7/22/14

I Woke and the Clock said 2:00 AM. . .again

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"By the pricking of my 
thumbs,
Something wicked this 
way comes."  ----Shakespear (Macbeth)

As I sit down to write this morning, I am not sure I am far enough from the awefulness of the story to put it down in words, but the telling of it might be a help to me or someone.  Just a few nights ago I lay my head to sleep and woke a few hours later to a nightmare that would last for days, at least, and may continue who knows how long. . .

My husband uncharacteristically threw up the sash to bring in the dry cool air that swept in earlier that evening, and unbeknown to him, something else crept in as I slept and he tossed.  I wonder what would have happened, or not, if that night had been like many other?  What if my husband had come in and shut the windows tight, would events have unfolded as they did?  But "what if's" are seldom useful and that is the case here and now.

"How can you sleep?" my husband grumbled in a strained voice.  "There is something in here, I thought I was crazy, but there is something. . .can you see it?"  

I think I must have groaned trying to drag my conciousness out of slumber and blinking my eyes clear till I could see.  He was prone and propped on his elbows staring down. . .at his pillow.   "Can you see them?" he strained again.  I stared down too, and I did see, or did I?  They were tiny like flecks of pepper, but they were moving, quickly.  "Fleas?!!  Where did we get fleas?!!  We don't even have pets??"  Then, I began to feel them as well as see them or was it my imagination?  The sensation of something creeping on my skin was too much, we both jumped out of bed and began ripping off the sheets.  I ran them straight to the laundry and put what didn't fit in a large plastic bag, tied it off, and then showered.

My night eyes hurt trying to focus on the screen of my phone as I googled how to get rid of fleas, while waiting for my turn in the shower.  I got a few ideas for home remedies, applied them and showered myself.  We remade the bed and settled in once again, but not for long.  Our visitors, whoever they were, were not to be expelled so easily.  When I glanced at the clock it said in red, 2:00 AM.  

The next day I continued the laundering of sheets, bedding, pillows, clothing, little did I know the washing machine would be running for the next 36 hours non stop.  I texted my husband, "This is bad.  The clothesline is loaded with fleas.  I haven't been using it, but went to hand an item that wasn't drying well.  All the lines. WTF"  His response.  "IDK.  Maybe they're not fleas?"  then, "No time.  Google little bugs that look like fleas."  

At times like this, it becomes very apparent that Google wears the faces of both friend and foe, knowledge is the best and worst thing when facing the unknown.  It quickly became apparent that we were not dealing with fleas, fleas are actually a bit bigger, not so difficult to see.  I kept reading, and a gnawing idea was forming from the cloud in my head as I scratched a bite under my arm, on my neck. . ."Something wicked this way comes.", the telemarketer, the door to door salesman- they still do that?, bad signs.  The window was uncharacteristicaly wide open in our room.  Bird nest up in the eve.  Bird who lived there was acting strangely just the day before, chirping at me frantically when I went out that end of the house.  I thought perhaps her chicks had fledged, and she was worried I would step on one, but I didn't see a thing on the ground.  Now I wondered. . .

My suspicions were confirmed when I began to read about how bird mites will migrate when their host bird leaves the nest.  Identification is key here, and getting rid of the source, ie. the nest, is key. . .  Good information!  Then the nightmare stories (whatever you do, Don't go to birdmites.org!!!), they feed on any blood source, they can take days to exterminate.  Another page, "they can live up to nine months without a bird host"  The nightmare, I could see was far from over.  Armed with an arsenal of borax, tea tree oil, epsom salt, and insecticide we continued our battle against the creepy crawlies in the night.  Tired, but wary, we fell into bed, hopeful for peace.  

I startled awake, 2:00 in red numbers, and the thought, "They aren't gone."  My husband snored on, apparently he did not taste so sweet.  I showered, scrubbed with epsom salt and tea tree oil dressed in clean garments, after bagging and running more laundry, load number 15? 16?  I can no longer keep track.  I rolled out my yoga mat and slept fitfully, till morning, then began again, strip bedding, wash. . .everything, dry, fold, vacuume, sprinkle borax, add para mothballs (not old fashioned).  I am thankful that the problem(s) were isolated to just our room inside, no sitings elsewhere in the house, but the decks are off limits till further spraying and the clothesline will be burned and replaces as well.

My husband, armed in long clothing and bathed in OFF! with deet, continued the battle outdoors. He removed every nest and burned them, the one above our window was indeed The source.  Four dead baby birds and millions of bird mites, I thought of the mother bird yesterday.  One spray just slowed them down, another seemed to do the trick.  Peace of mind begins to set in, but this is just one battle, the war is not yet won.  That night we slept, bathed in bug repellant with an undertone of Tea Tree oil.  I don't know if it was the OFF, the removal of the source, the general sense that we were getting ahead of the problem, the toxins or just plain exhaustion, but I slept hard and didn't wake till morning.

We are not finished.  The washer and dryer are still running.  Our pillows remain in mothball filled bags, maybe I will just burn those too.  I am afraid to open them.  We change our sheets daily, and I still scrub with Tea Tree Oil and salt.  I haven't seen a mite in days, but last night I woke to see the red numbers 2:00 AM and wondered when the nightmare will really be over.





   

7/14/14

Letting Go- Farewell


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This quote turned up on a friend's FB page as I scrolled through my news feed and I thought it was just perfect, perfect message and perfectly timed. . . for me anyway. It made me smile, and it helped me to realize, I have come a long way from three years ago. I began writing this morning, but it was getting a bit long.  I was beginning to get bogged down in an old familiar suffering, then I just set it aside, and got on with my day.  So now I sit again, to try and convey a feeling from this morning that started me writing after a two week break.  Hopefully, with this quote to remind me, I can let go a bit more.

Our local bi-monthly publication is only about 24 pages and is filled with the usual "local news", happenings at the library, and local churches, mixed with occasional school or historical stories as well as fire and police updates.  My husband mentioned it had arrived as well as who was front page news, but we were away for a while and have had a busy start to summer, and I didn't really think I wanted to read it.  This morning is snagged my eye, but I didn't feel the usual shortness of breath, and steam puffing out my ears from my rage at the mere mention of the name, I just feel the echo of  a sad, sick feeling in my stomach and heart.  So I read about a local second grade teacher retiring this year.  She is a beloved teacher as can be discerned by the opening line,
"If you were lucky enough to have had a child in one of MJ's classes, then you will understand my disappointment when I discovered that my second child would not get a chance to have her as a teacher this coming fall."    
She's just not beloved by me, particularly, though she held some teacher qualities that I can admire in retrospect, particularly her passion for science and hands on experiential learning (kids never get enough of that) I don't think I will ever quite grasp the 'love thy enemy' philosophy.  I am truly sad to say that I could even think of another teacher as an enemy to begin with, but that is the crux of it. It was the impetus for my beginning this blog four years ago, to sort through my strong feelings over my son's nightmarish school experiences and the fact that I am also a teacher in my heart and soul.  So I suppose my very positive thinking friends would advise me to notice that a very bad experience with this teacher led to something good, great, wonderful, in the birth of my writing self . .and of course they would be right :)

When I mention that I found the note of her love for teaching social justice ironic, I will do so not out of mean spirit, because my son suffered by her "fair is equal" mentality.  It no longer makes me angry to think of that, just sad that an opportunity to teach the children a more compassionate meaning for fairness was lost. MJ once told me that the children would not think it fair if she did something/anything different for my son than she does for the other children, and that the children were very concerned with fairness at this age.  Rather than let them rule with their idea of fairness, wouldn't it have been lovely if she pointed out to the students. . .  If everyone in the class gets new winter boots to go with their coats, that may seem fair at first glance, yes? However, if one or two kids already have new winter boots, but have no winter coat, that fairness is clearly lost.  I have learned from my son's experiences that fair is not about everyone getting the same thing, it is about making sure each child has what they need.  And a classroom is not a place to let stagnant ideas rest, it is a place to stretch ideas, to grow them and teach.

