The Year of the Pandemic March 2020

August 2019

October 2019

November 2019

12-20-19

January 2020

February 2020

3-16-2020

Last day on the middle school campus

Every year I walk to our classroom and this is one of the things I notice. It reminds me of what we go through each school year. We arrive full of summer experiences with a little green. We gain color and wisdom with each day feeling fuller and more vibrant. As we learn and grow, we shed what we don’t need providing more room for new experiences and perspectives. At times we feel cold, drenched, and even vulnerable yet new life appears. We didn’t get to see how our adopted trees changed since March but they did change and that is a given. With that change begins a new cycle come August. We do not know what our days will look or feel like yet but honestly nobody does, ever.

Each day we wake up and ‘get to’ not ‘have to’ throughout our day. While at school we took some things for granted. While at home, we reminisce about what we long for when we were at school. As we return to campus, hopefully, next school year, those same thoughts will pop up. What we need to understand is that we can like one thing and dislike another thing at the same time. It does not have to be all one way or another. To further feel grounded and in a place where we own our own learning, we need to understand what works best for us, how we can leverage our strengths, and how we can strive for improving upon things that are more challenging for us. All the while, we do this in a community, our DA family. We are a part of a larger entity striving for excellence and including everyone who wants to show up on that journey. Yes, we have to show up. We have to decide what we are willing to give, do, and act upon. Each day since March 16th has felt like a mix of a fantasy world with harsh reality. I want to share some moments with you.

We had no idea when we left for spring break we would be learning at a distance

As we approached the end of spring break, we got the news on March 15th  that school will be different.

On Monday, March 16th, I was on the middle school campus for the last time. Teachers met, sitting 6 feet apart, to learn how we would continue learning together.

3-16-20

We were introduced to Microsoft Teams and set up our classes. On Tuesday, March 17th, there were virtual meetings firming up details. I was helping Señor Glass and Madame Moore with a new program at the Bruegger’s near our campus when we got word that the dining area would be closing to the public until further notice. This was getting real.

3-17-20

For a while, I held out hope we would be back together again. At the same time, I looked forward to hearing your voices and seeing your faces when we met online for advisory, classes, and scheduled meetings.

There were many times when I say, “How fascinating!” as I ask you to do when things are not going as planned. Seven days a week, I have checked my laptop before 7am, throughout the day, and again around 9pm to check assignments, give feedback, plan for the upcoming week, and answer questions. Nothing replaces being together, face to face, responding spontaneously but we are fortunate to be together as a learning community during a time when many cannot.

March 2020

One of my favorite authors, Brené Brown, says “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” We had choices every single day during this stay at home, remote learning, pandemic. We chose to show up. All of you know my favorite wisdom tale we read this year has the moral, your own eyes are watching. Ultimately, nobody can make us do something. It has to come from our heart. We learned how compound effect, our daily actions, not only create habits but give back exponential goodness. We experienced this with the plank challenge which was followed up by choosing something to do every single day from drinking water, to push ups, or writing in the planner.

On our classroom door

Plank Challenge November 2019

Think about how many books and pages we read on our own this 6th grade year. We discovered new authors, genres, and new worlds. Our writing improved because we read through a writer’s eyes. Visiting authors shared their wisdom and visiting author, Frances Dowell, wrote stories with you! Artist Peg Gignoux helped us create our own handmade hero books which we will share when we are together again.

Frances Dowell

Handmade Hero Books with artist Peg Gignoux

Think about our I Am statements and our one word this year. We posted our index card with our I Am statements at home and were going to say them to ourselves every morning and every night. How we talk to ourselves as well as others, is powerful.

My one word was Thriving but I am adding self-discipline. In order to achieve my goals, I have to take daily action. I have to choose to take that action and I do it because my own eyes are watching. Ultimately it is up to me to get where I want to go even if I’m not totally sure where I’ll end up. I always learn from others, ask for information, and have an accountability partner to share ideas with. I own my decisions as they guide me going forward. I hope you keep your Life List and refer to it now and then. Add to it, check things off, and remember that anything is possible. It begins with curiosity.

One Word

Camp Cheerio is a rare moment for many reasons but most of all, we get to see what we are capable of while making new friends. After our visit to the Forestry Center, I wonder how our adopted tree on campus is doing now without all of us around? Nasher Museum, Stagville, and the Sound Wall project all bring smiles.

Camp Cheerio August 2019

Nasher Museum, Durham

Forestry Center

Getting materials from the Scrap Exchange to make sound walls for local preschools

Keep reflecting, creating, and sharing on the blog. I was struck by what Cana wrote at the end of her 6th grade year review. She shared, “As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, I learned that I don’t like watching problems pass by, but like solving them instead. I am coming up with new ideas to try to help in any way that I can, and consider being an informed citizen very important. I also learned the importance of things I took for granted, like hand sanitizer, the healthcare system, and the true value of friendship, which I used to think was not very important. I have learned many lessons this year, from good and bad experiences alike, had a lot of fun, learned a lot, and made new memories.”

Everyone experienced some kind of loss and some kind of gratitude. This year our oldest daughter got married and a month later, I lost my father.

