My dressage court is looking a little ratty. My footing is great. My arena rails are great. What's not so great are my letters. Last June, I built a dressage court with wooden rails and water bottles serving as my letters. It worked great!
Lately, I've noticed that none of my jugs have letters. Many of my jugs have lost their lids, and others have sprung leaks. It's a really cheap DIY project, and normally, I would have replaced the jugs with fresh ones long before now. Except ...
Somehow, I don't think it would be very much appreciated if I waltzed into my local Target and walked out with 12 gallons of bottled water. I think they call that hoarding. Besides that, there's probably a 2 bottle limit. I think it's going to be a while before I get new bottles.
I did not think it was possible, but I am approaching burnout when it comes to all media. I now know why people take a break from Facebook. Some of it is self-inflicted like my daily check of the CDC and the WHO websites. Those are the only forms of "news" I trust right now. The rest of it comes across as hyperbole which makes it difficult to filter out the nuggets of truth hidden amongst all of the noise.
The rest of it, the virtual interactions, have become part of my job. While I use a lot of websites and apps in my role as a teacher, those interactions are offset by the face to face time I spend with my kiddos. Now that we aren't meeting face to face, my face to screen time now dominates my day. I am not a fan.
One issue is that my hours are no longer typical school hours. Parents and kids message me when they can, and for most, that's not from 7:20 - 2:50, my contracted work hours (or in my case, from 6:00 a.m. when I typically arrive at school). Since I am not physically at school from 6:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. - I go to the barn in the mid-morning, eat lunch whenever I feel like it, and run an errand if need be (like getting diesel), I feel obligated to respond to a parent or student message no matter the day or time. On Saturday, I answered a number of messages. I did the same thing on Sunday.
Many of my students' parents are essential workers - we live in America's garden after all, so they're still at work. The time they have to communicate with me is in the evening and on weekends. I feel that it's my duty to respond, especially since there is no question that my situation leaves me nothing to complain about. I can still ride my horses, I am getting paid, my husband is getting paid, I get to sleep in, and I live outside of town, so social distancing is super easy.
So what does my day look like? Well the first thing I usually do is open my MacBook and write a blog post. After that I check my two personal email accounts and maybe spend a few minutes checking in with friends and family on Facebook. From there, it's game on.
Depending what my tasks are for the day, I then open my work-assigned Chromebook to check my Google Mail account for school. By the second or third day, I realized that waiting to check those message until morning was way too hard, so I added my school email to my phone. I never really understood the need for individual mailboxes before; now I do. I simply can't keep all of the message straight, and the important ones were getting lost in the shuffle. With a school account on my phone, I can now sort through those messages throughout the day no matter where I am.
I am also attending Zoom meetings. Many of you have probably been using Zoom for a while, but in teaching, especially for the little guys, face to face interactions are much more effective. Right now, we're doing staff meetings and grade level PLC meetings on Zoom. I am toying with the idea of having a class meeting via Zoom, but I'll only risk that if I get desperate. Eleven year olds can be unpredictable.
The email messages lead me to my ParentSquare messages. If you haven't used ParentSquare, think of it as Facebook for a school or district. It's actually an amazing app that is really saving our butts during distance learning. It can be a bit overwhelming though. I get message from my district, my school site, and individual people. I also create posts which then generate even more messages in the form of responses. In ParentSquare, I can relay updates to families as well as let them know when I have assigned work in the Google Classroom.
The Google Classroom is where I assign and correct student work. The Google Classroom also has a comment/chat feature which I had turned off all year. Real life chatting is rampant as it is; I didn't need to add virtual chatting as well. Since I can't call on raised hands to answer questions, nor can we hold classroom discussions, I have turned that feature back on which means I have an entire new level of messaging that I need to both monitor and respond to. Plus, kids can ask me questions about their assignments.
I am also assigning work in Next Gen Math which means I creat the assignments and then check back to see who has completed them and monitor how they did.
This week, since all the kids are picking up their laptops* from school, I am also assigning 20 minutes a day on Lexia Core 5. It's a leveled program that allows kids to practice a variety of reading skills, but the teacher uses the interface to find out where kids are stuck and offers intervention.
