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Tied up in knots

7 May

“Ms. Gillespie, I tied my shoes together.”

So said the 6th grade boy standing before me. He should have been on his way back to his seat from the meeting area, where I had just taught a fabulous lesson, but he couldn’t walk. I knelt to take a closer look. He hadn’t tied shoe laces together – he had braided bungee laces around the clips. Maybe my lesson hadn’t been that fabulous after all.

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“You’d better take a seat and take off your shoes,’ I said as I stood up. “I’ll see what I can do while you work,” I replied.

I poked a bit with a pencil before channeling my inner MacGyver. I took a paperclip from a dispenser, unbent one end, and began loosening the laces. While they should have been working, a few students came up to offer assistance.

“I have long fingernails.”

“I’m a Boy Scout.”

“My little sister does this ALL the time!”

I declined all offers of assistance. My strategy was proving successful. I loosened one strand enough to loop it over the clip, loosening even more. My MacGyvering was working and before too long, I laid two, separated shoes on the student’s desk. He felt a little foolish, but I felt fabulous.

 

 

How we roll

30 Apr

Once a month, my teaching partner and I sit down and formally plan out the upcoming month. We sit down together every day to talk over the day and eat second breakfast but this is our most formal of meetings.

As we sat to plan May, we realized how close the end of the year really is, so we decided to plan June as well, since it had only two weeks of school.  There was so much we still wanted to do – and we couldn’t make it fit. Outdoor School (ODS) had been moved  to June 4-7, taking out almost a week. We’d scheduled speeches for the week before ODS. We could wedge things in, but they’d start before and end, rather awkwardly, after ODS. we felt frustrated.

“What if we scrap it all?” I asked. “We could move the speeches to the last week of school and then plan backwards.” This was a radical concept for us. We always started on the first of a month and planned forward, knowing what we didn’t accomplish could spill into the next month. But there were no next months for us this time around. And so we boldly took the plunge.

And it worked. We are planned through June.

We always know our monthly plans are subject to change, but we have a roadmap in place and can face any detours because that’s how we roll.

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Plan B

23 Apr

This morning I should be on a bus, headed to outdoor school for four days and three nights. The sixth graders from the other three halls in my building are going. Alas, Green Hall is staying behind.

Two Saturdays ago we got a text saying the main lodge at the camp we were supposed to attend had burned to the ground.  Most of last week was spent waiting to find out if we could go to another camp this week or if we’d go a different week. The kids had tones of questions.

If we don’t go this year, can we go as seventh graders?

When will they tell us?

What happens at school if we don’t go?

If we don’t go to Outdoor School, do we still have to come to school?

Their agony was ended Thursday when we were – finally – told we would not go the same week as the other sixth graders, we’d go June 4-7, the second last week of school.

Action and consequence. The kids were relieved, but the teachers and admins started scrambling. Schedules had to be created for a rotation through Specialists. My team decided that we’d toss out the schedule on Wednesday and have kids rotate through camp like activities and have a picnic lunch outside along with a massive game of Capture the flag. It won’t be quite the same, but it will be a good placeholder until the real this comes around.

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Be quiet, we’re testing!

16 Apr

As much as I loathe standardized testing, I take it very seriously.

I post messages on the board reminding students to bring their fully charged Chromebook, but leave their phones behind. I put a box of kleenex on each table so students have no need to get up and wander to get one. I faithfully read the script everyday. I wear my serious face.

It was the fourth and final day of testing and students had just logged on. I was sitting in front of my computer, having clicked “approve” for most students and awaiting the last few who were still jumping through the log-in hoops. The room was silent as it should be. A few phones and smart watches sat in the testing box beside me. All was well – and then it happened.

A tiny squeaky little fart.

It happened at the table to my immediate right. You could see the eyes of everyone at the table grow large. They looked from one to another. A student at the adjacent table whipped their head around. The rest of the room sat in oblivious silence – a silence that hung in the air for a millisecond – until I made eye contact with a student.

