Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sleep Young One, Sleep

As his plane sits on the tarmac, I imagine my youngest son shifting his weight on his seat, exhaling excess carbon dioxide with nostrils flaring, and rapping his on fingers on his arm rest.

Ryan’s destination is Barcelona but his journey has been temporarily hijacked by who knows what airline complication. Just the eight hour flight in the air requires a great amount of patience on his part. Since he was a young boy, being in the confines of a car, plane, bus, or train has made him uneasy; almost a bit claustrophobic.This delayed start is sure to be painful for him.

The mom in me can only hope he finds a way to sleep once airborne. Sleep will bring him the calm he needs to get through the ordeal of traveling, waiting, being delayed, and being cooped up in a small space. Sleep will bring his girlfriend relief as he ceases to fidget, sigh, and pace.

Travel well young son. Enjoy your time abroad. And let sleep find you when you feel angst.



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

His Eyes Lit Up

Today, I taught my class how to play a card game with pennies and nickels. It is a game that is part of our math program and one that often proves difficult for many first graders this time of year. Each player turns over a card with pictures of pennies and nickels on it. The players then count the money on their card and state the amount of money they have. Then the two students decide which of them has the most money and the one with the most cents takes both cards. For those of you who are older, it is the game of war but more politically correct.

I chose my student helpers to demonstrate how to play this game. When the game started one student was able to count the money with accuracy while the other student struggled. I helped the struggling student count the money for the first half dozen turns of the cards. The student who was less proficient was winning each round and as he won each round his eyes lit up, sparkled, and then shined. All of a sudden, he was counting the money all by himself! I stopped offering help as he counted the nickels by fives and then changed his counting to accommodate the pennies.

The entire class witnessed this student’s transformation as he struggled, tried, struggled, tried, and then met with success. His eyes and smile said it all. We felt his positive energy and cheered for him and his partner as she gracefully lost the game and applauded his success. I could not have asked for a better lesson in what perseverance looks like than what we all got to experience during that math lesson.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Summer Leads Us to Autumn…


The marking of summer’s past and autumn’s future is different for everyone. My classroom students think it is autumn as soon as they return to school. Labor Day seems to be significant for many as a time to put away summer clothes, especially the white ones. For me, summer is over when I take down my hanging planters, rake the first round of three major leaf drops, and help my husband haul in the docks placing them on the riverbank. Columbus Day weekend is the time we do these things thus autumn has arrived.

Autumn is a time that awakens my senses. Wood smoke and baked goods fill my nose with familiar smells that signify warmth and comfort.Crunching leaves under my feet and the call of the geese, landing in the bay to feed on wild rice before their long journey south, alert my ears. Trees display a palate of color rewarding my eyes each time I peer outside. The sky is the most beautiful light blue and the river complements it with a darker hue. I love autumn. It is my favorite season…until winter.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

It Spoke to Me

Have you ever seen something and just had to have it? It is almost like it is having a conversation with you. “Take me, take me,” it whispers. Well that is what happened to me when I went to an outdoor art festival this summer. I was summoned by a photograph.

I had been up and down those sidewalks twice. Not one piece of art spoke to me. Well that is not really true. Another piece of art spoke to my husband and me but it was a thousand dollars and our wallets drowned out the whispers with, “No, No!: My husband and I went home disappointed. In the afternoon…we returned to look again. At the very last tent…there it was. I saw it from afar and the closer I got the more I was drawn to it. It beckoned me to get close, to look from all angles, to admire its simplicity and elegance at the same time.

I had to have that photo and knew exactly where I would place it in my home. The photographer laughed when he saw me. “That is the one, huh?” he said.

“It is talking to me, I replied. How much?”

I did not have enough cash. “Do you take credit of bank cards?” My husband had wandered off and there was no way I was going to let another customer walk off with my whispering photo.

I don’t have the machine, my wife does. She is in another tent up the road, he explained.”

“I am really honest. I am a teacher. Do you trust me to take it and go pay for it?” I was taking no chances.

“Well…usually I wouldn’t but…my wife is a teacher too…so okay…here is where you will find her.”

I sit here in my living room remembering where it came from and how it happens to be displayed above the fireplace for me to admire each morning as I have my coffee and prepare for another day. The whispering photo of a barn in an ice storm is where it belongs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Love What I Do, Do You?

I love my class. There, I said it. It is only the end of September and yet I feel like I have been with these kids for a year already. They get me. I get them and we are moving along in tandem. It is such a wonderful feeling when this happens. It is often January before I feel my class is working well. In the fall, most of my classes struggle with sharing, taking turns, and treating each other respectfully.

I can’t tell you why we are clicking so early. The makeup of the class is the same as every year…a bell curve of interesting, challenging little faces all looking at me each morning waiting to find out what is in store for them. Some need to be fed, some need to have a little extra attention, and others just tool along on their own. Some catch on quickly and others need repetition. Some have social skills, some do not.

Somehow, this year, this class is simpatico right out of the gate. Maybe it is because we have a student teacher making the ratio smaller. Perhaps the personalities just match up better. I don’t have an answer, but I sure love going to school every morning! When children can get past the social issues, we can get into the academics quickly and then there is so much more we can do. I anticipate tremendous progress for my students by the end of the year I can’t wait for them to feel the power of their own thinking and learning.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Full, Half Full, or Empty?

