The quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s

I was reading the Chronicles of Avonlea. It’s a collection of short stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery (she who wrote Anne of Green Gables). The stories are so good!

One of them was about a quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s. I hadn’t paid attention to the title, but then, boom, halfway through, there it was … a smallpox epidemic (this story was published in 1912), and the Board of Health was involved, and police were guarding the houses of people under quarantine to make sure they didn’t stir out. And here I was, also in quarantine unexpectedly over 100 years later. It was quite a surprise to see our current situation reflected in the story. If I’d read this at any other time, I would have thought: oh, how quaint, they had disease outbreaks back then and had to quarantine, such a bygone era!

Contact tracing, quarantines — it was all in there. Except they (in the book from 1912) were actually taking it seriously, and had a whole protocol in place, from the Board of Health to the doctor to the police. Not the happy-go-lucky as-God-wills-it approach we seem to have taken. Here’s the main bit, and you can read the full two pages below that:

IMG_20200525_170746 excerpt quarantine

 

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Anne of Green Gables, the match-maker

I’ve been re-reading a lot of the Anne of Green Gables books over the last year. In Book #6 (Anne of Ingleside), Anne is getting ready to match-make. But it’s  not the first time Anne has match-maked, because she then lists off all her earlier conquests:

I’m really an adept. Think of all the matches I’ve made … or been accused of making … Theodora Dix and Ludovic Speed … Stephen Clark and Prissy Gardner … Jane Sweet and John Douglas … Professor Carter and Esme Taylor … Nora and Jim … and Dovie and Jarvis …

I was always confused reading this list, because even though I’ve read the books dozens and dozens of times, I could not remember these matches! So were these matches that occurred behind the scenes and were never described in the books?

Well, I have since investigated and discovered where you can find these stories. They are in more out-of-the-way books about Anne:

Chronicles of Avonlea: this book isn’t officially one of the eight “Anne” books, and in fact, it’s not really a book. It is a series of short stories — very lovely short stories — and Anne pops in and out of some of them. The unions of Theodora Dix/Ludovic Speed and of Stephen Clark/Prissy Gardner comprise two of these stories.

Anne of Windy Poplars: This is the fourth Anne book, and it’s the one I’ve read the least, mostly because we didn’t have it at home, and I don’t think it was in the library a lot of the time, either. But I re-read it for the second time just last year, and I discovered that the matchmaking of Professor Carter/Esme Taylor and Nora/Jim and Dovie/Jarvis all take place in this book.

That leaves Jane Sweet and John Douglas. Apparently this match occurs in book #3, Anne of the Island. Which I also re-read just last year but alas! I don’t remember this story.

Me and Anne Shirley teaching: Animations with Kids

I just finished re-reading Anne of Avonlea (the sequel to Anne of Green Gables.) In that book, Anne is sixteen-and-a-half years old and starts teaching, and of course, she becomes the best teacher the kids ever had.

I always liked reading this book. I loved reading about Anne as a teacher. Except this time when I read it, I realized how little it actually focuses on the teaching itself. Most of it is about everything else going on in Anne’s life.

But as far as the teaching parts go – it was good for me to re-read about that, because it is imbued with Anne’s philosophies as far as teaching go. And her philosophy is to be very kind and inspiring.

If you’ve been reading about my challenges as I run my “Science Animations with Kids” program, then you will know that no matter how inspiring I try to be, I still don’t always reach the kids. My foundational philosophy with this program is that all kids love to be creative; and all kids especially love Disney films and animated films. And if they are given a chance to make a computer animated film about science, then they will learn the value of teamwork, computers, taking care of the earth, reading, creativity, and science careers all at once. I mean, how can you get more inspirational than that?!

And yet, I had second-graders laughing at the work other second-graders did; and I had the girl Anna who I snapped at when she leaned back; and I had the other girl, Leah, who just up and turned her back and nearly started to cry when it was her turn. Those have been some rough moments.

Reading about Anne’s philosophy of kindness, I realized that I just not the kind of person who can live up to that. I am not patient enough, I’m not tactful enough, not soothing enough. When I get the attitudes of different kids flung in my face, my instinct is not always to try to “understand” and be gentle and mothering; rather, I want to fling their attitude back in their face.

