The theme of Cee;s Fun Foto Challenge this week is books and paper. When I looked up my photos in this category, I found memorabilia (personal and historical), such as the following:
At the Overlord Museum at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France
I don’t think this display is really made of paper, but it’s meant to look like the pages of a book. This display describing the history of the hotel and the findings of Howard Cater was in the lobby of the Sofitel Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor, Egypt.
In our local newspaper, The Daily Herald, there is a column on Sunday that I enjoy reading called “Grammar Moses.” Jim Baumann, Mr. Grammar Moses himself, writes about grammar and spelling gaffes, mistakes, and clarification of usage of particular words or phrases sent in by readers. How often have we all seen a sign like this one?
Cards Against Humanity is a sort of nasty card game that is also hilarious (if you like this sort of thing), which I’d never heard of before until our son-in-law introduced it to us. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, seek out this game if you are not prepared for truly sick and twisted humor! Every once in a while, I get in the mood for it, and then I ask my son-in-law if we can play it next time we go over to their house…
Books and coloring books were my solace and salvation during the pandemic quarantine, in the spring of last year.
I did some original artwork during those months too.
Okay we’re flipping things over this week with three rather silly questions and one philosophical one.
What would be much better if you could just change the color of it? Half of the clothes in my closet – I like some of the things I rarely wear, because I don’t have a matching blouse or pants. Then I forget about that particular item until I get totally bored with what I have to wear and find it again. If it’s really a weird color I can’t do anything with, I will regretfully give it to Goodwill.
Do You Think Cats Have Any Regrets? No, I don’t think they can think on that high a level. This is a serious answer for a somewhat silly question! My cat, for sure, is content with her life right now.
Do you ever count your steps when you walk? No, I have a Fitbit that can do that for me. I used to really keep track of that, but not anymore. I always, however, count stairs whether up or down. That makes me focus on the stairs so that I don’t get distracted and trip or fall. It can also be really useful, for example, in our old house, if we were carrying something that blocks our view and so not able to see the stairs. I knew there were 15 stairs from the first floor to the second, and 12 steps from the kitchen down to the basement.
Is there a supreme power? (you choose over what, and please be respectful) That is a tough one. I believe in God but not as a “supreme power” per se. I don’t think God exists as a human-like being somewhere, controlling everything we do. Humans invented God. I believe that God’s presence lies within ourselves – we are our own supreme power, whether or not we recognize it. It’s complicated and I’m on a “faith journey.” Without getting into a long theological treatise, I will leave it at that.
Please feel free to share some gratitude with everyone! I’ve just been “in love” with our cat, Hazel, lately. She is such a well-behaved kitty and follows us around a lot, just to be near us. She’s not a lap sitter – she prefers what she is doing in the above photo – getting comfortable between someone’s legs, preferably on the recliner. Hazel was a godsend for us during the pandemic. She is 10 years old and life is good!
Pick three words to describe this past year. (please keep them PG. Thanks). frustrating, appalling, anger-inducing
What were the best books you read this year? Or the best movie you saw? The best books I’ve read this year are not new: I don’t normally read Stephen King, but I loved the novel 11/22/63 which I read for a book group. Other than that, I have read a lot of novels written in the 1990s set in ancient Egypt. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and right now I’m kind of obsessed with ancient Egypt. All the books written by Pauline Gedge are excellent. I also read some political books, including Mary Trump’s book about her uncle: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Once I’d read that I could predict how Trump would react to losing reelection – he wouldn’t and doesn’t accept it! But the best political/social non-fiction book I read this year was Caste by Isabel Wilkerson. I highly recommend it.
One of the best movies I saw was on Netflix, Social Dilemma – it’s fairly new, and I encourage everyone to see it. You’ll never look at Facebook the same way again! I don’t see too many movies, unfortunately. I saw some old ones that either I never saw before or wanted to see again such as Out of Africa (somewhat of a disappointment) and Dr. Zhivago (because I just finished the novel The Secrets We Kept about smuggling the manuscript of the novel by Boris Pasternak out of the Soviet Union). I enjoyed seeing Dr. Zhivago again, although the copy we got from the library had a lot of scratches. A lot of what I watch are news shows and videos we watch on our community broadcasting channels. Also PBS series such as Nova and Masterpiece.
