Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Confirmation

Here's a conversation Heidi had recently with our two-year-old neighbor, Chase:

Chase: I missed you, Heidi!

Heidi: "I missed you, too!"

Chase: "Did you say, I miss Chase?"

Heidi: "Why, yes, yes, I did."

Chase nods, satisfied.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Rules of the Game

I suppose it's a necessary evil, but signing up for things is so often a huge headache; somebody always feels shafted. It is considered the epitome of fairness and free choice, especially in the education world, but no matter the rules of play, people are dissatisfied with the days they have to do hall duty, the hours they get in the computer lab, the month they have to provide snacks, whatever.

First come first serve? Whoever got there first had inside information and whoever was last had an unavoidable conflict. Limit the days? So and so got his friend to sign up for him and that one over there booked the time and never showed! November? That's Thanksgiving! January? It'll probably snow.

What can you do?

Nine or ten years ago, my sister-in-law gave me the European Board Game of the Year (I know, right?) for my birthday. The complexity and critical thinking that Settlers of Catan requires made it perfect to play with my nephews. Before the game starts, players roll a die to see what order to place their two villages on the board. Here, both strategy and luck are involved, because whoever goes first only gets to put one village down, and they will go last in the next round.

Every school year at this time, the teachers on my team have to sign up for eleven hours of after school Homework Club, and taking a page from those hearty settlers of Catan, we do just as they must: half up front and the other half in reverse order. Getting the days you want requires strategy and luck, but nobody complains.

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Else Is There?

Over the summer, our school system implemented several technology upgrades. Such an ambitious project rarely goes online without a few hiccups, and this one was no exception. Last week at our team leaders' meeting we received the following update: The new system is up and running, except for problems with saving, printing, the electronic grade book, and other applications.

Today when the whole staff arrived for our first pre-service day of the week, the message was not much amended, except to add that there is mandatory technology training tomorrow.

Lookin' forward to it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Until Next Year

Blustery skies gave way early this afternoon to what is easily the prettiest day of the summer, all sunshiny, breezy and blue, and so the question became what to do with this, the final day of our summer vacation. In the end, summer ended as it has passed: a walk with the dog, a bit of reading and writing, a trip to the gym and the grocery, and time spent at the pool with friends. Soon there will be a glass of wine, a nice dinner, maybe a movie on TV, and then it will be time to set the alarm for the first time since June.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Storm's A-Comin

My mom called yesterday to see if we were all set for the hurricane. "Kind of," I said, "in the sense that we're not really doing anything to get ready."

"Not even filling the tub with water?" she asked.

"Nope," I answered. "I don't really see the point. Anyway, the worst that might happen is that we could lose power, and I've already had to dump the fridge twice this year, so I feel ready for that."

My mom got into the spirit right away. "At least your garden will get a lot of water," she said.

Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but I just don't have a bad feeling about Irene. The last hurricane that had any impact on our area was in late September, 2003. Many people in the county lost power for a week or so, but we didn't. We got a day off from school and took the opportunity to drive to Pennsylvania and pick up our puppy. We named her Isabel, after the storm, and it all worked out pretty well, as anyone who's ever seen Heidi and Isabel together can confirm.

In fact, I wouldn't entirely rule out a puppy Irene.

Friday, August 26, 2011

G-L-O-R-I-A... Gloria!

Twenty six years ago I was in Virginia Beach and bracing for Hurricane Gloria. I was living about three blocks from the ocean with my dad, who was terminally ill, my sister, who was in college, and our two geriatric cats. It fell to me to carry out the recommended preparations for what they were calling the storm of a generation. I bought tape for the windows, batteries for the flashlights and radio, and water to drink. I filled the tub, secured the porch furniture, and when they recommended evacuating our neighborhood, I panicked a little, mostly about the cats.

"What should we do?" I asked my dad.

"You can do what you want," he said, drawing an X on his hurricane tracking grid (they put one in the Sunday supplements every week from June until November), "but I'm not going anywhere."

And so we stayed to literally weather the storm. It was supposed to hit sometime around midnight, but after all the running around I had done, I passed out about 10, after moving my bed away from the windows, of course. I remember waking up once and squinting out the window. The night seemed darker than usual, but when it came into focus, I saw trees bent over almost double and rain pelting horizontally. It looked like a typhoon on Gilligan's Island and I lay back down and went to sleep.

