Category Archives: teaching

October baseball and blog atrophy

It has been a long while since I sat down to write a blog post. And sadly, the busyness has sidelined some of my blog reading, too. Embarrassingly it’s been more than a month since my last post. In the interim my unread email has ballooned considerably, so what have I been up to?

this morning, the trees looking up

The end of September marked three weekends in row where I was away from home, the first in southern California, then two weekends at our lake house in Michigan.

BASEBALL
At the end of September, I took a baseball trip to Southern California. I was able to find a weekend when both the LA Dodgers and the LA Angels were in town for home games. The trip added two more stadiums to my list of baseball stadiums where I have watched a major league baseball game. I have ten more stadiums before I have seen a baseball game in every MLB city, but I’ll have to include three teams whose stadiums have changed since I watched a game in their city – Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants, and the Atlanta Braves.

Friday, September 30 – Colorado Rockies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (click to watch the video)

It has been four weeks and I still have “I’m still standing” running through my head…. click the picture for the Dodger Stadium video…

The trip to the Los Angeles area was a great trip, and there were two bonuses. First was the Elton John bubblehead at Dodger Stadium on Friday night and second the choice of a hike along the beach or in the mountains or the beach on Saturday afternoon. I chose the beach and thoroughly enjoyed listening to the pounding surf while I walked in the soft sand of the Pacific Ocean beach.

Saturday, October 1 – Texas Rangers vs. Los Angeles Angels

That was the final weekend of baseball’s regular season, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Four weeks later and there are at least three games remaining in the season, and possible five.

It’s the World Series and my team, the Houston Astros, is playing the Philadelphia Phillies. Last night the Astros tied the series 1-1 and the two team square off Monday night beginning three consecutive games in Philadelphia. I visited Philadelphia this summer as part of my epic seven-day, seven-game, six-city baseball trip and it was a fun park to watch baseball in but on Monday night the park will be full, loud, and unfriendly place for the Astros.

FALL LEAVES
Yes, it is that time again. Fall and leaf clean up. My wife and I spent the first weekend in Michigan at our lake house to do fall clean up there. Fall begins earlier in Michigan than it does at home in northern Illinois. We also had a weekend football game with our daughter at Michigan State. It was fun to be on campus, but the Spartan football team was not a match for the Ohio State Buckeye football team losing 49-20.

The plan for the first weekend was to get the yard, the garage, and the home ready for the winter by the lake, but we ran out of time and daylight on Sunday. Continue reading October baseball and blog atrophy

Summer’s exit and Fall’s arrival

Autumn officially arrives on Thursday at 8:03 CDT. The sun will rise at 6:40 AM and set twelve hours and nine minutes later at 6:49 PM. We experienced our last 7 PM sunset this past Thursday and its bittersweet.

I am enjoying the morning outside at my summer office. The day began cloudy, but the clouds have been replaced by a clear blue sky with a light breeze that gently tickles the wind chime the tree branches above me.

a poppa cardinal and sparrow partake at the feeders Sunday morning

The forecast for the week begins with high temperatures in the low 80s and finishes the month with temperatures in the low 70s. It will warm enough by day, but cooler overnight lows dipping ten degrees to the mid 50s by the end of the month.

Fall Hiking
Last fall, I accepted the forest preserve’s challenge to Take a Hike in collaboration with Edwards-Elmhurst Health. Each week I get a reminder email on Thursday get out and move. I enjoyed last year’s challenge, but I have gotten out and hiked this season. Continue reading Summer’s exit and Fall’s arrival

twenty-one years later

Twenty-one years ago, this morning, I was welcoming my seventh graders into my geography classroom. It was early in the year in the year, and we were building routines and learning. I was learning their names and faces and the lesson for the day was the water cycle.

The water cycle courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

I don’t remember the first two classes, but I do remember when a counselor came into the classroom towards the end of the second class, about 9:20 AM or so. She waited until the class ended, the third period class had entered, and settled and until after the bell had rung and then she made the announcement that earlier in the morning America had been attacked. Her message was scripted and every classroom in our school go the same message at the same time.

I don’t remember the exact text of the message, but I can close my eyes and go back to room B111 on September 11, 2001 and picture the layout of the room on that morning.

On nine-eleven two thousand one, I was 39 and my students were 12.

