2 metres

Are 2 metres enough? When it comes to school, keeping at least 2 metres apart may be the only way from keeping us all from being 2 metres under. How far will this go?

The desks rearranged again row by row 2 metres apart.
Imaginary bunkers with plexiglass barricades,
face masks, and the scent of Eau de Désinfectant will
fill
these hallowed spaces.

Sombre, subdued, and still only somewhat sterile,
Schools, once again, turning into subdivisions
where halves of haves and have nots will be asked to sit.
Whose decisions have all been made for them by people who
felt it too unsafe to meet in person while deciding whether to
send the future back together.

Hands off,
Keep apart 2 metres,
Stop singing,
Sanitize,
Stop touching your face,
And for the love of humanity
Keep your masks on at all times!

Learn, play, line up,
get scanned, and repeat.

Keep your distance.
Make sure you smile, check in online,
and do all of your work,

Don’t forget to act like this is good for you.

Go home. Don’t get sick or else.
Limit contact with anyone. Wash your hands.
Come back tomorrow, and we will try to survive together,
like this, all over again, from 2 metres apart. 

Your sensibilities

I was thinking about us.
Us as a collection of bystanders, well-wishers,
#hashtaggers, and emotional opportunists.

Us like you U separating from me. U see.
We need to talk because there’s got to be
more here than your thoughts/prayers.
This is going to be one of those
it’s not me,
it’s Y-O-U
talks.

Yes you, whose senses have lost their abilities.
Whose senseless inactions have become your inability…

To see what’s happening around you.
To feel that something was ever wrong.
To hear the voices screaming for your attention to listen.
To smell the stench of overgrown privilege, power, and position.
To taste nothing, but what is sweet and good on your overfilled plate.

Without ever knowing about those who go without regular meals but plenty of hate. Without a sniff of fresh air to break the stagnation and suffocation of choking systemic oppression. Without lending an ear to hear the voices that now rise louder than their past screams for justice so they are no longer silenced. Without feeling a moment of compassion or sorrow. Without your eyes ever beholding a better now or tomorrow.

Refresh

Hit Refresh again, and again.

 

Agony from an icon
Refreshing I don’t think so,
These reloads, add more
Work to my workload.
Digital tributaries, draining into my ocean inbox
Levels of unread messages rising.
Until it explodes in a flood of replies.
My head, eyes, and mind fill up,
While my brain, days, weeks, and
Months implode from the
Loads of keys stroked sent like flares
Of information flashing from your screen to mine
at the speed of light and time.
Update. A question. Your attention is required?
Every time that I hit refresh, a digital door swings
open allowing bits and megabytes to devour my
Cyber and physical space – not sent in spite or malice,
Yet, rarely do they provide me respite or solace.
Refresh on my screen is not a rest or a promise.
It is a reminder that the off button works only when pressed. 

Things to do while staying at home

If social media has taught me anything it’s to pay attention to these things…# # #. So when the Twitterverse says #stayathome #stayhome #COVID19 I was compelled to click, consider, and contribute.

It’s been quite a year for many of us so far as educators in Ontario. Allow me to list some of the beasts that I have battled along with my colleagues;

  1. Untimely death of a student’s parent
  2. Ukraine Air disaster(sad to lose a former student)
  3. Winter weather
  4. Labour unrest(including strike days, pause on extra-curriculars)
  5. Battles with self-doubt, wellness, and purpose.
  6. COVID 19 crisis(ancillary uncertainty and ongoing postponement of in-class instruction)
  7. Shift to emergency distance learning and reconnecting students in a meaningful manner that will support, and not overwhelm them
  8. Coming soon…but not sure what, when, how, where or why?

It has been a trying time for us all. I have been trying to make sense of it all in my own ways. Taking each day a bit more slowly is my latest strategy. With time on my hands, it seems like I am lingering longer over tasks because there is not nearly the same time demands while self-isolating with the exception of strategizing to buy groceries and fermented beverages. Who’d have thought that route mapping a grocery store, pharmacy, or LCBO would require such serious planning?

On this time away, I have found new places to hide in my house. Several new recipes have been tried(soup, sauces, scones, yum). I have ground, brewed, and drank 6 pounds of coffee since the start of March Break. Be warned, I only have 4 more before the apocoffeelypse begins when I run out. My dog has become the happiest pet on the planet having all of her people in their proper places at home.

