Begin: Weird School

Some schools have been going for a while. Others are delaying even longer. My school began with orientations this week for each grade level. In the middle school, we had each grade on a different day, spread out throughout the building in the largest classrooms. Students were grouped in their advisories and stayed together all day aside from an outdoor, socially distanced recess. Most advisory groups had one or more students who remained off-site—for medical or other reasons—and connected to the classroom virtually. I had three such students in my group of eleven, so I shared the room with eight physical students.

Orientation ran from 8:30 to noon. The time passed pretty quickly, though the adults were certainly worn out by the end of it. My own mask became incredibly irritating after the first few hours. It would have been smarter for me to try wearing a mask for four hours at home to really learn what type is most comfortable for me. As it is, I’ve rarely worn a mask for more than 30 minutes at a stretch (usually while shopping).

In the pictures below, you can see the fairly insane tech setup that we had running in my room. (It’s not actually my normal classroom, and none of us have been in during the summer, so things are pretty messy.) I had two computers and three screens running simultaneously. The laptop in the middle had the camera and microphone for the Google Meet with my virtual advisees. The laptop was also connected to the huge smartboard where I could display slides or videos. I had that Chrome tab shared in Google Meet with the remote kids. The third monitor, on the right, is attached to a separate computer that was also connected to my Meet so that the virtual participants were visible on a larger screen for the rest of the in-person class. My in-person kids were spread out with at least six-feet between each desk, so some of them were quite far away from the monitor.

We spent the day getting to know each other, discussing our summers, and laying the groundwork for the coming year. Regular classes begin next week. They will be fully distanced (remote teaching) for at least the first three weeks. Then the school will decide, based on infection numbers in the Twin Cities, whether to move to fully in-person teaching or some sort of hybrid model. It was great having this time to get to know some of our students before beginning classes next week. Just having them in the building (even virtually) made it feel more like school was really starting.

I have no idea how things will play out in the coming weeks, but I’m glad that we’re finally diving in. While there were many wonderful things about this summer, the hours of planning, worrying, scrapping plans, and worrying more was not my favorite thing.

Below is a copy of the introductory video that I shared with my advisees. It features some pictures of our new dog, Piper, and a few screenshots from my summer role-playing games.

Video introduction for my advisees

New Office

Like so many others, I have spent far more time at home over the past six months than usual. Our house wasn’t organized with a workspace for me. We live so close to my school that I normally do almost all of my work there. If I need to take care of a few things at home, I can use my laptop on the couch or at the dining room table. That’s fine for occasional use, but doesn’t cut it if I need to be teaching classes and attending meetings on-line for many hours a day.

Last spring I spent a bit of time improving the small desk in the basement. I put in a keyboard tray, and bought a wireless split keyboard and mouse. This improved the ergonomics enormously. The room, however, was cramped because it doubles as our guest bedroom and we had a pretty enormous bed taking up most of the space. Moreover, the walls were dinged up pretty badly and the existing shade of green made me look a bit ghoulish on video. In August, therefore, we got rid of the bed, picked up an Ikea convertible sofa, and repainted the whole room to be a calm shade of bluish gray.

Puppy, Week 2

We’ve had our puppy for two weeks now and we want to tell you about the second one. She has gotten to like us much better and is way more attentive. She loves playing with Coco, the dog across the street, but is scared of Josie the Great Dane. Piper has gotten bigger. She also has more of an appetite. She loves the liver treats and also she goes on some walks. We got her a bigger crate also. She is still the cutest thing ever. And she gives us delight. What else can a person ask for?

Invincible Tick

Warning: This is a bit grosser than the average post on this blog. Skip it if you’re squeamish.

Once upon a time our puppy had an engorged tick in her ear. We saved it in a plastic bag for a few days because we thought it might be a Lyme disease transmitting tick but we think it’s a dog tick. And it didn’t die so we drowned it in alcohol and it still didn’t die so we pinched it in a clothespin for a few days BUT IT STILL DIDN’T DIE!! And it is still alive today. We might pop it but it would get too much blood everywhere so we named it the invincible tick.

Introducing Piper

The latest addition to our family is Piper, an eight-week old goldendoodle puppy. We picked her up on Monday, June 15. Griffin and Maggie describe her like this:

We just got a puuuuuppppy!!!! She is a goldendoodle and she is a really great sweet dog. We named her Piper and she loves to play but doesn’t really like her crate yet. Piper loves outside, especially the bush. And she loves digging besides the house. She sleeps a lot and she rarely barks unless she’s scared. She is the cutest thing ever!

Piper’s phlox lair.

The “bush” that they mention is a clump of phlox at the edge of our yard; she likes to nap in the shade there, nearly invisible.

We had been idly considering a dog at some point in the next few years, but were in no rush. Like many people during the pandemic, however, we realized that the requirements of social distancing and a summer without many of our usual activities is an excellent time to focus our energy on a new project. Puppies are a lot of work, but we’re enjoying the journey so far.

Pictures from our first few days together followed by two short video clips:

Playing in the yard on a hot afternoon.

More backyard fun.

The latest news from Sarah and Andrew.