Saturday, March 31, 2012

Another March Wrap Up

“You will have to write and put away or burn a lot of material before you are comfortable in this medium. You might as well start now and get the necessary work done. For I believe that eventually quantity will make for quality. How so? Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come."
Ray Bradbury

I place quotes on writing around my room throughout the year. Ray Bradbury is a favorite of mine as he often speaks on quantity. I want my students to understand that quantity is an important aspect of writing.

I do teach lessons on writing and we develop the craft of writing, but I need them to realize there is no magic lesson or secret to becoming a writer. Indeed it is practice and implementation of our lessons and the meaningful exchanges in our conferences, but underneath those important points is write, write, write.

While I believe those words, it the March Slice of Life Writing Challenge that gives me the opportunity to "practice what I preach". Through Stacey and Ruth's invitation on this site, I have a place to write. I also experience the challenges my students face. I am so grateful.

I enjoy and learn from each comment I have received, so thanks fellow slicers. I appreciate the opportunity to comment on posts and I delight in reading others' stories--oh, what great writing I have read this month!

I do hope to drop in and write on Tuesdays during the remainder of 2012. And this year I'm not experiencing exhaustion as March wraps up, but I'm already looking forward to March, 2013.

Yep, "quantity gives experience",

Friday, March 30, 2012

Going to Camp

When I listened to my voice mail, I was so surprised. "This is Lana," I heard, "and I wanted to let you know you will be sponsored by us to attend the Educator's Nature Week."
My heart soared. One week in July, on an island, off the coast of Main doing one of the things I love best...discussing ways to get students in nature. Time with naturalists and educators in nature ourselves and learning ways to incorporate the outdoors and all it has to offer in academic areas.
Today had already been a beautiful spring day. This made it even better.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Adding Detail with Color Words

There are many lessons we can use to help our students add detail to their writing, but one quick way I, and the students, enjoy is color words in nature. There are probably more important details one could use in descriptive writing than color, but for some students noticing color and placing it in their writing gets them aware of the process of adding this type of detail.

We start by spending time outside on a bright spring day when there are scores of shades of green from tree top to the grass below. Or on a fall day when trees blaze with shades of red, brown and gold. Students list, sketch, or write descriptions about nature.

The next step sounds messy, but can be done somewhat easily. On reused foam trays I drop different tempera paint in nature's colors. Students dab the ends of paper towel tubes into this paint, blend the colors, then place the paper towel end on paper. This creates a circle of the shades of nature they observed outdoors.

Then we borrow the art teacher's collection of crayons. The huge boxes. Carefully, since they are borrowed, students comb through the crayons and hunt for the shades they saw in nature. They read the name of the crayon printed on it's paper label and write this inside the tempera paint circle they created earlier.

Outside we go again with their paint circles and color names. They can create poetry, describe nature before them, write a narrative piece but should look for a place to use these new found color words.

Sure, they initially have an overuse of these words. But they also get insight into adding descriptions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Down the Home Stretch

After finishing today's and then three more posts this week...the 2012 March Slice of Life Writing Challenge is complete. Whew, it is wrapping up.

However, each time I participate it is amazing how much easier it is to produce a month of stories. The first year I was learning how to set up and work a blog which has become more routine (though I never did change out those pictures).

Cranking out writing pieces becomes easier with each passing year also. Which is a lesson I do want to share with my students. You must write.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Clicking of My Typewriter

This evening I had to go back to technology of the past. I had to pull out my electric typewriter, blow off the dust, plug it in and type. Back in time to complete a project.

I had a short application due Friday, and I was determined to get it delivered tomorrow. I wrote the piece, but despite my best efforts my printer would only print the top half of the letter. I have limited knowledge in fixing computer issues and even less when trying to get a printer to do it's job.

I worked on the problem some more then headed to a dinner meeting. No problem, I thought as I drove along. I'll just run into school tomorrow and print or email it off. But wait, what was that memo last week about the system being down for updates.

So my old secretarial days experience was put to use. I never realized just how loud the clickity-click of those keys was. Erasing is quite different with ribbon than the delete key.