Of course, noone is perfect, including myself.  We are all different, with different stories that make up the fabric of our lives.  I can wonder now, if it were another year, when her mother wasn't dying, her husband wasn't diagnosed with cancer, and all disjointedness of a schoolyear that goes along with all that,  would our story; mine, hers, my son's, have been a different one.  But frankly, that was only a flicker of a thought and I let it go along with the fiery anger and angst that filled me back then and I am moving further forward into the unknown with love in my heart for the lessons learned during that time.

**This is where I came from 3-4 years ago if you are a curious reader:  http://parentingandpedagogy.blogspot.com/2012/03/parenting-stress-mourning-dream.html

 






6/24/14

The Girl Who Didn't Know How to Write

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Once long ago there lived a young girl, who feared writing stories most of all when in school.  She shied not away from the tests of the day, nor round robin reading, (she thought spelling was cool). But these simple words from a teacher once said, "Take out a pencil, here's your paper." she did dread!

She loved to read stories for sure it was true, but when it came to writing she knew not what to do. . .  She wrote essays, spelling words, and journal entries galore, research papers, and poems, and lists and more, but stories she worried, "I don't know where to start!", "What do I write about?", "When. . . is. . .art?"

This lasted for years, those years they had passed.  The girl grew through grade school and college went fast. Soon she was Mom with three kids of her own, and to write a story was still an unknown.  She read to her children, and told them short snippets, of pieces of her life and silly stuff in it. But writing them down, still seemed quite the challenge.

"Write what you know" say the experts so plain, but she thought that what she knew would just be too plain. Yet she wrote her own thoughts about this and of that and she created a blog that was becoming quite fat. Then she worked in a school where writing was taught, and the teachers showed kids what her teachers had not.

They read books and wrote stories to talk and to show the ways writers think, lots she still did not know!  Then she went on searching for more, and to grow, she joined a challenge one March full of snow.  She wrote day and night about any and all, from family and work to the smells of the fall.

Now this girl is all grown, her kids growing too.  She writes stories of life for herself, kids and you. Sometimes she writes, with tears fully streaming, sometimes to stop her own self from screaming.  She laughs and she scribbles, deletes and keeps going, because this girl's now a writer all grown and still growing.      

6/17/14

First Family, Family First

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I probably should have written last night.  I was a bit restless and the funeral was fresh on my mind, but I wanted to let it all settle, all the tears, the hugs, and the memories that come with a funeral day.  It was blue sky and sunshiny outside, and I drove with sunglasses and a/c on and drove right past the funeral home with its suited men awaiting visitors and parked on the next street.  Something about the men in their suits, who I didn't know, I just didn't want to have to talk to them.  My stepsister pulled in and turned her car over to the suited ones just as I rounded the corner by foot, looking for the entrance.  I was thankful.  I didn't have to enter by myself.  My husband wanted to attend but I hadn't worked out the details and he needed to take over kid duties (I was wishing I had planned better).  Of course I barely made it over the threshold when tears began to stream mercilessly down my cheeks, despite my sunglasses and will.

Mom took my hand and led me into to the viewing room.  "Come on.  Let's get the hard part over with"  and there he was, and wasn't, all at once.  "Too much makeup." I thought to myself.  You know how sometimes people say, "He looks so good, they did such a good job."  I didn't hear anyone say that, and it simply wouldn't be true if they had.  His eyelids lay over his once sparkling blue eyes.  Nearby Mom showed me the flowers she picked in her favorite coral pink and the note for "Dad" of mom and her brothers, "Grampa" of all us cousins, and "Super Grampy" to our little ones.

We did the right thing.  Hugged our way through the line.  I never called her Grandma, and her sons were never my uncles, her granddaughters I scarecly new.  "I'm sorry for your loss." said one of the girls, and I think I gave her a funny look, because here she was in the line of "kin" telling me she was sorry for my loss.  I wonder if she will ever realize the irony of that.  Or the irony, that my Grandfather's remaining sisters sat across the room, and his own children were about the room, with no place in the line.  It bothered Auntie, she said something to my mom, but Mom was prepared for this, knew it would be this way just as it has been since (not) Grandma entered our world.  Mom made lemonade out of lemons, "It's ok.  I just met everyone at the door instead.  Don't worry about it."

I was holding and folding a piece of paper all morning, trying to remember not to accidently set it down or absentmindedly throw it away.  I needed to read at the church.  Mom couldn't do it, she knew, and that was one of few branches offered to Grampa's first family.  At least it was a nice piece to read.  The whole ceremony was well tied together with the themes of building, a family, a home, a life, within a community and country that he loved and gave willingly to.  Even the (not) uncles said a few things that tied in.  There were only a few silent chuckles (not bad for a girl prone to giggling in church) from me at the over emphasis of the selflessness of the (not) Grandma.  The one so self centered as to not notice that her dear husband's blood relatives who had loved and known him twice as long as her and her clan of fools should probably have been afforded a space in line, or offered an opportunity to memorialize this man too.  Sometimes the minister opens a space for attendees to share memories of their own, but that was not the case this day.

My brother was a pall bearer and I couldn't help thinking that he looked like the little boy he used to be, on the verge of tears as they carried the casket into the church.  My reading was right in the beginning, it caught me by surprise to hear my name announced but I pulled it off, looking into the audience, pausing for affect and emphasis.  I gave the casket a touch on the way by and went to my seat.  Of course, there was singing, but I didn't even try, because singing would make my cry.  So instead I smothered a laugh at Edith Bunker's voice trailing from the seat behind me.  My step sister thought, "Who brought the muppet." but quickly conceded, Edith Bunker was behind us.  These are the distractions of a girl trying not to let the memory of "running" downtown, my hand in Grampy's as he strode long with steps long and purposeful, leave me in a puddle on the pew.

At the cemetery, it took me a minute to notice Grampa was to rest next to (real) Grammy and I smiled back the tear that was trying to escape.  A World War II Navy vet, he was buried with a flag ceremony and taps. As the music began, I smiled as one of the Aunties rummaged for another tissue, having thought she was done with the tears.  I was fascinated soon by the folding of the flag.  I had only seen it done by my boys and their friends as young scouts.  I could see they had a bit of practice to do.  My arms felt hot from the sun as the flag was handed over to the wife, then we milled about in the sun for a bit as folks taking shelter beneath the black tent dispersed stepping between gravestones as they went.  I bummed a ride back to my own car, with my Mom's cousin and his daughter before the reception, and scarfed a third of the raspberry chocolate bar in my purse as I wound back through traffic to the other end of town, where my real family saved me a seat.


6/14/14

Building Literacy

Supporting early literacy evolves.  The year begins with a foundation.  Assess students and prioritize needs.  Add to that, get to know children (& teachers), make connections with individuals that will form the foundation for a respectful learning and or teaching relationship throughout the year.  Within the classroom setting, supporting and collaborating with teachers and children to establish routines, procedures, and a safe community, a place where children struggling to learn literacy skills and good learner skills, social and executive skills, can feel safe to learn & take risks that allow learning.  I believe in Resp Classroom practices and “the power of our words” as educators to either open minds or close them to learning, trust and connection. 

The first floor is laid with planning.  I am a planner.  I plan for individual, group, and whole class instruction.  I keep in a handy place a plan for my day, week, month, and year.  I think of a plan as a place to begin.  It keeps me on track so I don’t forget any pieces yet also is flexible enough to stretch or change as formative and summative assessments inform my teaching.  I have experience planning independently and in groups.  I will continue to play an active role in whole staff, & grade level planning.