The next morning my dad and my sister told me about the storm-- how they had stayed up and the power had gone out and they had retreated to an inner hallway when it was at its worst. In the end there was no damage and as they went off to bed exhausted by the ordeal, I headed down to the freshly scrubbed beach to see what the storm had left.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Inclement Weather

The day here was grey and rainy, but it was hard to be upset about it; our summer has been pretty hot and dry. Instead of cursing the clouds we did a little light hunkering, curled up reading in the big chair by the window with the rain streaming down and then venturing out between downpours to the movies and to run a few errands in the afternoon. Before we left the house though, I looked up the snow forecast for this winter.

It is promising indeed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Note to Self: Schedule Introspection ASAP.

We had our annual summer team leaders meeting yesterday. This is where the leadership cadre of our school devotes several hours the week before everyone else comes back to getting up to speed on what's developed since classes ended in June as well as laying the groundwork for the year to come.

I've had the privilege of being included in this group since 1999, so what does it say that I was most engaged when it came to the discussion of our new building security system? Sure it involves card swiping and new keys for everyone, but it seems like the other stuff on the agenda should have grabbed my attention, too.

The earthquake was cool, though.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Earth Shook

I was sitting in a meeting in the school library when the whole room swerved onto the rumble strips. We bumped along for a thrilling thirty seconds before we regained control of the building, and when it was over I knew I had experienced my first earthquake.

In the aftermath everyone there whipped out a phone, but the mobile networks were all overloaded and had crashed. I went to find a land line so that I could check in with Heidi at home and fortunately I was able to reach her right away and although there was a lot of alarmed cussing, everything was fine. "Holy shit!" she said. "You should have seen Penelope! That cat was running all over the house looking for a place to hide!"

"I don't blame her; it was an earthquake!" I said.

"No!" she told me. "This was before anything happened! She totally knew it was coming!"

Later we learned that the quake was 5.8 on the richter scale, centered 83 miles to our southwest, and also that there was very little resulting damage or injury. Even so, they were evacuating a number of local buildings and the federal government was shutting down. That seemed a little like closing the barn door after the horse was gone to me, but I guess they didn't have a Penelope to alert them beforehand.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Devil You Know

I'm at school today to do a few pre-pre-service week chores, and I've run into a couple of other teachers. One guy has been on practically the same team of teachers for the last 15 years and this September, by way of retirement, re-assignment, and re-organization, he is facing several new faces. Our conversation was punctuated with considerable skepticism and rueful laughter on his part.

Once I made a chart showing all the teachers I've taught with in the 18 years I've been on the same sixth grade team. It was fun to remember past colleagues and surprising to see how much change there has been over the years. We've had five science teachers, five math teachers, five ESL teachers, five special ed teachers, and seven social studies teachers, but just one English teacher, me. Even so, our team has been remarkably stable lately; for the last three years, there's been no change at all, and other teachers on the team have been here for seven years, fifteen years, and sixteen years. I kind of like that consistency, even though I appreciate the benefits of change.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Told You So

What can we do to make school better?

I found myself in the company of three very articulate teenagers at dinner last night. All are former students of mine: one is returning to college today, one recently graduated from high school, the other is entering his junior year, and none of them are very upbeat about their public school experience, so I asked the question.

"Get rid of it?" they replied in unison and we all laughed.

"But seriously," I said. "Can we agree that some level of education is important?" There were nods all around. "If so, then how do we make it a more positive experience?" I shrugged. "I'm just asking, because, really? I don't want to spend my days forcing people to do things they don't want to." They have drill sergeants for that.

"Honestly?" answered the recent graduate. "The teachers don't need to change anything. It's the kids. My friends and I were so negative we never gave anything a chance."

Remorse is not really his style, but maybe the trouble he's had finding a job in the current market, or the prospect of living with his parents for a while longer, or even seeing many of his friends pack their stuff and leave for college, something he has long said is not really for him, is unsettling; certainly no one wants to be left behind.

