My Blog

Drive-by Educating

Right now, educators and parents are providing opportunities on social media, reminding us of the value of a schedule, and offering to help in the wake of this crisis with #covid19 That’s awesome, but it can be overwhelming. Please, resist the temptation to panic or to go overboard for a moment.

This is a Maslow before Bloom moment*.

Your job as a parent, day care provider, community librarian, teacher, preacher or other caring adult is to be present and calm. In our heavily-scheduled world, this lack of something to do, somewhere to be in an organized setting is equal parts annoying and uncomfortable. But your response, right now, makes a difference. Create a sense of calm in your home or routine.


Anxious, panicked kiddos are not learning. Not all learning happens at school. At the same time, this is not a non-stop video game journey. Here are 4 simple steps for THIS WEEK.

  1. Set a flexible schedule and ease into changes. That could be starting with a limited amount of reading or writing, such as three or four 10 minute intervals. Imagine ‘drive-by educating’ your child.
  2. Card and dice games are a type of critical and computational thinking. That’s the #1 skill I teach in classes, as it combines math, strategy, laughter, communication and learning to be a good loser.
  3. If possible, go outside for a little bit on a stoop or balcony or patio or park. Listen. The world is still spinning and the birds are chirping.
  4. Practice radical self-care. You can’t be a great guardian if you can’t take care of yourself. Humor, kindness, a long shower or stress baking are all allowed.


This is your moment to shine. Yes, you may not be able to teach your students. That’s a hard reality. It’s likely that schools may be closed for the rest of the year. It sucks. Having said that:

Nothing is stopping you from building community.

Did you hear that? We teach in the context of others. We have the strategies to be effective. We are NOT simply content-delivery farms. Yes, there are equity issues. But you have phone numbers, emails, and ways to connect with the parents or guardians of your students. Why not call them and see if they are ok, especially with kids who struggle with inequity or homelessness? Here’s a fast four for you this week as well.

  1. Start a weekly check-in using one of the many conferencing apps. While I use, there are lots of great options out there for phone calls. We need that connection with our students. Start a check-in call with them as well to avoid social isolation.
  2. Instead of overwhelming them, share 1 or 2 learning options they can do by themselves. That’s as simple as sharing something and challenging them to journal or draw about it.
  3. Now’s a good time to mail extra paperback to those kiddos you worry about, or share extra materials you have in a free library. Keep the learning that is possible going.
  4. If you are going online with students, the conversations and clarifications are more important than that slide decks. Really think about that. Those learners already have the digital literacy to read and access material. They need context.

The Center for Teaching Quality is offering primers on building online communities, and it’s what I’ve been working on for years. Reach out to the expertise that is available.

*Abraham Maslow was a psychologist that identified and quantified a hierarchy of needs as a framework for motivating individuals. Benjamin Bloom was an educational psychologist who focused on complexity of learning.

#Seeing2020 Challenge

At the start of a new decade, it is common to make a splash by proclaiming personal resolutions. Bring in the better!

There’s just one problem. The social media world is one of pretend. We don’t live here.

So here’s my own spin for #seeing2020. I am working on authentic, honest portrayals of my life. Goodbye plastic social media.

Perhaps you could join me in making a better web experience. Choose whatever way works for you. Tag it #seeing2020. The things posted are up to you, but I’d suggest

  • Posting credible sources.
  • Creating daily and sharing the process.
  • Choosing to see good in another or walking away if you cannot.
  • Posting a picture of you or family or home in it’s authentic glory.
  • Engaging in conversation instead of sound bites.

This past week has been hard, summed up best by a big bill to the vet clinic that included a diagnosis of Lyme disease and a uterine prolapse.

Our dog, Linux, is dealing with an unexpected surgery this week.

No new group to join, no membership costs for something that won’t be used. Just an opportunity to share with each other. I hope you join me.

Full Circle

It was 30-some years ago, and my spouse and I moved to the family place in NorthEast Iowa. I applied for a position at the local school, but I was not selected. I substituted that year and drove to-and-fro to a position in Cedar Rapids, about 60 miles away.

Fast forward using that VCR tape feature for about 15 years, and I interviewed again. This time, I turned down the position that I was offered because my children begged not to ‘be a teacher’s kid.’ I suppose it’s like a preacher’s kid, but with a bigger stigma since the contact time per week is greater.

And now it’s 2021-22. I had thought I would sunset from teaching at the end of last year, but oddly, my skillset and a part-time need at this same school coincided with my youngest child’s senior year. Meanwhile, our family has taken up residence in Muscatine, a lovely community where my spouse is called to be a Rector. My daughter’s desire to graduate from the same school that her brother and sisters did has brought me full circle to that same place I was 30 years ago.

I’m incredibly grateful to the school board and administration for welcoming me to this place, in this last year of my children’s education. It’s a strange feeling to know that our kids will have been attending this institution, Starmont, since the Fall of 1998, but this will be a year of finish lines of a sort. Here’s to enjoying the race and pacing ourselves along the journey.

About the Curator

Image of the curator

The Architectural History of Coralville Public Library exhibition is brought together by Melissa Curtis, whose pronouns are she/her/hers. Currently, she is completing a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Iowa.