Without any reservations

12 Nov

Just after 8 on Thursday morning, the phone in my room rang. At that hour, I assumed it was another teacher in my building, but as I picked up the receiver, I did not recognize the name displayed.

“This is Adrienne,” I said, curious about the mystery person on the other end.

“Hi, Adrienne, I’m K, the VP at XXXXX Middle School. So-and-So applied for a job in our library and listed you as a reference. What can you tell me about her?”

I don’t get this sort of call often, but I was more than happy to talk about So-and-So. We had worked together in the library and had just clicked.

The year before had been hard. The library assistant job had been eliminated and I had relied on a small group of volunteers, some more reliable and competent than others. The next year, the position had been restored and I spent part of the week before school started interviewing potential library assistants. When it was all over, So-and-so had been my first choice. It had been a good choice.

When my library position was eliminated, she had been expected to run the library on her own. She ended up resigning a few weeks into the school year. She was being asked to do a job she hadn’t signed up for, or been trained to do.

We kept in touch and now, almost seven years later, I had the opportunity to help her out. I gave her a glowing recommendation – all of it true. I had no reservations, not one single doubt, that she wold be perfect for the job.

I have yet to hear if she got the job or not, but I sure hope she will.

screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am

I’m back

11 Nov

It’s been a while since I posted here. I’ve lost a bit of my writing mojo, but it seems to be coming back.

Today, I am the guest blogger over at The Hub, where I have written about “What to Read on November 11th”. You can check it out by clicking on the link below.

http://www.yalsa.ala.org/thehub/2019/11/11/what-to-read-on-november-11th/

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 6.25.18 AM

Occupational hazards

29 Oct

I was sitting at a table, across from my teaching partner,  grading projects. We were both feeling happy – the quality of the work was great and we’d ooh and ah when we came across a particularly beautiful piece of work. As I turned from an assignment to the rubric that was stapled on the back. Something brown jumped.

I slammed the top sheet down.

Was that a flea?

I lifted the corner and it jumped again. Definitely a flea. I slapped the paper back down and wondered for a moment, Did Lucy have fleas? 

I stilled and thought carefully. The papers had been turned in on Friday and I had not brought them home. Lucy had received her monthly flea/heartworm medication last week and there had been no signs of fleas before or since. No, this flea was not from my house. I relaxed.

Then, I thumped the papers a few more times before looking over the work. I carefully lifted the top page to fill out the rubric – and to ensure the flea had been crushed. It had been and it left no mark on the rubric.

 

cartoon-flea-isolated-white-background-illustration-98486146

 

 

 

The best parent-teacher conference opener

22 Oct

“Hello, Ms. Gillespie,” my student’s father said, reaching out to shake my hand. “It is so nice to meet. And I noticed we have the same hair.”

It was true. The tall man from the Indian subcontinent and I had pretty much the same haircut. Because if its nature, my hair does best either very long or very short, so I have kept my hair short for many years and love it. Long hair is too much work.

I knew the dad meant his words kindly, so I smiled and said, “We do, but mine is a lot greyer than yours.”

He laughed and pointed at his head and said, “This is henna!”.

His wife slapped his arm and joined in the laughter. Their daughter, my student, looked mortified.

Few students came in to their conference smiling. I sometimes think that, for some students, parent-teacher conferences feel like some sort of cosmic collision of worlds. When I ask, many claim they have no idea what I am going to say, so I have a series of things I ask them during their conference:

Have you ever had a bad conference?

What’s been the best thing so far about 6th grade?

What’s been the best toughest thing so far about 6th grade?

Which math class are you in? Is it a good fit?

When do you do your homework? How much time do you spend on it?

Who do you eat lunch with?

I teach in a program for the gifted. Some students put a lot of pressure on themselves.  Some students have a lot of pressure put on them by their parents, especially when it comes to Math. These questions usually lead to most of the things I want to say to parents and mostly help put kids at ease.

screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am

 

 

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

15 Oct

“Can I help you find an address?” I shouted to the woman across the street.

That’s not a car of one of the residents, I thought when I saw her minivan pull into the parking lot of the small apartment complex across the street.I was walking Lucy. Or rather, I was standing outside with Lucy. I might have said I was walking Lucy, but, at 13, she now tends to walk for short distances then stand, looking around at the world.

We were in a standing phase when the car pulled up. I’d seen the woman get out of her car, walk to one of the apartments, get back in her car, back up, repark, get out again. When she came back to the parking area, Lucy and I had moved enough for me to see she had a parcel in her hands. She looked up at the sign on the building and back at the package. That’s when I figured she might need help.

