Archive | March, 2021

Spartan

31 Mar

Welcome to my new home away from home. I mean that literally and figuratively. This is neither the classroom in which I taught for six years, nor the home office from which I have taught for the last year. It is my hybrid classroom. It looks like a detention room.

The bulletin board was left up when we left the building in March 2020. There was a long-term sub in the room, so it wasn’t taken down. It felt as if it were still February 2020, the only date I found on the papers that were strewn atop the desks and bookcases – a moment frozen in time. Not knowing what else to do, I collected the papers and put them in the teacher cabinet. I don’t think anyone will come for them, but experience has taught me that, if I toss them, someone will want them.

The cart is my new desk. Since students stay and teachers rotate, this is the vehicle on which I will travel from portable to portable to portable. In my first year of teaching, I was an itinerant French teacher, traveling from room to room with rolls of chart paper, a masking tape bracelet, and a cassette player. In a way, it feels like I am coming full circle in my career.

Starting off on the right foot

30 Mar

In all my angsty worries about reentering society and having to socialize, I forgot about the hardest part of the return to school. I mean that literally and figuratively, because I forgot how much my feet ache at the end of a day walking on concrete floors.

In warm weather I go barefoot at home. In cold weather, I wear handknit socks and slippers around the house. I only ever put on shoes if I am going outside. Back at school yesterday, I had to wear shoes all day.

I choose my shoes carefully. Over the years I have learned that it is better to have a few expensive pairs than a lot of cheap ones. My mother grew up poor and loved cheap shoes. She once scoffed at how much my sister and I spent on a single pair of Danskos. In her later years she developed severe hammertoe and had to have the second toe on each foot amputated. I will never know if her abundance of cheap shoes was to blame, but I only well-made shoes with good arch support.

I didn’t notice how tired my feet were until I got home last night and took my shoes off. Thin carpet over concrete makes for very tired feet at the end of the day. We have two more days at school before returning to two and a half weeks of remote learning. That means two and a half more weeks of barefoot teaching that I will appreciate even more than I have.

It’s not you, it’s me

29 Mar

My anxiety about returning to my school building today – and for the next three days – has very little to do with fear of catching COVID. I am fully vaccinated after all. It has everything to do with people.

I am one of those introverts who has actually thrived ( thriven?) in isolation. I love being at home. My students are being successful. I have a happy routine that has worked for the last year. For the next three days, I have to be around people and that has me very anxious. Since I know I probably won’t be teaching in my own room, I’ve been making jokes about planning in my car. I am really only half joking.

We are a large staff…62 certified teacher, plus administration and classified staff.For the last year I have lived alone, eaten alone, walked alone – except for having Lucy, then Richard by my side. Any forays into the grocery store are strategic strikes, in and out in minimal time. And now, for the next three days, I have to sit in a room with most of those 62+ people as we learn how hybrid will look.

This is what is stressing me out today. Having spent the last year avoiding people, I feel like I am about to enter the lion’s den.

Making a list and checking it twice

28 Mar

In the weeks before a vacation, I start a list of things I want to remember to pack. I have a special list for things I particularly want in my carry-on. Well, I am not going on vacation anytime soon, but I do have to go into school for three days next week, as we prepare for hybrid learning.That means I have to pack my schoolbag for three full days away from home. I haven’t had to do that in over a year.

Over the last few days, I have been writing a list so I know what to pack in my bag tonight, so I am ready to get going in the morning. Here’s what I have so far:

  1. lunch
  2. 2020-21 meeting notebook
  3. wallet
  4. inhaler
  5. phone
  6. ID & lanyard
  7. computer
  8. power cord
  9. extra masks
  10. pencil pouch
  11. a book to read

I tell my students to pack their back the night before so they are ready in the morning. I’ll take some time today to get mine ready. I’ll add the lunch tomorrow morning. A new routine begins.

RIP Beverly Cleary

27 Mar

Did you know there really is a Klickitat Street in Portland? It’s not far from my local public library, and it is the neighbor hood in which Beverly Cleary set her Ramona books.

Beverly Clearly passed away on Wednesday, at the ripe old age of 104. In honor of her passing, I will share my favorite Ramona quotes, in no particular order

  1. “Why don’t you turn on the dawnzer?” – Ramona, thinking she was quite smart, thigh that dawnzer was a synonym for lamp. She learned it in the national anthem: “Oh say, can you see, by the dawnzer lee light.” Brilliant!
  2. “Sit here for the present.” Ramona’s teacher says this to her on the first day of school. Ramona follows her directions perfectly, expecting a present for doing so. I like to say this to kids and I snicker when I do. I think they think I am crazy.
  3. “Pieface!” Mrs Swink, an elderly neighbor, and Ramona call each other this in a good-natured way.
  4. “I am too  a Merry Sunshine.” Ramon says this when she is accused of not being one. You can imagine the tone f voice she used when saying this.

To celebrate her life, I hope you turn on a dawnzer, do something for the present, and shout “Pieface!” at someone you love.

Time Flies

26 Mar

“Good morning,” my neighbor said to me as I took Richard for our afternoon walk. She realized her error and laughed.

I joined in and said, ” I get it. I’m on Spring Break and keep thinking today is Saturday.” I paused for a moment and had to think what day it really was.

