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Celebrating the signs of Autumn

18 Sep

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All the leaves are green
except for those on the tree
that stands sentinel
at the top of the street.
Its yellowing leaves
are the harbingers of Autumn.

There are other signs.
They appear most mornings,
announcing the change of seasons:
slippered feet on cold floors,
car lights turned on
for my dark drive to work,
jackets, worn to work, but
casually carried home
on warm afternoons.

Back to school
comes long before
Fall really begins
and I long to wear
tights and sweaters
and to feel the chill disappear
as I pull on my hat and gloves.

 

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Thank you, Universe!

11 Sep

I may have mentioned my deal with the universe, the one where, if the Universe let me stay in 6th grade, I would go to Outdoor School this year and not grumble about it.

There were many reasons why I didn’t go last year. one of them had to do with compensation. Teachers had to be away from home for three nights, with no financial compensation and I was going to be out-of-pocket for Lucy’s boarding fees. All teachers were given was an additional personal day.

Yesterday, at my union meeting I found out that we are going to be remunerated for those three nights at a rate that made me cheer.

I have several months yet to think up the woodsy name I will put on my wood cookie nametag.

3+wood+coookies

Look out Outdoor School. Here I come!

Gesundheit

4 Sep

On the second day of school, I collected the communal supplies – tissues, wipes glue, notebook paper – and planned to put them away at the end of the day Thursday. I was hoping that leaving the tissue boxes on the back table might lead to a few more arriving. Instead, it led to something else.

Thursday afternoon, we were in the midst of our informational writing sample. The students were super focused and working silently.  I was keeping busy, alternating between  puttering on a project and walking around, monitoring their progress. I looked up to see a student get out of his seat, sniffling. Ignoring the open tissue box sitting on my desk he walked straight to the pile of tissue boxes and tore one open. He took a tissue, blew his nose, left the box on the table, and returned to his seat.

This struck me as funny. Although I was glad he felt at home, I’d never had a student take such initiative before. I normally place several tissue boxes around the room in strategic locations. I guess because it was the beginning of the year, I’d forgotten to do so.The only open box was on my desk.

Did he see that box? I have no idea. Clearly the boxes on the back table were the ones that caught his eye. The lack of tissue boxes around the room caught my attention. When I finally put them away after school, I was sure to leave four boxes out. I opened them and placed them around the room, which was now, truly ready.

tissue

First day follies

28 Aug

“Can I help you find a room?” I asked the sparkly clean but perplexed 6th grader who was wandering the halls at a strange time.

He pulled out the paper with his new schedule, transliterated from computerese into sixth-gradish. “I’m looking for Mr. Nelson’s room,” he said pointing to the class he was looking for.

“Oh, his room is there, ” I replied pointing, “but that class isn’t now. You should be in the gym for PE.”

“But I just came from there,” he said, brow wrinkled.

“Just go back and tell Mr. V you should be there now. He’ll understand. It’s why  only 6th graders come on the first day,” I said encouragingly, and smiled.

Off he went.

And then he was back.

This time, though, I had my elective class was in my room. I brought the young man in and we began what looked like a “Who’s on first” comedy routine.

In the end, we figured it out. He’d gotten a bit ahead of the schedule, so I sent him on his way. I saw him later, coming out of Mr. Nelson’s room at the right time.

“How’s it going?” I asked.

“I got this now!” he replied over his shoulder as he walked confidently down the hall to his next elective.

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The Timmins Hex

21 Aug

On the second last day of school, I learned I would teach 7th grade this year.

On the last day of school, my Mom died.

It has been a  summer of coming to terms with a lot of change.

In mid August, I met with my new teaching partner to get up to speed on what happens in 7th grade reading, writing, and social studies.

Last week, I attended a TCRWP homegrown institute last week and met with the 7th grade team. I accepted the print copy of the reading unit that was handed out at registrations, the one district has decided 7th grade will pilot this year. Just one more step towards making 7th grade a reality,  I thought.  As the week rolled along, I sat with my 6th grade teaching partner during class, but met with my new 7th grade colleagues when we met as a grade level.