It turns out, the package was destined for my side of the street.

Delivery people often make mistakes in my neighborhood. The streets go from 30th Ave, to 30th Place, to 31st Ave. Deliveries meant for people on my street, 31st, often get delivered to 30th Place because people assume the street after 30th is 31st. Once, I had a package containing jewelry delivered to my house, even though it was destined for my equivalent on 30th Place. The residents were stunned when I showed up at the door, but thankful. My neighbors all know this to be true and more than once I’ve encountered one while walking (or standing with) Lucy, on their way to or from a delivery snafu. Fixing these delivery issues is a little inconvenient, but neighborly.

Lucy watched as the woman crossed the road and went up the front steps of our condominium complex. Then she followed. The package was delivered by the time we reached our door. Missions accomplished.

screen-shot-2017-12-02-at-6-09-23-am

Like flies to manure

7 Oct

As soon as the instructor started placing materials on the tables, I knew she wasn’t joking about it being a hands on workshop. The class was entitled “Breed Specific Knitting” and before lay yarn from ten different breeds of sheep. As she unpacked, the air filled with the smell of farm and lanolin. I was itching to reach out and touch. So were the other people in my class. We were drawn to the fleece like flies to manure – and there was manure.

It was my first day at Knit City, who’s motto is “A modern fibre event”. The event might be modern but this class was old school and wonderful.

We learned about the importance of the length of each fibre and how crimped it is. We stretched fibres, pulled them apart, and snapped them by our ears to hear ow easily they broke. We got dried manure on our hands.

“Don’t worry,” said our instructor, “I brought wipes!”

By the end of the workshop, the white tablecloths were speckled with dried manure, but we all knew a lot more about which fibres work best for which knitted items.

 

A book that touched my heart

2 Oct

I’ve been a little lax about writing over the last few months. I’ve lost a little of my mojo. but I read a book recently that I can’t stop thinking about, and I really want to write about it. It’s called The Boy at the Back of the Class  and it is Onjali Q. Raúf’s debut novel.

It’s not the deepest book on it’s subject (refugees, friendship) but the voice of the narrator is so heart-felt and beautiful that I couldn’t stop reading.

One of the things that bothered me at first was that I couldn’t tell if the narrator was male or female. As I moved through the book, it mattered less and less, so that, by the end, when the protagonist’s name and gender become evident, it is immaterial. In the same way that the narrator just wants to be friends with the boy, regardless of where he came from, I loved this character and wanted to be their teacher, regardless of gender. Because this kid is every teacher’s dream student, and yet their voice and way of thinking feels authentically nine. (she how I am also not revealing the name or gender?)

There is a scene in the book where our protagonist makes a journey to Buckingham Palace that had me thinking about The BFG. I hope both you and Queen Elizabeth read this lovely book. If the characters were a little older, I’d consider this as a class read aloud.

51bXpHeSDpL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Publisher’s Summary: Told with humor and heart, The Boy at the Back of the Class offers a child’s perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn’t always make sense.

There used to be an empty chair at the back of Mrs. Khan’s classroom, but on the third Tuesday of the school year a new kid fills it: nine-year-old Ahmet, a Syrian refugee.

The whole class is curious about this new boy–he doesn’t seem to smile, and he doesn’t talk much. But after learning that Ahmet fled a Very Real War and was separated from his family along the way, a determined group of his classmates bands together to concoct the Greatest Idea in the World–a magnificent plan to reunite Ahmet with his loved ones.

This accessible, kid-friendly story about the refugee crisis highlights the community-changing potential of standing as an ally and reminds readers that everyone deserves a place to call home.

The Fat Squirrel Speaks

Knitting, spinning, and assorted awesomeness.

Global Yell Blog

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Jone Rush MacCulloch

Deo Writer: Musings to Spark the Spirit

Klickitat St. Readers

Just another WordPress.com site

Readerbuzz

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

PLUMDOG BLOG

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Gail Carriger

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Kate Messner

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Cybils Awards

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Someday My Printz Will Come

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh!

Opening books to open minds.

andrea gillespie

Inquiring My Way Forward

Kirby's Lane: A Place for Readers and Writers

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The Horn Book

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

The History Girls

A blog about children's & YA lit, with some basset news thrown in

Books Around The Table

A potluck of ideas from five children's book authors and illustrators

%d bloggers like this: