Category Archives: best laid plans

There Are No Words

Statue

If I have learned anything over the last few weeks, it is that I crave structure.  I need it to be productive.  I am slowly working on getting back into some type of routine as everything has shifted over the last couple of weeks.  Right now, I’m not even sure what it would look like.

I’d love to put tons of time and energy into my Google Classroom now, but Michigan just closed schools for the rest of the school year.  Up until this point, I was unable to assign anything for a grade.  I could share things I would like my students to look at and do, but that was about it.  I did come across some great stuff that I will be using with my students moving forward.  Unfortunately, that is the point.  Until we can figure out what distance learning will look like at our school, I’m not sure how we will handle students without out devices and internet access.  Hopefully, we will know more next week and will be able to move on from there.

I miss and worry about my students.  My heart breaks for my 8th graders who will be heading off to high school next year.  Will they be ready?  We did not get to send them off in the way they need to be sent off – not yet, anyway.  I worry less about 6th and 7th graders.  I can put things in place to help us fill in gaps next year.  It may not be fun, but it might be necessary.  I still miss them though, and they are certainly missing out on so much.  When we left school on Friday, March 13th – a day I will never forget – I was in the middle of planning a field trip to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Arts.  My 6th graders were also supposed to go to Lansing on another field trip in early May – a field trip that never happened last year.  8th graders are also missing out on their last dance, usually put on by 7th grade.  Not to mention track and field day, the last events surrounding Lent and Easter, and the wonderful chaos that is the last week of the school year.  Oh, and I could cry when I think of what we had planned for March is reading month, most of which never took place, including Prime Time Live Friday Night (originally slated for that ill-fated Friday the 13th) and a poetry café, among so much else.

Then there are the student council events.  I am the student council advisor, and my students pleaded with me to plan an end of year event.  A trip to an escape room and laser tag were in the works.  We were also supposed to have a carnival for younger students during March is reading month, all sponsored and put on by student council.  I’m now trying to figure out how we are going to do elections for next year, which take place every spring.  I may be able to come up with something there.  The point is that everyone who works in or deals with education day-in, day-out – teachers, administrators, volunteers, staff, parents, and certainly students – lost so much over these last few weeks.

I feel as though that goes double for students in Catholic schools.  I am not Catholic, and I do not teach religion, but I know what my students are missing at a time when they could use their faith the most.  They need guidance when it comes to faith formation, and that is what they are lacking now.  I keep thinking … 20 years from now, how I will I explain these times to my students?  There are times when I feel at a loss when I try discussing September 11th with current students who were born longer after 2001.

This is not what I wanted or dreamed for my first full year teaching.  It just isn’t.  I do hope that next year will bring a “normal” year.  During the 2018-2019 school year, those of us in Michigan experienced a record number of “cold”/snow days.  Something no one experienced before.  Now this.  I think everyone could use a return to “normal” at this point.

Change the World

Then there is the canoe livery.  Fortunately for us, we don’t truly begin to get busy until the end of June, early July.  August keeps getting busier and busier every year.  This time of year, we get things ready for opening on Memorial Weekend.  We will see what happens.  While we can make some progress, in other ways, it is difficult.  For example, I can’t finish ordering our t-shirts and sweatshirts at this point.  Would it be wise to do so right now with so much uncertainty?  Same goes for other merchandise in our stores.

There are so many summer scenarios that are running through my head.  I can’t help but think we’d be especially busy if things start returning to normal by early June.  If it is towards the end of June, that might put more pressure on already extremely busy weekends.  Should we extend our season?  Time will tell.

I do know that I will survive.  My family will survive.  The canoe livery will survive.  We’ve weathered so many storms in the past.  I keep telling myself how bleak things looked in 2018 in the wake of massive 100-year flooding due to ice.  We made it and came back better than ever.  Eventually a path will be made clear, and there will be a new “normal.”  We all just need to hold on until then.

