Happy 6th Birthday Jackson

Dear Jackson,

As I sit here and contemplate the words that are needed to wish you the happiest of happy birthdays during this unbelievably unprecedented time we are living in right now, I am struggling to even come up with a way to start. How do we explain to a six year old that he can’t be with his friends, or go somewhere for a birthday party? That’s what 2020 is for you at this point… an everlasting, unexplainable time that you have somehow become accustomed to.

So I guess this is where we start. During a time that even grown ups can’t understand or handle. Yet, you, a six year old, have handled it with humor and confidence. You ask questions and want to learn what is going on. That’s who you are. That’s who you’ve become these last six years. From the little boy who brought joy and happiness to everyone around him to the six year old… not so little boy who brings joy and happiness to everyone around him even in the darkest of times.

I enjoy being around you more than you know (yes you drive me insane sometimes but then again I had a hand in creating you! I never realized how annoying I could be until I created a miniature version of myself and started arguing with it daily). Yet, even in those times I never stop loving you. Your mom and I will never stop loving you.

Tonight, as we readied you for bed as a five year old one more time, you called us back to your room fourteen-million times. You just wanted is to lay with you and talk. You apologized for keeping us up so late, but wanted us to know you were just being a “chatterbox” tonight. How do we stay mad at you when you come up with things like that?!??

What has stood out to me the most in this past year is how you have taken your little brother under your wing. I’ve written about how you love him, but recently you have become a mentor, the way an older brother should. Today I listened in as you taught him how to play bingo and smiled as he just threw the balls across the table, not once did you lose your patience with him. That’s a lie, you lost it a few times, but never gave up hope that he’d get it in the end (he didn’t).

While we have been distance learning/ homeschooling you have been teaching Oliver how to hold a pencil, how to do reading centers and most importantly have been a shoulder for him to cry on when he is upset. You share with him and always tell him you love him.

The last month and a half has defined the year 2020 so far. The CoronaVirus will forever be tied to your kindergarten school year and your sixth birthday, but it will never define you. You are creative, passionate and caring. You want to do things for others and recognize that something as simple as making a heart out of red construction paper to hang on our window makes other people smile. You are stronger than any virus, hell you’re stronger than me in many ways too.

I love the big boy you have become, but wish you could slow down growing up so fast. This family is lucky to have such a loving little boy, who’s smile lights up a room and who’s laugh can brighten even the darkest of days.

Happy QUARENTINED Birthday, Jackson. We all love you very much!

Love Always,

Dad

April 27, 2014
April 27, 2015
April 27, 2016
April 27, 2017
April 27, 2018
April 27, 2019
April 27, 2020

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.” -Albus Dumbledore

It Had to Happen

It was inevitable, the hair that sits on top of the three boys in this family is thick and wavy. Our barber sees us four weeks on the dot, otherwise we look like three of the original Beatles.

Today… two of the three original Beatles are no more thanks to the Coronavirus Shutdown.

Dear Kindergarten Class of 2020

Dear Kindergarten Class of 2020,

You might not be a high school senior, but this was a big year for you also. You began your journey as a student. You met new friends, began to learn in a whole new way, and set the foundation for your educational career.

We know how much you are missing so many things that were new and exciting to you, like riding the bus, learning a schedule, having lunch with your peers, and developing relationships with others who may become life long friends.

We know that this whole situation is hard for you to understand. We know that you miss your friends and teachers. We know that you were looking forward to so many fun things that were promised to you, like school trips, field day and even your hot lunch day… pizza on Friday. We as your parents have been looking forward to that too.

For us parents, we have been so excited to watch your journey begin this year. We have watched you mature and navigate a new experience. This has been the beginning of a whole new chapter for you and us as well.

We want you to know that no matter what, we will do our best to make sure that this time, although a time we could have never prepared for, will not damper this special time in your life. We promise to make this time as memorable and happy as possible.

We love you Jax!

Sincerely,

Mom and Dad

I read this on Facebook and wanted to share. It says everything perfectly.

“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.