Friday, April 30, 2010
Once the space was clear I sat down, not so much to admire my work, but to admire the live 3-D nature show that was playing before me in full HD stereo. Individual sounds included the fervent chirping of cardinals as they called to their mates over the rustling of bamboo stalks rubbing together in the gentle breeze. Doves cooed on the oak limbs as they sat in pairs and preened their feathers. In the distance I could hear the roar of traffic as commuters made they way home along the interstate. Squirrels chattered while jumping from tree to tree as the train hummed along a distant rail. It's fun to sit and focus on the individual sounds, but really, the best part was when I stopped listening for the individual parts and instead listened to the full symphony that man and nature put together for me.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I sat in school parking lot at 3:15 this afternoon talking myself into that little trip to the gym. "Just get on the elliptical for 30 minutes, you know it'll make you feel better."
Surprisingly, I listened to my own advice and within 20 minutes I was plugged into the iPod and putting in my 30 minutes. The music carried me through. I felt better almost immediately and hit the half hour mark without a thought. I figured I'd stop at 45, but as I watched the clock count down to the forty-fifth minute the song changed and The Jackson Five started to sing. The infectious beat got me through another five minutes to bring my total time to 50 minutes.
Thank you Jackie, Tito, Marlon, Jermaine, and of course, Michael.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
According to the students the lunch menu stinks. They spoke of hamburgers with unidentifiable, pebble-like objects inside them and lasagna with mushy white stuff that felt funny on their tongue. There was also talk of chicken nuggets as hard as rocks and cartons of frozen milk.
When I was a student I was always jealous of those lucky kids that got to buy their lunch every day. I would sit with my brown bag lunch containing one PB and J and a Ring Ding wishing I could go through the line pushing a lunch tray along the metal counter top. Today I found out I wasn't missing much.
I ate school lunch one time, during my first year of teaching. I ended up with cold pizza that tasted more like ketchup spread on a piece of cardboard. I've packed my lunch ever since. Today I advised the students to do the same.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I've done four loads of laundry, soaked my swollen, blister-filled feet and lingered over coffee and the newspaper. It was a day to relax and regroup--the perfect way to end a three-day mini vacation.
Monday, April 26, 2010
It’s been a day of waiting. It was supposed to be a day of travel, but instead I’ve spent the day sitting. The only things moving have been my eyes as they track the people walking by in the airport.
My first flight was supposed to leave New Orleans at 12:25 pm. It did not; the first text message I received from the airline said there was going to be a delay of about 45 minutes. The plane was coming from Miami and the weather there was creating quite a few flight problems. My friends and I settled in with a cup of coffee and a few beignets at a small café in the airport.
The text messages continued on a regular basis. Take-off time kept changing, getting pushed back later into the afternoon. The two-hour layover we had in Miami was slowly disappearing.
Our coffee and beignet breakfast turned into lunchtime and one more opportunity to snack on catfish, shrimp and red beans and rice. At 2:00 we made our way to the security line to catch our 3:00 pm flight to Miami.
And then, finally, a break in the monotony! Out of nowhere, or at least nowhere that I was looking, came a group of 12 – 15 men in suits with the tell-tale ear buds and squiggly wires hanging out of their ears. Security...but for what or who? There were police cars outside near the gate, as well as a lot of men trying to look inconspicuous as they surveyed the airport waiting area.
We were finally able to board at about 2:30 pm, but it seems our high profile citizen was also on our flight. The security detail led the way and he was boarded on the plane first. A man in front of me smiled and shook hands with the celebrity guest as he made his way to the gate.
Curiosity got the best of me so I turned to the excited man in front of me, “Do you know who that is?” I asked.
“It’s the president of Honduras.” He replied.
Wow, I thought. I had to wonder why he wouldn’t have his own plane to fly on. And then I hoped that he doesn’t have a lot of enemies, because if he does I don’t want to be on a commercial airline with him.
