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The Power Outage – A Slice of Life Story

11 Apr

I didn’t notice the high winds last Friday until I was almost at school. As I drove down the street in front of my school, the trees were waving manically and I could hear the gusts. I leaned into the wind as I walked from my car, thankful that there was no rain.

I got up to my classroom and set about getting ready for my day, knowing I had four students coming for our last practice before Saturday’s OBOB state tournament. Just after 8, the lights went out. Fortunately, my windowless room has an emergency light. It was dark, but not impossible to work.

As classes came in, I spoke in a whisper voice and the 6th graders rolled with it. It was the quietest day ever. Students seemed to enjoy the “mood lighting” as wrote their sci-fi stories and presented what they noticed about Jack London’s writing. It was all very civilized.

The power came back on around 1:30. As soon as it did, the class erupted in cheers and applause. And that was the end of civilization.


We Are The Champions!

9 Apr

Friday was a bit topsy-turvy. It was our last day to practice before the State OBOB Tournament. A storm with high winds knocked out power at school and only half the team, both girls, arrived for our practice. It wasn’t until later we found out that the boys had been stopped at the door and refused entry. They were told the practice had probably been canceled. With no working phones, no one called and  had no idea the boys were downstairs.

Fortunately, Saturday, the day of the tournament had no weather drama to keep us from participating. All the team members and their families arrived and were excited to get things under way. We won both of our matches in pool play and ended up with 40 points overall. Not a bad score.

The hardest part came next – waiting for the announcement of the seeded “Sweet Sixteen” round. We were happy to find out we were in.


And weren’t we surprised to find out that we had come out 6th overall in pool play!

At this point, it was sudden death. Winners moved on and others  went home.The team from Vale were tough, but we managed to win after having the lead move back and forth a bit. We were on to the Elite Eight, which was another competitive match, but Stoller prevailed again. Our Final Four battle was against a school from our own district. Again, the two teams were very evenly matched, but we managed to be ahead at the end of the battle.


The Final Battle took place on the auditorium stage and was twice as long as the other battles: 16 In Which Book questions and 16 Content questions instead of the 8 of the other rounds.

Again, as one would expect at this level, the two teams were evenly matched. Cascade Middle School from Bend kept Stoller on their toes. Once more, each team led at different points in the battle, but, by the end of 32 questions, Stoller was ahead.

We were state champions!!


Although the trophy will spend the next year in Stoller’s trophy cabinet, it is spending the rest of the weekend with me and might spend a day or two in my classroom, too.

And so, I am putting OBOB to bed for another year. Well, I will, just as soon as my order for next year’s books arrive.

Starting over

26 Mar

Knitting socks is one of my small pleasures. In the last month I have made several pairs using hand dyed yarn, using the same pattern. But, sometimes I need a change and when my February Herstory skein arrived in a solid color, I knew I would need a different pattern.

I chose a pattern I’d knit a few years ago for my sister. It has a strong texture pattern, that shows off the yarn, and looks much harder than it is. It is really all math and repeated patterns.

The thing about knit socks is that you knit them to fit. The directions tell you to make the foot a certain length, knowing that every foot is different. the once place you can generally count on being accurate is the toe length.

The pattern I was knitting said I should repeat the foot pattern 10 times, but it should measure “2-1/4″ (5.5cm) less than the desired total length”. I have small feet so knew I probably wouldn’t have to do 10, I did nine, tried them on and decided it was the right place to stop the foot pattern and begin decreasing for the toe.

As always, I tried it on as soon as it the ends were woven in and I was disappointed. They were just a little too short. I let them sit overnight.

The next morning I got my scissors and cut the toe. I pulled on the ends, taking away the little shreds and began the unravelling of the toe. It was over in a matter of minutes. I picked up the stitches , unknit one more row, then began adding one more round of the foot pattern before knitting the new toe.

And voilà, a sock that fits.


I know many people who like to knit two at a time on circular needles to prevent second sock syndrome (After having finished one sock it becomes difficult to go on and finish the second one to make a pair). I prefer the traditional one at a time, on double-pointed straight needles. Call me old-fashioned, but this time it served me well, because I might have had to rip out two toes.


