Lydster: Back to school regimen

my daughter is thriving

The new back to school regimen seems to be going well. My daughter’s high school eased into the new school year with online orientation with the principal and other school leaders on Day 1.

Further orientations for each grade and academy/school division followed. The parents were supposed to participate in this, though we had some technical difficulties.

On the third day, students attended their advisory period, got their regular schedules and the like. The following Monday, students began their schedule of virtual classes. For the next two weeks of class, they had a shortened school day, first in the afternoon, then in the morning.

That last week, students went to the high school to pick up materials and supplies. To keep everyone safe, students were assigned specific days and times to come to school based on their grades and last name. My daughter’s arms were sore for days with all the books plus two different calculators that she carried home.

Change of plans

The City School District of Albany had to change its plans for in-school learning for most of its ts older students. This was a function of “devastating anticipated reductions in state aid that could total as much as $23.2 million for the 2020-21 school year.”

Then the Board of Education confirmed a bunch of administrative changes for virtually every school in the district in early September. It was “part of district-wide staffing reductions.” Principals and assistant principals were either let go or reassigned, effective September 25, after the school year had begun. Imagine the disruption to the schools and to the people’s lives.

Ironically, the students from Myers middle school whose families have selected in-person attendance will attend classes on the first floor of Albany High’s new academic building. Apparently, there are mold and structural problems at my daughter’s former middle school.

With a little help from her friends

When school suddenly stopped in spring 2020, then restarted remotely, this was not a great time for my daughter. She largely tuned out after a few weeks, and only got through the school year because of the work she’d already done to that point. The death of her grandfather on April 22 did not help.

This semester, she had hoped to go back to in-school learning. Still, she knew what she would be facing by late August. The salvation is that a couple of her friends, Tee and Kay, have come over to our house and worked with her.

It is not without risk, I suppose, especially to me. I suppose I fall into that immuno-compromised group for COVID now, though the NYS infection rate is low. But my daughter is thriving when she had not been. THat’s critically important to me. I don’t want her flunking out of 11th grade.

Lydster: older music she knows

Destiny’s Child

destinys childWhile there was some music that I made sure my daughter knew about, most of it she learned on her own. And this includes tunes from well before she was born.

Some months ago, she would put on a mix of soul music from the 1990s when she took a shower. It was heavy on Destiny’s Child, which she seems to enjoy more than more recent Beyonce.
Waterfalls – TLC
Survivor – Destiny’s Child
Motown Philly – Boyz 2 Men

But I ask her HOW she knows other songs, most of which are even older, she says, “Everybody knows them.”
Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel. This might have been a function of a school assembly.
American Pie – Don MacLean
You’re So Vain – Carly Simon
Lean on Me – Bill Withers. incidentally, I had somehow never heard the Club Nouveau version until after Bill Withers had died
Take Me Home Country Roads – John Denver. This was on some kids’ album by someone else
Stayin’ Alive – BeeGees. She probably learned about CPR in school. But she knows no other songs by the group

More older music

My Sharona – The Knack
500 Miles – the Proclaimers. This surprised me a bit.
Purple Rain – Prince, about the only song of his she knows.
Under Pressure – Queen and David Bowie
We Are the World – USA for Africa
La Bamba – Los Lobos
Macarena – Los Del Rio. It WAS massive.

There’s also a lot of classic Motown she’s familiar with. Some she learned at school, some from me. Of course, she had learned The Beatles from me, and even danced to Strawberry Fields Forever some years ago.
I Can’t Help Myself – Four Tops
Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas
Help – The Beatles

We have something in common. There are songs we both know better as Weird Al parodies than the originals, and in fact, learned the original as a result of the variation. That may be true of another popular song.
Like a Surgeon – Weird Al
Like a Virgin – Madonna
Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bethlehemian Rhapsody. I asked her who was most famous to multiple generations, and one of her first picks was Freddie Mercury.

She turned us on to Hamilton: Alexander Hamilton. But I first played Hey, Ya – Outkast for her.

School days in the era of coronavirus

20 percent cut

school daysAll summer, the issues of whether my wife, a teacher, and my daughter, a high school student would return to their traditional school days were up in the air. My wife and I have been watching the seemingly endless stories about the perils of colleges and other schools that have already begun their semesters.

In the city of Albany, there was a big push to allow students and students a choice. The Albany School District had an August 24 enrollment choice deadline. Leading into that, the district held several “virtual forums to provide families with the most up-to-date information and the opportunity to ask questions.” Some were building-specific; these would explain the protocols in those particular spaces. There were also district-wide forums.

To be honest, I didn’t attend any of the events. My rationale was that I was all Zoomed out. I did, however, vote in the enrollment choice poll. We voted Yes to in-class learning. The infection rate for Albany County has remained less than 1%, despite a few stupid college parties.

Also, my daughter wanted to go back to school. She thrives as a social being and hated whatever ersatz learning the school was forced into in mid-March through June.

