Monday 28 June 2021

2020 to 2021: scool perspective


The "Sc ool House" from Megamind

So, we are wrapping up another academic year: 2020 to 2021. If spring 2020 blindsided everyone, then September 2020 to June 2021 was the school year everyone knew would be…different. That is something; it allowed for preparation anyway.  Perhaps we didn’t know exactly what to prepare for but we could make a few reasonable guesses.

There were a lot of things that worried me about this school year, but by and large I took the attitude that having some opportunity to do good is much, much better than no opportunity. And I never doubted that I had some opportunity.

Actually, it turned out there was plenty of opportunity. Of course there were also arguments and strained nerves and stress and anxiety, because of the situation and because, well, people are people. But overall I feel very lucky to have landed where I did.

Here is an example of what we have literally and metaphorically grown this year.

In the fall I was trying to think of ways to get us outside as much as possible, for physical and mental health reasons. I came up with idea to plant some bulbs, which would then hopefully come up in the spring (which felt ages and ages away).

Planting bulbs in the fall

We found a neglected corner of an outside planter box and teachers and students set about weeding and planting bulbs.

Our garden - ready to sleep all winter

As we worked through the garden project and other shared initiatives, my co teacher and I became more and more comfortable working together. In terms of individual and collective resilience, we also found it wise to plan and teach closely. For example, if one of us was away from school unexpectedly the other was almost sure to be teaching both classes solo. (Substitute teacher coverage became increasingly poor as the Covid -19 waves impacted the city and its school system.) When the opportunity came up, we moved out of our separate classrooms into a big shared classroom.

I didn’t forget our garden through the long cold winter and its trials. I wondered if any shoots would come up at all. I thought there was a decent chance we’d get zero. But imagine my excitement when I saw several of these one day! One small success felt like it justified all the doubt and effort and was a promise for even better to come.

It's ALIIIIIIIIIVE!!! First shoots in the spring

After some more gardening and a lot of water hauling, we had a beautiful flower bed!

Flower Garden after some spring TLC

I remember taking drama in high school and learning the most important rule of improv. Whatever happens on stage, you never stop the action. This basically means never saying “No.” You can take someone else’s idea in a new direction, but you don’t just negate it. It’s an act that requires a high level of trust and openness from the participants.

I feel like at its best our special Ed class is like an improv act. We are also working closely with (so far) a couple of our CTS (Career and technology services) teachers. As the temperatures turned chilly outside and our bulb bed lay dormant under the snow, we wondered how we could grow some plants in a windowless room with only artificial light. We asked the shop teacher if he had any ideas and one thing led to another and ultimately led to this:

We are trying to teach people to call it a Life Star not a Death Star.

The Life Star is an indoor garden, and when complete will have its own lighting system and plants on most of the shelves, except the lowest one which we will put cushions on and keep as a bench (three people can sit comfortably inside).

The design is open source online, and you can learn more here:

We got a corporate-funded grant to purchase our supplies, and the building was done over the past semester by several of our special education students, who were mentored by advanced construction students. It was an amazing partnership that worked very well for all the students, and we want to continue it in the coming years. Perhaps we will make Life Stars for other schools. We would love to create a business where students make and sell products, learning skills and getting work experience. Conversations bloom into more and more ideas for the future, and who knows how much is possible, but we intend to find out. If you hung out with us, you would want to be part of it too. What a time to be alive!

With much gratitude,

Preferably with a little less pandemic-induced stress and anxiety

Saturday 26 June 2021

2020 to 2021: Family perspective


AJ completed Grade 1 this past week (!!!) and according to her and anyone else whose opinion matters, she had a great year. Dani turned 3 in January and was in preschool/daycare full time. She also made friends and became increasingly chatty and imaginative. She knows the letter D and thinks all D-words are her name.

AJ made great leaps in her reading and writing this year, and after reading her Writing Workshop compositions this week, I thought  it would be fun to include a few of them to create a story about her school year.

I like to look at the snow. Look at the snow it is so pretty.

Chinook adventures

I like carving a pumpkin

Halloween 2020

I like to bake cookies. Because they are yummy.

Peanut Butter Cookies

I like to open presents. With my sister.

Christmas 2020

The unicorns are looking at the stars. And the rainbow. And the moon. They like looking in the night.
AJ and rainbow

The ladybug is walking on the sidewalk. She is looking at the sunset. She likes the sunset.

Road trip sunset

I like to ride my scooter. My sister likes to ride her bike. My mom came too. We were at the park. I feel calm. I love my sister. Me and my sister race each other. First we went on the playground. We like to play on the swings. Then we went walking.

Dani - 3 years old

AJ - 6 years old

I am learning a fun one. I go to music class.

Then finally, there are creative works such as this:

All leviathans are different. This leviathan has tentacles and horns and wings. It has 4 wings. It breathes death fire. It eats ships and islands and mountains. Death fire is not ordinary fire. It is also poisonous and dangerous. It will burn you up and turn you into toast cover you in jam and somebody will eat you and die.

And on that note, have a fantastic summer!