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100 Years Ago, 100 Years From Now…

2020 December 29
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by Mike Vial
During the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, some people poked holes in their masks to smoke, protesting local ordinances. Anti-mask leagues abounded, but most abided.

100 years later, we don’t gaze upon these photos of perforation with pride. We see, with clarity, those choices as misguided actions; however, we also pause, and look upon other questions:

100 years from now, what will our great grandchildren observe about our actions during this coronavirus pandemic? What will our time capsules of social media reveal about our nature? Did we protect ourselves and neighbor? Or did we pierce and puncture holes in safety, then publicly share and propagate? We all play a role in this group project.

I pray that future generations can feel pride in our next four to six months. They may applaud our miraculous, scientific speed as we vaccinate populations, but they will also note the miracles present in your daily sacrifices, your stamina, your conviction.

If you, too, feel another plague periodically—the plague of losing hope—remember, your photos of sacrifice sustain my hope, and maybe mine yours. Pandora’s box will close; hope will remain.

Our Place in the Universe this Holiday Season

2020 December 13
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by Mike Vial
During his 1933 inaugural address, FDR bluntly said, “They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish…” FDR addressed more than a ruinous Wall Street; he reminded America that “there was nothing to fear but fear itself.”
As I read his words in a modern light, I reflect upon how we have people using credit cards to pay rent, families forced to steal $15-20 of food to supplement the mouths of their children, and 13,000 people dying—this week alone—from a virus that thrives when we gather. I’m fearful, fearful that too many have given up on their personal responsibility of being a democratic citizen; abandoned their recognition that they are a potential host for Coronavirus, when contact tracing is overwhelmed; forgotten their ability to be an empathic neighbor.
We all have a small, yet connected place in this universe.
The vision of our holidays will be colored by Covid-19. We must applaud those who continue to sacrifice, sharing their meals with a smaller table, so we can beat this curve. We must do our part, so our health care systems don’t implode, especially in the rural, underserved corners of our country. We must reach out to our neighbors, safely distancing, so we remain socially connected. We must support our youth, not with assignments for points, but points of conversation, reading, writing, and reflection.
My wife and I cried this morning when we read the news that teachers in Michigan will be vaccinated sooner than predicted. We cried when we thought of friends who have lost family to this virus. And I cry when I continue to see a lack of mask wearing in a community I care about, tears that feel futile.
We can also have tears from joy and laughter. May your weekend be blessed, with poetry and music, family and faith, and forward-thinking.
I share these poems my virtual class read during the December weeks:
  • “Bad Day” by Jamaal May (here)
  • “At Dusk” by Natasha Trethewey  (here)
  • “Man Said to the Universe” by Stephen Crane (here)
  • “i thank the universe…” by Rupi Kaur (here), and
  • “The Universe as Primal Scream” by Tracy K. Smith (YouTube; here).
Join us in a thematic reflection about our place in the universe.


Progress Reports: Recharge Our Mental Health

2020 October 10
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by Mike Vial

Happy Saturday! Alton is still sleeping, so Paw Patrol is on pause here in the Vial/Burg household; however, DJ Ginny is awake, and the song of the morning is Trolls 2, “Just Sing”. I guess this is better than the “Pup Pup Boogie,” right?

Today will be a perfect autumn day: The myriad of colors in the trees remind me that no matter how disappointing this pandemic can be, there are moments to make the best of it. Ginny and I will take our dog, Lois, for her first walk in two weeks. (She’s not out of the woods with her pneumonia and health complications, but we think she is ready for a walk in the park.)

What will you be doing today, for you? Friday revealed to me that I needed a major mental health recharge. Do you feel that way, too?

I need to drink at least one less cup of coffee, play one more hour of guitar, lace up my running shoes for short jog; read a few poems by Rupi Kaur or Billy Collins, and pick out some happy poems for our class next week; read the new best seller novel Dear Justyce (the sequel to Dear Martin); go to bed at a reasonable hour tonight; call a friend I haven’t seen in seven months; write a little bit in my notebook, whether it be a few lines of verse, lyrics, or prose.

Like above, write our your list of actions that you want to do. Then go make some time to do it.

We are in a group project to “live with the virus” and protect others during the pandemic. All must participate, but we also must focus on recharging before Monday.

And Monday, progress reports are due for teachers at Huron, but today is Saturday. Let’s make Saturday about mental health. The world is bigger.

Sincerely, Mr. Vial


For the Covid Longhaulers, a Plea to Refrain from Hosting Homecoming Parties

2020 October 8
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by Mike Vial

Ginny says, “Wear your masks! Keep my teacher safe.”

This is a plea, from a teacher finishing week five of mask-to-mask/hybrid teaching.

I’ve now heard another family plans to host another unofficial homecoming party, this time renting a hall, so I’m going to be really blunt here:

On October 7, it’s reported another 994 people died of Covid-19 in the United States, but what I fear right now are more longhaulers.

Oh, you still don’t know that term? That’s because they haven’t gotten enough attention.

Recently, I asked three adults, ones who weren’t wearing masks correctly or at all, if they had heard of longhaulers; none of them knew this growing crisis caused by Covid.

I told them what a longhauler was, and now I’m going to tell you:

A longhauler is a person who contracts Coronavirus, and the Covid-19 symptoms don’t go away for two, four, six months. We still don’t know why.

*There are many longhaulers.*

Doctors didn’t believe these patients at first in April and May. They had to create their own support groups, often on Facebook. Epidemiologists are studying longhaulers now, since May.

