Archive | March, 2014

The Rule of Three SOLCS 22

22 Mar

The rule of three popped up a couple of places this week. First of all, three kids left our 4th grade team this week, one from each class. Our staff is anxiously awaiting the birth of the 3rd March baby.I was also touched by three car accidents.

One of our teachers, who happens to be pregnant, was rear ended on her way to school. The office staff insisted she check in with her doctor and called a sub. Her teammates pulled a day together for her sub and the teacher was back at school the next day.

My teaching partner’s sister lives in rural California. Her car went off the road and she was trapped in a river, where she had to wait for a few hours before she could be safely rescued. Her dog was swept downriver and has not been found. My teammate left Thursday to care for her sister who required surgery on her leg.

Finally, I am going to a funeral this morning for a young man who died in a car crash this week. It will be held in the Greek Orthodox Church we both attend. His body was moved to the church last night, where there was a short service, followed bay an all night reading of the Psalms. This is one of my favorite traditions. People sign up to take a one hour shift, usually with someone else. We do the same thing at Easter time and it is a deeply moving experience to be alone in the church with the body of the deceased, praying the Psalms. It is a beautiful way to honor a life, ended too soon.

Endings and beginnings SOLSC 21

21 Mar

It’s the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring;

The end of the term and the beginning of vacation.

Three kids are moving and will not be back after the Break.

I am awaiting the birth of my teammate’s son.

Tomorrow morning I will go to the funeral of a 35 year old man.

The cherry trees are in full bloom as I drive to school.

I have my mid year evaluation today.

Report cards go home today and I turn a new page in my grade book.

I finished the antibiotics for my sinus infection, and now I have a chest cold.

The coffee pot is empty so I’ll start brewing up some tea.

I am ready for Spring Break so I can finish strong in June.

Harold’s Point SOLSC 20

20 Mar

It’s cold and rainy. Again. So I decided it was time to go to a better place, one of my favorite places.

Scan 12

That’s me on the right with my twin sister. This picture was probably taken in about 1970.


Here’s the same spot more recently. The trees are a little taller, but it is still the same.

This is Harold’s Point, in Killbear Provincial Park on Georgian Bay. I camped here many a time as a kid and as an adult, though I haven’t been there in almost 2 decades. My family still goes and I get lectures of them jumping off the cliff.


That’s not me. I think I may have jumped once in my life, but I don’t really enjoy leading from great heights.

My memories of this place are vivid .  The rocks are warm and the air smells like pine forests. I remember picking tiny wild blueberries while wearing slip-on red plaid sneakers. In the old days, we used to just take a bar of soap into the icy cold water, but nowadays, there are very nice showers.There was hiking and I remember sitting on benches or stumps to watch nature movies or park ranger presentations.  Of course, there was lots of time spent reading or digging on the sandy beach. I think I got some of my best tans there.

I’ve started to think about my summer plans, which will involve a trip to see my parents and I’ve been thinking about Killbear a lot. Maybe, when I go North to visit my sister, we can go over for a night or two of camping.

On seeing Mary Ehrenworth SOLSC 19

19 Mar


I spent the day at a presentation by Mary Ehrenworth of The Reading and Writing Project.


I thought I was a fast talker, but she is, perhaps the fastest talker I’ve ever heard. And what she had to say was jam-packed with good stuff. I found myself meaning forward at my table trying to catch it all. Good thing I;m an auditory learner. Anyway, here are a few ideas I got from her. Some are new, some aren’t. Some I like because they are things I’ve been thinking about.

1. We have to move away from the concept of The Main Idea to the concept of central ideas.

2. One of the arts of learning is interrupting discussion.

3. From 4th grade up, remind kids about the author and what they are doing.

4. Powerful readers are powerful rereaders.

5. Don’t rely on your ling-term memory. the ability to take notes is a lifeskill. MAry actually said that she interviewed a number of people for a job and did not call back for a second interview, anyone who had not taken notes.

6. A first reading will never be full. It will always be partial. Beginnings are usually where you want to reread.

7. How a story ends affects meaning. You have to think about meaning before you get to the end.

8. 30 minutes of reading is a disservice to kids. It is not enough.

9. A 4th grader should read a book a week.

10. What kids do outside of school is as, if not more important, than what goes on inside.

11. Don;t protect kids from flawed text.

12. When you teach something, you need to repeat it immediately with a different text so it transfers.

13. Reader’s notebooks: for every 30 minutes a kid reads, they should write about 10.

My notes go on for many pages, these are just the soundbites that stood out and that I’ll be mulling over for the next little while.

What they don’t tell you in teachers’ college SOLSC 18

18 Mar


Today, my teaching partner mentioned that one of the girls I journal with turned  in her journal with something nasty on it. She was at the back table and I was picking up something off the printer. She spoke a little longer but I had tuned her out, my forehead against the whiteboard, and gagged. Yes, I gagged. Not once, but multiple times. Deep convulsive, non-productive heaves. Hypersensitive gag reflex. You can Google it and learn that for many people, it occurs during dental work, or with certain smells. For me, it is a visual trigger. I don’t even have to see it. A description, a memory, a retell (like this) is often enough.

