A Cornered Gurl Presents Quintessence

Because the Discover Prompt is Orchestrate, I immediately thought of someone who just orchestrated another powerful work of art.

If you haven’t had the joy of meeting Tre L. Loldholt on her website A Cornered Gurl, I am more than breath & bones., you are going to want to visit her as soon as you possibly can and go often.

I was lucky enough to have found her after reading through some Medium articles and realized she had a WordPress website right here with all of us.

Now, she’s published a beautiful literary magazine QUINTESSENCE full of pieces written by Cornered Gurl contributors and Medium writers. Click on the name of the magazine to find out more.

Right now, more than ever before, we all need our heads full of beautiful words by people who share the same love of words as we do.

Heroes Hide Here

His three year old singing somewhere below him, the government teacher ignored the toddler and kept talking to the students. His lecture didn’t really start out as a lecture at all. It was a discombobulated mess of “Ums” paired with a scratching of papers and the continued singing and babbling of his three year old.

Still, he was productive. Checking in with students for assignments, he suddenly blurted out, “Excuse me,” then jumped up and bellowed something loudly toward some unknown entity. It sounded like, “Broaaaaaaaaar!” You could see his whole body far off in the distance of his house.

A Hero Roars

Inside the computer he grew smaller and larger all at once. He stood super-hero style, except for his arms. His hands weren’t locked onto his hips. They were pointed straight down. It seemed like a call for help at first, but no one came. It became clear that it was more of a roar than a plea for help. He sat back down while the toddler continued singing and babbling.

In the middle of this minor disrupt, the students griped and grumbled, similar to the way they might gripe in a real classroom, except it was slightly different.

“Uhhh, I’m crashing after this,” one student huffed.

“Same,” another puffed.

Enter the Future

Returning to the screen, the teacher (let’s call him Mr. G for government) seemed to have needed that moment to gather some energy because his voice had changed and he charged forward, the roar lingering as he spoke. He asked the students what they would do if they were in college right now and they couldn’t pay for their fees.

A student smartly snapped, “Well, colleges are funding dorms now.”

Mr. G snapped back with a slew of other facts about our dying economy and the heavy job losses smashing through the secure world that’s long gone now. Last nine weeks, he had had the students create a future budget for themselves to give them an idea of what to expect money-wise. He was returning to that, trying to get them to think about how their futures are rapidly changing.

He asked, “How many of you think you’re going to have the money to go to college now?”

Sparking a Holographic Classroom

Students beeped their answers, trying to burst Mr. G’s growing bubble. With a more sedated roar, Mr. G whipped the air, extinguishing their repeated their replies, “Me? Who said that? Me, me, me?”

He questioned them back. He riddled them with more facts. He was more prepared than anyone had originally appeared.

With that, the students woke up.

The discussion sparked, bursting through the computer as if a holographic classroom had appeared inside each home, carrying the voices of these ghosts who once sat in a cemented classroom with desks that felt real.

Ended by the Coup

Words swarmed over each other and buzzed with a hovering that left thoughts moving back and forth, up and down. It became clear that education’s best moments were happening right now, amid tragedy and change.

Then, in a power-hungry coup of self-interest and mayhem, it all disappeared.

Sick of the lack of attention, toddler below had decided class was over because he shut down Mr. G’s computer right in the middle of class. That tiny voice had burst the bubble, at least momentarily.

Remnants of Happiness

About five minutes later, Mr. G appeared while the toddler seemed to be playing guitar in the background and warning of a monster somewhere in the house.

By then, the students were still talking anyway and having fun, judging from the random gurgling of laughter.

Assignments were announced and farewells ensued. Mr. G laughed like Santa at one point with promises of Memes in the near future. Giggling continued and eventually everything shutdown.

Leftover were the remnants of happiness and heroes floating around in the houses where they had merged for brief reminders that we can still hear each other.

A clip

Applause Applause, Give the Teachers a Hand

I slapped my legs and snorted this morning while putting my groceries away. Who knew that listening to my kids’ English teacher talk about the schedule for the week would be so entertaining? I mean, yes, I also teach English and have been told on more than one occasion that my backup plan should be standup comedy, but today I found out that I’ll have some serious teacher competition.