Here’s the irony: The majority of long-haulers are women, between the ages of late thirties, early forties.


And more: These people were usually healthy and active before getting Coronavirus: Parents, runners, bikers, etc.

They now face long days and can’t live a normal life yet. Some days, they feel like they are getting better. They try to be a bit more active. They go for a longer walk. The next day, they can’t walk without being out of breathe. That’s just one common, longhauler symptom.

Science journalist, Ed Yong, from the Atlantic, has been reporting about it *since May.* I know three people–all musicians–who are long haulers.

When I hear about another family in a school district planning to rent a hall for an unofficial Homecoming party, I’m fearing my wife becoming a long-hauler. The last parties were attended, maskless. The photos are out there.

I’m doing what I can to protect you, my students, my staff. I bought a large room Honeywell HEPA Air Purifier for my classroom; I’m wearing an N95 mask to work now; I have not expanded my social bubble beyond my work circle; I haven’t seen a friend (beyond my colleagues) in SEVEN months; my parents have not seen their grandkids since August.

After teaching in an N95 mask all week, my face looks like a nurse after a shift at the ward. But I do it–because I mostly want to protect my wife from getting the virus.

Yet every party thrown is another chance that two weeks later, an entire classroom will be quarantined, even the school closed for a few days.

There are students barely getting by right now. I don’t want their routines disrupted. I don’t want them getting less sleep.

Please, parents, you need to be parents. We have to sacrifice now, so the physical school can continue tomorrow.


CDC Says Coronavirus Airborne, What Parents Can Do to Help Schools

2020 October 6
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by Mike Vial


I’m glad the CDC has acknowledged what parents and teachers already have known for months: Coronavirus spreads in the air.

As a parent, I’m calling all of you parents to be vocal about safety for your children. Many schools will be returning in October or November, joining me, as a teacher, in what I’ve been doing for five weeks.

I’m sharing this list of tips as a parent of two kids. When I’m thinking about the safety of my child, I’m advocating for their needs, if and when we return.

Do you want your kids safe in schools? Here’s a list of things WE AS PARENTS CAN DO:

1. Most Important: Air Safety In Classrooms
Email your school’s leaders and school board about air safety.

According to Harvard research, 90% of school buildings were not meeting air quality expectations before the pandemic.

* * * There must be upgraded filters in the HVAC or air purifiers in the rooms to actually say that we have done everything we can to ensure safety for staff and students. * * *

Listen to Joseph Allen from Harvard on On Point from 8-11 minutes of this interview, and ask your school leaders what they are doing NOW:…/2020/07/27/back-to-school-safely

If admin says they are only doing what’s required of them, then tell them that’s not enough now, during an airborne pandemic. Start calling your state reps and addressing this concern. We as parents must sound the alarm on this.

And we must do this before the weather gets so cold, and flu symptoms complicate classrooms.

The CDC just acknowledged this is an AIRBORNE pandemic. The truth is there is an incongruence of requirements in the classroom, which isn’t school leaders’ fault.

But here it is, none the less:

15 minutes or more of exposure in a classroom that can only ensure three feet distance means one positive Covid case in the room causes most people in that room to be quarantined for two weeks.

The rules required to run class are different than the effects of contract tracing after there is a positive case.

2. Review correct mask wearing with your child. If noses are out, aerosols are out, too, in the air.

3. Review social distancing rules in the halls with your young adult. They will naturally get lax. We are in this together. Do not shame kids. They are doing the best they can, and they turn to us for guidance, reminders, and confidence building.

4. Don’t send your children to school sick. Have a plan of someone who can watch them this year.

5. Advocate for your child’s needs about homework expectations.

Teachers can’t treat school curriculum like they would in a normal day, but we have never tested out our online lessons before. We are creating this in real time, like jazz musicians.

If teachers are stressed finding the time and energy to “grade” the work, then they must also recognize students are stressed trying to complete homework during a pandemic.

But kids don’t tell their teachers when they are stressed unless asked. Parents, we must help students and teachers have this conversation.

6. If your young adult child claims they are focused at home, but you see missing work on the online gradebook, they are not telling you the full story.
Parents ask me what they can do to help their young adults in Language Arts, and the most important thing is guiding the child to have a system of knowing do dates and making task lists. Knowing how long an assignment should take, and gauging why it’s taking them double or triple to complete it.

Guide the child to email the teacher when they are confused and need extra time. Make a schedule with them. Teach them to use task lists to prioritize.

7. Advocate for your child’s late work (in reasonable amount of time) to be graded for full credit.

Students can’t expect to turn in week one work during week five, but they must know we are supporting them in their education, not playing a game.

8. Ask your child weekly how well they are sleeping.

There is a 75% chance your young adult, your high schooler, isn’t getting enough sleep. They weren’t before the pandemic, and us adults are struggling to get enough sleep during the pandemic, too. Lack of sleep increases stress and anxiety; it affects memory.

* * *

In conclusion, remind your kids, weekly, this is not normal. Remind them that they are doing their best, and we are proud of them. Remind them that their teachers are doing their best, and we are proud of them. Remind them that support staff and administrators are completing a Herculean task, and we are appreciative of their countless hours of work.

Remind your children and young adults that all of us are experiencing the pandemic at the same time.

We can do this. My school community is revealing that we can do this. All of us are going to have set backs, but you can too. I believe in us. We can get our kids back in school safely. But this is a group project that all must participate.