Monday, April 20, 2015

A Fine Soup

"There's a fine soup to be made of every minute" Naomi Shihab Nye tells us in her poem Moment. The optimistic word play tempered by acknowledging life's challenges captures my heart every time I read her poetry. This one is from a collection entitled Transfer, an homage to her late father. She built this work on notebooks he kept throughout his life.

Whether examining the complexities of their life in Palestine before returning to the United States in Morning Birds - "Bow down to what you planted/glossy figs filling bowls/sweets rebuke to battle and bomb" - or the simple joys to be found in every life in Comfort - "Your favorite words still exist in the world - darling, coffee, friend", Nye always invites us to remember to "put on the armor of joy."

For a taste of her talent, click here to enjoy Wavelength from the same collection. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy Trails

Today marks the final day of my principal's career in the district after thirty-nine years. He's leaving to take a position at a local university, coordinating student teachers. I've been quite lucky to have been in his charge for all but one year of my teaching. Here are some remarks I made at a recent gathering in his honor.

That's John in the red with his favorite fashion accessory.
 The others are wearing bowties in his honor as the rest of us, students included, did on Friday to mark his "re - tie-rment".

Since January of 1989 (or to put it another way when Mr. DeAngelis was 11 and Dr. Hritz was 8), Dr. Carr has been at the helm of KMS. Within his first month of leaving New Garden for the greener pastures of South Union Street, I asked him if I could take my kids on a field trip to His Mission, the homeless shelter on Birch Street, in response to a discussion we had to reading A Wrinkle in Time. Not only did John say yes, but he went along as well. That’s just the kind of support we’ve come to rely on over the past twenty-seven years.

Over that time our building has changed drastically. Not only its location, but its size too. When Dr. Carr took over from Dr. Cammarata that January, we had about 450 kids in three grades. Our numbers haven’t dipped below a thousand in ten years. Students traveled together with their homogenous homerooms all day. For example, long before Tina Manolescu taught sixth grade, she was a 610. Kids’ schedules rotated daily so that eventually every kid would have math 8th period. Our schedule has changed so many times since that it’s hard to count all of its iterations.

After the Bell wasn’t even dreamed of yet when he arrived. Team met once a week. Activity period met on Thursdays and Fridays. The sixth grade returned to elementary schools for a few years. Mrs. Hartman, Mrs. Palmer, and Mr. Hannum all retired along with too many teachers to name. Dr. Carr’s endured tornado threats during the 8th grade dance, blackouts in the HS cafeteria, errant snakes on the loose, and that’s all before we moved here.

What we’ll miss most is his desire to grow his staff. Recently, I came across an entry in my writer’s notebook about a classroom visit from John a year or two ago. That day he had stopped in to find a student but was so intrigued by what we were doing that after locating the young man in question he returned to continue “playing” along with the kids. I’ve heard similar stories from other teachers. He often asked why we were doing what we were doing, pushing us to be more reflective. When we proposed a new idea or program, we’d be met with a “tell me more.” Often these impromptu dialogues resulted in programs we’ve come to know and love: One Book, One School, The Poetry Slam, Faculty-Student Basketball Game, The Math Carnival, Girls Night Out, 6th Grade Fun Night, LEAD - all activities begun during his tenure.

As our families have expanded, so has his. Those of us who taught in the old building, remember John Paul, Amanda and then Patrick, accompanying Amy in and out of his office. Now we’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Trey. John couldn’t be prouder to be a granddad except how proud he was and is to be the dad of the three of you

I know you’re looking forward to spending more time with him as his new role no longer requires that he supervise school dances, oversee wrestling meets, or attend school board meetings. Enjoy this new found freedom. You’ve all earned it.

So thanks, boss. Happy Trails to you.


Today students will leave thank you notes to him during lunch in an inbox in the cafeteria, an idea we blatantly stole from the Internet. Here's hoping they give him just a small taste of our appreciation.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

On Being Married to An English Teacher

Yesterday my husband realized that Easter is only a week away when he saw the palms sitting on the table in the foyer. We had previously discussed that a few relatives wouldn't be able to join us this year.

Looking at the calendar, he said, "Oh, we're going to have to plan a menu. They'll be less people there, but nonetheless..."

I interrupted, "Fewer people." To be clear -  I never correct the grammar of adults I know and restrain myself considerably even with the children in my charge, but a little gold ring on his left hand compelled this correction.

