Tag Archives: teaching

thinking putty: an experiment in focus

I slept late this morning, but I went to bed late last night. I was working on school work and in the throes of thinking, planning, and writing the time slipped away. By the time I was finished, it was well past my regular bed time. When I crawled into bed, I had to move Ivy who had gone to bed without me and was taking up more of the bed than she should. She was nestled up against my leg when I fell asleep and she was still there when I got up. She beat me downstairs waiting patiently at the door to go outside while I started my coffee.

Gold Rush thinking putty at rest

She and I have a morning routine. When she came back inside, she sat beside the couch looking at me with her ears pulled forward as if to ask, ‘can I?’ I looked back at her and nodded, she jumped onto the couch and I went downstairs to the basement and my office.

November is a busy month. When school is in session all the months are full, but November and February always seem especially full. Thanksgiving is this week and I have two days of school and then we are on break until the following Monday. O is out for break the entire week and she is heading to Disney World with the marching band. She is excited. It will be odd not having her for Thanksgiving, sort of an experiment for what it will be like someday in the future.

I’ve been experimenting lately. I’ve been writing a monthly classroom newsletter for two subject I teach – science and history. I published my latest science newsletter Saturday evening.

I’ve been watching my students and my daughter, O, play with Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty . I was wondering if there was something to it and I grabbed a couple of tins for myself, sort of a birthday gift from me to me. It actually is pretty soothing and relaxing to knead the putty stretching, pulling, and squeezing it in both hands. I have two tins Gold Rush and Northern Lights. Continue reading thinking putty: an experiment in focus

temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

It’s Sunday morning and I am slowly getting a start to the new week. I am on my second cup of coffee and Ivy has been outside on patrol and she’s back inside. She’s curled up at my feet beneath the desk where I do much of my thinking and writing.

Ivy loves resting in the leaf pile, I think she feels camouflaged….

Friday was my birthday. It was also the coldest day of school year so far. I checked the temperature and it was 16°F. I smiled and thought back to when I was 16 years old. I’ve grown up, but in many ways, I am still that kid who at the age of 16 was looking ahead at the future and wondering and dreaming. It’s been 40 years since that birthday. You can do the math, but I don’t feel like a 56 year-old, however a 56 year old should feel.

Age is a number and it’s temporary. I am constantly learning and growing, or I should be.

Yesterday, I slept late. It was nice to sleep past my normal weekday wake up time of 4:30 AM.

It’s Fall and the cold weather has zapped the trees and the fallen leaves have covered the lawn like a thick blanket with leaves sticking in the beds along the foundation and fences, wherever there might be a stopping point from the wind.

the yard before work began in earnest

The leaves are temporary. They sprout in the Spring and last until the Fall. The cycle is lasts a little less than 200 days from mid-April to early November, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter depending on the year. We have a couple of trees that are now leafless and several trees which are relentlessly holding on to their leaves. By the end of the month, the trees will release their grip and the leaves will fall to the ground. Continue reading temporary: birthdays and fall leaves

peek – a photo challenge

It’s Saturday night, it’s late. It’s the night before we fall back and return to standard time.

It’s been a full day. I’ve set the all the clocks back an hour in anticipation of the time change. I am looking forward to driving to school in the morning light, it’s been slowly getting darker each morning over the last couple of weeks. But, conversely, I am not looking forward to driving home in the dark either. There is hope, though the days are getting shorter, they will begin getting longer again soon. It’s the cycle and I don’t need to peek ahead, I know the days will get longer soon.

I ran errands this afternoon and took a side trip to the Morton Arboretum. It’s nestled along a highway, though you’d never know it. It’s bounded by housing developments and a river runs through it. It’s a peaceful place to visit and walk. This afternoon I enjoyed the view from the top of the hill facing west into the rainy Saturday afternoon. I’ve watched the sun set from the same spot before and even though I tried, I could not see the sun peeking through the clouds today.

the sun is nowhere to be found…

While I was there, I stood beneath a pine tree and marveled at the pine cones and the water dripping off the needles and branches. It was peaceful and calming. Rainy fall days tend to bring a sense of calm and serenity. The pine cone seemed to be just peeking through the needles at me.