Even so, when he said that, my jaw dropped, and I know I literally gasped. What teacher wouldn't feel at least a little bit vindicated by such a come to Jesus moment for one of our more challenging students? I'm sure many of us have fantasized about just such an act of contrition by a few of the smuggest of them, and yet I was not satisfied at all. Here was one of the most ardent anti-establishment kids I have known in my career, and it took exactly two months for him to be co-opted by the blame-the-students brigade. How did that happen? No wonder kids think that nobody understands them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unintended Consequences

We put netting over our tomatoes to save them from the birds, and while it hasn't been 100% effective, fewer tomatoes have been lost to those thirsty critters. The other morning, though, when I was at the garden to pick and water, I was startled by a squawk and a flurry on the other side of the row. When I stepped through to investigate, I saw a young cardinal trapped in the plastic mesh. He did not like me approaching, but he was stuck and could do little except make some nasty noises and scrabble a few inches away. I was worried that one of his wings or legs was injured, but when I carefully lifted the net, I saw that he had jammed his head through one of the squares and his feathers had spread behind him, making it impossible for him to reverse the thrust. I held a small pair of clippers in my hand, and so I bent to carefully snip the mesh that imprisoned the faded red fledgling. He caught the blade firmly in his beak and only released it to scold me for such a threatening gesture. Twice he intercepted the clippers before they could cut him free, but finally I was able to distract him long enough to make two quick snips. He dropped gently to the ground, hopped once, and flew away.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Followers

Like so many, I appreciate the convenience of a GPS device while driving. Well, to be exact, I like it fine for the directions, but I really like the ETA and miles to go features the best. Today on our drive home from Buffalo, though, I was not at the wheel, and so in addition to enjoying some really spectacular scenery-- rolling NY farmland and gorgeous PA mountains in particular-- I spent some time looking at real maps.

I much prefer seeing the big picture and knowing where I am and where I'm going and how I plan to get there, something that turn by turn directions not only cannot provide, but actually discourage. Who needs that big old travel atlas when you have that handy electronic device advising you from the dashboard? Turns out, we do. In fact I heard a piece on the radio not so long ago about people who followed their GPS directions down dead-end dirt roads in Death Valley. Some were rescued after a few harrowing days and some died.

While we were on vacation I whipped up a batch of vegan shortcakes to go with some wonderful local peaches. "Where did you find this recipe?" someone asked and when I told her that I had made up, she was impressed. "I could never cook without a recipe," she said.

But she could. Anyone can. Recipes are like GPSs. If you follow them without paying attention to where you are going, then you probably have no idea as to where you are, but if you use them as a resource, then your destination remains in your control, so if you need to go back sometime, or you want to go another way, it's not a problem to turn a cherry almond cake into one with peaches, lime, and even a dash of hot chili.

And to climb one more rung on the analogy ladder tonight: this is one of the most important skills that we want our children to develop. Rote memory and following directions may be enough to pass most standardized tests, but it's critical thinking and the ability to apply the knowledge we have that will keep us from getting lost in Death Valley.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This is What 900 Looks Like

A personal milestone passed unrecognized yesterday-- even though I did not realize it until today, it was my 900th consecutive post on this blog. In honor of that fact, I did a bit o' research using the "edit post" feature. Here's a little almanac of WtD so far:

Number of posts that include the word...

walk 98
dog 65

write 160
teach 336
read 356
student 397

family 109
mom 118
sister 60
brother 60 (I know, right?)
nephew 56
niece 11 (That's a fair ratio: we have 5 nephews and 1 niece.)
dad 41

cook 65
garden 52
bike 19
hike 12

lobster 6
potato 14
tomato 23

hate 64
love 143
friend 152
we 862

Yep. That seems like a pretty fair representation of the last couple of years to me.

1000 here I come!



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Line in the Sand

We are visiting family in Buffalo and today they proposed a visit to Niagara on the Lake, a lovely town not far from here. Unfortunately, NoL is in Canada, and US Citizens may not exit and re-enter our country without either a passport or secure driver's license. Our home state, Virginia, is rolling out the SDL as each of ours expires after its five-year term, although residents can request one sooner. Even so, neither of us have one, nor do we commonly travel with a passport, so no border crossing for us.

In the grand scheme of things, such security measures are neither surprising nor completely unreasonable, and it is really not a big deal; we simply made other plans. But still, how strange to stand by the side of a river in the land of the free with the knowledge that the opposite bank is off-limits. after traveling the world in my younger years, it is just not the sort of experience I associate with being American.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sliced Tomaydas

When we were kids there was a plate of sliced tomatoes on our dinner table almost every night in summer. Some we grew in our garden and others came from the tomato man who lived down the street. He had a card table set up in his front yard and when we were out and about on summer afternoons my mom would often make a stop there and choose a few tomatoes for dinner, and it was vine to plate before the sun set.

