Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Guessing Game

Yet another iPad lost and found story:

Student: Hey Ms. S! I found my iPad!

Me: I'm so glad! 

Student: You know where it was?

Me: Tell me!

Student: What's that thing? It's tall and white. [He put his palms about 4 inches apart and moved them up and down from his shoulders to his waist.] They have them in every house. Sometimes it's hot, sometimes it's cold?

Me: Uhhhh...  the radiator?

Student: Yeah! That's it! It was under there. Thank goodness it didn't get too hot.

Do I know the sixth grade mind, or what?

Monday, December 10, 2018

Wisdom of the Dove

I did my best.

We all did, in the parent-student-teacher conference we held this afternoon. We started off positive: You're not in trouble. We just want you to be more successful. How can we help you? But the child shrugged us off. Mm Hmm. Sure. Whatever.

The parent in this case was a great aunt, someone who clearly cared for him, but was not his mom. She's been away somewhere that he asked the counselor not to share with the team. And he is not only oppositional, but also defiant and ever-so detached. He is really good at being hateful and unlikable, but that's how he controls the uncontrollable terrain of authority and relationships.

We tried, listing his strengths, asking about his goals, offering all manner of assistance, keeping even and even positive for 40 minutes, but his final words were "I won't promise anything."

When the last person left my room, I did something I rarely do: I reached for the chocolate. Someone had recently added a big bag of Doves to the common candy can we keep in my room since I am not usually tempted. I unwrapped a square of milk chocolate truffle and let it melt in my mouth as I flipped over the foil wrapper to see my fortune. Be the rainbow in someone else's storm cloud, it read.

I'll keep trying.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Making the Season Bright

Tiny snowflakes fell in lazy swirls while giant logs and pine boughs crackled in the fire pit at our first stop on the Christmas errands run today. Shopping for garland and wreaths our noses filled with the sharp smells of fresh pine and smoke, and we couldn't have asked for a more perfect holiday experience, until we went inside the warm little hut to pay for our holiday trimming and found fresh popped corn, butter cookies, and cocoa.

Saturday, December 8, 2018


I ran into Jill, the cat rescue lady, the day after I posted about Tibby and Milo playing with the ball on the track. She actually lives right around the corner, and we sometimes marvel that we had no idea how close our kittens were before we adopted them. I'm sure I walked right by there several times, and I wonder if they were in the window waiting for me to look over.

At any rate, on this particular morning, I hailed Jill heartily as she walked her dog toward me and Lucy. "I was just thinking of you!" I told her. "Tibby and Milo were playing with that toy you told us they love, the one you said they were the only cats to ever play with."

She looked pensive, and then her face lightened. "The ball and the track?" she remembered. "Oh, my cats still play with that all the time and they are 7 and 8. They love it!" she concluded amiably.

My face fell. I could have sworn she told us that our cats were the only cats she ever saw play with that toy. But, then I shrugged and smiled back at her. "Well that must be who who our kittens learned from!" I recovered.

Friday, December 7, 2018


I have a student who draws the most dynamic stick figures I've ever seen; most of his assignments and notebooks are populated by a tiny army, each member of whom seems poised to crawl, run, jump, swim, or fly right off the page. Truth be told, he is very involved in his self-drawn world, and often are the times when he must be reminded to set it aside.

Heidi happens to teach him too, and the other day she gave her class an assignment to draw faces on cartoon figures who were witnesses to a student behaving unexpectedly and throwing a chair. There were only three characters on the assignment sheet, but this particular kid added several more to his pape.

"What's up with this person?" Heidi asked pointing to an extra figure who was smiling. "Is he happy that the other student is getting in trouble?"

"No!" answered our guy. "That's me!"

"Do you like it when people throw chairs?" Heidi continued.

"No!" he told her. "I'm smiling because I have all A's!"

"Look at the picture," Heidi told him. "Does what you're saying go with it?"

He did a quick doubletake and then grabbed his pencil and drew a tiny paper in the fist of the smiling stick boy. Then he write A+ on it. "There!" he smiled.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Jill Was Right

"They are the only two cats I have ever seen play with that toy!" the rescue foster lady, Jill, said when she introduced us to our kittens last year. "They love it!"

I looked at the plastic disk about 12 inches in diameter that she was pointing to. The center had a circle of corrugated cardboard for scratching, and a  ping pong-sized ball rolled around it on an outside track. Tibby and Milo were too nervous to play then, but we made sure to buy one just like it on our first kitty shopping spree.

It was impossible to know if they liked it, though, because Lucy stole the ball every time. Over the next year or so, they did use the scratching part of the device, and recently I ordered a replacement cardboard piece. The box was waiting on the stoop this afternoon when we returned home from work, and I wasted no time fitting the new scratcher in place. Heidi was out with Lucy, and so on a whim, I also dropped a hard catnip ball into the outer groove and gave it a little push.

Oh my! In seconds Tibby and Mila were batting the ball back and forth, pouncing and rolling and diving to get a better angle. It was impossible not to giggle as they played so energetically and so together, and I was reminded of what a warm feeling it is to please your pets. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Stay on Message

I said all of these things more than twice today:

We want you to be successful.

How does that behavior help you learn?

When we give you a direction, it's because we want to help you get back on track.

What would have been a better choice?

We are here to support you!