Framing walls & windows is about supporting learning at all levels.  As language develops, from listening, to speaking and reading and writing, I listen, I watch, I model and I provide opportunities for children to practice language (speaking, reading, writing).  I teach explicitly when children don’t notice.  I use Read Aloud, RR, Guided Reading, and Interactive Reading and Writing to support new readers and writers from K- 3rd grade.  Learning is a multisensory experience and can be tailored to the needs of students to maximize learning and engagement.

Nails, screws, nuts and bolts are skills that are necessary to become proficient at a task.  The details of letter sound correspondence and familiar chunks, roots, prefixes, suffixes along with sight word recognition, letter formation, and concepts of print, decoding and encoding, build the mechanics of reading and writing.  I support children in learning these skills by providing many opportunities to practice with real books and using hands on activities, games, and songs that focus practice within an engaging format.


Wallboards and Windows are the understandings and comprehension along with connections to the world outside.  Our wall is taking shape, gaining color, we can see how it defines a space in time and we can see through it to the real world.  I build comprehension with literature.  I provide opportunities for children to read and listen to books and explore stories in ways that encourage a deeper understanding.  One year my class explored versions of The Little Red Hen, then the children participated in interactive writing to create their own class version of the story.  We also reenacted The Little Red Hen for a buddy class.  Children prepared by practicing reading their parts aloud in small groups or with partners, creating the setting with paint, and establishing distinct characters with simple costumes.  Each child had an active, if not speaking, role in the production.  Students learned about chickens and eggs through hands on and live science activities and by reading non fiction books on the subject.    I am more than willing to work with teachers on a wide array of activities and modalities that support children’s literacy and comprehension skills.

6/12/14

What I was thinking when I wasn't answering your question. . .

"What was your most challenging behavior child and How did you handle that?"

I had answered a few questions and felt pretty good, but then attention shifted to the window behind me, one of them left the room, and I was mid sentence, thinking. . . "Who was it?"

I dismissed one of the kids I work with this year who is often noisy, he squeaks and squeals, at meeting mostly.  He is full of energy and his wheels are turning. . .always. . .we just don't know where they are going.  But he is easy for me.  I use calm words, lots of love, and phrase things in the positive, "Yes. You can keep playing with trains, First you must go with me to get your eyes checked, Then you can come back to trains." And it works with him.   He reminds me of my oldest at this age. Too easy.

Do I mention A, the first child I worked with who was really intense?  I was able to keep her in school for half the year, with no support system within the school to help me.  She was thought to be schizophrenic and known to be badly abused. She could be violent, and she was sometimes a runner.  First step.  Watch for signs.  Distract.  Remove.  Calm.  Calming transitions every time, for everything, included sitting in a quiet place and counting to sixty, (not slowly). . .No.  That felt so long ago and irrelevant.

Do I mention M who always wanted to make a mockery of the sub, which sometimes was me?  I didn't get indignant or stern.  I cracked a joke, set the boundary firmly in place and tension lifted quickly so we could get on with our day.  Certainly not the worst or most difficult.

Last year was more recent. . . Mr. D?  Big boy who liked to throw his weight around and intimidate people when he forgot to leave his baggage at the door, which was often.  I connected with him and would try to get him to laugh and release his baggage for a minute.  That often worked. His face would lighten, that boy had some charisma!  I hope he learns to use his power for good! When his grip was too tight on the baggage to let go with a laugh, I would let the school psychologist know.  Those days he would stand with his eyes mean, chest almost to my chest and try to intimidate me, but that wasn't happening.  Mr. D you can't scare me with your own fear, but you will feel better if you let it go for a bit.  Man I loved that kid.

Perhaps it was the redhead with PTSD.  He would tell you he had it.  When his pencil wasn't quite sharp enough, or he perceived the work as "Too hard!"  He would stand, mouth open and scream as loud as you can imagine a child screaming.  I could see it coming, sometimes I would sit by him and whisper calmly to him to encourage him.  "You are ok.  You can do this."  Part way into the year, one of the theraputic support staff was assigned to him during writing.  I wasn't in his room then.  I don't think of him as my most difficult behavior problem.

I was feeling a little nervous about talking about the day I had to restrain my own son after I was called to his school to pick him up and he was throwing a plastic trash can at the principal who had restrained him, because he was yelling angrily and the principal "Didn't know what he would do."  When that escalated my son, school called me to pick him up.  Oddly, I had to restrain my own son from going back into class, because he didn't understand why he was being sent home.  It turned out that other kids had upset my son by taking building materials from his project to use on their own.  By second grade they knew if my son hollered, he would get in trouble and they would get all the materials to themselves.  I have more stories like this or from this time, but I can't tell them without crying, or feeling like crying.

I read "A Mind at a Time" by Dr.Mel Levine, and "Lost at School" by  Dr.Ross Greene.  I told staff,  "He will talk to you if you wait.  I went to workshops for teachers and parents of children with Asperger's and Autism and began collecting books and materials, by Kari Dunn Buron of Social Thinking fame.  I scoured Late, Lost and Unprepared, and Smart but Scattered for tips to share.  But mostly I knew my son.  He won't be calm right away, and if you try to talk right then, he will just escalate again.  Give him time, he won't forget, don't rush it.  They began to see that what I said made sense, but on year three, it was a bit late.  He didn't trust any at school and he didn't feel safe because all they ever saw was his behaviors, all he ever heard was what not to do.   "He needs directions written down.  He needs specialized instruction (which I like to think of as really good teaching with visuals, and graphic organizers, and times to shine) and he needed to be challenged academically.", "He needs processing of social situations."  All of this came from me, one wonderful teacher, and a neuropsychologist.  In his new placement where he gets those things, he has flourished.  He has never been restrained or placed in the time out room.

 Ummm. . . .that's a bit off track from the question, isn't it?  . . .

So I don't think I can really pick one behavior challenge. Living with my own son and working with a whole passle of quirky, loud, silly and sometimes explosive and other times wonderful kids last year; researching how to best handle explosive children and how to teach children who's skills can lack in not just reading or math, but also in waiting, seeing the gray between the black and white, persisting on challenging or tedious tasks, managing emotional response to frustrations; talking with other parents experiencing this same aweful experience; I have learned I can handle just about any situation you throw my way.  I have learned. . .

  • Be Calm
  • Don't take it personally
  • Help child achieve calm (calming words, remove aggravating stimulus or move child to appropriate space for needs)
  • Humor is Key
  • Connect with the child.  Every child.
  • Just because they seem more settled doesn't mean they are ready to process.
  • Don't restrain a child for looking or sounding "dangerous" only for Doing unsafe, dangerous things. 
  • Don't take it personally.  (did I say? Don't take it personally?)
  • Later use Collaborative Problem Solving--The child is part of the process in finding a solution.
  • Set up a classroom that really is positive for everyone, not just the ones who have difficulty reading or learning math, but also that is a positive place for children to learn social skills, good learner skills, executive function skills.


6/10/14

Busy Job Hunting

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It is Tuesday and I am busy job hunting for next year.  No small feat in this Rural area with no helicopter for transportation.  So as I just interviewed yesterday for a job I would love to get, I woke up this morning to write a cover letter for another position that would suit me very well.  Today's post is that letter, different than my others, perhaps do to influence of slicers!  