Continue reading peek – a photo challenge

driving the bus and the stories we tell

It’s Saturday morning and I don’t know how, or why, it’s been two weeks since my last post, but it has. It’s that time of the year when time flies in the blink of an eye and my ‘cup’ is full, way to fill, a cup brimming over. Perhaps it’s been baseball, or school, or life in general.

The first quarter at school ended Friday and my Houston Astros are battling the Dodgers in the World Series. It’s a long season and there are a few games left before the season’s finished. I’ve been watching the games and rooting for the Astros; staying up late to watch the last innings of each game. Wednesday’s game ended late after going 11 innings and last night’s game ended close to 11 o’clock. Tonight’s game starts at 7, or just after, and I’ll be watching. The Astros need two more wins. I am hopeful.

Last Sunday was my week to drive the bus. The church bus, that is. I drive the bus in my classroom, but that’s rather a figure of speech. I think my students drive the ‘classroom bus’ from time to time when they take control of their learning. But most of the time I have the wheel.

Last year I was asked if I was interested in driving the church bus. I decided that it was a way I could give of my time to the church community, to give back. We’ve been attending the church faithfully since the summer of ’99. It’s the church which sponsors the Boy Scout troop my son belonged to when he was a scout. I’ve take advantage of the Men’s Bible study, though I miss here and there, and I’ve enjoyed the fellowship of the monthly men’s group where I am often the youngest in attendance. There’s a lot I can learn from the experiences of the group and it’s been fulfilling to learn from the men of the church community. But like most things in life, when you give, you often get more in return.

I drive the bus about once a month. I am a substitute drive and drive when the regular drivers can’t drive – there’s a driver for each Sunday in the month. The first Sunday of the month opened last spring and I almost took the ‘job’ but I decided I couldn’t commit with summer approaching and I drove the first Sundays in April, May, and June.

When I drive the bus, I pick up the folks who attend the church, but can’t drive, or they don’t drive any longer. Someday, that’ll be me, for now it’s not.

Most Sunday’s the average age of the bus riders is the mid to upper 80’s, I’d guess. Old enough to be my parents. They all have kids and grandkids and a few have great-grand kids. They’ve lived full lives and since I’ve been driving them I’ve gotten to ‘know’ them, or know some of their stories. They are funny and thoughtful and give me a boost when I drive them to church and back.  I’ve written a couple them thank you notes for making my day.

  • I drive one couple – they’ve been married 72 years and next week, he’ll walk his grand-daughter down the aisle. He was a mechanic in the 8th Air Force when he met his wife in England. They settled in the Baltimore area after the war and moved to Illinois to be closer to their daughter a few years ago.
  • Another rider has been attending the church for over sixty years. She raised her family in the church and attends faithfully – she’s full of energy and the light of the bus when she gets on at the second stop.
  • Another rider, was a cook in the Seabees during the war and remembers the occupation of Okinawa and aftermath of WWII. He had a career with Sears and retired, but still works several days of the week for Home Depot. He’s got a great sense of humor and is full of life.
  • Another rider is the mother of one of son’s former teachers in elementary school.

In all there are at least fourteen riders, though the most I’ve ever had on the bus was twelve. Last Sunday I had nine. I don’t know when I’ll drive next, but I look forward to it.

my riders and me – they make me smile and laugh

I always say hello when I see them at church and they always have a smile for me, too.

At the beginning of last summer, I had the idea to ask the riders if I could record their answers to some questions. It was an idea, and at present it’s still an idea. But, someday, I hope to sit down with several of the riders and ask them some questions and record their stories, but that requires time and some skills that I don’t have, yet.

