The yearbook will not be postponed!

It was a week that began with a full moon and ended with Friday the 13th. The week before, our school secretary joked that we all needed to prepare for a doozy of a week. Little did we know it would literally be the last week of traditional school. Sigh.

When we left school Friday, March 13, to embark on the unknown of COVID-19, I heard some of my seniors in the hall say,

“This could be our last day of senior year.”

And it was, at least in the normal sense of school. Since then, we’ve been living the virtual life.

It is all so bizarre.

That last day at school, our principal, in a school-wide assembly, told students and teachers to take everything home because no one would be allowed back in the building, and he concluded with a statement that we now remind ourselves of daily:

“Don’t make this about you. You can be disappointed, and I understand that, but this is not about you. It is about all of us and doing the right thing for everyone.”

My seniors understand those words, as does my daughter who is a senior at a different school, and they will all do the right thing. They have no choice really, but the sting and reality of those words have settled hard on these smart, creative, big-hearted, dream-carrying, fear-of missing-out, young adults.

Through their eyes and screens, their senior year of “last times” has become their senior year of “disappearing times,” for all proms, spring sports, and graduations are now officially, indefinitely postponed.

With all of this disappointment, uncertainty, and even anxiety at times, one thing is for sure!

The yearbook will not be postponed!

As an English and journalism teacher, our book delivers in late June, so we cover everything from August to May.

How will you cover prom when it has been canceled?

How will you cover spring sports when all seasons are canceled?

How will you cover graduation when no one knows when that will happen or how?

Well, when you’re teenager, high school literally, for better or worse, consumes your life, so it is my duty as the yearbook adviser to go against my principal’s advice this once and make this book all about them!

So, after revamping my senior English classes for the rest of the semester, I called my technology director first thing Monday morning to ask for help in accessing our server of photos. Since he was an essential employee, he was allowed in the building.

This man spent his morning on Tuesday copying our entire 2020 Yearbook folder of pictures from the server to a huge external drive. Then, he delivered it to my home mailbox! It pays to always be nice and make friends, especially with the essential people!

On Tuesday morning, two days into our new virtual school world, I had a Zoom call with my three editors and shared my ideas with them and listened to theirs. IMG-9171

Together, we cut and combined some spreads and created a couple new ones. For example, baseball and softball now share a spread spotlighting each senior and their career in the sport, and we now have a COVID19 perspective spread.

After making the ladder right, we created two questionnaires in Google forms, one for all students grade 9-12 and one only for seniors:

Please help us complete the yearbook. Your responses and pictures are very important! Please answer these questions and email pictures to materdeijournalism@gmail.com with your name in the subject line.

I also sent an email to all spring coaches and cc’d the athletic director and principal:

Hello, everyone! I need your help, please. As my students and I continue to work on the yearbook, we are determined to keep spring sports pages in the book.
 
However, we will be covering the sports differently. We want to spotlight seniors and their “career” in the sport, complete with quotes and pictures. We also thought we could get quotes from potential freshmen who have longed to play for MD but won’t be able to this year.
 
What I need from each of you as soon as possible is the following:
1. Names of seniors who would be playing this season
2. Name of a freshman who had hoped to tryout for the team
3. Your answer to at least one of these questions:
  • As a spring coach, what advice do you have for the young athlete who may not get to play this season?
  • As a spring coach, what will you miss most about this season if your team doesn’t get to play?
  • As a spring coach, what were you most looking forward to this season?
 
PLEASE take the time to respond to this email. Our yearbook is counting on your perspectives as coaches 😊

My design editor began creating a couple new templates that basically had no copy block and no main dominant in the traditional sense, and I set up weekly zooms with the entire staff. We also created a shared document for each staff member to record their to-do lists and items accomplished.IMG-5488

In our GroupMe app, students post when they need help or when they have checked a spread or if they need something from me.

By the end of the week, I requested via email to all faculty and staff and students to send in pictures of their new normal–from teaching and learning to exercising and connecting with family.

To date, we have people responding to our questionnaires and sending in pictures, and I have plans for this third week of virtual life to post a picture challenge to all our school’s social media platforms. Each day, I will ask for pictures of students’ and teachers’ new normal and their perspectives on living life this way.

Our plan may not be perfect and we may not receive everything we envision, and our spring spreads won’t quite look like the other seasons in the book, but we will not give up on telling our school family’s story.

We create the history book for our school, and COVID19 will not rob our #MaterDeiFamily of our stories–even if those stories are under quarantine and told through texts, snaps, zooms, and Google forms.