Dear Search Committee:

I am a writer.  Last year I worked in a school that was just getting the Lucy Caulkins writing program up and running and I was amazed at what those kids accomplished over the course of the year.  This spring I took the “March Challenge” on the Two Writing Teachers website, where teachers write and share both their experiences and their ideas about teaching Writers Workshop.  So I wrote and posted every day in the month of March, and since, have written and posted each week on Tuesday as a part of a yearlong teacher writing challenge.  I am excited by the Lucy Caulkins writing program because it not only teaches children to write, but to be writers, to think like writers.  To teach that I believe it helps to be a writer myself.  I am a writer.

I am a reader.  I have read some of Lucy Caulkins work, and lots of posts from teachers using her methods and sharing ideas, strategies and minilessons for teaching kids how to be writers.  I read with  an adult book club at my local library.  I read for fun and I read to inform my teaching and instruction and my parenting.  I am currently reading the Power of Our Words.  My home and classroom libraries bulge with fiction and nonfiction alike and my children are becoming readers too.  I am a reader.

I am a teacher.  I am MA certified (1-6) and Reading Recovery trained.  I taught Reading Recovery and supported classroom teachers and children in grades K-2.  I have used Benchmark Assessment Tools and Running Records and worked collaboratively with teachers and staff to identify at risk readers and to make teaching decisions throughout the year.  I have taught mini lessons, guided reading lessons, and used modeling to teach students literacy skills.  I have offered general support in a variety of classrooms working and sharing with teachers in a collegial manner.  I have also taught first grade, and have been a paraprofessional in many various support situations.  I love children and opening doors to literacy.  I am a teacher.

I am a parent.  So I read, I write, I teach, often.  I understand the concerns parents have about their children’s learning and feel the importance of creating a home school team that supports our learners.  I think about ways to support my children’s teachers and my children and their friends as learners.  I share my thinking and offer my support.  I encourage confidence, good learning habits and grit.  I am a parent. 
I am applying for the job of Reading Recovery Teacher and Literacy instruction teacher at B Elementary.  I am ready to return to work full time now that my last child is beginning all day Kindergarten.  I have planned for this by taking several courses through the Collaborative for Educators in 2013 and achieving the task of getting my MA liscence renewed.  And have been searching for a position that is both the right fit professionally and proximally close to where I live, no small feat J  I look forward to hearing from you about this position.

Amy Boyden 

6/3/14

Be back in a half hour. . .

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I walked down my driveway and along the gravel road as the sun sank to the west highlighting tree tops, translucent leaves glowing golden green.  As I approached the fields and gardens of a neighbor, I felt as if walking into a painting.  Everything vibrated green, green, green.  Gray green timothy twizzled in the breeze, oak leaves and maple, poplar and pines, grasses and new growth each held it's place in a patchwork rainbow of greens as I stepped quickly and turned my attention to listening.  Birds.  So many songs, mostly familiar and I thought how sad it was I couldn't match a one to it's owner.  My youngest brother would know the birds that belonged to the songs.

In a second, barking ensued, a flash of black bounded through the break in the stone wall and circled me in the road with his hackles up.  I could hear the call from within the house.  I didn't recognize this dog or his name, but I knew she would come for him.  Sure enough, "Get over here!  Come on!" and an appology for the nuisance. Her own dogs were accustomed to foot traffic and came out to greet me often enough, but in a more friendly manner than this visiting canine.  "No problem!" I waved and walked on.  A constant and unwavering buzz soon overwhelmed me, the Chestnut trees were in bloom and it seemed every pollen jock in the country was here buzzing from blossom to conical blossom among the three grand trees.

I stopped a moment to watch while one of the big black bumbling bees went about his business of pollination, and as I resume up the hill my mind wanders to an image of my kiddos scouring the ground below the trees for prickly shells cracked open with mahogany nuts peeking out.  The smooth nut inside makes a lovely childhood treasure, and they often fill coat pockets and bike baskets at our house come fall.

For a while, all I hear is my own breathing, as I make the most of this hill.  Then, I think of my promise, "Be back in half an hour!"  and I turn around to head back home.  To the right, past the buzzing chestnuts, I hear the "glump.  glump." of the frogs in the pond and I wonder as the pond leaves my sight if the heron was there tonight stalking through the tall reeds.  My feet take me out of the warm sun set into the cool shelter of trees and past another barking dog.  This guy is tethered, straining against his leash and breathing raspy, thick breaths between barks.  I wonder if he just wants his ears rubbed. . .

Around the corner running water wooshes down a spring stream.  This one will be dry in July, but for now it rushes down the mountain, under the road, through a culvert and splashes quietly through the woods on the other side.  I don't linger to throw stones or send sticks through the culvert, the bugs are hungry.  I head up the hill and up my driveway calves burning just a twinge and I meet my husband on his way out of the house.  "The kids are in bed."  When I get to the boys room, Charlie told me that when I opened the door to come in, the clock hand was exactly on the 12, exactly one half hour since I left.

5/28/14

A Writing Place

Last week Stacy Shubitz from Two Writing Teachers posted about her "Writing Work Space" and I thought what a fun idea, (and secret inspiration for cleaning mine up a bit- like inviting someone over, blogstyle)  I am a huge fan of my writer's notebook, where I like to collect ideas, brainstorm, doodle and just plain write, and I do that almost anywhere, but my favorite spot is really here. . .
This room used to be an open air porch, but we hated coming inside during the winter, so we added a heated floor and lots of windows so we could have the porch year round.  Even with three kids in the house, this room remains relatively quiet unless the kids join me in here, then all bets are off.






That said, I have really come to also appreciate my computer for all the ease of editing, revising, rewriting, reworking, and sharing with the world via blog.  I have another space for that, which is a "family space" that I share with my three kids.  Commonly referred to as the "playroom", this is a writing work place, drawing work place, lego work place, matchbox work place, dollhouse work place etc. . . My husband rarely ventures to this space or the computer as it is known to cause instant headaches and pains in the neck *smirk*
I did take the liberty of skipping the before picture, because it was too gruesome for public viewing.  (I wrote about it *here* though) Kid stuff completely overwhelmed the space, and that's all I will say about that.  I just reclaimed the space to a more balance "share", but the battle is ongoing and never truly won.
This room was formerly the dining room, so it is fairly open to the kitchen as you can see here. . . workspace on left, kitchen on right. . .  Sometimes I like that, sometimes I wish I could close a door and block out the world, so instead I do most of my computerizing after the kids go to bed.




Here is a view of the room mostly post cleanup, still a pile to sort on the table there.  I need a taller lamp by the settee, which is actually comfortable if you don't try to sit "properly" in it. 

 My computer desk was salvaged from the side of the road and painted an oceany blue color for my peace of mind.  Unfortunately I am still losing the surface area battle.  A pullout drawer double tasks as a place to prop my notebook.  The far side of the desk houses the printer on top, and Lego bins below, a true compromise.  But alas, it works for me.

5/26/14

Sunny Saturday

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It seemed to be taking me forever to get out the door.  No sooner would I make a step in that direction when one child or another would come back through it to ask for something, a glove, a drink, a hat. . . I began to put on face cream which made me think of sunscreen.  I realized they would need some too, so I began to snag them one by one to rub on the potion.  As I am stepping through the doorway my youngest comes up the steps smiling, "Hi Mommy.  Daddy says it's really nice out, you should come outside."  I contain my eyeroll by closing my eyes for a short moment, and tell her, "I am coming out right now honey, I have some things to do in the garden."