As I walked through the fortunate people in First Class to make my way to my seat in the back of the plane I looked for Mr. President, but he was not there. To my surprise he was sitting three or four rows behind First Class in Coach.
Things must be tough in Honduras these days.
I spent another two hours waiting in Miami. At 8:35 the flight that was originally scheduled to leave at 5:50 pm took off for Washington, DC. There isn’t one empty seat on the plane. If all works out we should land at about 10:55 and I’ll be home by 11:30, just in time to make my midnight deadline.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
During my sophomore year of college I took Sociology with Gladys Kuoksa. She had a cat named Serendipity. If a nuclear bomb ever exploded she planned to grab her cat and a bottle of Scotch and sit in the hallway of her apartment to wait for her eventual doom. She told us of her plans on the second or third day of class. She also made us carry lemons around for a week. After a week she asked us to get rid of those lemons. I couldn’t. I carried my lemon around for two more weeks. I discarded it by tossing it in the bushes near St. Mary’s Hall whereupon it rolled out from the bushes and back to me. I always figured the lemon assignment was some sort of grand sociology experiment that Gladys had going, a way to see just what she could get a bunch of college sophomores to do.
Gladys got us thinking and talking on a daily basis. She even got us to carry on with class when she wasn’t there. One Tuesday or Thursday, I can’t remember which, I walked into class and moved my desk toward the circle that was beginning to form. There was no sign of Gladys, but since her office was right down the hall we figured she’d be coming along any minute. Before long one minute became five, then seven and then there was a discussion regarding how long we had to wait for her before we could leave. Was it 8 minutes or 12? Lisa Lerner interrupted, “But I really want to talk about the reading!” Surprisingly so did the rest of us and in an instant the conversation shifted from when can we leave to the assigned readings. Gladys never did show up that day, but she would have been happy to see her group of 14 carry on without her. Of course, I always had a sneaking suspicion that she was there, down the hall behind the closed door of her office listening to the students that she had created.
Build relationships. I keep hearing that it’s the best way to get students involved in their education.
To be continued and completed tomorrow....
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The first teacher I ever saw cry was Sr. Rita Woehlcke, my tenth grade English teacher. Sr. Rita was famous for telling personal anecdotes during class. They were such a part of her daily routine that she spent our first class together telling us all about her family. It was important that we knew about the family; they were the main characters in most of her stories. However, it wasn’t her family that she was crying about that spring day.
She had entered the classroom with a thin book under her arm. She opened it up and began to read us the story of Alexander and his no good, very bad, day. I had not met Alexander before. I was immediately taken with him as well as Judith Viorst’s writing style.
It wasn’t until the end of the story that she cried. You see, the story was just a segue to the real story. She had lost her camera while on a Sunday outing with the chorus group to a local state park. She was beside herself to have lost this prize possession of hers. It had been a gift from her family, the family we heard about on a daily basis. In that moment I think everyone in the class respected her a little bit more, I know I did. I respected her ability to see us, a group of 15 year olds, as real people who could understand her ups and downs.
Sr. Rita was one of the few teachers I remember who made it a point to get to know each student. That connection is part of the reason I still remember her so fondly, it’s most likely one of the many reasons I majored in English two years later as well.
Build relationships. I keep hearing that it’s the best way to get students involved in their learning.
to be continued...
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I gained a bit of perspective on the situation after watching the evening news last night. The local news wrapped up with a short segment of a mother duck watching her brood as they climbed a set of stairs near the White House. Is there anything cuter than baby ducks? Sure there is...it's a mother and her baby ducks.
The great thing about this mother was the way she watched over her group. She didn't assist them in the climb, instead she stood by quietly as each and every one did their best to make their way to the top. She watch patiently as some straddled a step and then fell back down. Yes, there were missteps along the way, but in the end each little duckling was able to climb the final step. And when they did their proud mother was there waiting to congratulate them.
Monday, April 19, 2010
I have laundry to put away and more to wash so that I can begin to consider my packing options.
