School Prep During a Pandemic

So what is it like to be an American teacher amidst the pandemic? How do some schools provide for both the educational and safety needs of children and families? Is it even possible? Well, schools across the country have myriad approaches with both successes and failures but I am proud to say that my Santa Maria-Bonita School District has come up with a plan that balances the well-being of our educational community with learning.

Because of the rising number of cases in our community and the fact that we are a hot spot for numbers per capita on the Central Coast of California, we spent the summer taking stock. Surveys were sent out to teachers, parents, and staff asking for input on which direction to take. Multiple meetings were held, which I was proud to take part in, and negotiations began between the union and the district.

This was a time of logic, care, and thoughtfulness. In my opinion, all parties involved only had the best interests of our school community at heart in every negotiation. It may have taken the entire summer but by the time we started school there was a workable plan in place.

What was decided?

Our district decided that given the high numbers of cases we would begin the year with distance learning. However, this would be set up like regular school with a scheduled times for every subject, attendance requirements, and rigor that would rival in person schooling. We set aside two weeks to conference individually with parents and kids. At this time we would pass out books, supplies, go over procedures, and check each child’s computer to make sure that the programs were working properly.

That’s what I’m doing right now. And this is what it looks like.

Me Setting up a Pandemic Classroom

Wish me luck!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Between two worlds

Performance: A Child’s Right

I believe that children have the right to

Self-expression

Acceptance

Equality

Fairness

A stimulating curriculum

And mentors who believe

In their wonder.

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About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Hope for Peace: 10 Ways to Effect Change

Just like you, recent events have rocked me to the core. As humanity’s ugly underbelly is exposed with mange and open sores that continue to bleed, I’m seeking hope. For me, it lies with children. I have seen first hand that these innocents desire justice and harmony. I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want. Here are ten creative ideas I’ve used with my students. Let’s all begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

peace

5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Colby Jeffers: Change the World

10. Paint a self-portrait.

frostselfportraits

Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Covid 19: A Fifth-Graders View

What is it like for a fifth-grader to live under the shadow of Covid 19? How does an eleven year old in California experience shelter-in-place? Children are currently living through a time period that will be looked back upon and analyzed as historically significant. Thus, asking them them to share their stories in a slide show will help capture this unprecedented time.  Here are the condensed versions from two of my students, Eliseo and Natalie.
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Cancellation

***This assignment was inspired by Lauren Brown Created by Jessica Vannasdall***

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

School’s Closed Due to COVID 19

Yesterday I was stunned to receive the following email from our school district’s superintendent, Luke Ontiveros:

“Dear SMBSD Family,    As you may have heard, all schools in Santa Barbara County will close no later than Wednesday, March 18, in order to slow the potential spread of COVID-19. At this time, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara County. However, all SB County school districts agreed that the need to close was prudent in light of the statewide situation.

Our schools WILL be in session on Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, for staff and students to provide SMBSD students and families with access to information, materials and resources to support learning during the closure. Schools will not be in session for students beginning on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. 

By holding school on March 16 and 17, we hope to provide working parents and families enough time to arrange for childcare. On those days, the schools will also be providing students with take-home technology, supplies and materials so that learning and academic engagement can continue during the closure. More information about this will be available soon.

Additionally, SMBSD is developing a plan to continue to provide meals to students. This information will be communicated to families through the district website, phone messages, texts and emails.

District employees WILL continue to work in a variety of capacities in order to continue to support students and families in our district. Further, more detailed information for staff members will be communicated through district emails over the next several days. Please check your district email frequently over the weekend and throughout the next several weeks for information and instructions.”

The pit that had developed in my gut during the last few days hardened. Was I living inside of a dystopian novel  about the end of days? Perhaps I’d entered the Matrix where computer entities had suddenly decided to change the landscape? Were we at war with an alien species who was using the media to spread fear in order to divide and conquer us?

The answer, of course, was none of the above. Our district, like most California districts had decided that the risks of exposure to the corona virus outweighed the uncertainty of how the closing of school might effect those involved. This unprecedented decision came so quickly that I personally couldn’t process the information.

I was in shock.

Like most of you, I first heard about COVID-19 when the Chinese cases emerged. I was sympathetic, but this was happening on the other side of the world so tucked the information away in that not-relevant-to-me part of my brain. Then it moved to Europe and other countries. North America. A nursing home in Washington. Creeping closer to my central California home.

And I started to pay more attention.  Friends sent me emails about the possible spread of the virus and how to prevent contamination. When I received the first one, I clicked my tongue thinking my friend was overreacting and playing into media fear.  Then government officials released sobering reports with worst case scenarios.