I headed to the tiny greenhouse just a short distance from the house.  The sun is shining and air is clear, just a bit of a breeze momentarily cut off as I duck in and grab a couple plant trays, hot in here.  Across the yard, I go to a low area which seems to collect just enough moisture so I rarely have to water the garden there.  The lettuce I began a few weeks ago is just beginning to look good, but still too small to be eaten even in "baby" form.  I direct my attention to plucking a few rogue weeds that escaped my last garden adventure.  I dig into the warm, damp soil with my fingers reaching for roots to pull and flick them into one of my signature piles along the edge of the garden.  Once clear, I smooth the surface with a rake and then dig several small holes.  First I plant the peppers, then the eggplants, it is hotter in the hoophouse and I hope that will help these heat lovers thrive. I think to myself, it would be nice to have another for the tomatos, but then I would have to water, a lot.  Not a good plan.  Before I know it I have planted about 20 tomato plants, and I am ready to begin work in another section of garden, pluck, rake, dig holes, plant.  Here go more tomatos, along with some cukes and zukes.

I stand and stretch my back and legs and walk back to the house for some seeds.  I am never satisfied with my organization of seed packets.  No matter how I do it, I always end up spending countless minutes searching for a packet I "just had my hands on".  I headed back outside with a handful of paper envelopes, nasturtium, carrots, lettuce, spinach, beans.  I gave up looking for the beet seeds, which I know are there, and decide that what I already have planted is enough for now.  Again I pluck, rake, and this time swish little rows with the handle of the rake to they will come out relatively straight.  I sprinkle in carrot seeds, and a couple different varieties of lettuce, alternating throughout the bed, and look up to see my kids riding down the driveway on their bikes, the boys bikes are tethered together by a rope about 10 feet long.  Do I say anything, nah!  They are boys.  I continue on to planting beans, whoops pluck, rake, swish, first.  Along the kids come again, now Lila's three wheeler is attatched like a little caboose behind the two boys and their bikes.

Suddenly though the sun was still shining, raindrops began to fall in such a way that felt surreal.  They were falling in enormous droplets and spread out so that it seemed I might be able to walk between the drops without being touched if I were quite careful.  But I couldn't dodge the argument that would soon begin between siblings.  Ropes were untied, grumblings echoed, clouds of blackflies appeared out of nowhere and garden time came to an imperfect, but well timed end as I had accomplished all I had set out to do, and the black flies hadn't even noticed.



5/13/14

Family Stuff

I recently saw an image of my livingroom pop onto a screen at a relative's house, and was amazed at the amount of floor space I used to have.  I could see the entire room without a car, sock, cup, or random scrap pile of paper.  The only things on the rug were children (not mine), and the wood floors reflected light! Our house isn't huge, but it surely felt bigger before we had children.

When I came home later, it was as if the walls were squeezing in on me.  I was greeted with dozens of shoes, sneakers, workboots, cleats and flip flops cluttering the floor, and a basket attempting to contain baseball equipment hanging out in the corner.   Sometimes the 'stuff' of my family of five overwhelms like a glacier slowly creeping in till I suddenly can't overlook the fact that something huge is looming.  Truth be known, of course, there is nothing particularly large or obviously responsible for taking up the space we once had in my house except maybe my children, who aren't that big.  They have an indescribable knack for covering any flat surface faster than a storm whips up on Big Sebago, by setting down one little thing after another.  The fact is, this was all cleaned up not very long ago, we cleared rugs for vacuming, and tables for projecting.  It can sometimes take just one rainy day, or one hour of mom writing or doing anything "in the other room" while my kids play together, that is the loose brick that ultimately breaks the dam, or opens the floodgates.

As I glance around, I see childrens' scissors sprawled open on my desk, abandoned just five short feet from the jar that ought to contain several pair but holds none.  A tubby duck lay on its back smiling up at me from next to the scissors, the top of a nearby toy shelf holds a recent art project of hot glued popcicle sticks and lego figures possibly trying to look sea worthy (or see worthy?) floating next to a Goldiblocks set, abandoned at the mouth of the River "I'm not done yet, I will put it away later." and merging with more hot glue projects of plastic cups with  stick ladders and straws glued onto them, dumping into the sea of "these are so special, they should adorn the remaining flat surface" On the floor are containers of cars, lego parts and miscellaneous sciency type projects that "not me" left, instead of moving them a foot, two feet, six inches. . . to the shelf where they might be considered put away.  This is just when glancing to my left, and frankly I don't have the energy to describe in detail the miscellaneous dolls, stuffies, books and so on that cascade to my right.

Honestly, if this were my classroom, we would have a meeting, do some interactive modeling and practice "taking care of our room and our things", and I would do this without resentment.  Somehow at home, I feel like "Geeze do we really need to go over this again, same kids, same house, sort of the same stuff. . .?"  I guess it is the nature of the beast, because my kids really do need to be reminded, often, just as sure as Charlie reminded me tonight when he mirrored my own thoughts on the subject, "It just sort of builds up slowly, I don't really notice it until one day I come home and, Whoa!"




5/6/14

Good to the last throw. . .

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My boys don't live baseball, but they love it nonetheless.  Some kids have been tossing balls since they could walk.  Our boys. . . sorta, kinda, once in a while would play catch, usually with Dad.  As they get older though they are becoming more and more interested, each spring they are more capable than the last and their interest increases.  This is a whole new experience for me since I never played sports as a kid myself, other than gym class, and though I loved phys ed, I just despised baseball out of principle.  The fact of the matter is, I really knew Nothing about the game.  It was easy to label it stupid though, because my only first hand experience was in public school PE classes, where the teachers assumed everyone knew the "rules", watched the game, and played the game, and then the class--mostly the boys, would spend the next 30-40 minutes arguing about the "rules".  To this day, if a dispute breaks out about the "rules", I go to my "happy place" in my mind. Now that my own kids have played for a few years, it amazes me that our teachers back then didn't just lay down the PE version of baseball rules.  So far we have been through t-ball rules, farm league rules, minors rules, and we are still learning majors rules, how hard would it have been to lay down the PE rules?

So, tonight when I went out to "play ball" with my boys, I laid down the Mom rule.  Rule Number 1 (the only rule):  We are playing catch, that's it.  I don't pitch, but the boys are both learning, which equals "the boys are both very unforgiving of each other and each other's mistakes despite being imperfect themselves".  Therefore, bats and Mom are out of the question.  So we headed out to play ball, first Charlie and I, while Joey finished his homework.
As we found our turf, I said to my son, "Charlie you might have to give me pointers, I don't want to throw like a girl."
Charlie replied, "Mom, that's going to be kind of hard since. . ."
Me, "I know I know, I am a girl"
And so we began, the sun just low enough in the trees to not be a nuisance, the sky still blue, the air still relatively warm.  Thwap.  Thwap.  Thwap.  Thwap.  Charlie is talking away and throwing them in, I had reminded him "no lobs" as we began, and we discussed the wrist snap vs. straight release. Whoa, I realized silently that my feet were firmly planted on the ground, I could snap balls out of the air without moving an inch.  By golly this kiddo can really throw this year, no squiggly laps all over the yard for Mom this time.

Soon, out of the house steps Joey, glove on hand and ready.  I reminded him of Rule Number 1 and then repeated it again, "We are playing catch, only catch."  In the past a game of catch with 2 boys and mom have ended in a grouchy huff for most if not all parties.  Joey formed our triangle and we threw the ball.  Thwap. Thwap. Thwap. Joey gets a stinker look on his face as he throws me a fast one, he claims is not fast at all. I catch it, smile and remind him "You are pitching to me, we are just playing catch." He smiled back and after a while, we switch up the rotation Charlie to Mom, Mom to Joey, Joey to Charlie, and back around again.

The whole time my ears are filled with advice, "Square up for a grounder Mom", or "catch it in the pocket so it doesn't hurt" or requests, "Throw me a pop fly"  Thwap.  Thwap.  Thwap.  After a while, the boys began the usual, try to irritate the other type throws, bullets from Joey to Charlie, sky balls through the tree branches from Charlie to Joey.  I instituted, "Throw it back to me"  I am determined, I will not let this end on
a sour note.  A few throws later, a miriacle happened as we all headed back to the house with smiles and good spirits, fresh air on our shirts and the smell of leather on our hands.


