Archive | March, 2019

Ode to Avocado Toast

21 Mar

Unripe avocados sit upon my counter
until the day they all ripen, too quickly
for my heart to bear
and so, for many meals, I eat
the humblest, yet noblest of meals:
avocado toast.

First comes the toasting of the bread –
white, brown, with seeds or grains,
it makes no difference, for the toast
is merely the vehicle for the fruit.

O, noble avocado you were no friend in youth
Whether my mother spurned you in the grocery store
Or if you made no appearance there, I do not know.
I only know that I made your acquaintance
in university, dabbling and experimenting as
young dilettantes will, and yet
I knew not how to eat you
for my lack of youthful experience.

But lo, these many years later,
having eaten my weight in avocados
and found many ways to savor the
delightful and delicious green orb,
whose hue was sacrificed
on the altar of good taste in the 70s,
now, I serve you, lightly seasoned,
upon an altar of toast.


Fire Drill

20 Mar

Sunshine + the last week of school in March = a perfect day for a fire drill

Maybe the week before Spring Break isn’t ideal for a fire drill, but the weather was perfect and March must have one, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by the email announcing one would happen Tuesday morning.

With a class of 8 quiet girls and 16 boys who love to talk, I offered up a bribe as I announced the impending drill.

“If you can go outside, line up in two straight lines and remain quiet and still, I will pass around the Jolly Ranchers,” I said with a naughty smile. Sixth grade eyes glinted at this rare treat.

Everyone got to work, mostly quietly, although whispers of “Jolly Rancher” caught my ear from time to time. They were deep into their task when the alarm sounded.

“Remember the Jolly Ranchers!” was the rallying whisper as chairs were pushed in and the class exited the room. They were silent in the halls, even when they merge with the 8th graders. We found out spot along the fence and, though they needed some help getting started, two quiet lines formed. Around us classes were noisier, but my class was still(ish) and quiet(ish) as we waited for the signal to return to class.

Once back in the room, there was a soft buzz of anticipation as they got back to work and I made good on my bribe.

Photo on 3-19-19 at 12.03 PM

The opposite of toe jam

19 Mar

On Saturday, I posted about ripping out my knitting. I likened it to revising writing.

Last night I sat down to finish the second sock. I thought I knew where I’d left off and how much longer I had to knit before getting to the toe. You think I’d have learned, but I didn’t measure. When I got close to where I thought I should make the transition, I finally decided to measure.

The sock was too long.

Sometimes, writers do the same thing. We write too much. We need to revise by removing the excess. My students certainly do it. I have told students that they really have two stories and they should focus on one or the other. Sometimes they see it; sometimes they don’t. It can be hard. It all feels important to them though.

The excess in the foot of my sock did not feel important to me. Once more I ripped out and restarted. I am much happier with the finished product.


Test prep

18 Mar

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am test knitting a sweater for a designer. Here is a collection of words and images – a sort of visual prose poem – that tells the story of what I need to do before I can actually begin knitting the test knit.

It starts with the pattern

Screen Shot 2019-03-05 at 6.01.11 PM

Next comes the yarn


Which has to be wound,


And weighed


Then swatched and gauge measured

Before the test knit can begin.


It ain’t over yet

17 Mar

Saturday morning, I ran through my regular weekday routine – up with the alarm, shower, coffee, walk Lucy – before heading out the door. I wasn’t on my way to school, I was on my way to our regions OBOB tournament.

OBOB is short for Oregon Battle of the Books and I was taking in a group of wiggly sixth grade boys, who I hoped knew their 16 books well enough to come out on top. They had battled through january and February to come out on top at our school. Today we’d find out if they had the stuff to get to the State finals.

Our very large and heavily populated region has been broken into three mini-regions. We should have had 16 teams, but apparently only ten would be showing up.

“That could be good,” I told the team late last week at a before school practice.

“But not if the weak teams dropped out,” replied one of the four. Too, true.

We arrived Saturday morning and looked over the four battles we’d have in the round robin portion of the morning. I was glad we were in the half of the teams that would be rotating – these boys needed to move between battles, not sit in the same room.IMG_0192

By the end of the round robin we had won all four matches and were hopeful we’d end up in the final four. We waited with the other 9 teams in the school cafeteria for the results were posted. As we waited, cupcakes arrived at a neighboring table and “Happy Birthday” could be heard. We all joined in. The more cupcakes arrived at another table and a second round of singing filled the room. What a way to spend your birthday!

A hush fell as the chairperson arrived to post the tallied points. We had the highest point total!

Screen Shot 2019-03-16 at 6.12.58 PM

And then we were off to the next battle. We were now in sudden death elimination battles and this was a tough one. Fortunately, the boys prevailed and we were in the final.

The final was made up of 32 questions, twice as many as the preceding rounds. I was nervous after the last match, but the boys were cool-headed and prevailed, beating the other team 95 to 35, and earning a trip to the State final.

I gave the boys the option to not meet to practice next week, and that we’d start up again after Spring Break. They would have none of it. They are excited about representing our school and our District and are eager to stay at the top of their game.

Wish us luck!

Toe Jam

16 Mar

I got home Thursday night, tired, but determined to finish the toe of my sock.

After dinner, I got myself settled with my favorite knitting podcast and my project bag. I knew I was close to working on the toe. Once I got the toe started the sock would be finished in an hour. After knitting for a while, I measured and tried it on. I was close, so I knit two rounds and began the toe.

As I had predicted it took less than an hour to knit the toe. I sewed the toe closed and wove in my ends before doing my favorite thing: putting the finished sock on for the first time.

