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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.



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.

Living room concert

11 Mar

For the last while – maybe months, maybe a couple of years – I’ve heard piano music some days when I arrived home from work. I knew it wasn’t coming from my house and just assumed a neighbor was playing classical music to unwind at the end of the day.

A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor two doors down stopped me.

“I’ve been learning piano again after many years and I have a public performance coming soon. I’m having a few people over for a living room concert to practice playing in front of an audience and I was hoping you’d come,” he explained.

I asked some questions about his lessons and said I’d love to come. So, Sunday afternoon found me sitting in my neighbor’s living room.

It was a small gathering of about eight people. I knew some and met some for the first time. We socialized for a bit, ate some chili and cornbread, socialized some more before my neighbor talked about his return to classical piano for the first time since he was in his teens. He told us that he’ll be playing in a hospital lobby at the end of the month, where he suspected the audience might be a little less attentive than we were. We laughed and joked that we could be rowdy or cry while he played to help him prepare for the performance.

When he began to play, I realized his was the music that had been serenading me on those afternoons. He played five pieces in all and expressed his gratitude because he was more nervous than he thought he’d be.  I suspect I will get to hear some more as I return home over the next two weeks.

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Rose City Yarn Crawl 2019

10 Mar


The first shop, The Knotty Lamb, opened at nine. It was the furthest away, so I decided that I would start the 2019 Rose City Yarn Crawl (RCYC) in Forest Grove.  I was excited as I got into the car because, I was determined to finish the Yarn Crawl (something I have only done twice) and because this ear, I had a navigation system in the car to help me out.

Snow was falling as I drove the country roads to Forest Grove. Miraculously, it stopped once I arrived at the Knotty Lamb. A sign? Who knew but I was ready for a day of yarnamania.

Although it was early, the shop was packed. I thought I’d been so crafty, starting out early. I browsed and touched and squeezed skeins of all sorts before deciding on my purchases. A yarn crawl can be a dangerous thing, so I always set out with a finite amount of cash to help with my self-control. It means I have to make judicious choices because, at each shop where you make a purchase, you get a coupon code for a free pattern from the 2019 RCYC collection. Of course I wanted all the patterns as well as the pin each shop handed out.

From Forest Grove, I drove to Beaverton, into Portland, then to Vancouver, and back to Portland where I finished the Yarn Crawl at Twisted, my LYS (that’s Local Yarn Shop for the uninitiated) where I turned in my passport for the grand prize drawing.


Entering each shop, the routine was the same. I got my passport stamped, signed in for their shop prize drawings, got my pin, then looked around before deciding what to buy. In addition to getting the free pattern, buying something at each shop is a way to support local small businesses and makers. Each shop had trunk shows of various dyers and yarn related crafts people – bag and button makers, soap and lotion makers. Some were at one shop one day and another the next. The yarn crawl is a four day event, after all. Crazy me, I did it on one.

I was exhausted when I got home, but I took the time to sort through my purchases and add them to my yarn stash. Now, I have to finish the projects I have before I can dip in to the new yarn.



Bad dream

9 Mar

Lucy got me up before the sun for a potty break. That wasn’t out of the ordinary for a Saturday. I put on her leash and stood in the doorway, eyes barely open, as she did her business, then we both went back to bed. For the record, it is now seven and Lucy is still in bed, She has taken the warm spot I vacated.

I’m up because I woke up from a bad dream with a headache.

I rarely have bad dreams, and I rarely remember details about dreams when I awake, but I am trying to shake off this bad dream.

It was a school dream and, in a nutshell, my classes revolted. It was lunch detention and there were a lot of kids there. A whole class full.  Kids were storing their belongings in my cupboards and they were replacing our school tables with heavy wood tables you might have seen in the court of King Henry VIII. Students wouldn’t sit, and they were talking back and moving furniture.  That part  didn’t make it a bad dream, it was just weird. What mad it a bad dream was the fact that the students were so disrespectful. Some were in my face yelling at me. I was crying.

Let me state for the record, I have really nice students and I don’t know why I dreamed this dream. I don’t think it really means anything, but it has left me feeling a bit ragged and I have a headache. But, the coffee has brewed and I’ve taken two Advil. I had planned to write a different post this morning, but I thought writing might be a means to exorcize the bad dream. I am hopeful that, once this day gets going,  this dream will go the way of all dreams, and the details I can still see will evaporate into the ether.