Could I have come up with a more technologically advanced way to get the letter out, sure. But it was kind of fun going back in time.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Learning from SOL

Each year I participate in the Slice of Like Writing challenge, I am somewhat surprised at understanding I gain regarding about what my students must feel in a writing class.

Today I was feeling the old "I just don't want to write. I don't want to be bothered with it." How many time through the years have I heard this from students or watched it in their unspoken language?

As teachers we try to present interesting writing lessons to capture their attention and build a desire to give writing a try. We encourage them from beginning to end. We conference to help their writing grow.

But in the end, we require it. We know they may surprise themselves and create a piece they really like so time was not lost. They may begin something that is revised in the future. They may not particularly like their creation, but they did write.

That seems to be the best result. That they wrote on a day of "I just don't want to write."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Morning

I find it difficult getting up and heading out the door to church on Sundays. Some days I'd much rather pull the covers up and let my sluggish nature take over.
But fast forward to actually being in church and I wonder why I considered skipping out on something so meaningful to my life.
.....there is something so powerful in joining in voice with others to sing praise to God or ask for His aid in life,
.....God's presence has a different feel in this place in comparison to His presence when I am alone,
.....I gain knowledge to help me understand Him through His words (the Bible) and our preacher's interpretation and teaching of those words,
.....this is my encouragement that prepares me for the week ahead.
So glad I went.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Today Is a True Spring Break

I sit on my deck over looking the sea of grass. It is the perfect, never been cut height of spring. A splendid emerald green color. Patches of vibrant purple violets pop up among this verdant green.
A brown speckled rabbit sits still as a statue, changing his posture from time to time.
Overhead robins chirp and flit from tree to tree. A squirrel shakes it's bushy tail in distraction as it squawks an alarm sound to fellow creatures.
I look up from time to time at this spring scene, then turn back to my reading. A wonderful first day of Spring Break.

Friday, March 23, 2012

What Helps a Teacher

Teachers need colleagues they can spend time with discussing the current state of teaching in their classroom and building. People to compare thoughts. Folks to bounce ideas off of and gain new knowledge and perspectives of the profession.

I have one such teacher in my building. I admire her teaching very much and value our friendship. Tonight we scurried out the building as soon as the last bus pulled away from the curb. We headed to a favorite restaurant and along with savoring some Italian cuisine, we delighted in an evening of adult conversation with no interruptions (something teachers do not experience much of during a week day).

I appreciate these evenings together as we contemplate, reflect, and examine our teaching practices, our students and their difficult backgrounds, and the unrealistic expectations placed on teachers today.

We come away feeling we have heard each others worries and concerns. We problem solve, affirm, offer our thinking to each other and encourage. I do hope every teacher has one such collaborator as this.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Smiling for the Spring Pictures

The photographer's assistant placed the class in two lines and had them face the white draped background and large camera. They watched their classmates go up one at a time and for the annual spring pictures.

Excitement was running high. Fourth graders become very self-conscious about their looks, especially when it is captured for all to see in a photo. The line moved forward slowly. I was doing the usual teacher walk among them all, the one we do to head off possible problems. But it was a fun time. Away from the (also annual) state assessment stress, away from work, just time together.

I was doing the last minute check of hair and straightening shirt collars. I never want a repeat of the year a group of girls passed around a tube of bright red lipstick at the last minute and their picture packets came back with their lips literally glowing.

"Is that the way your hair should look?" I asked Trevor.
"Uh, yeah," he replied. He had just spent ten minutes in the boys' bathroom working on it but it had an odd slant to it.
"You think that is the way your mom wants it to be?" I pried again.
"She doesn't really care about my hair," he explained. "She just cares about my smile."

Ahhh, I thought to myself. How sweet.
"She just doesn't want me to smile like last year." And with that statement he curled one side of his lip up significantly exposing all the teeth on that half of his face. He looked like such a cartoon character I was bursting with laughter inside. I couldn't imagine how he made that face.
"I was just trying to look like Hans Solo." "I thought I did it really good, but she didn't."

