Category Archives: Teaching and Learning

Where do I start?

Really, where do I start?

March has been brutal, in like a lion, out like a lamb. It’s an old saying to describe the March’s weather and while it’s true in the upper Midwest that’s not the reference I am making.

It’s been a while since I started a post, even longer since I finished and published one. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s that I’ve been distracted and not sure what to say and write.

a lone tree overlooking the Atlantic Ocean

I’ve been thinking about what ‘making the days count’ really means the past few months going back to this this past summer. I’ve been a in writing drought of sorts. Four posts in six months.

A friend of mine recently shared with me that he thought I was ‘one of the most positive people’ he knew. The compliment buoyed my spirits at a time when I needed a boost.

It’s spring break and I am, or rather, we are in the Florida Keys for a week of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. I know I am need of all three.

Four weeks ago, tomorrow morning, I opened my Five Minute Journal and was greeted by,

“Today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday.”  Ann Brashares.

It was the day I knew, we all knew, was ahead of us. Continue reading Where do I start?

a first Sunday and two sunsets

It’s been a while since I’ve penned regular posts. I’ve gotten out of the habit writing weekly or writing at all.

As the new calendar year began, I made note of some things I wanted to change. I suppose I could have selected another place on the calendar, but the timing coincides with my return to work (tomorrow) after five weeks off due to my second knee replacement. I now have matching scars.

The past half year has been busy…..

In June, I had my right knee replaced at the beginning of summer break and I planned my left knee replacement to coincide with winter break knowing I would be missing the last three weeks of ’18 in recovery. Ironically, two of my other school colleagues were experiencing similar journeys with their knee or a spouse’s knee.  

In November, our son graduated from marine boot camp and we traveled to southern California to be with him. Our son left home for boot camp in August and I replaced blogging with letter writing. In all, I wrote seventeen letters. I haven’t written a letter since late October, but it is on my list. Our son is still training but he has his phone and computer and it’s easier for him to communicate electronically – he texted me several times yesterday and it was nice to hear from him. But I’ll resume the old-fashioned way with an envelope and a real stamp. We had a day to unwind after his graduation and I snapped the photo below of the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean. It was a peaceful end to an exciting couple of days. The day after our son’s graduation from boot camp was my birthday and it also happened to be the USMC birthday.

the sunsets at Imperial Beach, California – 11/9/18

After our son’s graduation, he was home for a week before he returned to finish his training.

Continue reading a first Sunday and two sunsets

In the beginning…

Merry Christmas.

I was 7 years old when the photo above was taken. Every time I see it, I remember listening to the Apollo 8 astronauts reading the first ten verses of Genesis as their space capsule orbited the moon. I can remember sitting in front of the black and white television in my pajamas with my two brothers. I was in first grade and enamored with the American space program.

50 years later, I am still amazed by what lies beyond Earth. The past few weeks, I have awakened early in the morning to see Venus brightly illuminating the pre-dawn sky. The sun brightly illuminating the sky. This morning, it was a reminder of what lies beyond.

Each time I see the moon, I marvel at the achievements of America’s space program – despite what a professional basketball player recently denied, men did reach the moon and return safely.

But today, I marvel at the photo and the possibilities that exist for our world. As Bill Anders, one of the three Apollo 8 astronauts, remarked,

“We came to explore the moon and what we discovered was the Earth,”

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders
Continue reading In the beginning…

Letter No. 8

It’s Sunday morning and it’s quiet for now. I enjoy the weekend mornings because I can sleep a little later than I normally do during the week and there isn’t the urgency to get up, move, and be someplace. Though sometimes that isn’t always the case.

I let the group walk ahead…..

Last weekend I took a bird walk and had to be out of the house by 7:30 AM Saturday morning. It was an organized bird walk with a trained naturalist at the Morton Arboretum. I signed up in August when I was excited about learning about birds. I still am excited about learning more about birds but the time to learn and watch birds is fleeting with school back in session. The bird walk, added a bit of urgency to last Saturday morning’s get up and go, but it was worth the time. I enjoyed the walk with a group of folks walking the paths and trails and seeing things I don’t normally see. It helped me model the science homework I assign my students daily – be curious and full of wonder. I shared last weekend’s adventures with them last Monday when they asked how my weekend was – a few were interested and pressed for more questions and others were the typical 8th grader. I shared that my newfound curiosity was inspired by a book I had started to read – Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April. I make the headway with my students anyway I can and I am still reading the book.