Because there was lots of time for looking inward, what is one big personal lesson you learned this past year? Perseverance – the pandemic has lasted longer than perhaps it should have due to mismanagement and lack of leadership. What galls me is how people just drag it on longer by refusing to wear masks (see answer to the next question). I have persevered by accepting what is. I don’t like wearing a mask any more than anyone else; I don’t like not being able to go out with my friends; I especially don’t like not being able to travel – but it’s what we have to do to stay healthy! I’ve read a lot of books and worked on my artwork, and have tried to take a walk every day that has weather I can tolerate.
Another lesson is gratitude: being grateful for the blessings I have, appreciative of people who put their lives on the line to save others, and not taking anything for granted. I see happiness in small things: reading a good book, watching flowers bloom, and baby chicks grow. Nature continues on as usual.
Do you think Covid has strengthened or weakened societal bonds? I would love to say strengthened, and I think on an individual level, that may be true: developing or solidifying relationships, appreciating the different jobs people do that may put their lives in danger during a pandemic, and working together to solve problems. But societally, our country is even more divided. I am somewhat surprised at this. I am surprised that in spite of the federal government’s terrible handling of the pandemic, over 70 million people in this country voted to reelect Trump! Fortunately they did not prevail, but I am appalled at how people have protested the dumbest things, such as wearing masks as an infringement on their freedom. Sorry, but their freedom ends where the next person’s begins so they need to take some responsibility for their behavior and not infect other people when they leave their home! And the denial of science – there are still people who are sick with Covid, go to the hospital and when told the diagnosis, deny it and say it’s a hoax! Why don’t some people believe doctors and nurses who put their lives on the line to save others? It’s all become politicized and it didn’t have to be. Trump and his Republican lackeys politicized it, instead of helping to unify the people of this country in combatting it.
It’s really shaken my confidence in the citizenry of this nation as supporting democracy and our values, such as stewardship, responsibility, and compassion. It’s also made me fear we can no longer have a dialogue – there are alternate messages of what is truth. How can one dialogue with a person that doesn’t share the same reality?
What is a New Year’s Wish You’d Like To Share With the World?
May 2021 give us 2020 hindsight and may the new year bring us the light at the end of the tunnel!
To what degree have you been able to control the course that your life has taken? Or is being in control of your life just an illusion?
I watched a science program the other day that discussed unanswered questions posed by quantum physics, such as the possibility that everything that happens in the universe was predestined at the time of the Big Bang. Other people see it in religious terms, that God has control over us and sees our past, present and future, that God can decide whether to make something happen or not. I don’t believe God controls my life and quantum physics is too confusing for me.
We as human beings don’t have total control over our lives. We might be born in a wealthy, powerful country or in a poor, underprivileged country. Within that country, we are born into a particular race and class, both of which have repercussions in a society – culturally, politically, socially, economically. Within that race and class, we are born into a family that is loving and supportive, one in which there is abuse and violence, one which values education, or one that does not. Then there are individual limitations: inherited or nurtured. We have talent for something but our limitations hold us back. Within all these parameters, we have choice, or a modicum of control. Will we choose to develop our natural talent or pursue a more difficult course? Will we let our physical or mental limitations hold us back or will we overcome them or at least find coping mechanisms?
So yes, I do believe I have had SOME control over my life but a lot has been given to me by being born white, upper middle class, in the United States of America, which in spite of its faults, has provided me with privileges unavailable elsewhere. My parents had the money for me and my siblings to go to college and in our family we never fought over money because we had enough (not an excessive amount, but enough). I have been able to travel due to this. My parents encouraged all of us to pursue careers: whether we were girls or boys, they had the same expectations for us. They did what they could in terms of love and support to make us happy. I was also given intelligence, which is probably largely inherited, although it took motivation to develop and use it to my advantage, something I have not always done. I am lucky to be reasonably healthy, and I can control whether I stay that way – by eating healthy and staying fit – but I can’t control the fact that I have a heart problem inherited from my father. However, having the knowledge of this problem gives me control over how I deal with it. The more education we have, the more knowledge we acquire, the more we can control our lives. I was able to get a master’s degree in teaching and also have acquired knowledge in the ways of the world.