* I'll be at work on Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 - 11:30 to distribute laptops, and on Thursday, I'll then drive to another school to hand out meals from 11:00 - 12:30. I will definitely appreciate the break from staring at my screen.
Once the kids have their laptops, I'll also be assigning and checking their Accelerated Reader quizzes. Depending how long distance learning continues, right now we're scheduled to return to school in early May, there are even more apps and websites that I can use. Last week and this week, I assigned work in BrainPop.
Work isn't the only place I am juggling apps and websites. I am also still running our CDS chapter's Facebook page and website. We had a show scheduled for late April, but after USEF extended the ban on showing, we cancelled that show and are in the midst of rescheduling for October.
I've decided I am just too busy to monitor yet another message source. So for now, I am closing comments on my blog. You can still comment of course, but you'll have to do it on Facebook. I share my blog posts there each morning, and the posts are always public. So if you have something you want to share, or you just need to tell me what a terrible person I am, find me on Facebook.
Today, I am heading to the vet, but thank goodness it's not for one of my horses. It's also not an emergency, but the horse is a senior citizen with some soundness issues. The friend doesn't have a trailer, and the vet she sees is out of town.
Not the best time to be doing that, but we have a plan. Lots of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and social distancing will be involved. She's the only one going into the vet office; I'll hang out in the truck. If you're going to be going anywhere right now, a medical facility where the focus is on minimizing exposure to germs is your best bet.
In the meantime, I wanted to share another household acquisition. A few weeks ago, I showed you the Dog Room. And yes, we really call it that. We also have a Cabin Room.
When we bought this house more than three years ago, even we were intimated by its size. There are five bedrooms, but only two of us. It was, and still is, way too much house, but we liked the location a lot, and that's the one thing that you can't change. Location. While the house is finally furnished, we're still working on the details. After finding a better dresser for the Dog Room, I started looking a lot closer at the bare wall in the Cabin Room.
The decor probably does look out of place and a little ... thematic? I get it, but there's a reason. A few months ago, we finally sold our cabin. This is the furniture that was up there. It looked very appropriate in our little A-frame of a mountain place. It seemed really silly to toss out perfectly nice furniture, and besides, we had a lot of fun up there. So, we decided to keep most of the bedroom furniture. That's why it's called the Cabin Room.
We had one big wall though that didn't have a thing on it. It hasn't bothered me too much because the whole house is a slow work in progress. For Valentine's day, I bought my husband a large wall canvas of a photo that he had taken of a train utilizing the Tehachapi Loop. If you have a minute, you should read about it. It's kind of famous in the train world. Anyway, we replaced a print that was sort of ho-hum with the canvas. Like I said, the house is a work in progress.
Since he liked that print so well, I started paying attention to what he was posting on Facebook. He's been having fun with his new iPhone's camera, so when I saw a series of pictures that I really liked, I ordered three more canvases using his photos. Last night, we hung them in the Cabin Room.
They're not super "cabin-y", but they're colorful and very personal. The one in the middle with Tobias is hilarious if you look at really closely. He has a huge grin on his face, and in the distance, you can see Yellow Dog madly trying to catch up.
I did tell my husband that the next canvas, or canvases, that I order, will have horses in them. Good thing this house has plenty of wall space.
What with all that's happening in the world right now, I am having trouble remembering what day it is. So when I say I had a lesson a week or so ago, it might have been two weeks or three days ago. I am not sure. A few weeks before that, I had a lesson, and in that one, we worked on getting Speedy's hind end very active. When we started this most recent lesson, my first question was how to use that new hind end energy.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, nearly clapped her hands in excitement. I think she'd thought I'd never ask. Right away, she had me get Speedy going. When I had trouble knowing how much to get him going or what get him going even looked like, she use the word excited. Get him excited. Oh, okay.