4/29/14

Creativity, Writing, and Resilience in a Storm

I recently watched Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk "Success, Failure and the Drive to keep Creating"  drawn in because creativity creeps into my thoughts often when I consider teaching and learning.  It is an important concept and even skill to foster in our children and ourselves and it is connected to resilience. The idea of resilience really sank in for me during this talk, as well as Elizabeth's ultimate message, to "find your home, that thing that you love to do more than you love yourself."  Where these ideas collide, I see lessons I would love for every child, student, person to learn.  Basically, first, find your own home (that place where you love to work, play, persist) Then, figure out how to stay there in that productive place, "safe from the random hurricanes of outcome", because both success and failure have the equal and opposite potential to pull you away from your home, away from what you love to do.

As I watched and listened to Gilbert speak, I was transported back to that second grade poetry experience I have written about before, I think of how writing that one poem, and the way that two teachers responded to that poem created for me, my first random hurricane, at age seven.  My experience was on a smaller scale, but parallel to the one Elizabeth Gilbert herself had after writing Eat, Pray, Love.   I had no idea how to handle that.  But I knew, just as she knew, that whatever I wrote next, those two teachers were not going to like it. In that moment, it felt like the fate of my new vocation, "writer of poems", was up to these two teachers to decide.  The message to me was "One good poem does not a poet make" when really, I should have been learning the lesson "Keep writing.  Write often.  Perservere."  If I take what Gilbert says to heart, really my writer self was still in there, she hadn't gone anywhere, she just needed to get back to work. . . instead my writer put down her pencil after that second grade poetry unit, and didn't pick it up again on her own accord for at least 15 years.

The funny thing, a second grade friend in that class who had seen this whole thing unfold, "What did she expect, you were just going to sit down and write another great one, because she told you to?  Doesn't she know about inspiration?"  What is it they say about the mouths of babes?  Thirty something years ago, we grappled, at age seven, with the very same issue that this now famous author of Eat, Pray, Love has had to grapple with as an adult writer, the very same "hurricane of outcome".  So of course, I ask myself, how can we teachers, parents, mentors teach our young writers to ride the storms?  That is an important skill throughout life, not just writing, yes?  I also wonder if we shouldn't be concious to not create storms of outcome for our new writers.  It always strikes me when we ask children to create, how often and persistent many of them are at seeking approval from the adults around them. I always try to give supportive feedback, but try to word it carefully so as not to sound like the be all end all of their creative career. I feel if we perpetuate the idea that someone outside the writing, teacher, parent, reader, can determine a piece of writing's worth, aren't we just pushing our kids out in the storm without an umbrella, in the dark.  Are we then failing to teach them how to find their own way, how to be resilient?   

4/22/14

Let's Play the Ball Game!

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"Let's have a special night." said my five year old daughter as Daddy and brothers headed out the door to baseball practice.  She hopped down from the Lazy Boy in the livingroom.  "Let's go play the ball game!"  "Alright kiddo." I replied and we slid on our shoes.  I was expecting to need to pull on a sweatshirt, but as I stepped off the porch into the sun, I realized the air was still quite warm.  I know it should be warm, we are approaching the end of April now, but I scraped snow and ice off the Cherokee just last week.  After such a long winter I seem to bundle up out of habbit, as if I expect to be wearing fleece and gloves in June too.

Out in the yard, a warm breeze feathered our skin as Lila began to swing quickly and steadily.  "You won't have to wait for me!"  She was right.  With the large pink ball in hand, I watched her swinging.  She swooped low and high, stretching her body long and pulling in strong.  (Didn't I have to push her to get started just last year?)  I timed my toss and she popped the ball into the air over my head.  She giggled wildly.  I zinged the ball again, my timing was off.  The ball went under her swing and I performed my best grumbly exasperated act while fetching the ball and tickling her on the way by.  (Game requirement)  She giggled wildly.  Again and again I tossed the ball, and fetched the ball, once her flip flop went further than the ball.  She giggled wildly. . . and flipped the flop off the other foot too, this time squealing with laughter!

This is her game, The ball Game, and this girl will play and play and laugh and play for as long as anyone will play with her.  We play it in sun and snow, wind and rain, from dawn till dusk.  Summer months see more action only due to the abundance of free time and daylight hours, not because the weather matters. As I chase the ball across the dried grass and cold spring ground in my now bare feet, an emotion washes over me, along with the warm air and bright sunshine.  Honestly I'm not quite sure what it is, wistfulness? awakening? hope?  Little buds on branches, a few patches of freshly turned earth planted with little rows of spinach and carrot seeds just hours ago. . .I have noticed these things throughout the day, but it just now struck me;  spring is really here!  summer is on it's way!  Just eight weeks to the end of school for the kids and I.  Days have been flying by and I have felt as if I were trapped in time gripped by winter's cold hand.  Despite the cold weather, time tramped on, the suns arc traveled and my daughter grew.


4/17/14

Return to My Proffession--My Messy Beautiful


This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

I am a forty something, mom of three, wife of 17 years who is  currently trying to break back into the field of teaching after 10 years learning how to parent three tricky students of my own! ( I think this post describes that time best) It has been a messy beautiful process that has carried me to this point in my life (and has inspired this blog).  At this moment, I am no longer just along for the ride, to see where it will take me, yet I use that skill to ride out the bumps.  I am making choices and digging in to reach my goal, and I have confidence that I will reach it.  I am looking at ‘little obstacles’, like not getting the job I applied for, as stepping stones and learning experiences .  Life’s classroom is so rich!

I began as a straight A high school student who Flunked Out of my first year at University--and I didn't even party!!  But I did have an overly controlling boyfriend--Can you say worst year of college ever?!  I followed that year with a summer art course, "just for fun." but that led me to completing an art program at a local community college where I decided I wanted to teach.  The pivotal moment was the moment it struck me, really struck me, that here I was learning about making art with a bunch of other folks my age and older, and wow, Isn’t that something!  Whether or not I had a gift for art, or ever became famous, I was learning how to create something from my heart, mind and soul.  I was learning how to learn, and that was a gift itself.

When I was younger, even just a few years earlier, I had somehow arrived at the notion that people were born to be artists.  I truly felt since I had not found my own art yet, I must have missed the boat, I was doomed to be a gas station attendant, and that was that.  It was quite dismal really, because I really could only see everything I hadn’t yet done as untraveled roads already barricaded to me.  I really had a hard time seeing possibilities back then.  When I chose to teach, it was because I really wanted young kids to see and learn about “what could be” for them, I wanted to open doors, and remove baracades. I thought of the time I spent already, just in my youth, feeling like I had missed a boat or many boats, and I reflected on the waste in a way that moved me forward, and motivated me to want to move others forward as well.  
   
I did open doors.  I taught many children to read and write.  My six and sevens wrote and rewrote stories, participated in poetry readings, danced and let their minds be guided into both growth and relaxation.  There were opportunities for all to shine.  I fell prey to a “reduction in force” just when I felt I was hitting my stride.  I was really picking up steam, trained as a reading interventionist and using those skills in the classroom to really boost my students’ literacy learning.  But in my usual form, I took this as a sign, I should take some time at home with my newborn baby, which eventually became my three children over a span of ten years.  I regretfully watched my teaching certification fly off into inactive status when my third child, a daughter was born, but honestly even without her, my return would have been postponed.

