Wicked Teaching From Home

By Susan Bush

Rocco, Marissa, and Briar are at home from second grade these days but at 10 a.m. on school days, Clarksburg (MA) Elementary School teacher Colette Klein brings some school day normalcy to them and participating classmates. Klein is hosting online morning meetings, and her students are logging on and chiming in with snippets of their days spent away from their small town school.

“I like it,” Rocco said. “You get to hear what the other kids say.”

“We get to see each other,” Marissa said.

“It’s fun that we can see what people are doing,” Briar added.

“It’s going well,” Klein said recently, just before calling the March 23 Monday morning meeting to order. “This gives them a chance to connect with each other, connect with me and know that the world, their world, is still here. It keeps that sense of being part of a class and part of a school.”

Klein asked the children to check their cameras and microphones and be certain that the tools were functioning. Students gave a thumbs up to indicate that they were ready and willing to participate in the virtual meeting. Klein is using SeeSaw as a platform because it is easier for younger students to navigate, she said.

There was a teacher reminder that listening was necessary and then Maddox, a student, shared his story of playing ‘HORSE” basketball with his dad…a game, Maddox said, that he’d won.

Another student, Luke, reported that he’d received a plasma ball for a St. Patrick’s Day gift. He was able to run his hands over the ball and demonstrate how it worked to his friends.

Morning meeting is a staple in many elementary school classrooms. The gatherings give students a chance to share their lives and socialize with each other. Teachers have an opportunity to check in with the children and outline the day.

A COVID-19 pandemic has forced most students away from their classrooms through government order and into their homes, Many students are trying to complete teacher-issued work packets or benefit from online learning. Social media is lit up with parent comments, most of which involve the challenge of teaching children outside of the classroom.

Many teachers are turning to online education platforms to offer instruction, stay in touch with their students, or discover fun and interesting sites that children can utilize while the forced classroom ouster continues.

Clarksburg school colleagues are using platforms including Zoom and Google Meets to offer their own meetings and lessons, Klein said. For example, 4th and 5th grade teachers are hosting two Science lessons during school days

During the morning meeting, Klein reviewed some math work and walked the students through a lesson. There was hand-raising and giggling and student response, very much resembling a classroom atmosphere.

And just like a classroom, socializing is part of the routine.

“The first day we did this, (the students) were excited to see each other and it was hard to get them to stop chatting,” Klein said. “So now many come on (online) a little early and I just let them talk to each other. It is good for them and it’s important.”

The schoolwork isn’t being graded at this time and students who are not participating or completing work are not penalized. As school after school closed throughout many states, teachers had almost no time to assemble strategies and plans that would allow students to retain what they’d learned during the 2019-20 year and not fall behind.

“Math is probably the most challenging to keep up with, especially without the immediate (student) feedback,” Klein said. “Right now we are doing some blogging as ‘open journal’, which means the kids can write about what they want. I am doing a lot of review work with them.”

“Of course I hope the schools open up if it is safe to do so, we’ve only had two-thirds of the school year,” she said.

Read-aloud, journal writing and math is being done by students including Marissa, Luke, and Maddox, whose work was visible on Klein’s computer screen.Others are completing assignments as well.

Most parents are very supportive, Klein said and noted that morning meeting attendance has been strong, with 12 out of 15 students participating regularly. During the first meeting, parents were visible and assisting their children with logging on and the camera and microphone functions. Now, the students are handling those tasks on their own, Klein said. She is emailing parents daily and was among the thousands of teachers who, at a moment’s notice, put together packets for home learning.

“I sent home chapter books at their (student) reading level and they each got three books,” Klein said. “This type of learning can be done but it’s not the same. I can’t see right away if there is a challenge, I’m having to guess, if there is an issue, what that issue might be. I’m not there live and in person, which is where I want to be.”

As the meeting progressed, Klein showed the students a math place value exercise involving creating a computer-drawn robot. Klein introduced the lesson as well as the instructions and directions for viewing the instructions for those wishing to log on at a later time and tackle the assignment.

