A Year with COVID-19

On March 16, 2020 online, emergency teaching started at my school in Peru because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.  As of right now, we are still teaching online and there is still a global COVID-19 pandemic.  Thankfully, we are no longer in emergency mode.

I call it online, emergency teaching because, well, it was online and it was an emergency.  There were no solid plans in place, no best practices, and we had never used Zoom.  All of that has changed.  We have solid plans, we have learned and honed our best practices, and we are practically experts in Zoom.  I never imagined that I would have a YouTube channel, and that my one Zoom video would have over 2,000 views!

We have been very lucky.  The school where I teach and the families I work with have the resources to make online school work.  Yes, the teachers have worked hard to get up to speed, and the families have been incredibly supportive in the process.  The students have rolled up their sleeves and rolled with the punches–huge learning curve, inconsistent technology, muted microphones, … Yes, the students, too, have been amazing.  I am so thankful for the students, the families, my colleagues, and the leadership at school.  Together we have made it work.  Together we continue to make it work.

After a year of this, what have we learned?  What have we reaffirmed?  I have learned that technology is an amazing tool (when it works!) and there are some amazing technological tools that we can use.  Some of my favorites are Quizlet, Kahoot!, EdPuzzle, FlipGrid, and Padlet.  Technology is still only a tool.  The foundation of all learning is relationships.  This is true online or in person.  When I know my students and they know me, we can learn from and teach each other.  

When I first started teaching reading I knew almost nothing about it.  (I had been teaching middle school social studies and Spanish.)  The literacy coach at my school said to me, “To begin with, just listen to students and watch them.  They will show you what they need.  The theories you can learn later; the students will show you now.”  Brilliant!   Relationships still prove to be key and the students are still teaching me.

I have also learned that less really is more.  Less content, taught more deeply, will actually be acquired by the students.  I will never “cover” the material; I will teach the students.

Finally, we live in partnership with the environment.  When we treat each other and the environment with respect, we all live better.  I think Paul Wellstone said something similar.

A year of challenge has much to teach us.  I hope we continue to learn its lessons.  Thank you to all of the students, parents, and colleagues for keeping on.

Quarantine, Part Two

EstFHEaW4AAP6wKThe original COVID-19 quarantine in Peru started on March 16, 2020.  After about three months, restrictions began to ease and life returned to a more normal, though fully masked, version.  We never went back to school, and all teaching/learning has been done online since then.  A few weeks ago, the government announced that all classes will stay virtual through April 15 (of course that can be extended).

Yesterday, the government announced that with increasing numbers of COVID cases and over-full hospitals, the full quarantine is returning to Lima and other parts of Peru from January 31 to February 14, 2021 (we have a few days to get ready). Casinos, gyms, theaters, and restaurants will be closed to the public.  (I mention casinos first because they are first on the government graphic–interesting first choice.)  Restaurants can offer take-out.  Malls and stores will be closed along with churches and social clubs.  Supermarkets, pharmacies, and local markets will stay open at 40% of capacity.  People will be allowed to go for a walk or run for one hour daily; no personal cars will be allowed unless you receive a special permission.

So, here we go again.  If we get it right, the full quarantine will be lifted in two weeks.  If we don’t get it right, well, who knows.  It’s up to us.  As a community, how will we do?  It’s up to us, together.

Turkey Salad

Anyone ready for a picnic?  This turkey salad went with us to most picnics and church festivals that I remember.  I won’t vouch for it being too healthy with its Miracle Whip and Western Dressing; I will vouch that I loved it as a kid.  I wonder if my tastes have changed since I last had it?  Try it and see what you think.

18 Turkey Salad

Lasagna

Lasagna! It was always my choice for a birthday meal.  Well, there was that one year that, when asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner, I responded, “Liver and onions.”  Thankfully I was told, “No.”  (Of course that made me wonder, why did you ask if you don’t want my answer, but that is for a different day.)  

Lasagna is tedious, and worth every minute of effort.  You will notice that the second recipe is for the spaghetti sauce.  It is a recipe for 40 people because grandma catered events such as weddings and church dinners, so we often worked with large quantities.  

16 Lasagna

17 Spaghetti Sauce 40

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my mom’s secret chocolate chip cookie recipe, handed down from generation to generation, from back of bag to recipe card.  Yep, I found out that this recipe is the same as the back of the Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips bag.  I think she doubled it, probably so it will go further, last longer.  You can probably reduce the amount of sugar (my notes on the card suggest 1 cup and not 1.5 cups) and not notice much difference.  I have also tried half butter, half shortening and it turned out awesome. My suggestion is to stick with the semi-sweet chips.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chicken Oregano

If I were to rename this dish I would call it Orange Juice Chicken.  It is delicious!  Yes, it has oregano but the outstanding flavor for me is the orange infused chicken.  Those probably aren’t the right words for folks who know cooking (unlike me–I don’t know cooking), but it seems like all parts of the chicken are infused with that orange flavor.  Give it a try and serve it over rice, real rice.  Thanks, mom, for the recipe. (The food-splotch stains are mine.)

Chicken Oregano

Chicken Oregano Sauce

Porcupine Meatballs

Nothing says comfort like mom’s Porcupine Meatballs.

I have not made this recipe in many years, but it is one that I loved.  Note in the recipe where it says, “Real rice.”  You might think that the opposite would be fake rice, but this is actually a reference to Minute Rice, as in, “Don’t use Minute Rice.” Mom always used Minute Rice when she was cooking so she wanted to make sure that I knew which rice to use: real rice.

To up the comfort level even more, I would recommend serving this with more real rice or perhaps mashed potatoes.  Mom also used instant mashed potatoes, but mashing your own potatoes is pretty easy, especially if you have a potato ricer.  Rice and potatoes seems pretty Peruvian to me.

Porcupine Meatballs