Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 3: “Helping Students Find Their Voice”

We invited the NJCTE members who were awarded a grant to attend NCTE 2021 to share a reflection on their experiences at this year’s virtual convention. The third of three appears below, written by Marisol Ruiz:

I look around my classroom library and see the abundance of contemporary diverse literature that I offer my students. They have the many options that I lacked growing up. Thankfully, authors like Kelly Yang, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Erika Sanchez, Elizabeth Acevedo, and many, many more have changed that for today’s youth and the many adults that still need their experiences validated through these social justice warriors’ stories. These authors create spaces that allow individuals to feel and better understand their experiences, while granting them permission to also tell their stories, their way, and not the way the dominant culture has enforced over time. 

As a teacher, everyday I walk into the classroom and hope to make a difference in the lives of my students. I look at their individual faces and see the potential that each brings to our classroom. Their experiences and cultures make for a rich and engaging environment that builds self worth and validates who we are as individuals. Overall, I strive to create an environment that fosters and nurtures lifelong learners by helping students find their voice and tell their stories. My actions are always intentional, from the vulnerabilities I share to the stories I select, all are aimed to create individuals that see their reflections in books, find windows into different worlds, and slide into the thoughts of strangers that become family. 

This year’s NCTE Convention focused on bringing equity, justice, and antiracist teaching into the classroom to help meet the academic and social emotional needs of students in order to reach their full academic potential. Workshops provided educators the tools and guidance that one needs to help students find their voice by examining rich inclusive mentor texts and writing workshops that explore the multiple identities that students carry. Linda Sue Park’s passionate words, “Injustice and inequity flourish when not enough of us share our stories, and when those stories are not shared enough,” remind us of the important role that ELA teachers possess. WE need to help our students build their voice and craft as writers. Our students are the next generation of Jason Reynolds, George M. Johnson, Tiffany Jackson, David Bowle, Rex Ogle, and Tehlor Kay Mejia.

Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 3: “Helping Students Find Their Voice”

Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 2, “The Time We Are Given”

We invited the NJCTE members who were awarded a grant to attend NCTE 2021 to share a reflection on their experiences at this year’s virtual convention. The second of three appears below, written by Allison Kriess:

As a child, I hated to read. I know; it is so taboo for an English teacher to admit hating to read. But I feel like the honesty of it all helps me to connect with my students. I almost feel like hating reading is like a rite of passage. Everyone goes through it at some point. I had to struggle to see that I wouldn’t always be faced with books that I was being “made” to read, but that I would have choices. I’ve gravitated towards historical fiction and fantasy books for as long as I can remember. They were my escape from reality when things got tough, or my dive into the past to scratch the history itch that I often felt. When listening to the Former First Lady, Michelle Obama, talk about the profession of teaching and, “…doing what you can in the time you are given,” it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Because I’m also an avid movie watcher, I imagined the following being spoken by Sir Ian McKellan in his glorious British accent. He says, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” In a lot of ways, the two quotes are similar. As teachers, we have a certain amount of time with students. It can be a month, a semester, or even a year. But our time with them is limited. It’s up to us to decide how we want to spend that time; how we want to try and connect and reach them and help them to understand our passion as educators. We have to be courageous and tread uncharted territory in the classroom because, let’s face it, how many people do you know before 2020-2021 who taught during a pandemic? We have to be purposeful in our pedagogy and mindful of the needs of our students more than ever. And they may not thank us. They may not ever cross our paths again. But trust and believe that you’ve made an impact. 

The convention for me was a welcomed escape. I was able to sit and focus on the things that make me feel good about teaching and what I do. I was able to explore areas of interest to me such as the choice and voice of teachers and students, and using film to unlock literacy. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to experience the convention, I wouldn’t be planning how to use these tools to try to enhance the connections I make with my students. I wouldn’t have the ability to do my best with the time that is given to me. I’m truly grateful for this support and opportunity and look forward to not only the next convention, but many more to come.

Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 2, “The Time We Are Given”

Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 1, “We Must Not Be Silent”

We invited the NJCTE members who were awarded a grant to attend NCTE 2021 to share a reflection on their experiences at this year’s virtual convention. The first of three appears below, written by Megan Tenery:

In the midst of this year’s NCTE convention, I had the great fortune to hear George M. Johnson speak this truth: “Books aren’t exposing children to hard things, they are already experiencing hard things.” 

