Saturday, June 30, 2018

They See Me Strollin

For a person who has almost everything, I got a lot of nice things for my birthday this year. By far the most photogenic was not actually for me, but rather for my cats.

You see it's come to my attention that while we are out galavanting on all number of adventures with the dog, they are always stuck at home. And so, when I saw a kitty stroller in lovely lemon yellow last week, I was sorely tempted to buy it. I pushed it all around the store for a good ten minutes, appreciating the smooth handling, convenient bottom storage compartment, and handy collapsible design, but the end I opted out.

Fortunately Heidi alerted my sister, and so the early hours of my birthday were spent outside in the dappled morning sunlight, light breeze blowing, birds singing, and me strolling with my cats and the dog. And yes, there are pictures.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Very Happy Tomorrow Today

The documentary about Fred Rogers is not over-rated.

I was probably a little too old to fully appreciate Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood when it ran on our local PBS station, but I certainly know all the characters: Daniel Strip-ed Tiger, Rex the Owl, Henrietta Kitty, Lady Elaine Fairchild, Handyman Negri, Lady Aberlin, Mr. McFeely, King Friday the 13th. I know all the words to the opening and closing songs, know the bench, the sneakers, the closet, the sweaters. I remember Picture, Picture and the thrill of the Trolley entering the tunnel on the way to the Land of Make-Believe.

Mr. Rogers himself was always a bit of a mystery to me: how could anyone really be that nice? But by all accounts, he really was that nice and that sincere. He purposely set out to create a show that was an oasis for children in the turbulence of television, and later, the world. One that would remind them that it was okay to be who they were, even when it didn't always feel like it. And any doubt about the timelessness of his message was erased with the information that the very first episodes of the show had King Friday closing the border and building a wall around the castle to keep out change.

His message that no matter how the world changes, kids are the same inside resonated with my inner teacher and made me promise myself to channel my inner Mr. Rogers a little more in my classroom, especially in these trying times. 

When I say it's you I like, I'm talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed." 
~Fred Rogers, Dartmouth Commencement Address, 2002

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Times Have Changed

I hadn't been to the little strip of shops in years, but just pulling into the parking lot and looking for an elusive spot brought back lots of memories of lots of time spent there. The first Thai restaurant in town used to be there, so was the Village Bistro, and Rays the Steak house. All of that is gone, each establishment turned over at least two or three times since I had last patronized the strip.

Today there was a very long line out the door of the new Greek place. (Who knew June 28 was dollar gyro day? A lot of folks, evidently.) And the coffee shop looked crowded, too, but we were there for Pho. My nephew has just returned from a month in Europe and he invited us to lunch. It was fun hearing about his travels and catching up, and the soup was delicious, quite possibly the best in town.

And when we were done? Riley picked up the check.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Old Friend

I got up without an alarm, made coffee, took the dogs for a walk, went to the garden, and then out to lunch and a movie.

Hi Summer! I do remember you!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Round Two Tomorrow

The rain has kept me from my garden these last weeks, but I haven't worried a bit-- with that rain and these warm days and all this summer light, I was confident that my little plants were thriving without me. And so I was excited to see their progress when I finally headed up to our plot early this morning to add a few more flowers and tomatoes and a couple of peanut plants.

But when I arrived I confess to being more than a little dismayed, for how I could I forget that the same ingredients that allowed my vegetables to double in size allowed their weedy brethren equal opportunity?

My plants?
Were fine.

The weeds?
Were better.

Two hours later?
It was a fair fight.

Monday, June 25, 2018

As Summer Does

Around here summer means movies and food experiments, and we kicked off our first full week of vacation by walking down to meet Josh for the new Star Wars film and then grabbing some ramen afterwards. The experimentation came in the form of the assortment of mug cake mixes we impulsively purchased on a quick stop at the grocery store after dinner. It was an iconic evening made even more so by all the fireflies blinking our way home. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Portmanteau

I was feeling a bit restless this afternoon. "Let's do something!" I said, but I wasn't sure what that might be. After a while we decided to go over to National Harbor and walk around the shops and waterfront. And so we did.

When we first arrived it was sprinkling, so we strolled through the atrium of the Gaylord resort. When the rain blew over, we stepped out past the pool and down to the riverwalk. It was fun to people-watch as we went. Passing a small group of tourists leaning into an unusual-looking plant I overheard one of them say, "It smells pugnant! Just pugnant! Strong and stinky!"

