parents to be independent and responsible learners in their own right.

He actually won’t know the level of the students’ English language acquisition because their lessons have become a family affair, which I’m not saying is a bad thing. I’m just hoping that the students who are getting help at home are learning skills with their one-on-one familial tutors, lessons they may have missed over the years.

He won’t know which ones are getting bombarded with more than help from older siblings and parents, like excessive scaffolding on a building project on a sandy site. When the scaffolding gets taken away, there will be trouble if the builders haven’t drilled down to establish a strong foundation. He won’t really be able to recognize those students with shaky foundations who are getting disproportionate help on their online work.

For me, my insights are scattered. I have learned new things about my students since they started learning at home. Other insights on the more important human levels, I’ve sadly lost touch.

I have seen a whole spectrum of abilities and successes coming through in all these areas of remote learning:

  • Timeliness of turning in assignments
  • Engagement in opportunities afforded
  • Excellence in work produced
  • Understanding instructions
  • Creativity
  • Going above and beyond
  • Willingness to ignore lessons entirely

One of my big takeaways is that success in remote learning was not predictable at all based on their effort and the work they were doing in the classroom. Of course, some students were not a surprise. They were very similar to the students I had in person in the grade 5 classroom. However, there were many children who ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum of abilities and successes. These students learned and engaged on very different levels than they did in person–some rose to the occasion, others foundered.

I have learned insights about myself too. For instance, in how difficult one-way communication is. I would think I explained something one way on my video instructions until I saw  the assignments they turned in and say a big “Oops!” I missed being in the classroom, able to say, “Wait a minute! Let me explain this a different way before you continue.” I’ll save more on insights into myself for another post.

Perhaps the greatest insight I’ve learned is that children are complicated and full of different ways of being. We perhaps don’t know them as well as we think we do when we are with them for just a few hours a day. They are each valuable and multifaceted gems reflecting some light in school, but we don’t get to know them fully and see all their sides.

However, one thing I do know, it is certainly better to meet my students every day and get to see, know and experience their glinting brilliance in real life than remotely.


New Second Edition

This happened recently. The release date came and passed without anyone on the production staff or us knowing or paying attention. (Our insidious and disruptive enemy gets the blame.)

Second Edition of Genius Hour Guidebook
Click on the book image to buy at a discount at Routledge.

Read Chapter 1 in the Kindle preview.

This sweet graphic was made by Valentina Gonzalez (@ValentinaESL)

Day 28 Slice of Life – Skyline

It was just a week ago that we took our last walk outside. There is a large park area near the bay. I took this 180skyline photo last Friday. Today I was missing this lovely walking spot.

Now, we stay at home, with a curfew from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. During the day, we are supposed to stay inside unless there is an urgent reason to go out.

Both of our daughters and their husbands are in similar situations–with shelter in place orders in their states.

I hope the majority of people can and will stay home and stay safe so the hospitals won’t have to become overwhelmed.

God be with all those who have to work, especially those in the medical field, grocers and delivery people.

Day 18 Slice of Life – Poignant Uncertainty

Today I finally found a few minutes to get to a pile of notebooks, neglected since January 29.  These are our dialogue journals, and the students and I write back and forth to each other weekly. Until January 29, that is.

So much happened in February. We had a field trip cancelled and rescheduled. We went on the rescheduled trip. We spent a week reading all around the school in what we called the Reading Marathon. We started a big project of writing 120 stories about people at Al Raja School, and we were trying to finish writing our novels. Since I only have seven periods a week with the children, it might not be surprising that we neglected our dialogue journals for three weeks. Then during the fourth week, on February 25, school was cancelled to help stop the Coronavirus spread here in Bahrain.

This morning as I sat with each book, I would see the face of the child, wonder when I would see her again, say a prayer for her and the family at home, and write a serious letter back to the child. I wrote things like, “I look forward to seeing you again.” Instead of what I would normally write, “Have a great weekend! See you Sunday.” I couldn’t even write, “I look forward to seeing you again next month when we get back from our Coronavirus holiday.” Chances are there will be no school next month either.

I felt the weight of the leaden pages as I thumbed through the emptiness of the back half of a boy’s notebook. His last entry had ended with making a challenge to fill the whole hundred-page dialogue journal before summer, “I’m sure we’ll be able to fill up this notebook with our letters this year,” he enthusiastically wrote.  Not likely, Mohammed.

We are living in an unsettled time now, to be sure, a time osadness and uncertainty.  There were poignant times when I felt this loss today, like the examples above. However, the entries were also fun and playful and silly at times, because that’s what they had written to me, so I answered their queries and listened and responded and celebrated with them about what they had chosen to tell me–a Captain Underpants book review, a detailed game in Roblox, a description of the lunch at sports day, a child who was able to score from a high pass during the sports day soccer tournament and much more.

What better way to spend these days than doing what I love most? Teaching, helping, encouraging, and giving hope and comfort to children. 

They are giving me the same.

Day 15 Slice of Life – Al Raja School: 120 Years Old

Our school is 120 years old this year. Al Raja School was the first private school in the Kingdom of Bahrain. We’ve been using the 120 years as a theme throughout the school year in celebration of this milestone. Today, though, it just was a sad reminder that the students are not in school.

We were going to have a carnival two weeks ago, and one of the activities I was responsible for was the 120 Museum. We had a little room that would be decorated with collections of 120 items. The students were just bringing in items when school was cancelled for a month due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Today as I was spring cleaning in my classroom, I looked at all the items and took a few pictures. Recently we got word that the carnival will be cancelled altogether this year.

Some of the items that would have been in our 120 Museum.

I posted a video explaining today’s lesson on what would have been our 120th day of school, a day we had planned to celebrate. I wore my shirt that had 120 ponytail holders sewn on, but the day wasn’t celebratory at all. I was a bit sad and lonely in my classroom.

The lesson today was about our project 120 ARS Stories, a book we are writing. Students are turning interviews into stories today, at home. They had done the interviews of siblings, relatives, teachers, and others affiliated with our school.

Can you see my 120 ponytail holder shirt?

I cleaned off our bulletin board, removing students One Words for 2020. Now the bulletin board is ready for new creations that they will bring back after our break. I can’t wait!



Day 7 Slice of Life – Break Time

This morning a handful of our staff went out for breakfast. We’ve been staying indoors mostly. Most of our events are being cancelled–a Lauryn Hill concert, wedding receptions, church services and more,  because of the Coronavirus. Today we ventured out, a small group, armed with sanitizer bottles and appreciation for face-to-face conversation, after a long ten days of Zoom meetings, phone calls, emails, and What’s App messages. More messages, I’m sure, were sent in the last ten days than in the whole past year combined. Teachers and administration will go back to a disinfected school tomorrow to continue our Virtual Learning Initiative with the children who are still required to stay home.

We felt festive while together for breakfast this morning.