Teaching Preschoolers on Zoom!

My alarm goes off at 8 AM, I pick up my phone and slide the alarm off. I look at any notifications I may have, and scroll through social media. I might even Google something random that I think of. Had this been 3 months ago, I would not have the luxury to chill in bed and look through my phone at 8 AM. Around 8:20, I finally get out of bed and get ready to start my Zoom classes.

Yes, you read that right. My Zoom classes with my 2 year old students. I lazily make my bed, and walk up the stairs to brush my teeth. I’m usually greeted by my mom, who is also working from home. In fact, everyone in my family is home. I quickly eat something right before my class. I’m usually not a breakfast person, but once my Zoom classes are over, I try to go back to sleep until it’s time for lunch. Why? Because I can.

My janky laptop, that I’ve had since 2013, only works when it’s plugged into the outlet. And even then, my poor shot dead battery reads, “Plugged in, not charging 0%.” This Shelter in Place made me realize how I need to stop lagging on getting a new laptop. My camera quality on this laptop is so pathetic, but I make do.I used to do my Zoom classes in the living room, but our WiFi is so bad there, that I had no choice but to do them from my room. I would literally freeze, or I’d have robot voice. The look of confusion on my students’ faces tell me that im probably frozen. The first week of Zoom classes, I did them upstairs in the livingroom. And without fail, after every class, my mom would come out of the room, pausing her work flow, just to mimic the songs I just sang with the kids. Haha! These are crazy times!

It’s been almost 3 months of Sheltering in Place in the Bay Area. In the beginning of this lockdown mid-March, I was relieved because this was the break I so desperately needed. Sleeping in was so nice, we didn’t start live Zoom classes until April. I had so much free time on my hands I didn’t know what to do. But as the Shelter in Place kept getting extended, I started to follow a routine. Zoom classes, go back to sleep, eat lunch, watch paranormal shows on TV, do 1 on 1 Zoom chats if I have someone signed up, go for a walk, shower, dinner, watch more TV, fall asleep on the couch, and make my way down to my room around 2 AM.

The Shelter in Place got extended twice, and here we are more than half of May done, not knowing if it will be extended once again. Its crazy to think that by the time everything opens up again, 2020 will be atleast halfway over. Its been so long, I can’t picture myself going back into my pre-COVID-19 routine. I’ve adjusted to this Shelter in Place gracefully. I’m already a homebody as it is. So when the Governor says “Stay at home unless you absolutely have to…” I’m like… say no more, sir.

Since this Shelter in Place, a lot of the parents from the school have expressed their gratitude to me and all the other teachers. Everyone knows that being a teacher is not an easy task. There are good days and bad days. Especially dealing with 12 kids 5 and younger, a lot of the times you find yourself with your hands full. Being Sheltered in Place with their child/children, has given some parents more insight on being an early childhood educator.When we decided on doing live Zoom classes, I will admit that I was a little skeptical. How was I going to capture the attention of 8 two year olds in each Circle Time class? Getting all of them to sit still and participate in person is challenging as it is, how much more through the computer?

“If anything,” I thought, “These daily Zoom classes will keep the structure that they know from school, while letting them see their friends and teachers faces.”

I had to switch up my teaching style to convert to the online world. Muting everyone is a must, raising hands and thumbs up and thumbs down are our new norms, me speaking in Dora the Explorer fashion (asking questions and pausing, reading their muted lips through the video screen) was kind’ve awkward at first. But we all had to adjust.Nobody expected the Shelter in Place to last this long. We are almost 3 months deep into social distancing.

Yes, that’s a long time for us adults, but for young children, this must be a lifetime to them. I imagine what it will be like once we go back to school. Almost 3 months of not being at the school will be like their first day of school all over again. So it’s nice that we get to see each other over Zoom.

We have also been writing letters back and forth with our pen pals. We divided up the school roster among the teachers, and have been keeping in touch with our penpals since April. Its so sweet to read what they want to share with their teacher, and what they look forward to.At the end of April, when we were hit with another Shelter in Place extension, we decided to switch it up. Our Zoom classes were going well, but we felt like we should add another component. That is when I suggested doing one on ones – having students sign up to talk to any teacher on Zoom to have a video call. By taking away the learning component, and just having a casual conversation between teacher and student (most of the time with a parent), we hoped that this would help our school community feel more connected. This proved to be a hit.

