Taking Things One Week At A Time And Playing With Shimmer Sharpies…

Well, I think this week’s blog may take on two different themes because I just don’t think my brain has been thinking in a solid frame of mind all week. I am feeling the pressure of the semester and just trying to keep my head on straight throughout this online semester. Also, I am trying to allocate the time for myself to open up and feel creative without the pressure of needing to post something about it.

Let me start with the not so fun stuff, like laundry that has piled up to the point where you have no more clean pants. Or that therapy appointment you know you should go to, but you are insisting to yourself that it’s going to take up too much time, so you don’t go but instead of being productive you just scroll through social media. Not to mention the hours’ worth of homework you are actively procrastinating while you imagine all of the ways your classmates could be judging you during zoom classes.

Life is moving so fast that in one moment I may feel like I am rocking productivity and the next I am literally laying on the ground crying because I don’t think I’ll have enough time to read everything. I am the type of person who is always looking ahead, trying to plan and strategize for any future inconvenience while still trying to put out all of the current fires in life. In some respects, I think this has helped me throughout life because I am hardly ever surprised, but when I am surprised it sends me off my rocker.

I think as I grow older the number of things that can be planned out and strategized for continues to dwindle because with age comes the wisdom that nothing is predictable. So, my ability to constantly look to the future may help me with school projects but for the majority of life that isn’t schedulable, I think it makes it harder for me.

That is why I have been practicing taking things one week at a time since I have started the fall semester. Breaking my energy up into weeklong segments allows me to focus my time on the tasks at hand while still being able to look to the future but just for a week or so. If I try to think of all the projects, I’ll have to turn in by the end of the semester I just end up stressing myself out. Each week all I need to worry about is doing the reading for each of my five classes, complete two to three quizzes, post to discussion boards, complete two to three weekly projects, and of course attend my classes.

Within that week, each day I just focus on finishing whatever tasks are due first and I cannot explain how much this way of thinking has changed my life. So, maybe a week is too short for you, or too long but either way I truly believe that at least consciously knowing every task you need to complete and when is a game changer to productivity.

With this method of mental organization, I usually end up leaving my painting or creative time for the weekends. More often than not I just find time for my creative endeavors in the evenings or early mornings when I can convince myself I have caught up on homework. There have been a few days that I chose to focus my mental energy on something for my little business rather than homework and I quickly regretted it when I came out of the creative trance.

Needless to say, creativity sometimes takes a backseat when I feel like I have a million other responsibilities and I couldn’t tell you why it makes it harder when I feel the pressure to post on my social media outlets. Considering I don’t want to see myself fall out of practice, or worse just stop altogether, I have been channeling my inner silly and trying to have more fun.

Since I try to finish a painting every week, this week I wanted to add a little something extra to the art. I painted a typical scene I find easy, some clouds and a mountain top, but the dried product was so bland I decided to add some sparkle. Metallic Sharpie’s are always fun to write with, so I picked some up and went to town on my boring painting, trying to create something new and exciting.

The first stroke was the scariest because I knew that I couldn’t really paint over it unless I wanted to completely restart my painting and video. Once I placed that shimmering gold sharpie tip on the canvas I just hoped for the best and glided it across the slightly defined mountain tops. By the time I got to decorating the clouds I was just playing around with different shapes and patterns but eventually decided on a simple dot effect, this meant I had to fill in quite a bit of my mistakes.

In the end, I was left with a simple sparkling design (if you catch it in the right light). It may seem silly and I’m not sure exactly when else I could use this technique, but I did enjoy getting to do something brand new to me. I think it freshens up creativity and hey now I’ve got a new multi-medium art piece. Thank you for reading this week’s blog and make sure to check out the video of my sharpie creation!

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.

In-Person Learning Amidst A Global Pandemic…

I’m not really sure how to start this topic because so many people are starting school again and there is a lot of “nervousness” in the air. There have been emails after emails sent from the schools to parents and students that are detailing strategies to not spread COVID – 19 and new safety procedures, check-in procedures, the possibility of everything being shut down if we don’t all just comply to all of the rules.