Keep your focus, everyone! Be smart, healthy, safe, and grateful every day, and don’t forget:

We each have the power to change the world for the better. . . one story at a time. Peace.

Virtual Learning: Week 2 of ?

For many teachers and students, last week served as the most unusual and uncertain spring break in history.

As a teacher and communications director for our school, I teach five classes and handle the school’s publications and social media. I spent my spring break walking my dog, doing spring cleaning, spending quality time with family (in person and via facetime), revamping lesson plans for potentially the rest of the school year, intermittently watching COVID 19 updates, and creating fun videos and informative social media posts for our school community.

As I prepared myself for teaching virtually through April 30 (and possibly beyond), I rose at 6:30 am, walked the dog, read my Bible, and drank my coffee.

Now, as I sit here this evening and reflect over the five classes of Zoom meetings, with postings and emails in between, along with one bathroom break and a quick bite to eat between zoom 3 and 4, my heart is full, and I am exhausted.

It’s interesting, though, how the fatigue of cyberspace differs from that of physical classroom teaching. The exhaustion, from my perspective, stems from revamping an entire quarter of work and deadlines, brainstorming out of the box approaches to filling yearbook pages for spring sports and activities that have been postponed, and feeling, through the screen, the weight of emotion these students carry as they long to be back together in their school or on the field or just hanging out in the parking lot.

IMG-5326Today, my first Zoom class began at 8 am. I showed up in a sweatshirt and jeans (a nice perk of teaching from home) with some of my students still in their beds with only their audio turned on.

“Next time,” I told those students who didn’t want to be seen, “I need to see your faces! I miss you!”

As we did each day in our real classroom, I began with the sharing of gratitude, and many of us were especially grateful for the sunshine we’ve experienced lately, and others took turns sharing a plethora of thankful statements:

“I’m thankful for my mom because she’s been cooking every night!”

“I’m thankful for friends.”

“I’m thankful for extra sleep.”

After gratitude, from one class to the next, we discussed revised plans and how I will take attendance each week and how communication during this virtual time is crucial.

“We must stay connected even though we aren’t seeing each other every day.”

No one had an attitude, and everyone participated.

My journalism students shared plans for their 2-minute videos, and in my yearbook zoom, we went page by page and created to-do lists and need lists so that we could help each other finish telling the story of our year.IMG-9171

We even sang Happy belated Birthday to Sam!

In my senior Advanced Comp/101 zoom classes, each student shared wisdom from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince–which we finished right before school closed.

Every time I read this treasure, I have a new aha moment, and today, hearing my students share what they had learned–without us even discussing it– made my heart beam! And oh how we as a society need this wisdom right now:

IMG-5331“I learned to see with your heart and not your eyes.”

“I learned how important it is not to judge people.”

“We must not forget what’s it’s like to be a child.”

 

“Relationships are essential.”

“Kindness matters.”

“Being tamed teaches discipline.”

“I think The Little Prince symbolizes Jesus and how he sacrificed everything, and the rose represents us.”

Okay, well, maybe I should not have put these nuggets of wisdom in direct quotation marks because I was actually paraphrasing, but you get the point. Hopefully.

As I closed each class today, I made a heart with my hands, held it over my face, and told my students I missed them and I loved them. I reminded them to put on love each day and to stay focused.

Then, I closed each class with the prayer our campus minister shared via email.

daily prayer

Since I teach at a Catholic high school, praying in class is a normal activity, and these kids need more normal today than uncertainty.

However, for all those public school teachers who would normally be afraid to say a prayer with their students, I understand. I used to be one.

Yet, still, I say, don’t be afraid. No one is going to fire you.

It seems society has a newfound respect for teachers right now, so if you feel like, go for it!

Offer a prayer opportunity after you end your virtual class and see how many kids stay connected to experience the peace of a prayer.

Now, besides zooms and postings and screens filled with sleepy, smiling teenagers, I send a shout out to all health care workers, and I encourage you, as I asked my NHS members to do, to take a break from the virtual world and create a small piece of art with heart. Once finished, write your name, city, and state on the back and send it to

Art with HeartIMG-5338

1315 Skipping Stone Dr

Evansville, IN 47725

If you’re still reading this, I thank you, and I offer up prayers for peace and wellness for you and our world.

 

The everlasting presence of absence

When my Daddy left this world four years ago, he left a permanent scar on my heart, but I will not allow his absence on this Earth rob me of his everlasting presence in my life. Daddy’s spirit is with me every day; his love and guidance and kindness remain in each of us who still love and miss him.