This weekend is a little different. O and her marching band have a band competition, but she didn’t need to be at school early Saturday morning as she has in the past couple of weekends. This week’s competition was across town and her band won top honors in its class. So far, this marching season, they’ve had three competitions and I’ve seen them all. Next week they are on the road and we will be, too.

The weather turned for the weekend and there is a fall-ish chill in the air. The skies are clear and it is cool. Yesterday at the band competition the stands faced the afternoon sun and it was in our eyes, but when the sun dipped beneath the horizon it cooled down and there was a definite nip in the air. My body is not quite use to the cooler air, but by November and December my body will be ready for the cold which lies ahead. 

It’s that time of the year when keeping up the blog is a challenge. School is taking time and other activities – parenting, being husband, and taking care of the home and myself take precedence over writing a blog post. This past summer, I didn’t write as frequently as I had in previous summers. But, I had many things going on with a new knee and my son leaving for marine boot camp. In place of blogging, I’ve been writing him letters. So far, I am up to No. 8. I penned it yesterday morning and I’ll pen another this afternoon or evening.

Friday Night’s Lights – the sky was orange (our colors) before the game, but turned red (their colors) to finish the sunset – the Tigers came up short 41-20 but it was never close.
Continue reading Letter No. 8

The ant and the grasshopper

It’s Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend and it’s quiet by the lake. It’s the last weekend of summer, at least if I define summer as having boats in the water.

image courtesy of read.gov

Definitions of summer are plentiful, though I firmly believe summer is almost a state of mind in addition to being a season. For O and I, school has been in session for two weeks. Both of us have eight days of school under our belts.

The autumnal equinox will arrive in a few weeks and all the earth will be equal for a moment then slowly fall will advance in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. It’s time, it happens each year and again, year after year. There is time for everything under the sun.

O and I drove up North yesterday morning. B had come up earlier in the week bringing Ivy with her. Ivy was overjoyed to see us, though you’d hardly recognize that now as she sleeps curled up on the footstool. B was too, but Ivy was more enthusiastic with her welcome.

When summer ends, there is much to do. Boats, dock, lifts, and lawn furniture to store, gardens and beds trimmed, and the garage organized for the next season. Yesterday one of our neighbors remarked it was Labor Day weekend and we were working, working hard to get the chores accomplished. I reflected and replied – this is the weekend we pay the rent. We work hard at the beginning and the end and reap the benefits of our work in the middle. It’s different from Aesop’s fable the Ant and the Grasshopper, where the ants toiled tirelessly all season long to be able to rest (and survive) when summer ended. Along the lakeshore, we all work together and help each other with the heavy work pitching in when needed. We know that fall is coming and winter is not far behind.

There are few grasshoppers here this weekend, most of us are ants. There is a time for everything under the sun.

Continue reading The ant and the grasshopper

Day 72 – the last one

It’s the last day of summer break, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. It will be twentieth year as a teacher and it will be my 45th year spent in a classroom as either as a student or a teacher.

This morning, Ivy and I enjoyed one final morning of summer freedom together. I sipped coffee and she guarded the bird feeder from the pesky squirrels. The squirrels chirped at her from high in the tree but Ivy stood her ground.

a Monarch and a zinnia

Yesterday, I took time to visit my classroom and help with the schedule and locker distribution. It was nice to see so many excited faces and help students with locker jams or even simply help with a locker combination. Yes, even 8th graders forget how to work a combination lock. Most locker issues were jammed lockers or the wrong locker combination was given to the student – that happens. This will be my 18th year at this school and the lockers are 18 too which explains why there are jams. 17 years of use can wear on locker.

The past week has been a whirlwind of sorts. We’ve been back from the lake for a couple of weeks but it has been busy at home with W, my son, who’s been preparing for Marine Corps Boot Camp. He reported this past Sunday.

