Tag Archives: eighth grade

#FinishSTRONG

It’s that time of the year. It’s the end of the school year. As of this moment, there are 19 days remaining in the school year, that is if I count school days only. Sandwiched in between those final four weeks are three weekends and one of them is a three-day weekend. The kids know it, the teachers know it, there is no good way to hide it. So, I don’t try to hide the fact that the days are slipping away towards summer break.

Memorial Park – Sunday, April 23 – today was just as sunny, but the tulips weren’t as vibrant.

Right now, it’s the middle of spring. The flowers and trees are blooming and today is a beautiful sunny spring afternoon. The sky is so blue, I can almost taste it. Last night, we had a frost warning, but I didn’t see any frost on the yard or on the rooftops when I looked out across the yard this morning. It was cool, but evidently, not cold enough.

But warmer days will soon be here, then summer, summer break, and before I realize it, I’ll be back in school again. It’s a cycle, the always repeating cycle of life and the seasons.

A couple of weeks ago I got the email below from a student. Continue reading #FinishSTRONG

“All politics is local.”

“All politics is local.”

We (we Americans) are in the midst of a contentious presidential election. I’ve been blogging since 2010 and, so far, I’ve successfully avoided talking politics. AND, I am not going to break with tradition, I’ll keep my opinion on the presidential election to myself.

But, “all politics is local,” former Congressman and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil is credited with the phrase, bit it’s a moot point.

I vote, or should vote, for the candidate that most closely aligns with my political, and economic, interests. That is what makes the election for a national leader local.

I teach 8th graders US History (and science) and my students are itching to know who I am voting for or planning to vote for this year. I am not telling them who I am planning to vote for, either.

pink pencils and the 'freedom rock'
pink pencils and the ‘freedom rock’

Continue reading “All politics is local.”

the one hundred most

Yesterday was my first day back to school. Summer break was great, but it’s time to get back to school\work and a regular schedule. I’ve been busy all summer getting ready for today.

I know it looked like I was having fun at the lake, but I was really thinking and planning about how to begin the new year with my brand new 8th graders. AND, this year I have a bonus, I have my very own 8th grader at home – so I can experience 8th grade 24/7 without interruption.

I vaguely remember my own 8th grade experience. I struggled all year, and if it weren’t for an amazing teacher – Mrs. Atlee in RWS (reading, writing, and spelling) reaching out and giving me a hand when I needed it – the year might have turned out differently. I am grateful for her help and continually try to pay back her assistance by paying it forward to my students.

The key to getting a great start to a school year is how the first few days of school are organized and set up. My most successful years have been the years when I spent the first few days creating a climate in the classroom that fostered learning and curiosity.

IMG_4899[1]
when finished, these bins will be used to demonstrate creative learning…
In the 41 years since I was in 8th grade (the first time), the classroom has changed significantly. It’s changed because as educators, we better understand how students learn and grow, and technology has had a hand in changing how students learn as well.

I am going to sound old, but let’s face it, I AM old – relative to my students. When I was in 8th grade, television had seven or eight channels, tops. Television, books, and movies – that was it for media, oh and radio. We had the major networks CBS, ABC, NBC, and PBS as well as three or four independent channels. Today, television has hundreds of channels and comes in all sorts of flavors, and then there is the internet and the media programming available online. What is available to my students is overwhelming, but the reality is my 8th graders are still 8th graders with 13-14 year-old’s brains still developing like my brain was developing 41 years ago. Today’s students are exposed to more content, but in reality, they learn it differently. Continue reading the one hundred most

Final Friday

82 days go quickly, believe me. They fly past. School starts next week and today is Day 77, the last Friday of summer break. Five days remain in my summer break. It’s been a good break, just the right amount of time. Almost.

I keep telling myself, ‘If I had a more time……’ but, I’ve had enough time. I’ve done the things I needed to do to get ready for the coming year and I’ve done the things that I needed to do to rest, relax, and restore.

baseball game in Manzanar War Relocation Camp - 1943, photograph courtesy of Library of Congress
a baseball game at Manzanar War Relocation Camp – 1943, photograph by Ansel Adams,  courtesy of Library of Congress

We’ve spent time as a family. We’ve watched softball games, and I’ve listened to and watched my Astros and a couple of Reds games. We’ve been to the lake – boating, swimming, fishing, and hanging out. We’ve gardened, removed weeds, and painted a shack. We’ve sung songs and blasted Coldplay, before and after the concert. It’s been a good summer. Continue reading Final Friday

Three for Thursday

It’s Thursday morning and it is the twenty-seventh day of summer break, almost two-thirds remain. There is a myth which persists that teachers don’t work a full year. It’s not true, it is nowhere close to being true and the myth misrepresents what educators do to be ready for the coming year.