Which leads me to something which has been keeping me busy. Continue reading driving the bus and the stories we tell

It’s not magic, it’s science

It’s been raining since early this morning. The rain is welcome as late August, all of September, and the first week of October have been dry, very dry. I awoke this morning to Ivy wanting to climb into bed with me, rather than lie at my feet as she usually does. This morning she was up by my head, then my chest, leaping off the bed and running downstairs, then racing back up, before I finally relented and got out of bed and began my Saturday morning. Long before the sun rose.

The rain has been heavy with thunder and lightning, which is what spooks Ivy.

I had a few appointments in the morning before I was able to get back to writing and thinking or thinking and writing. It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post. Last weekend was a three-day weekend and I started writing a post, but didn’t finish, so it’ll be one of those blogpost topics which flickered, but didn’t light. I haven’t forgotten kindness, but just been focused on school and home, and of course the long season.

The long season is winding down. The Astros, my team, have made it to the postseason and they’ve advanced to the American League Championship Series, they need 2 more wins to advance to the World Series. I am watching and rooting, though sometimes it’s easier just to listen or learn the score after the game, but that takes the fun out of the game.

It’s all about balance, because sometimes the forces of life are beyond my control.

a balancing act, science, not magic

Last week my science students were beginning their study of forces, motion, and energy. Our focus in class has been to wonder and be curious about how things move. I’ve introduced my students to the magnetic cannon and Newton’s Cradle and last week I balanced two forks with a toothpick on the edge of glass beaker. It’s easier than you think, it’s all about finding the right balance and then trusting that apparatus (the forks with the toothpick) will balance and realizing that if they fall, I can try it again, and again until it balances. Continue reading It’s not magic, it’s science

people are like onions

This morning when I opened the Five Minute Journal, I was met with the week’s weekly challenge.

Yes, I am challenged to smile at myself in the mirror for ten seconds. I smiled when I read the challenge and took a screen shot. Not a difficult challenge at all, nothing like the weekly challenge from a few week’s back when the Five Minute Journal challenged me to start a conversation with a stranger.

It made me think of a time when I did have to smile in the mirror.

It also made me think of this week’s photo challenge – layers. It made me think of the following conversation from the movie Shrek.

Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.
Donkey: Example?
Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions!
[holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs]
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes… No!
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry?
Shrek: No!
Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs…
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.
[Shrek walks off]
Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

Shrek is right – ogres AND people are like onions, we have layers. Continue reading people are like onions

3C’s for Sunday

It’s Sunday morning and school is in full bloom and my bucket is full, in fact it’s overflowing. Trying to rationalize how time will be spent between the ‘want to dos,’ ‘need to-dos,’ and ‘have to dos’ is the challenge to leading a balanced life. I am thankful to the time I devoted this past summer break for helping me develop a new habit of starting the day with 20 minutes devoted to thinking about what happened yesterday, what will happen today, and how it will shape tomorrow. It’s in line with my first thing…

my Sunday morning view from the deck…

Curiosity
It takes curiosity to Make the Days Count. I am naturally a curious person and according to my principal in 2014, that’s why he picked me to teach 8th grade science. This is my fourth year as a science teacher and I finally feel like I really know what I am doing. It all comes back to that trait – curiosity and wonder. Last August, in 2016, I wrote a post about the 100 most influential Americans. I promised to reveal who the nine Americans I chose for my classroom were, I never did until this post. Continue reading 3C’s for Sunday

memory, never forget

16 years ago, this morning, my day was just beginning. It was my son’s first day of school.

our flag flies at half-mast today,

I was teaching geography, the water cycle to be exact. It was the end of second period when she walked into my room. She looked nervous. The bell rang, the students left, and another class walked in, sat down, and then she spoke. It was a prepared statement. When she was finished, she left the room and took the air right out of that room with her.

Our lives changed in that instant. It was quiet and we waited.

But our lives moved on, we learned to help others and be tolerant and work together. Sometimes it was easy, and other times very difficult. But we’ve moved forward and we look back. Abraham Lincoln wrote,

“The past is the cause of the present, and the present will be the cause of the future.”

