Issue #67 - The Spaces in Between

Shadow Skies

I hope that you’re well, the world feels dark and difficult at the moment and while we’re getting our lives back together and emerging from the shadow of the pandemic, the news from Columbia and the Middle East is truly awful and saddening.

We’re doing okay, I’ve got my head down in my marking and hoping that I can get it all completed in the next few days. I might have to break my no working at the weekend rule, but it will be worth it.

I had a little catching up to do as we ventured into Ohio for a soccer tournament. The games were good and we managed one in the drizzle, another in the sunshine, and a third was abandoned due to rain, hail, sleet, and snow. Still, the team had a great weekend, they bonded, pizza was eaten and they even managed a swim in the hotel pool. Normalcy enjoyed a cameo before we headed home.

Last night the CDC announced that fully vaccinated persons no longer need to wear a mask. To tell you the truth it came as a bit of a shock and my confused brain is taking a moment to let it sink in.

Let’s think about this… so far in PA, around 40% of the residents of Alleghany County where we live is fully vaccinated, and although yesterday our 14yr old got his first Pfizer dose, it looks like our youngest will have to wait at least until September before the CDC anticipates approving vaccines for under 12’s. So, I’ll carry on wearing my mask when I’m at soccer practice because it won’t be fair on the players, I’ll still need to wear masks on public transit (if I ever recover my confidence to take a bus or Metro), and I’ll still be wary among people that I don’t know and will keep social distancing as a habit when I’m in public spaces. I might be one of those liberals who can’t quit lockdown, certainly, as I said a few weeks ago, I blushed a bit when I read the list of tell-tale signs.

This is positive news, absolutely but just as a weary sleeper needs to rub the dust from their eyes, it is going to take a little moment to get going.

Teaching & Learning

I’m never quite sure what to say to students when a course ends, I don’t have a script for this moment, usually, I blurt out something about hoping to see them again, or inviting them to keep in touch and perhaps a little awkwardness creeps in because I’m tired and a bit emotional. I’m wondering if other teachers have some words that they usually say?

Perhaps remote learning has made this moment even stranger because I’ve now taught three cohorts that I’ve never met in person, that I’ve only interacted with through my computer screen. So, I’ve invited people to come and find me once it is safe to do so, and with all my students I extend help to letters of recommendation or future guidance should they need it. Some do take me up on this, and I genuinely love hearing how people are getting on.

I’ve added a little video above, of the long lines of graduating students from 2019, waiting just before heading to the ceremony. Love the chatter.

Life Lessons

News is brutal at the moment, and my heart bleeds for the people of Palestine who go to sleep not knowing if they will wake up. The Israeli government doesn’t seek peace, but eradication, the response isn’t targeted, they are retaliating against Hamas rockets at their people by engaging in acts of ethnic cleansing. People on both sides live in fear.

We talked on the sofa with our 14yr old who has picked up on media through Tiktok and wanted to know more. It is hard to explain, and we looked at this gallery via The Guardian, about the end of the Ottoman Empire, the plight of Jewish refugees at the end of the second world war, and the British occupation of Palestine, then the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel, and the continuation of fighting, colonization and segregation, the walls that have been built to divide people, the apartheid that now exists and the influence of America, the countless so-called peace talks, the atrocities, and lives lost. It is a complex story, with so much suffering at the heart of it.

I found this article by the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen, a remarkable journalist who has spent his career reporting on the conflicts in the Middle East. I also recommend these interviews from the BBC’s Today Program with two mothers on different borders. I urge you to listen, it is incredibly moving.

Extra bit

A packed bundle of paintings finally arrived at their destination this week, all the way to Cardiff in the UK, via Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, and London. It feels like they’ve been on tour. Nice that they finally got there, to the home of music producer Kris Jenkins who has been responsible for capturing so many great tunes by many of my favorite welsh artists, including Gruff Rhys and Cate Le Bon (nice gig here).

Lost and Found

A few things caught my eye this week, I hope you find them interesting too.

You can now add your pronouns to Instagram, it only takes a few seconds and costs nothing.

Just as the semester ends, Zoom introduces a new feature that uses the virtual background feature to make it look like your call participants are all in the same room together.

My brilliant colleague Candace Skibba has launched a new podcast called Pandemic Pedagogy that builds on her work throughout the past eighteen months and prior, that really explores caring pedagogies and we’re hoping to write an article together and have put a few words down that we can work through in the summer.

This podcast is carefully constructed through conversations that are open and invite educators from all sectors to talk about their practice and how the pandemic has led them to reflect on approaches, how they had to adapt to accommodate the needs of their students.

I really enjoyed the part about opening up space for discussion, perhaps even through the reading of a poem, a short video, or photograph that might serve as a prompt, or moment of reflection. I think sometimes students are unsure when they are asked to share during difficult times, that they may not have the language to express how they are feeling. We choose to do what we want to during these moments, we might not say anything, we might feel numb, we might feel fear or anger. The space provided is a time for thinking and feeling.

Thank you

It’s been a tough week in the world, it often is difficult to process, especially when you are tired and just making it to the weekend. I told you last week, you’re almost there.

What’s coming around the corner then. I spent a morning writing out some objectives for the summer, a quick list that I’ll publish on my website as last time. I’ll do another post revisiting what I managed to achieve and what got pushed back. I also fear that it is time to dump my little list maker Clear which has become abandonware and hardly works, I can’t even export my list anywhere. *sigh.

Sunshine hopefully over the weekend and we might walk up the farmer’s market for some fresh produce. The lawn is looking more wilderness than Wimbledon at the moment, so I’ll give it a mow. I purchased a new strimmer or what locals like to call a “weed wacker” to tidy up the sides, nice to have a bit of garden kit, but would have picked up an old one from a yard sale but there just haven’t been as many as before the pandemic.

Take care, have a good weekend.