23 Mar

Although the students I teach are gifted, they have, for the most part, led sheltered lives. They can read difficult texts, but sometimes lack the maturity or life experience to understand everything. It is a challenge to be a gifted 6th grade reader.

As a result, students occasionally come across words in their reading that they don’t know. Some of them skip the words, some of them look them up, and a few come to ask me. I almost never decline. I want them to know they can ask me anything. I will occasionally give a quick definition coupled with encouragement to get more details from a parent, but I will always tell them something.

The best one came today. We read Ray Bradbury’s “A Sound of Thunder” which contains the lines

From his loins would have sprung ten sons. From their loins one hundred sons, and thus onward  to a civilization.

As students were annotating the text, a boy asked me what “loins” meant. I might have used the term “downstairs” and mentioned the body between the belly button and knees. He nodded and understood.

Another student sitting nearby overheard our conversation. I saw the color drain from his face as he said, “Like pork loin?”

I could imagine what he was thinking, so I said, “That comes from a pig’s side.” I wasn’t sure that was true, but I didn’t want to ruin pork loin for him forever.


Why I love teaching middle school

22 Mar

I walked behind the two boys as they ambled down the hallway. Seventh graders?  I wondered. One, tall and husky, had a walking cast and the build of someone likely to be recruited for football when he got to high school. The other was short and wiry. Seeing them together got me thinking about the old Looney Tunes cartoon of Chester and Spike.


“Spike” limped along while “Chester” jumped to hit every doorway. Yup, almost certainly 7th graders. They turned in to the boy’s bathroom and exited almost immediately. “Chester”, his shirt pulled over his nose, looked at me and said, “Somebody farted.”

I laughed and kept walking. Middle schoolers just make me laugh.




6:15 knock at the door

21 Mar

Although unusual, the knock on my front door at 6:15 a.m. didn’t concern me. I knew several neighbors were early risers.  Even so, I only cracked the door so I could see who it was. Imagine my surprise when I saw two police officers at my door. I opened the door wider.

“Good morning. We are trying to get a hold of your neighbor, but he doesn’t seem to be at home. We saw your light on and we were wondering if you had contact information for him, ” the tallest of the two female officers said.

“I think I do,” I replied, a little nervously, and invited them inside, warning them that, if she ever woke up, Lucy was very friendly. “I was the secretary for our HOA and should at least have an email address,” I added.  As they entered, I noticed the officer who did most of the talking held official looking papers.

I fumbled to look up my contacts,  while she chatted about how she figured it was okay to knock because the lights were on. I mumbled something about being a morning person and how my neighbor is not around much, preferring to stay at his girlfriend’s house.  She then told me he’d been involved in an accident and had fled the scene.That’s serious, I thought,.  Are they allowed to tell me that? Is it OK that I am giving the contact information I have. Are we both sharing confidential information? I carried on any way, pretty sure they could probably look this up somewhere else.

Of course the Internet was slow and I was fumbling, still a little nervous having two police officers in the house. I asked if they were just starting their shift or just ending it (they were ending) all the while hoping I could find what they needed.

And then, there it was. I wrote the email address on a sticky note. They thanked me  and then they were gone. It was big excitement for a Monday morning, and Lucy slept through the whole thing.


A Sunny Sunday

13 Mar

I woke Lucy from her late morning/early afternoon nap to go for a walk. The sun was shining and it was 62ºF -quite a shift from the downpours of the day before. As one might expect from a sunny, mid-March day, people were everywhere. Like many of the people I saw, I saw in a short-sleeved shirt. If this were August, we’d all be bundled up,  I thought, chuckling to myself as I soaked up the warmth.

Lucy was poking along, enjoying the scents that met her at every turn. Only a bloodhound has a better nose than a basset. Her slow meandering gave me a chance to turn my face to the sun and bask in the glory of the day.

We turned the corner I and I could see the family across the street getting their bikes out. As they rode around in their driveway, I heard the son, sitting on the back of his dad’s bike, say, “We haven’t done this for a year.”

Dad laughed and said, “Well, not quite a year, but it feels like it.” The family turned their bikes into the street and dad called, “Okay everyone, test your bell.” The sound filled my heart with joy  and I could still hear their bells ringing as they rode towards the park.



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