This past spring, I began volunteering regularly at Loaves and Fishes on Thursday after school. I had been volunteering on Saturdays since early 2020, but I decided to add a new day. Soon, I had been asked to be the lead volunteer for my part of the operation on Thursday afternoon. Loaves and Fishes is a wonderful place, and I am thankful to be part of an organization that helps people in need, especially when the cost of groceries and gasoline have increased significantly. I have also discovered a community of people who care about others, and I have met several parents of former students who volunteer for the organization. It’s a small world.

It was the last day of school and summer had begun when I walked into the market at Loaves and Fishes for my Thursday afternoon shift.

I saw Michelle and we greeted each other, and she shared a story with me. It went something like this:

Michelle – you teach at Scullen, right?
Me – yes, I do.
Michelle – Do remember Judy? She was the nurse.
Me – Yes, I remember Judy and I remember having her son Joey in class. It’s been a log time.
Michelle – I was at a going away party last weekend for Judy. She’s retired and moving to Wisconsin, and I mentioned I had me you at Loaves and Fishes. She remembered you and we were talking, and Allison overheard us and joined our conversation, do remember her?
Me – yes, I do. I do remember that name – it was our first year at the school and we were all new.
Michelle – well, she remembers you.
Me – WOW. Really? I remember her, too. I hadn’t thought about that name since she was in my class. That’s a long time ago.
Michelle – yes, it was and she does. She told the two of us that every year on 9/11, she remembers being in your class and being scared and that you were calm and reassured her and the class that everything would be okay.
Me – WOW (and at this point I am beginning to tear up)
Michelle – Ally’s married and has two kids and lives in the area.
Me – We all grow up, thank you for telling me this.

That’s how I remember our conversation and it’s stuck with me since.

This summer I started my baseball trip in New York City. The first game was Sunday at Yankee Stadium and after the game I drove to Washington, D. C. for another game. I returned Tuesday for third game and the possibility of visiting the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the time I was in New York City. But I figured I could at least visit the Memorial before I left for my Philadelphia and game four.

Tuesday night I set alarm for early Wednesday morning, before sunrise. My plan was to walk to the memorial which was less than a mile away from my hotel. It was early morning twilight, and I was surrounded by tall buildings blocking much of the light. New York City was beginning to waken, even though I suspect the city never sleeps, it’s always moving. Cars, buses, and trucks were beginning start the day and few people were walking with me. Some going to work and other heading home.

I passed a church that was refuge on 9/11 and the days after as people sought comfort. Continue reading twenty-one years later

Tuesday’s Tune – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

As a kid I never gave thought to what teachers did over summer break. I was free. I could sleep late, stay up late, and read what and when I wanted.

I am finishing my twenty-third summer break as a teacher. That first summer, 1999, really wasn’t a break at all. It was spent applying for jobs, and interviews, and finally landing a teaching job in the middle of July.

photo courtesy of the Express – click to read the article – King of the jungle: Dramatic moment ferocious lion kills wildebeest in just 60 SECONDS

I remember that interview well, it was more a conversation than an interview. I remember walking out of the principal’s office and seeing the eleven o’clock interviewee waiting and thinking that I had nailed the interview. Actually, we both did. Both of us were hired that year and will still teach at the same school, today.

Now twenty-three year later, I know teachers are busy but I can still do those things I did as a kid. But school is coming and it’s like a lion.

In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle the quiet jungle
The lion sleeps tonight

The end of summer is like the lion, it sleeps and then roars. School begins next week, and I’ve spent summer doing those things I said I’d do when school was out, and I had more time. I’ve also spent time thinking and re-thinking how I am going to approach this year. I took a class, and I taught a class and though it all, I am ready to get back to school next Monday.

Last week, I taught a class. It was a one-day teacher’s camp, and it was optional for all of us – teachers and learners, though only teachers came. The class I taught was titled, Lions and Wildebeest – using Puzzles to Engage 21st Century Learners.