As an educator for the past 17 years, I have always strived to make my classroom a place where students can learn and grow, not only as students but as people. Students come to our classrooms often burdened with the complexities and hardships of their lives, and it is important that they see their stories in the books that we read. Seeing themselves reflected in the stories we read helps them to recognize that they are not alone and perhaps learn how to navigate the challenging waters that they are in. However, this school year has proven to be challenging when trying to uphold this philosophy. Concern over age-appropriate and controversial material in the classroom has muddied this process and has caused me to second-guess every move that I make for fear of backlash. Fortunately for me, I was able to attend this year’s NCTE’s annual convention. 

This convention was a breath of fresh air and a source of strength and inspiration for me. To hear notable people such as Michelle Obama, George M. Johnson, and Amanda Gorman emphasize the importance of what we do in the classroom and how vital it is for students to see themselves in the books we teach was invaluable. Session after session afforded me the opportunity to share ideas with incredible educators and help me reflect on my own teaching. 

Through the various sessions at the convention, I learned how to use different portals to lead my students into the medium of poetry. I learned how to select texts that will afford my students the opportunities to experience lives unlike their own as well as seeing their own reflected in the words. But most importantly, I learned from Kylene Beers that it is time for us to be brave and take a stand. We need to take a stand for our students and for their freedom to read and learn in ways that will challenge, comfort, and teach them. We cannot sit idly by and let others dictate, due to their own fear and discomfort, the books we teach and give to our students. We must not be silent.

Reflection on NCTE 2021 — Part 1, “We Must Not Be Silent”

Reflection on NCTE 2020

As NCTE 2021 gets underway, we’d like to share this post written by Courtney Kalafsky, who applied for and received funds to attend NCTE 2020 via NJCTE:

During my time as an undergraduate teacher candidate, I found myself surrounded by professors and mentors who were lifelong learners; their passion for growth and willingness to change with newfound knowledge instilled the same values in me. Once I began my teaching career, I always knew I wanted to continue to engage with professional development opportunities. Although I am very lucky to work in a district which truly supports me and encourages me to continue learning, most in-house professional development tends to be interdisciplinary, and my English teacher heart was still craving even more. I decided to apply for a grant to attend NCTE’s 2020 Convention, and was lucky to receive the funds. 

During the convention, I learned about effectively facilitating the revision process through intentional strategy. I listened to black authors discuss how they found their way to storytelling and how they hope to see black identities develop in fiction. I was privy to conversations about challenging the ways that things have always been, especially in regards to curricula, and placing students at the forefront of our decisions and practices. Most importantly, I was given the opportunity to ground myself, to forget about the to-do lists and the piles of grading, and to remember why I love teaching. Trevor Noah’s opening session reminded us of the universal value of not only storytelling and teacher, but of humor and laughter. 

In a time where everything was overwhelming and uncertain, NCTE’s 2020 Convention, its panelists, and my fellow attendees gave me clarity, inspiration, and hope. I am so thankful to have been supported in this experience, and look forward to the next convention!

Reflection on NCTE 2020

NJCTE Announces Teacher for the Dream Award Winners

NJCTE is thrilled to announce the two winners of our 2021-2023 Teacher for the Dream Award: Alexandria Lefkovits and Deborah Bartley-Carter. This award is a collaboration between the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Alexandria Lefkovits is currently a middle school Gifted & Talented teacher in New Jersey, transitioning from many years as a teacher of English Language Arts. Alexandria holds a BA in Comparative Literature from Yale University and an MS in Education focusing on Adolescent English Instruction from St. John’s University. She has spent 15 years nurturing her love of working with students — whether tutoring, launching an English-immersion summer camp in China, building a preschool Mandarin immersion program in Colorado, or delivering dynamic, literature-focused lessons.  She has taught across grades 6-12 and delivered instruction to Integrated —i.e., mixtures of ELLs, students with disabilities, and students on-level— and Honors-level classes; additionally, she has held the position of AP English Literature and Composition Teacher and prepared students for the AP English Language and Composition exam.