Oddly, the list of things to do over the break has not gotten any shorter. There’s always something to clean, learn, fix, watch, listen to, and prepare. This includes preparing for the return to “Normal”. So in honour of oversharing and cathartic brain purge here are some of things that have been working well for me. So far…

  1. Housework – cleaning, cooking, organizing, yard work, rotating groceries, sanitizing devices, remotes, doorhandles, rails and switchplates to name half a dozen. Growing up we used to call this Saturday + laundry.
  2. Trying new recipes. This can be turned into a challenge especially when you try to subsitute an ingredient from the recipe with its distant cousin you found in your cupboard. It’s like cooking roulette and you bet whether it will be a delish or disatrous dish. So far I have worked with soups, filo pastry dough, and blueberry scones. 00100dportrait_00100_burst20200330115900404_cover
  3. Try new things. Time at home has given me a chance to regenerate some romaine lettuce from the stump. I’ll be replanting it in dirt this week. I have also been marveling at the progress, and the Math in all of this.
  4. Go for walks/jogs, do push-up(s), jumping jack(s), yoga, pilates, stationary cycling, lift weights, Go Noodle, Just Dance on YouTube, or anything else to get moving. All of this time in front of our screens can lead to a sedentary lifestyle.
  5. Take time to connect with family, colleagues, and friends with a quick text or email. Lots of folks are suffering. Being acknowledged can make the world of difference to someone when they know you are thinking of them.
  6. Avoid getting caught in the vortex of the 24 hour news cycle. It is not healthy to hear the same info repeatedly. Admittedly, it’s rough out there right now. Folks are doing the best they can in this “new normal”, and information is changing. Be careful not to worry too much as the numbers are constantly updating. I worry that this could lead to pandemic stress disorder. If you are doing your part by staying at home, limiting trips to stores, and practicing physical distancing then you are already part of the solution.
  7. Treat yourself to some snack food. I am having a kettle chip thing right now.
  8. Order takeout or delivery from a local restaurant. They appreciate the support.
  9. Say thanks to the people who are still working when you do have to go shopping.
  10. Rest. Try to keep a normal schedule and set of routines.

What’s working for you? Please share what you are doing at home that would inspire/encourage others in the comments section and keep the conversation going. We’re all in this together. Stay safe. Stay at home and we’ll all get through this together. Thank you.

Achoo

woman-touching-her-nose-395088

Photo by Brandon Nickerson from Pexels

…ah shoo…eschew…Aa-aa-ah-CHOO.
Tissue isn’t the issue, when a single sneeze can silence a room.

An aural interruption that sounds like epidemiological gun fire.
Germ warfare is back, hoarding new soldiers, for its big battle.
Time slows while an entire space holds its collective breath.
Whose side are you on? Can I trust you? Can I be trusted?
Pandemic enters our discourse and gathering spaces.

 

A-CHOO!

 

Without a warning.
Powerless to hold it back.
A natural response is now an attack.
Thoughts racing through every soul within
and without 2 metres distance of the blast radius.

Droplets with unknown destinations and origins dispersed.
Droplets of anxious sweat forming on foreheads from what’s not known.
Distancing, dreading, decisions to make, do I have 14 days to give?
Knowing how 7 days without interaction makes one weak.
Could 14 make me stronger? Time to wait, write, and seek.

Commuted

A commuter is condemned
to confinement on concrete that knows no
beginning or end.

Crammed [in]conveniently to conveyances
that make roads shimmer and rails thunder,
a massive moving metallic maelstrom

Our community serves out its life by waiting in metal boxes
calling it commuting when really it is us just trying to carry-on
while we crave, consume, and repeat to survive.

Our calm muted wondering when this sentence will be commuted.

 

Dad G

Despite having such a great father, I sometimes still feel like a terrible son. I take on too many things at once, I am disorganized, I struggle with prioritizing tasks, am often pre-occupied, and frequently forgetful. All of these things were not taught to me by my dad, but somehow worked their way into my life-skillset anyway.

I’d like to blame him here, but know that none of this was modeled for me in the home. What I am happy to share are the amazing things that I did learn from this man whixh have contributed so much in making me the man, husband, father, and teacher I am today.

Did I mention easily distracted?

Sound funny? In its own way, yes and no. Right now though, is time to celebrate my pops. It’s Father’s Day, and instead of sending a card without ever enough money or gift card value to show my appreciation, I wanted to share something digitally with the world that would honour my dad Bill, and the blessings that he has given my life instead.