There's the cat care to deal with which means key drop off and nail trimming. The cat lady would certainly not be appreciative of a clawing incident.
There are papers to grade and substitute plans to finalize.
Today there was also the second pedicure of the season.
So, on Monday I'm feeling pretty good. I'm rested and ready to take on Tuesday.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
We were friends though and she probably never knew how much I wished I had her hair and her glasses. The frames curved up a bit on the side closest to her temples. They weren't quite the cat-eye frames, but they were close.
So, way back then I regretted being born with perfect vision. Today I feel differently. As is often the case, as the years go by the wayside so does ones vision. It's called Presbyopia. It took forty years, but I finally got my wish.
I don't like wearing glasses. It's inconvenient. I'm somewhat new to the world of vision aids, so I don't always have my glasses when I need then. I often have to find the reading glasses in a store just so I can borrow them long enough to read the small print on things. I actually walk around saying things like, "oh, I can't see that without my glasses." I have glasses everywhere in my house. There are usually two pair within reach of the couch. There's another pair upstairs on my nightstand and I have a prescription pair with progressive lenses that I wear for the duration of my workday.
There are glasses all over the place and yet, not one pair is as cool as those specs that Cecilia Llewellyn had in third grade.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Being the adult in the classroom can be hard. It's easy to fall into the trap of taking things that the kids do personally. Middle school kids, 12 year olds, do insanely ridiculous things all the time. It's easy to become judgmental. It's easy to get angry. It's easy to hold a grudge. It's easy to forget that they are just 12 years old.
On Tuesday one of the teachers on my team lost her flash drive. It was in her computer's USB drive, where it always is, and then it was gone. She was distraught. The flash drive contained every unit she teaches as well as her graduate schoolwork and everything she submitted for her National Board Certification. Yes, it was silly to have everything in only one place but it didn't matter too much at that point. The only thing that did matter was it was gone and we were pretty sure a student had walked off with it.
After sharing her plight with the students a few of the kids took it as their personal mission to solve the mystery. The teacher involved is well liked by her students, and over the last two days there was a lot of discussion during class about how tragic the situation was.
Today the mystery was solved. One student, perhaps the next Agatha Christie of her generation, started asking around. By lunchtime she had a witness; a young man who had seen a group of kids with a rock at lunch. They were using the rock to smash a gray flash drive. Once the witness wrote the details of the incident it took less than a class period to find the culprits.
By the time I taught my last class of the day I knew what had happened. I was frustrated, angry, and really quite sad. The young girl who admitted to taking the flash drive needed something to save her work on so she took it from the teacher's unlocked, unattended classroom. A friend helped her erase all the documents so she could save her work. I'm sure they were unaware of what hitting the delete button did to someone else's life. I've found that 12 year olds don't usually think past the here and now; what happens next is too far off in the future to consider.
It wasn't until the day after the flash drive walked off that those involved realized just what was on it and what a big deal its disappearance was. Apparently they thought it best to get rid of the evidence and to a 12 year old that means smashing it up with a rock. I wonder why somebody wouldn't just take the thing home and toss it in the trash. That's me being judgmental. I can't believe someone would take it in the first place because really if a student needed a flash drive to save a document I know any teacher could find them one. That's me being frustrated. I think they should be suspended for a day or two. That's me being angry.
I close my eyes. I take a deep breath and recall the day my mother found out I'd been shoplifting. I was about 12 or 13.
Fortunately it's Friday and I have the whole weekend to process the event as an adult so that on Monday we can get on with the learning.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Nice description, Dorothy. It sounds like your stroll was lovely, indeed. I hope brother William gave you the credit you were due when he published his poem five years later.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
When he scurries down the stairs at top speed and leaps onto the window seat into a crouching position with his head peering around the curtain I know that something big is up out back. Well, big to a cat, not so big to me.
Last night, I couldn't tell what he was trying to say. There was a lot of aimless walking about, often on me, and meow cries for no good reason. I could tell he was getting frustrated, but just didn't know how to help. I tried the back door, but going outside wasn't the answer. The cold rain kept my fair-weather cat inside looking out.