My oldest had hit kindergarten by then and the very verbal little boy who we were sure would love school was struggling wildly with odd things like sitting at circle to sing songs, and what one teacher dubbed “buzzing” around the room.  He was sent to the office frequently for social faux pas and skirmishes, and the dreaded "lack of empathy".  By first grade I was solely engrossed in figuring out what was causing our curious motivated learner at home to become a distressed mess at school.  You know that mom you see storming into school determined and wide eyed, she scares everyone a little, she is so so angry . . .?  That was me. . .  Getting help for my son was a nightmare of roadblocks that to this day make no sense to me, I was stressed beyond belief.  As strange as it sounds, it snuck up on me! I jumped, dodged and pushed to get past the blockades and eventually got the former nay sayers on board and found a place where my boy could not just survive, but thrive.  Then I had to get myself and my family back on track.  Regular excercise and outlets for mom rose in importance. I have had to work past that "trigger time" in the mornings when my son would set up for battle over going to school.  I had to learn to breath, learn to breath, learn to breath.  If someone isn't ready or can't find something as we are going out the door, I still need to remind myself, this is a little bump, no big deal, we will get there. . . because my brain wants to freak out as if we were back in that time three years ago.  But today's bumps have nothing to do with then.  

Along the way, I learned a lot about myself, and my teaching self.  I learned never to give up excercise and healthy habbits because I am too busy "solving a problem", (because that just causes another problem some place else!) I recognized some faulty assumptions I once made as a young teacher, and learned how to make other theories I felt in my heart come to life "Children do well if they can, not just if they want to." became my new mantra stripped straight from the pages of  Dr.Ross Greene's (author of  books.  I read, and worked, found jobs where I could use my teaching skills even if they weren’t the coveted “teacher” role and have begun learning the ins and outs of twenty first century public education, and at the same time realize that the "good teaching practices" I have under my belt never go out of style.

I even interviewed for a “dream job” at a tiny ruralish local school, but besides my brain going into flight mode for most of the interview. << I soo wish I could blog my way through interview!  I would just reply to questions with, please see blog post # 17 where I discussed this at length. :))>> When they asked why I wanted to work there, I really had no good, honest answer.  In that ridiculous moment right In the interview, I realized I really didn’t want to work there!  It suddenly seemed too small, too homogeneous and I knew I would miss the diversity I had found working in a larger school the previous year.  Umm. . .yeah, interview did not go so well.  My husband says everything I feel at any moment washes acrossed my face all day long, maybe I need some of that "Pokertox" or whatever it was called. . . some Doctor invented it to help poker players keep a straight face while holding a royal flush!!  Imagine the possibilities?!  

So instead, I found a part time one on one position in a district where many people don’t want to work, a huge number of administrators left 8 to 10 years ago, school choice has resulted in a hemmorage of students out of the district to places not unlike the one where my own son suffered, (honestly struggled is not a big enough word to describe what my son and our family went through there). So I  am hoping to find a place here in this recovering district, with soon to be hired new superintendent, where diversity is wide and possibilities for the future are many.  They are in flux, and where there is change there will ultimately be growth, I am excited to be there to help.

Yet here I am, the mom of now 11 years, trying to work my way back in to the profession I love.  As much as I want to convey confidence, and truly I am confident that this work is mine to do, I get this little niggling feeling of doubt when I begin this job search process.  The back of my neck tightens, my jaw sets and I fear it will never happen, that due to "mind in flight" during interviews, I will be seen as a wannabe teacher who just happens to have a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Design, intensive training in reading intervention/instruction, and a newly approved teaching liscence under my belt.  And I forget that I jumped into full time work and completed three college level courses in education to get my liscence back, and that I enjoyed, almost, every minute of it.  I forget that I have been going into schools and feeling like I am home for the past couple years working with other teachers and educators of all kinds.   I forget that I have patience for the kids who most everyone loses patience with, because I want to treat them the way I hope my own children will evermore be treated.  I forget my toolbox continues to be filled by yours truly, as I continue searching for more ways to help children succeed in more diverse ways. I forget that I have a gift of my own, for seeing into the hearts of children and helping create a place in school where they can learn and grow and create something from the heart, mind and soul, and that is a gift to them.  I forget that I am determined to teach them how to learn, how to think like a learner, how to act like a learner, how to be a learner. . .  I just need to remember, keep the confidence, brain power and appropriate facial expressions through an entire interview and pray for the best!

4/15/14

My favorite rain moment

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It is raining here today, an all day steady, sometimes torrential rain that makes my hair curl and my bangs stick out like horns of the devil.  For this moment, after a long day, I sit and recall a moment that I return to often when it rains, wishing for just that kind of moment again.

I think of one particular rainy spring day. I just happened to be walking determinedly across a local college campus when I suddenly became aware in a single moment of how simply lovely this rain was. . . gentle and steady.   As my feet slowed avoiding puddles on pavement, the balm of the rain and crispness of the sweet pink apple blossoms balanced just right to create the perfect scent of spring, fresh, clean, even pristine.  At one point I simply stopped. . . to smell the raindrops.

So to honor poetry month I have created a poem to capture this moment. :)

I puddle hop with purpose along pavement,
while trees hold bouquets of blossoms
delicate drops clean crisp air
satiate my senses, slow
I stop, smell, the raindrops
tiny reflective globes on satiny sweet petals

4/8/14

Another Chance

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
Sitting at the back of the room, stacking folders and staying out of the way while cleanup begins in my son's class, my attention is drawn to the girl with long curls and hands to her face.  The classroom teacher makes her way over and  listens to her problem somehow related to another student, a boy I have a soft spot for.  He is a bright and interesting guy, a bit quirky, but sometimes, like this one, he can be infuriating, much like one of my own boys.  The teacher assures the crying student she will deal with the problem.  As she tends to the class, and directs them down the hall to technology class, she calls both students to talk to her.

I headed to tech with my son's class, with math folders in hand, find an empty table, and get to work checking their minute math pages, while keeping an eye out for "help" flags in case I am needed.  A few folders in, the crying girl joins us, I notice the teacher return with the other student a bit later.  Before the classroom teacher has even walked away, the tech teacher is on the boy's case to throw away his gum before sitting at his computer.  He resisted at first, but eventually made the decision to lose the gum, the gum the classroom teacher gives him, because it helps him find more success during the days at school, the gum she gives him because she takes time to try to figure him out and help him succeed.

When I saw her again, the classroom teacher was clearly upset, but her expression was introspective. . . I could tell she was not upset at the student, but upset at herself.  I have felt this feeling with my own son, so that old cliche, "It takes one to know one." I guess it applies.  This was not the right opportunity for me to speak, so I waited.  As the kids waded through the last of their end of day routines, my mind was already on the message I wanted to give this classroom teacher.  Now, don't think I am an egomaniac who thinks she has all the answers, far from it! but I have been the parent of one of these frustating and wonderful children for 11 years and when I saw the look on the teacher's face, I had a feeling that she might need my words.  I was right, we exchanged emails, and essentially she told me she felt like she was failing him!  She has had a cold, is feeling tired, a lot going on at home, less patient, and he is having a rough spell.

So my last words to her I think were the most important, because I had to learn them for myself and accept them for the truth in order to keep trying, trying to be the best mom I can be to another quirky frustrating amazing boy.

You are not failing, you are tired, and He is a tricky and special kid.  It does not feel hard because you re doing anything wrong, it feels hard because it IS hard :-) (this is my mantra)  This student is very lucky to have you on his side this year!  Rest well!

I hope she is able to hear this message and take it to heart.  I hope that she doesn't think I am just sending her some kind of fluff or trying to sound like a know it all mom.  I hope she can hear that those words I wrote are true, and that they help her navigate the bumpy roads that tricky children leave in their wake for teachers and parents to follow.  I hope she will understand that her frustration with herself is evidence she is really doing so much right, this is a bump, don't change course, don't turn back, breath deep and lean in, tomorrow is another day, another chance, for everyone. 

