A week (though it seems like 47 days) ago, our country started taking drastic measures in an attempt to put a lid on COVID-19. The NBA suspended its season, concerts were cancelled, school closures abounded. DISNEY AND BROADWAY CLOSED. What sort of March Madness was this? Certainly not the NCAA basketball tourney which many of us look forward to each year, and which, also, was cancelled. As schools started closing, many shifted to an online learning platform for their children and teachers. But my school did not. We were told to not require anything of our students online, not yet. Our district has acted incredibly judiciously for its students and teachers as there are many moving parts to consider for all its members.
At first I was stymied because I could only see how this would effect my students and me, How would I finish the AP Calculus curriculum and help them prepare for the May 5th exam if I couldn’t do it in person or over the internet?
But as the hours went by and I took my dogs on yet another walk, I realized something, This is not a bad thing. This is a gift of time for my students. Many American teenagers are over-scheduled during the academic year, weekends, and long breaks: sports; clubs; music lessons. Perhaps they could learn and try new things during this interim, especially if someone encourages them to do it. On Saturday, March 14th, I wrote this email to my students and highlighted these seven ideas:
At this time, no new instruction is allowed to occur in any class. Anything I assign that is new will not be for a grade. However, because this situation is fluid and constantly being evaluated, that might change. Certainly when we go back to school, those who have used their extended spring break to keep up academically will more easily hit the ground running. Devoting at least 20 minutes per day now to studying could pay big dividends for you in April, May, and most importantly next year. In 1665, Sir Isaac Newton went back to his parents’ home for isolation during the Great Plague of London
and returned a year later with two theories in hand, one for optics and one for calculus.
But this gift of time is not just for academic pursuits — I would encourage you to make a list of daily goals. I have done this in a little spiral notebook and will date everything as I complete it. These daily goals could include:
1. Exercise. It’s nice enough to be outside so run, walk, do sit ups, push-ups, etc.
2. Cooking. Learn how to make some new foods and perfect that signature dish for future potluck gatherings.
3. Arts/Crafts. Knitting, sewing, crochet, woodworking, jewelry making, drawing, painting, video making.
4. Reading. Read the good stuff. Many classics are free online. Many reputable newspapers have free COVID-19 articles. Many of you have plenty of books in your house. Many of you have Bibles — read the parts your church doesn’t usually focus on.
5. Cleaning. Clean your room for real and bag up items to take to a second hand store. Help your family by cleaning vehicles, common rooms, etc.
6. Writing. Keep a journal of what’s going on. Or, write thank you letters to your teachers, parents, youth ministers, etc. Or, like me, work on your own writing. For me that includes circuits and blog posts, but for you that might be poetry or the great American novel. I know some of you will write something big one day — maybe it will start this week. You could outline the novel you’ve been dreaming up for years, complete character sketches, and perhaps write the first few chapters.
7. Gardening. Clean and prepare beds, plant a COVID-19 tree, etc.
So far I have received two pictures from my AP Calculus students. Both were so proud of their products and found joy in the baking process. This gift of time, if used creatively, will buoy them in the decades to come.
Strawberry Turnovers. Filling, Crust and Glaze made 100% from scratch!
Red Velvet cookies adapted from a box cake mix!
As of right now, we planning for distance learning for my AP Calculus students only (((YAY))), so my little journal of things to do might be put on hold as I switch to prepping mode. And their foray into baking might slow down too.