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Amanda Gorman

Saturday, 23 Jan 2021, 12:38 GMT-0600


How amazing was that?

Amanda Gorman recites a poem during the inauguration of Joe Biden
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (via: Times of San Diego)

Remote Tech

Saturday, 23 Jan 2021, 09:57 GMT-0600

1. So Many Steps

“I did the assignment,” she said in an email.

She’s pretty good at keeping up with her grades. And when she sees something that she thinks is wrong, she lets me know. I depend on that. 

“Thanks for letting me know,” I replied. 

I checked Google Classroom, suspecting that I might have forgotten to copy her Google Classroom score into our grading system.

(The life of a teacher is peppered with such manual interventions to compensate for school district budgets that can’t afford to pay for “seamless integration”. After all, why pay for expensive automation when inexpensive teachers can do it by hand. And teachers are so accustomed to doing whatever’s necessary, that they just deal with it. And so we log into one system, open a PDF file, copy what we see, log out, log into another system, and paste in what saw. Log out. Dang, I’ve digressed…)

I brought up the assignment and clicked on her name. There was nothing there. 

“I don’t see your assignment.” 

“Well I remember doing it.” No doubt she did.

Here’s the thing of it (and this I thought only to myself)…

There is a difference between doing it and turning it in. And, there is a difference between clicking the turn-in button and confirming that is got turned in. (As in: don’t close the browser window until your credit card purchase has completed.)

“Make sure you turned it in,” I suggested.

A day later, her assignment appeared in Google Classroom.

2. Upon Reflection

Objectively, there are many steps to remember. Many things that can go wrong. Some students get it and some don’t. Many must throw up their hands and give up.

Get a laptop. Get a hotspot. Turn them on. Log in. Get them to talk to each other. Did you sync with the campus network first? Get the Google Classroom code. Were you on Zoom that day? Check your Google Classroom to-do list. Open the assignment. Read the PDF. Solve the problems on separate sheets of paper. Take pictures of all your work. Attach the pictures to the assignment. Click the turn-in button. Make sure the turn in succeeds.

Yep. Many steps.

I am reminded of an old video about a medieval monk help desk technician explaining the new “book” system that was replacing the old “scroll” system. A struggling monk throws up his hands in exasperation.

If you haven’t seen it, you really must. It captures the challenges that many of our families are facing. (It also captures perfectly the life of a help desk technician.)

The Bulletin Board

Friday, 22 Jan 2021, 20:52 GMT-0600

He stood gazing at the bulletin board outside our classroom.

It’s covered in drawings and descriptions that some of the kids drew and wrote. Of Deep Space Network antennas and black holes. Of Chicxulub crater and pyroclastic flow and the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain. Of kabuki and syncopation and the Royal Drums of Burundi. Of the Pillars of Creation and multiverses.

Perhaps he was wondering where the math was, or perhaps he got it.

That was the other day. On the next, the school went into quarantine. Students testing positive. Students in contact with them. Faculty testing positive. Faculty in contact with them. Staff testing positive. Staff in contact with them. So on that next day, they distributed laptops and hotspots to all the students during the last period of the day and sent everyone home not to return for a week and a half. 

Today there was no one to admire the bulletin board.

The Wrong Day?

Monday, 18 Jan 2021, 16:25 GMT-0600

Was that the wrong dream for this particular day? 

On a day of dreams of freedom and peace. Of casting aside manacles and chains. On this day of struggle. Of black and white. Of justice. Was this the wrong day for that dream?

You might say so. That the day should not be stolen. Should not be repurposed for Covid or Zoom complaints, as legitimate as they might be.

But I say it was a fine day for it. Because dreams of freedom and dreams of peace, dreams of overcoming, these dreams will never come to pass as long as our children are isolated. The dreams we dream on this day in particular, demand that all our children come together again. 

I Dream a World

Monday, 18 Jan 2021, 06:47 GMT-0600


Oh, Rachel Martin and Kwame Alexander in the morning. I haven’t felt this way about words on the radio since John Ciardi’s

We woke up to Rachel and Kwame’s challenge this morning. How about this…

I dream a world where all
my students walk into our room.
I dream a world where we 
come together and no longer meet in Zoom.

Doggerel yes, but sincerely felt. These students are the pulse of my life, and I so miss seeing them all together.

Hoping For Contagion

Sunday, 17 Jan 2021, 19:14 GMT-0600

“Mister,” said a disembodied voice from the monitor on the wall.

This rarely happens. So few remote students speak up. Certainly none as loudly.

“It’s Yolanda!” a student in the front row said.

 “Go ahead, Yolanda. What’s up?”

