DAY 31: Life’s a Zoo

I was excited to get to the Brookfield Zoo today with a friend and her two young daughters. I hadn’t see her since last October so it was quite a treat in many ways. I try to be extra cautious with my ventures into public places so I had my KN95 mask and hand sanitizer on the ready. It was somewhat chilly so I felt even better knowing I was bundled up with a hat, scarf, and gloves. Aside from my friend, I loved seeing the lions and tigers and sloth bears (which I never knew existed). The Brookfield Zoo also has dinosaur animatronics all over, which was very cool. The last 31 days have felt like living through a zoo/circus so this seems like an appropriate way to end my month and slicing adventures for 2021.

DAY 30: The Hill We Climb

I have been waiting so long to hold this book in my hands. It came out today and you bet I paid the extra $3 to have it delivered on the day it came out. What a special moment in our nation’s history for us to witness and be a part of. I sat at my desk and cried like a baby watching Amanda Gorman recite and perform this poem live on Inauguration Day. I can’t help but feel inspired every time I just think about it. I just watched an interview with Amanda and Oprah on Oprah’s Apple Tv+ show and this girl is so young and so wise. I wish I had an ounce of her talent. This book will have to do.

DAY 29: Lose Control

This year, my jr. high is presenting a virtual musical. As the director, I was able to find a show that is specifically designed to be presented remotely. While I was sad that my kids would not experience the excitement of a live performance for the second year in a row, I was very excited at the prospect of engaging audiences for years to come via YouTube. We had workshops and auditions in the fall and rehearsals took place from December through March. As a teacher/director/coach/general type A personality, I normally find the rehearsal process to be the most enjoyable as students explore their roles while still under your wing and safety net. Obviously the scariest part is usually when the show is performed in front of a live audience and the control shifts from the director to the performers.

This year, there is a different stressful structure built in as I patiently wait for students to submit video recordings of themselves performing the songs and scenes. Normally during the live performance of a show, I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off as I wear many hats and fulfil the duties of stage manager, costume designer, sound and lighting designer, set and props crew, and I am sure a few more that I am forgetting. There really isn’t time or energy available to stress over losing control of the show itself. This year, as spring break began today, I have fully lost control of the show with nothing to do but wait.

DAY 28: A Sunday Stroll

I live in the backyard of Harper College, a community college in Palatine, IL. When all of the gyms closed last March, this quickly became my treadmill. I am so grateful for the beautiful weather we have been having the last two weeks. It has been so nice to have my second gym back and be able to enjoy the lovely view as I run through. I had to snap this picture today just for my fellow slicers to enjoy.

DAY 27: Movie Night!

I love movies. There is something about watching a story unfold before your eyes and escaping whatever worries you might have in your own life that is really therapeutic. I have always loved going to the movies ever since I was a kid and it is something that I really miss doing. Sharing the thrill and excitement with a room full of complete strangers is oddly special. Though I will say, while going to the movies has been impossible I really love how readily available new movies have been over the last year and will continue to be through streaming platforms. I love following the awards season and watching the nominated films to make my own opinions. I was impressed with myself (lame I know) that I had already seen 6/8 nominated best picture films before the Academy Awards announcement. Two of my favorites would definitely be Judas and the Black Messiah and Nomadland. I highly recommend them if you have HBOMax or Hulu. Tonight I will be watching Promising Young Woman so I will be up to 7/8.

DAY 26: Spring Break!

Oh how the times have changed. I can imagine past spring breaks that were spent cramming into crowded amusement parks and concert arenas. Now, I can only see myself laying in bed with my cat watching all the Oscar nominated movies that I haven’t seen yet (The Father & Promising Young Woman). Event he thought of getting away somewhere involves me, myself, and I in an empty secluded Airbnb. Maybe next year will be different? This is a very easy price to pay for humanity, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for a full week of just worrying about myself and what I need. We can all spend time together sometime (hopefully) very soon.

DAY 25: I Am TIRED

I am TIRED. I feel like no matter how much sleep I have forced upon myself this week, I could always get another 2 hours in, which seems like too much. As I teach my students about identifying their emotional states (and soon applying that to actual music), I find myself identifying with low-energy and low-pleasantness types of emotions like mopey and drained. Spring break cannot come soon enough. I am also tired of begging students to complete and/or submit assignments.

I am also tired of racism and a lack of gun control in our country. Sorry for the sneak attack. I cannot begin to imagine the pain those have felt caused by the systemic racism and environment of hate that our country has maintained for far too long. We can no longer go a single day without another mass shooting taking place in our backyard. Things have got to change.

DAY 24: Buda Bakes Pt. 2

To review, I used to bake ALL THE TIME. I was the official birthday cake baker for my entire friend group and all of my family. Once, I found out about my type 2 diabetes I took a long reprieve because it was just too difficult and tempting. I have been getting back into the groove lately thanks to amazing flour and sugar substitutes, as well as Keto recipes becoming more popular and available. This lemon bar recipe is my absolute favorite of those that I have tried so far. It is super easy and quick but the end result is SO GOOD. I made these for Valentine’s day so I added a little pink food coloring to half of the batter and then swirled it together. I made these again today for a little funeral to our Wednesday asynchronous days and they are so fresh; the perfect springtime snack. I figured I would include the recipe along with a glowing recommendation for this Keto chef: https://www.thedietchefs.com/keto-lemon-bars/

DAY 23: EdPuzzle

Teacher recommendation of the day: My new favorite tech teaching tool of the year is EdPuzzle. This tool allows you to record your own video or take a pre-existing video from YouTube and embed questions into the video for your students to answer. EdPuzzle connects to Google Classroom so setting up each individual class and creating time-sensitive assignments is a breeze. EdPuzzle does not allow skipping through videos, so it will show you a progress bar for each student. And if you set up multiple-choice questions (as opposed to open ended questions), EdPuzzle will also grade the answers for you. This is perfect for asynchronous learning and creating flipped classrooms. I just cannot gush enough about it.

DAY 22: F is for Feedback

Providing quality and timely feedback is a vital part of teaching in both normal and pandemic times. The challenge that I have found in rotating all of my students every 9 weeks is that feedback can be met with resistance, if the student receives it as judgement or criticism as opposed to me wanting them to do their very best and push themselves to their full potential. While it can take some getting used to, I have found Screencastify to be an exemplary tool is providing a quick video supplying feedback with a friendly face as opposed to a quick Google Doc static typed out comment. I like using Screencastify for this purpose especially considering I can also share my screen and point out specifics areas of concern in their document/slide/etc. My new 7th graders are still getting used to my humor and sarcasm, so I feel this quarter especially my feedback has been received more easily and understandably than previous quarters this school year.