I laughed at how appropriate his error was; it sounded like the plant's odor was repugnantly pungent.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Urban Hike

When it came time to take that cute little Beckett back from his puppysitting we decided to walk. His house is probably a mile as the crow flies, but with a wooded park and two school campuses between us, the crow's flight plan was not a possibility. So, we zigzagged on streets and paths and sidewalks and up and down hills and even cut across a few fields to find the most direct route to that distant neighborhood, braving mosquitoes and a dead rat or two. It wasn't quite as beautiful as the hikes we usually take, but it was good to be outside and going somewhere.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Nothin's Worrying Me

And on the second day of summer...

it rained!
and rained
and rained
and rained
and rained.

But who cares?

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Potential Energy

Cumin,
flax,
milkweed,
radish,
watermelon,
poppies,
peppers,
pumpkin,
johnny jump-ups,
summer snow,
sunflowers,
wheat grass,
and
wildflowers:

on the first day of summer
anything seems possible,
and so I planted
some seeds.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Hey, Hey, Hey, Good-bye

In general, I'm not a hugger, but there were a lot of big good-byes at the end of this school year, and so I opened my arms wide to every one of them, leaned in, and held on to all we had been through together for just a few seconds longer.

Working at the same job in the same place with many of the same folks for 25 years made it seem that all of that would last forever, but the last few days have reminded me that it won't. One day, in the not too distant future, all the fun and laughter and accomplishment and frustration and irritation and failure will be in the past.

Actually, it's in the past now, and there is only so much more to look forward to. Maybe it's just summer vacation talking, but I think I'm going to be a little more appreciative from now on, and I might even give a few more hugs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Warning: Golden Years Ahead

It's happening.

After finishing my 25th year of teaching,
people I started with
are starting to...

RETIRE!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Carbon Emissions

"Well, if you don't want to be a teacher for a day, then find a partner and create a Kahoot," I said last week in an effort to make sure our class time was full and engaging right up until the last day.

(For those who are unaware, Kahoot is a game-based educational tool played by whole classes in real time. Multiple-choice questions are projected on the screen, and students answer the questions with their device. It can be a very engaging way to introduce, review, or assess material.)

"Does it have to be about school?" asked someone.

"No," I replied. "Find an interest you have in common, do some research, and write 10-12 questions."

The notion of having the whole class play their quiz game was instantly engaging, and soon the class was humming along, using all sorts of higher order thinking skills to create some fun time-fillers for those excruciating final days of school.

And that's how we found ourselves competing to showcase our knowledge of "Different Types of Farts" this morning.

First question? Which type is also known as a Ninja Fart?

First answer? Silent, but deadly. 

And so on, until we got to the question When do girls fart? 

The choices were:

All the time
Only at night
When they are alone
Never

As the time was ticking down, I heard one boy agonizing over his answer. He is the oldest of three brothers, so his experience is somewhat limited. "Wait!" he cried. "Do girls even fart?"

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Lucky Little Girl

I almost ignored the email.

It seemed like some junk from SiriusXM, but I went ahead and clicked on it before deleting. Turns out I had won two complimentary tickets in a promotion I had entered and promptly forgotten. And that’s how we are going to see Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, and Dwight Yoakum at the MGM Grand Casino Theater tonight. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Time is Not of the Essence

The day was filled with minor nuisances: I got up at 6 with the restless dogs; we were scheduled for a work day at the garden; since our washer is still inoperable, we spent several hours sitting around somebody else's empty house doing laundry.

In fact, the list goes on, but honestly? I don't even care. Because this weekend is not like most weekends. Today is the last Saturday until August 25th that is part of a regular work week.

And everything seems, so...

So?

So,

manageable.

Friday, June 15, 2018

One and a Half to Go

Another day, another--

Wait! No one got hurt today! Nothing was broken or destroyed...

...unless you count my office chair that Z peed on.

*sigh*


Thursday, June 14, 2018

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Part IV

Years ago we used to organize a field trip to the skating rink just up the road from our school. In our minds, skating was just good, old-fashioned form of healthy recreation, and the facility was new, not many of our students had been skating back then, and so the novelty was a thrill and the trip was always a hit. 

The problem was that every time we went, some kid got injured: lacerated hand, sprained wrist, bump on the head: ultimately, it was the broken leg that put an end to our skating excursions. Even so, we briefly considered reviving that field trip when we were planning our end of the year activity, but the threat of injury waved us off.

So we ended up with a wholesome day at summer camp-- capture the flag, tent races, team building, arts and crafts, a bounce house obstacle course relay, hot dogs and s'mores. Super fun, but safe.

Until that kid dives down the slide in the bounce house and, yes, breaks his arm.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Threefer

And today?

The teacher-for-a-day lesson was slime, fluffy slime.

My niece is a slime expert, but I must confess to only being a slime observer from afar, until today. Everything was going great-- the *teachers* were organized, the students were engaged, until I decided that I wanted to get in on the fun, too.

