Monday, March 30, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Nine March 30, 2020 Monday

So, Sunday went by without too much fanfare. Self-Care First. Well I actually started the night before as I did my exercises at 11 pm and welcomed the new day at midnight with one of our cats, Simora, joining me as I was finishing my last stretch.

In the morning: Senior Shopping at Whole Foods before 8am, then a hot breakfast prepared by Ken, my very own live-in cook, otherwise known as, my spouse. Ken loves to cook, so there are always great meals in the making and very good ones, at that. Touching base with friends and families by actually talking with them and not texting. As New York is an epicenter for this virus everyone wants to know if we are okay.

So the next step was preparing for today. Creating the first video for my college level Beginning Ballet class and redoing the syllabus and timeline to reflect our new normal. Preparing the post for my elementary school Monday morning classes and grading their assignments from last Monday. Getting Tuesday’s assignments ready to make it easier for me on Monday when I need to be online and available for whatever might happen with my classes. Remember, I see 525 students a week, which is a little over 100 a day and then another 30 college students both Undergraduate and  Graduate. Needless to say I went to bed at 2:30am. For some reason I tend to work really well at night. Not such a good trait when you need to be up early in the morning.

Well I got up at 7am, made coffee, had breakfast, prepared myself for the day and went online at 7:57 to meet with my principal and entire school staff for our morning meeting, which we will now be doing only once a week instead of daily. And then back to the craziness, students and parents not understanding the assignments (see, teachers really do know things that parents don’t), Zooming with colleagues to compare and prepare lessons together on a platform that we are all still learning how to use, chatting with students about what to do and how to do it despite having given them very explicit and detailed instruction (I think they are  just missing the human contact), glitches in the platform that loses info that was put in, texting colleagues on my phone with questions, while grading students’ assignments. I am getting exhausted and I haven’t even left my desk chair for what is now pushing 4 hours.

This is all so unnatural to me. I am used to teaching 4 -5 classes a day, moving and stretching with each class, going to the gym after school (self-care) and/or to my college classes, where I demonstrate more movement activities. I promote that no child or person should be sitting for more than 20 -25 minutes without a movement break and here I am sitting for hours and feeling like I can’t keep up or catch up. There are so many windows open on my screen and so many e-mail accounts that I have to navigate that I could use an administrative assistant just to help me organize the clutter because that is what it looks like to me. Navigating through all the open apps and windows is like entering a minefield and if I make one wrong click “BOOM” it all blows up in my face. AARGGH! This is so frustrating!

AND then I remembered what a friend, who is a parent ,said to me. What is so bad if the students don’t get the instruction that you had planned for them. So they lose a month or two, maybe that time should be about “realizing what they know”.  This sounded so right to me. So how do I help them to realize what they know.  Instead of sticking to my lessons and trying to adjust it to this whole new platform maybe I should keep emphasizing what they already know, practicing what knowledge they already possess, sharing that knowledge with their families, making them the teachers. Is that so unusual, isn’t that what we want for them. You know what maybe they could use a break to discover on their own what they know and what they don’t know. Maybe helping students “realize what they know” is what we should be doing all the time.

Peace Out, Mr. Jannetti, The Dancing Jedi

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education 

and Dancing 

Day Seven and Eight March 27 and 28, 2020 

Friday and Saturday

So as this is officially my day off, I have combined Friday with Saturday.

As I stated yesterday, I was off to a surreal start to the day and it just remained that way all day.The highlights were checking in with my classes and seeing the work that students have posted for the assignment I gave them for this first week. I didn’t ask for this but in addition to doing the worksheet some of my students have sent photos and/or videos of them doing our class warm-up. Made my Day!!

Now on to the other things that make this situation more and more surreal.

The City and particularly my neighborhood, Little Italy, is eerily quiet. Yesterday, after working at home all day, remotely,(which means sitting at the computer for the majority of the time) until  4 pm, I went out for an extended period of time and attempted to film a class for my adult  learners in the local park/playground. I live in a 320 square foot apartment and I have no room to move, so getting out for an extended period of time to go to a basically empty outdoor space felt really good.

There were 5 people there approximately 30 - 50 feet apart, having lunch, working out, listening to music, shooting hoops, being very respectful and overly aware of space. About half way into my filming, the police came by and kicked us all out because we did not have any  children with us and supposedly you are not allowed in the park/playground without a child. Really!! In an almost empty playground that has no children in it. Mind you there are no signs that say that anywhere, only that pets are not allowed. But all of the adults were very respectful and left. As we were leaving a man showed up with his child and pet dog and was allowed to come in and sit and have lunch. Go figure. Surreal? Or Not? You can’t make this up.