It sounded easy, but it wasn't. I just wasn't really feeling what she was asking me to do. Basically, she wanted me to build up the energy in his hind legs without letting it leak out through his front end. Then, we took that energy and used it in the shoulder in and half pass. When he felt too quick or heavy in the front end, she wanted me to use the half halt to tell his front end to slow down so that his hind end could catch up. When I kept him "short" front to back, he could carry and push more effectively from behind.
The videos have excellent sound, so you can hear Chemaine explaining it better than I can. And because I am nothing if not honest, you can see my struggle for yourself. We have some really pretty moments here, but some of them are not so pretty.
At the end of the second video, we got some really nice medium trot. Speedy loves that movement and tries his heart out. This is probably some of the longest reach he's ever given me. I have never been able to capture a photo of him with so much extension. When I first looked at the image below, I thought his hind end was not nearly engaged enough, so I did a little drawing.
The two yellow lines are exact matches. I drew a yellow line on his front leg first. Then I copied it and pasted it to the hind leg without making any changes in the length or angle of the line. I did the same thing with the purple lines. The lines show that his legs are moving nearly parallel with one another. The outside hind (yellow) could use a little more angle in his hocks, but otherwise, he's pretty even.
Here's another shot a stride or two later.
This year's show season may be not what we all had hoped for, but I just figure that I am using this time to get better and better. By the time we can show again, we'll have no problem getting the scores we need.
There's always a silver lining.
It actually should be called therapy for boredom. Or maybe just convenience. When you spend a lot of hours in front of the computer, which is what I've been doing lately, it's easy to check out that sale ad that just popped into your inbox. I am usually too busy to click on a BOGO sale which works out just fine for my budget.
So when I saw a BOGO sale from Dover last week, I actually paused before hitting delete. I had a few minutes so I thought why not check it out. In my defense, I had already been thinking of freshening up my supply of breeches. Right now, I am rotating between three pairs of these (which I love), two pair of these (I also like these a lot), this pair (very cute but not great in the summer), and these (which show EVERYTHING which makes me feel naked). It sounds like a lot of choices, but they all serve their own purpose: when it's hot as holy hell, when it's cold, when I am taking a lesson where people might see me, when I need to get dirty, etc.
I don't order from Dover very often. But lately, they've made ordering a bit sweeter. Shipping is getting cheaper (it's free right now on everything), and sized items come with free return shipping. So when I saw that the breeches I had already been eyeballing in the Spring 2020 catalogue had a BOGO deal, I threw some things in my cart.
I always liked SmartPak's Pipers - I had at least four pair, but I HATED, HATED, HATED how they fit. No matter what size I bought - my size, a size up, a size down, the boogers always sagged. I finally gave up. There are two pair in that photo above. When I saw the Wellesley Breeches, made by Dover, I was intrigued. They're similarly styled, although not quite as colorful. I thought they were worth a try.
I have to say, these are now at the top of my rotation. The fit is spot on. There is no sag, and they're surprisingly long enough. They sort of feel like pajama bottoms. Breeches will never be as comfortable as tights, but these are pretty close. There are pockets, but they're not great. The rear pockets are cute but ineffective for my purposes, and my cell phone barely fits in a front pocket, and only while I am standing. That's really the only negative I would give these breeches. In fact, I like them so much that I have a second pair sitting in my cart. I just need to hit buy.
The other pair I bought, the Stride Full Seat Tech Tights, are hands down the most comfortable athletic feeling tights I've ever owned. Don't get me wrong, I love my Horze HyPer Flex Full Seat Tights, but these are even better. I worried that all that contrast stitching might rub, but it doesn't. What it does do is hide some of my curvier parts. And those pockets? HUGE and deep enough to hold my phone with no fear of it being lost or dropped.
I also have a pair of these sitting in my cart. I am trying so hard to hit buy. But if I do that, I really might start to feel like I am hoarding. I don't need two more pair, but once I find something I like, I try to buy it in twos. For the sake of my checking account, I am going to let them sit there for a day or two.
And Dover, if you're listening, please quit reminding me that they're there!
It's been a while since I said anything about Speedy's latest abscess. In this case, no news was good news. Basically, I rode him on a Wednesday, saw him racing up and down the fence with Izzy on a Friday, and then got a text that he was lame on a Saturday.