It’s been 16 years. This morning, I’ll teach science and U.S. History to 8th graders who hadn’t been born when it happened. I’ll share my passion to learn and grow daily, even just a little. I’ll share the video below with my U.S. History class and speak every name aloud.

16 years later, my son is in college and he has faint memories of the morning, mostly from listening to our stories – he was 3 years 7 months 10 days old. But, I’ll never forget and every time I teach the water cycle, I remember.

I am a teacher. I am a servant leading with my heart, following with my head.

I am passionate, curious, persistent, thoughtful, energetic, positive, dedicated, caring, driven, faithful, thankful and grateful, tenacious, innovative, creative, courageous, strong, always learning, hard-working, diligent, patient (well, sometimes) understanding, inquisitive, old-school, and loving.

It’s gonna be a great day. I know I will make a difference today, and every day forward. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, one little step followed by another.

What will you day to make today a great day?

wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!

I am easily distracted, so much so I need to be away from distractions. When I first read Andrea Badgley’s weekly photo challenge, I identified.

Wrigley Field, and me…

I am in the basement, outside it’s rainy, or was raining, and it’s wet. Whether it’s raining or not, sitting on the deck and writing would be a bad idea this morning. The basement is dry, thankfully. The family is sleeping, reaching for that last bit of sleeping in late.

Lately, I’ve been distracted by just about everything. Sunday afternoon, I was writing a letter to my mom – more on that later – and I could not keep my mind on what I was writing and my pen, a fountain pen, would dry and I’d need to constantly re-wet it. I finally finished the letter Tuesday and put it in the mail with four thank you notes. I have another letter I need to write – this one to a former student and I’ve been dragging my feet, or rather allowing myself to get distracted.

It’s the ‘shiny’ stuff that gets me off topic and wandering and wondering.

Last week, I took in two baseball games one by myself, and the other with my favorite daughter, O. I root for the Astros. She roots for the Reds, and the Cubs, but the Reds are first. She’s been wanting to go to a Reds game and this week they’ve been in Chicago. She mentioned it last week and reminded me yesterday.

O is off to high school next week and freshman orientation was Tuesday afternoon with a parent orientation Tuesday evening. Continue reading wondering and wandering – it’s shiny!

Thankful Thursday

It’s mid-afternoon Thursday and I am thankful. I am thankful other days too, however this was a planned post, or at least the topic/subject was planned. In full disclosure, I started writing earlier this morning but I wasn’t able to finish the post, proofread, edit, and publish before an appointment, so I had to finish this afternoon.

At the beginning of the calendar year I began a quest. The quest, really a task or goal, was to write a handwritten thank you note and post it in the mail to someone, somewhere, each day. I was inspired by a book I had read several years before about being thankful by John Kralik. He had written the book about writing thank you notes to people he knew and encountered and how in doing so his life changed for the better. The book, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life was published in 2010 and I first learned of the book in early 2011. I bought the book and read it and passed it on to a couple of people…but that was several years ago.

This past December I was writing thank you notes to my students for their thoughtfulness and generosity with their Christmas gifts. Writing thank you notes is not new, I have always written thank you notes at Christmas and at the end of the year – even before I read the book. However, this year I could identify with Kohn Kralik. The past several years have been incredibly difficult – personally and professionally.  If you’ve followed me for a while, you may know or remember posts about the passing of my in-laws and my sister-in-law in the brief period of 18 months. When it rains, it pours. You may also recall, I my teaching assignment shifted from teaching English Language Arts to teaching science and moved from one grade to another. The transition has not been easy – in fact it’s been incredibly difficult. However, I have persevered, been resilient, and learned from my (many) mistakes and have continued to move forward. It’s been important to remind myself – I am passionate about social studies. In 7th grade it was geography and I loved it, in 8th grade it’s U.S. History and making social studies fun and relevant for kids is my passion. But above all, I teach kids, not a subject or a content area. Continue reading Thankful Thursday