By the time we got to the park, the conversation had drifted far from my brain. we meandered on and off the path. It was a nice day – in Oregon that means it’s not raining. I kept looking around wondering why there were so few people here on a Saturday. And then I remembered.

It’s bittersweet when you get to this point in Spring Break- you are deep enough to lose track of time, and deep enough that the Break is almost over.

Conquering the mountain

25 Mar

Last week, the week before Spring Break, when I felt tired, it seemed like a terrific idea to put off grading the two pieces of work I had asked my students to turn in. This week, it seemed less terrific.

I didn’t have a bag of work propped by the door. In these days if remote earning, it was a virtual pile in my Canvas account. Despite the fact that I couldn’t see the work, it still loomed large in my mind. I needed to do something about it. Tempted as I was to procrastinate until Sunday, yesterday presented an opportunity.

After playing phone tag with the vets office, we had decided to start Richard on a low dose of prednisone fr five days. The tech I spoke to on Tuesday afternoon told me she’d call in the scrip to my local grocery store since their offices were closed on Wednesdays. I assumed she meant she’d call it in right away so I waited half an hour then drove over. They had no record of the scrip. I knew I’d have to try again the next morning.

I don’t sleep in much on weekends or holidays, maybe only 30 minutes beyond a normal work day, so I was up early on Wednesday. I knew the pharmacy opened at 9 and I planned to call before I drove over this time. As an early riser, I had time to kill. What better way to kill to birds with one stone than to take a look at that mountain of work while I waited to call?

My teaching partner is disciplined and likes to score a set number a day. I like to sit down and binge grade. I have a routine around it, setting up my work are a certain way, following a particular order of operations. It works for me.

And my master plan worked for me this day.

I managed to get most of the work done by 9:30, when I called the pharmacy. Yes, they did have a scrip for Richard. I dressed and drove over. I was in and out in 15 minutes. After greeting Richard, who missed me as if I’d been gone all day, I got back to work and finished the school work before lunch.

The Right Tool for the Job

24 Mar

I’d already skeined up the yarn for my new sweater when I sat down to pull the needles out of the case in which I store them. Several years ago, after keeping them jumbled in a drawer for most of my life, I had organized them by size in an accordion folder.

I popped the clasp and went to the pocket for the first sized needle I needed US3/3.25 mm. I had the long circular needle I needed, but not the double points or the short circular I needed for the neckline. How could I not have the double points?

I had the other needles I needed, but the US3s were vital to the start. I could make do with an alternative, but I do like to have the right tool for a job.

Each needle serves a purpose: edge ribbing, neckline, sleeve cuffs, body, color work. It used to be that you got one or two page patterns with two needle sizes. Over the last decade or so, patterns have become longer, with more explicitly written directions that don’t assume the reader knows the difference between an ssk and k2tog. Pattern designers editorialize and offer alternatives to a single way of doing something. There are links to video tutorials. Sometimes I read or watch them, sometimes I don’t.

The one thing I don’t compromise on is my needles. I have had some for decades and, though they bring fond memories, I have been replacing some of the older ones. So, I placed an order for the needles I needed and started a pair of socks while I awaited their arrival.

Today, I will finish the socks and, with new needles in hand, begin the sweater.

Sarcasm becomes you

23 Mar

I took a year of Latin in high school. I would have taken more, but there wasn’t enough demand. I was left only able to articulate simple ideas such as Canis est in via and Caecilius est mendax.

I was gifted, however, with a world of Latin phrases. Every Friday, Mr. Glaesner would teach us useful Latin phrases for all occasions.

Per ardua ad astra

Nemo me impune lacessit 

Semper ubi, sub ubi

Those of you who studied Latin will see the humor in that last one.

Since coming back from Winter Break, one of my students has started a class tradition. He received a sarcasm-a-day calendar and shares each day’s quote in the chat box. Even though some of the quotes are terrible, we all enjoy reading them and they lead us into some interesting discussion.

Well, imagine my surprise yesterday morning when I opened my school email to see a message from that student sharing yesterday’s quote of the day:

“ I don’t have the time nor the crayons to explain this to you.” 

I smiled and sent a non-sarcastic message back.

Eyes are the windows to the soul

22 Mar

If eyes are the window to the soul, then I am in trouble. Richard, too.

Even though theologians will say that dogs have no soul, dog lovers know better. Both our souls are in peril because we are both suffering from allergies that are affecting our eyes. I noticed my own eyes first – the itchiness, the redness, the runniness. Constantly rubbing, I irritated the skin around my eyes.

Then Richard started a new behavior: rubbing his face on the edge of his bed. At first I thought it was a cute behavior because he is a funny boy with a great sense of humor. (How can you say he has no soul if he has a great sense of humor?) I noticed goop in his eyes. I noticed redness and irritation in the skin around his eyes.

He came to me because of bad allergies and ears. I was surprised at how well he looked back in October. He had a fat medical file but was in pretty good shape. We weaned him off the meds he’d been on and he was doing really well. Now, I can see how bad his allergies can get despite the twice weekly bath and ear cleaning he’s been getting.

He has a recheck with his allergy and ear vet next Friday, April 2nd, but I am going to call today to see if they’ve had a cancellation this week. I know how bad my eyes feel right now. I hate to think how bad he feels – and how much worse he might feel if he has to wait another two weeks.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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