I remembered how shocked I was the first time I met someone who didn't like tomatoes; such a thing had literally been inconceivable to me until that day. Over the years I've met several non-tomato eating folks, and I've found that there is consistency to their objections. For example, they are usually a bit defensive when questioned about the fact that they like pizza, spaghetti, and/or lasagna-- evidently cooked, pureed tomatoes are not the problem. Neither is ketchup, although in my opinion, the only thing ketchup and tomatoes have in common is the color red. For those who can not stand fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes, it has something to do with texture, mouth feel, and a certain "watery" flavor(!). I'm afraid I can't explain any more specifically than that, because those people happen to abhor one of my favorite foods on the planet.

This summer, we have a ton of tomatoes from our garden. It's not a problem at all though, because for us, there really is no such thing as too many tomatoes. We have already canned 25 quarts (Heidi's goal is 104-- 2 per week until tomatoes come in next season), and of course we have a plate of sliced tomatoes every night at dinner. All is as it should be.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Break

There has been an imperceptible change in the weather the last few mornings and evenings. The unrelenting heat of the hottest July EVER is still around, but there are fleeting moments when the trees stir just a bit and you can tell that it's not really going to be hot forever.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Old School of Thumb

I heard a coach use that phrase while being interviewed about new concussion policies for football players, and although I laughed a little when he said it, I've decided I rather like it.

In fact many changes are afoot within our school system, so I think I may have ample opportunity to use it. Stay tuned.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Cost Analysis

I didn't really start gardening to save money, although I bet that was in the back of my mind. Rather, I wanted to produce at least some of my own food, and a vegetable garden seemed the natural place to start. I figured there would be an initial investment-- how-to books, tools, fertilizer, and then later seeds, plants, and of course time. That last one's easy for me to sort of gloss over when constructing my mental spreadsheet, but to be honest, even though I like it, the garden does take time we might have spent elsewhere. I also get that there's a learning curve and that gardening is dependent on many variables-- weather, critters, soil, weeds, what have you, and so I would say I am prepared to lose a little cash in the grand scheme of things.

We went to our local farmers market this morning and there were samples of a delicious green variety of heirloom tomato. Despite our own bountiful harvest, we decided to buy one. One. (Okay, it was a pretty big tomato, but not to brag, I've grown bigger.) $5.25!

Recalculating. Just a moment. Yeah. I'm breaking even this year.

Friday, August 12, 2011

First Things First

I heard a piece on the radio tonight about the importance of preschool in helping people develop the skills that are essential in today's job market: compromise, curiosity, and cooperation. It made sense. There was also a companion piece about the wildly expensive, uber-exclusive preschools in Manhattan. It seems that children younger than two are "interviewed" for places in these institutions. The reporter hastened to assure us that they are not real interviews, but more like play date observations. What comprises a successful examination? Well, they are looking for tots who show the three C's mentioned above.

The educator in me scratched my head when I heard that. If we are saying that kids need those essential skills to be successful, then does it not seem counter-intuitive that the "best" schools only accept those children who have already developed them? What's the point in that? As a writing teacher, I know how much fun it is to have kids who are good writers in class, but I don't for a minute think that's my mission. If anything, it's the kids who most need support who should have it, not at the expense of any other child, but certainly as a priority.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Swingin' Babe

That's what my dad used to say when he knew I was excited about something but he just couldn't really fathom the appeal. I'm sure other dads said things like Mm hmm, and That's interesting, or maybe even That's great, sweetheart.

I haven't thought about it in years, and I have no idea where he picked it up, but it's kind of cool, right?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Locating...

Earlier in the summer I activated the "find my iphone/ipad" option on both of our phones and the ipad as well. I thought it might be handy in the event that we lose or misplace our devices, but since then I've only used it for one thing-- to find Heidi when she is lost and then to give her directions so that she can get back.

Aaah. There she is now!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

No More Explosions, Please

After a summer of blockbuster movies attended, for the most part, with teenaged boys, it was a not unwelcome change to find myself among a sedate, older crowd (we were by far the youngest patrons in the theater) at the local multiplex. The film? Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen, and friends? It did not disappoint.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Jitters

My nephew, who lives in Atlanta, started kindergarten today. For us northern folk, who reported to our classrooms nearly to the end of June, it seems a little early; school for our students is still four weeks away, but it's close enough for us to be mindful that the beginning of the year is a transition, and starting at a new school can be especially rough.