Hmmm, that explains it all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

We View the Soweto Gospel Choir

voices rise and fall in rhythmic unison
African gospels in languages foreign to our ears
djembe drums beat in accord
spirited dancing sometimes provoking mirth
vibrantly colored clothing swaying
traditional hymns we join in verse and clap away

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My little bright spot

One of the brightest slices of my life today was the surprise drop in visit of my son and daughter-in-law and my so special grand daughter. Let me set it up.

I was almost to enter our school's down stairs door with our after school Nature Club. It had been over an hour of discovery in our Outdoor Classroom, which is delightful, but also work shepherding second through fourth graders through filling bird feeders, weeding and journal writing. Earlier in the day our classroom had two disturbing discipline incidents that had lingered with me.

But as we were about to go inside I heard someone shout my name and I looked over to see my adorable daughter-in-law waving from their car. She and my son had been in town and were driving down the street, then pulled in when they saw me. We conversed about the day.

I opened their car's back door and then came the most cheerful moment of the day. My darling grand daughter. I cooed her name and she turned to give me her usual three second quizzical look as she tries to figure out what new face has entered her world. The right side of her lip begins it's slight turn upward as she considers smiling. I continue talking to her, asking about her day. A smile bursts across her face. Eyes twinkling. A gurgle of a laugh emerges.

The trials of the day wash away and I linger in this joyousness. Soon it's time to go. Her eyes follow me as I move away and out of the car. She's a bright spot in my day, in my life.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Familiar Routines

We say our goodbys inside the house, but we have this routine of my mom then walking out onto the front porch and waiting for me to back the car out the driveway. I wave as I put the car in forward and maybe give the horn a honk. My mom, and this evening my sister, wave back.

For some reason tonight this routine took me back in time and saying goodbys. As a child, our family would travel several hours northwest to visit my mother's parents. Being a city kid spending time among animals, fields and woods was a treat. Spending time with my grandparents was precious. So saying goodby was particularly hard.

There was a routine of waving amid shouting our goodbys as Dad pulled the loaded station wagon out the driveway. Next we would turn and sit on our knees, in those days before seat belts, and wave and wave some more. Grandma and Grandpa would wave as they stood on the large concrete back porch of the white frame house until they could see our car top the hill, which had to be a half-mile down the road.As the car ascended that hill we swore we could still see Grandma and Grandpa. Slowly the home disappeared out of sight.

But somehow that lengthy familiar routine of saying goodby made it all easier.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Memories Everywhere

I'm at my mom's for several days where the house has been filled with family members. It's a comfortable place where we gather for meals, spend time together, stay the night.It is also a house filled with items which are connected to memories.

My mind is continually traveling through these memories. In the kitchen I'll look to the top of the cabinets where a red tin holds cookie cutters and I remember being a child baking beside my mother as she described using these same tins with her mother.

Every room evokes memories. My mother's sewing machine sits inside the blond wood cabinet. Packed away and seldom used today, I recall all the clothing she sewed through the years. My young children giggled in delight when she would present a specially crafted outfit.

These objects retain the memory of those no longer with us. Black and white photographs of earlier generations sit atop the antique ice box used on the family farm. I picture them using this bygone appliance.

I so appreciate the people who gather here to share and spend time together. I also seem to appreciate these objects and items that cause my mind to recall. These split-second movies of rememberance I play over and over.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

State the Obvious

As a child I read the fable called The Emperor Has No clothes. In it two men masquerade as weavers of the finest cloth in the land, They swindle the king into believing clothing made of this unique material will impress everyone. It does until during the king's walk, clad only in his underwear, a small boy points out the obvious, the king has no clothes.

There is a parallel to this fable with the state of today's high stakes testing in education. Politicians, the initial creators of the fable, and now parents and those in the press are still being swindled into believing this is a valid way to assess the students in our schools. While the original intent of closing the achievement gap was admirable, school districts now face mounting pressure to keep up with an ever changing unattainable test score. In too many schools they have set aside good teaching towards this aim.

Having begun my career in education several decades ago I am frustrated. Frustrated that we now spend time preparing students on how to take a test. It starts when they are eight years old. Is that a necessary academic skill at this age?