Now I was engaged. I began reading various articles with more fervor, making a mental note to follow the advice. I made changes in my classroom. It had long been my policy to shake every student’s hand as they entered the classroom. (Then use hand sanitizer or wash my hands.) But now we switched to a fist bump instead, and I then used extra hand sanitizer.

More news. Large events cancelled. Coachella. The SLO Film Fest. All school sporting, fine arts, band, and non-essential events were cancelled. Our Student of the Month Assembly was postponed until the end of the year. Even our Friday Flag Salute where the entire school gathered outside on the green for patriotic songs, announcements, and the school cheer was cancelled.

In a matter of days, our lives changed radically.

That brings me up to yesterday’s announcement. According to the letter, I would have two more days of face-to-face instruction with my sweet fifth graders, then school would be suspended. However, teachers will continue to report to work monitoring on-line assignments. Okay, now I’m supposed to teach remotely via computer with no idea what it’s going to look like.

As changes occur, I’ll keep all of you posted. Like my hard-working colleagues, I’ll try my best to give students what I can during this challenging time. And pray that all of these policy changes do help keep the most vulnerable of our population safe.

Virtual hugs and blessings to you all.

About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Kidnapped Smile: An Excerpt

Sweat poured down Alex’s face and ran into his eyes. The ship’s galley was like an oven. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand envisioning a cool protective suit.

Until he could work.

“Toss the iron balls in the flames,” Vulcan instructed between hammer beats on the anvil.

Alex followed each step carefully. When the metal inside the stove changed from black to red, he removed it with tongs and placed the crimson coals on Vulcan’s anvil.

The smith-god demonstrated how to strike the anvil and then handed the hammer to Alex. Alex raised an arm and began. Clang. Iron met steel. Pound. Teeth and scales emerged. Bang. A body took shape.

Buy Kidnapped Smile Here

Faster his arm fell as the creation force cursed through his veins.  Lumber became flicking tongues and iron swaying heads.  A long thin tail appeared.

“Thank you, Vulcan. Nearly–”

Smash!  Snapping teeth crashed through the hull just inches above his head. Alex leapt back just inches from dripping jaws.  Ducking down behind his incomplete snake, he attached the last green plates.

Its body grew as long as the ship and thicker than the mast. Cool scales shimmered, and the sculpture morphed into a two-headed cobra ready to do his bidding.

Alex cradled one face in his hands. “Wake up,” he said.

Blue slits opened.

“Attack the Leviathan. Now!”

It swayed back and forth as both cobra heads rose, forked tongues flicking at the air. One head hissed.

In response, Leviathan gnashed its jaws.  Double rows of sharp teeth tried to close in on Cobra, but the snake heads dodged in opposite directions.

Bellowing, Leviathan struck again. This time Cobra whipped around, each head sinking curved fangs into its neck.

Sickhert’s monster thrashed and shook, but the snake held fast. Pupils dilating, it jerked to one side. Alex scrambled out of the way as its huge head smashed against the galley walls.

“The poker!” Vulcan cried pointing at the hot stove.

Alex leapt over a barrel and grabbed it from the fire. The end glowed red, a steel cigarette poised to strike. Alex jabbed but came up short.

Leviathan turned toward him. It jaws snapped like a thousand slamming doors. Alex felt a tug and clapped a hand to his head. His hair was wrapped in those teeth lifting toward that hole.

Gritting his teeth, he jerked. “Yow!” he cried gaping at the tufts of hair still in the Leviathan’s mouth.

Dropping to one knee, Alex raised his firebrand and waited for the Leviathan to sway his way again. Counted. Four seconds. Five. At six he thrust, and the metal punctured the creature’s jaw like a hot knife in wax. Slowly, Alex stood and drove the poker deeper into the creature’s mouth.

The shrieking monster jerked its head throwing Alex backwards. He landed with a thud near Vulcan’s barrel.

Cobra sunk its fangs in deeper as the monster retreated out of the crack in the hull. Then, with a sucking whoosh of air, both creatures disappeared into the sea.

Alex peered out the jagged hole in the wall. The setting crescent moon and the patchwork of stars barely illuminated the water. In the faint light, all he could make out was the splashing of dark waves against the ship.

Boom! The cannon shot again, lighting up the sea just enough to see the thrashing monsters. One snake still had its fangs in the Leviathan’s neck.  The other one was somewhere beneath the surface.

When they rushed up on deck to watch, Alex grasped the railing and stared out to sea. The water began to bubble and simmer in a tangle of twisting scales. In the lanterns light he could just make out Leviathan’s scaly back, spiked wings, and clawed feet. With gnashing teeth, it rolled, pitched, and plunged until Cobra raised one head and jerked Leviathan below.