In one of my Zoom calls, my 4 year old student told me all the things she’s been doing since Shelter in Place. I was telling her how I’ve been spending my time, and how I miss her and all her friends. Since this was the first week of the Zoom 1 on 1 calls, I brought up how nice it was to talk to her 1 on 1.

“I like how I can talk to you and have a conversation with just me and you!” I told her.

“Yeah! And I like how both of our mics are turned on!” She replied eager and happy.

When she said that my heart melted. This is the new norm for my students. And since she is one of the older students, she is aware of the pandemic, why school isn’t in session, and why we have to learn through the computers. It made me sad when she said that, just because we are living in such a different time. Kids this age shouldn’t be refrained from talking and sharing their thoughts. But essentially that’s what we have to do when we mute the kids. We don’t do it for malicious reasons, but for the simple fact that sometimes there would be more than 15 kids attending a class, and the background noise just gets to be too much and too distracting. These memories and way of life will truly go down in our history books. She’ll grow up to tell her peers, “hey, remember in 2020 when we had to sign up for Zoom Circle Time classes when we were 4?”

Another student I had a 1 on 1 conversation with, is 5 years old. We can carry out a real conversation for maybe hours. But since these are scheduled chats, she knows she has a time limit. In the middle of showing me her toys, she cuts herself off…

“Marinelle, how many more minutes do I have left?” She said gently knowing that I would possibly have another meeting right after.

All these questions and responses pulling at my heart strings! I felt pretty sad that she even had to ask that question, that this is the current situation we’re in. Little did she know, I didn’t have anyone else scheduled, and was letting her take up as much time as she wanted.

Since I’m teaching the youngest of our preschoolers (2 and younger), they don’t understand what’s going on. Most of their side comments when they raise their hand for me to mute their mics are just little random sweet nothings. But I’m okay with that and its honestly the cutest thing. I will literally be in the middle of a lecture of whatever it is that I’m teaching, and someone will raise their hand. I unmute their mic and ask them what they would like to share with the class.

“Dinosaur! T-Rex! Roarrrrr!”

“Look at my lovey elephant!”

“I love pancakes!”

Everything totally irrelevant to the topic at hand, but oh soooo sweet! Kids really do say the darnest things. And if anything, I’m always left with a smile on my face or laughing out of cuteness or randomness.

Its been a challenge to keep my 2 year olds engaged. I have to think of new ways to spark their interest. I’ve found the reward system is really helpful. My kids love them some felt stories! I always tell them in the begining of the class what we have planned, and if we do very well during our learning component, we will get a very special felt story. Kids love the simple things. And it could seriously be the same felt story everyday, and they’ll still be interested. Its something to look at, something to sing along to, something familiar from school.When I see that they’re restless, I like to call on each of them at any given moment for them to answer a question. It keeps them on their toes, and they like the opportunity to be unmuted and share with all their friends. These are definitely some trying times – where my creativity as a teacher is being tested.

Two weeks ago I logged onto my first live Circle Time class. One student joined the class, and set up “Teachers plant the seed of knowledge that lasts a lifetime!” “PHK Teachers rock!” A second student joined in, excitedly telling me she drew me something- a green heart with “Thank you Teachers!” I was so confused and surprised. I thanked them and told them how much I loved their kind gestures. When I signed onto my second Circle Time, I was greeted with more love.

“Teaching is HEART work, thank you! We miss you!”

“Thank you Teachers!”

“Thank you!” With a beautiful flower

“Thank you! I miss you.”

” ‘Why do you love your teachers?’ ‘Because they give me lunch.’ ”

My heart! Seeing all these signs (literally all to the screen at the same time) gave me an overwhelming feeling of love and appreciation. I took pictures of my screen, but won’t share because it has my students’ faces in it. But I was so surprised that I wanted to cry. I didn’t even know that it was teacher appreciation day/week, but I definitely felt the love and gratitude through the screen. I told them (even though they’re 2) that I felt like it was a surprise party for me and I was so happy I wanted to cry. I – who by the way, am horrible at receiving surprises – said “wait…… I’m so confused, did y’all plan this or something 😭🤣.”