Eventually he made his way onto the couch next to me. I was gently scratching behind his ears when his frustrations came to a head. In an instant my right arm was wrapped up in two furry legs with very sharp claws at the end. I got a hiss my way for good measure and cranky kitty was gone.
I said a few things. Not so nice things, but it didn't much matter; we were clearly not speaking the same language.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
As I handed out the papers I told the kids not to worry, the quiz should be easy. And for those who have always done well in school, it was easy. Somewhere along the line it seems they've acquired the needed student-ship skills that make their educational life run pretty easily. Of course there are also those kids who are still learning how to be a "good student." Their study skills and homework completion are pretty good, although they occasionally get overwhelmed with their 6th grade workload or forget to pay attention to the details of the task at hand.
And then there were the ones who, for the most part, don't do homework. They didn't study for the quiz, and they don't engage much in class discussions. Yea, they failed the quiz. I wonder, was it their failure or mine?
Monday, April 12, 2010
The bananas were usually treat number one. Sometimes, if I was lucky, I'd get a box of animal crackers. They came in a red, rectangular box that was meant to look like a circus train. My favorite part, besides the cookies, was the little string handle. The string made for some high-swinging fun and allowed the empty box to double as the perfect little-girl purse.
Way back then, at the Pantry Pride, there was one other treat that I always asked for but rarely got. It was common for grocery stores of the day to have a large metal cage that held rubber balls of different sizes and colors. Some were bright red, others were swirly blue and some were the little pinkies. I liked the swirly blue. Perfection at the Pantry Pride came when I was able to walk out of the store holding my mother's hand while my right arm hugged my new swirly blue toy.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Saturday, April 10, 2010
It's funny; he wasn't really an athlete in school. Maybe he played on the golf team, but that was about it. Somewhere along the line he started running and he's been running ever since.
The race started at 6:30 this morning, so by the time my parents and I climbed in the car to meet up with him at the 21 mile marker he'd already been running for 3 hours. We met up with him at Bull Run Marina. As I watched the runners before him come through I was surprised at how happy they all were. It was a trail run, so they'd been running along the Occoquan River for most of the way.
Joe arrived right on schedule with a smile on his face. He told us of the beautiful field of bluebells he'd run through as well as the firing range he felt was just a bit too close for comfort. He stopped to chat for just a few minutes and then he was off again, he ran down a quick hill and disappeared into the woods with a content look on his face.
Friday, April 9, 2010
I remember Kevin, from my first year of teaching, because he is the only student who has every thrown up on me. In his defense, he did tell me just five seconds beforehand that he wasn't feeling well. I have a few other student memories from that first year, in part because it was my first year but mostly because they were just about the toughest group of kids I've worked with.
There are girls I remember because I could see much of myself at the same age in them. Sometimes the things kids say and do are what sears them into my brain. Olivia is one of those gals. One of my icebreakers was to let the kids ask me any question they wanted. I agreed to give an answer. Olivia was clearly an extrovert. Her question? She wanted to know if I was wearing pink underwear. My answer? Not today.
Boys are memorable for not only things like vomiting. Alex decided to take part in a class talent show and entertained us all with his birdcalls. His mother told me later that he came up with his plan over breakfast that morning. William just about exhausted me with his erratic behavior that ran the gamut of non-stop chatter to tears and fits of frustration.
It would be interesting to try and write down the names of every student I've taught. Could I come up with 50%? Yes, I could do better than that. One thing's for sure, I'd never remember them all.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
In first grade I had my first "nun experience." Sr. Boniface embodied all those terrible things you hear about the nuns of yore. My memory of her is not a good one. It involves a ruler swat to the hands after failing the weekly fingernail check. Good Catholic girls do not chew their fingernails. I didn't either, but apparently my mother was no manicurist. She called it nail trimming, but Sister saw it as nail biting.