Though her official teaching career began in New York, Alexandria returned to her home state of New Jersey to pursue her passion for equity in education. Since her return, Alexandria has often found that she is the only teacher of color either on staff, in the English department, or in the general education setting. She believes that it is imperative to have teachers of color in general education and higher-level environments in order to avoid subconsciously affiliating high-need environments as being the natural domain of people of color; moreover, she insists that it is the duty of a robust academic program to ensure that multicultural perspectives permeate all areas and levels of learning. Authentic access to these perspectives demands the inclusion of the people holding them. Alexandria has already begun to address these concerns in her own school: serving on the Equity and Inclusion committee, developing an enrichment cluster complementary to the Gifted and Talented program that more accurately represents the demographics of the student body, and guaranteeing all students access to special opportunities irrespective of the perceived barriers of level or language. Alexandria is thrilled to be a recipient of the Teacher for the Dream Award and welcomes the opportunity to share her voice, experience, and ideas with the NJCTE and beyond.

Deborah Bartley-Carter’s lifework has been in education for 20 years. She advanced in her career from primary classroom teacher to district level leadership roles. As a Regional Instructional Specialist in Literacy K-12 in New York City and then District Supervisor of Language Arts K-12 in New Jersey, she worked to find innovative and sustainable ways to impact teaching and learning literacy. As an Assistant Principal in grades 6-12 in New York City, she worked with teachers and fellow administrators to design curriculum, support professional growth and build a thriving school community. 

Deborah continues to learn throughout her professional career. She has always been invigorated by her inquisitiveness and her quest for improving learning experiences for all students. She has been awarded grants to enhance and improve her skills as an educator through the Fund for Teachers, The National Endowment for Humanities, The Moth Teacher Institute and The Gilder Lehrman Foundation. In 2020, she received the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching and conducted her inquiry research at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. 

Deborah stays connected to the international education community by volunteering her time in programs for visiting Fulbrighters and organizations that support student exchange. She has served as a Board Member for several organizations in New York and New Jersey. She currently serves as a Board of Director for Valley Arts NJ in Orange, New Jersey and One to World in New York City. She was previously a Board member of Dancewave Dance School in New York City and Paulo Freire Charter High School in New Jersey. 

Deborah currently works at JH Brensinger School in Jersey City. She earned a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University and a Master of Arts from Teachers College at Columbia University. She is an active member of several committees and associations. She served as a local graduate chapter Committee Chair for the National Commission for Arts and Letters as a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is a member of the National Council for History Education, Kappa Delta Pi International Honor Society in Education,The National Council for Teachers of English and New Jersey Education Association. 

NJCTE Announces Teacher for the Dream Award Winners

The benefits of joy and gratitude

by Joseph S. Pizzo

At the initial NCTE SCOA meeting, the theme was “Joy.” It was defined as “the feeling that acknowledges satisfaction in oneself and in others as well.” During this pandemic, the main direction was identified as a critical component of both the personalities and the lives of all educators and families. 

We wrote about the topic of joy. We discussed our writings in both breakout rooms and a full meeting. Here is my note.

“Joy is reflected in the woman raising the child. We uplift as we mentor, but we gain from those we mentor as well. We experience confluencia as joy flows inward, but the experience is even greater when the confluencia follows its natural course and flows outwardly to share that which it has gained previously.”

At the second SCOA meeting held later in the day, we examined an article entitled, “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain.” Breakout rooms were again used so the article could be discussed in assigned sections. The notes from my group are as follows:

  • Positive emotion words, negative emotion words, and “we” words (first-person plural words) that participants used in their writing have an impact.  
  • The gratitude writing group used a higher percentage of positive emotion words and “we” words.
  • The lack of negative emotion words—not the abundance of positive—explained the mental health gap between the gratitude writing group and the other writing group.
  • Gratitude letter writing produces better mental health by shifting one’s attention away from toxic emotions.

Having a positive outlook and avoiding toxic thoughts and situations was found to lessen the use of toxic words in one’s daily lexicon. According to the authors Joshua Brown and Joel Wong, “many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.” The experimental group in the study wrote letters of gratitude while the control group did not.

The research study that was conducted by Brown and Wong involved “nearly 300 adults, mostly college students who were seeking mental health counseling at a university. We recruited these participants just before they began their first session of counseling, and, on average, they reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time. The majority of people seeking counseling services at this university in general struggled with issues related to depression and anxiety.” 

The main findings made in the article are as follows:

  1. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions.
  2. Gratitude helps (the individual) even if you don’t share it (in some form with others).
  3. Gratitude’s benefits… (emerge slowly over) time.
  4. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain. (“…when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.”)

The authors of the article conclude that “practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.”

I shall conclude my report by sharing the note of gratitude that I have written to my colleagues at NJCTE. 