We started to giggle. I tried to maintain my serious testing face, but the harder I tried the greater I failed. Before too long, I was laughing harder than any one – a silent body shaking laugh I was trying to control because this was a serious testing day. I closed my eyes. I squeezed them tight in an effort to get myself under control. I scooted my chair back so I would look at the floor when I finally opened my eyes.

Gradually, my laughter ebbed. Once more I was in control, a serious test proctor.

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Happy birthday, Mom!

2 Apr

If we hadn’t lost her in June, today we’d be celebrating my mother’s 88th birthday.

We are a family of storytellers and the ones I like to tell tend to be funny and not very flattering. There are a lot of stories I “remember”, but really, I was too young to remember. I have just heard them repeated so often they have become part of my memory. My favorite story I tell people stems back to high school. I was working at the local swimming pool after school and on weekends.

“What time is your dinner break?” Mom asked me before I left for school that day. Dad was either off or working a night shift because she continued. “Dad and I will drive dinner up to you.” Mom didn’t drive.

I must have told her. I forgot about the conversation during the school day and only remembered as I got off the school bus and walked to the pool. It was winter, and cold, and the warm scent of chlorine hit me as I opened the door to our small local pool and then entered the office.

I taught my before dinner classes and showered off before heading into the office for dinner. The design was poor. The front door of the office faced the front door of the pool. It was a half-door and also served as the front counter, so, every time the front door opened, pool staff got a blast of cold air. We generally huddled in towels.

I had just taken a seat in the office, wrapped in two towels, when the headlights of car flashed through the glass and I knew dinner had arrived. Another swim instructor sat nearby, huddled over the sandwich she had pulled from a paper bag as my mother entered, bearing a plate covered in plastic wrap. I said my thanks and Mom left, knowing I only had a short dinner break.

“Wow!” said my colleague as she looked over, her eyes almost popping out of her head. I had a plate with roast beef with gravy, mashed potatoes with a pat of butter (Mom knew I hated gravy on my potatoes), and a green vegetable.

Even though the cold air kept blowing in, I was warming up from the inside, with food and with love, as I ate the dinner Mom had prepared for me.

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Allergy eyes

30 Mar

There is something in the air.

I know because I feel it in my eyes.

I feel it even before I wake up: the heavier than usual lids, the itch, the grit, the tears that run from neither joy nor sorrow. Allergy season has hit my eyes.

It takes some time to get them serviceable. This means drops and hydrocortisone cream. This means frequent looks in the mirror to gauge the degree of puffiness and redness. This means extra wrinkles as the swelling goes down. This means NOT rubbing them.

It takes some time for them to feel normal again. Well, normalish. In allergy season, normal is a distant memory and desire. By noon, I feel normalish and I wonder when I will wake up and feel normal. I wonder, too, which student will be the first to comment.

Today, I replace the SOL logo with something more representative of how I’m feeling today.

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Furiously knitting

29 Mar

“Do you ever take commissions?” my librarian friend asked.

I cringed inwardly. It can be an awkward question to answer and I gave my standard reply,”Yes, but I have rules.”

Her raised eyebrows were a sort of encouragement to go on, so I explained, “I won’t accept payment and you have to live with my timeline. I could finish it in a week, a year or never. I love to knit but don’t like pressure to perform. I want to knit a project because I love it. What did you have in mind?”

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My friend had been on last year’s Printz committee. What she wanted was a pussy hat with the word “Fury” on it, in celebration of Damsel by Elana K. Arnold.

“Let me think and look around,” I said.

I found a free pattern  –  Hamilton Pussyhat by  on Ravelry. – that captured the beauty of the cover.Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 3.39.27 PM

During the Rose City Yarn Crawl, I made it my mission to find some yarn that would capture the colors of the book and work with the pattern. I did.

 

I took the peace of Spring Break to adapt the pattern, replacing “Rise Up” with “Fury” and began knitting. I learned to knit a Latvian braid and, slowly, but surely, the hat took shape.

It is now finished and blocking. I’ll give it to my friend when I see her at our next book club meeting in two weeks, unless I see her at the library first. I hope it is a good fit.

 

 

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