“Mister, is that because…”

She proceeded to ask a question related to simplifying square roots. It was a fine question — the best of the day. Perhaps everyone else was wondering the same thing. 

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Think of it this way…” 

A few minutes later, she asked another good question. And a few minutes after that, yet another.

Oh, I so hope that she keeps this up. Maybe it will be contagious.

Was this a test?

Saturday, 16 Jan 2021, 09:59 GMT-0600

A message popped up. It was from a student who has recently gone remote again. Many students are going remote again — some because their families are no longer willing to accept the risks, others because the school is doing contact tracing on kids testing positive. But I digress.

A message had popped up. The subject said “Test”, and since we recently had a quiz, I took a look. There was some kind of matrix with filled in bubbles.

matrix with filled in bubbles

Wait. What? 

Down further there were a few measures of (not too many) notes.

measures of not too many notes

Clearly meant for some other teacher, right? Maybe not, since I had recently been talking to band and choir kids about music and math (counterpoint, Bach, syncopation, … throat singing). 

“Did you mean to send this to me?” I replied.

“Sorry. I meant to send it to Mr Davis.” 

Whew. I was worried she was subtly testing me and that I had failed.

Greek Letters

Saturday, 09 Jan 2021, 23:22 GMT-0600

The bell had just rung. The students were settling in. Sixth period is always a little rowdy at the beginning, and this day was no exception. Suddenly one of the students was shouting.

“Mr. Hasan! What are these letters?”

The others looked over. He was holding the class notes up with both hands.

“They’re … curly.” 

“Ah yes,” I said.

And with that, they met alpha, beta, and gamma

alpha, beta, gamma in a math expression

On Looking Menacing

Saturday, 09 Jan 2021, 13:03 GMT-0600

1. On The Balustrade

It was long ago, it was summer, and it was Saturday. The air was warm, the sky was blue, and the sun was shining. I grabbed a backpack and caught the Metro to the Mall.

From Metro Center, I walked to the Capitol. I climbed the steps to where you can look out on the people and the grass and museums and monuments and memorials. I stood there gazing for a while and then got out a book and hopped up on the balustrade. 

Within moments, a Capitol Police officer arrived. “What do you think you are doing?” he snarled. 

I hopped down.

2. On The Senate Floor

The thugs pushed over barriers. They scrambled up walls. They broke into the Capitol. They pounded on doors. The broke glass windows. They brought pepper spray and weapons. They called for the hanging of the Vice President. They occupied congressional offices. They broke into the Senate and House of Representatives. They looted. 

Let’s just say that upon reflection, I can only conclude that those officers looking out for the Capitol were, are, … I don’t know how to say this, but you know what I’m wanting to say.

That police force seems, in retrospect, to be just a wee bit selective in how they project their snarling.

I know. That’s not charitable. It’s not fair. It ignores very significant differences. But I’m just sayin’…

A quiet, dark skinned guy with a book needs to be kicked off the balustrade. But armed, insurrectionist thugs are …

Ok, I’m not sayin’.

3. On The Senate Floor, Take 2

Let’s take this from a different angle.

From The New Yorker’s summary

One man, clad in a combat helmet, body armor, and other tactical gear, was among the group that made it to the inner reaches of the building. Carrying zip-tie handcuffs, he was captured in photographs and videos on the Senate floor…

There were photographs of him. Not quietly reading a book, but wearing a helmet and body armor. Not sitting in the sun, but holding zip-tie handcuffs.

Reflecting on the optics of it, he later said,

I know it looks menacing. That was not my intent.

Interesting. Somehow I don’t think that response would have gone over well with Officer Friendly years ago when I was on the balustrade.

I know that the dude in the photo is dealing with consequences that make my hopping down from the balustrade seem trivial. But it’s not the consequences I’m talking about. It’s the police force.

What did they think might happen with that crowd? What on earth were they thinking they were supposed to do? Did they do no planning? No wonder their leadership has resigned.

Forgot It All

Saturday, 09 Jan 2021, 08:48 GMT-0600

It was the first day of the second semester of my third year as a teacher. What period was it? I don’t remember. First, second, sixth. One of the pre-AP classes. 

It had been a minor struggle all morning. The upgraded Zoom apps had a new user interface. The wireless was slow. Zoom was slow. Things weren’t starting out particularly smoothly — not quite chaotic, more like comedic.

“Someone’s in the waiting room,” someone said.

“You’re muted, Mr. Hasan,” someone else said. 

They know they need to tell me these things. And when they do, they say it like your brother might — gently, like a reminder. 

“We can’t see what you’re writing”. The Zoom waiting room window on my second laptop was covering the document camera window. 

“It’s ok,” one of them said. “Mr. Hasan just forgot it all over the holidays.”

True. So true.