After my long morning standing outside Publix along with other people who waiting six feet apart, I returned home to hear teachers and students chatting about school. My daughter sat on the floor with our dog and listened to her English teacher set them up for the week. 

Between describing his filing system for assignments, he commanded a student to stop doing cartwheels. It was just too distracting. 

I guffawed so loudly that my daughter shushed me. “Sorry,” I giggled like a kid. 

Then, he told them how much he loved seeing them and that once they got used to the schedule and format, things would become more difficult. I think groaning followed. Or, maybe that was just me having a flashback when I had said the same thing. 

His best joke involved his analogy between himself and The Shining by Stephen King. As he described where his assignments would appear, he warned the students to use excuses in only extreme situations.

Heed his warnings or else! He methodically told them that their assignments could be found in multiple places. There would be no escape. He creeped around every corner. He and his files breaking through imaginary doors. Hence, the shining analogy.

I clapped my hands and laughed so hard that my daughter snapped at me.

“Stop!” she blurted out. Then she laughed too. 

Thank you to the teachers who are keeping it fun and especially funny.

Non-fiction Saturdays

When I found this beautiful website, I thought of a home for my daughter. As I continued to read, I found a home for myself. You’re missing out if you don’t have this home.

A Cornered Gurl

It Won’t Always Be Like This

And I Take Comfort In That

Photo by Engin Akyurt via Pexels

“It Won’t Always Be Like This.”

I take comfort in that phrase because I have to. There are many changes being implemented at my job. We are not urgent care or an emergency facility and most of our imaging services are elective procedures. However, the great powers that be over our organization will have the facility open to help with the overflow of patients who need certain scans done, who wish not to go to any PUI (Patient Under Investigation for the COVID-19 virus) facilities. As long as we have some volume and patients on the schedule, we will remain open. The moment that volume drops to a number they do not want to see, we will close imaging operations until further notice.

We will close imaging operations until further notice.

That has a pulsating…

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Escape

Bursting out of the house in an effort to escape the extreme claustrophobia that was choking me to death, I ran down the dark street to the park that was covered in yellow tape. I ran around it watching a man in a mask walk his dog.

There were only a few of us who dared venture out, but I’m sure it was to desperately find an open space. This space was sacred. This space would save us from the people who once loved us.

This open space revived us for one more day where we would be trapped with people who barked orders at us, fought with us over nothing, yelled at us for being “useless”, and buried us alive in news loops that trapped us in a venomous world of paranoia and ruthless condemnation.

That open space did nothing to us but offer a moment to be, to just be.

Don’t be abusive to the people you are lucky enough to live with for right now. Support each other in this difficult time. Someday, there will be nothing to complain about, no one to hurt, no one to blame for your own insecurities. If you’re one of the lucky ones who do survive this, you still can’t escape death so why not embrace life NOW.

Parents Need More than a Schedule

After most of our children and teenagers logged on this morning only to be knocked off of Zoom or whatever platform your child’s district is using, you must’ve realized having a plan means having a problem as well.

When I saw the schedule that Khan Academy provided over the weekend, I got so excited and hopeful then within seconds my mind shot full-speed ahead to today and imploded into a mess of a thousand different problems that might occur.

Why the Implosion?
I’m an educator and a mom. If there’s one thing I know about education, public education nonetheless, it’s that things will go wrong. On top of that, everyone is on the Internet and in our neck of the woods, it’s week three of a school shutdown. Add to it that, our kids think it’s a Zombie Apocalypse, even if they’re too old (teenagers) to admit it.

The bottom line is that we’ve been bombarded with fear for the last two weeks and no amount of preparation can alleviate the tension our kids feel about everything, let alone school. Take into consideration that they’re teenagers and you’ve got an even messier situation.

Here’s what I’ve done and am doing to attempt to ease the situation:

Communicate with Kids in Advance
I started on Saturday afternoon. With young children, it’s easier to sneak in little conversations while playing, drawing, eating, or taking a walk. Say something such as, “You know that we’re going to try and talk to your teacher(s) this week.” Or, “I’m tired of sleeping so late. Let’s try getting up earlier and take a look at the school website.”

The idea is to ease them into a new way of seeing the days ahead. Now, with teenagers or even those lovely tweens of ours, you might need to be more forceful or just downright honest. I mean, think about it, they’re pretty damn honest with us. But, you also need to be prepared for a meltdown.

