Tag Archives: Slice of Life Story

Snack time

8 Jan

Monday.

Right back at it after Break.

It’s like we were never gone.

The bell rings. Sixth graders enter the locker room. They grab their stuff. They come to class. They mostly sit down and open their choice read books. There are always a few chatterers and stragglers who need a little herding or redirection, but, by the time I get in the room, the class is sitting, reading and eating their snack. I survey the room thankful for the routine.

And that’s when I spy him.

In a room full of kids eating healthy snacks, one boy has a giant tube of cotton candy.

While cotton candy might fall nicely into one of Buddy the Elf’s four main food groups (candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup) it does not qualify as a healthy snack in sixth grade.

I looked at the young man in question. He was nonchalantly reading his book as he pulled a strand from the tube. Although he avoided my eye contact, I could tell he was waiting to see if he’d get away with it. Maybe it was the smirk on his face.

He was a good sport when I sent him to his locker to put it away and get something healthier.

It’s good to be back.

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The New Calendar

1 Jan

Mom once told me it was bad luck to hang up a new calendar too early. Or look through the pictures. Or Hang it open. To be honest, I can’t really remember what superstition she told me. Whatever it was, it has morphed into my own tradition of prepping the new calendar on New Year’s morning.

I used to spend a lot of time in bookshops picking out the “right” calendar that would set the tone for year. Nowadays, I order two different basset hound calendars from charities and hang one at home and one at school. The school calendar is on my desk at school,  waiting patiently for me to return next week.

I’ll set to work on the home calendar shortly. It is a bittersweet job. I get to look at the year that was as I flip through the old to add the birthdays and anniversaries I mark. There are some happy events and some sad memories that come together to give me sense of the year that was. When I have finished the writing, I will place that calendar on its spot on the kitchen wall and start building new memories.

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A tale of two Chrises

27 Nov

A holiday jingle played in my heart as I left school yesterday, on my way to  one of my favorite holiday rituals: mailing my Christmas parcels. I pressed the button on my key fob, heard the beeps, opened the door and tossed in my school bag. I heard the keys jingle as I sat and  closed the door.  I stretched my leg to press the brake before pressing the button that  keylessly starts my new car.

I knew the universe was on my side because there was no line-up of parent pickups holding me back. I exited the parking lot and was on my way swiftly. Although I used to enjoy the ritual of mailing from the main post office downtown, I had discovered a USPS outlet in the route home from school and pulled into the parking lot. I found an ideal, drive through, parking space and got out. I reached into my right pocket to retrieve my keys to lock the car, but they weren’t there.

A slight panic arose in me. Even though I always keep my keys in my right coat pocket, I patted all my pockets – left, right, coat, pants. The keys weren’t there. Feeling slightly more panicky, I remembered the jingle of keys I had heard as I sat in the car. I searched under the driver’s seat, the passenger seat. No luck.

Could I have dropped them in the school parking lot? I wondered. I tried calling my teaching partner. No answer, so I left a message. I tried calling the principal. No answer. I  sat in the front seat and scrolled through my contacts. I called our student supervisor, Kris. He answered! He was also my first call using the car’s hands free computer. Kindly, he went outside to look as I drove back to school. As he looked, he asked a good question, “Your car started?”.

As I drive back to school, I pondered his question. Can a keyless car start if the fob isn’t in the car? By the time I reached school, I was convinced the keys had to be inside.

I parked in an open spot –  not my usual one for fear of flattening the fob. I threw open all the doors and pulled everything out of the front seat. The secretary was just leaving and I asked if keys had been turned in. Of course, none had. A 7th grade Humanities teacher in my hall came out (another Chris) asked what I was doing and offered me the flashlight from his car. As he was getting it I knelt on the driver’s seat and peered into the narrow gap between the seat and the center console. A thin flash of silver caught my eye. I stuck my hand in, wiggled my fingers until I clamped two around the item, and pulled out my keys! I held them up triumphantly as Chris arrived with his flashlight.

Feeling relived I chatted with Chris and the secretary for a bit. We made disparaging remarks about newfangled technology before getting into our cars and setting off on our merry ways. I returned to the post office and, finally, got those packages mailed.

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Thanksgiving in the air

20 Nov

The sun shone brightly as I waved the cars forward. Yesterday was my first day of duty for the year and it felt glorious.

Walking into school that morning I could feel it in the air. The last few weeks, I’d been grumpy. Heck, almost every teacher had been grumpy. Yesterday felt different because we had a two-day week ahead of us and Thanksgiving was coming.

And so, I stood out front, waving cars forward, a smile on my face. I was wearing a hat I’d knit as a Christmas present for my mom a few years ago. It was the only article of clothing I took from her house, but I felt close to her wearing it, and happy because of the bright colors.

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Some people waved back as I rotated my hand, guiding them forward. Maybe they could feel it in the air, too. The few people I had to speak to for minor infractions of the “active drop off” rule seemed remorseful. I even shared a silent chuckle with a few as we watched a clown car performance – a small car that spilled out several students, their backpacks, and rather large instrument cases. There were a  few eye rolls, and some impatient people, but I really can’t remember them. Yesterday, it was all about the good and I am thankful for that.

The Lost Weekend

13 Nov

I went into the weekend with such high hopes:

  • a grading day on Friday
  • the Portland Book Festival on Saturday
  • a Remembrance Day concert on Sunday
  • book club on Monday

But a tickle started in my throat on Thursday morning. By Friday I had sniffles, so I stopped on the way home from school and loaded up on cold meds. I figured that, well-medicated, I could make it to the Portland Book Festival the next morning.