Teaching is not an easy job. There are some days where I feel defeated and wish I had more patience, or handled a situation differently. But at the end of the day, its moments like these that make me feel so fufilled as a teacher. Especially with Sheltering in Place, the parents have expressed their gratitude and appreciation more often. Its funny, before each vacation break we have, parents will always say goodbye with “you deserve this break. I don’t know how you guys do it.”

Being a teacher is hard work, but so rewarding. Especially at the age that I’m working with. They’re so funny, energetic, and hyped for everything. I made them a tooth project by hand and drew all the food, and they were so hyped for the different snacks I drew. I miss hearing “byeeee, love ya!” “I love you, Marinelle.” “You’re so funnyyy!” And all the random things I between.

During this Shelter in Place, several of my students have asked me to come over their house to play 🤣. “Maybe one day when Coronavirus is over, you can come to my house.” “Maybe my mom can set up a playdate so you can come to my house.” “Maybe you can come over one day so we can play this game!” I must be doing something right if I have multiple playdate offers. Hahahaahha.

Shelter in Place Diaries – Marinelle

Before this Shelter in Place, I complained about not having enough time to practice self-care, do hobbies, or have a moment to relax and just be. It seemed like there were never enough hours in the day. I found myself falling into routine, and I had to find ways to switch up my week. That included spontaneous taco truck trips with my girls, meeting up for dinner with friends I haven’t seen in a while, and some more meet ups with friends in a food setting. Sometimes though, the best plans were no plans at all. I’m such a homebody, and knowing I could go straight home and relax after work was something I got excited about. It seemed like that was becoming my life story – the girl who never had enough time.

And then COVID-19 happened. And all I can say is wow. I definitely did not see this coming. And now, the girl who craved to be at home with no plans, is literally at home with no plans. Its as if Mother Earth heard my silent pleas for a break. Yo, Mother Earth, thanks but no thanks, you did it in the most fucked up way, but here we are, and I have no choice but to accept it. And now, I have plenty of time to do some of the things my heart desires, from home that is.

When all of this was first going down, I thought of the Shelter in Place Diaries series immediately. I knew I wanted to show how some people were using their time during Shelter in Place. What we are living through right now with this pandemic will probably be in history books. I picture myself being a wise grandma talking about, “back in my day during the COVID-19 pandemic, I spent my time… blah blah.”

I tried my best to reach out to different types of people to get different view points of your everyday Californian. From a single young woman living alone in San Jose and working from home, a mother having to find different approaches to teaching her 3 year old son in SoCal, an aspring rapper and producer in the Bay Area, a fitness coach having to convert all of his in-person classes to Zoom sessions in Elk Grove, to me – a writer / professional overthinker doing Zoom meetings with 2 year olds in Daly City.

I not only wanted to share my story, but my struggles as well. If you’ve been following me or have been a reader of mine for a while, you will know that I stress the importance of being transparent and real. In the era of social media and faking it till we make it, I want to be that voice that speaks the truth, and let people know it’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to not be 100% all the time. It’s okay to be honest with yourself and not put up a front for others – whether that be on social media or real life. Not everyone has it together. And anyone that seems like they do, probably don’t. And for those reasons, I decided to document my Shelter in Place Diaries.

To be completely honest, I was on the fence about doing an episode on myself. There where times where I thought about deleting the videos I recorded, or just not doing it at all. But I knew that if I could ask someone to document about a week of their Shelter in Place for MY blog, that I should be able to do it as well. So, I decided to follow through and give you guys a glimpse into my Body Positive journey.

I find myself on my phone more, now that I have all this free time. Like I explained on my videos, sometimes roaming through social media can open up someone’s box of insecurities. And sometimes, you need to find a way to pull yourself out of that dark place before you’re stuck feeling like shit about yourself. I imagine that this Shelter in Place is tough for anyone who struggles / has struggled with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, or abusive self-talk.