On Saturday, I had knocked on my teenagers doors every half hour since 11 a.m. and by 12:30 p.m., I gave them an ultimatum: Open your doors and come out here or I’m taking all of your devices.

Needless to say, the doors opened. Some harsh words flew from all of our mouths. But, by this morning, they were out of their rooms by 9 a.m. complaining that the Internet was crashing or they couldn’t connect. More on that problem later.

Plans are Only the Starting Point
You can plan to be tough, but you might need to come to a screeching stop right in the middle of a reprimand. Don’t think that you’re going to be tough on your kids then see their eyes tearing up or even rolling for that matter, and not change tactics. You will have to change tactics or you’re going to have a lot of unnecessary fights and maybe even worse given the situation.

Plans give us purpose, but they’re like rules and need to be broken more often than not. So, if you think you may have pushed your kids to the edge, you probably have. Just back off and tell them, “Look, I don’t want to upset you. I just want to help. I’m trying to find a balance.” They might respond with a hug or they might return to their rooms. Either way, you stopped before the situation turned into an out of control conflict.

Email Your Children’s Teachers Today
Our district, here in Miami-Dade County, sent general information to us about attendance and schedules. Mostly, it was all good. I could read between the lines because I’ve been working as a teacher for quite awhile.

I know our Superintendent Alberto M. Carvahlo‘s reputation and that he will go out of his way to make sure students get what they need. He’s a hands-on politician and he wants children educated. So, if worse comes to worse, he’ll fight for the student.

I also know that I can email the teachers about my children in order to document problems such as the one we experienced this morning. As parents, we need to be vigilant and help our children maintain a sense of stability right now. That means even with teenagers and in my opinion especially with teenagers, we need to act as if they aren’t as independent as they’d like for us to believe.

Emailing teachers will also ease your worries. Teachers know that communication with parents is even more important now, so they will respond even if it doesn’t happen overnight. If they don’t respond within a day, contact their superior or an assistant principal and so on. Right now, you shouldn’t feel like you’re bothering the teachers or administration. Communication via email or phone should be a priority.

As an educator, I believe school districts will do their best to offer us a smooth avenue to ensure our children will be able to continue their education and move on to their next grade level or graduate. Right now, just remember that a district is made up of one human being linked to another human being and none of us have ever been more human than we are now.

Teaching From Home

As we’re all still processing the fact that many schools will probably shut down for the rest of this school year, we need to prepare for education at home. This post provides educators, parents, and students with some useful websites and tools to help make educating students easier.

Find one or two resources that make sense and test them our this weekend. Then, make a plan this weekend so that Monday feels more structured. Right now, that plan might not mean getting up at the crack of dawn, but creating a schedule will help ensure some learning happens throughout the day.

As much as educators and parents rail against the Internet and technology for good reason, we have to admit that we’re fortunate to have access to technology. It’s making social distancing a lot easier, but it’s also a godsend when parents and teachers everywhere are scrambling to continue to educate students.

Motivating Kids to Learn at Home

I know first-hand how difficult it is to motivate kids to learn in the classroom, which is why attempting to get them to do schoolwork at home is a challenge many teachers and parents are dreading. It’s also tough for teachers to stay current on technology tools when they’re busy in the classroom, so here are a few websites that will make your lives much easier as we move forward.

A website that I’ve been using ever since I knew it existed is Khan Academy. Right now, the creator and his team have reached out to teachers and parents, ensuring them that there will be a wealth of resources available for everyone to continue the learning experience outside of the traditional classroom.

Here’s his announcement to anyone who wants access to free resources, but the founder explains that his team is also adding more resources to help teachers and students as well as parents. This includes videos that will help new visitors navigate through Khan Academy more efficiently as well as tools that will help create schedules to structure the learning process at home.

Founder Sal Khan explains how Khan Academy will help us continue educating students.

PBS Learning also curated free learning resources for teachers, parents, and students.

PBS Learning Media Introduction Video

Specifically for teachers, Remind is a great tool to use with students and parents because it’s simple and it works. Several teachers at my children’s schools use it. Because both students and parents have it on their smartphones, there’s no escape. Someone will be reminded that there’s an upcoming assignment or project, so there’s a better chance that it will get done.