Empty Classroom

Grieving “Normal”

Graduation

The Sadness is Real:  An Open Letter to the Teachers

Ever since schools closed on Friday, March 13th, so many people have posted about spring break trips, proms, graduations, and so much more being cancelled and/or postponed.  I’ve watched others shame those same people truly grieving their loss by stating things such as “at least you’re healthy” and “how can you think of things at a time like this?”  What awful things to say!

While graduations and field trips certainly aren’t the sickness or loss of a loved one – no one is making that comparison – most of us are suffering from loss at this point.  We have lost our “normal” and working like hell to get to a “new normal,” whatever that may be.  As a teacher, I’m in awe at how teachers have come together.  I belong to a Google Classroom group on Facebook, and the activity I’ve witnessed over the last few weeks is unreal.  So many strangers, all teachers or in education, coming to help one another help students across the United States and the world.  In fact, I’ve had my own crash course over the last few weeks.  In fact, that is precisely why I am a teacher, I love to keep learning and then share what I’ve learned with my students.

When all this madness is over, and things return to “normal” – and they will – it is my hope that we are all kinder and gentler with one another.  Hopefully this will bring many people closer to God.  I also hope that it brings everyone, students included, a new appreciation for their everyday lives.  It already has for me.  As stressed out as I was at the end of last trimester, I’d love to be worried about planning all the fun things for March is reading month and the end of the school year again.  So, I am taking some time to grieve my loss of normal – and you should too.  When this is over, we are all going to love on each other and support our neighborhoods, small businesses, and cities, towns, and villages like never before.  Personally, I am hoping for a great party out on the river!

All I can say is that there will be time to reschedule those missed spring break trips, make those memories with your seniors, and generally make up for lost time.  I am looking forward to that day, and I expect to be so busy that I will be tempted to complain.  Until then, I will just keep plugging away.

Never Stop Learning

Writing On …

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I admit that I have a love/hate relationship with writing.  I love writing and it brings me a lot of joy.  At the same time, I hate it when I get so busy with other things in my life that I let writing go by the wayside.  It isn’t that I don’t have time.  I don’t make the necessary time.  That must change.  Not a month from now, not a week from now, but today.  As I now have nothing but time, maybe I need to work it into my schedule in a way that is sustainable when the world rights itself again.

It’s strange.  Growing up, I always wanted to live through historic events.  I loved history and wanted to be a part of it.  What I didn’t realize when I was younger is that we all live through history.  The reasons I love genealogy and history so much are the countless stories of ordinaries peoples’ lives during extraordinary circumstances.  If that doesn’t describe these times, nothing will.  If nothing else, I hope those of us who love to write, whether for an audience or just ourselves, take this opportunity to detail our lives in this moment.

I can’t wait for the day when I argue with my mom whether the corona virus epidemic hit in 2020 or 2021.  We will get through this, and I can’t wait for the party when we do!  I do hope it brings us together and closer to God.  I also hope that our society somehow learns patience.  We need to slow down and appreciate what we do have.  Every one of us.

You can find my podcast here

darkness

Changes

Dear Students, We Didn’t Even Get to Say Goodbye – Her View from Home

To Those Saying “Lucky Teachers,” This Isn’t a Break for Us, It’s Heartbreak

Through all of this, seniors – the class of 2020 – has been on my mind.  I hope that when this is all over, we will have the opportunity to properly celebrate all their accomplishments.  I think we are all grieving all the celebrations, events, you name it that have been cancelled at this point.  While I know some people have expressed anger at people getting upset over cancellations, it is only human that we grieve all the experiences we’ve lost.  Does that mean we shouldn’t take precautions or help those in need because we are bummed that our events were cancelled?  No.  It just means that we are grieving a valid loss – at this point, we all are.

I don’t know what these next few weeks or months will bring, but I do know that we will work through this together.  One of the silver linings of all of this is the time to work on projects that have been put on hold indefinitely.  For example, I’ve toyed with the idea of playing around with podcasting for some time, and tonight, I think I will finally start.  We will see where it goes!  I am also planning to play around with sharing podcasts with my students too.  Much more to come!