I was lucky enough to teach both of my older nephews when they were in sixth grade-- having them in my classroom made me much more empathetic to the students' experiences, and I'm a much better teacher because of that. My heart clenched a bit today when I heard that Richard cried a little on his first day of school. Even though the teacher in me recognizes that it's perfectly normal for some kids to feel anxious and emotional in a new situation, especially one as important as school, I was still sorry that any child, especially one I really really love, had to feel that way, and so I resolved to make this year the smoothest transition ever from elementary to middle school for the kids who are coming my way in just a few short weeks.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Read All About It

It's Sunday, and I spent my morning in a traditional way-- drinking coffee and reading the paper. Early on in the morning, I read the most compelling piece, certainly of the day, but probably of the last six months. In his New York Times op/ed piece, Drew Westen, an Emory University professor of psychology, dissects what he sees as the primary weakness of the Obama presidency so far, starting with inauguration day. It's a fascinating read that rang a lot of bells for me personally.

I like his analysis of the importance of story-telling in the human experience (although I anticipate objections of readers who will complain that he is arguing that our leaders must treat us as children who cannot comprehend facts and thus must be fed parables), and I also appreciate his take on how bullies behave. His "bending the arc of history" metaphor, borrowed from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was right on, as was his point that "After a great technological revolution or a major economic transition, as when America changed from a nation of farmers to an urban industrial one, there is often a period of great concentration of wealth, and with it, a concentration of power in the wealthy." In times such as those, Teddy Roosevelt worked to bust the monopolies, and Franklin Roosevelt set in motion the great society.

To emphasize the relevance of these historic cycles, Westen reminds us that in the US today, 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans.

Now that's some story.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Momento Mori

"It was kind of gruesome, with all the skeletons and stuff..." I was telling my mom about one of the exhibits I saw the other day on my big museum trip.

"I would think that was right up your alley," she replied, and I shrugged, but because she couldn't see me do that through the phone line, I elaborated:

"Well, there were a lot of skeletons! Even a baby and a fetus..." I trailed off, and she agreed that such things might be difficult to see.

Our conversation moved on, but I'm still thinking about that part of it. She's right, not so long ago I was fascinated by forensic science. I was one of the legion who lined Patricia Cornwell's deep pockets, anxiously awaiting the next Scarpetta novel. One of my Christmas presents in 1990 was a workshop at the Smithsonian on forensic anthropology. Back in those days, nothing was too gorey or gross for me.

Twenty years on, my tolerance for such things has definitely diminished. I suspected as much (it started with the movies-- there were just some violent scenes that I found disturbing), but I noticed it for sure a few weeks ago when Josh and I were watching a NatGeo Explorer episode about the severed feet that keep washing up in Seattle and Vancouver. As riveting as it was, the graphic footage of the Body Farm, the time-elapsed shots of an underwater pig carcass, and even scientists shopping Home Depot for the perfect amputation tool and then testing it out on a cadaver all caused me to flinch a little.

Why?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sad Sack

How come we never hear about the happy sacks?

I've mentioned how enamored I am of those little nylon drawstring bags. Ever since I turned my Spiderman one over to Richard, I have been on the hunt for another. It's not that they are hard to come by, but rather that I really wanted a "good" one, so even though it had been over a month, I still didn't have one yesterday when I went downtown to visit a couple of museums. (I know, I know, when I first saw the middle school kids with them, I thought they were silly, but if you haven't tried one, you'll have to take my word as a convert about how handy they are.)

I think the reason I like them so much is because I really do not like carrying a purse. The sensory issues involved with holding it, wearing it, watching out for it, etc. are too much for me. Nor do I like carrying anything in my hands. That leaves my pockets, and even pared down, my essential possessions, ID, debit card, 2 keys, money,and phone, that's a lot of stuff to cram in the pockets of my shorts. The beauty of the string bag is that all of that can go in there, and then the bag itself floats, nearly weightlessly, from your shoulders. Or it would have, if I happened to own one.

Luckily for me, at our first stop, my friend Mary accurately predicted that the museum gift shop might sell them. In no time, I was sporting a slick little purple bag with a cool caption, CREATIVITY TAKES COURAGE, by Matisse, and boy oh boy, I was a happy tourist after that. Until...

