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The Daily Routine in a Time of Shelter in Place

Last week I knew for sure that I would be working for much of the three weeks leading up to Spring Break working from home. Add to that the Shelter in Place order that restricted much travel and social gatherings in the City and County of San Francisco. I knew I would be spending a lot of my time indoors, working remotely on my laptop. Communicating with students, lesson planning, talking with my fourth grade team, and assessing student work.

I knew that I would have to create a daily weekday routine that would give my day form and structure. So I created a daily routine diagram to flesh out the blocks of time during my waking hours.

For this diagram I used one of my favorite fonts, Sara Elizabeth. I discovered this font in the Dover publication: Rustic and Rough-Hewn Alphabets by Dan X. Solo. I have used this font in many of my illustrations from Central and South America. I also added illustrations to parts of each chunk of time. I intentionally didn’t add times because I knew that in relation to this weekly schedule, I had to be fluid in such an ever-changing time.

In one of the blocks I added “Creative Time” because for me it is like breathing air. And that is when I created this illustrated timetable.

I will go over every chunk of time:

Wake: This is when I wake up. Represented here by the crowing rooster, if we had roosters in my urban neighborhood, which we don’t. Otherwise I would be woken up much earlier. My wake up time is listed as 7AM. This is a little later than a “normal” working day because I only had to commute from my bed to my computer.

Break the Fast: Breakfast, usually of oatmeal and coffee. Keep it simple.

Teacher Time: This is when I open my work laptop and connect with my students. I do this through messaging on Google classroom. There were many questions the first day and I reminded then that patience is required in the weeks ahead as we are all learning in a new way. The title of this block comes from the name of the 30 minutes we have with our own students during our Coloma overnight trip, which we have, unfortunately, had to cancel.

Lunch: Lunch is from noon to one and I try to be consistent with eating healthy. Something that helps me stick to the normalcy of the working day.

Distance Learning: At this time I might arrange a Google chat and invite my students. They are jazzed to see each other (and what the interior of their houses look like) and I found that I had to do a lot of redirecting (just like in the real classroom) to keep my students focused and not all talking at the same time. I have employed the phrase, “You have the floor!”, just keep it Parlimentary.

Exercise: Physical and mental health are so important in this time of sequestration. I plan to walk down to the Pacific Ocean (25 minutes one way) or down through Golden Gate Park. My goal is to get 45 minutes to an hour of walking in each day, including weekends.

Creative Time: I live to create so this is a must in my day. At this time I can draw, paint, write, or play music. I may also do some field sketching as part of my daily exercise.

HH ~ Read: I love to read and I set about 60 minutes of reading time every day. I have a few books in my reading queue. I am currently reading non-fiction, a wonderful book by Christian Wolmar: A Short History of the Railroad. I am reading this in anticipation of my trip on the California Zephyr to Chicago which I had to cancel in light of the current pandemic. I also have three graphic novels that are extremely popular with my students by local author Raina Telgemeier: Ghosts, Sisters, and Guts. I also love to revisit poems by: Mary Oliver (one of my favorite poets), Basho, William Stafford, Shakespeare, John Donne, Pablo Neruda, Borges, Naomi Shihab Nye, Gary Soto, and Billy Collins. Just to name a few.

Dinner: I have enough healthy food to last me for three weeks (I think!). The Shelter in Place order should be no excuse to eat unhealthy foods.

Great Movies: This is a time to revisit some of my favorite films in my extensive collection of DVDs. Many of these films are considered masterpieces of world cinema. A partial list includes: Amelie, 49 Up (Roger Ebert called the series, “on my top ten greatest films of all time”), Amores Perros, Being There (much better than Forrest Gump), Butterfly (Spanish film about the early days of the Spanish Civil War), Cabaret, Chushingura (The Japanese tale of the 47 Ronin), Citizen Kane, Cria Cuervos (Title refers to the Spanish saying, ” Raise ravens, and they’ll gorge your eyes out”), Das Boot, Delicatessen, Grave of the Fireflies (a Japanese animated heartbreaker), Harakiri, Ikiru, Jean de Florette/ Manon of the Spring (Just amazing!), The Lives of Others, Playtime, Odd Man Out (one of the best soundtracks ever created for film), Once Upon a Time in the West, Rashomon (Seminal piece of World Cinema), Rio Bravo, Senna (a great documentary and I could care less about Formula One), Seven Samurai (one of my all time favorites), Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock’s favorite film), Spirited Away (Miyazaki’s masterpiece of animation), The Spirit of the Beehive (a dense film but probably the best Spanish film ever made), The Third Man, Sunset Boulevard, Tokyo Story, Watership Down (love the book and the animated film), Ugetsu, Vertigo (Often recognized as the best film ever made), and Unforgiven. I have many more films on this list but these are the films that speak to me at the moment.

ZZZZZ . . . Repeat: Perhaps a little bedtime reading but this is the time to rest in a time of unrest. I need all the sleep I can get to recharge the batteries to repeat the day and keep to the same route. Again and again. But hopefully not again.

I challenged Grasshopper Sparrow to create his own Daily Route in this time of shelter in place, and I would have to say that he rose to the challenge!
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Distance Learning

Today seemed like a normal Monday during the school day. The teachers where here, preparing, with their coffee closely by. But one very important part was missing: students.

On the previous Thursday evening, we found out that our school district would be closed to students for three weeks, running up to our April Spring Break, because of the Coronavirus Pandemic. We would still be working and teaching our students, but not in person. This was to be the start of a new and uncertain territory: distance learning.

This was not teaching by semaphore or passenger pigeon but by smart phones, laptops, and take home packets. We would have three days to prepare, as a grade level team, to put together all the materials needed and create the structures to put into place for twelve days of “at home” learning. We would be rolling this out to students and parents on Thursday, in a mere three days time!

And I have to say I was looking forward to the challenge.

We were all nervous and apprehensive, as most would be at the beginning of any great or important undertaking. There were many unanswered questions: What would distance learning look like? How would we keep in contact with our students? What about students without access to the internet? How could we hold students accountable for their work? How do we create engaging yet rigorous work from afar? How do you teach from a distance? Can a packet, app, or computer program really replace the everyday, one-on-one, relationship between a teacher and student?

Well the answer to the last question is a very obvious “No”. But distance learning made me reflect about the almost sacred connection between teacher and student. There cannot be a facsimile for such an experience as this. But we needed to create a system for satellite learning, in a very short period of time.

Every Monday I have yard duty on the upper grade yard during our morning recess. To keep some sense of normalcy, I headed out of the classroom, past empty lunch bins, to the yard. And I did my recess duty by sketching the empty playground as the light drizzle created patterns in my watercolor.

A quick recess duty sketch without children. This was an eerie scene for a Monday morning during the school year. With the light drizzle it probably would have been indoor recess anyway.

We found out that all Bay Area Counties would be enforcing a “shelter in place” mandate that would start at midnight. We later learned that we would have only one day to create the take home packets and not three because we would be getting them to parents on Tuesday instead of Thursday. After packets would be picked up, we then would be sent home for five weeks (including the two weeks of spring break).

The lines at the copy machines where long like the lines at the grocery stores. We worked hard to make the seemingly impossible happen so our students would has some semblance of the fourth grade curriculum.

Be well everyone, and wash your hands!