"What's the difference?"

"Use fewer with things that can be counted and less with things like milk that cannot."

A spirited discussed ensued about liters of milk and interpretation of this rule. (He's a scientist, so, of course, milk would come in liters and not gallons.) I pointed out that as grammar rules go that this one involved very little shades of gray. Don't get me started on commas with adverbial clauses. When he finally conceded that not everyone quantifies amounts as specifically as he, he agreed that I was right.

Would have been so much simpler if he had just started with this premise. And now I have one fewer blogpost to write.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Home stretch

Lately I've been reading The Sunday New York Times almost a week late - sometimes even the following Sunday morning. I very much enjoy it when I do. Even though the headlines may be old news, the quality of the reporting can't be found elsewhere. But with Slice of Life going on, my morning routine has altered.

During the week, I'll post something I wrote the night the before or at least have an inkling of what I'll compose before I have to get ready for school. Perhaps the ticking clock compels creativity. Weekend mornings are another matter. Without school you'd think writing a post would be easier, but that's not the case. What happens in school frequently serves as topics for posts. I also try to jam as much as I can in a weekend as if the twenty-four hours in a day were really forty-eight. For some that would involve loads of sporting events or parties. For me, planning, grading, and if I'm lucky, a really good book instead.

On the agenda for today are some writing to respond to, two letters to compose, student slices to read, and at least one email to send. Oh, and laundry, grocery shopping, and some phone calls. Though the house is fuzzy, it can wait until Wednesday when Spring Break finally begins. As for a good book, I'm reading All The Light We Cannot See. Hopefully, there'll be more of that today. My goddaughter spent the night, so I'm off to make a hearty breakfast before church.

Next Sunday I'll read The Times while its news is still new. At least that's the plan.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Another kind of Friday Night Fun

Last Friday night you may recall my friends and I discovered Bitmoji. This week featured a different kind of Friday fun - face to face interaction. The girls that I mentor and my goddaughter were over for a night of pizza, debate over Team Gale or Team Peeta, and catching up.

Dinner conversation featured the strange behavior of substitute teachers, the sometimes stranger behavior of their real teachers, the complications baby teeth can wreck with braces, and of course, the virtues of Hawaiian pizza. After we finished watching the video, we dissected the behavior of its characters and lamented that the final installment wouldn't come out until November.

Coincidentally, as the movie began I received a robo-call from the school district, warning parents about an app called Flinch that allows users to video-chat with people from around the world but that may also hijack some of their personal information. There was no danger of that happening while we were spending time together.

However, I read recently that people who spent more time texting actually feel lonelier than people who actually talk to their friends. To hep stave this off as well as to help tweens and teens develop better social skills, Skypre classroom is partnering with O, The Oprah magazine to launch the Just Say Hello Project. It's worth looking into.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Guiltless Pleasure

We have parent conferences this week. Arranged these into half-hour long blocks, students in our mentor groups co-conduct these talks. Though some students would rather not be a part of this, generally they are a very pleasant chance to discuss strengths and weaknesses. A benefit of our schedule is that it allows for drop-in parents too. 

One stopped by to ask for more editing help for his son. A former student, now parent, stopped by to reminisce. Another wanted to thank me for all of the help with her daughter's writing. And yet another dropped this off.

She said that when she saw it, she immediately thought of me. When we met earlier in the year, we ended our meeting by swapping the names of books to read. While I think the nutrients ascribed to books are clever, I'm even happier that no calories are tabulated for books.

But all of this love comes at a cost as our conferences continued into the  evening. Might have to drink some Tolstoy full of coffee to get through Friday. Happy weekend!

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Care to play along?

" The gloom of the world is but a shadow, and yet within our reach is joy. Take joy." - Fra Giovanni

Here's another snippet I found in my writer's notebook:

"The air always feels cleaner after a storm," Sadie mused.The rhythm of her rocking chair joined the chorus of crickets. "I feel lighter too, like after we finished paying off the combine. Jake and I danced on this very porch to celebrate. 'Course that's a lifetime ago. Him gone now over seven years, and the fields waiting for a developer to snatch'em up. Nothing to be done about it.

"Tonight, though, I just want to remember the feel of his check against mine, Glenn Miller on the radio, and joy."


I can't recall the impetus for this. Feel free in the comments to speculate on this character, her unseen listener, and this world view.

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