There were police officers at the entrances to my school, where we are supposed to show our school ID, answer one question about whether we have symptoms or not, and get a thermometer pointed at our forehead to ensure that anyone entering buildings isn’t sick. Then we get a colored wristband to show we are “safe”.

All of this makes sense given our circumstances and I know everyone is doing the best they can with what they have, but it is strange. Masked faces everywhere, more students sitting outside then I’ve ever seen before, half of the benches and chairs inside turned upside down. I didn’t even think to explore my library or bookstore yet, but I was so determined to find my classroom because it was a busy morning.

Entering a classroom for the first time since March was freakishly bizarre. I only have one in-person class this semester and the rest of my schedule is online or through ZOOM, so I was so curious to see how an in-person class would be set up during this pandemic.

There is only one chair to each desk (the desk itself is probably 5 feet long or so). The teacher was nice enough to buy everyone a composition notebook and have notecards and any other material she wanted us to have laid out on each desk. There was hand sanitizer spray, sanitizing wipes, spray, any kind of disinfectant you can imagine.

This teacher is fantastic and even tried using the face shield she had too because it was a bit easier to hear through, plus we could actually see her face. I can tell already that this is a teacher I am going to like because the second thing she discussed on her long list of discussion topics for the day was a bit of a woman’s history with the 19th Amendment. She had my respect from that moment on, I can tell she cares about teaching because she was taking every precaution, then some.

She expressed how hard it was for her students to adjust to online learning in the spring and how she wants to try everything in her power to keep us learning in person. This class requires a lot of in-person activities and projects, (it’s Introduction to Education), and now I see why this was the only one of my classes that stayed as an in-person class this semester.

Nonetheless, it is a jarring scene to witness your instructor present her speech through a plastic face shield that has bulky padding around her head that pushes her hair up unevenly and leaves some hairs poking straight out. Everyone’s voice is muffled with cloth in front of our mouths as we try to introduce ourselves, even though we can’t show so much of our expressions hidden behind the masks.

This is a vastly different experience compared to my first year of college which began completely normally but ended with a stay at home order. Now everyone is trying to find a sense of normalcy among the new CDC guidelines along with our own state guidelines. The staff is trying to make everything as safe as possible; the students seem to be following the necessary steps to stay on campus safely, and all the while faculty are passing out freebie bags all around campus.

My level of commitment is far more limited than that of my instructors because I only have to be on campus for about an hour and a half (including travel time). I am following all of the guidelines and wearing my mask of course but I also have four other fully online classes so if this doesn’t last all semester long, I will be okay.

I feel for the instructors who are working their butts off to be able to educate the students (me) in the best way possible, they are pulling out all of the supplies and are always willing to adjust to help us (the students). If the school isn’t able to continue in-person learning through until the end of the semester, that is who I will feel for, the teachers who are trying everything they can to continue teaching their students valuable lessons.

I’m not sure how this update on my schooling experiences for the 2020 Fall Semester turned into an appreciation post for teachers, but oh well. Thank you, teachers, instructors, professors, whatever you may call yourselves thank you for not letting an entire generation of young U.S citizens miss out on a year of education.

How is everyone else acclimating to the new learning style in 2020? How are people from outside of the U.S. handling this new school year? I would love to hear from you all in the comments below! Thank you for reading my blog, and happy reading to every one of you.

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.

Preparing for a New Semester | Fall 2020

This semester is all kinds of new regarding mandatory masks as well as the fact that I am switching from doing schoolwork in notebooks and on loose-leaf paper to doing schoolwork on my iPad and going paperless. I have so much to do to be properly prepared for this new semester online and I decided to bring you guys along with me! You can learn everything I’ve done to prepare for a primarily online semester in this blog post and in the video, I posted on YouTube.

This is my second year of college and the first year I will be taking only classes that are applying to my major, which is Elementary Education. I am taking five classes, one is in person (of course with mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing), two are remote learning classes (meaning we will meet during scheduled class time in a zoom chat), and two fully online classes.

I know I may sound a little crazy, but I am actually excited for this upcoming semester! I feel more prepared than ever before with my iPad for schoolwork and on top of that, I am excited to have the chance to be back in a physical classroom again.