Another activity she reviewed was an outdoor scavenger hunt that challenged students to describe items that they found, items they searched for but could not find, and a favorite item.

When schools will reopen is not known at this time, but Klein said she and most colleagues are willing to do what is necessary to help the students.

“We are teachers and we adapt, we adjust, and we meet out students where they are at,” she said. “That’s who we are. That’s what we do.”

Colette Klein taught for many years at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union schools, including Molly Stark Elementary and Shaftsbury Elementary schools. She currently teaches at the Clarksburg Elementary school in Clarksburg,MA .

Small Business, Big Impact

Many of us have been struggling with the best way to support local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.  We buy gift cards, eat take-out, participate in raffles and shop locally when we can.  We all know someone impacted by the essential services work order. Right about now is when I would bring the lawn mower in to be serviced by a friend of mine who owns a local engine repair shop and on the weekend I would be shopping for spring and Easter merchandise at local boutiques and retail stores like Lewis & Clark gifts in Westfield, WEBs in Northampton, or Where’d you get that? in Williamstown. Technology and creativity have bolstered some small businesses as they sell online or are providing delivery services.

But not every small business can build an online presence and/or offer delivery. Think about the owners of music stores, caterer’s, party/event planners, hairdressers and barbers, nail salons, pet groomers, local breweries, local hotels/motels, bed and breakfasts, massage therapists, florists and pretty much anyone working in the travel industry. Social distancing needs to be maintained. We can’t ask our hair dresser to make a house call no matter how badly we may need it.

For these, and all small businesses throughout the U.S., a lifeline was thrown this past week. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed. The CARES Act established a $349 billion Paycheck Prevention Program. This program will help keep our small businesses open and keep our friends and family members working.

What is the Paycheck Prevention Program? I’ve listed some of the important aspects of the program below. For more detailed information check out Paycheck Protection Program FAQs

  • The program is administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA)
  • Businesses can use funds to cover payroll, mortgage/rent, utilities
  • No collateral requirements, personal guarantees or SBA fees
  • 100% guarantee by the SBA
  • Loan payments will be deferred for six months
  • The SBA will forgive the portion of loan proceeds used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest
  • Eligible businesses include non-profit, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorship’s, self-employed individuals and independent contractors
  • Maximum loan amount is $10 million dollars
  • Loan forgiveness if proceeds used for payroll costs and other designated business operating expenses in the 8 weeks following the date of loan origination
  • Interest rate of 1%
  • Maturity of 2 years
  • All states and territories are eligible for Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance
  • Waiver of garnishments through 2020

A great resource for small businesses in the 413 is the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center-Western Regional office. They provide free and confidential one-to-one business advice to prospective and existing small businesses. The MSBDC has put together a comprehensive list of resources for Western Massachusetts small businesses:

 WMASS Biz Resource List

The MSBDC is sponsoring three webinar’s next week to help manage your business during the COVID-19 crisis.

  • e-commerce 101: Getting your business online, April 6, 2020 1:00 to 2:00 pm
  • How to deal with cash flow issues due to COVID-19, April 7, 2020 3:00 to 4:00 pm
  • Programs and funding available for businesses impacted by COVID-19, April 8, 2020 1:00 to 2:00 pm

To register for one of these webinars, or for more information on the MSBDC, go to https://www.msbdc.org/training  

In the meantime, stay in touch with your local businesses. Many of them are coming up with creative and innovative solutions to continue to offer their services.

Hang in there Western Massachusetts small business owners and employees.

Feel Good Friday

No better way to begin your Friday then with a little Feel Good Drift!

Joe and John Staf kicking it off with “Out of work, Aye” before their Facebook live performance last night.

Alex Rohan joins Joe and John in this live Facebook performance from March 21st. The performance features original music including “Crush”, “Where did she go”, “Savage” and includes cover’s of “Hallelujah”, “You’re still the one”, and the “Way you make me feel”. Hit that Tip jar via Venmo @Alex-Rohan.

You can check out Joe and John’s Facebook live performance from April 2, 2020 here. Hit that Tip Jar via Venmo @Joe-Staf. Have a great weekend everybody!