Miss Russell

PS – Check out the new page I created to share middle school online resources – Miss Russell’s Middle School Resources

One Week …

I will never forget Friday, March 13th, 2020.  I teach middle school at a small, rural Catholic school, and we had just had an unexpected day off due to a boiler issue.  Late in the day on Thursday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer mandated all schools closed as of Monday, March 16th.  Suddenly we were all faced with an undetermined amount of time off.  Not only did teachers and administrators not quite know what to expect, students looked to us for answers and we had none.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  After school on that Friday, we were supposed to have an after school event for March is reading month, Prime Time Live Friday Night.  Games, dinner, and prizes all cancelled.  Our once full March calendar suddenly free.  Now, our last Stations of the Cross is the last school memory I will have for a while.

I can’t help but think of all my 6th through 8th graders through all of this.  Are they OK?  How do I help make sure they are still learning?  What can I do when I can’t assign any graded work as not everyone has internet access?  I’ve worked my way through a crash-course on creating Google Classrooms, learning by doing.

Oh, the events!  I so looked forward to so many events this spring!  We had one field trip planned to Lansing in May, and I was in the process of booking another to the Michigan Science Center and the Detroit Institute of Art.  We were just beginning the novel Esperanza Rising as a middle school.  Oh, and the poetry unit I wanted to do.  Then there were the professional development opportunities now cancelled.  I looked forward to learning to become the best possible middle school teacher I can be.  I am hoping that I have the same opportunities next year.

Then there are the longer-term questions.  When will we return to school?  What to expect when we do?  When will society return to “normal’?  How will things work with our seasonal family business, which is due to start Memorial Weekend?  In fact, I’ve been splitting my time between trying to round up resources for my students and using this opportunity to get some business done.

Watching and observing how we have all come together as a profession (teachers are the best!), a church, a community, a state, and a country is heartwarming.  Ultimately, we will all become stronger through this adversity.

I will post resources soon!

The Road Ahead

New Roads

It’s strange to think how much might change this summer.  A week ago last Friday I finished my school year, and I have no idea what 2019-2020 will bring.  Ideally, I will find a full-time teaching position teaching social studies, Spanish, or business at the middle school or high school level.  It is long overdue.  It is time for a classroom of my own, but where?

Unfortunately, this spring hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.  Something always comes between me and my dreams.  I finally find a place where I can easily see myself teaching, and in the end, I may not have the correct certification to apply for existing openings.  While things are humming along at the canoe livery, the weather has not cooperated yet.  We are waiting on customers.  Where is everyone?

I know that things will come together, but it is the uncertainty that is getting to me.  I wish I had something in place.  I do not know what decision I will make if I do not find a full-time teaching position.  Even though I do not plan or want to move, I may be left with no choice.  Something’s got to give.  Here’s to a summer of new beginnings!

Eyes Closed Quote

Writing and Life

Sunset Shore 2

I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but I did find my voice. Now to keep it. I admit it: I struggle to fit everything in and cross all my T’s and dot all my I’s, especially this time of year. So many things are coming together, but I am just not quite there yet. I need to fit my writing into my temporary schedule. Maybe now would be a good time to figure out exactly what it is that I want.

So, what do I want out of my writing life? It is simple. I want room in my life to practice writing daily – both personally and here at Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde. I need room to grow as a writer. I now have the proper tools and the right support systems in place: it is just a matter of making time. I also want to keep contributing to other blogs, online publications, etc. Again, I am getting there.

Dolly Parton Quote

Lately my writing made me reevaluate what I want in my personal life. What I’ve written here in earlier pieces is true. On one hand, I do want a family. On the other, it is not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen. I have too many things I want to do in life. What am I willing to give up? What can’t I live without? How am I supposed to make that choice?