Class Dogo also allows teachers to communicate with parents and students and has a point system that is more useful with elementary students. The website boasts that it’s “Free for teachers, forever.”

Additionally, go to MacMillan English to access a hub of resources. Once you choose the level of education that you teach, you then will have access to student ebooks and teacher classroom and presentation kits for free for sixth months.

Take a Break and Doodle

For parents of younger children, I found a website that was featured on Discover here at WordPress that features Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems everyday at 1 p.m. ET. on Pigeon Presents. Mo Willems is a Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence at home.

Here’s Episode One.

Find out more at Pigeon Presents.

I’ll continue posting information on different resources and techniques that I use to tutor and teach. In my next post, I’m going to give parents pointers on making sure their kids do their work. It might get ugly if it hasn’t already.

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Our Child Starts School During Coronavirus Pandemic.

There was no 5:30 a.m. alarm this morning. There was no driving one child to the Metro station on the East side of Miami. Then, rushing home to drive the other to the West side of Miami.

My daughter walked into the kitchen this morning with a smile on her face. It was around 9 a.m. and she said she had to check in online with her teacher. I asked if she wanted french toast and made her a plate with syrup, powdered sugar, and blueberries.

Our dog sat next to my daughter on our kitchen floor and watched as her classmates and teacher popped onto the screen. They shared their projects, laughed, and admired each other’s pets.

Kitchen, dog, computer, and class begins.
Photo by Lisa Chesser

I watched from afar and felt the same excitement of seeing her teacher welcome them to the class. The teacher didn’t lecture. She just chatted with them and made them feel comfortable, knowing that everyone was dealing with their own fears concerning the Coronavirus.

I hope we all share how we’re dealing with this difficult time. I know that I feel isolated and sometimes wake up at around 3 a.m. wondering who else has died because of this virus. I worry about my mother and father who are more vulnerable to the virus. I think about the people who have already died and the doctors and nurses dealing with such an overwhelming and dangerous situation.

However, most of the time I feel grateful for technology, WordPress, and our ability to communicate virtually. Our connection to each other depends on it. It’s incredible that my daughter was able to see her teacher and classmates this morning.

As an educator, I’ve been on both sides of the argument when dealing with the effects of technology on our mindset. So, as we move forward, I can honestly say that the Internet feels like the bright light at the end of the tunnel.

How do you feel about it? How has your world changed?

Reading Help: 3 Simple Tools to Encourage Reading

Getting your child to read more is the parenting challenge of the 21st Century. Forget about how hard it is for an English teacher to get a student to read a book. Even if you’re lucky enough to have one parent staying at home, that doesn’t mean the parent can just make a child miraculously love to read. However, these three tools will help your child read a little more each day.

  1. Subscribe to magazines.
    Subscribing to magazines makes it easier for you and your child to read more. It seems simple enough, but many of us adults don’t subscribe to magazines anymore because it’s simply too easy to read for free online. That’s great for adults but stinks for kids.
    Kids are constantly looking for something to do when they don’t have the television or a device in front of them. Having magazines around provides them with the opportunity to read, ask questions, and read some more.
    Amazon has great deals available.
    Kids magazines
    Magazines such as <a rel=”noreferrer noopener” aria-label=”National Geographic Kids (opens in a new tab)” href=”http://<a target=”_blank” href=”https://www.amazon.com/b?_encoding=UTF8&tag=bravesmartbol-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=ed072a57ad321e09b6e6fa9aba510ac9&camp=1789&creative=9325&node=602322″>National Geographic Kids</a>""National Geographic Kids and Highlights give kids a chance to explore interesting stories and flex their reading muscles.
  2. Join Literati.
    If you haven’t heard of Literati, you need to check out the website. A new company, the Literati team have created an innovative, fun twist on celebrating books and reading.
    With beautiful illustrations, boxed sets, book clubs, and more Literati sets a fun tone for reading that makes it easy on parents and kids.
  3. Finally, investing in a Kindle or iPad or any reader you prefer gives your child access to hundreds of books. I actually prefer the Kindle because it includes tons of deals on books and kids are less likely to play with popular apps on them as they grow older.

More than any tool, nothing beats turning off all electronics and talking to each other. That’s why literati is by far my favorite recommendation. The books inspire creativity and give everyone a break from their screens. Never before have we all needed something so simple yet so important.