Frustrated we place pressure on students of all ages for the high-stakes the test represents. Some districts dangle a carrot of do well on the test and earn days off school. Hardly the love of learning message we want to send.

I am especially frustrated at the pressure teachers receive to ignore what we know is quality teaching. Ignore it to be sure we cover all items that might be on the test which means lessons designed to skim the surface instead of diving deep into a skill or strategy. And have all this information covered for April testing despite children spending more weeks in this grade level learning.

It is time for the small boy to state the obvious by telling the crowned king the emperor has no clothes. Exclaim the obvious, state mandated high stakes testing has no merit.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Is This One of the Perils of Growing Older

It has been a long day.

Rise and shove off to work with "spring"filled, not-so-interested-in-school fourth graders. Squeeze in planning for a substitute next week. Head home to hop in the car and drive several hours into the big city.

No wonder that as I tried to log into my blog....I couldn't. None of the passwords I tried worked. I got so tired of the little red message announcing I did not enter the correct combination of words and numbers. Its the same words and numbers I entered the previous fifteen days of this challenge. Heck, it is the same password since I created this blog years ago.

So what happened this evening?

Eventually I tired of this password memory challenge and went through the relatively quick process of creating a new password. I wrote it on paper. I better email it to myself quickly.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Five Reasons I Appreciate My Cat

1. Greets Me - When I arrive home each evening, I get out of my car in the garage
and hear him inside meowing a cat "Hello, I've missed you".
2. But Aloof - Though he does greet me, it is just a few minutes of petting him,
then he wants out the door. When I let him back inside he simply strolls by
without a glance my way.
3. Companionship - One of his choice night time sleeping spots is a chair in my
bedroom. Often he wanders into a room I'm in occasionally to "speak", gain
acknowledgement, then moves on.
4. Not a lap cat - That says it all for me. We both agree on that.
5. Independent - I can go away for a few days leaving him stocked with supplies and
he does quite well.
Overall, we are a good fit for each other. I appreciate that.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

More than a pretty sunset...a memory

I followed the line of cars down the road in a sort of mundane, rote order. This, the route I drive home each day. I glanced up into the afternoon sky and was delighted the clouds were putting on a resplendent show. This is much better to gaze upon than the dirty brown Nissan car ahead.

Soft purplish-blue round shapes were outlined with a golden touch, the sun behind causing this. Above this impressive sight were delicate wisps of stratocumulus clouds laid horizontally.

A few minutes into studying clouds, grateful for their beauty, I begin to think of him, my Dad. This happens almost every time I stare into them, my thoughts take me here. I remember the times we'd gaze upon them and he'd begin to tell me the names. Then he'd describe what they meant for the weather and for flights.

Dad was a pilot. He knew the sky. Not one to, in any way, speak with a pretentious manner, he would just share his knowledge. I loved it. Even as an adult, I'd ask questions to learn more about something I'd never had the opportunity to study. I also asked questions just to hear him talk. I was amazed at his knowledge.

As a very young man he had climbed into planes, jumped out of them, learned to command them and fly bomber missions over a country light-years away from his humble, Southern, small-town upbringing. What courage he must have had to muster up.

Thanks Dad. Thanks for being a role model for us all. Thanks for sharing knowledge. Thanks for building this connection between us that I can remember each time my eyes and thoughts linger on the clouds overhead. I miss you so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This Time of the Year

It's a yearly tradition among my children and I. Corned beef, boiled cabbage, carrots and potatoes. On top of the pot go the dumplings. We're not of Irish descent, but years ago it was made around March 17. The next year rolled around and the dinner was made again, perhaps with a few of their friends joining us.

Through the years as March 17 draws near, plans are made for gathering. This year my daughter has moved away and did not dine with us, but a new granddaughter did. She still gets her meals from a bottle, but dressed in her shamrock sleeper, she looked ready for the yearly dinner.

