Today, March 17th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
On Sunday, the unthinkable happened. I napped. Collapsing onto the couch, I briefly attempted to remember the last time this happened. I couldn’t remember. No matter, I thought.
Then I wondered, “My god, what will the kids do?” My wife had already dozed off. I could hear her gentle breathing from the couch adjacent to the one I now occupied. I listened. In the dining room, three little voices. Chattering about drawing, negotiating colored marker use, discussing next steps about . . . well, something. The tone in their voices held contentment, engagement. They were cooperating. Playing. So, I guess I don’t need to worry? Afternoon sun flooded the room, and my eyes felt heavy. So I closed them.
And then it happened. I fell asleep. Not sure how long I was out. But when I awoke, I realized I’d taken a short break from worry. From anxiety. From decision-making. From housecleaning. From dishes. From laundry. From home-school planning. From my phone. From my laptop. From all of it.
Just for a little bit.
Today, March 16th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
I closed the glass-paneled door gently behind me and started down toward the water. A slight breeze reminded me that I might be underdressed. “Yes,” it said, “it is a clear sunny day, but don’t forget. . . it is March.” Oh well, this time outside would be short, I thought. Just a short walk to the water, a short break from the kids. I’ll be fine.
I held my phone close to my ear and slowly meandered toward the lazy river that runs behind my house. On the other end of the line, I listened as one of my oldest and dearest friends recounted stories, catching me up on his life: As a principal, he will still go to work, even though his school is closed. His daughter remains in Europe, and this worries him. Stockpiling toilet paper is an issue. And other things. I caught him up a little on my life, too.
Standing on my dock now, I gazed out at the dark water slowly flowing by. It reminded me of time. Barely moving. Hard to discern the passage. I thought about how long it had been since I had spoken with my friend. Weeks? Months? How is that possible? We live on opposite coasts, but still . . .
Turning my back on the water, I slowly made my way back toward the house. It felt good to connect with an old friend. Even if only for a short bit. It felt good.
Today, March 15th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
“Sounds great, guys, sounds great! Let’s just remember to keep our volume down, okay?” I looked up from behind the Roland electric piano where I sat. Our musical director, a wonderful saxophonist named Doug, seemed pleased. He smiled jovially at all of us. I glanced back at the drummer, then over to our bass player, and finally to the guitar player, who sat adjacent to me. We had just finished playing Henry Mancini’s composition, “Mr. Lucky.”
The rich brown wood of the studio that surrounded us, once an old Dutch barn, felt comforting somehow. Amidst a global pandemic, with schools closing, sports seasons canceled, public sites and destinations shuttered, grocery stores emptied, sitting behind a piano playing music delivered just a bit of normality back to life last night. And for that, I felt so grateful. I guess you could say I felt like Mr. Lucky himself.
Today, March 14th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
Quietly, I snuck into the classroom. The roomful of fifth graders sat attentively at their desks, listening to their teacher. Holding the book in my hands, I surveyed the room. Where was he?
Then I spotted him. Blue shirt. Close cropped hair. Yep, that’s him. He had just left my classroom, and now here he sat for the final period of the school day. At least he’s toward the back, I thought to myself. Working my hardest to emulate the silence of a bat, I swooped toward the boy. Kneeling down, I laid the book on his desk. He looked at me. I looked at him. He looked at the book.
“You forgot this,” I whispered. He had just finished the first beautiful book, The War That Saved My life, and I had made sure I had the sequel waiting for him, The War I Finally Won. But in his haste to be on time to his last class, he’d left it on my table.
“Thank you,” he whispered back. A small smile may have formed on this face.
“I wanted you to have it,” I said. Those words could not have felt more true, as we all would head home from school, uncertain when we would be able to return. Closed indefinitely. Coronavirus now firmly in control.
Silently, I exited the room, thinking about the title of the book I just handed my student. As we all do what we can to combat the spread of this virus, I look forward to the day we can feel that title resonate.
Today, March 13th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
A slight crackle and the loudspeaker came to life. It sliced through the calm in my classroom, interrupting my lesson. Oh right, I thought, we knew about this. Leaning back in my chair from which I had been conducting my reading lesson, I cast my eyes to the clock. Exactly 2:10 p.m., just like she’d told us in her email. Dark clouds rolled in outside. I could see them through my window.
Suddenly, my principal’s voice through the P.A. system. “Good afternoon,” she began. I glanced over at my student seated next to me. He remained quiet, subdued. Our principal commenced to explain what will happen over the next couple of days. Her tone was direct, but calm. Thursday will be a late start for students, allowing time for teachers to train on various necessary technology that might be used for distance learning, should that become a necessity. Friday, already a scheduled early-release day for professional development, will now be used as planning and team time.
Our principal went on to provide as much reassuring information as possible: we are in contact with health officials; be sure to wash your hands; that sort of thing.
During times of disaster, uncertainty, or, in this case, pandemic, a question always arises: How much should we shield our children from darkness? Today, I appreciated our principal. Kids are smart. They know something is going on. So in the role of educators, shouldn’t we act as steadfast voices of information?
Today, March 11th, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
I handed her the phone and recited the number. My ten-year-old daughter, slightly unsteady with this foreign, cordless landline unit, dialed the digits. As I stepped away, I watched as she gripped her yellow pencil, straightened the papers on her clipboard. Outside, the sun had begun to set, but the sky had only become more radiant and beautiful as the day had grown older.
“Hi, Gram!” My daughter spoke clearly and audibly into the phone. She’s already doing great, I thought to myself. I had explained that if she wanted to interview my nearly 100-year-old grandmother, she would need to speak loudly. Gram’s hearing isn’t what it used to be.
My daughter’s assignment was entitled, “Interview a Woman in Your Life,” in honor of Women’s History Month. From across the room, I listened and watched as my daughter enthusiastically asked questions and jotted down responses.
Reading over my daughter’s paper later, after she had gone to sleep, I noticed some recurrent themes in Grammy’s answers: (1) Gram felt pride in her family. She’d raised three daughters, all of whom later became successful career women. (2) School and education mattered to her. This notion shone through in answers to multiple questions. School was important. She had always preached this message, even when I was young. And (3) She did not feel entirely comfortable with the vast changes in women’s roles over the last 100 years. Fair enough, I thought. Fair enough.
As I read through the interview questions and answers, I thought about how fortunate we are, for this opportunity to connect across so many generations is rare. Probably quite rare. Flipping to the last page, I read the final question my daughter had posed: “What advice would you give to young people?” My gram’s response:
- Learn to love with all your heart
- Get a good education
- Love children
Today, March 11t, 2020, I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Story Challenge.
She felt nervous. I could tell. “Mr. Ball, do you think the virus will get here…to our town?” she asked. Her lips curled upward, just slightly, in what looked to be disgust. Her eyes remained fixed on mine, exuding a deep, child-like fear. I could tell she was nervous.
The boy next to her chimed in. “It’s already in Wilton,” he said. Wilton is a neighboring town. Although he delivered his words confidently, he likely felt nervous, too.
I placed the clipboard that held my conferring notes down on the table at which we sat. I took a deep breath. “I don’t know,” I said, looking sympathetically back at the eighth grade girl next to me.
Perhaps a better, more reassuring answer could have been provided.
But I’m nervous, too.