BUT, I did have limitations and caused disappointment for my parents because some of the choices I made were because I was afraid to challenge those limitations. I have often been afraid of decision-making because I have trouble making decisions, so sometimes I made NO decision (which was a decision in itself). I didn’t have to marry my first husband, for example, I shouldn’t have – that was a disappointment; but the second time around I chose a much better match. I chose to have a child with that first husband, who inherited mental illness as well as abuse from his father, which has greatly impeded his life. I chose to change careers in my late 40s, and decided to go into teaching, which in the end was probably not the wisest choice but I did the best I could. Many of the hurdles were beyond my control – discovering I have ADHD, trying to complete as a 50-year-old woman with a master’s degree with 25-year-olds with a undergraduate degree, the emphasis on high stakes testing, bad administrators who weren’t held accountable, the low esteem that our society seems to hold in general for teachers, the negative view of bilingual education (which was my field), etc.
Besides choices, there is attitude. I have always been a more or less optimistic person, believing in positive outcomes, but I am also skeptical by nature because I analyze everything. I try to figure out the “why” of mistakes I’ve made. Not everyone can or will do this. I want to fix problems but within the limitations of my own life, I do control what I choose to do about problems that plague a wider world. I try to get people in my community here to recycle, for example. I can’t control if they actually do it, but I can make myself heard to encourage it. I write letters to people to encourage them to vote. I may be demonstrating in the streets if Trump tries to undermine the results of the election. But I could choose to do none of those things and just live my life doing the things I prefer doing – reading, writing, drawing, etc. Within my own patch of the world, I do have some control.
All alternative paths in life I could have chosen maybe play out somewhere in the universe. But here in 3 dimensions on planet Earth, I look back on my life with some disappointment but mostly with gratitude.
Right now we are living in a very scary time – in the middle of a pandemic with a president who is threatening to overthrow democratic norms in order to make himself dictator or king, as well as all the other things happening – strained race relations, climate change as evidenced by out of control wildfires out west and hurricanes down south (I am fortunate, I guess, to live in the Midwest where neither of these things are happening or are likely to happen), the numbers of people dying from Covid-19 increasing at an alarming rate, etc. It’s easy to think we have very little control over our lives right now. Yet I admit I am pretty secure in my life. But I don’t kid myself that I have total control – it’s only a matter of attitude and choice in how I respond to things that are beyond my control that I have control. Self-control, that’s about it.
Today Fandango’s Dog Days of August theme is “your daily routine.” Do you follow a daily routine? Many of us are creatures of habit. We have routines that we follow, whether it’s the time we get up each day or go to bed, what we do during the day, or how we spend our time. For some, it can be disruptive if our routines are interrupted. Share a story, a poem, a photo, a drawing, some music, or whatever you wish to share about your daily routine.
I love to write haiku – it’s the most fun kind of poetry to write. So I went a bit overboard writing it, but here’s my
PANDEMIC ROUTINE HAIKU
OMG! Will it Never be over? Five months And no end in sight!
My routine is thus: Get up whenever I wake, Weigh myself, brew tea.
Eat a banana, And a piece of cheese, sip tea,* On my screened back porch.
If hubby is home We eat omelets and toast On our screened back porch
If hubby plays golf It’s cereal and yogurt With fruit for breakfast.
Eventually, I get dressed and brush my teeth, Then find things to do.
Housework? Clean kitchen, Maybe do laundry again, Turn on computer.
Creativity: Ways to combat the sameness – Read, paint, blog, research
I might watch TV, But not for long – I get tired. Get up, get ready!
Take walks on campus What are ducks and swans up to? No cygnets this year.
Meet friends walking too – We discuss pets, pandemic: End in September?
Reading is something I love to do and I have Read so many books!
Play scrabble online, Write a blog for all to read, Entertain myself.
Social media? Facebook entertains also – Enjoy the humor!
Cute cat videos, I laugh at anti-Trump memes, See doings of friends.
Listen to music, Think about playing piano… But I never do.
My husband returns – Time for a nap! Then we check Mail, e-mail, and texts.
Dinner delivered To us on Styrofoam trays; Cookies for dessert.
At night we watch news – Rachel Maddow, Lawrence too: Trump’s latest scandals.
Get a laugh watching Late Night With Stephen Colbert – Laugh so we don’t cry.
Selfish people won’t Wear masks, claiming it’s their right What about duty?
Five months of finding Creative things to do and Hoping it ends soon!
We live in a questioning world so it’s hardly surprising that there are so many questions that are asked by people every day, week and month is it? This feature will ask you all sorts of questions – but will only ever ask you 12 questions per month. You can answer them in the comments section below or create a post on your own blog should you wish to – that’s your choice.