Dear Friends,

I am grateful to all of you, my colleagues at NJCTE. We consistently have a range of different tasks to address and complete. It is important to know, however, that we gather our talents and combine our efforts to help any of us who may be in need. We acknowledge the commitments made to our organization and our membership by readily offering to help any member who may be in need. The unselfish nature of our organization makes me proud to be a member.

Thank you, NJCTE for your kindness of heart, your generosity of spirit, and your willingness to give of yourself to help others in need. 

Sincerely,

Joe Pizzo

The benefits of joy and gratitude

NJCTE OFFERS GRANTS FOR NCTE 2020 Virtual Convention

In recognition of and response to what has been a tumultuous year of teaching, NJCTE is offering one-time grants in the amount of $100 to five NJCTE members so that they may attend this year’s NCTE Annual Convention.

You must be a current member of NJCTE to be eligible. If you joined or renewed your membership after March 1, 2020, you are current. If you can’t remember, please consider re-joining. Membership is only $15 this year.

We will announce the winners, drawn at random, on November 9 at 8 P.M. The application form will be open until then. Please be considerate of the financial needs of others if your district or institution is already supporting your attendance at NCTE.

NJCTE OFFERS GRANTS FOR NCTE 2020 Virtual Convention

Call for applicants: NCTE/NJCTE Teachers for the Dream – Deadline Oct 31

Call for applicants: NJCTE Teachers for the Dream – Deadline October 31, 2020

The New Jersey Council of Teachers of English (NJCTE) seeks to address and support underrepresented teachers of color in New Jersey and within our own organization. The Teachers for the Dream grant, funded with the generous support of NCTE, will help NJCTE support teachers of color within the state and within the leadership of our organization. We also hope that this initiative will help us increase the diversity of our membership overall.

If you are a teacher of color, please consider applying: https://cutt.ly/NJCTEDream. If you are not a teacher of color, please share this application with a friend or colleague who might benefit from this award.

Call for applicants: NCTE/NJCTE Teachers for the Dream – Deadline Oct 31

Focusing on the Gains: Explorations and Creative Approaches In a Time of Loss

Originally published on NCTE’s Engage Now! Secondary Section blog

by Valerie Mattessich, NJCTE board member

These past few weeks have changed almost everything we typically experience about our days, and particularly, for those of us in education, our school days. The unwanted disruption caused by the nationwide Coronavirus pandemic can often feel like a loss for educators—a loss of our face-to-face time with our students; a loss of our time with our colleagues in which to discuss our craft and our challenges; a loss of routine, control, and intellectual and creative engagement throughout our day.

Rather than highlighting the negatives of our current situation, however, I choose to focus here on the gains that we have made as we recalibrate expectations, revise curriculum, and revamp the way in which we teach and learn. As a supervisor of instruction for English teachers, I have a birds-eye view of how my teachers have altered their approaches and begun to perhaps see things in a different light, either by allowing more space for student voice and choice in their courses or by giving themselves permission to try pedagogical moves they may have been reluctant to undertake in synchronous learning environments.

Here, I highlight the ways in which my teachers have been exploring “virtual learning” with their students.

Teachers have gotten creative, with one starting a virtual read-in with her students and another refining her “‘Music Monday” feature in her AP Language and Composition class. One teacher has shifted instruction from purely curricular, whole-class novel study to a student-driven reading identity exploration alongside a study of The Great Gatsby. Finally, a veteran AP Literature and Composition teacher has explored the virtual learning space around AP analysis and explication exercises to bring in more student response to poetry as it relates to the topsy-turvy world around us.

Learn more about these approaches below:

Keeping the Independent Reading Tradition Alive through a Virtual Read-in

From Pascack Valley High School English teacher Kate Overgaard 

A Virtual Read-In

Why?

Because it’s fun and community building. Hopefully.

Pick a day. Maybe a Wednesday? Optional attendance.

What happens?

Everyone reads.

Students should try to commit to 20 minutes.

Teachers read with video for the chosen duration. It feels awkward at first, but you’re modeling real reading.

What does it look like? How do people participate?

Through a muted video chat, Zoom, or Google Meet.

Participants add the book title and author to the chat.

  • “I’m here and I’m reading . . . (title and author).”
  • “Here’s where I am picking up (say something about the text).”

If students have Twitter, they can also post a Tweet that says “I’m joining the virtual read-in. I’m reading ____, plus good hashtag and @teacher name(s).”

Thank students for joining you!