I don’t take the “quarantine weight gain” jokes seriously or to heart, but I do understand that that can be a trigger for someone who is struggling with self-love. As a foodie, I’m out here chilling at home, ordering from UberEats and doing takeout to support local businesses, eating all my quarantine snack, and most likely gaining weight.

People turn to food for different reasons, whether that be for pleasure, to self-sooth, stress eating, emotional eating, or maybe even out of boredom. If you are overeating, it is okay. Its not the end of the world. If you’re gaining weight, it is okay, and your outward appearance does not define you. If you haven’t put on real clothes in weeks, that’s probably a sign that you’ve been complying with stay at home orders, and I applaud you! If you don’t like the person you’re becoming during Shelter in Place, find activities, TV shows, home workouts, or find small improvements that you can make to better your stay at home experience.

For me, that was drinking atleast 96 oz of water everyday, and going on an hour neighborhood walk. I was binge eating, and once I started recording what I ate on my food diary, I realized I was just eating because I had nothing else to do. I didn’t want to restrict myself from eating what I wanted, so instead, I would try to incorporate more fruit and water into my diet. Drinking a lot of water kept me from wanting to eat everything in sight, but also help keep my face clear.

I also practiced a lot of makeup looks, because for once I wasn’t on a time crunch. I cleaned my room, I did these projects for my blog, and I catched up on my Avatar books. But there were also days where I did absolutely nothing. And I appreciate those days as well because pre-COVID-19, I didn’t have the luxury to be chillin when I pleased. So I’m definitely trying to take advantage of my lazy days.

I made it a point to not put pressure on myself to create, to clean, to workout, to read, etc. My life before this was so routine-based. It feels good to do things on my time and when I feel like it. Originally, I thought this Shelter in Place was going to only last 3 weeks. But now knowing more information about COVID-19 and how it spreads it will most likely be a couple of months. I never would’ve thought that I would have this much time to create / work from home / be home. And I’ll probably never get this opportunity again. Its a good time to reflect, create when I want to, and map out future goals.

Thank you all so much for following my journey and supporting me! Truly means a lot! Here are my Shelter in Place Diaries:

Shelter in Place Diaries – Giselle & Belami

Watch “Shelter in Place Diaries – Giselle & Belami” now:

UPDATE: Originally, I named this series, “Quarantine Diaries.” My cousins and I have a mass group chat on Instagram where we have been sending each other updates on COVID-19. I came across an article about Trump saying it is not necessary for New York to be under quarantine.

“Wait,” I sent to the group chat, “Haven’t we all been quarantining this whole time…”

Nope. Even though everyone, including myself, use “quarantine” and “shelter in place” interchangeably, they are two very completely different things. In a CNN article by Theresa Waldrop, she states that:

Quarantine –

This is for people who may have been exposed to the virus. They are asked to stay at home, or as in the case with people who were repatriated from China to the United States, to stay in a provided facility.

They’re required to be in quarantine for 14 days. After that, people who still don’t test positive for the virus no longer have to be in a contained environment.

Shelter in Place –

Until recently, the term “shelter in place” meant for most people an active shooter situation — stay where you until the coast is clear.

Now, millions of Americans have been ordered to shelter in place, and other areas may follow.

These people are being asked to stay at home as much as possible, meaning they shouldn’t be out unless getting food, gas or other essentials, or for medical reasons.

The U.S. has been sheltering in place, while individuals who were traveling / believe they have come in contact with someone with the illness is under quarantine for 14 days. Sometimes they quarantine in their home or at designated quarantine locations, and they are not allowed to leave for any reason until they show no symptoms of the virus. Sheltering in place is a precaution folks, who do not believe they have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, take to flatten the curve. Under the “Shelter in Place” order, people are asked to stay in the house, but can leave for necessities, medical attention, or for some exercise around the neighborhood (while still keeping 6 feet apart.) Those who are sheltering in place are not forced to stay inside, but understand that they are doing their part in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.

