Overall, about a C, maybe C-. Thursday my pathological optimism was gone and the students knew it.


“You doing OK Mr. Williams”


This message was in the Chatbot during Advisory, typed from a student I had really not connected with during the semester. In 25 years of teaching alternative education, I have rarely been Mr. Williams: Willie, Willie Bird, Waldog, Walt, Mr. Will, Will, William. I’m the George Bush of education, a big fan of the nickname. Plus, if you know someone well enough to give them a nickname, you have connected which is a big part of my job.


But the student was worried about me.


My students have not gotten great work from me this semester, I am not one of those award-winning teachers profiled by Lester Holt on the NBC nightly news. It’s all been about a C. An OK effort for a pandemic but horrible for my sense of professional success.


Here’s a story that sums it all up. After a semester of work and looking at the California State Standards for semester 1 in Algebra, Geometry, Physical Science and Biology I decide to do a week of catching up instead of finals. Like I said, about a C.


But let’s not despair, and let’s also not display my typical-but-sometimes-toxic positivity. Let’s plan, have the best holiday possible, follow the rules and get this damn pandemic behind us.


And what about all the good thing COVID has brought?


15-day challenges.


In Art my students had to create (drawing, poetry, painting) each day for 30 minutes, put it in a book and show it off at the end of three weeks. This was inspired by Gail and Rachel and Dianne and a couple of other Facebook friends who post similar activities but mostly by Fred Rogers whose 60 seconds of quiet was a huge inspiration.


The secret goal was mindfulness and retraining student’s neuropathways after 9 months of passive watching. Plus, it enabled me to sit and draw for 30 minutes on class days thus achieving my life goal of getting paid to do art (we listened to the entire “Sandinista” album by the Clash which was an added bonus).


Finishing construction


I also challenged myself to ride my little Schwinn Typhoon Cruiser to and from my classroom for 15 days (I made 14 due to a day of rain), riding past the amazing new El Verano multipurpose room and the transformed SVHS fields/stadium. No kids mean less danger and no need to find an alternative golf practice area for Monday practice which was nice.




The bandanna I have been wearing for the last 9 months covers my nose and keeps my face warm on these bike rides to work. I’ve always been a bandanna person usually when skiing or fly fishing so when masks became the new normal, I bought 5 white bandannas from Target and have rarely been without one since. Plus, I’m getting old and my Raynaud’s disease means my nose gets cold easily. Problem solved.




Strange that in a time of isolation and distancing I have become closer than ever to my pod peeps. The family cooks and plays Uno and chess and encourages each other while the virtual friends connect online and make plans and hold socially distanced outdoor fires. I’ve never been a hugger but I miss the contact.




My superpower ADD keeps my head pinging from idea to idea like a bird looking for food. Slowing down and appreciating nature counters this and even though long trips are out,

I have discovered Nirvana in things like hiking around the SDC reservoir, looking up at the sky more and appreciating things like mornings on the bike path when the view opens up near Vallejo’s home and the sun is rising and everything is just a little bit better. Plus, I have to believe that preserving nature will finally become a front burner issue to the new administration.


Truth and Science


Finally, science is becoming a priority again, producing a vaccine in record time, preparing for future pandemics, teaching a whole new generation of kids how a tiny virus can shut down the entire world, on deck is climate change and we’re going to need a whole bunch of truth and science for that one.


This has been a tough lesson but I have never had more students asking about messenger RNA, respiratory complications, virologists, while also pitching ridiculous theories (the vaccine contains a tracking device-really!?! Why? Big brother already knows exactly where you are and what you like thanks to those little boxes, we for some reason we think can’t live without). And I won’t get into the truth part except to say if anyone you know lied 20,000+ times you would tell them to kick rocks. January 20 can’t come fast enough.




A funny thing happened during the madness, kids, and some adults learned how to function in these crazy times. We realized we’re all in this together but the more grit we display the better we will be. Let’s learn from this lesson and change ourselves, our Democracy, our Education System and our World.


But for now, let’s work together and help while we wait for the vaccine. Go buy dinner at Mary’s tonight to help Bob Midgley who is fighting cancer, help others this holiday and make plans for 2021.


I’m hoping for a B this Spring and back to all A’s by the Fall.

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