The class was based on a lesson that I taught last spring. It was a Monday lesson before spring break. My science classes had finished a major unit the previous Friday and taken the test. We had five days before spring break with three days of state-mandated testing set for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Experience taught me not much beyond testing would be done that week and I needed a lesson to encourage my students to be curious and full of wonder and be ready for the fourth quarter which would begin the Monday after break.

at my summer office… the tools needed to solve the puzzle

So, I introduced Lions and Wildebeest. It’s a riddle. The riddle challenges students to think and collaborate. Exactly what was needed for our students. The premise is simple, Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune – The Lion Sleeps Tonight

summer learning

The sound of rain woke me this morning at 5:35 AM and the thought I’d forgotten to roll up my windows got me out of bed. Any other summer morning, I might have gotten up, gone to the bathroom, and crawled back beneath the covers, but not this morning. I pulled on a pair of shorts, grabbed my car keys, and walked out to my car to confirm that I had forgotten to roll up my windows.

me and the bridge, right out of the car

I not sure the term ‘roll up the windows’ applies any longer. The last car I had that had manual windows was the 1971 VW Beetle or it could have been the 1985 Jetta, but it has been a long time since I have rolled up the window with a hand crank. I did remember to bring the key and I had to start the car before I could get the windows closed. I am glad I woke when I did, it continues to gently rain as I begin to write a couple of hours later.

Maybe next time, I’ll remember to close my windows or at least check them, when I know rain is in the forecast. After all, last night we covered the boats, closed the shack door, and put away summer things in anticipation of the rain this morning. It is something we learned under grandpa years ago. It’s summer learning, but it could be said that ‘some’re learning’ which is how ‘some are learning’ sounds if you aren’t listening to the context.

School restarts for me, a week from tomorrow. I am excited to get back to school and try somethings I learned this summer and continue to practice what I’ve learned about teaching kids in the past twenty-three years. The first three days of school are filled with meetings, time to plan, and time to get the room ready for the kids who join us on Thursday, August 18.

A couple of friends joined us this past Wednesday and as always, we enjoyed their visit. They are the same couple who we vacationed with this past spring in the Keys. They are also the same couple we drove home with after BOTH of our flights home were cancelled on Saturday, April 2. All four of us sharing driving time through Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and southeastern Indiana where their son was able to meet them and take them to their home in southwestern Ohio.

Thursday morning, we decided on a visit to Mackinac. It’s pronounced – mack-in-naw and it is Ojibwa word for ‘turtle’ and refers to the island which dominates the strait between the upper and lower peninsula.

the mighty Mack

We could not have chosen a better day for our trip; clear blue skies with puffy clouds drifting across the horizon and comfortable temperatures.

We arrived at Colonial Michilimackinac Historic State Park and it was good to stretch our legs even after the short drive of 85 miles; nothing like our journey in April when we stopped only to switch drivers, refuel, and….. Continue reading summer learning

W^2 – torn

W^2 or W squared for Wordless Wednesday, July 27, 2022

The present – rain on the window, Lake Margrethe, Grayling, MI July 27, 2022, 8:45 AM

I was torn for this post. I haven’t taken many photos over the past week. It rained quite a lot this weekend at home, almost three inches over two days: an early Saturday morning thunderstorm and gentler rain overnight Saturday into Sunday morning. The vegetation is thriving at home.

I arrived yesterday afternoon at the lake, for the annual family gathering for the canoe race. It’s a family tradition when we gather to watch the canoe teams begin paddling the AuSable River overnight eastward toward Lake Huron. But this morning, we had gentle rain to moisten the lawn, the forest, the front window. Today there only three of us – me, my wife, and our daughter. Our son and his wife will be joining us late Thursday night and our weekend party will be complete, including four dogs.

In the meantime, there are prospects for an improvement in the day’s weather as the storm passes through. The forecast for the weekend is warm sunny days.

As I mentioned I was torn between two photos: the one above and the one below. The Echinacea hybrid was taken at Ball Horticultural Company’s demonstration garden not far from our home.

The past – Echinacea hybrid Sombrero Lemon Yellow, Ball Horticultural Company, West Chicago, IL July 22, 2022, 12:26 PM

Today is going to be a great day. So, I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the days Count one day at a time, trying to choose between the present and the past.

Which do you prefer? the present or the past?

at rest, in peace

I began writing this post two weeks ago in Cincinnati, Ohio and didn’t finish in the time I had. I started writing after the Reds game Friday night and worked on polishing it in the coffee shop Saturday morning. But I couldn’t quite find the right words or flow. It was the last full day of my epic baseball trip and I wanted to make it on time to Cleveland, so I stopped and crafted a different post.