Wisdom

It is no lie that from the moment a child joins Team Earth, there is much to learn. My dad stepped into the role of Co-CIO(Chief Information Officer) in my life. Come to think of it, there were a lot of roles that he took on once family life started: Co-CFO, Co-Jurist, Co-Cop, Co-Logistics Manager, and Co-protector to name five.

From the get-go he was providing information and feedback. Somedays it was like come here, be quiet, get off of that, stop hurting your sister, stop bothering your brother, go to sleep, stay out of the forest, and so much more. Dad taught me what it was like to be a peacekeeper and how to maintain law and order.

As I grew a little older, it became more technical, iterative, and descriptive. By the time I was 5 much knowledge was gained. Always be learning, work hard, play hard, be honest, do your chores, quit hitting your brother and sister, don’t interrupt, pay attention to your surroundings, be respectful to others, be a problem solver, and learn new words everyday by reading. And then it was time to go to school.

School 

To a kindergarten kid, school is a giant indoor and outdoor playground. There were things to discover, games to play, songs to sing, and people too. At the end of the day, Dad would ask us what we had learnt and I am sure that the answer was always the same one, “Nothing”. Most days, I wanted to go to school and I wanted to show how much I was learning. There was so much to do, experience, and try even when we learnt “nothing”, we still managed to learn something.

My dad shared, that when he was growing up, he liked school too. He preferred playing sports, but also enjoyed his academic subjects. For him, the end of Grade 12 meant hitting the job market. You could get a job with a high school diploma in those days. I remember that he spoke about the importance of going to college/university and how a degree would be a benefit in our lives. Hard work mattered if any of us wanted to get ahead in this world. That meant I had to get a part-time job. 

Work 

Newspaper routes, washing dishes, bussing tables, and waiter were all lines on my resumé before turning 18. As Co-CFO, finances were important to my dad too. ‘Money did not grow on trees”, clichés about money did. Yet, despite having to get up early on weekends to go to work, the satisfaction of earning my own money for a job well done has never gone away. My first official paycheck at age 14 was a big event. It also signified the end of my allowance, but the beginning of my ability to generate income and start making some financial decisions for myself.

In many ways work was like freedom. It allowed me to do the things I’d never done before. The people skills and financial literacy are still in use. My parents’ hard work allowed us to have a wonderful home and security. This privilege also came with some responsibilities and expectations (a fair deal, although difficult to admit at the time).

Working was, is, and will be what we do. Even now, at 85 years old, dad is working full time, and probably loving every minute of it. I am still many years away from that milestone, but have already begun strategizing on what my 70s and 80s will hold beyond teacher life. Law school? Advertising? Barista? All threesta?

A strong work ethic shared by my dad has served me well as an entrepreneur and as an educator. Throughout all of my iterations as a child, adolescent, young adult, spouse, parent, and educator, my father’s ability to guide me towards make good decisions without deriding my choices has helped me in and out of the classroom. What still surprises me to this day is that even when I deserved to have my figurative ass kicked with an “I told you so.” or a “You should have…”, he allowed me to make my mistakes knowing that I would learn from them. That is how I try to do it too.

Here are a few of my dad’s pearls of wisdom (original and otherwise) that I am passing on to my son. Afterall, there will always more to parenting than just passing on DNA. Perhaps DNA stands for something else too.

Dad’s Natural Advice aka DNA 

“There’s no substitute for hard work.”
“If you have time to do it wrong, you’d better have time to do it over.”
“You can’t be a leader without a following.”
“You can fool some people some times, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.”
“Do nice things that help others.”
“Pay attention to the world around you. Take time to notice the little things.”
“Be kind to others without expecting anything in return.”
“A good vocabulary is the key to higher learning.”
and my all time favourite…
“Take French, you might get a job someday.”
Yay for second language learning!

I have shared each of these gems with my son and students over the years. Not a single one appears in a curriculum document, except perhaps the learn French one(only until Gr 9). Nevertheless, the wisdom at the core of each one is also at the heart of our collective humanity and capacity to learn and grow. My dad knows this, and continues to share it with a grace and wisdom beyond any of the degrees found conferred in academia.

It is with the knowledge that I pick up the mantle he has hewed before me, carry it forward, and prepare the future to hold it high.

Thanks Dad for the lessons. I still need more. May God continue to bless you with health, happiness, and wisdom for years and years to come so you can keep on kicking proverbial ass with wisdom. 

Love Will

 

The ABCs, verbs, and a reminder to government about their actions

As soon as 2 mouths are open, listening
Becomes impossible. Be still and
Calm your urges to react.

Cultivate your responses with tact and care.
Be bold in the face of ongoing acrimony.
Accept that change takes time(or an election cycle).