I felt the need to address this because many others, like myself, are using these terms interchangeably. Therefore, I changed the name of this series accordingly. The appropriate and correct name for this series is the “Shelter in Place Diaries.” I felt the need to address this because I want to be as transparent and real as possible. I was misinformed, and the right thing to do is address it, and fix it 🙂

That being said, most Americans have been sheltering in place since mid-March. All across the nation schools and businesses are closing their doors for weeks on end, leaving a lot of people out of work and out of school. This shutdown is especially hard on parents who have young children and depend on Early Childhood Educators. Giselle is one of those parents.

Giselle lives in the Los Angeles area in California and has a 3 year old son, Belami. Belami’s school is shut down until further notice due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Sheltering in place has disrupted Belami’s routine, and its forcing Giselle to get creative with keeping her son entertained. Now, Giselle has to play both roles of mom and teacher 24/7.

Giselle has a tough time explaining to Belami why there’s a sudden change in their routine. At 3 years old, Belami doesn’t understand why he can’t be at school with his friends, or at the mall, or playing at the park. As a parent, Giselle is doing her best to keep her son sheltering in place where he is safe, but also switching up his day with different learning and art activities to keep the energetic 3 year old entertained.

Many parents with little ones at home can relate to Giselle’s “Shelter in Place Diaries,” because she’s working with the materials they already have around the house. She creatively uses toys, colors, and art to stimulate Belami’s curiosities. Giselle has been using this time to organize the house, cross off things in her “to do’s” around the house, and most importantly spend time with her family and son.

Giselle is keeping her head up and staying positive amidst the COVID-19 chaos. Get a mother / parent’s perspective on sheltering in place with a child by watching Giselle and Belami’s “Shelter in Place Diaries.”

Watch it here:

Much Needed Reunion

I know I usually talk about the negative effects of social media, but there are some positive perks.

I love how I can connect with people I’ve grown up with, people that have watched me grow and have helped in my upbringing, and people I want to keep in touch with. Social media gives us a chance to stay connected in certain people’s lives, regardless of distance and time. There’s some people I haven’t seen in over 5-10 years, but I could tell you what’s going on in their lives from what they post on social media. It’s kind of nice to stay in touch without really staying in touch.

With life and goals constantly on my mind, I admit that I have lost balance in keeping up and keeping in touch with friends. I guess that’s just life. We get busy, life happens, we start realizing there’s not enough hours in the day. In other words, I started adulting. And to be honest this shit is depressing. And I’m a little upset that nobody really told me how you gradually disconnect with friends and you realize you’re living your own ass life. And at some point it hits you, wait, I haven’t seen or talked to blah blah in years.

Anyways, y’all know I’ve been feeling a little disconnected and just not myself lately. Riding another wave of the post-grad blues has not been easy, I’ve been dealing with it by trying to talk and hangout with friends more.

This weekend my best friend of more than 15+ years baptized her son, and made me one of his primary godparents. I officially became Jalen’s Ninang. And it’s crazy. These are moments that me and April would talk about growing up. She’s been one of my best friends since 4th grade. We’d always talk about going through life together, being at each other’s weddings, being Ninangs to each other’s children, living on the same block and being neighbors (💀🤦🏻‍♀️), and all these milestone life events that we would share together. And here we are. Actually living it.

I don’t know why I’m surprised haha. Obviously these life moment were eventually going to happen. But it really got me like, wow, time really waits for no one. Cliché I know, but it really feels like just yesterday we were talking about all these “future events,” and this weekend, I stood behind her and watched her son get baptized.

After the baptism took place, I looked around in the crowd. And I saw a familiar face. I gasped and walked over in pure excitement to greet Mrs.Volpe. A person that means so much to me!

Mrs.Volpe was our school librarian, but she deserves the title of Mother of Epiphany. I attended this school from kindergarten to 8th grade. She literally watched me grow up right before her eyes, but we got really close during my middle school years. Like 6th grade to 8th grade is when I needed her the most.

Like I said in a previous post, by the time we hit 8th grade, for the most part, we’ve been riding with the same crew and classmates for almost 10 years. We ran deep with each other and gave some teachers hell just because we were a team and going through our rebellious phase. We were a hand full to say the least.

