SL 867

For the past two years, I put my career on hold, because my family needed so much help. I only took on projects that I could do quickly and without hassle, like selling book, advocating for vulnerable kids, and writing opinion pieces. Ian still needs a lot of help until we can get him to a better place, but I’m slowly making some changes. I have a long-form journalism piece that’s been on the back burner, and it’s calling to me.

Taking a week off from Twitter helped me gain a little perspective and peace. While I want to keep advocating for kids like mine, I’m not sure that I have to the stomach to do it full time. It’s massively stressful. Thank god for the “mute” feature on twitter.

But at the same time, I am not quite sure what the chatterers are talking about right now. Just a handful of links this morning:

The mask mandate ends in March in New Jersey. Shows you the power of angry moms. BTW, they are organized and moving onto the next issue. This is going to really annoy all the woman-haters out there.

Housing for the mentally ill (and all sorts of vulnerable people) is horrific. A profile of Martial Simon, the homeless man who pushed a woman in front of a moving subway in January. Are we going to see a return of institutions? I’ve been doing all sorts of training to become a paperpusher for the state. Will tell you about it on Friday.

Sometimes I write something, click “publish,” and then sort of hate what I wrote. Here’s Friday’s newsletter, which isn’t fabulous.

I did a lot of book stuff this weekend. In fact, I couldn’t sleep until 2am, because I couldn’t put my phone down. I kept searching for information about books that I found. Yes, I can even turn a fun hobby into a neurotic adventure. That’s my special talent. Here’s some pics of a cool handmade book from the Arts and Crafts era.

PICTURE: I had three Cosmos on Friday night. My friends said, “It’s Friday, so we drink pink!.” Three was too many. That’s all I will say about that.

26 thoughts on “SL 867

  1. On a related note on mental health care: here in Denver pediatric psychiatric beds have a 1 year waiting list.


      1. My wife has heard that here too. She works with high schoolers and her role is more crisis intervention but often the kids who come to her have learning issues on top of social emotional issues. Especially now.


      2. The rumor in town is that there are so many pre-schoolers that were diagnosed with disabilities that they don’t have enough seats for them in the disabled pre-school classroom.


  2. Thought you’d be interested in this – our PM giving her opening statement to Parliament – traditionally used to outline the government’s agenda for the year.

    “The latest evidence shows that school closures are finely balanced. They can cause significant indirect harm to children, including widening educational inequities, poorer mental health, behavioural difficulties, social isolation, family stress, family violence and food insecurity.”

    She said they also had a disproportionate impact on Māori and Pacific children, as well as those from poorer households.

    “We are committed to keeping schools and early learning services open, with closures only as a last resort due to a significant outbreak in a school or service, staff absences that make it unsafe to operate, or a local lockdown.”


  3. For two years, kids were barely educated. I don’t know who had it worse — little kids missed out learning during formative years or bigger kids who were graduated high school with no opportunities to recoup that lost time. Just dumped on the street.


    1. My kid’s grade 5 teacher is doing heroic work this year. She’s giving some specific assignments twice – they do a “draft assignment” that she marks on a grade 4 level and then a “final assignment” that she marks at a grade 5 level (examples so far are social studies presentations, which they do also in french, book report, science diagram), sometimes on the same content, sometimes different content.

      She’s tracking it all and sending parents home notes like “your child isn’t sure about apostrophes, which are part of the grade 4 curriculum” (made up example) so that everyone is getting super clear on what has happened.

      She’s pretty amazing. The math teacher is doing the same so I think it must be coming either from the administration as one approach, or else the team came up with it. They’ve cut out a lot of the stuff like 100th day, they had a very reduced winter concert, etc. so I think that’s where they are finding some of the time.


      1. That’s outstanding commitment from your teacher/school Jenn, and great to see.
        I’m not seeing reports of this replicated from other schools and/or parent comments on social media.

        Though have just had a battle with Mr 14, over his 15 minutes of assigned reading a day as his English homework (how I could have a kid who doesn’t like to read, escapes me!).
        This was triggered by a pro-active outreach email from his English teacher (to all parents in her class) listing what they’ll be working on, this term & asking for support in ensuring that the reading happens (as it dropped off the radar last year).

        So, we’ve not only had the ‘reading isn’t important’ rant, but also the ‘poetry is stupid and useless’ and the ‘short stories are boring’ ones as well 😉 – who’d be a Mum!
        Apparently he is delightful, co-operative, intelligent and focused in class…. (am I sure she’s thinking of the right kid!) ….

        I’ve suggested that he talk to his teacher about poetry slams (and showed him a few online), and that poetry is a great tool both for song-writing and advertising [see if it sinks in…]. Also that there are some great creepy SS out there (like most teens, he likes horror).