If everyone agrees, take a screenshot with your books, because these are unique times that we’ll want to look back on and remember.

Here, Ms. Overgaard seeks to replicate a practice that already exists in her classroom, a set amount of time for independent reading to begin each class period, but in the virtual space. This allows for students and teachers to come together, see each other, and be in community around literacy practices. Overgaard and her co-teacher had only two students take her up on this initially, but she anticipates more students joining in as the weeks of virtual learning turn into months and students crave more contact with their peers and teachers.

 

Reader Identity Exposed and Explored

From Pascack Valley High School English teacher Brett Conrad and student teacher Daniel D’Amico

These two teachers of American literature to juniors had recently begun exploring the concept of reader identity in their work with students, as they move toward a workshop approach based on our departmental study of Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher’s 180 Days and integrated this with their standards-based approach to assessment.

The approach worked for a fairly seamless transition into the virtual space, as students were still able to work at their own pace toward proficiency in various skills. What came as a surprise, however, was what some students revealed about their reading practices when asked to discuss them. Mr. Conrad and Mr. D’Amico, in switching to the virtual space, saw the opportunity for more reflection time for students and wanted to prioritize that as they worked through The Great Gatsby.

They created this short writing prompt as a discussion board post for their students to complete and then reply to their peers about:

“Over the past few weeks we have read/watched The Great Gatsby in class, but this will be your first time reading the text independently. Reading a text independently presents a new array of challenges, and I want you to reflect on your reading process after completing chapter seven. Please respond to the following questions:

What is your reading process? (Did you perform an interrupted reading to stop and take notes? Did you read the chapter start to finish? Did you take breaks while reading? Did you use a supplemental reading tool like playing an audiobook while reading? Did you read in a certain spot in your house? Did you talk about the chapter with a family member? Did you refer back to chapters we already finished?)

Some student responses that struck these teachers are seen below:

  • My reading process is pretty normal (at least it seems so). I typically open the book or ebook and start reading until I’m either bored or until I’ve filled my reading requirement. I also don’t read every word on the page. I like to go through every page of the book and pick up important ideas. If need be, I do re-read the passage because sometimes I miss important stuff. Overall, my goal is to make reading a short event, instead of taking up a large portion of the day.
  • The REAP graphic organizer did help me understand the reading because it made me summarize the chapter, then back it up with quotes. The part with the quotes really helped me the most because it made me really know my stuff with the summary. I was skeptical at first but I think it actually worked quite well.
  • When reading The Great Gatsby, I used different methods depending on the chapter and the day. If I feel that I am having a hard time concentrating or understanding the flow of the chapter, I will listen to a recorded reading on the Internet. I personally feel that this helps me see the chapter as part of a story rather than words on a page when I am struggling. Otherwise, I just read the chapter in one sitting from beginning to end and take notes afterward. Regardless of how I choose to read the chapter, I always take a few minutes before I read to think about what happened in previous chapters and my predictions on what is going to happen.
  • I read in my room because that’s the only room where I can be somewhat alone. While reading Gatsby I jumped around the chapter. I started at the beginning, jumped to the end, and piece-mealed the rest of the chapter together by jumping around in the middle bits. It is the only way I can focus sometimes because I get so bored being locked away. I didn’t really like the REAP organizer because of the way it was formatted because I always felt like I was doing something a little wrong. When I read I like to read for enjoyment and absorb the information to share without the notes. I only think quotes are useful to support yourself in your paper.

Conrad and D’Amico realized that students’ reading processes were highly varied and idiosyncratic, something that isn’t readily apparent in high school English class, where students congregate in the same room to either read independently at a student desk or listen to a chapter of a curricular text read aloud by the teacher.

As Conrad and D’Amico now have a window into students’ habits of mind when reading, they can plan interventions, graphic organizers, and other supports to aid students as they make their way through an online version of Gatsby.

They also plan to have students create an entire synthesis project based on their reader identities as a culminating assignment for the year. Thus, the “disruption” of moving to virtual learning actually deepened these teachers’ knowledge of their students as readers, and allowed them to use this knowledge to not only plan future instruction differently, but also asked students to begin to iterate their own literacy practices, likely not something they had been asked to do in the past. 

 

The Power of Music and the Discussion Board

From Pascack Hills High School English teacher Alexandra Pfleging

When I first started teaching AP Language, I found that reading speeches with students was important, but I wanted them to understand the rhetorical strategies without also navigating some of the more difficult texts.