In many ways this feature will be a no holds barred styled questions arena – covering many topical areas, controversial, opinionated – taboo orientated and just general and light hearted – just questions about people and things from all walks of life!
Additionally should any of the readership wish to pose a question to be featured within 12 Bloggerz in the future episodes – please drop me an email to email@example.com
Your answers to these questions are down to your individual interpretation of each question.
So here goes:
As a society are we really that social anymore – like it used to be? We are social in a different way – today it’s all about social media, online meetings, Zooming, etc. But I don’t think we are as likely to take a nice leisurely lunch with a friend, for the pleasure of simply chatting. Do we really care about the person we’re socializing with? A lot of social media seem to be a forum for people to tell their own story and hope that other people will read their posts. And I find that it’s easier to just scroll and hit “like” when I feel I should. But I’m not knocking social media – nowadays it’s the way to keep in touch with people I care about but rarely get to see. I’ve blogged about this before, such as here.
If only l was twenty years younger l would … ? Twenty years ago, when I was in my 40s, I was antsy to find a more meaningful profession. If I were to go back with 20/20 hindsight, I would not have chosen teaching. I was preoccupied (although somewhat justifiably) with the wrong things. I should have been asking, Will I be happy doing this? Can I really be good at it? Do I want it just for salary and benefits (because believe it or not, teaching had better pay and benefits than what I was doing before)? If I could, I would have done more research on professions that would suit me better.
Is society ruder more now than it used to be back in the day? Yes, most definitely. People put themselves first. They talk about their “rights” but rarely about the responsibilities that go with those rights. Our current federal government (USA) has encouraged, aided and abetted this attitude. We do not have good role models in leadership roles.
Is our world hyper-focusing progression on the wrong things or in the wrong direction? If you mean, do I think humanity is trending toward the wrong direction, I would say yes, but not everybody and not everywhere. I think our planet and our ability to continue living on it and respecting other creatures we share it with should be top priority for everyone right now. There are so many other problems connected with climate change – the biggest polluters are not the ones who will suffer most from the results. Greta Thunberg has the right priorities!
Do you think there is any truth what so ever to any current conspiracy theories? No, and I don’t think it deserves any more of an answer than this.
Are you more confused about the shape of our world today more so than when younger? Confused, no – I think I understand our world a whole lot better than I did when I was young(er). Concerned, yes, as everyone should be.
Do we as a society simply have too many labels and too many label hunters? Yes, but at the same time, sometimes “labels” are helpful – not to stereotype, but to provide help to those who need it. So if a kid is diagnosed with ADHD, don’t just dismiss it by saying, “It’s just a label.” It’s not, and neither are a myriad of other disorders and disabilities. “Being depressed” isn’t just being sad. It’s a very serious, and debilitating mental illness that can lead to addiction or worse.
Are you more or less family orientated? Yes, I am family oriented, because my family is my greatest blessing. I grew up in a mostly loving home and I love getting together with my siblings’ families. Family is my top priority. I think it is the source of most people’s happiness.
Do you dress up ‘smart’ to go out or is your style more casual all day every day? I like casual, but I also like to dress up a little. Right now, I lament the fact that I bought a lot of new clothes to wear at our senior community’s dining room and events, and now none of those things are taking place so I’m not wearing all the new clothes I bought.
But in general, I wear what is comfortable and what best hides my aging bulges!
With the current ‘pandemic’ do you miss ‘Yesterday’s way of life or not? Of course, doesn’t everyone? But I am so angry with selfish people who won’t do what medical professionals are telling us and as a result, the pandemic and its restrictions are dragging on longer than necessary. No one really likes to wear a mask, but if that is what we need to do to protect others as well as ourselves, I am willing to do so. If everyone were willing to be on board with this, we would be able to get back to “yesterday’s” way of life again.
What I miss most is being able to travel.
What do you class as adventurous? Anything that takes guts or involves taking risks. That said, I am not particularly adventurous, but I do like “adventures” – as in “travel adventures. “
Are you more conventional brick and mortar shopper or online and Internet buyer styled? I do both, because it depends on what I’m buying. I won’t buy shoes online, for example – I have to try them on to see if they are comfortable. In one style, I may wear a size 8, whereas in another style, I wear 8 1/2. Shoes are too important to take chances.
But right now, I love buying things online, because then I get packages in the mail – something to look forward to! I’ve been buying a lot of books, getting them cheap on Amazon. Also art supplies, and a variety of other miscellaneous things.