I admit that I was a rebellious kid. On a one-on-one basis, I was pretty well-liked by teachers. I was that student that gave you hell, but behind closed doors you hated to admit that I could connect with you on a personal level. And for just a second they could forget that I talked my ass off in class and questioned authority figures. Our whole class got a bad wrap, but for the most part I feel like I had a reason to my rebellion. I was always that kid that questioned authority figures that expected me to act a certain way just because they said so. The more they tried to control me and demanded respect, the more I resisted. That was just my nature. A true mess. Hahaha. Bless all of their hearts.

But since I had this reputation, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t given a fair chance most of the time. They already labeled most of us “the problem.” And it was like there was no changing any of their minds. And the person we would all run to would be Mrs.Volpe. And she would actually listen to us. Hear our side. When it was our fault, she would tell us. She wasn’t afraid to let us know when we were being little assholes. She’d try to make us see our teacher’s point of view. And even though we didn’t like it or what she had to say sometimes, she always told us the truth. But when we weren’t being treated fairly because of our prior reputations, she would also stand up for us. And that’s what a lot of us “rebellious trouble making kids” needed. Someone to atleast hear our side, to ride for us when everyone else was against us. And that was her. And to be honest, she was a lot of people’s go to person to vent to. She just got us. And during a fragile time in our early teenage years, she was our voice of reason. We all truly saw her as the mom of Epiphany, because she gave us an earful when we were in the wrong, but stood up for her little ducklings when they were being targeted. There are so many current students and alumni that look up to Mrs.Volpe, me included.

Mrs.Volpe is one of those people that I kept in touch with on Facebook. She’s never missed one of my birthdays without posting a sweet message on my wall. For every life event, she has always came through with a comment. She watched me grow up all through my Epiphany days, and has continued to watch me grow through social media. There has been multiple times where Mrs.Volpe has crossed my mind, and I wanted to message saying lets catch up, and I’d always tell myself I’d message by this day/date and forget. Or I’d plan to message and visit during my spring break, any vacation, etc., but didn’t come around to it. It’s a lame excuse, but this is real life. Things just get in the way and sometimes you don’t get to hangout with the people you want to. We had planned to grab lunch or dinner in August, but there was so much going on in Mrs.Volpe’s life as well, that we never got around to it.

And there she was. In the crowd. The person that has been cheering me on from the sidelines for so many years. We embraced and I couldn’t believe that she was at Jalen’s baptism. My heart was full! Especially since I’ve been feeling weird and off lately, this is the reunion my heart needed.

At the reception she met my boyfriend. And it was something special. I’m telling you, she was the mom of Epiphany, so it really meant a lot for her to meet the guy I’ve been with for 4.5 years. We talked and we caught up, and it was such a good time. I think I ran into her at Safeway once, like almost 5 years ago. Come to think of it, I think she met Christian that day, but it was a brief catch up. But other than that, I haven’t had one of Mrs.Volpe’s in person pep talks in 10 years. I graduated Epiphany in 2009. And here we are 2019 catching up. Funny how life works.

We caught up and I told her how I’m currently a preschool teacher and jokingly said I’m getting my karma for being such a rebellious child. She couldn’t believe it. How much time has changed! She expressed how proud of me she is, and I really needed that. She has always been cheering me on from afar. And I’m so blessed to have a person like her on my team. On my side. It has been 10 years but I know if I needed her she’d be right there. Like she has always been.

It was then I realized that she is everything I want to be as a teacher. Even though teaching isn’t my forever career job, it is still currently my job. And talking to her on Saturday made me realize that I want to be a Mrs.Volpe in someone’s life. Tell them like it is, but hear them out. Be firm when you need to be, but show so much love and support at the same time. And if I can be atleast half of what she is as a teacher, I’d be doing a great job.

This is a woman who has seen and witnessed her fair share of heartbreak and pain. But you would never realize by how she lives her life and treats others. Hands down one of the sweetest, loving, supportive, and most of all happiest people I have ever met in my life. And she has blessed so many Epiphany students and families with her presence and support.

