Pure love

7:47am I should be getting ready for work. Correction: I should be ready for work. I should have done some yoga this morning. I should definitely have checked that Mr. 11 wore boots when he left for school. But it’s cold and I’m tired and the semester is coming to an end and my tea is warm and…

A sudden blur of brown and white flashes outside our sliding glass door. Our cat, Tippy, rises from her bed, looks out, does the cat version of rolling her eyes, and settles herself disdainfully back on her perch. Her sister, Hera, puffs up her tail and retreats towards the other end of the house, indignant.

Indigo has come for a visit. She is our neighbour’s Boston terrier and she regularly comes over to remind us that she needs to love us – or that we need to love her. Unclear. She tears out of her backdoor, bounds down the steps, across the yard and up the stairs onto our deck. Once there, she skids to a halt somewhere near where the door opens and sort of hurls herself at the glass, hoping we’ll be there.

If we are home and open the door, her whole body quivers with excitement. Sometimes she accidentally starts to roll over before she gets all the way into the kitchen. Sometimes she runs in, does a wild loop around the kitchen island, and then throws herself gleefully onto her back while she wiggles her butt, already anticipating a good belly rub.

She never stays for long. After a good pet, I say, “Go on, go home” and she bolts back out the door and over to her house, happy.

I’m happy, too. Since I’m already standing, I grab one more sip of tea and start gathering things for work, trying to love myself as purely as that nutty dog loves me.

So many questions

Today’s post is a small sample of the questions students have asked this week. Online learning is… confusing?

  • What is my overall score 3+, 4-, 4??
    Fear not, I had put the final score on the assignment.

  • Is it possible if you could proof read it before I submit? it would honestly mean a-lot. 
    Turns out that a good spell check & grammar check program works wonders – but I appreciate the vote of confidence for my editing.

  • Hey Mrs P I have  a lot to do like apply for university and work for other courses is it ok if I give you this either between this Friday and Sunday ?Lemme know ASAP

  • Is there any suggestions as to due dates for these assignments ?
    I mean, we actually have due dates. They are on the assignments and posted on the Google classroom.

  • If data is “Facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis.” and contains “Raw figures and facts”, according to one website, then how can it be biased? Does it depend on WHICH data you collect resulting in the information that is then presented? Is it because of omission and selection of certain data that causes it to be biased? If information can’t exist, as it relies on data, how then is the information never neutral?

  • I was just wondering if you had a chance to fill out the reference sheet that I gave you in an email a while ago? I don’t mean to rush you I just want everything to be finished so I can submit it before the due date before  March. 
    Got it done waaay before that March deadline.

  • I have no clue what is going on.
    Ok, not really a question, but this feels like a question. We chatted; the student now has at least some clue about what is going on.

  • Would you mind just replying to me that you did get this message when you have a chance??
    As you can imagine, this email was somewhat longer.

  • How is the algorithm biased and what makes it biased? It must be us because we all have different lenses, right? So, the data we decide to collect is what makes it biased?

    One of the big ideas we discussed was how language shapes our understanding of information. But how exactly? Is it because language goes hand in hand with culture, therefore changing the way we decode and process the information? Or perhaps it is diction? 
    Look at these amazing questions.

  • I just finished my applications for post-secondary studies and it said I need a minimum of 70 % in ENG4U so can you please let me know where I’m at?
    Pretty sure this question came from the same student who asked to turn their work in between Friday and Sunday.

  • How do you take attendance? I was in class.
    Conveniently, this student had been marked present because, well, they were in class. I even double-checked.

  • I might be slowly going insane, like that woman from The Yellow paper,  and I haven’t even gotten to the part where I connect what I’ve learned to other things.

    How do metaphors influence/determine what and how we think? Yes, metaphors can change the way we think about ourselves, others and the world, but how? These are only physical things to understand abstract concepts, yet how can it change our perception and rationality of things?

    For example, how can your perception change when I say “Jill is like an ugly duckling” compared to “Jill is like a rough diamond”or if I say “love is like a journey” compared to “love is like a fire “. I know we’ve watched a video in class about it, but I can’t grasp the explanation.     
    I feel like this student already deserves an A just for the thinking in the emails they’ve been sending.

  • Hi Mrs. Potts, when is the review due?
    I swear I give due dates. Really.

  • I had 2 questions to ask you one is that I can’t find the meet so can you please send the link or are we not doing one today? Also, I re-submitted an assignment. Can you re-grade that too? 
    Y’all, that meet link is in the same place it always has been.

  • I’m just not sure where to start. Is there any requirements you’re looking for to get a good grade on it? 
    Yes, there is.

To be honest, I love that kids send me all these questions – and these truly are only a sample. I love how easily they communicate and how willing they are to reach out. That doesn’t keep me from giggling every now and then. I mean, who sends an email to their teacher that just says, “I have no clue what is going on”?

Thank goodness we’re back in person tomorrow. Covid notwithstanding, it’ll be good to see their faces and hear the questions they’ve come up with since last week.

Many thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting this wonderful space for teachers to write.

After classes

As I watch, the little circles disappear, one by one. Some of the students say or write goodbye before they leave, but some simply vanish. The last one blinks out and I end the call. Then, defeated, I close my eyes, fill my lungs with air, and I let my head fall into my hands. I will not cry, I think fiercely. There is no point in crying. Breathe. Breathe again.