I had a pretty bad day with the fifth-graders at Wolf Meadow two weeks ago. When I walked into the class, Anna – who I sadly correctly predicted I had lost the trust and respect of – gave one glance my way and immediately ripped out a groan: oh, she’s here again?

That’s a nice entrance to have when you’re volunteering, of course. The teacher told her right away: Anna! That was very rude. Apologize!

I honestly don’t know whether Anna apologized or not. I am sometimes slow to take in what is happening. I might not even have noticed what Anna said had not the teacher commented on it, or realized that Anna’s outburst was directed towards me. But as soon as my brain caught up, I simply decided I didn’t want Anna’s apology; I just didn’t want to work with Anna at all.

During that same class period, I managed to work with 3 kids in total; that’s pretty slow progress. It wasn’t because the kids were being slow, they were just being careful. But the slow progress was starting to frustrate me nevertheless, plus at this school I don’t have the luxury of having hours of time allotted when I can pull kids to animate with; all the time is kind of on a strict diet, if you will. The last kid I worked with that day, “Evan”, ended by making me really mad. After he was done animating, he told me: because I animated with you, now I won’t have time to build me connect-a-Lego! (some sort of construction building-block game.) I thought to myself: hello! This might be the only time in your life that you get to make a computer animation, and you’re complaining that you didn’t get to build your connect-a-Lego that you can access in class any old day? That’s gratitude for you! Out-loud I just told him curtly: then you should have told me from the start you didn’t want to do this, and I could have gotten another kid to animate your page.

Evan stayed still for a while as he wrapped his brain around this thought; and I did feel a little bit bad! I remember being his age, and feeling like when a grown-up told you to do something, not realizing that you have an option to say ‘no’; because so often you actually don’t have an option to refuse. How was Evan to know that he could have refused me?

He then bounded off to play with connect-a-Lego; but class ended shortly thereafter. As the kids filed out for lunch, someone called out, Evan’s crying. And indeed he was; he was squatting on the floor, over his beloved Connect-a-Lego, crying his heart out because class was over and he had to put everything away. “But I was almost done!” he wailed. His teacher, who has a heart of gold, tried to sooth him. But I did not! I did not feel bad or sorry for him; I felt mad. Like what am I doing with this project if Evan’s going to cry about it, and Anna’s going to groan?

I went home that day to an email inbox full of job rejections; oh, I was in a state, let me tell you!

The next day, I yelled at some people and felt better. I went back to Wolf Meadow, and luckily, no kid started crying when they had to animate with me.

The next week, when I was back at Wolf Meadow again, Evan came up to talk to me, all normal. I guess he has forgiven me for stealing his connect-a-Lego time. And I hope he will enjoy watching his part of the animated film when it’s all over. Anna is apparently a lost cause for me. But something surprising happened with the other girl with whom I’d had a hard time, Leah.

Ever since she’d gotten into a huff with me, she’s been hanging around when I animate with other kids. She’ll throw glances my way. Last Friday, a girl called “Miya” – who maybe is friends with Leah – did a very cool thing. She got the scientist in the program to walk across the screen. Miya did a great job, so I was squealing in praise of her. Leah showed up next to us! “Is that fun?” she asked in a very kind and very humble way to Miya. I pretended not to notice. Miya kept on making the scientist walk, and by the time she was done, we had a little audience behind us. Everyone was clapping Miya on. This is, by the way, one of the moments that does make me feel good about this program; because I don’t think Miya is someone who gets a lot of praise for accomplishments on the regular. But now she was having this special moment.

Suddenly, who should sidle up next to me but Leah? She dropped onto her knees so her head was level with mine (I was seated) and she said: Dr. Mejs, I’m sorry I was rude the other day.

And just like that, we made up. We talked a bit, and shook hands, and I can’t wait to animate with her now!

The teacher saw our interaction, and after the class had left for lunch, she asked: “so you’re good now with Leah?”

“Yep!” I answered. “She apologized.”

“What?!” The teacher was very surprised, which in turn made me surprised.

“I thought you’d told her to apologize,” I said.

“Not me! When she walked into class today, Leah told me, ‘I still haven’t animated my page. And I don’t want to, either!'”

You’ve got to love the defiance! I’m glad she changed her mind, and I think it speaks volumes that she apologized off her own bat, without any prompting. It was a good ending to this particular episode. So I’m not at Anne Shirley-levels of greatness in teaching; but I hope that I am doing more good than harm.