Monday, March 12, 2012

They Are Trying

Like a broken record, everyday and everyday, we went through the same routine. I stood at the top of the landing, looking down at them, finger held up to my lips in the "shhhush" position. They continued with their giggling, occasional shriek, bodies unable to stand still.

This is picking up fourth grade girls after lunch. They had their recess first and just finished up twenty minutes of lunch, which to most fourth grade girls is one long chattering session. Making the transition to calm focused learners is difficult.

I tried several strategies to ease this transition and I'd have to say it has improved somewhat through the year. But nothing worked as well as going to visit the teacher whose classroom is directly across the hall from the lunchroom door.

"Girls," I began one day last week. "I'm worried about the students in Ms. Avery's classroom. I'm believe your behavior may be keeping them from learning." "I think we should check with her."

I assured them that this was just for their information, that they weren't necessarily in trouble. Ms. Avery answered her door, surprised to see a line of nineteen girls before her. I explained why we were there and she did tell them that at times it would interrupt her class.

"Look inside at what they are doing," she said. The girls peered in cautiously. "They have so much work to finish." "Sometimes they are at this table right here by the door and they can get distracted by you."

I've never seen that group of girls so quiet. I kept my fingers crossed that this would finally do the job of calming them.

Five days later I think it did make an impression. When I pick them up they are so much less boisterous. Their bodies are calmer and the line hushed. But one of the most pleasing, and somewhat surprising, results is the way they look at me. They are so proud of their behavior. It is then I realize just how hard it is to make that transition from giggly girls to waiting in line.

I'm thinking fruit sundaes are in order for this Friday's lunch dessert.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Cabana

Saturday there was a parade and that evening my sister's friend, Cathy, threw a party to celebrate St. Pat's Day. (This city has so many parades and celebrations it starts one weekend early!) I traveled to the party with my sister and her husband. I'd never been to Cathy's house and looked forward to it as I had heard about the "cabana" and wanted to experience it.

What a treat. Their home is small, but in the backyard of this suburban midwest city neighborhood they have transformed a detached garage into a beach themed curiosity. Stepping inside you are surprised to see not one, but three, tables with full overhead umbrellas extended--inside. Lights are dim, but miles of small red pepper lights are draped on horizontal and vertical structures. Candles add to the mood.

The food table holds the traditional Irish foods, but all utensils have various themes like salt and pepper shakers in the shape of miniature hamburgers. Everywhere I look I spy a fanciful trinket. Every spare surface contains a bauble or memento.

We settle on a small couch draped with netting that falls to each side and colorful pillows all around us. Sometimes I have difficulty focusing on the face of the person I'm talking to because just behind them is something like a collection of glass bottles filled with sea shells, tiny ceramic dancing dogs and various palm trees together on a shelf. And there were many, many shelves in this room.

"Look up," my sister says. There, among more twinkling lights, are around fifty wind chimes hanging from the rafters. Wow, my eyes can hardly take in the sizes, shapes and curiosities above my head.

Cathy's cabana reflects her fun loving and out going personality. She created a warm, one-of-a-kind party room. I enjoyed the evening, especially the eccentric setting.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Saturday Morn

Children holding small containers
anticipating collecting candy
Young girls wearing sparkly crowns
with perpetual waves and smiles

Drill teams syncronize their movements
to the bold drum beats
Marching bands in step, in line
Fingers moving create the notes

Small town St. Pat's parade

Friday, March 9, 2012


My son, my daughter-in-law and I headed north on the highway this evening, back to the large city I grew up in. We were traveling to my mom's home for the weekend. Meeting up with my sister and her family and tomorrow another sister and her husband fly in.

I so enjoy our time together. We stay in touch through computers and cell phones, but we really value our time in person. It is usually relaxed with lots of laughter.

Tonight I reflected on just how blessed I am to have this family. Conversation flowed freely. Connections flourish. Family.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Learning About Teaching

My daughter gave me the hair cut gift certificate she wasn't going to use before it expired. Why not, I thought. Get my hair cut for free at the beauty school and save some money. It took the young girl quite awhile to get the job done, which gave me plenty of time to observe the process and give thought to the education that was going on around me.