Thursday’s Tones

No fooling, we’ve got some great local artists to feature today and two national recording artists. Let’s set the tone with Vicky St. Pierre and Brian Chicoine, from the Brian and Vicky Show.

Songwriter John Prine is in critical condition, suffering from complications from COVID-19. John is a Grammy award winning American Country Folk song writer. Here is a cover of Angel from Montgomery from recording artist Ruthie Foster. Get well John!

My friend Rich posted this song earlier today, an amazing cover of Fast Car by the very cool Luke Combs.

Finally, we’ll end with a young lad from Berkshire County, let me introduce you to Walter Burmer.

Tuesday’s Tune’s

March 31, 2020

Joe Fazio from Trailer Trash singing a little Kenny Rogers. Joe recorded this on March 29, 2020.

Next up, let’s check out a national artist, a favorite of my dad’s, Garth Brooks. This is the second time Garth and Trisha Yearwood have taken requests on Facebook. I expect we’ll hear more from them in the next few weeks.

We’ll close out today’s featured music with an up and coming artist who will get you on your feet! Say hello to the RED WAVE! (aka Nate Lindsay)

Donate Blood in Western MA

March 31, 2020

By Sharon Leary

The need for blood is constant. Even during the current COVID 19 public health crisis, blood is needed for many procedures and therapies. Cardiac surgeries, organ transplants and platelet transfusions for cancer patients are just some of the reasons we are in constant need of blood.

Here’s what you need to know when you go to your appointment to give blood:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and day of your appointment; avoid strenuous exercise
  2. Bring identification with you
  3. Registration will include a mini physical and history
  4. The blood donation will take approximately 8-10 minutes
  5. After donation, you will enjoy a snack and refreshment for 10-15 minutes
This video is from the UK. It is a similar process in the US.

For everyone’s safety, extra protocols have been put in place at blood donation facilities, including:

  • Prescreening of donors
  • Extra precautionary cleaning
  • Spacing out of donors to comply with social distancing and group gathering restrictions

Per the Food & Drug Administration, donors should refrain from donating blood for 28 days if they have:

  • Cared for or lived with individuals diagnosed with or suspected to be diagnosed with COVID 19
  • Been in close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID 19
  • Been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID 19
  • Recently returned from International travel

You can make an appointment to donate blood directly to your local health systems. Donating blood at a local hospital or medical center means the blood stays in Western Massachusetts. Here is a list of Western Massachusetts Hospitals where you can donate blood.

Athol Hospital                                                                            978-249-1174

2033 Main Street, Athol, MA

Monday – Friday 7:00 am to 7:00 pm

Saturday, 7:00 am to 2:30 pm

Baystate Health Donor Center                                                   413-794-4600

***Currently located at 361 Whitney Ave, Holyoke, MA

 Monday-Sunday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Berkshire Medical Center &                                                        413-447-2597

Fairview Hospital

725 North Street, Pittsfield, MA-first floor or the Bloodmobile

Holyoke Medical Center                                                               413-534-2591

575 Beech Street, Holyoke

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 7:00 am to 4:00 pm

Tuesday & Thursday: 7:00 am to 7:00 pm

You can also make an appointment to donate with the international organization the American Red Cross.

American Red Cross Donor line                                                1-800-733-2767

Western MA location: 150 Brookdale Drive, Springfield

Make an online appointment here: American Red Cross online appointments

The following local Western Massachusetts hospitals use Baystate Blood Donor Program  and Holyoke Medical Center Blood Donor Program to procure some of their blood bank needs: Cooley-Dickinson Hospital, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Baystate Noble, Baystate Wing Memorial Hospital.

Berkshire Medical Center Blood Donor program covers all of Berkshire County. There are two options to donate currently, you can make an appointment to donate in the hospital or the bloodmobile. It may be easier to get to the bloodmobile as there are strict protocols in place to enter the hospital. The Berkshire Health Systems bloodmobile schedule can be found here: Bloodmobile Schedule. Please check back daily as new dates are being added.

