“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

The Value of Student Work 

Entering a new school is something so extremely challenging. “Students First” is a motto that has been at the forefront of my career in education. Effective educators are dedicated individuals, dedicated to one thing first and foremost… their students. Excellent educators are able to effectively build a positive and safe school environment; however, the main goal is to create a learning environment of effective teaching that meets individual students’ needs in order to help them become lifelong learners that are self-motivated and value the effort it takes to be successful.

I have worked tirelessly throughout my entire career to create a positive school culture. I know that entering a new building the first task will be to make sure that I can contribute to that positive culture and climate. As a school leader I know that I will face many challenges in a new building, but supporting a welcoming and positive school culture goes a long way in helping to bridging the gap between the already established school community and myself, “the new guy.”

It will be imperative for me to help create an environment where the entire school community shares the same set of norms, values, and expectations in order to support the emotional, physical and academic well-being of our students.For me this starts with making sure that our students feel that “this is their school.” The best way to foster that belief is by creating an environment where students’ work is valued, appreciated and rewarded through display in the school itself. When I walk through my son’s daycare it feels like a place for kids, by kids (and not just because there are numerous toddlers running a muck). There is art work, (scribbles and master-pieces, writings and photos of children working and having fun posted everywhere). The work depicts the students effort, not just something that shows that they are “smart,” but shows that their hard work, effort and process is valued as well.

This is the type of environment I want to be part of as an educator. An environment that values effort and process, not just the product that is being created by our students. I am excited to begin my new journey as a school principal tomorrow. A journey that will start with a model of what we will value… The work of our children. I’m excited to display some beautiful paintings done by my son.

That is until my new students create their own…

 

A Principal, a Fireman and the Parenting Competition

Let me set the stage for the weekend:

11873413_1463770193949230_8997507016139013145_nTen adults… Eight children… Three days.

 

The odds were stacked against us from the beginning. We were the underdogs… the Rocky Balboa, The 1980 USA Olympic Hockey Team.  We were not in charge, we were not even allowed to participate indecision making… but in the end… the dads won this weekend (just don’t tell any of the wives I said that!).

Weekends were made for this. The reason someone invented airplanes was for exactly this reason.  For mamas to reunite… for best friends to reminisce and laugh and cry… for guys to get an hour or two to golf…but most importantly for us dads to prove to the wives that these dads are top notch parents.

That’s how we went into this battle. Two sets of parents vying for parenting supremacy.  Two sets of friends… Two sets of souls mates vying for validation… Validation that their way of doing things is just as good or better then the others’.  Competition brings out the best in everyone…and sometimes the worst.  But it was this competition that would bring two sets of friends… parents… Together as one.

It all started with a golf game. A golf game that would include a peace of mind, a quiet solitude from baby food, diapers and wives.  A golf game that would include amazing shots, miracle putts and poison ivy… Friendship, comradery and just the simply pleasures that a freshly cut fairway can afford three fathers.

It ended with a trip to some girly place where mamas can go and chat about US magazine stories, the Kardashians and their idiot husbands.  A place where wives go to get away from the everyday hectic household nonsense.

In between that battle of the sexes consisted of some interesting events. Some favored the mommas some favorited the dads.

Highlights include:

One of the worst photos failures since the inception of the camera.

 Children taking over the house, the Oasis, the pool and the kitchen.

 
There was that incredible day… that dad day that will forever live in the history books.  The day where two dads accomplished things that any parent, including any of our Four Fathers (Danny Tanner, Carl Winslow, Tim Taylor and Philip Banks) would be impressed with.

The trip to the park which included a pretty heated argument with Big Pun and a splash pad was a hit!

There was the daring attempt at something no one has ever tried before… They said it couldn’t be done… The #TripleNap, the worlds most daring parenting move. Well guess what… Done. Beers were opened, mock drafts were drafted.

Yet, that is where our story of competitive parents attempting to outdo each other… For a new obstacle appeared in the horizon… an enemy so evil, so vicious that it would take he power of eight grown men and women to not only fend it off, but to defeat it and come out alive… Mystic Seaport and Aquarium.

Eight adults… Seven children… One small space and 100° of sweltering heat. We fought off all comers, anyone in our way was toast… Children running amuck through the rooms, stampeding their way from fresh water turtles to jellyfish. I was expecting to see one of our little ones turn up inside one of the tanks with the sharks (100% would have been Cameron and he definitely would have punched it in the face). 

 Things quickly got hairy kids and tantrums ensued. Screams and stares filled the aquarium. I dont know how this works yet because Jax isn’t at the stage yet where everything ends in fit . I’m sure when this begins I’ll want to just grab him and run him the hell outta the place. Be polite and respectful to the other people in the situation. That’s what we did. We gathered up our young-ins and made a mad dash for the cars.

On the ride home though I got to wondering about the procedures parents need to follow when their kid’s are throwing a fit. I’d like to think I would handle the situation as perfectly as Trevor Washington did (calmly walking out). But at what point do you just give up thinking about everyone else and say “Screw this, If I’m going to be miserable so is everyone else,” and just ignore the screams and stares and go on enjoying your day? You can’t fight the inevitable, right? As a wise man once said “Trying to keep a child contained is like trying to hold liquid jello in your hands. It’s impossible.” I mean in reality when will I ever see any of these people again. If their ears start bleeding too bad… Shouldn’t have come to a place that is frequented by parents and children. Who knows… But I’m sure we’ll find out soon. 

I’m left with those thoughts as well as the memories of an exhausting, but well worth it weekend. Seeing Jax enjoy the company of other children, especially those of such close friends and family is a joy in itself.

Until next time,

The Principal and The Fireman
PS: the dads tossed a shut out. We complete won this competition. We dadded the crap outta those kids!