Happy International Women’s Day

8 Mar


Here’s to all
the strong women
in my life
who taught me to


The view from the top

7 Mar

I conquered the mountain. What mountain? The mountain of work that needed scoring despite my best efforts.

activism books+
Teen Activism Websites +
the Writers Notebooks that
should have been graded before
the conferences that were cancelled by snow+
the conference prep that didn’t happen because of the snow days


Snow days put me behind on conference prep, that impeded my ability to find time to score the Teen Activism books that were exceptionally well done this year.

Sometimes middle school language arts teachers find themselves at the bottom of a very high pile of work. But, oh, the joy once you conquer it! I can see Spring Break from here.

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6 Mar

The subject line of the email caught my eye.

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Last week I’d filled out  a form to test knit a pattern for a designer. A test knitter’s job is to follow a draft of a pattern and let the designer know if there are glitches, or if things are going really well. It gives the designer a way to get samples knit up that other people can see in all possible sizes – a job that can take some time if you had to do it all on your own.

I have long wanted to do test knits for people and had filled out forms a couple of times, but, as teens with no previous experience will tell you, you need experience at the job to get the job. So far, my replies had all been of the  “Thanks, but…” variety. Until this email message.

I get to be a test knitter for Mina Philipp (The Knitting Expat)!!!!

The sweater is an adult version of her Little Nugget sweater, the Not So Little Nugget sweater

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It is a straightforward sweater pattern, which means an easy enough knit. The real learning curve is on the expectations for test-knitters. I need to keep track of some data I don’t usually track:

  • how much yarn was used, in grams and meters/yards (for each color),
  • needle size
  • gauge achieved
  • finished measurements of the item
  • any comments I have

I also have to set up a project page on Ravelry (that’s like Facebook for knitters, in case you don’t know) and link my page to the finished pattern, once it has been published.

The final sweater isn’t due until May 4th and I am already thinking about what yarn in which colors I might choose.


What you say VS what they hear

5 Mar

We started our Ray Bradbury short story unit yesterday. Because the 6th graders don’t have much familiarity with his work, we begin reading the excellent obituary published in the New York Times on June 6, 2012.

I’ve been doing this lesson for years with no reaction.  For some reason, in both classes, as soon as I said the word “obituary”, I heard gasps and snickers. Apparently, all they had paid attention to was the second syllable. Cue the middle school teacher eye-roll.

I wrote the word on the board to clarify, but it was too late.

What has been heard, cannot be unheard.

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Clear as crystal

4 Mar

After Mom’s memorial service, the family gathered in her apartment. We sat around and chatted, all the siblings and their kids gathered together in one place for the first time in a very long time – since Dad’s memorial, really. We also looked through her belongings – furniture,  kitchen ware and the like – looking for something that we could each use in our homes or as a memento.

Like many people her age, my mom had a lot of crystal, in part because my dad would take my sister and I to Goudies Department Store in Kitchener to pick out a new piece for her collection every holiday. The younger family members weren’t really interested, cut crystal not being popular among Millennials and Gen Xers. I hadn’t really planned on taking anything breakable because I had to carry anything I took with me on my plane trip home.

Poking through her china cabinet brought back all sorts of memories. It became crystal clear that, despite my intention to take nothing, I was going to bring two items home with me.



The first was a toothpick holder. There was something about the weight and heft of the crystal I had always liked. It had come out at the end of each meal when I was growing up. I am a flosser, and didn’t use toothpicks, but I thought I might bring it to school for paperclips.




Excited about the first find, I was inspired to look a little deeper. And then there it was, the crystal parfait glass that had held our spoons. I can’t quite recall when or why Mom had decided to keep the everyday spoons in a glass instead of the drawer where they’d always been, but one day it was decided and had been so ever since. I figured I could find a use for it myself.


They both sit on the kitchen counter now. The toothpick holder is where I place my house keys at the end of the day. The spoon holder is just the right size for the key fob  for the new car I was able to buy with my share of Mom’s estate. Each day, when I drop my keys in their new homes, I take a moment to think back to the home and kitchen of my youth.



Randy Ribay

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