Sunday, October 21, 2018


I spent the afternoon in my garden, pretty much putting it to bed for the season. The sun was shining and the air was brisk, but it was still warm enough for me to work in my t-shirt. I always feel a little sad to pull living plants from the ground and throw them on the compost heap, but it was time. And, in consolation, I left with 15 pounds of sweet potatoes, lots of peppers, some tomatillos, a quart of green tomatoes, and half a pound of tiny little heirloom shell beans, sun-dried in their pods.

For so many reasons, both told and untold, this was not the best season of our nine so far, but I am not unsatisfied.

Saturday, October 20, 2018


The heat and humidity finally broke earlier this week, and there was a crispness to the air and a golden angle to the sunlight that made it feel like fall. Something hasn't been quite right, though, and it wasn't until I opened the paper this morning that I realized what it was. An article in the Metro section told me what was missing: in our region, none of the leaves have changed.

As far north as Connecticut and as far west as Ohio, there is barely a hint of yellow in any of the green. Less daylight and dropping temperatures are what trigger the seasonal change in foliage, but one without the other throws the timetable off.

Such a late change in color is unprecedented, and no one is sure what it means for leaf peepers. Experts advise that is too soon to give up on this year's spectacle, but also wonder what a year like this might foretell in our era of climate change.

At least we still have pumpkins and apple cider. For now.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Communication Barrier

A few years ago the school system added American Sign Language as a language option. Since that time, it has become rather popular in our school, especially with active, kinesthetic learners.

This year, we have a new, full-time ASL teacher. Her classroom is a couple doors down; she has a homeroom on our team, and she is deaf.

As team leader and a nearby person with a lot of experience in the building, I am a prime resource and support for her. She is the type of person who doesn't hesitate to ask for help, and I like that, because it is much easier for me to answer questions than to anticipate them. The school provides an interpreter for her which makes most of our communication very easy, but there are times when we are alone, and getting a message through is more of a struggle then. Fortunately, she is gracious and patient, even writing little jokes I am too clueless to catch on the whiteboard. We make it work.

Even so, I am acutely aware that she is unable to speak my language, but I have just never taken the time to learn hers.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Don't Dis Functional

It was sixth period.

One third of the students were off in a nearby room working on their personal narrative drafts with a resource teacher, while eighteen students worked silently in the classroom on the same task. My co-teacher, Matt, and I circulated quietly among them, taking a few minutes at this table and that to check in on their progress.

About 30 minutes in, Matt made eye-contact with me and then swept his gaze over the diligently writing group and smiled. "On October 18, 2018..." he whispered.

"Stop!" I whispered back. "You'll jinx it!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

There's Always Room for Jello

I am not the only one struggling to find equilibrium with this huge new class of sixth graders. After listening to a litany of concerns from my colleagues, many of which I shared, I finally resorted to simile.

"Guys!" I said to my team, "maybe it's just like Jello!"

They looked at me quizzically.

"The more there is, the longer it takes to set," I explained. "We're still wobbling, but--"

"It's gonna gel!" finished another teacher.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018


A couple of years ago I read an article that said hundreds of kids pass through their middle and high schools every day without ever hearing their name. It was meant to point out a travesty, and I took it to heart. Since then, I stand outside my classroom door every morning and greet every student who passes by, most of them by name, since as a sixth grade teacher I know roughly a third of the school.

To be honest, it's a good brain exercise for me, especially this year, when I needed to learn 145 names as quickly as possible. Fortunately, with so many kids, I have some help. This year a few students have elected to join me. They stand right beside me, and together we greet everyone who walks down the hall with a great big "good morning!" If I don't know someone and they do, they introduce us, and the reverse is true as well.

Hopefully? There are a lot fewer kids at our school who pass a day without someone saying their name.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Dependent Learner

"What's dialogue?" asked one of the 28 kids in my class after 3 mini-lessons on dialogue.

"What's dialogue?" I asked him as I sat down in the next chair.

"People talking!" his writing partner whispered.

"People talking?" he answered.

"Right!" I told him. "Now where can you add dialogue to your personal narrative?"

"What's a personal narrative?" he responded.