Archive | May, 2021

It’s May so….

25 May

Since my library job was eliminated 10 years ago, I’ve had to pack up almost every year. There was a year or two when I didn’t have to pack, and one when it was my choice because I had a chance for a better room, but this year, we are all being told to pack.

A new middle school is opening and my school, which is closest and the one to be most impacted. We are set to lose 20 teachers. The upside is that we won’t need the 14 portables we have. The bad news is that our administrators have told us all to pack our personal belongings. We can leave school materials in place.

Sigh.

A few years ago, I was told I was moving on the last day of school, so I am grateful for the early warning. Knowing how stressful that was, I am going into my classroom early – someone else is teaching in there these days to limit cohort interaction – and tackling one box a day. I have also begun sorting and boxing the materials I still have at home and bringing in those boxes.

Right now, my goal is the bookcases. There are a lot. My goal is to box my personal books and leave the school owned books on the shelf. The last time I moved, it took 48 boxes for all of it. I am estimating it will be 24 this time around.

We have no idea when we will know what – and where – we will be teaching next year. We are all hopeful that we will hear before school is out. Last year we didn’t find out until July, but we were right in the thick of the pandemic. Needless to say, morale is low and teachers are exhausted. I keep telling the kids to finish strong. I should take my own advice.

The Doctor is in

18 May

“Hey Ms. Gillespie,” an in-person student called to me one day last week. “What did you want to be when you were our age?”

I thought for a moment before replying,”I don’t remember exactly, but I know that before I went to university, I wanted to be a doctor, a journalist, a politician, a UN interpreter, and a spy.” I chuckled to myself and thought As a teacher, I am really all of those things!

A few days later, I found myself playing doctor.

Richard’s allergy test revealed that he was allergic to a wide range of things, including every tree in the neighborhood, most of the plants, and the yeast he develops on his own skin when he has an allergy flare-up. Based on these results, his serum was whipped up in a lab and the day had finally arrived for me to learn how to administer the shots.

The vet and I talked over his health history, how reactive he is, and decided that once a week, rather than twice a week was the way to go. She gave me a spreadsheet where I was to track each shot. We talked about reactions and I learned that dogs don’t have anaphylactic reactions. They get hives and their faces can swell, but it is extremely rare for a dog’s throat to swell. There’s be no need for an epi-pen but made a plan in case there were hives and swelling.

And then she pulled out the hardware: serum, syringes, and a needle clipper. She explained that we’d practice today with a saline solution, so I could learn how to be gentle, but effective.

I grabbed the massive cowl of flesh that is the nape of Richard’s neck – his basset physique made it easy.

“The needle will go in easily,” the vet explained as I filled the syringe with saline. “TV has given people a false impression. Sometimes they think they have to stab it in, but it is a slips in gently.”

She was right.

Richard didn’t seem to have noticed.He didn’t notice the first shot he had this morning either. As soon as it was over, he made himself comfy on the sofa and did what he does best.

Close Encounters of the Bird Kind

11 May

I’ve been thinking about not wearing my mask when I walk the dog. I am fully vaccinated and can, theoretically, go outside without wearing one. My brain gets it, my soul does not.

I still step off the sidewalk when people approach and give friends and strangers a wide berth.For over a year masks and social distancing have ruled my behavior and it is hard to unlearn these lessons. But I am thinking about it, and that is a good first step.

The shoe was on the other foot yesterday, as Richard and I took our post school day walk in Laurelhurst Park.

I’d like to say we meandered, but these days, Richard is on a mission. I’m not saying I have to run to keep up with him, be he goes at a fair clip and I have to walk fast. I don’t mind. I am hopeful my doctor will say nice things to me at my next physical – whenever that might be.

So, there we were, hoofing it through the park. We passed a group of men, then two older women before we got to the east end of the park. We sometimes see pairs of ducks here. Since early Spring, this has been their nesting grounds and a few weeks ago a sign in a childish script appeared warning people away from a particular spot at one corner of the horseshoe pitch, where duck eggs had been laid.

Over the weekend, ducklings had appeared. On Sunday – Mother’s Day – when I expected the park to be full but wasn’t due to an overcast sky – Richard and I stood in awe watching ducklings hop into the pond and swim. It doesn’t matter how old I get, ducklings still warm my heart.

Yesterday, as we rounded the east end, the men we had passed early, passed us. There is a lamppost that Richard has a special relationship with and he spent some time communing with it. When we restarted our walk, the men were a bit ahead, and so was a family of Canada geese. The group was waddling around on the north side of the path. The pond was on the south side.

I’d seen ducklings galore in the park, but I don’t recall ever having seen goslings. Richard was sniffing a particularly attractive tuft of grass so I watched the men veer away from the family, who were making their goosey way towards the path, and the pond. As we approached, the goose family arrived on the left side of the path. We stuck to the right side, this isn’t England after all.

I assumed we were far enough away. Richard was on the grass. I was on the very edge of the path. Apparently one of the parents did not agree, turned, and hissed at me. I apologized and kept moving forward, away from the goose family. Not good enough, the goos started running towards us, hissing more ferociously. Richard and I ran.

A couple was walking towards us on the path. The look half amused, half nervous. As we passed them, they took our place on the side far, far away from the goose family.

Teaching simultaneously

4 May

How do you hold the book so that both the students in the room and the students online can see the cover?

That’s a simple problem I faced as we embarked on simultaneously teaching kids in person and remotely. It’s a whole new learning curve and I feel exhausted like we did when all this began.

I mute myself so the students at home don’t hear the conversations with students in the room, but students at home tell me I’m muted and they think they are missing something.


A student asks for a private conversation in a breakout room. I have to tell them that anything they or I say could be heard by the students in the room.

It’s a delight to get to meet some of my students in person and engage with them, but it’s been a whole new learning curve. To limit contact, my 6th graders stay in the room and we three core Class teachers rotate. I began my career as an itinerant French teacher and I am back to the itinerant life, rolling from class to class on a cart.

I had worked out a comfortable routine working from home: computer in the center, iPad and stand to the left, plan book and everything else to the right. It took me a while to become comfortable on the cart. I opted for a tall cart, so I could use it as a standing desk. I am a natural spreader and there is no right or left with the cart. I have had to adapt and use the cart shelves as my new left and right, but I don’t feel as though I am at the top of my game yet.

I have learned to carry my power cord because my laptop battery doesn’t last all day.

With no home base, I bungee corded a plastic file box to the bottom of my cart so I can carry personal items, like my wallet and car keys, with me as I roll.

I seem to be fine tuning things just fine. Most days seem easier than the previous one, but then I get a day like yesterday, when I kept forgetting to share my screen and couldn’t figure out how to hold that booktalk book.

Thank goodness the kids are very forgiving.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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