So I packed up my computer and exercise mat and went wandering around aimlessly, scouting out locations so that on the next sunny day I might be able to get out to make a video for my classes. I was basically from Nolita to around NYU. Since most places are fairly deserted I am not afraid to be out and about. It seems quite easy to practice social distancing. It was just creepy how quiet it was. The only people on the street were young professionals exercising (if, they haven’t already left the city for less surreal locations), homelessness people, seniors (I guess, of which I am one now), delivery people, and people who have to go to work. I must have seen only one or two people on every block I walked down. The only stores open were the super markets, the pharmacies and the bread store. Even my laundromat closed down. So now I have to find another one, close enough so I can carry my clothes, or wash them in the tub, or wear dirty clothes for the next month. Thank god, I have enough underwear to last a month😆Surreal? Or Not?

Then today I got all kinds of e-mails from admins at the DOE who have put extremely unreal expectations on us to do things as if everything was normal. I can’t find a laundromat within 6 blocks so I can have clean underwear and you want me to write a WHAT by WHEN?? You must be kidding!!!
And so the surreality continues… More to come….

By the way Next week on Friday (after school hours) I am participating in a Webinar sponsored by the National Dance Education Organization  about online learning and our youngest dancers: Pre-K thru Kindergarten. Looking forward to it
Peace Out, Mr. Jannetti (The Dancing Jedi)

Friday, March 27, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Six March 26, 2020 Thursday

Good Morning! Sorry for the delay in posting this but yesterday Thursday March 26th was truly the most surreal day yet in the midst of this entire situation and today has started out entirely frustrating.

SO SELF CARE FIRST!  I need to keep reminding myself because, other than shopping, I did not take care of myself at all. Between meetings with colleagues, monitoring my elementary classes, and my virtual meeting with my evening college class for 2 and a half hours, and then preparing my assignment posts for today, things just got away from me.

So right after I post this I am going to check in on my classes, and then take my early morning prep period to chill, have breakfast and do my “at home in a tiny apartment workout” in my kitchen and then I am going to take a bath, which is in a tub that is also in my kitchen. Then hopefully all will be right with the world, even if it isn’t.

The surreality of yesterday
Number one: being told that they would like to see us go live at least once in a while with our classes. Okay, I toyed with this idea and how I might do that  with 22 classes that meet once a week at all different times with students whose parents are working at home, maybe have only one computer, etc… My arts colleagues met and brought up some very real issues about the reality, logistics, and concerns about doling this live meet up. So we decided that we would not go live in real time. For those of us that felt comfortable videotaping ourselves and sending that home as instruction, that was fine (some of us were already doing this) and if we didn’t want to videotape ourselves but possibly do lessons with our voice over, that was fine, and if we didn’t want to videotape at all, that was fine. We had a discussion, heard everybody’s  voice (venting, because sometimes that is necessary) and made a decision that everyone could feel comfortable with doing.  And we all agreed NO ONLINE LIVE FEED.

Here is the problem, we were told that they ( admin and parents) would like us to go online  once in a while to check in with our kids. Some of our classroom teachers had already started doing this. Again understandable, as they are only teaching one class, not 20 – 25 classes a week, and they miss their kids, we all do. 

So we all had a meeting about this in Zoom, all 50 + of us and we vented, discussed and talked about what some members of the cluster team discovered about the platform that we were asked to use for these meet-ups. They discovered that it was not very secure and that students and/or parents could go in after you left and continue to chat live with each other, they could also give the code out to others to join in, and..., you can see where this is going. Issues about, privacy, inappropriate behavior, potential abuse, and the worse scenario someone trolling the internet and enticing your kids into whatever were all discussed. 

Don’t we have enough to be paranoid about. You would think that this would be discouraged but the official statement is that we should do what we felt comfortable with and that there is no mandate to go live but if we wanted to we could. This coming from an institution that micro-manages and mandates all kinds of behavior. As long as we were comfortable opening up our personal lives to over 500 (for classroom teachers 25- 25) students and their families it was oaky with the higher ups. 

This is where we crossed over into SURREALITY!!!!

