new york city kid in arkansas
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A few weeks ago following a game about cooperation, I gave my fourth grade drama students a reflection about what they learned. I got all kinds of good answers to the question ranging from “I am more independent than I thought I was” to “I’m fun (I think).” Then came this unexpected nugget of wisdom:

For this group, drama class starts right at 8:30, immediately following breakfast. Some days these small decisions – the good and the bad – are the most important things we learn. And of course it got me thinking about what I’m learning about myself these strange days.

Thing #1: Always Take a Mask Break. There is nothing that feels better these days than a brief mask break when teaching. In fact, the pleasure of quickly slipping it off under the guise of needing a drink of water or a quick snack is sometimes the highlight of the day. Every now and then I’m aware of the teacher tension and exhaustion throughout my entire achy body, and it makes me want to send flowers, chocolates and coffee to every teacher in America everyday. Or at least say a prayer and send them a funny text now and then.

Thing #2: Always Call Your Parents. As most of you know, my mom has dementia and moved into a memory care unit exactly one month before the pandemic shut everything down, including her facility. My very extroverted dad went from being an overwhelmed caregiver to a lonely singleton. A few weeks ago my mom fell and had to have hip surgery, and now she’s recovering in another facility. This situation can best be summed up by the phrase “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.” When it comes to my parents and sisters, I’m always on the verge of both. My mom is quite confused and delusional, thinks she’s in charge of answering the phones and is quite frustrated by her new job. She thinks she hears my dad and us as children playing in the next room. Those of us who have loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia are encouraged to play the improv game “yes, and …” when talking to them, never denying their reality or arguing. So my phone calls with her the past few weeks have been a mixture of great entertainment and devastating tragedy. She’s Carol Burnett and Anthony Hopkins combined. It’s slapstick comedy and King Lear all at once, and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Thing #3:  Always Do Crafts. This Labor Day weekend I promised myself I would not think or worry about school (mine and Huck’s) for the entire three days. If anything troubling entered my mind I would push it out, knowing there’s plenty of time to worry about things later. And since these past few weeks have made me a very distracted, multi-tasking, non-present mother, I also promised myself I’d take a break from that frazzled character. Because Huck is home all day by himself, he’s beginning to remind us of a stay-at-home parent who’s overly eager to see his tired spouse at the end of a long work day. Friday morning he announced his intention to make an amazing fall craft as a family, something that required a glue gun, glitter and Mod Podge. Thus, this weekend will forever be remembered as that time we three made a beautiful pinecone wreath that belongs on Martha Stewart’s front door. And not only pinecones, but also Troy’s home-grown corn and wildflowers. Please, Better Homes and Gardens, contact us for a photo shoot immediately.

So I’ll leave you with the reminder to Always Get Gravy. Whatever that is for you, don’t skimp on it.

7 comments

September 7th, 2020

Jonny I would grade this post A+

God love all you teachers and parents and forced homeschoolers.

Pappy T

September 7th, 2020

So much gravy!

Jeni

September 8th, 2020

Such wonderful words of wisdom and that is taking crafts up a notch! XOXO

September 8th, 2020

Jonny, I found this on FB and am so glad I read all of it. Wow, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We’re safe at home and I can do all my work via the internet. Ellis only leaves to take care of the bees or to do contact free grocery pickup. Your post really brings home what it is like for a teacher and a mother. Thank you.

I can’t believe how much Huck has grown since you lived on Rebecca!

Is there a way to subscribe so I don’t miss any other posts?

Cheri

September 8th, 2020

That wreath is gravy!! Well done Schremmers! I so love reading these posts. Sending you love and patience and clean air in your new school year!

Jodi B

September 8th, 2020

That wreath is beautiful – just like you and your family. And, as always, you are an excellent teacher and example. Sending all of you love.

Shaunties

September 8th, 2020

Beautiful! XOXO

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