It was important for my boyfriend to meet her, because I really feel like she knows the true me. She has witnessed honor roll Marinelle, rebellious Marinelle, angry Marinelle, heart broken Marinelle, and all the above. And I feel like she’s a person from my past that he should meet. I never thought they ever would honestly. I always imagined she’d meet him at my wedding or something haha. I’ve described her to Christian on multiple occasions as the only teacher who was ever on our side. And now he finally got to meet and talk to the woman I’ve talked about for all these years.

I told April, “Your party is what I needed.”

And its true. I’ve been feeling off and emo as hell riding this post-grad wave. Who are you? What do you want to do? What are you going to make of yourself? What career path are you going to take? How will you accomplish that? What’s your next goal? By what deadline? What are you doing with your life? Figure it out. Come up with a plan. Hurry. Time is ticking.

And for a second, those anxieties and worries faded. I was surrounded by my best friend of 15 years celebrating her son, my godson. I was reconnecting with a teacher I adore and look up to. My man is with me and around people that I grew up with. Life is good.

I needed this in so many way. Seeing people that take you back. Back to less stressful times. It took me all the way back to the times when meeting up for the movies was our biggest issue. 🤣 It was a meeting that my heart so desperately needed. That even though time is moving and life goes on, these people that have been with me since day 1 are still with me, are riding with me, and still rooting me on from the sidelines. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. They took me back to simpler times.

Soar High Like An Eagle

Dedicated to Paul Taylor

Days before Thanksgiving 2018, I learned through Facebook that a teacher I had as a kid passed away. I attended the same school from Kindergarten to 8th grade, and a lot of the teachers I had at Epiphany literally watched me grow for 9 years. One of those teachers was Mr.Taylor.

My older cousins and older sister also went to Epiphany, so I knew of their current and past teachers even before I had them myself. They would tell me stories about different teachers they had and what to expect if I were to be in their class. So with all that said, I knew of Mr. Taylor way before I ever had him as a substitute teacher. Once upon a time he was the 7th grade teacher (I think) for a long time. My cousins had him as a permanent homeroom teacher, but by the time I had him, a number of years had passed and he was Epiphany’s go to substitute teacher, so he was still at the school very often.

The very first time I had Mr.Taylor as a substitute teacher was in the 1st grade I think. He had the cool dude vibes with his leather jacket, could play the guitar, and had this distinct deep voice that could command a room when needed, but was pretty laid back most of the time. As a little kid I thought he was the coolest dude, and got excited when he would be substituting. I remember my 1st grade class went wild when he tried to explain how double negatives in English makes a positive statement. Probably too advanced for our little minds at the time, and I totally didn’t get it at all, but I thought it was the funniest thing because I thought he was truly messing with us. Like whatchu mean it makes it a positive statement?! I said what I said! Hahaha

When I say these teachers watched me grow, I mean that in every sense. From 5 year old lil chunky ass Marinelle who loved to participate and got the honor roll every quarter, to the 13-14 year old Marinelle who was as difficult as one could be in class, going through that moody teenager stage where my peers’ approval was way more important than school …. still getting that honor roll doeee 💁🏻‍♀️. Some of my friends from Epiphany I’ve known since I was as young as 4. I literally grew up with these people, so the friendship bonds were so tight and strong at the time that once someone in the class went hyphy, it could trigger a whole chain reaction of hell for a teacher. In fact, that’s supposedly what the class of 2009 was known for.

Anyways, I was no stranger to giving my teachers a hard time. I could literally talk to anyone. I think my teachers realized that moving my seat wasn’t gonna really do anything because I would just befriend the person next to me anyways. I was always that talkative kid. It was crazy because by the time I hit middle school, all the teachers I had had a love hate relationship with me. They hated my ass when I talked up a storm in class and refused to take their orders, but at the same time on a 1 on 1 level, I had a real connection with all of them and vented about whatever teenage things I was going through.

So when I got the news about Mr.Taylor passing away, of course I was mad sad. But also, very remorseful. Not saying I was a nuisance to him majority of the time, but me and my friends were definately a hand full. I felt deep regret for my childish ways when I was…well, a child. And I know for a fact if I were to see him within the last couple of years, he’d hold no hard feelings at all, because he really did enjoy my presence.

