American Pandemic

May 4, 2020

It feels like we are in a bubble here in Pfafftown, NC. I checked online just now and as of this morning, there were 6 reported cases in our zip code and zero deaths attributed to COVID19. I praise God for those low numbers. I know that life is in His hands, and at the same time I feel ambivalent in my praise when I know that while my relationship with God assures me of everlasting life in Heaven, it doesn’t assure me protection from the virus that has already taken believers and nonbelievers alike in numbers too large to fathom. I’ve declared His protection over me and my family while understanding that His providential will might be to showcase His glory through sickness and death in my family. And still He is good all the time, and all the time He is good.

So here we are doing our distance learning, and I am very aware that WSFCS teachers have been swinging for the fences in making this crazy system work. With very little notice, our teachers put together lessons and online resources, and prepared students for a new way of learning. The school system distributed Chrome Books and internet hotspots for students who don’t have access to technology or the internet. Our school system has free breakfasts and lunches available not just for school-age kids, but all kids 0-18 years old. The meals are available at local schools, and school buses are making deliveries to some areas around the county. I’m not willing to say I am homeschooling my girls, because I’ve never created a lesson plan, and I’m not teaching them. I answer questions and sometimes I help them make sense of their lessons so they don’t have to contact their teachers with a thousand questions. This isn’t the education I want for my girls long term, and I worry for kids who need more than what the system can provide right now. But I see how hard our teachers are working to make education happen.

I thought Oh Emily might drive me crazy with one of her art assignments a month ago. I wondered what I need to do to get her transferred out of my class! But then her artistic side shows up and it thrills me to see how creatively she fashioned a troll trap in the back yard yesterday. I realize that her imagination hasn’t dried up with age. It was just stifled by trying to look too grown up to waste her time on such childish trivialities because other kids who are too big for their own britches might think it’s stupid.

And we don’t always have to be at the kitchen table to work on assignments. The back deck is a good place to talk about math and social studies and Spanish. I know what alliteration is. It’s the buzz of bumblebees weaving through wisteria branches and blooms right here under my pergola. I know, because Emily and I found alliteration in her Robert Frost poem assignment last week.

It was science when we found out why the bee she captured was rubbing its back-side with its legs. Google says bees rub their legs against their bodies to remove pollen and resins, so that explained it. We learned about the pollen combs, rakes, presses, and baskets which are all parts of bees legs. I don’t really know her science teacher Mrs. Clary, but she seemed pleased when I emailed her to tell her how science distracted Oh Emily from her social studies.

I’m pretty sure this social distancing will be the topic of social studies classes in the future. And because we all need some socializing, last Thursday the lesson was about keeping our distance while staying in touch during the birthday drive-by for a friend’s sweet 16. And unlike most school field trips, that one made me tear up while hanging out of the windows waving a birthday sign.

We needed to get out one day so we went to CG Hill Park. We usually just walk around the pond a few times watching the ducks and geese, lifting the rocks where salamanders hide, discussing why there are so many frog couples “wrestling” in the water, and reminiscing about all the places we’ve seen snakes hiding along the path. But on that particular day, she wanted to climb up the hill to the upper walking track. Em doesn’t usually talk a lot these days. But when she’s ready to talk, it usually starts off with something like “this is what I don’t understand…,” and she might not stop to take a breath for a good hour. We walked 4.7 miles up there. I thought maybe that would count for Emily’s PE class because my legs and feet got a workout. But since we talked about relationships and friends and bullying and maturing and self esteem and communication skills and feelings and the family dynamics, I think I’ll count that day as her Life Skills class.

Math. I don’t want to talk about math.

But getting back to art. Last week Emily’s assignment was to recreate a famous piece of art. She misunderstood the assignment and thought she had to redraw or repaint a famous piece of art. But no. She had to be the art. She spent forever looking at paintings online trying to figure out which to recreate. Picasso, Renoir, Degas, Van Gogh, Mondrian, Pollack. She settled on a remake of American Gothic by Grant Wood. I appreciate art, but I don’t understand why it’s so famous. It isn’t beautiful to me; it’s rather bland. There’s no passion or depth of emotion in it. And it looks like an old photograph that would only be interesting if you knew the people or the backstory. The people were Wood’s sister and the family dentist posing as a farmer and daughter. Blah. Still not interesting. I think Emily’s version is a bit more timely and infinitely more interesting to me.

I know I’m in my bubble, sitting on the deck with my alliterative bumble bees and with COVID19 numbers so low, and a troll trap over my right shoulder, and squirrels fighting in the pergola. I’m thankful for my bubble and I don’t take it for granted. This virus won’t go on forever. We’ve lost too many already, and we aren’t done losing. But I will always remember this sweet season with my Oh Emily when her education started in the kitchen on her laptop computer but finished by the storage unit with a pitchfork.

One Comment Add yours

  1. dolphinwrite says:

    Mathematics, I think, is difficult for people for a few reasons. 1) Some students have had the experience of listening to teachers who didn’t have flexibility in explanations, which is common, but it is up to the younger people to learn, albeit, it helps if the teacher can see areas of additional help need. I learned to see confusion, then address the questions, 2) In recent decades, less emphasis was placed on knowing the math facts (i.e. addition, subtraction, multiplications, and division to excellence). When students were corrected in this deficit, which made me wonder how they passed their previous grades, they quickly improved, To do math, a young person has to be able to run numbers in their heads. Projects can help in this, and 3) This may be the most important, or second: Seeing math as from a distance. With a few students who struggled, but wanted better grades, I explained they had to listen carefully first, read thoroughly, but when they looked at each problem, to look at them as from a distance. Like you’re looking at a puzzle, pondering, and parts start to come together, if you listened to the lecture and followed, asking question. All of them improved, and most started getting As. Not me. They did it. I just showed them the method.

    Liked by 1 person

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