Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Teaching with Benefits

"I haven't picked on you yet," the workshop presenter said jovially, looking pointedly in our direction. "What are the benefits of co-teaching?"

It was the Monday of pre-service week, and my friend Mary and I were sitting side by side in an all-day professional development about differentiation. Mary, the pro, answered first. "Two heads are better than one!" she offered succinctly.

I had never co-taught, and at times I struggle when put on the spot in large groups. The presenter looked expectantly at me. "Uhhhhhhhh," I stalled."There's someone to help you when you don't know what to say?" The room laughed appreciatively, and her focus shifted elsewhere.

I remembered that morning today, three weeks into co-teaching one of my classes. In the split second after I had finished giving the directions and the plan for the day, one of our less-focused, chronically disruptive students waved me over. "I'd like you to explain those directions to me one-on-one," he said. "I didn't really get it."

I nodded. "I'll tell Ms. F," I told him. "She'll be over in a minute."

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Loneliest Number

After an unusually cool start to September, the weather in recent days has turned much warmer and more like the early Autumn we Virginians are accustomed to. Tonight we shed our school clothes in favor of shorts and tshirts before taking Lucy for her evening walk. Windows were open, and a few midweek barbecues were even sizzling as the three of us ambled through the neighborhood. On the last leg of our journey we blinked and blinked again, unable to believe our eyes. A single firefly flitted and flickered above a few late flowers, and call as she might for another of her kind to light up in reply, there was no answering flash.

Monday, September 18, 2017


The last time I got a pair of kittens was back in 1989. Molly and Oliver were fast friends; she was the brains of the operation, but he was definitely the sweetest of cats. That dynamic seems to be playing out in Tibby and Milo, but only time will tell.

Back then, Paula Poundstone used to do hilarious riffs on her cats in her stand-up routines. She always had a bit about using a squirt bottle to train them.
It does work, because water's very upsetting to a cat. It doesn't hurt them, or mess up their fur or nothin"-- it's just very upsetting. They don't know why. So when I take a shower it's the most incredible thing my cats have ever seen. They line up right outside the shower. I can hear them banging on the glass while I'm in there. And afterwards when I open the door, they're like, that was amazing! Man, it was all over you! And there was nothing we could do about it-- that glass thing was there; we couldn't get in... You must have realllllly messed up!
Something made me think of that bit this morning as I turned the shower on, but it wasn't until I opened my eyes after rinsing the shampoo from my hair that I noticed I had an audience. Front and center on the other side of the door was a wide-eyed little orange kitten who clearly was wondering What are you doing?!?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Three Dogs in a Pool

Doggy Dip, Pooch Paddle, Puppy Pool Party, Canine Crawl, or to quote Treat, "If you want to stretch it, Wolf Wash," whatever you want to call it, this evening was the official end of summer for us, when the pool closes for good before one last blast for all of our four-footed residents.

Isabel used to be a star of this occasion, but Lucy has a lot to learn in the ways of the water. Her cousin Sonic was steadfast: gliding through the clear water to collect tennis ball after tennis ball and return it to the stairs. Rosie was also a stand out, with a beautiful stroke, she had no interest in retrieving, her reward was the swim itself.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Welcome Milo and Tibby

Since the last time we adopted a cat, 13 years ago, the rules have changed a bit. These days, kittens are usually adopted in pairs, unless there's another cat in the home. It seems like that's a better arrangement for everyone-- the kitten has a buddy, and the owners don't have to worry about lonely kitten havoc.

Heidi's wanted an orange Maine Coon-ish type cat for a while, and being catless has hastened the search. A week or so ago I found Milo on a local rescue site and promptly emailed an inquiry. At 4 1/2 months old, his orange ear tufts and huge paws seemed to fit the bill. Milo was a guy who needed a pal, though, and so the foster mom asked if we were particularly interested in another kitten.

Nope, I responded. Is there anyone over there he likes? Turns out there was. A tiny little white Angora mix. If he likes her, we like her, I thought and hit send on the adoption application.

The kittens came today for a home visit, and joyfully, they stayed. Milo's friend is Tibby, a bold little kitten with a grey Mohawk and the subtlest of buff streaks on her silky tail. Heidi has already predicted that she will lead the pack.

And technically?

She's a calico, and I love me some calico-crazy when it comes to a cat.

Friday, September 15, 2017

No Need to Thank Me

I read recently that the smell of flatulence is actually good for you. Evidently, hydrogen sulfide in small doses can protect the mitochondria in our cells, thereby preventing stroke, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, dementia and other effects of aging.

So now when I toot a little (or a lot), I don't even say Excuse me.

Nope, I just tell Heidi that I am purifying our cells, one fart at a time.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Wisdom to Know the Difference

A former colleague stopped by school today to bid us all farewell before moving to Charleston, SC. Although her replacement is terrific, we miss her big smile and easy way with the kids already.

"So how's the year so far?" she asked, well aware of the challenges we are confronting with increased enrollment, new staff, and construction literally right outside our classrooms.

"Let me put it this way," I started. "Last year I made the decision not to even think about how things might be this year." I shrugged. "What could I change by worrying? I asked myself. Maybe it won't be so bad."

The other teachers and I who are still at the school shook our heads with woe, considering the trials we are facing in addition to actually teaching our students.

No parking, everyone stretched thin, new administration coming down hard on the kids, first year of departmentalizing special ed, flawed master schedule, and a brand new learning management system that nobody knows how to use.

"It's way worse than I ever could have imagined," I sighed. "Thank goodness I didn't worry too much.!"