By the time I got to the ranch that afternoon, this was the day we had gone to Kernville, he looked sound at the walk. Usually, when Speedy has an abscess, you can see it at the walk. He never presents with I've-broken-something-and-I-may-never-walk-again lameness; he just looks really sore. The ranch owner has a pretty good eye though, so if she saw something, there was something to be seen. I jogged him out, and yep, there was a slight head bob.
Unlike any of his other abscesses, I couldn't really pinpoint where it was. With the hoof testers, he was testing positive all around his toe. I used the hoof knife to scrape away some of the loosened sole, and found what looked like an abscess track traveling from one side of his hoof to the other. Without knowing exactly where the abscess was, I opted to simply poultice and see what happened.
Once his hoof was wrapped, I put in a call to my vet to see what he thought. His number one concern was that this might be the early signs of laminitis, so he had me check the other front foot. I got no reaction on that hoof. Speedy was also standing squarely on all four feet without the classic toe point or leaning back to get off his front feet. There was no digital pulse, and his pain level looked to be a zero.
Dr. Tolley said that abscesses in the toe aren't as common as in the bars, although he had just dug out a pretty deep one that week. He felt that poulticing was the right course of action. While I had him on the phone, I asked him about using Ichthammol as a drawing agent instead of the Numotizine that I've been using. It had been recommended by several people. He was pretty quick to tell me that he hated using Ichthammol because it doesn't wash off. That was all I needed to hear.
I poulticed for three days and two nights. When I took the poultice off, Speedy jogged out sound. The next day, he was sore again, so I repeated the poultice. When I took it off several days later, he was sound and has remained so. So was it an abscess? I am not sure. Dr. Tolley thought it could also have been a small bruise. Either way, poulticing was an appropriate treatment.
Of course, while I was poulticing one foot, I was also keeping my eye on the little hole in Speedy's hoof. For those that don't remember, my vet thought it might have been caused by white line disease, but my farrier found no signs of that. He felt it was more likely the remnants of an old bruise. For the first week or two, I scrubbed it clean with a stiff brush and coated it with Tea Tree Oil. Now, it's nearly grown out and hasn't caused any trouble.
But because nothing in life is simple, Izzy came up lame last week too. As I was walking him to the feed room, my spidey-sense noted something was amiss. Izzy didn't sound right. You know what I mean. I've lead this horse about a billion times, so I know what his footfalls sound like. I didn't see anything thought, so I tacked him up. As we walked up to the arena my intuition again said that something was NQR. As soon as I mounted and asked Izzy to talk off, I knew I was right. I couldn't see it, but I could feel it. I kept him walking, trying to pin point which leg it was.
It felt like he was hitting the ground harder with his left front which suggested he was off on the right front, but that didn't check out. I asked for a quick jog and felt a slight head bob, but for the life of me, I just couldn't figure out which leg it was. I started to suspect it was the left hind.
I walked him back and untacked him and called the ranch owner. I needed a second pair of eyes. There was definitely a head bob, and we both felt like it was in the hind. It was actually kind of funny. We both kept trying to reason it out. If his head goes down on the left, it has to be the right. But if his hip comes up on the right, it has to be his ...
Ultimately, we finally dragged out a lunge line. On the circle it was clearly the left hind. Why it took us so long to think of trotting him in a circle is beyond me. I couldn't find anything with the hoof testers, so I poulticed Izzy's foot too - on the same day that I had already poulticed Speedy's!
I wasn't surprised by Izzy's abscess. We've had a really dry month followed by heavy rain. He's abscessed once each winter over the past several years, so this one fit that pattern. And only once have I actually seen the abscess erupt, and that one came out just above his heels. He's typically sore for a few days and then it fades away.
The next day, the ranch owner saw Izzy rearing up on his hind legs as he played with Speedy. He was clearly feeling pretty good. On the third day, I pulled the poultice. I used that day to give everyone a soundness check. Each horse got lunged in the arena at all three gaits, and both horses came up sound. Everybody has been ridden several times since then, and they're both sound.