A hair cut at the beauty school means the instructor will be over often to teach how to do it. Being a teacher of small students, I do enjoy watching any teaching process. It also reminded me of Stacey and Ruth's posts over the last few months drawing parallels between learning as adults and what we can apply to our own teaching skills.

I noticed several important things. First, the instructors voice was always calm, but authoritative. She used the same pleasant voice each time and explained exactly what to do in as few words as possible.

The teacher's compliments were frequent, direct and descriptive of her student's work. She never criticized the girl's work or attempts.

On one of her trips over, the instructor told me a few things about how the shop worked and the services they offered. Then she pleasantly surprised me by saying that the young girl working on my hair was quite artistic. Therefore, that was the reason she was teaching about the hair cut using references to lines and angles. This teacher really knew her student. And she was using her student's strengths to teach and clarify the skill.

Finally the cut was done and I must say I was pleased. The new hair stylist looked tired, but relieved. And proud.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nature Club

Their voices shrieked with fun, anticipation and the just the fact they were outside running toward the field after a day of school. It was a bright afternoon with a few billowy white clouds and lots of March wind. We had to yell several times over the sound of the wind to "Stop, come back. We are playing the game here." They may have just kept on running and headed all the way down past the creek and into the next neighborhood if they hadn't heard us.

It was the first meeting of our after school Nature Club, organized for second through fourth graders. Twenty kids showed up, but for the moment they weren't students--they were predators and prey, or coyotes and rabbits.

They grasped the game rules and excitedly helped set up the boundaries. Rabbit food (math manipulatives) was sprinkled about. Members of the food chain took their places. Then the game of survival began.

It was a lot of fun. Predators and prey had several survival tricks they could use. As the game ended we called them over and discussed their observations linking it back to the science concepts we hoped would be understood. But as the game ended we spotted a bad sign in the sky. Two turkey vultures. Oh no, scavengers.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Long Drive

"Mom," the voice mail began, "We found a house we are interested in buying and wondered if you were free to come look at it with us tomorrow?"
My son and his wife live in the next town over and have recently decided to stay in that area. I called him back and got the details of our getting together. I was feeling happy for them as they approach this next stage in married life.

A little while later I got an email suggesting we meet tonight instead as it was best for others joining us. Well, that would be tight for me as it is the first meeting of our after school Nature Club. The club would be over at 5:30, he wanted to meet at 6:00 and it would take around forty minutes to drive there. "Sure," I replied, "but I'll be later than 6:00." "Try it," he asked.

Fast forward to a few hours later. Nature Club went well and soon afterward I jumped into my car, drove onto the highway and shot off east to their town.

Then it hit me. Since I have been hoping to sell this car I have kept very little gas in it. Just enough to get me around town and now it was dangerously close to empty. Oh great! I really don't have time to get off and get gas. Wonder just how much I have and how far this car goes when the low gas light comes on?

I was in a bit of a risky situation, but I did want to get there on time for my son. By now, I was out of town and driving through pasture and farmland. No gas stations anyway. I said a prayer and wondered how I get myself into these situations.

Three miles outside their town, the little red gas can symbol came on. Well, it will be close, but I think this car will make it. Not being sure of the directions once in town made the situation even more haphazard. After a wrong turn and quick call for more directions I saw my daughter-in-law waving from the porch. I parked the car, grateful to be there.

But later, when she and I tried to take off and head to their old home, well, you know it. The car wouldn't start. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I've been in this situation before and know all about borrowing a gas can from a station.

"Hold on," I told her. "We'll just coast down hill until the car is level and try again." The good news is yes, the car did start. The bad news is in coasting, I somehow didn't have brakes.

After a few precarious moments, we were on to the next worry...just where is a gas station near here? Soon the red lights of a Break Time shone through. We giggled with relief as we pulled in. Whew, made it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It Can Change

It was a trying day at times. What is it about this time of year that causes even the best behaved class to slowly unravel? We teachers toss out ideas in our rising frustration. Blame it on spring fever, barometric changes, pretest anxiety. Overall, we did accomplish a great deal today and most behavior was focused and on learning, but there were some annoying choices.