When my plate is full, really full, I have to stay focused. I have to be really organized. making lists and crossing items off the lists as they are completed. The more I have to do, the more organized I become. The more organized I become, the more I want everyone else to be organized as well. I am like a drill sergeant pushing myself and barking at others.

When my plate is half full…I maintain a rhythm but it is apt to skip a beat now and then. I might forget something, misplace an item, or put a job off for another day…If a friend drops in and suggests a change of plans I can go with it guilt free knowing there is enough time to get back on track.

When my plate is empty, I have no expectations. I dally and leave things incomplete; starting and stopping whenever I please. I change focus often leaving sentences trailing, laundry midstream, and the gas tank empty. There is seldom a sense of completion or satisfaction. In fact, it feels like I am living outside myself.

If I could choose my plate, I would choose the half full plate. The half full plate keeps me focused but not too busy to enjoy an occasional segue.It offers me structure with room to maneuver. Yes, the half full plate is what I am looking for…maybe I’ll find it in January!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Autumn Nesting

There is something about cool sunny days that makes me want to cocoon myself in my home to clean, rearrange, decorate and bake. I am no longer anxious to hit  the little white balls at the golf course, ride my bike or lounge on the docks in the sun. Instead I want to paint, hang curtains, dust, and make chocolate chip cookies. I don’t really understand this change but I have thought a great deal about it this past weekend.This autumnal nesting is not new to me. I experience it every fall. I buy pumpkins and mums to decorate the yard. I stand cornstalks against the porch post and fill the planter at the mailbox with gourds. There is always a room to redecorate with paint, rugs, and curtains. Our home is fresh, tidy, and filled with the smell of baking.I am ready to let go of summer and welcome the cool, clean fragrance of fall.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Phone Call

Recently we sat down to dinner with friends we had not seen for a year. They have retired in Arizona and come home  for a few weeks each summer . The visit was going along nicely…eating…talking…laughing. A cell phone rang, Molly jumped up to answer it. As she replied to the caller, her husband, Gerry hung his head and said, “Oh this has got to be bad news.” Molly hung up the phone and returned to the dining room table. She relayed the short phone call with little emotion. In retrospect I expect she was in shock.

“That was Jason, our next door neighbor. He said the water company left a note on our door. They shut off our water due to overuse. He knew we were not home so he walked around the house to check things out. He says we have water running out our back door.”

There were more phone calls that night as Molly and Gerry got the keys to Jason via a relative living close by so he could go inside to investigate. A pipe had let go in their bathroom and water had flowed freely for who knows how long until the water company shut it off. Their house was filled with water with the outdoor temperatures  nearly one hundred degrees. Gerry explained to us that mold grows almost immediately when things like this happen. The enjoyable dinner no longer tasted good and the laughter had disappeared as our friends tried to wrap their heads around what to do next.

Our friends bid adieu a short time later, headed back to the camp they were occupying. The plan was to call family and friends and inform them of a new departure date: the very next day. They would pack, say their good-byes and begin a hurried four day trip. The usual meandering cross country would not happen this time.. There were no words to console them as they tried to grasp the enormity of the task that lay ahead.Their faces said it all. Their retirement home was in ruins. They were returning to the unknown.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Shopping Cart

It was a warm sunny day. My husband and I went off to look for monarch caterpillars for my classroom. We drove to a spot  that had provided for us before. The patch of milkweed by the sea was holding a bumper crop this year. We found five caterpillars in less than five minutes.

On our return, we stopped at a local store to purchase a new terrarium as mine from the year before had broken. Terrarium and cover in tow we departed the store chatting about the upcoming week. We got in the car and began to drive out of the parking lot. There at the end of the parking lot was a lonely shopping cart. It was parked in such a manner I knew it was a runaway cart.

A runaway shopping cart…my mind immediately went to my writer’s notebook sitting on my end table in our living room. I needed to jot that thought down…a story for my kids.

I started silently plotting…what did it run away from…why did it stop…how will it get back…what will keep it from running away again? I am not only trying to read like a writer…I am beginning to think like a writer. That is what I want for my classroom kids. I can’t wait to begin tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Dreams

The dreams have returned. You know, those pesky little dreams about school. When August rolls around they begin to appear randomly at first and with more frequencey the closer the first day of school. Some of them have former students in them, others allow me to see myself teaching and still others are more like nightmares as I enter a room that has yet to be unpacked, lose my students, or show up without my clothes on.
Almost every elementary teacher I know has the dreams. I think it shows how hard everyone prepares for the beginning of a new school year. Much of that preparation taking place in our brains even as we sleep. I suppose we are rehearsing for the unexpected.
I wish you all sweet dreams this school year.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Rainy Days

Drip, drip from the eaves...
Swoosh, swoosh, from the leaves...
I love rainy days.

Late dreaming sleep...
Hot sweetened coffee...
I love rainy days.

Writing, thinking, and reading...
Dog at my feet...
I love rainy days.