And that brings me to the title of today’s slice. Maybe they talk about “icky things at school” with primary teachers, but I wasn’t given a heads-up in my teacher training program. I bet they still only give the “wear gloves with body fluids” talk. I bet they don;t describe the inconvenient times and places those icky things can surprise you.  They don’t tell you that homework comes in with “stuff” on it sometimes. Or that you have to throw out moldy library books that sat in someone’s wet backpack for weeks.  Or that vegetables in a plastic bag will, eventually, liquefy. They don’t warn condiment haters like me that kids will come back from lunch with ketchup on their face, their shirt…..

The funny thing is that I  can do blood. Just not any other nasty stuff.

The offending journal was bagged and tossed into the trash.

Ms. B, you deserve a medal.

Outdoor School SOLSC 17

17 Mar

It’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m wearing green, of course. Green happens to be one of my favorite colors.I tend to like dark greens, the earthy tones,  rather than lighter ones. To me,  is Canada in Summer, but Oregon in Winter. And that gets me thinking about Outdoor School .

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 6.24.41 PM

It used to be that all 6th graders in Oregon went to Outdoor School. We’s pack our suitcases & sleeping bags and set off in a school bus for someplace in the woods where our suburban kids had never been. It felt very far away to many of them, even though to was less than 2 hours from home. Psychologically it was another planet for some. Our kids den;t grow up camping or hiking, all the things I’d grown up doing. These were apartment kids. Some of them lived in complexes where their parents didn’t let them play outside.

It shouldn’t have surprised me that some of them were afraid in the woods, but it did. . The kids weren’t allowed to walk anywhere alone,  for that reason, and for general safety purposes. Once, walking an African-American girl to the restrooms, she actually asked me if I was scared. I was surprised and said no.. She told me it freaked her out to be in the woods. She couldn’t see very far and it was unfamiliar. Who know what was lurking around the bend in the path?   To me, forests represent peace and serenity; to her they meant danger and the unknown, like the worst parts of a Grimm fairytale.

Times are tough and that doesn’t happen in my school district anymore. It hasn’t happened since before the recession. And I think it is a shame. It was one of the early victims of school funding.Libraries and music are more recent casualties.

If you haven’t read it, I recommend The Last Child in the Woods  by Richard Louv. It gets criticized for its lack of empirical evidence, and it rambles, but it gets you thinking about kids, like the ones I taught, who are disconnected from the outdoors.


Trilliums SOLSC 16

16 Mar


I believe I saw a trillium today. I’m not 100% sure. There was a small flash of white on the right side of the road, in an area where trilliums come up every Spring. I was going 50 mph but I took the time to turn my head and look. Safely, of course. And I’m pretty sure the first trillium is truly there.

Growing up, the trillium was the flower of Ontario, the Canadian province where I lived. We were told that picking one was illegal, but I never saw one in the wild, so was never tempted.

In my previous house in Portland, trilliums grew on the shady side of my house. I didn’t know that when I bought the house, but felt it was a sign I was meant to live there. The beliefs of my youth kept me from picking them, but sometimes I’d walk over there, just to admire them. I was content to know they were there.

So now, I spend my Springs, zooming down the Sunset Highway from Beaverton to Portland. looking for trilliums, harbingers of Spring.

2014 Hub Reading Challenge check-in #6

15 Mar

A bit of a slow reading week. I am madly trying to finish sweaters for an auction. They will be late, but I think that;s probably built into the plan.I managed 3 books, brining my total to 30 so far.

28. MIND MGMT V.1: The Manager by Matt Kindt  – A graphic novel I didn’t enjoy much.

29. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina – A reread. I loved this as much the second time as I did the first. If you haven;t read it, please do. Don;t be put off by the title. It is all about a girl being bullied and definitely worth reading.

30. Zombie Baseball Breakdown by Paolo Bacigalupi -This was my big surprise of the week.


I would never have chosen this book based on the cover. For me, it’s a turn real turn off. Thank goodness it was son the list because I’m really glad I read it. It is sort of Upton Sinclair’s Jungle  meets  Shaun of the Dead. It’s all about the meat-packing industry, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, illegal immigration. It’s a funny book tackling some serious issues. So, as with Yaqui Delgado, look past the cover and give it a try.


15 Mar

Today I take my top team to the regional OBOB meet. That’s Oregon Battle of the Books.


Three of the four kids came second in the state last year. The fourth member moved and we will see him at the meet because his new team was their school champion. We are in the same pool as last year. One of the teams we faced last year were in it for the first time. But this year they know a little more and, I suspect are better prepared. My team is good, but as 5th graders, I sometimes worry they aren’t as hungry  to win as they were last year. They will work hard, and once the battles commence, they will be very competitive. Theya re well prepared and know their stuff. But, just in class, wish us luck.


UPDATE:  Well we did OK, but not  well enough to go beyond the preliminary round. In fact, no one from our pool did. They were sad, but new it would be tough, based on their scores.

Fiona’s ears SOLSC 14

14 Mar

At 9-1/2 inches, Fiona has lovely long bassety ears.


This photo was turned into the cover for the 2011 Daily Drool Basset-a-Day  desk calendar.


Today we went to the vet because her lovely ears are not well. They’ve been not well on many occasions, but that is a different Slice. Here is a short poem about her long ears.

Fiona’s Ears

Long velvety

pendulous ears

dragging on the ground

whipping up scents,

dipping into the water bowl

while you devour your kibble.

You are patient

while I clean inside

those lovely lobes,

though you’d rather be napping.

Randy Ribay

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