At a point where everyone expects instant gratification, information, and action telling the world to wait, think, and then act requires a bold courage beyond any mandate from 40.5% of voters. Regardless of political stripes, promises, and budgets, decisions must be made to benefit the entire populace not provoke or punish it.

Yet, it seems punishment in the form of economic funding cuts is all that is taking place. The public outcry is deafening already, and growing louder everyday. No one thinks cutting education, health care, or social service funding is a good idea.

With so many public services under attack and more cuts coming our way I wanted to consider the impact of government actions in terms of verbs in an alpha-betical construct.

Aim – attention from your current actions and onto publicity stunts
Blame – the past government for everything
Claim – you are acting on behalf of the people
Denigrate – all citizens opposed to your actions(students, teachers, nurses, doctors, legal aid, trade unions, union leadership, public service, municipal governments, social services advocates, scientists, youth/outreach workers, poverty activiststs)

Explain – that times are tough, and that everyone must do their part…to widen the gap between rich and poor(must have left that part out)
Feign – indignance rather than stand back to see the financial and social impact that such short sighted decision making will have on society
Gain – an affluent base to keep happy or a motivated electorate intent on ending a mistaken mandate…short term gain for long term pain

Harangue – any and all opposition from the public and press that does not follow party platforms – see also hector
Inflame – situations by refusing to answer direct questions in the legislative chamber, but choosing instead to derrogate the opposition while touting “accomplishments”
Jab – at those who dare stand up against arbitrary cuts while watching the richest earners/companies not expected to pay their fair share(s)
Kick – programs that help the most vulnerable to the curb(safe injection sites, Legal Aid,
Launch – attacks at union leadership, teachers, and students for protesting cuts to education
Manipulate – the media by generating a provincially funded news source to stream unchallenged government narratives
Negate – all the good that exists in our province that will continue – educational success, job creation, maintenance of social safety net
Obfuscate – every noble platform priority in favour of fixing a fictitious fiscal fantasy
Profit – from backroom connections that line the pockets of cronies and friends of the family

Question – everything that does not willingly lineup, salute, and drink the  party Kool Aid
Refuse – to consider the long term impact of poor public policy on justice, access, education, health care, mental health, and the economy.
Scold – leaders fighting for the rights of workers instead of inviting them to collaborate on ideas together

Taunt – the media, trade unions, families, students, teachers, front line health care workers, the poor(a buck a beer is not a policy win)
Undermine – years of hard work in areas of Special Education, FDK, and ASD treatment access
Vex – bait, confuse, and switch messages, narratives, and directions in order to bluff out the players in the game. To cause dis-ease in the ranks all the while peeking at the cards they might be holding.

Wonder -why is everybody so upset? Everyone can find 4% savings if they look close enough.
Xerox – duplicate what is being done south of the boarder by populist politicians

Yawp – complain whiningly with great noise and blame about the policies of other past and present governments
and
Zigzag – never defining or refining specific policy or platform goal beyond a provocative headline or veiled promise.

I am sure that there are hundreds of other verbs that could comprise this list. Feel free to share some of your own verbs from A to Z in the comment section.

If you liked or felt challenged by what you’ve read,  please share. Thanks for reading.

Chesed – חסד

Last week, I met with a young man and his mother via Skype to help give a TED Ed style talk. It was the first of several virtual conversations we planned.

Once the technical bugs were worked out between 500+ km of fibre optics, I was greeted by a shy, yet mischievious smile and a kind woman. There was instant rapport. The pair willingly shared in the conversation. We chatted for an hour and throughout it all, I felt like I’d known them for years. It was like we were family and my Hebrew vocabulary increased too. 

We said our goodbyes and planned to speak again. I left the conversation feeling happy and inspired. What I did not realize at the time, was it was to be our only meeting,

He was less than a decade old, and had probably done more living, in those short years, than most would with 10 times that many.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of medical appointments, diagnoses, and procedures. Yet, never without hope, desire, and strength.

Hope that he will continue to get better.
Desire to be a blessing to the lives of others.
Strength and determination to keep fighting everyday.

Impact is measured in lives changed. His was great and it can be characterized with a single Hebrew word, chesed – the attribute of grace, benevolence, or compassion – all of which he had plenty to spare.

His brief life was a reminder to all that everyone has a purpose to fulfill. And even though the number of days to fulfill our purpose is not known, to borrow the words of his mother, we too can be kiddush hashem, like this young man, true blessings to others.