WHERE DO YOU NOT MIND WAITING? I don’t mind waiting almost anywhere if I have either a charged phone or tablet, or a book with me. If I’m in the middle of a good book, I actually LIKE waiting, so I have a good reason to read! I’m fine if I’m not overheated or in a crowd of people.
WHAT IS IN YOUR FRIDGE RIGHT NOW? It’s chock full of lots of leftovers and produce we purchased yesterday at the farmer’s market. The door shelves have drinks and condiments. There is literally no room in there for even one item more!
IF YOUCOULD ONLY SPEAK ONE WORD TODAY, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Wow, that’s hard – I can’t imagine only being able to say a single word in a day – it reminds me of a book I read where girls and women were restricted to only 100 words a day.
It would depend on the day. If I were in the middle of something and wanted to be left alone, I guess I would say, “Leave!” Then I’d use gestures to get my point across.
WOULD YOU RATHER BE TRAPPED IN AN ELEVATOR FULL OF MEN WITH BO OR WITH THREE SOAKED DOGS? (THIS ASSUMES THERE IS NO COVID-19.) COVID-19 or not, I would probably prefer the dogs. Men (or women) with B.O. is absolutely the worst smell in the world – it makes me gag! In fact, I even thought of it a couple of weeks ago when one of the SYW questions was what is the worst smell.
GRATITUDE: I am grateful for all the people in society who wear masks in public and maintain 6 feet of distance. These are the people who care about others and realize that when living in a society, one has rights but also responsibilities. Taking these simple measures during a pandemic makes sense and is for the well-being of all.
I am also grateful for Mary Trump, whose book comes out this week. Anything that will help people understand how dangerous 4 more years of Donald Trump would be, so they will vote him out of office, deserves my gratitude.
A Guy called Bloke is asking some important questions about mask-wearing this week. Also, I’m shocked at how many people he’s seen that are not wearing them!
1] Are you currently wearing face masks when you go out into public wherever you are in the world and 2] what type of masks are you wearing? [As in practical or stylish?] Yes, I do wear a mask when I go into a building, but not outside. I live in a senior community and we have a lovely campus where we can take walks and meet up with others. I try to maintain distance when passing people while walking, and I always do carry a mask with me. Since my husband and I have a house, we don’t need to worry about wearing a mask when we leave the house, but we do carry one.
My masks (I have four of them now!) are cloth. One is plain gray but the others have colorful patterns, not that I care really. The one I like best was made by my sister-in-law, who made six of them for our family members. It’s not particularly stylish – it has a pattern of cherries on a black background and fits me well. I like the fit and the fact that when I breathe, it doesn’t stick to my face! I have 3 others, but that one is the best. I throw our masks into the wash every time I do laundry, so it’s kept quite clean.
Also – how do you feel about the wearing of masks? Do you see it as a protection or an infringement on your civil rights? I don’t really like to wear a mask – probably most people feel this way – but I do it because the medical experts say it is effective in reducing the rate of infection of the virus. If the droplets containing the virus are in the air, using a mask helps me as well as others. I also follow the rules imposed in our community which are more stringent due to having a population of elderly people.
I do not think it is an infringement on my civil rights – it’s more of an infringement of my rights when others DON’T do it out of silly notions that somehow the Constitution protects their right not to wear a mask! They are just being selfish! This is a worldwide PANDEMIC, an emergency situation! This has nothing to do with politics and we should all be united on this! You don’t get to just ignore the requirement to wear a mask in a store, for example – I saw a video on Facebook of a 77-year-old woman in Costco who didn’t have a mask and when they gave her one, she refused to wear it. She sat on the floor and then asked for a refund for her purchase because they would not let her roam the store without a mask. When she left the store, she threw the mask on the ground. She supposedly is trying to make a point – although I don’t think she has a point, she just looks foolish! Her rights end where mine begin. Society is not a free-for-all where any individual gets to do whatever he or she damn well pleases. For those that think that way, drop out of society, go live by yourselves! As a society, as a nation, it is our duty to respect each other’s rights as well as assert our own. It’s in all of our interest to comply with society’s rules, for the betterment of society and thus our own lives as well.