With all of this excitement and anticipation in mind, I am going to show you what I have done to prepare for this unprecedented semester and how I am preparing my digital space for paperless learning.

The first step in preparing for an online and paperless semester is to download all of the apps I will need to be able to take notes, store files and images, edit assignments, and upload assignments. The first and in my opinion, the most important app is Goodnotes 5, which you can purchase on the Apple App Store for $7.99. I know for many broke college students like myself this may seem unnecessarily pricy but believe me, it is worth it. I tried many of the free note-taking apps similar to Goodnotes, but none compare to this. It allows you to create notebooks, folders, import pdfs (which makes doing homework and tests a breeze), add images, and so much more (not to mention, all the different pages, pen, and color options).

The other apps I know I will be using during this semester are Pages, Grammarly, Google Drive, and of course Zoom. Pages automatically come with any Apple device and are just a basic word processing platform like Word, I’m sure I will be using it for writing papers homework on my iPad. Grammarly is a fantastic app that allows you to edit and correct documents, and if you allow access to your keyboard the app with the edit as you type in any other app on my iPad. The app also has various settings or filters you can set when editing a document to better match the needs of the paper.

Now that I have become familiar with the apps, I want to use this semester I can begin creating files and notebooks for my classes and organizing my documents on my iPad. For each class this semester I created a file folder, and, in those folders, I created three notebooks, one for notes, another for homework, and another for tests. I figured I could upload any homework and tests into the notebook and simply export a single page to be able to turn it in for credit.

For each class, I created covers for the digital notebooks in Procreate and then added class labels in Canva. To make it the cover of a notebook in Goodnotes all I had to do was add the pictures I created as the first page of the notebook. I decided to use these covers as a way to color-code my classes so that color coding in a planner is easier to keep track of! My Intro to Literature class is a purplish-blue cover, Intro to Education is a bright teal or turquoise color. I made my Cultural Anthropology class orange-red, my Women’s Studies class a pink color, and my American Government class green. I was agonizing over these colors for a way to long, but I think I ended up with some colors I will be happy with for the entire semester. This leads me to the next step in preparing for the upcoming semester…

In this app Goodnotes, you can edit the order and color of all the different pens (ballpoint, fountain, and brush), as well as the highlighter colors. So, with that, I decided to find all the colors I would want to use with the pens to write and order them into an aesthetic pastel rainbow. For the highlighters I decided to make these correlate to the class colors I had coded with the notebook covers earlier. I also made sure to adjust the automatic pen and highlighter sizes with the slider bar. My main goal for customizing and organizing the drawing set in the Goodnotes app was to just make it easier for when classes start in a few weeks.

The next step in organizing my schedule for the upcoming weeks of class in August and September was to block out my time in a digital planner. Goodnotes has amazing planner pages in their page templates that allowed me to create a really easy online planner that shows hours of the day so that I can block out my time with the highlighter tool. I love this time blocking planning technique because with just a glance I can see how my time will be spent throughout the week.

I simply used the highlighter presets I created earlier to block out each class in the first week of school then I labeled them for this first week just so it is easier to remember in the future. I specified which classes were zoom meeting and the time each class started in this first week as well. After I fine-tuned the color choices and placement, I created a little color key at the top of the page and copied and pasted it to the following weeks. With the color key at the top of the page, I will be able to block out the time without wasting time writing out labels every week.

Even though this is a primarily online semester I knew I would need some physical items for my one in-person class, not to mention the different storage devices I will be using throughout the semester. I will be using a small little backpack to take my iPad to class along with the much-needed masks I need for in-person learning this semester. Another really important item for this semester will be my flash drives and external hard drive, these are used to hold pictures, documents, and any past schoolwork. I went through all my devices and moved all my pictures and old documents to flash drives so that I can start the new semester with plenty of storage space.

This is how I have prepared myself for a new semester this fall, by organizing digitally and physically, becoming familiar with the applications I want to use for the semester, and planning my time efficiently and creating systems for planning in the future. I am sure I will be updating organization practices and such as I learn more about paperless schooling, but I am excited about the foundation of learning I have laid.