I thought back to that time where he was about to give me a conduct referral (supposedly something really bad that goes on your record, and it’s basically a note home that your parents have to sign to acknowledge that you were being a little shit in school.) I don’t even remember what it was for, but he said he was going to “write me up.” I was pissed. Livid. Embarrassed infront of the whole class. Luckily, I had to alter serve for a funeral, and had to leave the class anyways. I got up. He asked where I thought I was going. In a sassy tone I said that I had to alter serve and if he could write my conduct referral so I could leave. He told me to come back during recess so he could write it.

When I came during recess I still had that same stank attitude. I had too much pride to apologize for my actions. I was expecting a conduct referral, but instead, he told me he was going back on his word and decided not to give me one, and just gave me a pep talk instead. Instant mood changer. I was so thankful because on the outside I was trying to act all hard with the “yeah whatever who cares, write me up” attitude, but in reality, I was scared shitless to bring that home to my parents to sign hahaha. I thanked him, and always remembered how he did me that solid.

I bottled the sadness and remorse I felt inside. 5 days after he passed away, I had a dream.In my dream, I was talking to April, Lucas, and John, some of my best friends from Epiphany. We were all talking about how we were going to meet up for Mr. Taylor’s funeral, and what a shock it was that he had passed away.

I departed from the group and found Mr. Talor working on a car. For some reason in the dream, I was talking to him as if he wasn’t him.

I told him,”I can’t believe Mr.Taylor died…”

He replied saying that yeah, it was crazy to believe.

I went on and burst into tears, “I just wish I could tell him how sorry I am for being such a difficult kid back then,” by this time it was one of those moments when you’re crying in your dream but also in real life. I was sobbing in my sleep but didn’t realize until after the dream.

He reassured me that Mr.Taylor (Yes, talking in 3rd person) doesn’t even care about or think about all that and that it was fine. He kinda down played it like I was feeling remorse for nothing. He went on to change the subject and we talked about something different.

I woke up. My pillow wet, my face tear stained. I didn’t end up going to his service like I had planned to because it was during one of my classes. But I bet it was a great one, cuz he was a really great guy.

I would like to believe that that dream was more than just my conscience manifesting, but that it was Mr.Taylor’s “goodbye” message to me. Whatever it was, it brought me peace of mind.

All For You

Lee Ann graduated from SFSU with a Bachelors degree in Child Development in 2015. She has the most patients with children and has the biggest heart. All her former co workers could only tell me good things about her. She’s that kind of girl that nobody can ever speak ill about even if you tried. She has a heart of gold and a passion for learning.

She is now a pre school teacher and is working on getting her credentials. She is so relieved that all her hard work has paid off, saying that once you receive that diploma, everything you had to do to get to that point will be worth it. I congratulated her on all of her accomplishments and asked how her love life is and if there is someone special in her life.

Lee Ann told me that she didn’t have the normal “high school experience” like dating, going to parties, or being young and careless because she lost her father to ASL, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. 

“Losing my Dad really made me driven,” Lee Ann said. “I wanted to succeed for him. So I threw myself into school. And because of that I tried balancing work and school. It was also how I coped with grief. I somewhat pushed aside any kind of “social life”. The busier I was, the less I had to think. Education has always been so important to me. I’ve had a love for learning. The more I learned, the more experienced I felt. It gave me a sense of accomplishment.”

Education became Lee Ann’s main focus. It was her form of coping with the grief of losing her father. She told me how growing up she wasn’t involved in any sports or other activities. When I asked her why she told me that her father traveled a lot for work, but he would always come back home on the weekends. Her mom didn’t want to enroll Lee Ann in weekend activities because the weekend was a time for the family to be all together. She said she is happy that that’s how it was.

“The other reason I did that was so that I could focus on me,” Lee Ann said. “I was so unsure of myself and lacked confidence. If I wasn’t confident in myself how could I be supportive in a relationship? But now that school is done and I’ve reflected and grown a little bit of that confidence. There is one aspect that’s missing. I look forward to the future and being there for someone. I can’t wait to be a Mom and watch someone grow. Teach them and watch the world through their eyes.”

Now Lee Ann has accomplished what she wanted to do and now has a career. Next she will fulfill her next dream: to fall in love and start a family.