I think that is it. Over the last fifteen years or so, I’ve been forced to give up so many things, including several versions of what my life could be. How do I avoid becoming attached to one outcome? There are so many things in my life to explore. I hope I never lose my desire to try new things. That is part of my problem though. It is time I start making some commitments. In doing so, I hope I am never so inflexible that I am unwilling to start over when I need to do so. The day I quit trying is the day I die. I may still physically be here, but that could not be called living.

Who is to say that my life needs to be a certain way? I flat-out reject that idea. I need to do what is best for me. What that looks like now, I’m not sure. I do know I am not quite ready to trust again. At this point, I don’t know if I ever will be. Does it matter? I need to focus on my myself, and if the right man is out there, he will find me. It is time to let it go.

Sunset Shore

Place

suitcase

There is no escaping it.  This topic keeps rearing its ugly head.  Last night, we discussed it in book club.  Are people meant to be in a certain place?  You can find my take on the topic here. That question keeps haunting me.  What if somehow I missed my chance to be wherever it is I am supposed to be?

Am I supposed to live in Omer the rest of my life?  I wish there were a simple answer.  The reality is that there isn’t.  I love my family, I’ve always wanted to be a part of the canoe livery, and I enjoy spending my summers working there.  Yet, do I have what I need?  Frankly, the answer is no.  There are few people my age around, and those who are around are in a different stage of life.  With one notable exception, all are married and/or have families of their own.  It would be nice to at least have the possibility of dating in my future.

What are my alternatives?  None of them are good.  Either I deal with the issues before me and continue on this path, or I start over someplace new.  If I stay, a part of me will always be someplace else.  If I go, I would miss my family and the canoe livery.  At least in Omer I am needed and loved.

The truth is I am going nowhere.  The canoe livery and the Rifle River itself are too much a part of who I am.  I want to watch my niece and nephews grow up firsthand, and I want to be there for my parents as they get older.  None of that means that there aren’t sacrifices and complications that come with that decision.  None of it changes the love/hate relationship I have with Omer and Arenac County in general.

What saddens me is the reality of where I live.  Over the last two decades, so many people left not only Arenac County, but Michigan as well.  Many were left with no choice thanks to a one-state recession followed by the Great Recession.  I graduated in 1999, and due to the fact that so many classmates moved out of state, I doubt we will ever have a true class reunion.  Most Michigan State business students I graduated with in 2004 headed to Arizona or Texas, including me.  No one seems to care.  Few planned on helping their children create a life for themselves here during that time frame and the years that followed.

While we may be on the path to recovery, we are not there yet.  What bothers me is a general aura of denial that stubbornly resists any change.  Yes, I agree we need change, but we also need to keep what is working – and there are things that are working.  Unfortunately, we do not support those things.  So many people seem to want to change nothing or change everything at once.  Neither approach will work, but no one seems to address this.

What about businesses?  What are we doing to attract new ones?  Absolutely nothing I can see.  No, instead we keep piling on more unnecessary regulations that do nothing except add costs. Instead of making it easier for those just starting out to get started in a career, we make it next to impossible.  Today, we still tell high school seniors that a four year college degree should be the norm when we are setting them up for tens of thousands of dollars of debt before they even start their career.  It is wrong and needs to stop.  We need to attract more businesses and encourage trades. What about entrepreneurship?  Again, we do little to support those who wish to start their own business.  New businesses and new growth are exactly what we need, but they cannot survive if not supported.

I am angry.  I want to believe in my hometown and live here, but many times, it feels next to impossible.  If it weren’t for my family, I would have never looked back.  I am tired of feeling torn, and I am fed up with everything else about the area pushing me away.

cafe

Slowing Down

December of Yes.jpg

December 2018 ~ A December of “Yes!”

“Don’t wish your life away.”  Among dozens of quotes I remember from my grandmother, that one sticks with me and forces me to keep going.  Lately, I’ve realized I’ve been rushing around so much, trying to do everything all at once to the point I am not as effective as I could be.