Now if it would just stop raining for a day or two, we might be able to get back to work.
Last week, most of my students were at school on Monday and Tuesday. Ten were absent on Monday, and fourteen elected to self-quarantine on Tuesday. By Wednesday, school was officially closed through April 13th, which will be the end of our regularly scheduled spring break.
On Wednesday morning, I did what most of my students probably did - not a lot of anything. Those last few days of school were so stressful. Not knowing what was going to happen, worrying over how much my students were going to miss, and thinking about what I could to do help. That afternoon though, I finally dove into my school email and saw that there was a need for teachers to hand out meal packs for the remainder of the week. I quickly responded that I would be there.
My district, like most here in Bakersfield, offers the Seamless Summer Option meal program to children 18 years and younger. What that means is during the summer, meals are provided free to all children 18 years and younger. The state reimburses districts who provide the meals. Given that we are in a state of emergency, the Governor authorized districts to expand the Seamless Summer Option throughout the duration of school closures.
When I showed up on Thursday, I donned my gloves and started taking orders. As vehicles drove past our meal station, they either showed how many meals were needed by holding up their fingers, or we stepped up to the window. Those were my favorite interactions. The kids were super excited to see their teachers handing out meal packs, and every single family expressed their gratitude.
Since so many teachers were eager to help, the fourth grade teacher in the photo created a sign up so that everyone could come and help over the next few weeks. The day I handed out meal packs, we served more than 260 breakfast/lunch combos. And you know, it was really fun.
Unfortunately, it was decided that it was more efficient to consolidate the program. Instead of all of our schools handing out meals, meals will now be handed out at select school sites beginning today. Kids still get their meals, they just can't come to my school, which was not on the list. For now, my staff isn't needed to hand out lunches.
At the beginning of the school year, my district ditched all of the smaller communication apps - Class Dojo, Remind, and others, in favor of ParentSquare. Whoever made that decision must have had a premonition because it has a been a lifesaver. Between ParentSquare, the Google Classroom, and the Google Drive, I have been busy communicating with my students and their families.
While kids were sent home on Tuesday with a packet of work that was to last two weeks, it was hastily assembled, and by necessity, fairly generic. For my kiddos who have internet and devices, I have prepared work specific to their needs that went live this morning. Even if we can't be in the same room face to face, we can still hold group chats and continue our learning.
My district is also going to use Zoom, a platform for video and audio conferencing. Over the weekend, I downloaded the app and created an account. My principal isn't sure how much we'll need it. If we go back to school in April, we probably won't use it all. If we're out for the rest of the year though, there are some things for which we'll definitely need it.
I think we're having a staff meeting early this week using Zoom, so that should be pretty interesting. If you're a teacher, you'll know what I mean. Staff meetings for teachers go can either way - productive and quick, or more likely, a free for all explosion of noise with everybody talking and nobody listening. I wonder what that will look like in a video conference.
And finally, because there is only so much social media, online platforms, and new accounts that a person can stand, I closed my laptop(s) - I now have one of my school computers here at home, and went outside to disinfect Newt. I scrubbed her from top to bottom and then used several alcohol and/or ammonia-based cleaners on the inside. The only passengers I've had in her were my husband and a colleague from work, but I figured it couldn't hurt to clean off any germs that were thinking of taking up residence.
Today, I'll be checking in on my students via ParentSquare and the Google classroom. I'll be answering emails through the magic of the cloud. And thanks to video conferencing, I'll be looking for an invite to Zoom over to a staff meeting. If you need me, I'll be sitting right here.
Well, I might head over to the laundry room for a few minutes, but that won't take long.
I bet you do too. Fortunately, Facebook has been plastered with funny memes this week. No, COVID-19 isn't a joke, but people are hilarious, and thank goodness they are or else I'd be blubbering under the covers right about now. Letting some of the pressure escape with a good laugh at ourselves can only keep us healthier.
In Prose Works, Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, said, "If only the people would believe that good is more contagious than evil [...] how much more certain would be the doctor's success [...]." In this instance, laughter could certainly replace good without changing her meaning. In fact, it only strengthens her point.