After that meeting I thought I wanted to be done for the day but I still needed to push on to one more class that was going live as it is a Graduate level college class and I need to see these students to the end of what is their last semester. Everything else has been cancelled on them, no graduation ceremony, no dorm living, no close contact with peers. These live meet ups are important and useful. Luckily the college has a “secure” remote learning platform and we are all adults and can agree on certain protocols and totally understand the pitfalls of online learning. We can then make a decision about how much we are willing to risk and how much we can and/or will participate . There was a process to get us there. One that involved surveys to see where people were and what was available to them to connect online as well as what kind of space they would be in and how much room they had to move around as we would be doing some limited movement activities. All worked out fine and I ended my evening on a very positive note.

So I prepared my classes for today, went to bed way too late, remember, I had not done any self-care other than going shopping, which is its own surreal experience.

OH! I almost forgot, I was reminded that it was our Anniversary. 8 Years legal going on 42 actually.

So I posted it online, then I went to bed, set the alarm for 7:00 o’clock so I wouldn’t miss our DAILY morning meeting, which we were told was how we were checking in every morning.
So I login and no one is there. I started to get a few text messages and we all realized that they had switched our daily meeting into a weekly meeting that would happen on Mondays only. The e-mail was sent out Thursday, March 26 at 1:50 pm. As it was Friday I assumed Monday meant next week and we would still be on for today as it was our first week online. But no! because in the fine print next to the time was the date and it said effective Monday 3/23/2020.

And here we go back to surreality!!!!

Peace Out, Mr. Jannetti (The Dancing Jedi)

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Six March 25, 2020 WEDNESDAY

OMG! Can it get any more insane. Another 12 hours at my computer yesterday and I am so stressed out.

Between being suspicious of every interaction I have when I need to go out to get some essentials like food and wine, to dealing with six different online platforms for remote learning and interacting with my colleagues, to texting on my phone with friends and family and colleagues, etc… It is stressing me out, and I am really good at dealing with stress. Some people would say that I am at my best under stress, but this is really over the top.

First, the expectation of the Department of Education is unrealistic. There is no way we can give our students the same quality of education online from home, while we are dealing with our own families, dealing with our students' families, dealing with the inequality of access, language barriers, and learning differences, etc… We struggle with these issues when we are in our classroom under the best of conditions. The DOE needs to reassess its expectations and allow us to first, overcome the learning curve of going to online education, and second, trust that the majority of us are working our asses off to provide for the students that have been entrusted to us. I believe, in many ways, that learning is somewhat chaotic and messy and that we need to live in that chaos and mess for awhile to figure out how best to cope with it  and give our students what they need not what we think they should have.
And in the end we will come out the other side with the knowledge that we did our best and served our children admirably, but not when we have unrealistic overcomplicated expectations.

What did we do before we had internet? What would they expect of us? Would they want us to do home visits wearing hazmat suits? That is my rant for the day.

Now for the pluses. My students who sent me a video of themselves watching and following me on their computer to complete their assignment for the day. My student who sent me two pictures of himself doing poses from our class, the mom who finally figured out how to use the checklist I sent to track her child’s progress, mid-afternoon chats with my colleagues to destress, my students at St. Francis who were genuinely upset that we are meeting remotely and not able to dance together in one room. These things make my day and help me get through the rest of the bullshit that gets thrown at us by a system that has forgotten that it is people that we service, people that we are trying to progress forward, people that we are socially and emotionally responsible for and to. Our children are not commodities and neither are we.   

Oh I almost forgot: Self-Care First I took a break and created another exercise video from my humble abode. I tried to go to the roof to video, but alas, the roof was locked. I guess I could have gone through the alarmed door anyway. What's a little more chaos when you are so stressed out!!!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Five March 24, 2020 TUESDAY

Was at my Computer for 15 hours yesterday with two one hour breaks. One for lunch and one for dinner. Never went out and never exercised. I already broke my first rule  SELF-CARE FIRST.  I am definitely going to practice that today.

So I Got up early enough to go to Whole Foods before the crowds and to take advantage of early morning shopping for Seniors. In addition to groceries, we really need to get masks and more gloves. Didn’t think I was going to need a mask but if I want to go out at least once a day for a walk I feel it is socially irresponsible not to have the proper protection, for all concerned. I now have two friends who have self-quarantined for two weeks, one of them has early symptoms but is doing really well, she put up a video on Facebook. Here is the link, everyone should go hear what she has to say about her situation.

The other friend just got really nervous having to travel to Grand Central by subway every day for work. She decided it wasn’t worth the risk or the stress, especially as someone in the high risk category.

Big shout out to all those people going into work who are able to and are part of the essential work force. Please be careful and follow all protocols. It has to be concerning when you are out in public. You don’t want to bring anything home.

The National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) is sponsoring online webinars for Online Dance Teaching Tips. They asked me if I would be on one of the panels for Early Childhood. More info to follow soon.