Today, my brother, nephew, and I ate lunch at Ferrell’s, Daddy’s favorite, and then we played and visited for three hours at Linton beach. We ended the day at Daddy’s tree, the pine tree we planted three years ago when we buried his ashes on his land. It was a good day, and I think we’ve started a new tradition of honoring our Dad by being together and celebrating his presence, his spirit, which lives in each of us, especially in the heart of a three-year-old. I thank God each day for helping me through this journey of grief so that the weight of it does not suffocate me but pushes me to grow in His love.

Buy a t-shirt and re-post.

So I bought the shirt because I knew I should, would feel guilty if I didn’t. Then, I logged onto FB and saw all these posts asking me to re-post so people know I’m listening.

Suicide Awareness. IMG_2162

Apparently, Sept. 22 is the one day we humans are to stop and show awareness for this act that creates a tornado of despair, shock, and complete and utter disruption of the soul. On this day, Sept. 22, we are to stop and buy t-shirts and re-post messages to let people know we are here, we are listening, and there’s an 800 number to call.

I truly don’t mean to sound cynical, but I did listen. I listened almost every single day. I called almost every single day. I visited as often as I could. I loved. I prayed. I wept. And I did all these things over and over, and it wasn’t enough.

He pulled the trigger despite my efforts. Despite my love. Despite my prayers. Despite my calls and visits. Despite my listening. He soaked in physical pain and mental anguish everyday, despite my efforts.

He slowly, unknowingly fell in love with Depression, and she had Her way. She robbed him of peace, of all he knew to be true. She robbed him of direction, of purpose, and he got lost in the rabbit hole, and I say to you today, on Sept 22, my listening, my loving, my talking and visiting and doing, served as a futile match to Her.

So today, I continue to honor my Daddy and continue to stay in the Word so as not to get lost in unfounded guilt and anger, because I do not blame my Daddy. For in my mind, Depression pulled the trigger, and I will continue on this journey of healing and will practice not blaming myself, for by the grace of God, all will be well.

All will be well, and I will continue to listen and to love for all those who need it and for all those who can still see the light from the bottom of the rabbit hole. For these people and for my Daddy, my best friend, I will continue to listen.

The Last Simple Sentence

In her script that he would so often say he couldn’t read, she writes the words that hopefully he will understand. Determined to make the last simple sentence be the first verbal sentence she speaks to her husband tonight, Melissa closes the book, gently places it on the table, and walks through the door with resolve and trepidation.

As she drops the match on the soaked charcoal, she stares as the bricks ignite and wonders how hot it will get tonight and shakes her head at the insanity of grilling steaks on a night like tonight. While the coals work toward a calm white, she sits and sips her glass of Cabernet, hoping it will calm the warring butterflies within her troubled soul.

It seems it’s not only her nerves that have been warring this unseasonably, warm March in 2012. The good people of the midwest have taken shelter at least three times this month from what seems Armageddon style tornadoes that have already killed 33 people.

The screen door slams–as it has for the past two years–and even though she should be use to it by now, she is robbed of any sense of calm. After 10 years of slowly, subtly suppressing the big things, the little things mount and bother her the most now.

In an effort to greet him, she stands and turns toward the patio screen door which leads into the light blue kitchen adorned with welcoming bursts of color and a shelf of Willow Tree Angels, and her eyes fall on the angel with its arms stretched high and wide creating an internal smile of freedom of the faceless wood.

Be strong, she whispers to herself as she slowly breathes in and exhales.

“Hey, What’s up?” he says as he slides open the patio screen.

Silence

“You okay?”

As she looks at him, she answers to herself, No, I’m not, but I desperately want to be.

            “Melissa. Hello?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, was in a daze.” Guess it won’t be my first sentence after all, she thinks to herself as she swallows yet another defeat. “How was golf?”

“It was good! I kicked ass!”

“That’s great. You sure had great weather for it.”

“Yup. Hey I’ll season the steaks and then jump in the shower.”

“Okay.”

As he showers, she pours her second glass of warm courage and sends up a another prayer, a prayer which she questions how God hears. Spanning the wooded back yard with its tire swing and dilapidating trampoline and shed, she intentionally and slowly breathes in and exhales, just as her Daddy taught her to when needing to relax.

It should have been said a long time ago, and at 40, Melissa can’t imagine another decade of loneliness.

            “Man, that felt good.”