It’s the end of the second day of the most recent round of online school. I will not cry. I close the laptop, close the Chromebook. I stand up and close the folding screen that hides my laundry space when I’m teaching.

This first week, I’m teaching two two-and-a-half hour classes. We found out on Monday that we would be online starting Wednesday. Not enough time. Not enough time to change what would have been on the whiteboard into pre-prepared slides with little room for reacting to the students as they learn. Not enough time to figure out how to slow down to accommodate the pace of online learning and still finish the course in the 10 days that are left. Not enough time to make sure all the students have computers (they don’t) or wifi (they don’t). Not enough time.

But I got it done. Wait – *we* got it done. Four teachers worked together – remotely – for hours to create days worth of effective on-line learning for our grade 9 classes. Teachers shared slides and lessons on Twitter. Everyone chipped in. I didn’t sleep well Monday or Tuesday nights, my brain so steeped in planning that it couldn’t quite turn off.

And now it’s Thursday, only two days into our two weeks of online school. And I’d forgotten about the silence, and the stiffness of being stationary for so long. I’d forgotten about asking questions to a bunch of empty space. I’d forgotten how often I fumble with the various classroom tools, how foolish I feel. I’d forgotten how much I hate this.

To shake off today’s teaching, I take a walk and call a friend. I try to laugh about how much planning is required to give directions well. I remember an assignment in grad school: we had to give our peers directions for a game, and they had to follow our directions exactly. I thought I would nail it the first time. I did not. All these years later, I know how to plan directions – break the steps down; leave plenty of wait time; be precise; anticipate questions; speak slowly; add visuals – but somehow, today, it didn’t work.

I text my planning buddies. I say “no one participated.” (This is untrue). I say “they don’t see the value in learning unless they have already done the work.” (This is untrue.) I swear I am NOT going to teach tomorrow; I’m just going to give an assignment and make them work.

I eat dinner, hang out with my children. Then, when they head off to bed, I go back to planning. I write out the directions I will say. I start writing this post to calm myself down. I remember that this is just a slice of life; tomorrow’s slice will be different.


We’ve spent the past two weeks at home, doing not much at all. We did not see the holiday lights on Parliament Hill, even though we live only a 15 minute walk away. We did not go for a hike in the Gatineau Hills, even though it’s a 15 minute drive and beautiful. We didn’t decorate the tree until a few days before Christmas – heck, we didn’t even GET the tree until a few days before Christmas. We didn’t deep clean anything. I didn’t grade any schoolwork. My children didn’t do any homework. Even my partner, who does not work in education, took two weeks off and barely looked at his work pile. 

We read a lot and watched movies. We did some puzzles and played some board games. My kids (ok, and my husband) played too many video games. I just kind of lolled about doing the NYTimes crossword and knitting – and scrolling social media, of course. I took walks, the kids hamster-sat, we played Hearts. 

It was wonderful.

Truthfully, I’m still tired. Tomorrow we go back to school, and we’re back online again. Even contemplating the prospect is exhausting. I’m setting up my “office” in the basement, crossing my fingers that the internet won’t conk out when all four of us are online at the same time, paring back (and back and back) on what I had hoped to teach, praying that most students will have access to tech, that they mostly show up, that this time we’re back in person soon… I’m kind of ready and I’m kind of panicking. For the past year or so – for all of COVID, in fact – this has more or less been my constant state.

Clearly, I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve just been trying to keep my head above water. (Did I mention that I have a sore throat? I have a sore throat. This, along with everything else, is a symptom of Covid. SIGH. I’m getting tested.) I wasn’t going to choose “one little word” this year, either – it was just all too much. I wasn’t even thinking about it, really, until I started reading about the words other people chose. “Hmmm,” I would catch myself thinking, “that’s a good word. But it’s not my word.” Or “Oooh, I like that word; maybe I could adopt it next year.” None of the words was just right. Good thing I had decided not to do the whole one little word thing.

And then, Sunday night, a word popped into my head. It was not the word I wanted. I was hoping for a word like, I don’t know, amazement or courage or even energize. I was expecting spark or resist or fight. Maybe joy? Or persist? Instead, my brain was whispering relax. RELAX? 

Has my brain even been with me for my whole life? That is not my word. I am so far from relaxed right now that I can barely even contemplate it. So, I tried to have an argument with my own brain. I suggested changing our word to breathe – breathing is close to relaxing, I think. Nope, it didn’t stick. I pushed for stretch – too active – let go – too judgy – quiet – too impossible. No matter what I suggested, my mind returned stubbornly to relax. I know myself well enough to know that even if I pretend it’s not my one little word, it is. That sucker is going to follow me all year, whether I adopt it or not.

Can I relax? Maybe. I imagine whispering this to myself in the middle of a meeting where my shoulders are tense from frustration – relax. I can see myself standing in the middle of a classroom where everything has gone awry – again – and hearing the echo of relax. I wonder if, maybe, at home I can worry less about getting things done and more about being where we are. Maybe this summer we can visit our relatives and just hang out. Relax.Relax.Imagine relaxing…

Look, I’m still not actually happy about this – I like my words to be something to strive towards… Oh. Wait. I think I need to relax. 

Alright 2022, here I come. Slowly. As relaxed as I can get.