The reporting and shipping out process is complicated. W reported to the recruiter’s office and then was transported to the hotel where he would spend Sunday night before being taken to the processing center before shipping out Monday. Once he had checked into the hotel, he was free until 8:30. We had time for dinner with some time left over.

But, where to go?

Continue reading Day 72 – the last one

Day 61 – patience pays

“What you are looking for and what you find, are often very different and amazing at the same time.” Me

the moth and the black-eyed Susan, a native prairie flower

Yesterday afternoon, Ivy and I sat in the backyard and watched for birds. At least I was looking for birds. Ivy lay patiently at my feet and scanned the edges of the garden. I did see a bunny or two, I am certain Ivy did as well.

my view with Ivy scanning too

It was time well spent. It was relaxing and almost as good as taking a nap, almost.

I observed several bird species including robins, cardinals, and sparrows, I think as well as other species. I also saw a several butterflies and hummingbirds, before I took out my camera.

I was looking for the source of the activity in thicket in the corner of the backyard, when I found the moth atop a black-eyed Susan, hence the quote above.

Continue reading Day 61 – patience pays

Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

It’s the 60th day of summer break, the 53rd day of my new knee, and my dad was right.

The other night I was picking up O after band camp and I opened the rear door so she could put away her bass drum. And she said,

“It won’t fit!” O sounded frustrated.

“Turn it on its side.” I responded.

She did and it fit. When she climbed into the passenger seat she asked,

“Dad, why do you have to be right all the time?”

“I’m not right ALL the time.” I smiled gently and replied with a emphasis on ALL.

“I’m just right some of the time,” I continued.

 And the conversation shifted to how band camp had gone that day and what she had learned.

another troll….. there are seven 

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately. More so than normal. He passed away nine summers ago and I don’t think there has been a day when something about him or something he said or wrote has been far from my thoughts, but lately his wisdom has been in the forefront.

Dad was a marine, or I should write is a marine.  W heads off for boot camp in less than two weeks and I think dad’s wisdom about what he learned from being in the Marine Corps has been on my mind, but also dad’s advice about learning and health.

Private Robert N. Watkins, USMC, my dad
Continue reading Day 60 – Dad’s wisdom

Foggy Friday – Day 53

It’s Friday and I am by the lake again, but I should write, we are all by the lake. W and I joined the B and O yesterday morning. It’s a foggy Friday morning and it’s day 53 of summer break, 20 remain.

the lake and the ducks… they are mallards

I love the lake and July is our time to be at the lake. We’ve been here almost every month, but July is the best time to be here. It’s usually warm with cool nights, though sometimes it’s very hot, and sometimes it rains, or storms. But whatever the weather being by the lake is peaceful and relaxing. It’s even better when we are ALL here. Continue reading Foggy Friday – Day 53

Day 36: halfway

We’ve been by the lake for a little more than a week. It feels good to relax and take it easy, even if I can’t get into the water, yet. I know my day will come. Today marks five weeks and a day since my last day of school and my summer break has been full of surprises. It also means summer break is at its halfway point.

It’s also been four weeks and a day since my knee surgery and the incision is healing well and it looks good, but I am erring on the side of caution before venturing into the lake or submerging or exposing my new knee to any sort of water beyond a shower. Yesterday, I checked with my physical therapist and she told me to wait, so I will. A few more days out of the water are a small price to pay.

We’ve been spending our summers along this lake since we were married and I recall my first visit in the July of ’92. Each summer has a been a bit different, there were the years before we had kids, the years of infancy and the toddler years – twice, the years with the in-laws and now without them, and now the teenage years and post teenage years, for one. Our kids are growing and so are we. This place is full of memories for me and our kids and there is a constancy in our place by the lake.

Last Friday marked a first, at least for me. I was sitting on the deck reading when I looked up to see a float plane landing on the far side lake. I am certain there have float planes which have landed and taken off on the lake before, but I had never seen one or seen pictures of a float plane on our lake.

Friday, taxiing to the small bay

I grabbed the good camera and took photos. I watched as the plane taxied along the shoreline and anchored in the bay not far from our cottage. I wasn’t alone, almost all of the folks along the lake watched as the plane moved down the lake to the bay. Continue reading Day 36: halfway