If you are feeling healthy, PLEASE consider making an appointment to donate blood.

Oh Baby, it’s a Wild World

Yesterday, March 28, 2020, was Miss Maddison Beatrice Raimer’s BIRTH day. She is one of 350,000 babies who were born on this planet yesterday. I would have been there for her mom and dad if current public health circumstances were not otherwise throwing a wrench into every day life. My good friend Laurie, Miss Maddison’s Grammie, was unable to be with her own daughter due to the COVID 19 restrictions. She did, however, receive a play by play from her son-in-law Chad.

Miss Maddison’s mom, Kennedy, endured 50 hours of labor. Yep. Maddie was quite happy in her mom’s belly. My personal opinion, she was making a point by exhibiting to her parents the stubborn streak she inherited from her mother’s side of the family. As she gets older, we will treat this trait as a positive; perhaps the better word is tenacious. She will need some tenacity to conquer this world!

And conquer she will. I have no doubt. The perfect storm that brought Kennedy and Chad together has yielded a prodigy the world has been clamoring for.

I can say this because, even though I’m not blood related, I consider myself her crazy Aunt.

In 2012, as I pursued my nursing degree, my friend Laurie offered me a place to stay. In return, I became the step mom to Izzy and Bailey, because Mama Goose needed some help-I dog and house sat on the weekends. In between, I tried to stay out of the way. But fate had other plans. Eventually I sort of morphed into this weird cousin in the spare bedroom who always had a bag of dark chocolate raisinet’s on her nightstand and three dogs at her knee.

Izzy & Bailey

Kennedy was in high school at the time. I watched her play basketball, shopped for homecoming dresses with her, and tried to impart a little wisdom, maybe more like life experience, to her. She had already met Chad and was very much in love. I enjoyed my time with my Berkshire family and look back on it with a grateful heart. I especially liked using the riding lawn mower as Izzy, Bailey and Mama Goose traipsed behind me. Laurie and her family brought a sense of belonging and normalcy to my life when I was in sore need of it.

Yesterday, as I awaited news of Miss Maddison’s arrival, I was finishing a long overdue paint project. As is my custom, I turned on Pandora. Two songs from that session stuck out. As I was walking Aggie this morning, it occurred to me why these two songs resonate within me and continue to play on repeat in my head. My Life – past, present and future.

If you knew me, you would know I was a country girl before country was cool. My main squeeze is the King of Country, George Strait. Following close on his heels is Dierks Bentley. His album Riser continues to comfort and steel me. Last year DB released The Mountain. Honestly, I have slowly been immersing myself in his newer music. By chance, his song Living came on.

Last May, at a job interview, I was asked what my personal mission statement was. I seriously was at a lost on that one. As I drove home, I ruminated on this question. What is my personal mission statement? I took an afternoon and scribbled my thoughts in my notebook. Here is what I decided, “I want to positively impact this world. I choose to be grateful for all that life has given me. I strive to be present and live in each moment every day.”

Hearing Dierks Bentley at that moment was no coincidence.

Even though I was listening to the Dierks Bentley station on Pandora, another artist I am increasingly drawn to, Kip Moore came on. Not for the reasons I was initially drawn to him for-I mean seriously, look at him; but once you listen to his music, I mean really listen to his lyrics, you will understand why this guy is amazing. I am very thankful to have been able to see him twice last year. His acoustic story telling show at a small venue in Connecticut was one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

Kip Moore released his new song, “Wild World” this past week. Kip defines the word cool. He does not follow the pop country star script. He does it his way. And his fans are thankful he does.

Chad & Kennedy

I’ve listened to Wild World quite a few times since its release. The song inspired me to imagine a conversation like this with Miss Maddie in the future:

Miss Maddie I wish you adventure, love, dreams that lead to new discoveries, patience, kindness, wide open spaces, not so stormy seas, joy, peace, lifelong health, support and so much more.

And know today, March 29, 2020, you brought peace and love to my heart and a quiet to my soul. Just as I am for your mama and your grandma, I’ll be here for you.

Now, go wash your hands.