It fit, but it felt a little short. It was nearing bedtime and I weighed my options. I could live with it, or I could rip out the toe and revise my work. It was like I was one of my 6th graders. Tearing it out would mean I wasted a whole evening of knitting. If I just lived with it,  I could be finished, and start the second sock – but would I be really happy with the finished product?

I grabbed my scissors.

Friday evening found me back where I started.


Friday night found me happy.


Livin’ in the Persian’s Paradise

15 Mar

As kids, we often took familiar tunes and rewrote the lyrics to serve whatever purpose we could find. TV theme songs, commercial jungles, holiday songs. I can still sing a particularly nasty one we wrote – to the tune of Hark the Herald Angels Sing – about how much we were going enjoy seeing the last of our grade seven teacher. She was the only teacher I never warmed to.

Even now,  when a particular sentence recalls the rhythm of a line of song, I will sing it, to myself, to Lucy, and, sometimes to my students.

As class was ending Wednesday, we had a few extra minutes, so I asked for volunteers to share a “performance” of one of the “tasks” they are producing for the Ancient Mesopotamia simulation we have been doing. We are nearing the end and most presentations have been exhortations to the people of Ancient Mesopotamia about irrigation, skits about scribes and cuneiform, or “songs” that sound more like poetic recitations with a lot of giggling.

“J is ready to do his performance, Ms G,” a Hittite told me.

This ought to be interesting, I thought. J is a little quiet and likes to play the class clown, but, he is as capable as anyone else. I wondered, how bad could it be, right?

J turned his ever-present baseball cap sideways and swaggered up to the front of the room, a fellow Hittite carrying a Chromebook joining him. Clearly the sound man. J took his place, turned his cap a quarter turn and announced, “This is Persian’s Paradise sung to the tune of Gangsta’s Paradise.”

I balked a little. Should I have looked over his lyrics first? But the familiar music started to play and J began to rap. He was clearly nervous at first, but then he got his groove going. You know how the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day? Well mine was doing the same thing. J’s lyrics were amazing.  Everyone in the room was diggin’ it. Well, maybe I was diggin’ it and the students were doing whatever Gen Zers do.

When J finished, I am sure the whoops  and applause were audible in the office. He was clearly proud of himself and his classroom cred had risen considerably. We all left for lunch singing “Been spendin’ most their lives/ livin’ in the Persian’s paradise”.


Happy Pi Day

14 Mar

On Sunday, I read and the filed away Grace’s post on Pi-ku poetry. That’s haiku for Pi Day. It was too brilliant to not bring it to my 6th graders.

I think I’ve mentioned that I teach gifted 6th graders. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised when a hand when up at my list of the digits of pi to the 11th decimal place:


“Ms. Gillespie, I think it should be 8 then 9 at the end,” said a student who at 12 is a better mathematician than I will ever be. Heck, most of my students will go on to do Math coursework beyond my comprehension. But, I am the adult in the room and I do actually possess some mathematical knowledge. In fact the Math I know, I know with confidence.

“What’s the rule about rounding if the next digit is 5 or greater?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah,” responded the student and a few others nodded as my heart swelled.

It was a great Pi Day Eve.



A different kind of winner

13 Mar

At the end of the day yesterday, I tried not to get my hopes up as I looked at my phone.

All day long I had tried to NOT think about the fact that the Rose City Yarn Crawl prizes would be announced at some time today.  I tried NOT to check my personal email. ( I might have peeked once or twice) but, locked in my cupboard, my phone was off limits until the end of the day.

After the kids left I undid the lock. A couple of years ago I broke the lock on the door, so now, I secure it with a fancy combination of an old choke collar and my locker padlock from high school. I got it in 1978 and I still know the combo. That’s an accomplishment of sorts, I thought as I slid the chain from the handles. It always makes such a nice satisfactory sound.  I bet most people don’t have the padlock, let alone remember the combo.

I pulled the phone from my bag. No messages announcing I was a winner. And none came as I drove home or after I walked through the front door. I tried not to feel disappointed. I fed Lucy and myself. I checked my email and before too long, I was fine.

I have the yarn I bought on the yarn crawl ( plus a whole lot more in my stash).

I have a super cute basset hound.

I have my high school padlock and still remember the combination – and that is a whole different kind of winning.




The Teacher and the iPad

12 Mar

Once upon a time there was an ordinary teacher. She wasn’t especially good at technology, but she wasn’t particularly bad. She was just right.

When Fall came, her vintage document camera – circa 1998 – died. She knew this day was coming and had feared it. Her avoidance did nothing to stop the devices inevitable demise. Fortunately, she had always been kind to the tech person, who found an iPad with a stand to replace her old machine.

Life returned to normal. The teacher learned to manage her new tool. She recharged it regularly. She learned to project landscape. She made the most of her new tool. But one thing perplexed her: Why was there a single port to attach the projector and the power cord? Without an answer to the question she carried on.

One day, the Monday after returning to Daylight Savings Time, the unthinkable happened: she was modeling writing for her students and the iPad died. Being a “just right at technology teacher” she rigged something that functioned satisfactorily. Suddenly, she heard a little voice.

“Oh Great Teacher,” the voice called, “Why don’t you just plug the power cord into the other port on the dongle?”

“Pardon, me?” she replied courteously, but authoritatively, “I don’t think it has a second port.”

“I think it might,” said the small voice, humbly but authoritatively.

The teacher, knowing her pupils to be digital natives looked at the dongle, which did indeed have a second port. The teacher plugged the power cord into the second port, recharged the iPad, and carried on, a little more wisdom in her salt & pepper head.

And she taught happily ever after.

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