    2. What Jenn describes as a heroic effort to redress the lack of learning progress made in the previous year is what I think is necessary for the younger kids — but, only for some of them, the ones who didn’t progress. And, it’s going to take altering curriculum down the line (not just “catching up”, meaning short term interventions that get the kids where they would have been without the losses from the pandemic).

      But, it is also my idea of hell for my kids, who lived for the 100 day projects & the seed collection & the states projects (the ones that are being cut, in the example, to provide the basics).

      For some kids with strong learning skills, well supported teachers, and family resources, learning loss hasn’t been a problem. I know this to be true for the K-8 school my kids attended when they were younger. It seems somewhat true for the subgroup of high schoolers in my older kids cohort (at a well resourced public school). In those cases, there might have been some delay in learning (in math, especially, which seems to be showing the largest affects) but also some gains (my own kid benefited from the time he could devote to more generalized learning in history, government, language, areas of interest for him).

      Bottom line, I do think the “catching up” is more important and accept that might be the right solutions for the time, but am also glad my kids aren’t going to have to deal with it.


      1. This January/Feb. has been one of the most disrupted time periods for my younger kids since May 2020. Here’s what happened:

        –I took kids out of school for the first two days of school for skiing (my fault)
        –two extra days off for MLK weekend, due to surging Omicron (school’s decision)
        –two ice/snow days off last week (school’s decision).

        Since school started Jan. 6, there has been maybe one full 5-day school week. In all honesty, it’s been kind of nice to have so many short weeks.But we’ve had enough of a good thing.

        I think my school kids are going to be fine. The youngest is in 3rd grade and now has solid reading and math skills after a lot of flailing around in 1st and 2nd grade. She’s in a low-stakes grade, and I think she’ll be fine. She really misses her chums, though, and expresses dismay when she hears of a closure. The 11th grader, on the other hand, is in a high-stakes grade. His AP Chemistry teacher keeps giving them “small” assignments to do during disruptions, as she’s got her eye on the May AP exam. I am pretty sure that the AP class will be OK on the current schedule, but they can’t/shouldn’t lose any more time. The 11th grader is a STEM kid, so it’s actually pretty important that he learn the AP material and get a good grade so he can test out of the introductory college courses and not lose time in college.

        Some caveats here:

        –Again, this is the most disruptions we’ve faced since May 2020
        –We are a UMC family with a lot of space and resources

        and (very importantly)

        –I am a SAHM and so our family has a lot of flexibility. I can roll with a lot of schedule changes that would make other moms cry and/or drink.

        Also, if every month had so many disruptions, it would quickly lose its charm.


  4. Laura tweeted, “Are community colleges going to step in and create massive remedial programs? Who’s going to pay for it?”

    The good news is that remedial CC courses already exist (I have two Boomer relatives who’ve done a lot of work in that sector). The bad news is that the capacity may not be there. The worse news is that, pre-pandemic, remedial community college (and 4-year college remedial) courses had a really bad rep with some people in the educational commentariat. The theory at the time was that too many kids were being funneled into remedial CC courses, and that many of those kids would actually do better if they went straight into conventional CC courses, and that remedial courses contributed to failure. Here’s a round-up on some pre-pandemic stats:

    Maybe things will be different now, given that so many kids who wouldn’t normally need remediation need it, but CC remediation has been a controversial area.

    I continue to think that workplace GED courses at big employers could do a lot of good. I’ve mentioned before that I used to teach in a workplace ESL program for refugees where the workers were paid for their time in class. That is a model that might work very well at big employers and it could help a lot with retention.


    1. My take on this is that big employers are unlikely to do this at the GED level – if they have to pay for it.
      With the social environment of job mobility (kids in their teens are likely to have six ‘careers’ – not just jobs or employers) – investment from an individual employer is just not likely to have a significant ROI for them. And even the possible benefit of retention isn’t going to match the direct loss to the firm of employees in the classroom, rather than on the job.

      Different with professional-track employees who use this ongoing educational support as a bargaining tool (thinking ongoing certificate quals for IT as the example, here).


    2. Ann wrote, “My take on this is that big employers are unlikely to do this at the GED level – if they have to pay for it.”

      I was thinking federal funding. I should have specified, but I meant classroom retention. With community college, there’s a lot of attrition and people just not showing up.


    3. Eh, I want the employers to have some skin in the game so they actually think about how they train their workers. And, if we subsidize some and then strongly encourage the rest, potentially large employers could benefit from a better workforce even if they poach people from each other. That is, Amazon & Wallmart & Starbucks have to help educate their workforce, and maybe workers travel among those companies.