A few minutes later, the sun began to light up the sky turning the sea a steely grey. The reflecting moon looked like a snake’s fang, one he hoped would strike any moment. He could make out the Italian coastline but no movement anywhere.

Gwen sidled up to his side. “See anything?” she asked.

“They disappeared,” Alex replied continuing to scan the waves.

The Mediterranean was as smooth as Venus’s skin. Then far off he saw the waters rise.

“Look.” Alex pointed.

Like braiding seaweed, the monsters wove through the waves. Coiling and wreathing, they battled. He couldn’t tell who was winning.

“Go on. Dig your fangs in.”  Alex said.

“Yeah, get him.” Gwen punched at the air.

They were about fifty yards away when the battling monsters rose out of the water. The sea dripped off the Cobra’s hooded heads. Their triangular faces hung suspended as if on invisible threads, but they didn’t attack.

Alex raised his hands in exasperation wondering what they were waiting for. More seconds ticked by.

When Leviathan rolled over, both heads struck. Curved fangs sank into the tender flesh of its soft underbelly. Convulsing venom glands pumped poison through their teeth.

The weakened Leviathan slapped at Cobra with its tail. Thrashing from one side to the other, its jaws snapped open and closed three times. Then a lolling tongue drifted over jagged teeth.

Alex’s two-headed snake edged closer to the ship, the limp Leviathan in tow. At the port bow Cobra unhinged both mouths.

It floated on the sea.

“Whoa,” Gwen said.

“Well done, Deliverer.” Vulcan reached out to shake Alex’s hand.

“Thanks, it–” Alex started to reply. Then Leviathan raised its horned head.  “Cobra, watch out!”

Leviathan’s tail smashed against the hull. Almost losing his footing, Alex grabbed the gunnels.

The monster leaned back, head poised to crash into their boat. Then two snakes rose, dripping water like gaping wounds and coiled around the monster’s neck. Once. Twice. Three times.

The Leviathan threw its horned head back with a guttural bellow that drowned out all sound. Tighter Cobra constricted, twining round a fourth and a fifth time. The great beast thrashed wildly in their coils trumpeting its protest.

Bloody tears began to weep from its eyes, but the snake squeezed more, muscles rippling as it twisted and tightened.

The Leviathan opened and closed its jaw in silent protest. It raised its head toward the sky as if imploring the clouds for help.  With a final convulsion, it withered in the snake’s coils.

And moved no more.

Only now did Cobra release it. Leviathan’s body bobbed on the surface before shrinking back into the sea.

“Yes!”  Alex cried taking Gwen in his arms. He swung her around and around laughing hysterically. Until he realized that he was hugging a girl. Then he set her down abruptly and stepped back, blushing.

Did she notice? He quickly turned to shake Leonardo’s outstretched hand, hoping that no one had seen the red creeping up his cheeks.

Suddenly Michelangelo, Leonardo, and the crew were all on deck applauding and congratulating him. The Three Graces joined hands, hummed in harmony, and began dancing in a circle. Meanwhile, Alex’s snake crisscrossed from bow to stern their gentle splashes lapping off the hull in time to the music.

“Our world was born from the magic of two, magic of two, magic of two,” their tinkling voices sang.

But many will perish before they are through. Alex thought as he stared at the Leviathan’s watery grave.

           

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Children Honoring Dr. King

This Martin Luther King Day I am thinking back to making an anti-bullying video last year. When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

But would we win?

Weeks passed. No news. The kids kept asking me if I’d heard anything and I had to shake my head no. Then one morning there was an email in my inbox.

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

I love being a teacher.

 

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The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

2019 Year in Review

New Year’s Blessings to all of you! May 2020 be all that you dream it will be!

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Giveaway: Artania The Pharaoh’s Cry

Looking for an adventure like no other? A place where all art is alive and creation a superpower? Right now my publisher is offering Pharaohs’ Cry for free. But act fast. This offer disappears on December 18th.  Get your free book here  

Enjoy!

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

Art Can Bring Peace: 10 Ways

I believe children have the power to create profound change in our world. If there is ever to be true peace, it must transcend the generations. But first they must dream of the changes they want creatively. Here are ten ideas to begin the change.

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1. Make Peace Cards.

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2. Make an anti-bully poster.

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3. Draw cartoons dealing with a bully.

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4. Paint a peace sign on a paper plate.

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5. Create a Love the Earth card.

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6. Make a dream board.

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7. Photograph someone doing a kind act.

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8. Create a dance high-fiving and smiling with your buds.

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9. Film a video of yourself singing a peace song.

Peace Song

10. Paint a self-portrait.

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Any more ideas? Share  and we’ll turn 10 to 10,000!