I have been to two funerals as a teacher. I do not want to go to another funeral again. Ever.
Both funerals I attended were in my first two years as a teacher. Actually, the first funeral was in the summer of between my first and second years of teaching. It was awful. The second was less than a year later. It was just as awful. I have not been to another funeral since though one of students lost their dad last spring. The teachers were not invited and I wanted to go, but I couldn’t; I had my own family funeral to attend to last spring.
At the time, there were not words in my vocabulary to express the feeling of awfulness I had when I looked into the eyes of my twelve year-old student and told him and her that I was sorry that their mother had passed away. I think I fumbled with some words like “I am so sorry for your loss.” Or maybe I said, “I have been praying for you and your family, please let me know what I can do to help you.” No matter what I said, it didn’t take away the pain of losing their mother. Or the uncertainty of what the future held for them. Those kids – Melinda and Jeremiah – are now in their twenties and out of college and have jobs like me. Occasionally, I get to visit the high school and I ran into Melinda on my way in one time, we had a nice conversation and then we parted. I had Jeremiah’s sister two years after their mom passed away and she wrote an amazing essay about how her mother’s passing was an important event in her life. I remember the essay well, it was good, thoughtful, well written; it was head and shoulders above her peer’s papers. I followed them along in high school occasionally asking high school teachers or counselors whom I knew how they were doing and then they graduated high school and I lost touch. They’re grown now, or as grown as someone is when they are in the second half of their twenties.
Lately, it seems I have been very good at coming up with diversions. Errands, movies, games, practices; and on the surface, they appear legitimate, but really, they are distracting. O and I have been distracting ourselves quite well, lately. Honestly, I think we are both nervous about the coming year. She is headed off to 6th grade in three days and I am headed to 8th grade science. Saturday, I took her to O’Hare to watch airplanes land and takeoff after getting her new eyeglasses, and we did it again yesterday after the softball game. Granted, O’Hare was close, but there were so many more important things we could have been doing, but we were distracting ourselves from what’s important.
I am enjoying a lovely morning on the deck; the wind gently rustles the leaves above me, the birds chirp and flit about. It is a bit on the cool side, 56°F, but it will warm up, eventually. I am the eternal optimist, besides I have coffee to keep me warm. The wind chime emits an occasional ‘ding.’
It’s quiet this morning. Ivy is beside me, at my feet, or was until she heard something and stalked off to investigate. B is in Ohio with her mom and dad. W is at off-season sports camp, and O is sleeping. I hope that she’ll sleep for a couple of hours and get the rest she needs. We were supposed to follow this afternoon, but we will not. We’ll need to figure another time to head over and visit. We need to.
Sometimes you just have to pull over and take time and breathe.
“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller (1880-1968); Author, Lecturer, Activist
I was up north for the weekend. I drove north Friday night and came home, reluctantly, Sunday evening. Saturday was busy. It was full of chores and full of pulling in air, something I desperately needed. Saturday afternoon, I slow-cooked a pork butt on the grill and made my famous cucumber and red onion salad, at least it’s famous to me. It tastes like summer. I sliced off some pork slathering it with BBQ sauce Continue reading Roadside beach→
Today is the first day of June. It’s a new month, a new season, and it’s full of possibilities.Summer vacation begins Friday for my students. They are so excited, I can hardly keep a lid on them; four of them have already left early for their summer vacation, and the rest are busy learning and working. I aim to keep it that way through Wednesday afternoon, mainly for my own sanity and mental well-being. Thursday, then Friday will be here before I know it and I’ll be signing yearbooks and asking my students what they plan to do with their 79 days of summer vacation.
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.” Winston Churchill
It’s a new month, a new season, and it’s full of possibilities. Nevertheless, before I begin to think about what summer will be like, I need to go back and think about the year. The year was a challenge – full of triumphs and pitfalls in and out of the classroom. In the classroom, I had a new ELA curricula, based on the Common Core standards. I cringe when I say Common Core because it is sort of vilified these days. Folks in and out of education have turned Common Core into education’s current piñata – people just love beating on it. Unfortunately, it has not yet yielded any candy. It will be several years before educators know for sure if it is effective. But, I can tell you with absolute certainty there is a difference between my student’s learning from last year and my current students. This year’s students have developed into readers with a purpose, deeper thinkers, and stronger writers who can support their ideas with evidence from the text and their learning. However, they did not start that way. It was rough at the beginning of the year, but they have adapted and grown academically. They’ve also grown as people, too. They are ready for the next step, eighth grade.