She turns toward him and takes in his chiseled features, sun-soaked skin and wavy brown hair. She still wants him.

“You got a lot of sun today.”

“I know. How was your day?” he asks as he pours his glass of cab, walks over to her and kisses her on the cheek.

The kiss shocks her to a response, “Oh, uh well thanks, my day was pretty uneventful.”

“Where’s Emily?”

“She’s at the Carter’s for Tiffany’s birthday sleepover.”

“That’s right.”

As the steaks sizzle and the wine warms, the two exchange surface conversation, and she longs for a cigarette.

“Craig, I, uh, I don’t want to . . .”

“You don’t wanna what?”

“Just a minute. I’ll be right back.” She opens the door to her home-office, walks to her journal, opens to the last sentence of the last paragraph and absorbs the sentence written in ink.

She closes the book, closes the door, and walks back to the deck.

He’s texting and doesn’t look up.

“So what were saying? You don’t want to what?”

“Craig, exhale, I don’t want to be married anymore.”

His fingers stop moving, and he looks up into her eyes for the first time in years.

fictional short story written by Angela St.Clair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“With Much Ease”

with much ease

a woman can be pleased

a morning kiss

a morning embrace

a whisper in the ear

a steamy message

on the bathroom mirror

a midday call with

simple thoughts of longing

fresh petals picked from the yard

or a late afternoon stroll

or a picnic dinner in the park

a massage of the neck back or feet

a surprise date

in the bath

or an offer to wash her hair

a pallet on the floor

a soft stare of seduction

a slow undressing

an intentional caress

of her nakedness

One Simple Sentence

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door. She wrote it in her journal and was determined to make the last simple sentence of her last paragraph be the first verbal sentence she spoke to her husband tonight.

Dropping the match on the soaked charcoal, she stares as the bricks ignite and wonders just how hot it will get tonight. Sitting on the deck and basking in the extra hours of daylight, she sips her glass of cabernet, hoping it will calm the warring butterflies.

It seems it’s not only her nerves that have been warring this unseasonably, warm March in 2012. The good people of the midwest have taken shelter at least three times this month from what seems armageddon style tornadoes and storms that have killed 33 people.

The screen door slams–as it has for the past 2 years–and even though she should be use to it by now, she is robbed of any sense of calm. It seems the things she should be use to after 15 years are the things that mount and bother her the most lately.

In an effort to greet him, she stands and turns toward the patio screen door which leads into the yellow kitchen adorned with welcoming bursts of color and a shelf of Willow Tree Angels.

“Be strong,” she whispers to herself as she slowly breathes in and exhales.

“Hey, What’s up?” he says as he slides open the patio screen.

Silence

“You okay?”

As she looks at him, she answers to herself, “No, I’m not, but I desperately want to be.”

“Melissa. Hello?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, was in a daze.” Guess it won’t be my first sentence after all, she thinks to herself as she swallows yet another defeat. “How was golf?”

“It was good! I kicked-ass!”

“That’s great. You sure had great weather for it.”

“Yup. Hey I’m goin season the steaks and then jump in the shower.”

“Okay.”

As he showers, she pours her second glass of warm courage and sends up a another prayer. Spanning the wooded back yard with its tire swing and dilapidating trampoline and shed, she breathes and exhales. It should have been said a long time ago. In fact, it was, but for a more concrete, justifiable reason. At 40, she can’t imagine another decade of loneliness.

“Man, that felt good.”

She turns toward him and takes in his chiseled features, sun-soaked skin and wavy salt-n-pepper hair. She still wants him.

“You got a lot of sun today.”

“I know. How was your day?” he asks as he pours his glass of cab, walks over to her and kisses her on the cheek.

The kiss shocks her to a response, “Oh, uh well thanks, my day was pretty uneventful.”

“Where’s Emily?”

“She’s at the Carter’s for Tiffany’s birthday sleepover.”

“That’s right.”

As the steaks sizzle and the wine warms, the two exchange surface conversation, and she longs for a cigarette.

“Mike, I, uh, I don’t want to”

“You don’t wanna what?”

“Just a minute. I’ll be right back.” She opens the door to her home-office, walks to her journal, opens to the last sentence of the last paragraph and takes it in.

She closes the book, closes the door, and walks back to the deck.

He’s texting and doesn’t look up.

“So what were saying? You don’t want to what?”

“Mike, exhale I don’t want to be married anymore.”

His fingers stop moving, and he looks up into her eyes for the first time in years.