an MLK chatversation

“communicate with compassion” Alveda King

At 8:43 and 12:43 last Friday, I logged on to school wide Zoom read aloud. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team had planned and organized a read aloud that would bring the entire school community together in the spirit of Martin Luther King.

Our Principal, Beth, and our Literacy Coach, Jess, had planned a Zoom read aloud, Little People, Big Dreams, Martin Luther King. Together, they had planned stopping points that would serve as inspiration for anyone to contribute in the chat. “What kind of person was he?” was the big question that would hopefully inspire ideas and thinking. Eric, our ever involved, big picture, technology teacher worked to make the idea come to life for our entire school community. (Thanks to The Covid, we had cohorts and colleagues in quarantine and cohorts and colleagues in school!)

So at 8:44 and 12:44 my screen began to fill with the faces of children, teachers, paraprofessionals in school and home. And then, the book filled the screen and the people sat in strips.

Beth began to read. The story began with a young Martin and his faithful, church going family. The story then takes us through his life hearing about the people and experiences that nourished his bravery and determination.

I listened. I found myself scrolling through the squares, wanting to see their eyes as they listened. In those eyes I began to see the wheels turning as they themselves listened. Before I knew it, Beth had posed a question and the chat came to life. I was mesmerized by the comments that appeared alongside my screen. (see below)

There was no back and forth conversation like in a classroom. There was no grand conversation but, I couldn’t help but be proud to be part of a community of teachers and learners who believed they could and did. We were a community of readers beginning conversations, sharing thinking, getting ready for Black History Month.

Later that day, I went to get Valerie, a first grade literacy support student. “What did you think of the read aloud today, Valerie.” Her spirited personality lit up the afternoon, “It was great!” I followed up with the same question from the read aloud, “What kind of person do you think Martin was?” “Well, Mrs. Sherriff,” she said matter of factly, “he was kind and he wants us all to stand tall.” “What do you mean “stand tall“? I wanted to hear more, learn more, from her. “You know, Mrs. Sherriff.” she continued. “Martin wants us all to stand tall for each other!” she said with such simple, yet strong conviction. “We all just need to stand tall for each other.”

Yes, we all need to stand tall for each other.

Comments pulled from the ‘chatversation’ with the morning and afternoon cohorts :

kindergarten – “he felt sad and wants to help

1st grade – “he was persistent, thoughtful and kind”

1st grade – “he is trying to show everyone his dream and bring everyone together”

4th grade – “stubborn in a good way, wasn’t going to back down for what was right”

2nd grade – “he never gave up and never went back on his beliefs

5th grader at home – “we can learn to be determined, brave”

2nd grader at home – “he just used his words to tell people what he though was right”

5th grade class – “he reacted peacefully. his hard work paid off”

4th grader — “he was open minded and caring”

2nd grader at home – “he had a wish to help the world”

5th grader – “he was consistent in helping others”

1st grade – “he was a leader”

2nd grader at home – “to be kind it does not matter what you look like, they should be treated the same”

2nd grade – “life can put you down but keep moving forward”

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2021 OLW

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2020 was meander. Meander had me exploring with wide open eyes and a mind ready to take it all in—that is, until March 11 when school closed and then slowly, the world shut down. There were times when it was hard to meander. The days became rote at times, I meandered through drawers and cabinets which came out organized. Last spring, I felt like I was bumbling through remote teaching but looking back, it was meandering that helped me discover platforms, tools, structures and tricks to bring virtual teaching and learning to life. Fall came and I found I had meandered my way through summer. Poolside afternoons and cul-de-sac happy hours al fresco had stamped our summer with The Covid. Back in school, in a hybrid model, meandering was challenging. Block schedules do not lend themselves to the meandering that fosters surprise and discovery. I was happy to forgo meandering for the sake of looking directly into a child’s eyes even if it was through plexiglass. In 2020, meandering sat front and center when it could, and when it had to, it took a backseat. It knew its’ place in a pandemic year.

Now here we are, 2021 has come to greet us.

I’ve played around with many words. I’ve tested the compatibility of many with this new year. The word that has passed the compatibility test – plant.

I love plants. I do. I have fair amount in my home. I also have a fair amount of plants outside my home. I like to draw and sketch them. I like to remember the story that is behind each one. I like to remember the people that are in those stories.

I also love to plant. My husband, Billy, and I take pride in planting garden each spring. The work of planting (and tending) leads to harvesting. Inevitably, that harvest is shared. Reaping a bountiful harvest only makes me want to share.

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This year, plant, will be my OLW. I hope it will guide me in seeing what I love, continuing to do what I love and ultimately sharing what I love.

a morning

the house wakes up, one by one

words are sparse and soft spoken

the predawn hour calls for quiet purpose

softly everyone prepares

“everyone’s responsible for their own equipment”

words from years ago live on through the generations

the cars roar to life in the darkness

the house is left in the dark, waiting for day

the mountain calls

Glad for That

Muriel, our neighbor, is 93 years young. She lives by herself in small cape. She may not be hear very well, even with her hearing aids in, but she is sharp as a tack. Whenever we find ourselves visiting, she always updates us on her family in Long Island and her visiting caretaker, Dorothea. Muriel has this positive, appreciative outlook on her life – not just the life she’s led, but the life she is leading. Her outlook shines through when she ends and update with “and I’m glad for that”. A phrase I don’t hear everywhere but always from Muriel.

Friday night, I walked towards the front of the house. I gazed out the window soaking up the neighborhood Christmas lights shining brighter against the snow. Off in the distance, I saw red lights blinking. I hadn’t noticed them before. I gazed some more and then realized they were not Christmas lights but emergency lights. I grabbed my coat and boats and made my way into the darkness. My first look was towards Muriel’s house and then I turned the other way and found a fire truck in front of Torey’s house. I got as close as I could, waited for someone, anyone, to emerge. A masked fireman made his way out of the house and I yelled, “Is everyone OK?” I knew his answer would be vague, but I had to ask. “Yes. Everyone is OK.” he yelled through the darkness. Satisfied with an answer, I made my way home and texted Torey. “Friday nights are not for firetrucks and emergencies. I hope you all are OK.” Her response – “It’s my mom, she may have had a heart attack. She’s OK – at the hospital.”

Billy and I were out walking the dog the next day. As we approached Torey’s house, she was backing out of her driveway. Billy and I pulled Maci to the side and waited. She paused the reverse, put it in drive, saw us and rolled down her window…”How’s your mom?” Billy and I listened as she recounted the events that led to the 911 call and her mother’s safe arrival at the hospital. As her story came to a close, she wrapped up with those ever thankful words that I thought only belonged to Muriel “and I’m glad for that“.

I’ve always loved my neighbors, block parties and spontaneous street conversations are the norm. Every one of them brings something special to our little corner of the world and all I can say “and I’m glad for that”.