I sprang from bed Saturday morning and optimistically jumped into the shower, then got ready. for the big day. Before the coffee had brewed I knew it was hopeless. Saturday had brought on the facial pain in my sinuses and I knew I shouldn’t be out in public spreading germs – I had just read two books on the 1918 flu pandemic, after all! So, while friends listened to authors, I snuggled on the sofa with my dog, a box of kleenex, and a cup of tea. As colds went, this wasn’t the worst I’d ever had, but it had me feeling so very tired. I just wanted to sleep.

It was a good call because, though still cloudy headed, I made it to the Remembrance Day concert, entitled They Are At Rest. I wasn’t 100%,  but the facial pain was gone. I was tired and the goldfish bowl about my head was still there, but I was able to enjoy the music nonetheless.

Monday was a get-well bonus day. Although I felt even better, I decided to miss book club in order to keep any lingering germs to myself. I still felt super tired and wanted to get a good night’s rest before going back to school this morning.  This was a tough call because I can’t make the December meeting.

So, here I sit, Tuesday morning, battle-scarred but ready to face the challenges of a four-day week at school. Bring it on!

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Time travels

6 Nov

After showering and dressing Sunday morning, I strolled into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. As I reached for the pot, I groaned. It was only 5:30. I’d reset all the clocks the night before, but misread my bedside clock when I woke up. I was sure it had said 6;15.

Feeling tired Sunday afternoon, I got back into bed for an afternoon nap. I fell asleep right away, had a dream, and woke up refreshed. Imagine my surprise when I realized only 25 minutes had passed.

I was on top of things yesterday at school, with clocks still on old time. I sent kids to lunch and their next classes at the right time. And yet, as I neared the end of the day and looked at the clock, I did a double take. The clock read 4:45 and it felt odd to be at school so late with kids.

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All Hallows Eve Eve

30 Oct

I have long disliked Hallowe’en. It is complicated, but let me just say  I still like to include the apostrophe and that the day AFTER Halloween can be hard for teachers. When I taught elementary school, we didn’t dress up – had pyjama day instead.

Middle school is a whole different kettle of fish. It is not as smelly as that implies, but we take Hallowe’en seriously. And I finally have a costume I am excited about.

I found this gem at Macy’s.

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I already had the perfect teacup.

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If you still can’t figure it out, maybe this photo will give you a better idea.

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I’ll post a picture of me in full D.U. regalia tomorrow. I intend to channel her spirit as I teach. I hope the kids enjoy my Halloween hijinx.

Learning on the Go

23 Oct

Driving home last week, a few days after my one-on-one lesson on all the features of my new car, I found myself stuck in traffic. This was no bother, I always have an audiobook on the go and I lost myself in the steampunk world of my book, Arabella, the Traitor of Mars by David D. Levine, while I crawled along the Sunset Highway. And then I got distracted.

What would happen if I adjusted my headrest, I wondered as Arabella and Captain Singh led Martians and colonists to independence. I pulled up on the headrest, a device not designed for short drivers like me. Suddenly, the back of my head could fit in the space between the bottom of the headrest and the top of the seatback.

Not ideal, but not as big a problem as Arabella and the Captain were facing. I reached up to push the head rest down, Instead of pushing the headrest back to its original position, my action caused it to tip forward. Now, I was sitting with the headrest perched on top of my head, and, try as I might, I couldn’t get anything to budge.

The traffic crawled along and I knew Arabella wouldn’t be daunted by as small a problem as this. When traffic stopped for a moment, I reached over and grabbed the owner’s manual from the glove compartment. I waited for the next lull to find the right page.

Tilt the head restraint once as far forward as it can go. The head restraint will automatically return to the fully upright position.

I did and it did. Success!

The next part was trickier.

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As I stopped and started through traffic, I tried to find the little button the manual assured me was there. Poke and prod as I might, I couldn’t find that darned button. I continued the drive home with my head nestled in the space between the seat and the headrest.

Once home, I jumped out of the car and could see the button immediately. One push and Presto! the headrest was back to normal and I was happy. I had to wait a few more days to finish the audiobook, in which Arabella returned Mars to a new normal – independence from the British Empire. Arabella and I were both satisfied with that happy ending.

 

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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Driving like a 6th grader

9 Oct

The move from elementary to middle school can be confusing. One of the things I love most about teaching 6th grade is showing the students how to navigate a new way of going to school. In the first week, many students are confused and have that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. Little by little, that look fades and is replaced by each students’ normal mien.

My new car has me feeling like a sixth grader in the first week of school.

The last car I bought was a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I now own a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek.  Boy, have cars changed since! It’s not just the high-tech things that have given me that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. I reach my hand out to adjust my mirrors and find open air. I had to pull over two minutes from home yesterday to read the manual and learn how to defog the windshield.

The Subaru  dealership has an interesting way to help out. When I took possession of the car, I got a quick lesson in how to sync my phone and work a few buttons. I was shown the slimmest of the four (!!!) manuals and encouraged to read it. And, I was told that, in about a week, after I’d had a chance to figure things out on my own, I’d get an appointment with a new car specialist who will help me figure out the aspects of my new car that I haven’t yet. He sent me an email yesterday telling me I should keep a journal to jot down any questions I have.

I think I made a good decision!

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Randy Ribay

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