Last Time

March 13, a Friday, was the last time I was with my students. Yes, on a Friday, the 13th, it was announced through an email at 12:08pm, while I was teaching during a period called Phoenix Time, our intervention/enrichment time. I had 25 students I my room, all sitting quietly and typing on their iPads. My enrichment time is Blogging and all the students were writing a story or adding a comment to another’s story using Kidblog. The time to change classes was 12:13pm.

When I saw the email, I simply airplayed it to the Smartboard for all to see and began to read it aloud.

Dear APS Families and Staff:
In response to growing concerns and anxiety in our community about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Arlington Public Schools and Falls Church City Public Schools have aligned, and in close collaboration with other Northern Virginia school divisions, will close beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. The present plans are to remain closed through Spring Break, with students scheduled to return on Tue, April 14, 2020. We will continue to evaluate and monitor the situation on a daily basis and will provide an update on our plans as new information is available….

Given all the information available now, including other closures throughout the National Capital Region that impact our staff and families, we believe this is the best decision to make at this time.

All of us, school administrators, staff, and parents, want the same outcome–keeping our kids and community safe.

Each of our divisions will send additional logistical details of the closure to our staff and families later today. Thank you for your continued understanding and patience. 
Cintia Z. Johnson
Interim Superintendent, Arlington County Public Schools
Peter J. Noonan Ed.D.
Superintendent, Falls Church City Public Schools

Quickly, all started to comprehend what I was reading. The quiet classroom changed quickly. Some cheered. Some shouted out questions. I answered by simply rereading the lines I highlighted above. Then it was time to switch classes and I had one more class to teach.

My agenda on Fridays is always the same – it is “Read-aloud Friday”. I teach 114 students in a class called Reading 6 in a 6-8 middle school. My students also have a 6th grade English class. My class is focused on giving my students an added boost to build their reading life. We read, we think, we take notes. And on Fridays, I model how I read and think and we practice having respectful class discussions.

Currently I am reading the following:

To support our next unit, the Social Issue Book Club unit, I use these guiding questions during the read-aloud:

  1. What is the identity of the character, specifically what social groups do they belong to (gender / race / ethnicity / language community / age / family structure / physical or mental ability / religion / interests / socio-economic status) ?
  2. Who has the power? What is causing the power imbalance?

Just before my read-aloud ended at 12:58pm on Friday, March 13th, I asked my last class, “Who has the power now in our life?” All replied quickly, “The coronavirus.”

I reminded the students before they left to keep reading. By reading nonfiction texts, we will now about things like school closing. By reading novels, they can seeing how characters deal with power imbalances. By reading we come to know how to live.

The last time I saw my students was Friday, the 13th in March, 2020. I now connect with them online. I look forward to seeing them again in person so we can get back to our read-aloud and our discussions.

And based on the novels I read, I believe in underdogs. I know our smart scientists will take the power back by eradicating this virus.

9 thoughts on “Last Time

  1. mschiubookawrites says:

    As always, when you write about your class, I feel I am right there with you. Your teaching points are explicit, and your ability to connect them to the world at large is commendable. Thank you for giving us hope in your last lines.


  2. dianeandlynne says:

    Friday, the 13th. You describe that moment of finding out about the closure so clearly, and your students’ reactions are typical from the cheers to the questions. I’m praying we will be able to resume activities in April, but I must admit, I feel doubtful.
    Your students are lucky to have you to guide them.


  3. Adrienne says:

    I feel this post deeply. I, too, believe in underdogs and the power of literature.

    I saw my kids for the last time on Friday March 13th, too. The news came out either late Thursday night or early Friday. In any case we had over 1/3 of our students absent on the 13th, so I didn’t get to say goodby to many of them.

    At that time, we were to be out until April 1st. Now it is April 28th. We are on Spring Break this week and I expect info about the expectations for online learning. I have been thinking about things I can do already, but mostly, I am looking forward to reconnecting with my students.


  4. margaretsmn says:

    This is one of the things I miss the most, read aloud time. I have three groups so I was reading three different books. It was a time for us to just be together and enjoying the story. No structure at all for 10 minutes. My students will be wondering what happens next. I wonder if they will try to get these books to read on their own. I wonder if they are doing anything. Our district is not doing any remote learning. So sad.


  5. carolannclark says:

    In your writing I can feel the emotions, especially the power question you asked your students. I am a counselor and I am always having the students differentiate between the power they have compared to others who hold the power. It is so telling that they all answered, “coronavirus”.


  6. MegMcCormick says:

    I love the way you write about your teaching- it is so comforting and so easy to imagine. The line, “by reading we come to know how to live” is so powerful. Thank you for sharing.


  7. Heather Sox says:

    “By reading we come to know how to live.” I love that one line and how you connected it to what we are currently going through. Read aloud Fridays in your class is where I want to be!


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