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Handwriting

16 Oct

In the 24 conferences I had last week, several parents brought up their child’s handwriting. A few asked, “Do you teach cursive?”

I gave them our standard 6th grade answer: Yes, their work should be neat. No, we don’t teach cursive – we ask that they use whichever form of writing is neatest.

During one conference I had a sudden realization. The papers each of the three Core teachers had prepared perfectly illustrated my point. The Math teacher printed his comments by hand, in red pen. The Science teacher wrote hers on the computer, in Apple Chancery, a friendly font. My comments were written in cursive, green ink on green paper. They perfectly illustrated the point I was trying to make.

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My Mother’s Hands

10 Jul

I’ve been writing about my mom for years, using her life to model writing strategies to my students. I combed through my writer’s notebook before sitting down to write what I would say at her funeral. Here is what came out.

 

My Mother’s Hands

One of my earliest memories is of
My mother’s hands
Cupping, then twisting, an apple
Breaking it into two pieces
Her hands seemed all powerful.

They were always busy,
My mother’s hands,
Especially in the kitchen
Where they cooked, then cleaned
“Clean as you go”, she’d say,
With a dishcloth in her hands.
The same hands that peeled turnip for mashing for Christmas dinner
And always remembered to set aside several raw pieces for my plate
Because she knew I wouldn’t eat it cooked and mashed

When I was in high school, working after school,
Hers were the hands that arranged a plate
And covered it with plastic wrap
And made Dad drive her to the pool,
So I could have the same hot meal as the family

I learned to knit from
My mother’s hands
She guided my little hands through the basics –
Knit, purl, cast on, bind off –
Then set me free to explore
Allowing me to make this craft my own.

Those same hands,
Pinned the hems on yet another pair of pants
Too long for her short daughter
And taught me the steps because,
As she said
I’d be doing it the rest of my life.

They played games,
My mother’s hands:
Card games, bingo, and board games.
And they could be competitive.
She loved winning at cards
And we all knew to watch those hands
That sometimes cheated at Yahtzee.
And we all dreaded being paired with those hands for Pictionary.
Art was not their forte, though they made us laugh.

Mom was not much of a reader
Unless you count Danielle Steele in bathroom
But my mother’s hands
Took our little hands
And led us to the library
Upstairs in Rockton.
I don’t think she could have realized where those first steps would lead us.

They wrote countless notes
My mother’s hands
In tiny cursive
Excusing absences
Giving permission
But the best note she ever wrote
Was the feisty, sarcastic one to the administration
At Brantford Collegiate Institute
Where she stated that,
Since she and Dad figured I was mature and responsible enough
To spend a year in Europe,
They also figured I was responsible enough to come to school late
When I had first period spare.
Go Mom!
You didn’t mess with her when she was riled.

I look at my own hands.
They are small like
My mother’s hands
We weren’t blessed with long elegant fingers
We share small hands designed for work
And so I take my hands,
Her hands,
My mother’s hands
Into the world and do my work
Just like she did.

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The elephant in my summer vacation

3 Jul

I love my job, working with gifted 6th graders. I especially love 6th grade because I get to guide these wide-eyed newbies into the world of middle school.

But our numbers are down.

Just over a month ago, our admin team came to tell us and said that our four person team would be reduced to a three person team if the numbers stayed the same. They also said they had applied for an additional position, which, if it were to be granted, would keep us a four person team. They also said that, if it didn’t come, we would go from 2 Humanities teachers to one. That meant my job or my teaching partner’s job.

I worried that last month of school. I was the newer Humanities teacher. I was the one who had changed jobs and/or rooms five times in the last six years. Finally, the last week of school, I heard that, although they were still hoping for the additional teaching position to be added, I would be the one to change jobs.

And so I am enjoying summer, trying desperately to ignore the elephant that is with me on vacation.

The team I would move to is wonderful.

I wouldn’t have to change rooms, though I would be teaching regular 7th grade.

Even though this year’s 6th graders have moved on, I feel as though I am leaving them.

I try not to check my email and phone several times a day, hoping for the message that say we got the position. It has yet to come.

I figure I can pretend and ignore the elephant through July, but once August rolls around, I might need to accept reality – unless that call finally comes.

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Seedlings

29 May

Several weeks ago, I planted cilantro and basil seeds in pots on my front stoop. The packages said to sow them 6″( basil) and 12″ (cilantro) apart. when I opened the packet, though, the basil seeds seemed so tiny. How could I plant single seeds 6″ apart when I found it impossible to pick up a single seed? So, I didn’t. I sowed both herbs liberally.

I waited and watered and waited some more. The basil seedlings appeared first. It was almost another week before I saw signs of life in the cilantro planter. I was pleased and relieved.

Now, some 4 or 5 weeks later, I can see that the package hadn’t exaggerated. Each pot is packed with herbal goodness.

I needed some basil over the weekend, so I thinned it a bit. And now I am thinking that, when I have thinned a little more, I might add the leftover seeds to the pots to ensure a constant supply of my two favorite herbs through the summer.

Audiobook Tuesdays

22 May

Books get published on Tuesdays. By that I mean that new books come out on Tuesdays. Don’t ask me why the publishers do this. They just do.

Because publishers publish on Tuesdays, I know that, when I get up Tuesday morning, I will have a message from my local library. You see, I am not an audiophile, I am an audiobookphile. I always have the maximum number of audiobooks on hold – sometimes I even exceed the maximum because I recommend books for purchase. When you recommend a book for purchase, you are automatically placed on its hold list, even if your holds are already maxed!!! Biblioheaven

This morning, when I got up, there were two new, just released audiobooks waiting for me. They are downloading to my iPad as I write. And I already added two books from my wishlist to my holds list, so my holds are maxed again and all is right with the world.

My next recommended book comes out in two weeks.

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In the meantime, I have 19 other holds to think about and several borrowed books to get through. The last month of driving to and from work will be just delightful!

 

Testing is snot funny

15 May

SBAC testing is very serious, and yet, I couldn’t help but laugh at the cacophony of upper respiratory noises emitted during our first day of testing – a mix of allergies and a feverish upper respiratory thing that has had kids out for a week, was sweeping my classroom. So many kids had to get up for tissues during the test period that I decided to put a box on every table for the next class.

As I knelt to pull out the last tissue boxes from the cupboard, I uttered a small gasp. The last boxes, in a Target multipack, were perfect for test season.

 

Although all the teaching posters were covered, I decided these were completely appropriate.

 

Ode to Dandelions

30 Mar

I saw these dandelions (Scientific nameTaraxacum) on a walk. As I said the Latin name, the rhythm of O Tannebaum popped into my head. A new song was born.

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Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How lovely are thy petals.
Your leaves are green and edible
Your roots grow deep – incredible!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
You’re often called a noxious weed
Your seeds fly far – that’s guaranteed!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.
Kids turn you into crowns and chains
Then return home covered in stains!
Taraxacum, Taraxacum,
How yellow are thy petals.

Jone Rush MacCulloch

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