My first mistake was my last mistake. When I dipped my fingers into the pale green concoction of glue, shaving cream, food coloring, and detergent, instead of coming together into a smooth, squishy ball, mine glommed onto my fingers like sticky dough. Had I been cooking, I would have added a little flour until I achieved the right consistency, but in this case, adding a little more laundry detergent only made matters worse.

Of course it was at that exact point in the lesson that several other students had the same problem as I did, but with my fingers covered in failed slime, I could not offer assistance or redirection. In a matter of moments there was slime on the tables, chairs, carpet, and walls. A quarter of the class dashed to the bathrooms to wash their hands, and I did, too.

In the end? It was nothing that twenty Lysol wipes and five greased elbows couldn't handle. A few kids left with a satisfying baggie of slime, but the trashcan was full of goop.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

When the Volcano Blows

Never mind the cupcakes, perhaps I should have hesitated when it came to the lava lamp lesson-- but what could possibly go wrong with baby oil and food coloring in a class of 21 sixth graders during the last week of school? To be honest, the teacher-for-a-day and I had it pretty well organized and mess-free until that final student inexplicably squeezed her bottle with all her might. The lid flew off in an eruption of red water and baby oil which drenched her, the girl doing the lesson, and the the carpet, as well as liberally spattering my desk, including my phone, iPad, and computer.

I confess to being livid, and I may have even raised my voice in frustration. (Although I might not have been quite so aggravated had she either apologized or offered to help clean up.) A spare t-shirt, a container of Lysol wipes, and a roll of paper towels later, things were looking a little less greasy, but I was still sliding over the slick spots on the rug.

And then there was the one thing that was damaged beyond recovery-- my end-of-the-year checkout form!

Monday, June 11, 2018

What's Your Objective?

When it comes to Teacher-for-a-Day, our final activity of the year where the students plan and implement a lesson for their peers, I'm usually quite liberal about approving the students' activity proposals; ownership is the foundation of the project.

Today was an exception. I just could not say yes to a lesson about healthy eating that involved decorating cupcakes.

"We're going to have them calculate the calories after they decorate them," the student told me earnestly.

"Why?" I asked, bewildered.

"So they know how bad they are while they are eating them," she informed me.

In the end? It was a lesson on decorating techniques; no nutritional awareness involved.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Hearin' There

Overheard around town today:

"Where did you get all this stuff??"
-Goodwill attendant to Heidi as we dropped off the first batch of attic purge.

"That's a gun, right, Mama? Guns aren't allowed!"
-three-year-old shopper looking wistfully at a Nerf tennis ball launcher at the pet store.

"Self Checkout is open with no waiting!"
-Target employee pointing to the line of customers at the self checkout

"My name is Jack, and I'm a dog lover."
-boy on elementary school playground greeting Heidi and Lucy

"I don't even know what you eat on those. The tail?"
-my neighbor on the phone on her balcony as I potted plants on the front stoop.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Eight is Great

"It feels like summer!" Heidi said as we walked down to the movies this warm and sunny afternoon, and I nodded in agreement.

Once at the theater we found our seats and settled in with some popcorn. After a full 25 minutes of (very enjoyable!) trailers, the feature started. Oceans Eight was as smooth as a pebble from the beach in Maine. Loaded with solid girl power, it was still light and fun, with some gentle curves, and nothing to complain about.

I felt relaxed and entertained when I stepped back out into the June afternoon. "It feels like summer!" I said, and Heidi nodded in agreement.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Betwixt and Between

My senior project student finished her internship today. Six years on, I think she saw her former classroom through new eyes, although I'm pretty sure she still identifies more with the students than with me. Having a more sympathetic person in the room was a plus for me, too, though, especially as we made the push to finish the last big writing project of the year.

For example, when a very capable student literally whined that she really had no idea why I would think that He Shoots for the Stars was kind of a cliche as the headline for a piece on soccer, I referred her to Madeline. "I think Ms. S might be right about that," I heard Madeline tell the student kindly. "It is a bit cheesy." And so they worked it out together.

At the end of the day, when I was showing another teacher the list of students in the last class who had successfully revised and polished their writing to a published draft, Madeline looked over my shoulder and gasped. "That's all that actually finished?" she said, counting the names. "Six?? Out of how many?"

"Twenty-four," I told her.

"But isn't it due today?" she asked.

"Yep," I answered. "Oh, everyone has something written," I explained, "but not everyone completely finished."

She looked aghast.

"You were always one of the six," I laughed gently, "but if you're going to be a teacher, you have to be prepared for the other 18."