Class starts in an hour.

that's y foot and W's old parking spot
that’s my foot and W’s old parking spot

This summer I am taking a professional development class, in fact the last several summers I have taken PD classes. Classes are taught by fellow educators and are filled with rich curricula and new methods to help students grow and learn.  This summer I am taking a two-week long class at the local high school. The class is offered through Fermilab Education and W’s freshman biology teacher is the instructor, he was also one of W’s wrestling coaches. It has been an interesting eight days of being transported back to being fifteen again, and then morphing back to my real age. It’s been forty years since that high school freshman year, I’d mostly forgotten that very awkward time.

Continue reading Three for Thursday

reminders

I have wonderful children and they teach me as much as I teach them, most of the time. Sometimes more. It’s been hectic this week, I’ve been Mr. Mom and Mr. Dad. B’s out of town helping her sister and I have been the only sheriff in town, so to speak. B’s on her way back tonight and we’ll be whole again tomorrow.

Dulles Jr. High Vikings - seventh grade gold - can you find me?
Dulles Jr. High Vikings – seventh grade gold – can you find me?

This afternoon, we were running errands and on our way home. O was talking about her day at school. I don’t know how it came up, but she was explaining what happened in math class. It went something like this……

“Dad, do you give your kids homework passes?” O asked.

“No, I don’t.” I replied. “Why do you ask? Continue reading reminders

Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

My friend Scott sent his guest post to me Monday afternoon; and it’s now Wednesday, not Tuesday. It’s been that kind of week or so. I’ve known Scott since our school opened up in ’01.He teaches health education in the building and is a writer, too. He writes at Life is the Future and is planning to ‘Bite the Bullet’ this coming year. We were talking and writing came up – neither knew the other wrote, it’s interesting how that all works. I knew he loved music and collected vinyl. We got to talking and he agreed to guest post here at Making the Days Count. I enjoyed the read and I hope you do, too. I am thankful for friends like Scott, have a Happy Thanksgiving.

vinyl_scott

Some of my favorite memories come with a soundtrack. Of course, almost all my memories come with a soundtrack—the good, the bad, and everything in between.

In teaching discussions, and even in life conversations, I make it no secret that music has helped me stay alive this long. Music has been one of my constants in a lifetime of change. It has seen me age, and awkwardly so. It has seen me make bad decisions, and dread repercussion. It has seen me laugh, cry, and scream. It has taken me across the country on the kick of a dream. It has kept me home in the arms of my family.

While writing, I rarely do any stream of consciousness without it. And even then, when the editing grip finally takes hold, I can hear the echo in the embers. It’s in pieces, in manic-depressant fits of stress and relaxation. Like dust motes in the blank stare of a daydream, music can fill space or demand attention. Depending on the mood, music confirms or denies feelings of self-worth, vents of frustration, and outbursts of elation.

Pop music of my childhood combined with the classics from my parents, which led me to being introduced to other styles of music. The alternative music boom of the 80’s and 90’s paved the way for exactly what I needed: the edgy, angsty hooks of punk rock.

I was about 14 when I found punk music. Coming from a fairly normal and fortunate upbringing, punk rock didn’t represent a distaste for life, necessarily, but it hit home as it satisfied a very natural need of adolescence: to question everything. Question the norm, question the rules, question the answers, question existence… question oneself.

A punk song may never change the world, but I could tell you a few that changed me. Which means, by virtue, punk rock does exactly what it sets out to do.

If you’ve been there, you know; people are drawn to punk for many reasons, all unique to each individual. For me, the attitude of the music and lyrics was easy to relate to. But songs with societal meaning registered just as much as the galloping riffs that accompanied those often-indiscernible words. (Good thing for liner notes.) The punk community is one that offends the mainstream with no mercy but all in the demand for tolerance and equity. Racial and class lines be damned.

Identity in school, as in life, remains just as difficult a topic as ever. In my case, not following pre-set expectations made a lot of sense… classifications, stereotypes, cliques all seemed dumb and immature. Counterproductive. Moreover, why can’t a person be interested in a variety of things, and hang out with lots of different people? Funny enough, finding like-minded friends and having that kinship of a social circle is essential in teenage development.

Cue the music. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: This Old Punk

Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

I am a teacher. I teach kids history, some kids get it and others, will get it later.

We are studying the period in US History right after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution – the first fifty years from President Washington to President Jackson. On Monday morning when my students sat down in class for the new unit, I challenged them to name as many presidents as they could. I gave them ten minutes.

I had taken the same challenge the week before. I got 42 presidents and had 41 of them in chronological order. Give it a whirl and post your number with your comment.

The average for my students was 11. The high was 34 and the low was two. I do not think the ‘2’ tried, the next low was six, which is about right.

Tuesday was my birthday and I modelled the reading and thinking process with my students.

Wednesday was Veterans Day and my students learned the meaning of the day and the inspiration behind the poppy symbol.

all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies....
all of our poopies together to form a field of poppies….

Thursday I continued modelling and gave them homework – finish President Washington and we will review Friday in class.

