“TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE DISTANCE LEARNING”

T’was the night before Distance Learning, students asleep, their lunches set out.

Then there were teachers who were ready although with some doubt.

Their outfits were hung by the closet with care.

In hopes that the Zoom App was ready when they were there;

The students were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Google Classroom danced in their heads;

And teachers in ‘PJs, and I in my shorts,

Just settled down after finishing reports,

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter,

Everyone sprang from the bed to see what’s the matter.

Away to the window we flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon shown a shadow on the still of the yards

We yawned and we shuttered over ethernet cards .

When what to our wondering eyes should appear,

But a memory of a normal school day so distant and clear.

We cried and we sobbed as we packed up our laptop bags

We were exhausted and beat, time to wave the white flags.

We spoke not a word, but went straight to sleep,

We laid down with questions, but spoke not a peep.

Yes, we were sad that distance learning was coming so fast,

But we knew it was time to move on from the past.

While we wanted to take time and move on real slow,

We realized our students were ready to go.

So now as we sleep, we wish them the best.

And all we can hope is all these students and parents can get some real rest.

Dear Students, and my own two boys…
I’M READY IF YOU ARE!!!
-Mr. Fragola/Dad

A New Normal

Everyone’s normal life has quickly grinded to a halt as governments across the globe and here in America set new guidelines and restrictions in order to try to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Stores are selling out of everything, toilet paper is worth more than gold and silver and for the most part people are getting ready to stay at home for a long time. Everything is different and life has been disrupted and altered. If you cough in public (and you shouldn’t even be out in public), but if you are and you sneeze you might as well be wearing a scarlet letter!

I’m a glutton for punishment in all this mess. After all the conference calls, ZOOM Meeting and emails, the homeschooling, the questions, the concerns and the news briefings… I had little of any time to just try and be mindful of what is in my control and what is not. I tried to take a few moments and breath. I tried to fit in 13 seconds on me time. “And on the seventh day he rested.” Even the Lord took a day to himself. Now I’m not comparing myself to God, but if anyone deserves a rest you’d have to vote working from home parents with two little boys as a top candidate.

I’m tired. I’m really tired. My back is causing excruciating pain and my brain is spinning in circles trying to figure out how to balance our new (for now) lives. All I needed was some quiet time. Do some yard work, fix a few squeaky doors and watch a movie or two.

Problem being so far during this I’ve chosen… Shawn of the Dead, Deep Impact and always a fantastic choice while facing a global pandemic… Outbreak. Even the voice of Morgan Freeman can’t undo the damage done from those three movies. The damage is done and there’s no coming back from it.

Its scary. I know that I have never been part of anything like this before. I guess the only thing we can compare it to was the weeks and months after 9/11. People were scared of further attacks, there were schools and businesses scared to open and people looked at each other differently. I cant figure out how to deal with this, because I can not figure out what is even going on.

I am a teacher again, I am a parent, a principal, a health care worker… I am not sure what I am from minute to minute. This world, the world as we know it has been turned upside down… actually when you think about it, upside down would be easier to deal with.

I can not, CAN NOT IMAGINE what it must be like to be a child right now. A kindergartner who needs routines and rituals, and a three year old who is used to playing with friends and looking to his preschool teachers to help him learn to navigate the social aspects of a toddler, practicing how to say please and thank you, play with others, share and how to advocate for himself. Those things are gone. Imagine being a senior in high school and not being able to finish your sports career. Imagine not being able to participate in graduation and walk across a stage with your friends.

Schools are closed across the country, people are not allowed to go outside… and daily The President comes on TV to tell us how amazing he and his staff are handing this pandemic. The thing is… who else is? I do well during crisis. I am dealing with 75+ staff who are so nervous and not sure what their careers will look like tomorrow. We have students who are trying to figure out who their teacher is, and why they are not allowed back into their classrooms.

I deal with children everyday, I have dealt with every single kind of tragedy you can imagine with my students. I know what to say when a parent dies, or a classmate has to move to a new town and wont get to see their friends anymore. I have had to talk with students about horrific events that have happened in their lives. Yet, I have no idea what to say to my own children. All I have been able to do is calm them, reassure them that their teachers love them and that we are going to do the best we can.

It’s been an interesting few weeks… it’s been an ever crazier few days. Stephanie, who runs an entire financial department for a school district during this impossible to predict financial crisis, is now a kindergarten teacher. Great teaching is something that can’t just be learned. It’s the hardest job I have ever done. This new “thing” so many of us are embarking on… teaching at home… (even for a veteran educator and current principal), is so hard. What she has done has been amazing. A mom and kindergarten/preschool teacher/ school district financial director/food service manager… she’s doing it all.

