Days 4-9: Learning, a garage sale, and household chores

Today is day 10 of summer vacation – where have they gone? Seventy-two left, will I spend them well?

Well, I have been busy with household chores and other activities the past few days. The days have counted but not in the way of the first three days. I spent Day 4 wrestling with WordPress and finishing the Indy 500 page. I got started on Memorial Day and it I continued to work on and off and on for several days until I finished it and posted it yesterday. I suppose there is irony in the day of the post – June 6 – the sixty-sixth anniversary of the landings at Normandy in 1944. June 6, 2009 is also the day that I travelled to Oxford, Mississippi to see my dad who had taken a fall and was gravely ill lying in a hospital far away from his family. I will have more about my dad and the summer of 2009 in a future post. Tuesday, June 1, 2010. My kids are in school and I am not. Summer vacation really has not started for the family, yet. Their last day will be Monday, June 7. I have four weekdays and a weekend to navigate before we begin our family summer vacation.

A teacher’s summer vacation is different from everyone else’s vacation; we catch up on the chores and activities that we could not because of the schedule and frenzied activity of the school year the time. I regularly spend three to four hours before or after school planning and reflecting on teaching and the content of what I teach. Often, we spend weekends quickly and they are over before we know it. The weekend of June 4-5 will be a garage sale to help clean some of the toys, books, clothes, and other belongings that were treasured, but are no longer used. Neither with they be missed. Of course, there is preparation that goes into a garage sale and the time it takes to sell and clean it up. Beth had worked hard in May to sort and decide what was salable and was ready with merchandise and ideas. Her ultimate goal was to sell Friday and Saturday and be able to park her car in the garage Saturday night.  I helped Thursday evening and was present Friday and Saturday morning. The sale went well and we sold many items, but unfortunately, we did not sell everything. After a few trips to the Wise Penny in downtown Wheaton – she could park her car in the garage.

I spent Wednesday and Thursday of the week being an educator or rather being a student. Teacher’s summers are not really vacations but times to reflect and grow as a teacher. If you are not thinking, you are not growing and if you are not growing, your students are not learning. Our district offered staff development classes for Middle School Language Arts teachers and since I am one, I attended. I resolved that since I will be teaching LA next year and beyond, then I had better get good at it. The classes focused on our reading and writing curriculum that is blocked. Blocked means each class is twice as long – we have 100 minutes daily to teach kids to grow as writers – and counts as two classes in the GPA calculation. This also explains this blog, I am going to write and explore and show that there is a purpose to writing – to express and think at deeper levels. One of the classes I took “Literacy Remix” taught by our district literacy coach, Jan Newport. She shared with us the idea that our students are learning to read and write much differently than we are. She advanced the idea that our generation are immigrants to technology where the students we are teaching are natives. The concept is interesting and one with which I have struggled with for a few years as I have required students to read the newspaper and log what they read in Current Events Reading Log or CERL. The CERL requires the students to read 120 minutes monthly or 30 minutes weekly – very realistic in terms of time invested. I have gotten mixed results some kids buy into it and others do not. Part of their problem and mine by default is the newspaper is old technology and I have not embraced the new literacy. Scott Stantis, the editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Tribune and one of my favorite editorial cartoonists, illustrated with his cartoon from March 2010 when the US Postal Service announced that they were considering stopping Saturday delivery. I still chuckle when I see it! The class inspired me to continue to develop my ideas and write. So I continue.

After our very successful garage sale and donation campaign we celebrated by going to dinner. William is gluten intolerant and dining is always a struggle. A neighbor had told us about a restaurant that specializes in gluten free dining. They have a gluten-free menu and a regular menu – the problem was that the restaurant was in River Grove in the suburbs of Chicago and in western Cook County and in territory that was unknown to us. We made reservations, cleaned up, and took off. We got there, it was busy, and it was a good thing we had reservations.  We sat down and ordered. We started with bread, yes gluten-free bread for William and fried calamari. William ordered lasagna, I had cannelloni, and Beth had Fettuccini Alfredo all gluten-free! They were very good. Olivia ordered spaghetti with meat sauce and a couple of meatballs on the side from the regular menu and was very pleased with her dinner. William said it was a great restaurant – awesome food. Even though it was a long drive, it was worth the trip. We will need to add to our favored restaurant list.

Sunday was spent with yard work and cleaning up for the week. I finished the Memorial Day post before church and have had to polish a few details in the post since. It is ironic that the post was June 6th and I hope to make it to Normandy with Warren next week when I am in France. These days counted for more reasons than I can write. I still have not taken time to address my office issues – but I will start on that one this post is up and visible. Today is Monday and it too will count. I have seventy-two more and I am not counting, I am trying to make them count!

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