I Did Less Things, and it was Everything I Thought it Could Be. (A reflection on the 11th week of Distance Teaching)

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I did a lot less this week.

I did less because before that, I was doing way too much.

Too many google docs full of too many steps, move from section A to B and don’t forget to also do your reading (with a writing component) and your writing (with a reading component). When we meet twice a week online, be ready for video, activities, and discussions that had devolved to me playing out both sides of an argument, trying to get students to fill in a work or two. It was too much, and more than that, it wasn’t doing enough. …

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The view from inside.

I sent an apology email this week to my coworkers. I haven’t been pleasant to work with.

“I have this thing wrong with me,” the email read, “I mean, I have lots of things wrong with me, but I have this particular one… when things are going bad, I need to get my head all the way up my butt, like really fully in there, before I recognize it’s a problem.”

The email said other stuff, but that was the main idea. I’d been reading too many of the reasons this is hard as somehow directed at me. …

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My alarm hasn’t gone off for weeks. I’m up early, having slept in fits.

Try to find a tie that matches my mask, or a mask that matches my shirt

It’s still dark as I drive across town, listening to the news until I can’t, and then to music until I want more news.

I answer emails that were sent since I left home, send emails that get no answer.

I take my daily anxiety pill with the first of four cups of coffee.

I try to give myself ten minutes away from my screen before my first online class. …

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Dear Aspiring Writer,

I’ve been writing since my mom gave me my first journal when I was six. I’ve called myself a writer since 1996, and have made a pretty serious study of it since going to college in 1999. I know a good amount, I suppose, but also I recently read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong and have no idea how he made words do the things they did. So, I only know so much.

As far as writing, there’s this great poem by Mary Oliver that kinda says everything you need to know:

Instructions for Living a…

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I swear, I started this week feeling good.

My school’s equity team meets on Monday afternoons. It’s the time of the week I feel most connected with staff, that I feel like I do the most good for my building, that we work on some of our biggest problems.

This week, we talked mostly about those kids we are missing, the kids absent from our online meetings or whose gradebook is a growing collection of red-typed “missing”s, stacked one on top of the next.

We talked about what we can do for those students, where we may be facing a lack of encouragement or effort, but how much more often it’s a matter of access, a matter of Google Classroom falling far down the list of importance and immediacy in the face of all the things filling and disrupting lives right now. …

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(this is not my book)

Fifteen years ago, I was just wrapping up my second month of teaching ever. I had somehow managed to only feel like I was going to get fired twice and like I should quit ten or eleven times. Those numbers would increase as my ego outstripped my ability.

I would talk often to friends I had made while in my teacher licensure program. They always seemed sympathetic, but not overly surprised. I was never supposed to be one of the ones who was good at this. In our group of slightly over twenty, there were three or four people that everyone knew would be great teachers. They were organized and talented; they did and understood all the readings for class, they didn’t have three beers during lunch breaks between classes (look, my dad died that year. I wasn’t at my best). …

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Shhhh. Shhhh.

Most of my favorite ten minutes of teaching are about noise:

  • The ten minutes after you have introduced a new project or assignment and get to walk around the room answering and asking questions, redirecting and reinforcing, pushing students to the great idea that is just a bit farther than their good idea.
  • The ten minutes before school starts when students wander in and out of rooms, when we can talk about shows or games we watched or share memes or dog pictures or tell stories or a student swings by because they were thinking about that one thing from class yesterday and went home and read or thought about it and had another question, another idea, another argument they wanted to run past you. …

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I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.

-Edward Everett Hale

I started a staff meeting this week with this quote. I’m not usually a “quotes on slideshows” sort of guy, but this one hit me. Unfortunately, this very profound and timely quote sounds mostly like gibberish when spoken out loud. Try it, it’s not pretty.

As long as I’m here in quote land, I’ll share another similar one, maybe one of my favorites ever, from Kurt…

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I don’t even like Jello.

In a normal year of teaching (already a thing I had no idea existed until all the other years were held up next to this one) the work of teaching feels like trying to hold ten pounds of Jello cubes cradled in your arms. It’s uncomfortable, pretty weird, feels heavier than you thought it would be, and impossible to do perfectly. You’re going to drop some Jello.

This year feels a bit more like a literal ton of Jello cubes is being dumped on us from above. We still end up holding more work than we can handle, not to mention work stuck to our hair and clothes and between our fingers, and the floor around us is a wreckage of things not done, of Jello smashed and piled messily at our feet. …


Thomas Rademacher

Author of ‘It Won’t Be Easy.’ 2014 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. @mrtomrad on everything. www.mrtomrad.com

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