It actually makes me really angry that the United States lacks the leadership to set an example and to encourage people to follow these mitigation measures. My husband and I are retired and love to travel, which we have not been able to do. And now many countries are banning Americans from entering their territory (such as the EU) because the situation here is so dire. Other countries have gotten the spread of the virus under control – we could too, if we had leadership at the national level. Our country is suffering in many ways because people are non-compliant: more deaths, more spread of the virus, overextended hospitals and medical personnel, students unable to return to school, etc. It is simply inexcusable!!
I live in a state, Illinois, which has had a high number of cases, but we are “flattening the curve” here because most people are compliant with the mandate to wear a mask in public places and to maintain 6 foot distance. The states where the virus is out of control are mostly those controlled by Republican governors who decided to follow Trump’s lead – and not lock down their states early enough – they are now are regretting it, I think! Our governor, J.B. Pritzker, has been critical of Trump’s response and he took measures based on the science early (by mid-March – that was considered early in the U.S.). And the mayor of Chicago is kicking people off beaches who don’t wear masks while out of the water and don’t maintain the appropriate distance from others. She is also exacting fines for people who refuse to follow the mask mandate in government buildings. In private businesses, most are also requiring mask wearing and it’s up to them to enforce it.
In my opinion, it should be a federal mandate due to a medical emergency situation to wear masks, and a fine should be imposed on those not wearing them.
My predictions (for the United States of America):
1. Trump will lose the election in November, in spite of the development of a vaccine for Covid-19 or at least the promise by medical experts of a vaccine being available soon.
2. While the new administration will attempt to repair relations with our allies, and will have some success, there will continue to be wariness abroad about American long-term political and economic stability. That could include restrictions on American travel to some countries.
3. Most students will return to school in the fall of 2020. However, there will not be a unified response to the question of school reopening while still in the throes of the pandemic; instead, each state and/or district will create a patchwork of solutions to keep students (relatively) safe in order for them to return to school.
4. In spite of the lessons of the pandemic about the inherent problems of our society (racism, inequality, lack of affordable health care for all, etc.), the new administration will struggle to solve these problems. We will not achieve universal health care for all, but there will be some progress made, such as lowering the age of eligibility for Medicare to 60. An economic slump will continue to plague us, however, for several years.
5. Because of the election of Democrat Joe Biden for president, and Democrats regaining control of both legislative houses, there will be serious attempts to mitigate climate change through sane environmental policies – the EPA will be restored to its pre-Trump mission and effectiveness, policies to encourage the move to cleaner energy sources will be proposed, and the U.S. will re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement. The federal government will be restored to a more professional and less corrupt state.
Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is a topic being debated in the news lately. Our non-leader Orange Man wants all the kids to return to school and virus be damned. Many, if not most, districts have been saying that online learning has had mixed results so far. I can easily believe that. Fandango’s question is:
Do you believe that students should be required to return to school for the new school year? If you are a parent, are you at all concerned about sending your children to school? Or are you relieved to get the little rugrats out of your hair?
Fandango acknowledges this question is one of the most dire dilemmas in the countries where covid-19 is out of control, such as the United States by giving these stats:
He continues, “And with between 60,000 and 70,000 new cases each day and 1,000 or more deaths each day, the virus shows no signs of abating anytime soon.
“Donald Trump, the President of the United States, is trying to pretend that everything is fine and that we need to reopen the country and return to ‘normal.’ To that end, he is demanding that schools physically reopen in the fall, even as the coronavirus pandemic is surging through much of the country and is threatening to overwhelm many health care facilities in the hardest hit areas.“
Being an American, I am coming from this perspective. I am going to answer from the point of view of a former K-5 teacher, whose students were in the majority low income and whose first language was not English.
The question of whether or not to send kids back to school next month is really a dilemma and let me first say that I am very glad right now that I retired from teaching five years ago. “Distance learning” is OK, possibly even desirable, for college students and to some extent, high school students. Much of the debate we hear is geared toward high school when solutions are proposed, such as having the teachers rotate classrooms instead of the kids.
I say, YES, students should go back to school but with some major changes. Here are some things I foresee.
Masks:Uniform masks should be supplied to all students free of charge. They should be replaced every day. The first thing I thought of when mask wearing was proposed was all the wiggly, fidgety K-3 students I have dealt with over the years I spent teaching. I could visualize them playing with their masks – pulling on the elastic, putting their grubby little fingers all over the cloth surface, trading masks with other kids, or throwing them at other kids. I can see it even becoming a fad to have the “coolest” mask. The kind of thing that was so distracting that I had to ban certain fad items to keep the kids from fighting over them or showing them off, trading, playing with them, etc. I don’t know if little kids can really understand the importance of wearing a mask and some of them I am sure will not be able to get used to them. In a child’s cognitive development, empathy and the ability to think about something from someone else’s point of view do not really come into play until they are 8 or 9 years old.