When the end of the day came I found myself really enjoying waiting with the last group of students to be called for buses. The class becomes a smaller group and I get a chance to listen to them talk about whatever they want.

Our relaxed mood continued as we headed down the hall and stepped out into a bright afternoon sun that had warmed the day. The grey clouds typical of this time of year were pushed aside and the sky was blue.

Their chatter became smaller and smaller as individuals said their goodbys, broke away from our traveling group and climb onto their respective buses. I glance up into the bus windows at faces of our school.

I felt the calm of belonging and the importance of the job. And thankfully, it has replaced the sense of frustration.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

New Car Issues

I bought a car...and returned it.
Yes, drove it back to the dealer and asked for my money back. Just as some people return a sweater or an article of clothing because it really just didn't fit. Or a picture that doesn't look as well on the living room wall as it did in the store.

The whole story is my feet developed a strange tingling as I initially drove the car home. The feeling never left and I realized it was the car. Funny I didn't have the same issue with my old car.

After a trip to the doctor and online research, it appears I have sciatic nerve troubles. The type of car seat and lumbar support can prevent problems or cause them.

I've delved into an analysis of driver car seats of particular models that match all the other requirements I have. Then I visit a dealer and ask to sit in the car first before asking the usual car purchasing questions.

Feels kind of unusual to begin the conversation with "Let me sit in it first". But I'm determined to find the right car. And avoid returning another.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Saturday in a Bookstore

wandering up and down aisles
selecting one to open from many
lingering over images and words

coffee strong in ceramic mugs
photos that are a visual delight
music that soothes the soul

friends meet at tables to visit
mothers read to children in their arms
readers immersed

Friday, March 2, 2012

Poetry Friday

Poetry Friday brings a fun sparkly spot to our reading afternoons. Of course, we are immersed the other days of the week in a shared reading book, The Tiger Rising, which provides much discussion and anticipation. But Poetry Fridays are special.

By now the routine of gluing in the week's poem in their poetry journal and adding it's title to the table of contents runs smoothly, which allows us to quickly meet together. As a whole, they are becoming quite good at inferring and seem to like the challenge poetry provides.

Talking began quickly when I instructed them to turn and tell a friend what comparisons they noticed after reading Maya Angelou's poem, I Love the Look of Words. The meaning inside the poem kept our class discussion going for some time. Then they were off with a partner to reread and practice fluency with this and previous poems. I smiled at earnest attempts and chuckled at the dramatic voice changes of others.

They appreciate the power and fun poetry provides and enjoy writing this genre. But what surprised me today was their reaction to a clip of Ms. Angelou reading. They enjoyed seeing her face so they could place an image with this prolific and powerful writer. They sat in rapture as she read her children's poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me At All. But then the surprise. They broke out in applause. Applause at a still image of her on the screen after listening to her voice.

I somehow imagine Maya Angelou is the type of writer who would appreciate the spontaneous applause of this nine and ten-year-old audience more than the numerous awards and accolades she has so rightfully received. This is what poetry is designed to do.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Teacher Learns from a Writing Challenge

Each year when I begin the Slice of Life Writing Challenge, I am somewhat surprised at my feelings. The feelings in that week before the March 1 date approaches, during the month and reflecting as I wrap up a last post.

Initially, I was terrified. Putting my attempts at writing out there for anyone to read was intimidating the first year. But, through those fearful feelings, I learned so much about teaching young writers. Its that intuitive information teachers are always trying to develop. An experience we may not get from a class or journal article.

I grew to appreciate that reluctance of moving pencil across paper some students exhibit. I especially see this in August of a new school year, with a new teacher and new classmates.

Fingers quivering over linking up my feeble words that first year is similar to a student's momentary lack of writing confidence. And because of my initial slicing experience, I approach working with those students in a much different way.

I identify the intimidation, I encourage, I suggest. But in the end I require. I require words are submitted and submitted and submitted. Because the accomplishment fuels the writer. Pushing past fears taught me this and now I want those whom I work with to experience it. Experience and overcome a writing challenge.