With that, here are some of my favorite memes from the past two days.
Is this official?
As a teacher, I can't help but laugh ...
Stuck at Home?
For my fellow equestrians ...
Straight from the heart ...
Thank those folks still going to work - my husband works for an agricultural company, so he just left for work, keep scrubbing your hands, smile at everyone, and find something to laugh about. The British never had it more right than when in 1939 they encouraged their people to Keep Calm and Carry On.
I showed up to the ranch the other day to find all of Izzy's toys flung over the fence again. It's a daily thing now. The barrel has been the one toy that he hasn't managed to fling at Speedy. That doesn't mean he hasn't tried.
I am not sure how calculated was the attempt, it no doubt began as an accident, but that barrel was very nearly on Speedy's side. This isn't a light weight plastic thing either. It's heavy. It's solid. And it is obviously the world's greatest toy.
Of course, Operation Blue Barrel wouldn't have been possible without a prior mission - the one where he dug a giant hole under the fence. That maneuver was probably done in an effort to actually get himself over to Speedy's side.
I mean when you think about it, it's quite extraordinary that he got the barrel to the hole. He had to have thought about that for quite a while. Did he look at the hole and then look at the barrel and calculate how much effort it would take to roll it across his field? And how did he keep his aim so true? Did it take him all night? Did he rest in between efforts?
Once he finally got the barrel poised at the hole, did he have a plan in place for what to do with it once he got it there? Did he think Speedy was going to help him? That hole is pretty deep, but what made him think it was going to fit?
I tried to pull it back out of the hole, but it was wedged in there so tightly that I had to go over to Speedy's side and finish pulling it through. Izzy of course just sat and watched me. Once it was free, I heaved it back over the fence and watched it bounce and roll until it gradually settled in a mound of sand. Speedy was out on the lawn. There is no way I could have done all that with him watching. It would have terrified him. The big brown horse? He just watched in absolute delight.
And then because it was clearly game on, he sauntered up to the abandoned feed trough and climbed up. He stared right at me and began to pound out a rhythm ... bang, bang, bang. I was certain it was Morse Code for let's get it started in here.
I finally joined him in a game of I am going to jump on you. While standing on the feed trough, I "tried" to jump up on his back, but every time I bent my knees to push up, he swung his head around and nibbled at my legs. I crouched, he nibbled, I burst out laughing. It's really hard to leap up on the back of a 16'3 hand horse from a 10 inch "stool." It's impossible when you have the giggles.
Who knows how long the game would have gone on? When I spotted the ranch owner walking our way, I quit that "foolishness." When she came over to check on the other holes that Izzy had dug, he found it totally awesome that we now had a three-player game. Instead, she and I retreated to a safe distance. He can be a bit of a pest.
Izzy is a player for sure.
I have rarely done this, but I have edited the final paragraph in an attempt to say what I meant to say ...
These are certainly sad and trying times for sure. This certainly isn't the world's first pandemic though. Wikipedia gives that honor to the plague of Athens which in the 400s BC killed 75,000 - 100,000. In the 1520 Smallpox Epidemic, nearly 8 million died in Mexico. The Italian Plague of 1629 killed 280,000. And of course, there was the Black Death in the 1300s which killed 75 - 200 million Europeans, as much as 60% of the population. Don't they wish they would have had a Twitter account.
Before last week, no one in Kern County was paying much attention to the Corona Virus except on Facebook. We though the toilet paper debacle was quite hilarious. In all honesty, I think we thought it was a greatly exaggerated joke. Turns out it wasn't. On Saturday, there was no TP at my local Albertsons.
It was only when LA Unified closed its door that I began to worry. LA Unified serves 600,000 students. When they shut their doors, people listen. San Diego Unified, the second largest school district in California, followed soon after; they serve more than 121,000 students. My own district, which serves pre-K through 8th grade, provides education to more than 18,000 students. Bakersfield's only high school district, the Kern High School District, provides education to more than 40,000 students.