Speaking of teachers, Jax was able to participate in a ZOOM Meeting with his teacher this week. All his classmates were on and they all were talking to each other. It was so amazing. He couldn’t sit still. He was rocking back and forth. They shared about their weekend. It was good to know that I could watch him (even for a few minutes) still access his social curriculum. He can still tell jokes and tell his friends he misses them. Basically he can still be awesome. I guess social interaction with his friends VIA a computer screen are his new normal. They are everyone’s new normal.

So new normal it is… everything has changed… and we just have to deal with it.

Educators… MOUNT UP!!!

As the reality of homeschooling, home offices and quarantines sets in it’s easy to forget what we’ve left behind. On Friday, I walked the silent halls of my Elementary School. I was alone, everyone had left for the day… maybe for the year.

There were no colorful backpacks hanging on their hooks, or any voices of students working together on a rigorous task. Students’ chairs were turned upside down on their desks and the SMART boards were dark.

However, school was in session. Teachers were hard at work. They’re preparing for a completely new way of teaching the children they love so much. They’ve had no time to prepare for this. These educators,the ones I work with everyday, took what public education has been for centuries and flipped it upside down and inside out. The school district I work in has taken on the task with determination.

Washington, DC didn’t tell us what to do. The state didn’t tell us what to do. It was the public educators. The ones in the trenches. We are going to “war” with traditional teaching and also with the “virus” that has become a world wide pandemic. And… there is no one… not one staff that I would rather go to war with than my staff at Huntington.

There’s little we can do, us educators on the front lines. The teachers, principals and central office staff members want nothing more than to be on the front lines. We want to visit our families and help serve grab and go meals. But, we know there are people on the front lines already… the nurses, doctors and medical professionals who need us to stay back and help from afar.

So that’s what we do. We do what we can from afar. I’ve been lucky enough to have the platform to do that. From this blog I’ve been able to reach out to so many of my school families. I decided last week to do a live read aloud each night to help keep some sort of connection to my students.

The funny thing is I was hoping to reach a few students, maybe even a few from my last school… but then something happened. Hundreds, thousands of people tuned in. Channel 8 News asked for an interview and Chronicles of a New Dad and Jax were lighting up the 6:00 news.

It become a family affair, a way for a community to gather (or at least I see it that way). I feel that it helps me do “my part.” While I joke about another 15 minutes of fame, the message is clear… educators are doing their part to keep their students engaged and in the end, as a society, that’s all we can ask.

Coronavirus scare: Teachers, administrators, and students turn to social media for traditions like storytime

Has it Been Two Weeks Yet?

We’re on day two of the coronavirus pandemic which has canceled much of society. Schools are closed, libraries are empty… and most businesses are so full of panicky people you’re better off staying home.

That causes quite the quandary when you have two small children who have the attention span of a fly. The number of activities they can breeze through in even a small amount of time is incredible. We’ve read, we’ve drawn pictures, we watched a movie. We’ve taken the dogs for a walk and we rode our bikes. That’s it. We’re done!

That is until the oldest of my brood had the idea to write happy messages to the neighbors in chalk on their driveways. While some of the messages are less inspiring then others, it’s the thought that counts.

So friends and neighbors check your driveways for something special courtesy of Jax and Ollie.

Peggy Ann McKay, Jr

Sick

By Shel Silverstein

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play.

Great poem, fun to read, makes all the kids in your class laugh during a read aloud. Let’s break this poem down Common Core style.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.5
Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g., verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (e.g., casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.

By first read this poem utilizes a few common literary devises. The first and most obvious being hyperbole. This first rhetorical devise is used by an author as a way to evoke strong feelings through over exaggeration. This whole poem is riddled with these exaggerated phrases. for example;

“My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.”

In this section of this poem, hyperbole is used to exaggerate how her tongue is so swollen.

The second literary device used by Shel Silverstein is a more basic one… the simile, in which one thing in the poem compares to something else. A perfect example of this is, “My tonsils are as big as rocks.” We’ve all had a sore throat, but not as bad as Peggy Ann McKay… who’s throat is so bad it feels like her tonsils are the size of boulders when she swallows.

The third literary device Mr. Silverstein used to support Peggy’s complaints in this poem was rhyme scheme. Rhyme scheme is a poet’s purposeful pattern of lines that rhyme with the following lines. The rhyme and meter, helps to make a poem musical.

“My neck is stiff, my spine is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.”