It’s that time of the year, again. There are two weeks left before summer vacation. Nine school days. Summer vacation would’ve been sooner, but we had the brutal winter with sub-zero temperatures and excruciating wind chills. Four school days closed twice for two days and days were moved from June to January to make up. There is nothing like summer vacation days in January. My students are working hard and last week it was clear they knew exactly how many days remained; some even knew down to the hour and minute.
I looked at my calendar last week and was stupefied that May was so close. It felt like the wording on the passenger-side side-view mirror: OBJECTS IN MIRROR ARE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR. I suppose it is a lesson, which I need to heed more often. I have a habit of letting things creep up on me; it is along the same lines as not reading the fine print or asking for directions. I asked myself how it happened, but I already knew the answer. Ferris Beuller said it best, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop look around once in a while you could miss it.” Life does move fast and sometimes the only thing you can do is look around.
I’ve been looking around a lot lately. My seventh grade ELA students finished their Mask and Identity unit and we are now on The Road to Perseverance unit to finish the year. There are four units – one for each quarter. The bad weather days in January messed up the schedule and we finished the third unit in the fourth quarter and started the final unit a few days late, hence my ‘closer than they appear’ observation. It has been a good year. The students have been great and I will miss them, but I won’t miss all of them because I found out after Easter that I’ll be moving with them to eighth grade. After fourteen years in seventh grade, I finally was promoted!
The sun is shining and I saw a robin in the backyard as I poured coffee into my mug earlier this morning. It’s chilly now, but it’ll warm up this afternoon. It’s the last bit of Spring Break, today, tomorrow, then school resumes. It is always the best part of the year for me; not because the year is almost over and summer is on the horizon, but because what I’ve taught my students begins to blossom like a field of daffodils bursting with color on a bright spring afternoon.
The year is three quarters finished or at least it is for me. I am a teacher. A seventh grade language arts teacher and the third quarter finished Friday. We have one week before Spring Break begins and then the long march through April and May to finish the year. This year, we’ll be marching, probably more like stumbling, into the first full week of June.
Spring arrived this week on Thursday at 11:57 AM CDT local time. My students have been measuring sunrise, sunset, and the amount of daylight for locations across the globe – ranging from Tromso, Norway at 70°N to Stanley, Falkland Islands at 52°S and places in between. We began measuring last September on the occasion of the autumnal equinox and have been checking every month on the 22nd ever since. The students have gathered a lot of data. However, the lesson they learned was that Earth’s tilt is changing constantly and Thursday they realized that no matter where a person was on Earth Thursday the sun shone a tad bit more than twelve hours – the variance among the 32 locations we checked was ten minutes: from 12 hours and 16 minutes at the northern and southern extremes to 12 hours and 6 minutes nearest the equator. WOW. Spring is here, finally. Continue reading The equinox and Spring, bring it on….→
I missed writing last weekend. Truly. We went away for the weekend – we went north to the cottage. I had a lot to say, or so I thought. Somehow, time got away from me and I didn’t write. In fact, I didn’t even open my laptop. I existed solely on my iPad and phone; and did precious little on them. It was time to restore – a time to rest and relax.
It was our last long weekend of winter and we wanted to head up north for one last snowy weekend. The kids could ski, snowboard, and play in the snow. I know we had a lot of snow here, but it is different up north. B and I could relax and just breathe. We did all that, but the kids didn’t ski or snowboard: they did play in the snow and had fun outside, even Ivy got into the mix playing in the snow. We had a fire Saturday night and I cooked. Just as dinner was ready, we sat down to play cards. Then, some of our lake friends joined us; and we played a very spirited card game. The rules are somewhat confusing, but it is a favorite of our friends and we’ve enjoyed playing it at their cottage. I am not sure what it is called, it probably has several names, but it is a lot of fun. The card game involves a separate deck for each player but there is a place to play on everyone’s hand. Each player plays on their hand but the goal is to get rid of your cards and play them in the middle on the group’s cards. You get points for playing in the middle and the winner is declared when they have cleared their own cards. The game moves quickly and players have to be paying attention. Regardless, it was a lot of fun and when it was over, and we had a winner, we sat down to dinner and the Winter Olympics.