Physical distancing: Students should be divided so that some go in the morning, some go in the afternoon, and if necessary, restrict the number of in-class days to 2 or 3. As for physical distancing, this too can be hard. Part of school is learning appropriate ways of interacting with other children. Plus, little kids are really into hugs – they LOVE to hug! Especially their teachers, but also their best friends or to comfort a crying classmate. Many, especially the youngest students, would find it unnatural and difficult to adjust to a strictly hands-off policy. But having fewer kids in the classroom at any one time would help.
Another proposal that could be included in this would be to expand the school year to year-round. There are already many schools that have year-round schedules, but this maybe could become the norm. This would make it more viable for the students to be in the classroom longer, because they could be rotated in this way too. So, for example, half the third graders in School X would have spring break in the third week of March, while the other half would have spring break in the fourth week of March. Of course, this will probably draw objections from teachers and from parents who have children in different grade levels with different schedules. These are problems that will have to be worked out by each individual institution or district.
“Virtual” classrooms:Some distance or virtual learning will be necessary, probably close to 50% of the students’ school time.Students will be required to participate in the distance learning activities and submit whatever work the teacher requires. Virtual school can only do so much. Some children don’t have access to computers at home, so they’d have to spend their day in a library, probably in close proximity to others doing the same thing. (And how would they get to the library if no one is home to take them?) Also, as I said before, face-to-face interaction is important especially when the students are young.
Entire curricula for online learning will have to be developed and designed; teachers will need extra inservice and professional development days to learn the programs and set up their virtual classrooms, and then to tweak the programs later on. I have no doubt there are plenty of educational supply companies that would love to find a new source of revenue designing, refining, and updating these curricula. The companies themselves might even be willing to train the teachers to use the programs, but probably not all the ongoing training and updating throughout the school year.
Where would the extra revenue come from? There would need to be funds spent on infrastructure (in some cases), equipment, staff (including an increase in the number of teachers), training, curricula, the expenses involved in keeping schools open for longer periods of time, etc. Would governments, however, be able and willing to spend a lot more on education than they currently do? How many referendums for increased school spending would be approved by voters? Because no matter what kind of solutions will be found and agreed to by school boards and parents, it is going to take MONEY, honey!! Beaucoup bucks! Mucho dinero! Too often, way too often, governments impose new requirements with good intentions, but do not provide funding for them. Schools and districts have to stretch their budgets to incorporate the new requirements.
First, they will have to supply everychild with an iPad or laptop computer to use at home. (It will not work in the end if kids have to share their portable computer with siblings.) Sometimes these items will be abused, broken, lost or stolen. It should work pretty well in affluent suburbs, but what about in inner cities? If something happens to the iPad/laptop, whether or not it is the student’s fault, will (s)he be supplied with another one?
I see this as a necessity for any of the solutions being proposed. Even before covid-19, school districts were already making the decision to supply (or not) all students with iPads or laptops, because computers have become vital to all of our lives and kids need to know how to use them and learn on them, whether they have physical school or not. Poorer districts, of course, do not have the means to do as much of this. Inequality enhanced by access to technology will become a greater problem than it already is. And what about rural areas where internet connectivity is spotty? Is the federal government going to provide the infrastructure to correct that, so that every single citizen of this country has equal access to the internet? I’m not optimistic, no matter who is elected in November.
Increase in teaching & support staff: Placing the additional burden of both in class and distance learning on the current staff at any given school will cause more stress and higher rates of attrition. Therefore, creative solutions will have to be found. Team teaching is one good solution, in my opinion. Perhaps new positions could also be created for tutors (who would help the struggling students at home, for example). But I guarantee, a commitment will have to be made to hire more teachers, so that the student-teacher ratio can become more like 15-1 than the current 25 to 30 students per teacher.
I know this is a long-winded answer, but I wanted to make it clear that I don’t agree with just sending students back to school without drastic modifications and a commitment to spending more on education. As a former teacher, I also wanted to lend my expertise to my answer. I know there are a lot of issues I didn’t cover or even think of. Thanks to everyone who read this entire post!