      1. GEDs are primarily for the benefit of the employees, so that they can move on to better things. I bet that Walmart (and other large grocery stores) do actually have a lot of room for advancement in-store, but I question whether Starbucks does, or does to the same extent. (I’m told that my favorite HEB has somewhere around 500-600 employees just in the one store.)

        If large employers offer onsite classroom space and modify employee schedules so that they can be consistently free for instructional time during the working day–that’s already a pretty big contribution.

        I mention big employers mostly because they have the best set-up for onsite instruction–at a big worksite, you’re likely to have a critical mass of employees who need a GED and suitable classroom space.

        I don’t even think a huge amount of content needs to be taught at the worksite. It’s just as important that a) workers get an on-ramp back to formal education (much of which may wind up helping elsewhere) and b) an opportunity to get career counseling and get help signing up for training or classes elsewhere.

        So many teens and young adults have gotten alienated from the educational process over the past two years that really any refamiliarization with the classroom and demystification of the classroom will be helpful.


      2. Useful insights from having actually participated in an onsite program! I agree that giving people a way to see education as a positive again is a big bonus, and that education coming with employment can be a way. There’s a story I heard (and may have repeated here) about a WA program that helps youth get a GED + gives them an internship in the construction industry and I still remember the words of a 17 yo who was actively recruitied by a high school principal to join the program. She approaches homeless youth on the street to tell them about the program. He was an import from Idaho, living on the street, and he was so amazed and happy to have the opportunity to earn money and learn, you could hear the hope for the miracle in his voice.

        Starbucks has a college achievement program that they’ve touted as a benefit of employment: (through Arizona State U’s online program). The coffee shops wouldn’t support onsite classes, probably, but maybe there are other methods to facilitate.

        Amazon seems like it might have enough workers in some facilities to support onsite

        I would love to hear more about that program and how it plays out.

        Our local ballet company has a program offering scholarships to dancers when they “retire” (at 25, 30, . . . .) which I think is a good model, too. I just really want more on ramps for people; they won’t help everyone, but they can help those who experience disruptions, pursue other goals, are developmentally not ready for the ramp at 16 or 17 or 18, but don’t have the family resources to back up their need for exploration or delay.


      3. We’re being bombarded with news articles about workforce shortages ATM.

        Driven to a large extent by the 2 year shutdown on immigration (made it really evident just how much of our economy is dependent on an overseas-origin workforce). Everything from seasonal fruit pickers (both backpacking tourists, and contract workers from the Pacific Islands), through to medical, veterinary and IT professionals, and tradies. [our slang for tradesmen – builders, plumbers, electrician, etc.]
        NZ is also going through a massive infrastructure spend – new builds on everything from housing to roads, powerplants, and

        Lots of handwringing, and demands for the border to open (because *my* industry is important).
        But very little action, either at an industry level or through education, to consciously channel graduates to trades; *or* to open up the closed shop educational guilds (NZ only accepts 84 trainees a year into the 5 year vet programme, for example – it’s not even keeping pace with retirements – let alone the numbers who go overseas).
        Government has removed some financial barriers (e.g apprenticeships are free, 1st year uni is fees-free) – but this has had little effect (which makes me think that the barriers aren’t financial)

        There’s still a huge societal push for university education – and the tradie route is seen as a second class pathway. [I’m massively generalizing here] It’s a snob thing. Though a good sparky [electrician] or plumber or even builders, roofers and painters – is going to be earning more than the median wage (and quite a bit more than teachers, for example, who have a good solid middle class wage here in NZ). You also get paid to get your training – as part of the apprenticeship – so no big student loans to repay. And, there’s the possibility of advancing your career (specializing in things like high-tension lines, or rigging, or undersea cables), and/or owning your own business.

        My son’s school really focuses on getting their lowest achieving boys through NCEA Level 2 for English & Maths [NCEA is our qualification system, 3 levels in the final 3 years of school, mix of internal assessment and external exams – ‘points’ based, so you can mix-and-match your subjects for the best results]. Most apprenticeships require L2 English & Maths as an entry point.
        But it’s really common to see a boy with outstanding hard-tech marks (‘shop’ in the US? – woodwork, metal work, design, etc.), just scraping through the formal English and Maths subjects – a perfect apprenticeship candidate.

        However, workplace safety rules in NZ are really stringent – and you have to pass regular drug screening provisions to work in areas like forestry (actually, really dangerous). So any young people who have dropped out of school with drug issues, really struggle to find a work-based route out of unemployment.
        And, if they’ve had gang or criminal connections, bosses are unwilling to take a chance on them (you don’t want to risk a lot of very expensive equipment, or access to high-security areas).