I had the idea to choose a Taylor Swift song (“Love Story”) to teach logical fallacies. Moving forward, every Monday I chose a song that we would first listen to, write about, then discuss in regards to rhetoric. I would anchor the song in another text or world event, and try to push students to draw their own conclusions. For example, we read a text about stress during the holidays, and how this may be related to family. We then listened to When You Love Someone by James TW, a song about divorce. By this time, I asked students to start picking their own songs, and assigned the remaining Mondays left in the school year to groups.

I could have easily kept those dates and had the remaining students upload their work, but that did not feel right. So, while keeping with the tradition of Music Monday, I am asking the class to choose songs individually each week. Last week they chose a song and had to explain how the lyrics related to how they were feeling. Through this assignment, I was able to understand what students were going through, while students were able to reinforce what they already learned about rhetoric. They had to cite specific lyrics, which also helped their skills in writing claim-based arguments.

This week students had to choose a song playing in the background of a scene from a movie or television show. Everyone is watching a lot of Netflix; this assignment helped keep them focused on the beauty of analysis, even when they are streaming their favorite shows.

I hope to continue with Music Monday for the rest of the school year, adding variation towards different purposes or occasions.

What is gained through continuing this assignment?

  • More introverted students can and do express themselves more freely than in f2f class
  • Better relationships grow with students who can ‘get lost’ in other classes
  • Peers learn more from each other this way too because more voices are heard

 

Poetry to Pursue Reflection on Our Times

From Pascack Hills High School English teacher Virena Rossi

Of her choice to not only have students in her AP Literature and Composition class analyze poetry the “AP way” but also reflect upon its meaning to them in this precise moment, Rossi writes that teaching virtually is “not necessarily either/or. I just felt like now there’s time for AND. They can respond to this but also read and analyze metaphysical poets. Carpe diem has a different meaning today than it would have a month ago.”

Her prompt and some ensuing student responses encapsulate this ethos and are seen below.

Read the poem “Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda. (This poem is available online via search.)

  1. Choose 1 or 2 lines that speak to what you are thinking or feeling in the present moment. This doesn’t have to be today, but can be more generally in the present situation. Explain why you chose them in several sentences.
  2. Choose 1 or 2 lines that speak to your hope for the future. This doesn’t have to be the immediate future, but can be more generally after we have stopped social distancing and can get back to school / work / friends / family. Explain why you chose them in several sentences.

Examples of student responses:

Parker L.: “I chose the line ‘It would be an exotic moment.’ I think this line can describe an event that is either surprising or long overdue. I long to see my friends in the near future. I want to not be judged based on idio-syncracies in the future. I want everyone to be treated as equal in the future, not this cliche idea of ‘equal’ we have right now, because it’s not really working out. I want to see change in the future. But when people think a viral epidemic is justification to be outwardly racist to my people, we get nowhere. When race is a factor used in college and job admissions to ‘check me,’ we get nowhere.”

Heather F.: “Those who prepare green wars, / . . . and walk about with their brothers”—I think that these lines represent my hopes for the future. I hope that when all of this is over, when we get back, everyone won’t just pick up where they left off. I hope that everyone continues to stay connected in the sense that we all worked together and survived this. That wars won’t just continue on as usual, that people will stop to think about why we are fighting in the first place. The world right now is a scary place, with wars and fighting affecting almost every country in some way. I hope that maybe everyone learns that we aren’t so different and some good will come out of this scare event. But that might be just a bit too optimistic.

Hallie W. : “The lines that speak most to how I am feeling in the present moment are ‘What I want should not be confused/ with total inactivity.’ On a typical day, I am usually very busy and have little time to do things that I want to do. Now that everything is canceled, I finally have the time to do things for myself. A majority of people feel bored and like there is nothing to do in quarantine, but I have been using this time to my advantage to work out, eat better, sleep more, and take time for myself to relax and reflect. Even though I am not what I consider to be traditionally busy anymore, I am not just sitting around letting the days pass me by.”

Shawn S.: “I think being in isolation should show everyone how life doesn’t need to move that fast, and because it can go away at any moment, we should appreciate every moment we have. I think that ‘everything seem[ing] dead’ should teach us that sometimes we are most connected to life in these times because this is when we have all the time in the world to sit down and consider what we have to be thankful for.”

Focusing on the Gains: Explorations and Creative Approaches In a Time of Loss