Jordan, Nicole, and Brynn

October 5, 2019

 

My dad taught me how to tell stories through my lens, my window and my mirror

Jordan is working in the MICU in Charlotte, NC where all of her patients are Covid positive. She makes sure every patient and their family feels heard and cared for.

Jordan

Brynn’s four year experience as an exercise science major at UNCW included two hurricanes and having to leave campus before her senior year ended due to the stay at home order. She’s loved playing soccer her entire life and even gave basketball a try with Coach Harris when he taught at Phillip’s Middle School.  She is excited about beginning PT school at Elon in January.

We have to go about our daily lives differently now with physical distancing and smaller gatherings.

Mrs. D and Madame Moore at Harris Teeter

No toilet paper in sight

We may have to show we are healthy in new ways before coming on campus each day. My husband has to do this for work each day too.

Nick Donnelly

 

There are many times when we wanted to escape our reality as Maggie is jumping and barking to get outside. Think of all of the things you discovered, created, did more of, or let go of because of this experience.

We now have a vegetable garden

And have had time during the light of the day to get outside and move.

 

A friend shared this and I think it rings true now and for always.

 

We are about 6 feet apart here having fun. We can do this!

May 28, 2020

Stay safe, call a friend, write a letter, read a book, be curious and kind…

It’s been fascinating!

 

 

 

 

What If We Give Choices?

 

During the 4th quarter in 6th grade, summer is calling. After a long school day, many students play sports, practice instruments, meet with clubs, get outside, create new things, and hang out with friends. What about homework?

In Language Arts, students are expected to read each night and do a short independent practice assignment. I never assign homework on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Assignments are often posted on Monday for the week so if someone needs some flexibility, they can request it.

What if you have a choice? For the past two weeks, we are choosing what we want to do for homework as long as it’s related to our studies. We brainstormed a list of possible choices and then document what we do each day. At first, some people felt like having a choice was a bit overwhelming. As the first week progressed, more people began to realize that they were getting more work completed, they were enjoying the freedom of selecting an activity, and they felt a bit more relaxed about balancing the workload throughout the week.

Here are some slices of some of our reflections:

“Choice homework was a very different experience for me though in a positive manner. Each day forced me to ask myself: What do I need to do? What do I want to do? What will benefit me?”

“I loved choice homework because we could pick what we felt like doing. At least for me, it unlocked many different learning tools. Being able to choose something motivates people to actually do it.”

“When I do choice homework, it is a different, more free experience. Choosing what to do was the hardest part for me. I had to consider what was going to happen after school, what I would benefit from, and if I wanted to do that. Even though this is hard to weigh out, it proved to be very fun, interesting, and beneficial.”

“This also helped me really start reading and I advanced in the book. I also feel like I am older and I have more freedom. I really liked the experience.”

“I could work at my own pace and be more productive. I like these assignments because I had more flexibility to either change the homework or do more than was written.”

“I wrote a chapter each day for a book I started on Monday. I really enjoyed the nonspecificness of being able to choose homework assignments. I liked how a chapter could be anything. It was MY book and MY homework assignment. Some nights I would write my chapter first thing when I got home. On other nights, I would write before I went to bed. This shows that choice homework wasn’t in any way a burden to me. I usually have an order to the completion of my homework assignments. The fact that I wrote whenever I could is why I like choice homework so much.”

 

Creativity

It’s so much more than 6th grade. It’s so much more than Language Arts. One can consume all the knowledge in the universe but what good is that if one cannot create? Read more about what we value at Durham Academy Middle School ~

https://www.thedagraduate.org/blog/2018/3/20/creativity-by-patti-donnelly

What I Notice

DSC_8222Camp Cheerio Last Day

I’m not sure the first day it started but hearts appear in many forms in my path. Mom and I were going through trunks of family photos this weekend and we found several handmade items from my youth. All of them had hearts drawn on them. I don’t go looking for hearts. That’s the best part. The serendipitous moment when my eyes come across what looks like a heart makes me pause, even for a millisecond, smile, and know in my heart that I am on the right path. I particularly like seeing hearts when I am out running. If nothing else, it’s a bit of a distraction from my the many miles of pounding pavement.

photo-29My rule is I cannot change anything. I take a picture of what I see as it is in that moment.

The heart at the top was revealed as we were loading the bus on our last day of Camp Cheerio with sixth graders. I found out about a close relative’s passing while on this school trip. Was it Rock’s message to me? Was it Cheerio saying that we’d had an incredible trip this year? Was it random? It does not matter. It made me smile. Another cool ripple effect is that friends and family from around the world share hearts with me. A simple gesture that says so much about how we are all connected. Yes, connected with technology, but more importantly, by a human connection. We recognize and validate what other people value, what other people are passionate about, and by kind gestures that warm other people’s hearts.

So as you go about your day, what do you notice? What makes you curious? What gives you pause?

DSC_8235Do you see it in the distance?

DSC_8236Are you curious?

DSC_8245Will you see beyond what you think you see?

DSC_8249To find the heart of the matter?

DSC_7919Like a four leaf clover, sometimes you find two!