I knew that the admins at my school had applied for additional funding (APU) that would allow me to stay in 6th grade. My 6th grade teaching partner had spotted the assistant superintendent in charge of middle schools on Monday and had politely but fiercely, advocated for the APU. For her, it meant not only losing her teaching partner, it meant she would go from a 120 minute Humanities block to 80 minutes. She was justifiably fired up. He told her he would go to war for us and that the decision about that funding would be made on the last day of the TCRWP Institute.

The night before our TCRWP institute ended, I had a little conversation with Mom. She was a very competitive Yahtzee player and, as an opponent shook the Yahtzee dice, she would make a “TSSSS” sound with her teeth to curse them. We affectionately referred to it as “The Timmins Hex”.

Mom grew up poor in Timmins, the mining town in Northern Ontario she ran away from when she was 15 because she knew what her life would be like if she stayed. She wanted more. Timmins holds a sort of mythic place in the minds of her children and grandchildren. The Timmins Hex was part joke, part family tradition. And yet, the night before that additional staffing decision was made, I had a little conversation with my Mom asking her to invoke The Timmins Hex.

I checked messages all day, distracting me from some of what we were doing. I was torn between being a realist – knowing that there were needier schools that were probably also asking for additional staffing – and being an optimist. I ran errands on the way home disappointed I hadn’t heard anything.

The message light on my home phone was blinking as I walked through the door. After walking Lucy (who really has to go when I get home) I listened to the message and called my principal back. Despite my sincere belief that the decision-makers would say “No”, they said “Yes”. I was staying in 6th grade after all that.

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could imagine  ghost Mom, floating around the table in that meeting room, putting The Timmins Hex on those decision makers, helping me out one last time, her last Yahtzee.

tn-huge-yahtzeesingleplayer

 

LOL

14 Aug

I love when kids laugh out loud during independent reading. It warms my heart to know that someone has connected so deeply with a book, and it puts a smile on my face.

Yesterday, during our TCRWP reading training, our afternoon session had teachers as students, watching the skills the TCRWP trainers were modeling for us. Following the mini-lesson, we were given time to read from a book we had chosen. The room was very quiet – everyone was reading or making notes about their book – until I laughed out loud.

The thing is, I was so surprised at my outburst that it made me laugh harder, then snort. In an effort to get myself under control, I put my forehead on the table. I was silent, but it took a few moments to still my shaking shoulders, I was laughing that hard.

The thing is, the paragraphs that got me laughing weren’t really that funny. They were some of Willow’s observations in chapter 4 of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting by 7s. What made me react so strongly was that I recognized myself in her description because this is how I dress at home.

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Maybe you don’t see it as funny. You probably don’t dress this way, but when I am home, I wear a t-shirt and elastic waist shorts in the summer, and a t-shirt and elastic sweat pants in winter. I am not yet elderly, but Willow’s matter of fact description of my dress habits just struck me as funny at that particular moment, after lunch, in a reading workshop. I hope my laughter  during class warmed the heart of someone in that room and it put a smile on their face.

Welcome home

17 Jul

Waiting at the arrival gate doors  at PDX (Portland International Airport) for my sister to arrive, I observed the following:

  • A dad and two kids –  a boy and his younger sister. The little girl was in her nightie. Dad and the little boy held flowers. The little girl held a box of chocolates. When Mom came through the doors there were lots of hugs and kisses.
  • A man with long grey hair and a long grey beard holding a “Welcome Home” sign. The two young black-haired girls who came through were swallowed up by the sign as he embraced them.
  • Two women who were obviously waiting for the same flight from Toronto. One had Princess Leia buns. A Canadian flag sprouted out of each.
  • A middle-aged couple came through the doors towards their daughter and son-in-law. The mom said. ” I spotted the tallest guy in the room.” The daughter laughed and said, “You’re embarrassing him. He’s sensitive,” as she looped her arm around his waist and brought him into the group hug.

I got thinking that, if I am ever feeling sad, this would be a great place to come to cheer myself up.

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