I don't have memories of every teacher I've had. With the exception of Mrs. Graham, from kindergarten, the ones I do remember are associated with one memory, either clearly positive or clearly negative.
I'm sure there are students I've taught who hold no memories of me. No doubt there are good and bad memories as well.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I carried on hoping to check in on some turtles I had spotted at a nearby marsh last week. They weren't out to greet me; perhaps they too have seasonal allergies.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
So this morning, even though I was disappointed to see a light film of green residue covering my car and even though it was Tuesday, I was happy.
The Orioles, a team I've been cheering on for the last 4o-some years, begin their season tonight. The beginning of the season always holds promise for the great things that may come the next six months. It's been awhile since my team has seen any postseason play, but on the first day of the new season I have hope that this will be the year things turn around.
Monday, April 5, 2010
The little voice to my left interrupted my quick nap.
"It's just that...that I feel like I might throw up." he said.
The woman sitting across from me wasn't his mother, but she was somebody's mother, so she knew exactly what to do. "Where's his mom?" she asked the young girl sitting next to our sickly young man.
The boy reacted quickly; in less than a second he was out of his seat and tugging on his mom's sweater in earnest, trying to get her attention as she leafed through a People magazine.
"Mom, I think I might just throw up,” he repeated.
She bent down to look into his face, "Is that because you're a little nervous?"
He was quickly ushered through the very door that he was nervous about, the door that leads to the shot room, and rushed down the hall to the bathroom.
"It's his first time," his sister explained.
Mom number 1 understood, "Oh, that can be a little scary."
"Especially, if you have to wait so long," I chimed in.
We all nodded in agreement.
A father led another young man into the shot room. His whimper began as soon as he saw the needle sitting on the silver tray. Dad picked him up and hugged him close as two shots were administered, one in each arm. With each shot he let out a quick, fearful cry. It was over quickly and he walked back quietly to his Highlights magazine.
"That would have definitely, made him throw up," I thought.
Another Monday at the allergist’s office.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
So at 6:00 pm tonight I have one last load of laundry in the wash and most of the dirty dishes loaded in the dishwasher. My lesson for tomorrow's class is pretty much ready to go. The coffee pot is clean and ready for reloading.
There are just a few things left to take care of: clothes for tomorrow and a lunch to prepare...all in all, not too bad.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
This is my nephew's last Easter at home. This time next year he will be studying Art 400 miles from home in Manchester, NH.
In due time, the eggs will be completed. Tomorrow they will be on display-- a rainbow of colors sitting next to Easter ham, potato salad, sweet potatoes, and dessert. For now I will sit and enjoy the sounds of family as they echo through the kitchen.
Friday, April 2, 2010
I chose a place that's easy to get in and easy to get out of. The water there is always still--just my paddling speed, the kind of place that I can put my feet up and just float around. Roaches Run is a small marsh/pond-like area that sits in the shadows of Crystal City, VA. It's across the GW Parkway from National Airport so there's always a steady stream of airplanes either landing or taking off.
I'm not sure why it's called Roaches Run. In all the times I've been there I've never seen one roach. Today all I saw were turtles. Turtles, turtles, and more turtles. They were everywhere. There were turtleheads peering above the surface until they sensed my paddling and dove below the water. There were turtles on logs with heads sticking out, faces to the sky and always with one leg lifted like they were in some sort of yoga position. I adore those turtles on logs. I don't know why, but whenever I see them warming themselves I smile. When the turtles are out all is good.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Back in 1968 I was five years old and living in nearby Silver Spring. It was on April 4, 1968 that my parents decided to load up the family in our Ford Fairlane for a trip into DC. I can't say for sure if we ever saw the trees that day. I think we did, but at some point the news came over the radio that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot. My parents were well aware of the reaction this news was sure to cause and we quickly made our way back home. I have a vision of myself peering over the front seat as the car sped along Connecticut Avenue. I was too young to process the events of the day. I only know I didn't like it at the time because I wasn't allowed to play outside until the rioting downtown was over some five days later.