At the next museum we visited, I cheerfully presented my bag to the guard for inspection. "I don't need to see that," he told me, "but all bags must be worn in front of your body or held in your hand to the side."

My first reaction is almost always compliance, and since the bag was already in my hand, I let it drop to my side, and entered the gallery. I did slip it on frontways as we made our way to the exhibit we had come to see, but that just felt funny and looked silly. With a sigh, I carried my bag, until I was out of sight of any guards and then I slung it on my back defiantly. I did not want to be scolded by any museum personnel, but I did not understand the reasoning behind the rule, and so I was not motivated to follow it.

Eventually, another guard called me out for wearing the bag, and I dragged it along beside me the rest of the way through the museum, supremely disgruntled, the whole triumph of its acquisition nearly ruined. Fortunately, at our next stop, bags were allowed to be worn as they were intended, and being the owner of a cool purple nylon string bag became a good thing again.

As I chafed under the draconian bag rules of the other museum, though, my thoughts naturally turned to the students in our school. So often it is when they don't understand or buy into the rationale behind our rules and policies that they do not honor them.

I get that.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Don't Forget to Write

I've been checking in with the summer blog I set up for any students who were interested in continuing to write once school was out. Participation has definitely dwindled, but I'm not disappointed; there is still a handful of kids who blog regularly-- in fact just a few minutes ago I was commenting back and forth with a kid in Okinawa, where they are eating breakfast and weathering a major typhoon, and another kid in Bolivia, where they are enjoying a mild winter day in the tropics. I also wrote to another kid who is lucky enough to be on vacation in Paris.

It's easy to take technology for granted, but that's pretty cool, right? To me, it's nearly miraculous, especially considering that when I was in middle school, my family moved to Saudi Arabia, and staying in touch with my friends meant mailing a letter, knowing it would take at least 10 days to get there and then waiting another couple of weeks for a reply.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Screen Time

There's a restaurant near my home that is, shall we say, a little leftist in its leanings. They have a very progressive bookstore on the premises and they sponsor quite liberal lectures, readings, etc. Not surprisingly, the decor is pretty hip, and in one section, they run a continuous slide show with interesting illustrations that sport provocative captions.

If you're me, eating there and facing the screen, the slides, although undeniably cool at first, can become a borderline detraction from your dining experience-- especially the ones that are a little disturbing or have too much text to read before they switch. It's probably because I am obsessively drawn to the screen; I can't ignore it, and so I read the messages over and over.

I've recognized that screen time has become a bit of an issue with me lately, so much so, that I have begun deliberately limiting my exposure to the computer, iPad, and iPhone. Just today, I realized that movies have to be included, too.

TV is not as big a problem for me-- I must have overdosed long ago, and like a drinker who stays away from gin, I know my limits for television. There is family legend about me craning over the railing of my crib toward the TV, and as soon as I could read, I memorized the weekly TV Guide. (Of course, back then, it was just three networks and UHF.)

But all of that aside, there is much of value to be gleaned from the constant bombardment of images and text that we both choose and are subjected to. In the slideshow, for example there was one caption I found compelling every time: I just want to hear one person say that it wouldn't be the same without me.

It's not what you might think... I don't need to hear those words; I think I need to learn to say them.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The 5 Rs

Today I spent a few hours with a friend who teaches the same thing I do, sixth grade English, but at another school in our county. Brains buzzing, we whiled away the time plotting out and planning for the next school year. Our conversation reminded me that the first part of summer vacation is for relaxing and recovering, and the second half is for recharging, regrouping, and reorganizing.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Just Dreamy

I dreamed about school last night. It was one of those weird anxiety dreams and so I wasn't prepared for the lesson (as if that would ever stop me!), and the students were not cooperating. To further complicate matters, I was in a completely unfamiliar classroom, standing on top of a cabinet and trying to write on a whiteboard that was placed all the way up by the ceiling. But the cabinet was too high and a little too far to the left, so I had to squat and reach way over to write. Well, I would have had to, except my lesson never started. I was planning to have the students and visitors, did I mention there were visitors, too? Parents were there also, for some reason. Anyway, I was going to do a group brainstorm about why reading is important and what kinds of things the group had recently read, but the dry erase marker wouldn't write, and then the students wandered off, although their parents stayed, waiting expectantly for the activity to begin, until at last the bell rang.

It wasn't a very restful night.