      4. I saw a big banner at the post office today, saying that they’re hiring.

        And it’s obviously not for the Christmas season!


  5. I am wholeheartedly in favor of centering the continuing education (GED works for me, but other remedial, and potentially other skills focus) in the context of employment. I think that would be huge in potential retention both for employers and for the school commitments. And the employers, by paying the bills, would then have a right to shape the teaching for themselves.

    That gets bad press in the education community, the idea that we are not educating the children, but are constructing cogs for the forces of capitalism. And, when I’m paying for the education as a taxpayer, I want children (especially mine) to be offered education and not cog-shaping. But, if Amazon pays for it, then I don’t feel that moral obligation and I think Amazon knows best how to shape their own cogs.

    The pandemic seems like a good moment to make employers pay for employer-benefiting education of their workforce.

    (my answer, to Laura’s who should pay for it — employers, through taxes, direct development of educational ventures, . . . .)


  6. Another snippet on the Omicron outbreak in NZ (still waiting for the surge)

    “In the past fortnight, from January 23 to February 5, there were 1579 community cases of Covid-19.

    In that time, the highest number of cases (325)​ was recorded among the 10 to 19-year-old age group, data released to Stuff by the Ministry of Health shows.

    In total, 51.9 per cent of cases were among people aged 29 or under.”

    That looks like a significant shift from earlier Covid strains which predominantly affected 50+

    However, it needs to be read in the context that the vast majority of socializing in large groups and with strangers has been in the under 30 age bracket (who are both more highly motivated to socialize, and feel at least risk of ‘bad’ Covid). Things like music festivals are unlikely to attract the over 50 crowd 😉
    The over 50 socializing (among the Covid-conscious set) has been in family or friend groups, and tended to be outdoors (summer here), or in very well ventilated indoor spaces. Of course, that won’t protect them from wide-spread community transmission – but we don’t seem to have that yet.

    Also read in context of a significant proportion of this total is asymptomatic cases – so the teens who attended the music festival were all notified to get tested (even if no symptoms), but the older folks who had no particular reason to get tested, won’t have done so (but might still have un-detected Covid).

    The not-having-a-surge in community transmission bit, is interesting. I’m not aware of the time lag between Omicron appearing and exponential cases overseas. But my impression is that it was fairly short. We’re seeing case number tick-along at around 150-200/day – with little change. It’s up on the Delta infection rates, but not exponentially so.

    The PM is now talking about a late March surge – which seems …. strange…. If Omicron is that infectious, then we should be seeing it a lot sooner. Unless there really is something different about NZ….


    1. Ann said, “The PM is now talking about a late March surge – which seems …. strange….”

      Yeah. You could potentially be done by early March. A month is a really long time with Omicron.

      There may be some sort of data blip, but Hometown U. went from over 1400 active cases to about 5 active cases in less than 3 weeks. In the run-up to that, Hometown U. went from under 100 active cases to over 1400 active cases in under a month (late December-late January).


  7. I’d say the omicron surge has been peaking about a month after the start (eyeballed — have spent a lot of time eyeballing estimates of when changes in brain activity started, and am using those same skills It’s notoriously hard to estimate when a “surge” starts). So, that would put New Zealand’s peak at about the end of February. But, maybe New Zealand is different. For one thing, the weather is different now than those places that experienced winter/holiday surges.

    I am troubled by the slowdown of the drop of the peak in the UK, though it might just be a reflection of waves in different parts of the country. WA’s surge also had a strange shape.


  8. In the continued eye on the effect of pandemic schooling (closures, remote education, masks, . . . .) on schools, our city levies are passing handily and the county levies are also doing well (well beyond the 50% threshold). Bonds, which have to meet a 60% threshold might not all pass, though. So, at least in this concrete form, the public in my county and city still supports our public schools.

    Also keeping an eye on the rest of the state, where a small district on the Oregon border is suing because its voters haven’t approved their last 10 attempts at a levy and thus their students are learning in 1950s buildings. They are suing to say that more money should be provided by the state for capitol building projects. The district is poor (average income $36K) and the property base small.


  9. My two teens are going to be working for the first time this summer and I’m really excited to see how much they can make in the current hot labor market.



    This is from an Austin area TV news channel:

    “Amazon announced Tuesday they are looking to fill 125 jobs for transportation and fulfillment centers across the U.S. – even right here at Waco’s new fulfillment center.
    Amazon says all jobs start at nearly $20 per hour with benefits, starting on the first day of work. They are now offering 20 weeks of paid parental leave.
    In addition, a $1.2 billion enhancement to the Career Choice Program will pay for employees’ college degrees and will help with completing high school dimplomas [sic].”

    So Amazon is on it.


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