Plan I

Virtual student orientation for students and parents and guardians were organized. The topics included orientation to the new classroom environment, and health and safety protocols. Also, they provided orientation to Google Classroom and a virtual learning environment. Students would hear about appropriate social distancing protocols, and the use and requirements for masks and face coverings.

After virtual instruction for all students for a week, the schools would begin to “implement identified instructional model (in-person, hybrid, or virtual), with early dismissal each day. By Tuesday, Sept. 29, all schools would “implement full days of instruction” by the preferred mode.

The budget surprise

Oh, geez. Schools Hit with 20% Cut by Governor Cuomo Right Before Start of Tumultuous School Year. “New York State budget office informed school districts statewide that it was temporarily withholding 20 percent of the State’s payments. This presents a major challenge for all New York school districts,”

Cuomo and labor leaders have written to New York’s congressional delegates urging them to provide $59 billion to the Empire State “to avoid what the governor predicts will be devastating cuts on state and local services.”

And suddenly, after all of the planning for options, Albany High School will be all virtual in the fall of 2020. My daughter is not happy. Moreover, she complained that I hadn’t told her the news. Hey, she was just getting up when I was going off to work at 10:30 a.m…

Back to school

Meanwhile, my wife IS going back to in-person teaching. Protocols are in place, but they seemed to be tweaked on a thrice-weekly basis. As a teacher of English as a New Language teacher, she’s hoping to get a face shield. It’s difficult to show visually how to enunciate while wearing a mask.

My wife was less worried about herself than bringing something home to her somewhat older husband. We’re just crossing our fingers. And our toes.

This bit of satire is essentially true.

Lydster: the summer job, finally


Last year, my daughter had a summer job through the city of Albany’s Summer Youth Employment Program. It was her first actual job. She had taxes and Social Security taken out of her paycheck.

This summer, there was a pandemic that shut down the program. It’s not so much the money as it was something organized for her to do. Yes, she did some protesting and created some art. In fact, she combined the two by making a number of signs for the protests. She tackled some yardwork and power washed the front porch. But it’s better when she has a regular schedule.

She helped with a group of six to eight-year-olds in a program that my church contributes to. I’m of the opinion that friends and acquaintances of ours somehow created the position for her. It was only for two weeks, so she didn’t get too burned out by that.

It’s better than having her watch television all day. She watches some crime shows I actively hate.

why is this summer different from all others?

Of course, one of the elements that are different this summer is that we didn’t go on the extended family vacation. We had gone to a timeshare in Massachusetts, usually, for the past decade. COVID certainly affected that, to some degree. One of my daughter’s cousins is off to college and hasn’t even been home. Of course, the family dynamic has changed in no small way with the death of my FIL this spring.

And the three of us haven’t even gone on a nuclear family vacation. If we were to do so, it’d almost have to be in New York. The state has travel advisory. So if we were to travel to one of those 30-odd states, we’d have to follow a 14-day quarantine. so the longest trip we have taken is to see my MIL, 75 minutes away, and in New York State.

Obviously, we did not add to my daughter’s – or my – list of new states visited this summer. Maybe next year, if all goes well, we’ll travel to Minnesota for a family reunion.

Lydster: creating another Jesus


JesusI was quite unclear what my daughter’s specific motivation was. Suddenly, she needed to cut up magazines, and sort the pieces by color. Bye bye, old, unread copies of Vanity Fair.

Then she did a couple of drawings on 8.5″ by 11″ paper, one in green, the other in blue. She added digits as though she were creating a paint-by-numbers. And she was, of a sort. She was creating a code for the different colors, and the gradation within the hues. Using the copier, she made the primary image larger.

Our church had disposed of some old hymnals a couple of years ago, and we had three or four copies. One of them died for her art, as she arranged the pages as her background. There was no musical theme involved, BTW.

The living room was quite a mess as she glued pieces on the image she had hand-drawn. Here’s the result of her collage of another Jesus portrayal. It is roughly 30″ by 40″.

Is heaven segregated?

I found an interesting interview from NPR in June 2020. The Rev. Lenny Duncan is a black preacher in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. his 2019 book is Dear Church: A Love Letter From a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the US.

A couple quotes: “One of the things I talk about in the book is [the symbolism of Advent] — painting blackness as always in darkness, always as evil and bad, further away from the light of God and all that kind of language we use in our worship.”

And: “I believe that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America wants to be better. They just don’t know how. One of the things that we often underestimate with the power of white supremacy is that the people who are the sickest from it, often do not know that they are infected with it.”

The philosophers of the 18th and 19th century codified that notion. In Philosophy of History (Chapter 2), Voltaire argued that blacks were a separate, lesser species. Europeans felt the need to justify their discriminatory treatment of non-Europeans. So-called “empirical methods” readily allowed them to conclude that Indians and Africans were inferior people.

At some level, my daughter, who was in her confirmation class only last year, must be intuitively aware of all of this. We haven’t had specific conversations about what Jesus looked like. Her rendering of another Jesus is her truth.