Right now I am online answering any concerns and checking into my classes. All is quiet so I think I might do a little stretching. I noticed that yesterday one of my 4th grade students responded to my question at 11:15 pm And it looks like most of them logged into my class after 1:30pm. Just I am getting ready to call it quits.

Oh Well: REMOTE DANCING!!  Ain’t all it is cracked up to be.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Four March 23, 2020 MONDAY

7:45am First day of online learning. We are about to have our morning meeting with our principal virtually. AS a matter of fact all city teachers are about to do this and then go online with their students all 1.1 million of them. This has to be an historic moment. He largest school system in the country going online. I wait with anticipation!!! (nail biting)

Just finished Morning meeting. It went fairly well. So far, so Good!

I think the most frustrating thing about getting this going is that we are all trying to figure it out at the same time and very often get different answers to our questions. I just got tired of being told one thing and then another about how I am going to go online, post my lessons, how often, when, to whom, etc.. It just became overwhelming and I got more stressed out. REMEMBER: Self -care first.

So at this point I’d rather be left alone, knowing that I will do more than anyone can require of me because I am an over achiever, whether I do it someone else’s way or not. One of the colleges where I am an adjunct just told me that I am doing way more than is expected of me and they praised me for being an outstanding adjunct lecturer.

So I am over all the nonsense, my Monday classes went online and my students will be spectacular because they know that is what I expect of them. Even my Pre-K

Remember “Dancing Heals All”

More later…
The Dancing Jedi

Day 4 Continued….

So other than having a headache, Day One online went fairly smoothly. The big issue is not knowing the program well enough to navigate around obstacles or impasses. It is like only knowing  a few words of a language and having to explain a very involved problem. You  literally don’t have the language to do it.
Baby steps, I guess.

Well now I need to prepare for this evening’s virtual classroom with my Beginning Ballet Class at Saint Francis, which is turning into a Ballet History class. We will see how this goes.

Signing off until tomorrow. Hopefully my headache will be gone by then.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing 

Day Three March 22, 2020 SUNDAY

This is so FRUSTRATING!!
I was up until 3am last night getting things ready for tomorrow and I still feel so unprepared. After 5 hours of sleep, which is about right for me, I just couldn’t stay in bed any longer, I got up, put the laundry together and off to the laundromat I went, only to find out that they are closed for 4 days. That was really unusual, she rarely closes. I just hope that she is okay. So I got some bagels at the Black Seed, which is right next to the laundromat, and headed back to my humble 5th floor walk-up apartment with my dirty laundry, had breakfast with my spouse and wanted to start working on this blog before I do my morning exercise and generally take care of myself.

Remember the number one rule: Take care of yourself first. Kind of like paying yourself first before you pay others, which I have always been really bad at, so I am trying to practice self-care to be ready for what is ahead. It is like when I was out of work for 7 months and decided to go to yoga classes to help ease my anxiety and center myself. Doing my morning stretching and dancing helps me to prepare for the day. I guess tomorrow I will need to get up at my usual 5:15am time to get myself ready for the day.

Which brings me back to my frustration
Yesterday, I video chatted with the theater teacher at my school to make sure all of my online programs were working correctly. We tested things out, exchanged ideas of what to assign and how to post them. She said something really interesting about feeling like an island.

As an arts teacher (music, theater, art, or dance) we are often the only one in our building that does what we do, which already makes you feel like an island in your school. Having to do all of this from home with mostly new protocols has intensified that isolation. I would imagine that everyone is feeling that right now. That is why it is so important to touch base with other colleagues no matter what they teach. Exchange frustrations, successes, funny stories and then go for a walk to give yourself time to absorb it all.

So I am going to stop blogging now, prepare myself for the day by doing my early morning exercise and self-care routine and then I am going to come back and tackle assignments, getting in touch with parents(I still have over 80 students out of 525 that have not responded to my e-mails), posting online, contacting my college students (which has its own set of stresses), going to the grocery store, taking a walk around the neighborhood (there is something soothing about the lack of crowds on the street, we live in a very hot and popular neighborhood), maybe even take some used clothing over to the shelter around the corner. And hopefully I will be ready for tomorrow. After all “tomorrow is another day”…..

For my adult students at MPHC and from elsewhere, I am working on getting a video up of my stretch class for you to be able to access and use at home. Hopefully in the next few days this will be ready to go.