I know what I want out of life:  why don’t I have it already?  I’ve put in the hours and made the sacrifices.  It isn’t enough.  I am so busy keeping it all from falling to pieces that I’m going too quickly to the next big thing:  A squirrel trying to beat a blue jay at its own game at the bird feeder during a February deep freeze.  It’s time to slow down and get it right.

So, what does it all mean?  It means I am old enough to realize that some things take time to get right.  There are times when shortcuts hinder you.

This past fall, I decided to say “yes” to as many things as possible.  Even though I haven’t read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes yet, the concept would not let me go.  I took it to the next level in December in an attempt to stave off seasonal depression and recapture all of what I love about Christmas.  The results were … mixed.

Slow Down Quotes.jpg

I loved every minute of each and every thing I did in December.  I cherished every minute with my niece and nephews, my siblings and their significant others, my parents, extended family, and friends.  But, there comes a time when you question your sanity. Are we doing this because we “should” or are we doing this because we truly want to?  It is a legitimate question – and it deserves a full answer.

So, did it work?  Yes, I had a ton of fun.  Yes, I made a tons of memories with my family. But, I also came to the conclusion that less is more at times.  Maybe I don’t need to go to two Christmas teas – although I probably will again next year.  In the end, certain events were skipped.  None of us can do it all.

Ever since January 1st, I’ve thought long and hard about how I want to approach this experiment going forward.  As much as I disliked having so many snow days this year and sitting around being unable to work for a good chunk of January and February, it forced me to slow down.  It forced me to rethink how I want to approach things this spring and moving forward.

Now, of course, I have the opposite problem – and probably will each spring the rest of my working life.  Everything seems to happen at once.  We are in the midst of getting ready for season #60 at the canoe livery, I’m subbing every day, and I will soon start a long-term subbing position that won’t end until early June.  In midst of it all, I am ramping up the job search – a teaching position for next school year – and trying to once and for all get writing.  I can do this.  It is time to get intentional and concentrate on what truly matters.  I need to slow down.

Study Abroad 5.jpg

Organization and Patience

Flat lay with glasses, keyboard and cactus candle on colorful ba

I’ve always been obsessed over organization. If I’ve learned one thing about myself through the years, it is this: I work best when I am completely organized. When one small thing is out of place, I find myself easily distracted. A simple task that should take only a few minutes looms large and threatens to upset everything. Silly, I know.

As a teacher, even as a substitute teacher, I try to be as organized as possible. There is nothing worse than walking into a classroom in disarray as a substitute teacher. Endlessly searching for the sub plans constitutes a nightmare in my book. Even worse, walking into no sub plans at all.  Fortunately, that happened to me only once.

As a student, my favorite teachers tended to be those who were more organized, or at least attempted to be organized. Knowing what is expected of you as a student goes a long way toward meeting high expectations. I loved being able to easily know precisely what I needed to accomplish to do well in a class. It didn’t matter at what level. Teachers that allowed for creative freedom – and time to exercise that freedom in class – were among my favorites as well.

So, where did I go wrong?

Right now, I feel anything but organized. Maybe it is just the chaos of creativity and everything happening at once. I never seem to be able to get far enough ahead to make a difference. I know this spring and summer will bring massive changes in my life – and for the better. But what about tying up all those loose ends and meeting deadlines? How do I make it work?

I am slowly trying to make it all work. Unfortunately, I inherited impatience from all sides. In some ways, my procrastination at times is downright rebellion. Growing up, my parents were always working, whether teaching (Mom), running a business, or raising kids. My parents may have been understanding in most cases, but neither one could be described as patient. After spending time with Mom, I realize it is something I will have to work on for the rest of my life. Ultimately, it is my impatience that makes me so disorganized at times. I need to get things done NOW. Putting things away can wait. I am trying – and that is about all I can say at the moment.

Ben Franklin Quote