As district after district closed their doors, the Kern High School District waited until the Governor essentially made it mandatory. Whatever Kern High does, the elementary schools follow suit. I was glad that we were the last of the 25 largest districts in the state to close our doors. Today is our first day of closure.
In times of crisis, stability keeps us sane. Following regular routines helps us to feel safe. As districts began closing their school's campuses before the virus had even reached their communities, I worried about our kids. Knowing that a closure was imminent, I started having round table discussions with my kiddos. We pushed our tables to the side and formed a talking circle.
For that first circle, I told them what our topic was, COVID-19, and I handed out a talking stick. It's really a plush pony that's easy to toss around the circle. I asked kids to share what they had heard, read on social media, or seen with their own eyes. That first day, the circle was 32 strong.
After talking, I asked each of my kids to visit the website Information Is Beautiful. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out, it is the most non-alarming thing you'll see on the internet today. Their COVID-19 #CoronaVirus Infographic Datapack is the best visual representation of the disease that I've seen.
The next day, we again met for a talking circle. Our circle was much smaller with only 21 of us. Again, we shared what we knew and had heard. We talked about our plans for a lengthy school closure and what that meant for their education. We also dug through the WHO website. We focused on two areas, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation Dashboard and the Myth Busters page.
In my own classroom, we finished each day by using Clorox wipes to clean our table tops and frequently touched surfaces like door handles and light switches. This is a practice we've done since the first day of school. My classroom also has a wall mounted hand sanitizer unit that the kids use whenever they want.
My talk circle on Tuesday was much smaller. There were only 17 of us. Again we talked about the craziness we were seeing. We revisited the Information Is Beautiful website, the WHO website, and the CDC website. We also found out that there was at least one confirmed case of Corona Virus in Kern County. That individual was visiting from the San Fransisco Bay Area. That information tipped the scales for my district. Tuesday was both my kiddos' and my last day until at least April 14th.
In preparation for a closure that involves 13 school days, my district quickly assembled packets and supplies to be sent home with each student at the end of the day. Fortunately, most districts around California already have a spring break scheduled during this time, so the number of missed school days will be fewer than what a 4-week closure makes it sound. For students who were absent, their packets were labeled and placed in bins in front of the school. Parents were messaged and asked to come pick them up.
Besides providing packets of grade appropriate schoolwork for each child, my district is also providing portable breakfast and lunch packs for any child under the age of 18. Between the hours of 11:00 am and 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, a meal pack will be available at most of our schools in the drive through for any child in the car. The meal packs are being offered free of charge, Meals must be consumed off site to discourage large gatherings.
As a teacher, I feel strongly that it is my job to present the facts to my students. When I teach reading, I look for texts that don't have a hidden agenda, and when they do, we talk about it. For history, I strive to present both sides of an event. Just a week or so ago we discussed why the patriots of the American Revolution are viewed as heroes rather than the traitors they might have been had the colonists lost the war. In science, I present data that is known and accepted by the scientific community. And when it contradicts what religion says, we talk about that too, respectfully.
So when the world looked to be falling apart right in front of our eyes, my students and I examined the data from what seems like the most reliable sources available. Does the Corona Virus merit the social media attention, social distancing, and societal shut down that we're seeing? I let my students decide for themselves.
As for me, I fear this is really just political maneuvering by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Is the shutdown of businesses both large and small truly necessary? Is it worth the cost? People die every day from a a lot of other preventable causes, and no one is screaming about them. Look at how many people will die today of Tuberculosis. Already in 2020, there have been 8,247 known American deaths caused by gun violence (source). Out of 7.7 billion people worldwide, only 7,873 have lost their lives to COVID-19, fewer than the more than 8,000 American who have died from gun violence. Why are we not angry about those deaths? Is it simply because those deaths, the ones from Tuberculosis and gun violence, aren't part of our every day experiences? And yet, long after COVID-19 fades away, those deaths will continue to rise higher and higher, year after year.
Do I think pandemics in general are fake or contrived? Absolutely not, but I do worry that this one might cause us to become jaded toward the next one. A more deadly one. One like Smallpox but more contagious with a higher death rate.
I guess only time will tell.