Of all the cities and stadiums, I visited on my trip, Pittsburgh was my favorite. I felt connected from the moment I arrived, I felt welcome, I felt home.

PNC Park and the Pittsburgh Skyline, the yellow bridge is the Roberto Clemente Bridge dedicated after his death in 1973.

Before I left Pittsburgh, I visited my paternal grandparents. They are buried in a beautiful cemetery to the south of the city center. I had intended to visit them before the game, but I was late leaving Philadelphia. The cemetery where they lay at rest, in eternal peace, was in the general direction I was traveling. So, it was a win-win. I could visit them and get closer to Friday’s destination, Cincinnati.

my grandfather with me on the left and my Warren on the right. 1964, Bay City, Texas

My grandfather died in 1971 at the age of fifty-two. I was nine years old and remember the summer evening we learned of his death. He died peacefully on July 17, 1971.

It’s funny the things you remember from your childhood and growing up. Continue reading at rest, in peace

learning

Yesterday, I went for a hike at my favorite hiking spot, Herrick Lake Forest Preserve. It’s a short drive from house and it makes a huge difference in my hike compared to my neighborhood. I’ve posted photos from previous hikes at the forest preserve. The preserve has woods, a prairie, and a marsh and the main crushed limestone hiking trail winds through it all.

the access road I take to get to the trail

It was a beautiful day and I had initially planned to hike first in the morning, but I decided to hike later in the day. I knew it would be relaxing and restorative.

When I had arrived home from the lake Monday afternoon, I discovered a house with no internet. I tried to resolve the issue, but a solution was beyond my capabilities. I called for support and learned the earliest a service technician appointment was available, was Thursday morning with an 8-12 service window.

The main reason I had come home from the lake was that I had enrolled in a graduate level class to learn more about assessing students in my science classes. Assessment or grades have been a HOT TOPIC in public education over the past couple of years and I wanted to learn more. The class was virtual with two internet ZOOM meetings.

I could use my phone as an internet hot spot, but the prospect of ZOOMING using my phone concerned so I decided to use the local public library for my heavy internet usage. It worked out well and I was patient and waited for the service tech to arrive Thursday morning.

When the tech arrived, I was outside working at my ‘summer office’ on the deck using my phone as my internet connection. I invited him, but he told me he wanted to start outside the house where the line enters the house. That’s where he found the problem, somewhere down the line there was a broken connection. A couple of years ago we had an outage and it caused by mice chewing on the wires in the junction box in the backyard. We talked about it, and he told me that it was a common problem and he laughed saying animals gave him job security.

He told me that he couldn’t make the repair, but another service tech was needed to find the break and make the repair. He told me I didn’t need to be home for the repair, so I used the opportunity to take off and hike. Continue reading learning

Tipping point

It is Sunday morning and my last day at the lake for this trip. I’ll be heading home tomorrow morning to focus on my summer to dos. I enjoy my time by the lake, and it serves its purpose: I am rested, relaxed, and getting closer to the restoration that I need after a year of teaching.

I was up well before the rest of the house. It was a beautiful Michigan July summer morning; temperatures in the upper 40s, fog hanging close to the still mirror-like lake, and clear blue skies. The past few days began the same with highs in the low 80s. It promises to be a beautiful day.

Friday afternoon on the lake under the sun

Today is also Day 38 of summer break with thirty-six days remaining. I keep track of the days only to remind myself that summer is finite. Yesterday was the tipping point of summer. It was the point at which the first part moves into the second part or the first half changes to the second half. Summer is an arc, either way it means that I am on the downward side of the arc. Continue reading Tipping point

Wednesday and Philly

Wednesday night’s game four of my baseball trip concluded with a pop up out to center field. Twenty- seven outs. It was a good game; the Atlanta Braves bested the Philadelphia Phillies.

Yesterday I arrived in Philadelphia, site of game four but also the site where this great American experiment came to a head some 246 years ago.

the room where it happened, Independence Hall

Less than a mile from where I sit, the founding fathers discussed, debated, and argued about next steps in 1776. The eventually came up with a statement, a written declaration, of complaints and desires. The Declaration of Independence was intended for King George III, who never read it. But it didn’t matter the world was in motion, as it still is today. Evolving, changing, succeeding, failing.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I wonder what the founding fathers would think of where we are as a nation of people today. Continue reading Wednesday and Philly