In these coming days, I encourage everyone to take some time to rest. The semester will come and go so soon, so we must take care of ourselves in the calm and unbusy moments we have. I will be enjoying my last weekend of the summer in the mountains, breathing in nature and taking a break from the hustle and bustle, before it all starts up again. Thank you for taking the time to read this story of how I prepared for the new fall semester, and let me know in the comments what you have been doing to prepare for the new semester!

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.

Starting Summer Classes On Zoom

This week I start my summer college classes which means I will be on zoom twice a week instead of in a classroom for 4 hours twice a week. My college has chosen to do the summer classes remotely and the fall semester is still undetermined. Similar to many universities and even public schools across the world, teachers, and students are being thrown into the chaos of online schooling. Most people aren’t sure if we’ll return to the physical classrooms again in 2020, I included. 

That’s an overwhelming thought and to some it seems impractical because learning online can be difficult and you definingly aren’t getting the full experience of learning in a classroom. I have seen a few videos of students getting failing grades on their spring online finals under suspicion of cheating (who knows if they did or not). But either way this new form of learning is causing a lot of people distress, teachers don’t want to compromise their cheating policies and students are just trying to survive the semester. So of course, online learning has its drawbacks, but I want to look on the brighter side and see the positivity in the fact that I don’t have to leave my house for education.

No Reason to Dress Up

Long gone are the days where I would feel the need to put jeans and a nice shirt on in order to be a functioning human. This whole summer I will be attending my morning Zoom meeting wrapped with a blanket around my legs and probably the shirt I slept in the night before (and a couple girls in my class actually did wrap themselves up in a blanket). What’s the point of wasting an entire outfit for a video call? 

All jokes aside I have basically abandoned my jeans for shorts and leggings (until the fateful moment when I need to do laundry and have nothing, but jeans left). As spring comes to an end and the summer heat begins to turn my third story apartment into a furnace, I have realized I cannot handle the feeling of jeans and sweat. Nope. So, I shall stay in my leggings and shorts and not worry about how I look because I can’t be bothered.

No Social Interaction

As daunting as it feels to speak in a zoom meeting while your entire class stares through their screens with the volume all the way up, it’s nothing compared to standing in front of a class who can now judge everything you say and how you look saying it. I always feel the most nervous just before I start speaking because at that point the class has nothing to judge me off of but my appearance. In the virtual classroom I can at least put myself on mute and even turn off my camera for whenever my boyfriend comes into the background because he forgot I had a class. 

Bottom line I am an introvert so the opportunity to learn alone in my home is a blessing in disguise. I am lucky in the regard that I can learn by simply listening to a lecture or watching a presentation. Whereas I understand other students cannot learn unless they have the opportunity for hands-on learning, so online learning just isn’t working for them. Not to mention I am not studying in a field that requires much hands-on training until a few years from now when I will be doing internships. But at this time in my education I don’t need to be in the classroom all semester long, especially when I know I’m not missing out on anything (cause FOMO is real).

Saving So Much on Gas

Since I can’t leave my house and now, I don’t have to go anywhere to learn I must say I think I’ve filled up my tank once. Not to mention gas prices where the lowest I’ve ever seen in my life (I know it’s not a very long one but still). I mean I paid a dollar fifty per gallon, filled up my tank, and I have not had to refill in so long. It really puts into perspective where all my money is going when I am forced to stay home and not go out spending money.

I am saving not just money but time as well, I don’t have to waste time traveling from my house to the school which by the end of the day can add up to hours taken away from creative time. Plus, without the reason to go somewhere I can’t justify going to any stores or fast food places which inevitably costs me a lot of money every time. Being forced to stay home has really helped me not spend so much money whether that’s on a necessity like gas or a commodity like Target and ice-cream.

All in all, I am excited for the next six weeks of remote learning for my college credits, while I continue to learn more about the business of blogging and graphic design and creating on the internet. I think remote learning gives me the time and space to develop my creative skills and passions, or at least it has given me the inspiration to do it. 

Copyright © 2020 Serra Isabella. All rights reserved.