Yesterday was Friday and in class, we were reviewing George Washington’s second term and the Neutrality Act came up. George Washington was an isolationist and believed in the dangers of political factions and parties. Essentially, he was a Federalist believing in the power of a strong centralized government. Alexander Hamilton Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury and architect of our financial system agreed with Washington. On the other side of the argument were Thomas Jefferson and James Madison – writers of two of our most important documents – the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, respectively. Jefferson and Madison argued against being neutral and siding with France.

Once again, I used music to make my point and I played “Cabinet Battle #2” from Hamilton: An American Musical.

They got it, I think. “…if you don’t know, now you know. Mr. President.….”

Washington listened and issued the Neutrality Act, Britain removed her troops from American soil, but is didn’t solve the problems of the day. Continue reading Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité: A History Lesson

Sunday Morning and ideas

Sunday comes after Saturday, and a full week; so it’s no surprise that it’s another Sunday morning. CBS Sunday Morning is on the television in front of me and I can watch with one eye and one listen with one ear. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t because I am easily distracted and drift off and watch with both eyes and listen with both ears, not good for a day with several chores and much schoolwork lying ahead.

But, I watch and listen adjusting the volume up and down as needed, because sometimes I get an idea for a lesson, or maybe even a post. Or, maybe it makes my life a tad bit richer than it was before I switched it on.

a ten dollar bill.....
a ten dollar bill…..

Last week slipped by in a blur of days and activities. The week was four days long due to the Columbus Day holiday and when Friday’s 3 PM dismissal bell rang school was done, but I was not finished. There was more to do with the time than I had, a common problem I encounter.

Tuesday afternoon, I volunteered to play music at the 8th girls’ volleyball game after school. Tuesday was pink out – for Breast Cancer Awareness and the 8th grade girls played in homemade pink jerseys. A week earlier, I had given each of my students a pink pencil in honor of Melinda and her mom who was taken too early in July 2000. The same day I changed the banner of my blog to pink pencils – the odd colored pencils in the banner, represent women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in their lives. I enjoyed playing music between games and during timeouts, and so did the girls and their parents. One of the girl’s teams won, the other lost, but it was time well spent. Thursday in class, the girls asked if I would play music for their playoff game that afternoon, so I did. They came up short and their season is finished, but the lessons they learned this season will last a lifetime. Sometimes, what is pressing is not as important as building relationships.

Last week in history class, we finished studying the American Revolution and began our study of the next steps in democracy – for the young nation, it was figuring out what was next. They started with the Articles of Confederation and soon discovered the Articles needed amending and wrote the Constitution. It was messy and each state and each delegate had their own ideas of which direction to move. Several men stepped forward and advanced their ideas – Washington, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Hamilton are the few we remember – here are the rest…. Founding Fathers.

My eight graders were wondering what was in it for them, they wondered,

“Why do we need to learn this?”

Continue reading Sunday Morning and ideas

Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”

Monday was our anniversary. It was our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary. It seems like the other day I was waiting for my mom and step-mother on the sidewalk outside the church. They had gotten lost on the way from the hotel to the church. I can’t blame them, it’s easy to get lost on country roads. I still get lost when I go back to Ohio for a short visit and I get off the beaten track.

My brother David and I had been pacing outside the church, waiting. My other sister-in-law, B’s older sister had checked on us and asked what was up. It was the time before cell phones or at least inexpensive cell phones and few folks had one. I had no idea, I explained I thought they were lost. She seemed to accept it and went back inside the church. I can only imagine what was going through B’s head.

They arrived, more than several minutes late – my mom, step-mother, and sister-in-law climbed out of the car and hurried inside. My mom apologized and I smiled a nervous smile and muttered, “You’re off the Christmas card list,” under my breath.

I was kidding, of course. She gets a Christmas card every year and a call Christmas morning to wish her a Merry Christmas. She reminds me she got her Christmas card. And, we laugh.

She also reminds me that if they had arrived on time, the sunbeam, that had illuminated B and I at the precise moment we said our vows, would have missed us. Completely missed us, divine providence.

Much happens in 24 years – kids are born, parents and other family members pass away, there are job changes, career shifts, smiles, laughter, people change and grow, and all sorts of things that make a marriage strong. There are other highs and lows of life along the way.

I have much more grey hair than I did in 1991. Then, it was just coming in, and it’s longer, too. But, I still have my laugh and sense of humor and sarcastic wit, forged by experience and life’s hard lessons. I’ve learned to shovel snow, rake leaves, and be somewhat of a happy handyman that comes with being a homeowner.

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can’t have one without the other

Frank Sinatra is right, you can’t have one without the other.

Saturday morning I was at the flower market and got a dozen pink roses. They are beautiful, like B. They’ll last the week and then some, if we care them, like a marriage.

It was a busy weekend and time got away from writing, but that’s okay. I had time for the important stuff – family and love. Continue reading Tuesday’s Tune: “Love and Marriage”