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Two Birds

I was talking to our school reading specialist at an end-of-the-year party this afternoon when my friend and fellow sixth grade English teacher, Mary, sat down. A little while later, the third sixth grade English teacher joined us, too. We were chit-chatting about this and that when she said, "Oh, by the way, I won't be in school tomorrow. Sorry to miss our CLT meeting," she shrugged.

"I think we just had it!" said Mary.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Escalator

The only thing the service operators could tell me about my washer repair (or lack there of) was that they would "escalate" my concerns.

What does that mean? I asked, both in writing and in person.

The silence was long.

But not as long as the laundry has been in the hamper.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

So Close, So Far Away

We had to cancel our end of the year scavenger hunt around the Tidal Basin today. For two years teams of kids visiting the monuments and hunting historical facts has been a fun and popular option for the final week of school, but this year, with a price tag of 25 bucks, only a handful of students signed up for the activity, and we couldn't cover the cost of the charter bus.

Truth be told, it seems ridiculous to pay hundreds of dollars for a ten-mile round trip, but that's a reality in our school system these days. Buses have never been available in the last couple weeks of school, and even when we can schedule them, all trips must be complete by 1 PM. Plus? A few years ago they cut the free transportation allotment to schools, forcing us to charge students even when we are taking a school bus during that narrow time frame. And so here we are, just minutes a way from some of the most famous attractions in the country and the world, places that other people travel miles and miles to visit, and yet it is nearly impossible to take advantage of them educationally.

Some of those funds might have been redirected to our 1:1 personal device initiative. We give all of our students an iPad, and even pay to repair and replace it as many times as necessary. It seems that, as a school system, our priority has shifted from real to virtual-- students are supposed to be able to access the world on the devices we give them-- and so we have virtually given up local reality.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Not News

In a prime example of people who don't actually teach making decisions for those of us who do, our county technology department has scheduled all of our laptops to be updated and re-imaged, and basically out of commission, for the same day our final grades are due.

Considering that our grades are fully automated and online, not having our computers might be a wee bit inconvenient. And in other news, our final grades are due a full week before school is out, which of course undermines any accountability students may have for lessons and assignments.

Okay, it's really not news, but it really is aggravating!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Un-stuffing

Maybe it was thrift-shopping yesterday that gave me the idea, or maybe it was the weather forecast, unseasonably chilly and pouring rain all day. From where ever the inspiration came, I spent all afternoon in the attic: sorting, organizing, tossing, and packing for donation. 6 contractor bags of trash, two banker boxes of shredding, and a car load to give away later, I was satisfied with my effort.

Oh, don't get me wrong, with 19 years of we might need that up there, you can barely tell that anything is missing.

BUT, today was only the beginning, and I like how far I got.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Second Hand

We were on our way out to a garden center this afternoon when it began rain. "Wanna stop over at the big thrift store and wait out the storm?" Heidi suggested, and so we did.

With nothing in particular to look for, we browsed through the clothes, on to the furniture, and then over to the housewares just looking for a deal. After scooping up a pair of three dollar Eddie Bauer cargo shorts to wear to the garden and a 1 quart All Clad pot for $4.99 (I know!), I amused myself by going back to the clothes and through the t-shirt rack.

More than any other items, this collection gave me a sense of where all this stuff had come from. Well-represented were local high school booster clubs, college Greek life events, and religious camps. There were also a few pro team fan shirts, some Abercrombie t's, and a couple of plain solid colored shirts from Hanes, Target, and Champion.

Nothing was more than $2.99, but in the end, I walked away without one, because none of them were really me. Probably because most of them were really somebody else.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Poet-three

It was one of my favorite days of the year in my class today-- our visiting poet friend came by to lead the students in some improv and poetry writing. Today the lesson was using the rule of three to compose tiny plays that are strung together to tell the story of the poet's life. As every year,  I participated fully, scribbling ideas furiously in my notebook alongside my kids.

Here are a few nuggets from my notebook:

I have been in my classroom
longer than in any home.
I love the way the sun shines
in my eyes on winter afternoons.
Being blinded helps me see.

A robin spent the morning buiding
her nest in the rafters of my deck.
When she flew away
I knocked it down before she could lay her eggs.

Sometimes when I walk the dog
in the early morning
I pretend I am the sole survivor
of some catastrophe.
I enjoy the silence.

On our first day at the beach
thousands of starfish
covered the sand,
and we thought it was normal.
We never saw another one.

A tiny mouse runs along the wall
of my classroom.
I know there is nothing for her to find.
I wish her no harm.

At night a fox
cries in the woods
across the way. It sounds
like something is dying.
Maybe it is.

When the sun makes a fishnet
of light at the bottom of the pool,
I dive in.