The analysis above looks at what makes this poem so enjoyable, easy to read and listen to and most of all humorous. Humorous, that is, unless you’re Oliver (or his parents for that matter). We use this poem more for a check list to diagnose our littlest guy than we do for a good laugh.

I’m not sure what happened over the last six months; I don’t know if he needs to be put in a bubble or what, but he is a giant walking germ. We’ve gone from a cough and fever to a cold, to a virus, to the dreaded toddler pneumonia.

Poor Ollie’s tired all day, but he can’t fall asleep,

His head is hot, and he’s curled up in a big heap.

I’m pretty sure there’s something in his ear,

I don’t even think he can hear.

Shel Silverstein I’m not (clearly from the stanza above), but I’m pretty sure we are raising the second coming of Peggy Ann Mckay. Let’s just hope he feels better this weekend…

Wait… You say today is… Saturday? Crap, he’s still not okay!

An Unexpected Trip

A couple of weeks ago I got a scary call.  We’ve been to the hospital before… heck Jax was born in a hospital… shocking development I know.  But two Mondays ago an unexpected emergency trip by ambulance to the hospital was one of the scariest days of my life. Getting a call from Stephanie at 4:00, while I am at work and over an hour away, in which she tells me that Jackson is on his way to CCMC by ambulance was not the news any parent wants to receive. Needless to say my ride to Hartford was the longest and shortest ride back from work I’ve had since I started in my new School. 

  • Temp: 102 (98.6 is normal)
  • Oxygen Levels: 81 (98 is normal)
  • Heart Rate: 204 (60-100 is normal

When a pediatrician sees these vitals and then immediately calls an ambulance to take your son to the closest Children’s Medical Center, there is every reason to panic. Seeing your child struggle to breathe has to be one of the most horrible things to watch. Stephanie and Grammy stayed calm for the most part… I on the other hand was close to having a heart attack not knowing what was going on as I sped through traffic on the busiest highway in Connecticut during rush hour. Somehow I made it to the hospital before the ambulance did… flashing lights and sirens and still took them longer to get to the hospital then me… driving from an hour away.

I paced and wandered and looked and waited and paced and paced and paced. Clear and happy thoughts were not something that were floating around in my head. I was nervous… I was scared, but mostly I felt helpless. You have this little human who you are in charge of, you are responsible for and who looks to you for help. 

I spent a lot of that night “trying” to be funny. I made some jokes and laughed a bit with my son. But the humor was just a shield from pain, a costume that showed a stoic face to project a cool, calm and collected parent. But beneath that was hiding the true sadness and fear of not knowing what was going on. Spending most of my life as the “fixer” makes situations like these even more difficult to deal with. 

No this wasn’t (or didn’t at least seem to be) a life threatening visit to the hospital, but anxiety still runs rampant at times like these. At least for me. Although Jackson is almost three at this point, there are still so many firsts to still deal with. This first ambulance ride to the hospital is one I won’t soon forget. 

Jackson is fine, recovering from pneumonia and a viral infection in his lungs… (nothing lots of fluids, lots of Peppa Pig reruns and extra hugs couldn’t take care of). We wound up getting out of the hospital around midnight that night. As I reflect on how lucky we are to have our little man back up to speed and feeling good again, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how freaked out I was at the time. 

Everyone from the EMTs to the staff at CCMC was AMAZING… caring, responsive and understanding. They catered on Jax in his elf PJs like he was a king. Whether it was bringing him toys to play with, crayons or sneaking him extra apple juice and graham crackers… thank you for caring for my son… and keeping this dad calm and out of the hospital himself. 

The Quickest ER in town

img_1682The hospital is always a scary place to visit. Whether it’s as a visitor or as a patient. Let alone when your the visitor and you’re two year old is the patient.

We had a bit of a scare Saturday morning. He woke up at about 12:30 coughing and wheezing like crazy. But, it was the screaming and crying that was worrisome. It’s panic mode when you can’t get them to stop. After about an hour we were able to calm him down and he fell back asleep, “spread eagle style,” wheezing but sleeping just the same.Then about 2:30 he woke up again and was having trouble breathing with a horrible cough again. The cough seemed to spread deeper in his chest the more worked up he became.

At this point it was hospital or bust. The kid took it like a champ. By the time we were on our way home he was 1 ice pop and 8 mL of steroids. He was happy, I was literally exhausted to the point of no return and he was now pumped full of hyper enduring drugs. Luckily, the energy that spread throughout the house like wildfire, died down just enough for dad and mom to get a quick power nap.