Until later....
The Dancing Jedi

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Coronavirus Remote Education and Dancing

Day Two March 21, 2020

I woke up totally anxious this morning at 5:30am after going to sleep at 1:30am. So it seems that the 7 hours I got yesterday was an anomaly and I am back to my old pattern. The difference is that I usually have to get up at that time, however today I woke up after 4 hours anyway despite the fact that I did not need to.

After attempting  to go back to sleep and being totally unsuccessful I decided to get up. All I was doing was lying in bed thinking about all I still needed to do to get ready for my students on Monday, not knowing how it is all going to go, stressing over my lesson plans, trying to understand four different online platforms because all of the places I teach are on different online protocols. My school is using three different ways for us to communicate to each other and then my cluster group is constantly on their cell phones exchanging ideas and glitches back and forth. ENOUGH!

So I decided to follow my own advice and take care of myself first. I got up, made breakfast, exercised for an entire hour, bathed, shaved, and gussied (yes, gussied) myself up. Now I feel ready to sit down at my computer and tackle all of the uncertainty that has come my way as a result of this pandemic. One good thing  is that Ken and I get to spend a little more time together and have made it our routine to do one outdoor excursion a day to go food shopping and take a walk around the neighborhood.

Whole Foods is limiting the number of people they are letting into the store so shopping for food has actually become a more pleasant experience. The wine store is still open because it is considered a necessity, and it is. So we usually stop by there to get a bottle of wine.

So it is now 9:00 am and I am just sitting down to tackle some lesson planning and online connections to my fellow teachers.

I just wanted to give a big shout out to the dance education community and their willingness to share their ideas and lessons as we move forward. That said, I do think there comes a point where each of us needs to stop reading and taking ideas from each other and trust that we got this, we know our subject, we are creative, we have weathered crisis before, and we are dedicated, passionate individuals who will make the absolute best of this situation.

More later from the “Dancing Jedi”

Friday, March 20, 2020

Coronavirus, Remote Education, and Dancing

I haven't posted in quite awhile but as I am at home preparing to go online with my 500 plus students I thought it would be a good time to record what may very well be a truly historic event. So I am going to attempt to keep a blog journal of my day to day experience as an internet dance educator for my Elementary as well as College students. I am not sure how long this will be going on but I am going to do my best to document everyday as much as possible. 

So here we go

Coronavirus, Remote Education and Dancing 

Day one, Friday March 20, 2020

Happy Spring! Which was yesterday and the earliest it has been in over 124 years. The last time this occurred was in 1896. The actual equinox was at 11:50 pm last night March 19, 2020.

First I want to give a big shout out to all of my colleagues at PS 79 for taking part in the monumental effort of preparing ourselves, our parents, and our students for changing over to an online educational system. This was and will be no easy task as we all prepare to work from home remotely with our elementary population and do our very best to keep them on track.

It was humbling to see how hard all of the staff was working yesterday to prepare ourselves for what may be a month or more of remote education. Learning new programs in one session, checking out resources online, collaborating with fellow staff, keeping social distancing and other recommended health protocols in place, and overall trying to comprehend the enormity and seriousness of what we are attempting to do.

I must say I was a little depressed at having to leave the school and my colleagues behind as I contemplate being at home working without social contact and trying to impart the importance of dance, as a physical, social, and cognitive activity, to my students and parents.

I was working hard at creating videos of the many different activities we do in dance class so that my students will  be able to replicate as much as possible what we do together in my classroom. The key word here is “together”. I felt it was important to connect with my students so that they still feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Creating videos of myself doing the warm-ups and dance activities is one way of helping them feel connected. If it means making a new video every week (even in my cramped apartment) then so be it.

So much of what occurs in a dance classroom goes beyond learning the task, or routine, or specific project that we are working on. It is about the social connection. I know that when my students walk into my classroom they are genuinely excited because they are about to partake in something that goes beyond what has been asked of them in their other classes. That at its heart dance is a social activity that we are participating in all together.  I am hoping to replicate that to the best of my ability as we enter into this next phase of virtual reality.

So on day one of being at home and still in prep mode (we do not start actually online with our families until Monday), the very first thing I did was take care of myself.

First I slept for over 5 hours for the first time in years. Then I got up, made espresso, had breakfast, and exercised in my kitchen, as that is the largest open space in my 320 square foot apartment. I am logging this in because I feel it is important to take care of ourselves first in order to be our very best in helping others and without a gym or dance classes my kitchen will have to do.

Then I got right to work as I finish contacting all of my students and families, of which I have over 500 and prepare them for Virtual Dancing with Mr. Jannetti starting on Monday, March 23, 2020. More to follow soon……