 



    

4/7/14

Dawn. . . A Moment



A moment.
Sky gray, silver
barely illuminated
Promise of sun
Not yet
Over the horizon
Soon
Pink creeps into silver
Brightening
Against branches reaching, gripping,
Slowly releasing,
The black of night.

4/1/14

Poem. . . Me?

WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE a link to your post in the comments section. GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.national-poetry-month


Today is a Poem about Me now, I posted a poem about Me by my 7 year old self a while back

Who?
Me?
Mom? Wife? Daughter? Auntie? Sister?
. . .
Writer.
Teacher.
Learner.
Artist.
Creator.

Lover of. . .
Snowflakes, a steaming cup
Sugar Clouds billowing

Sunday family dinner
Laughing eyes crying

Soil Digging
Spring green glowing

Suits of Sand and Salt
Cottony Clothes and Sandals

Fine tipped pen
Fresh paper calling

Popcorn crunch
tongue, icecream melting
















3/31/14

One Girl Show

"What store are we going to?"  my daughter asked from the backseat as I drove toward the shopping area.  "It's a bookstore, a big bookstore, bigger than our library in town."  As I drove up the aisle toward the store, looking for a space to park the car, I heard, "Ohhhh, I remember this place I think!  It has a play area, can I play?"  I told her, "We don't have lots of time, but I think there will be a little time for play. . . "  

As luck would have it, I found the book I was looking for immediately on the path to the children's section at the back of the store.  My girl held my hand and directed me to the place she remembered, sat me down on a stool nearby and headed for the stage where she first began to dance. . . 



 She was quiet, and I thought she might sing. . . she always sings, well unless she notices me watching in an obvious way.  Today she didn't sing, but I could hear her whisper (yes whisper, I could barely here her the entire time) to people backstage (area behind the tree trunks), to fellow performers and such. . ."Turn the lights off."  her little hand poked a spot on the wall behind the tree.  "ok.". . . "spspsps. . .like that"  "sorry. . .right"  I saw her push the light again and then she danced again, for just a few moments then, "Let's make some space"  "like that" She moved a chair walked around it then moved it again closer to the "tree". . . She ran along the row of benches to backstage and moved swiftly with pointed toes across them again towards me on my little perch.  I mentioned, "It is almost time to go" she replied, "one more dance"  She was looking like she was ready, for something, when I saw her gaze fix on something, someone beyond me in the book browsing area.  


Then as sudden as a whirlwind, whips leaves into the air, the show was over.  A boy, probably about 8 or 9 strode right up on the stage and sat, leaned back, put his feet up on the chair and simply settled in for a good read. . .Lila just looked at me then, and without a fuss, said in a non whisper "Let's go now."  I was still so caught up in the show, I whispered, "Ok. lets get your coat on."  She asked me, "Mom, why are you whispering?"

3/30/14

Sunday Dinner Stories

WRITE. Every day in March write a slice of life story on your own blog. SHARE. Link your post in the comments on each daily call for slice of life stories here at TWT. GIVE. Comment on at least three other slice of life stories/blogs.Day 30

Sunday nights are family nights for us, especially during sugaring season.  So after an afternoon of running from tree to tree, or from counter to canner, we clean up equipment and head from the Sugar House to the Supper House, so dubbed by my oldest, back when he was just a little guy.  There we talk our way from the kitchen to the dining room gather round the table to feast on food and stories from the present to the past, and tonight was just one of those nights.

Somehow an exchange took place right at the table that involved knocking on wood, (my oldest son's head was the wood of choice)  then a knocking on engineered wood, (my oldest nephew, the engineer's head)  Of course posturing occurred first from the engineer something like, "Engineered wood is stronger, more versatile, and highly adaptable. . ."  then my eleven year old chimed in, "And Thicker!"  Laughter burst out from all of us adults, then the kids too, probably at us adults.

We revisited the comical moment earlier that day when another nephew phoned mom to see "Am I still on AAA?", "Do you know my number by any chance?" Turns out it was a flat tire, but he had no spare.  He has found his card and was in good shape now.  That reminded Uncle and Auntie about Auntie's flat tire dilemma this fall.  After one tire shredded itself into pieces, all she had was a "space saver" spare, flat of course, and she was in a dead zone with no cell service.  Luckily a policeman stopped and called AAA for her.  She spent the next couple hours waiting all four tires to be replaced, and arrived at her final destination 4-5 hours later than planned.

Then I chimed in, "I had several flats when commuting to North Adams, but every time I was wearing a dress!  What a pain!"  I thought of that day when I saw that snow chunk in the road too late, and it turned out to be not a snowball at all, sharp ice or more likely a sharp rock fallen from the ledge the road was cut from.  I had just crested the top of the mountain and headed down out of the last little wisp of a town into beautiful stretch of curves cut through rock that followed a mountain stream and was overshadowed by tree covered cliffs.  Luckily I was able to pull over tires crunching on the gravelly turnaround, there weren't many safe places to stop on this road, since many who traveled this path felt it made a lovely raceway.  It was cold, and I recall thinking, "Of all the days to be wearing a dress and heels" and I began to recount my adventure. . .

I was not to be deterred, I had no cell back then-- no service there anyway, but my boyfriend (now husband) made sure I knew how to change a flat, though I hadn't actually done it before, I headed to open the hatch and lift the carpet where the spare and tools for the job were hidden.  I got busy jacking up the car, then realized, "Crap this lug wrench is full of ice!  Now what?" so I thought, smacked the wrench on the ground to see if the ice would come out. . .it didn't. . . and thought some more.  Then, Babing!  I knew what to do, I got back in the car, started the engine and got back out, walked around to the tailpipe and held the lugwrench by the hot exhaust to melt.  In just a couple minutes I was in business, except I had to let the car down again so I could loosen the lugnuts, they don't loosen easily when the tire is spinning, and I was cussing myself out for my foolishness, when I saw it, and my heart skipped a beat.  A black windowless van coming around the corner and sweeping in to the turnaround.  I froze for what I hoped was an imperceptible moment and continued at my task.

Out of the van stepped a man with longish graying hair, reminded me a little of Sam Eliot, he offered to help.  I suppose I could have said "no" at this point, I had it almost under control, but I let him finish the task I started, and knew I would have a tale to tell someday.  He remarked at my good luck that it happened near this one turnaround, I babbled about my iced lugwrench fix, while he worked and it wasn't long before we were both on our way, "Bye, thank you for helping." "No problem, drive safe."  I wonder if he ever tells a story at Sunday dinner, of a damsel in distress, in skirt and heels, who had a flat on this dangerous stretch of road on a cold winter day. . .

3/29/14

A House For Hermit Crabs

Lila chose A house for Hermit Crab tonight.  And that moment when Hermit crab leaves his too small shell behind I had a flash of a day this summer, and the ones before when, our family left the lake, for a single summer day at Ferry Beach.  It is a small beach on the edge of a bowl opposite the ramp where fishermen launch and moor their boats.  When the tide pulls out, you can see the way they hollow the sand in that bowl.  Barnacle covered rocks and mooring anchors are exposed  and the shallow water pulls all the boats, chained at the bow, around till they point inland.

This is the best time to arrive, on a morning when the tide is out so there is room to walk with toes sifting through soft, fine sand.  When the tide is in we walk through the water, the narrow strip of beach so full of blankets, babies, buckets and such, no land path remains.  So we walk, carrying or bags and blankets, towels and treats past the piece of beach that parallels the tiny parking lot out to a sandy knoll that overlooks the inlet itself where tidepools wait.                                                                                    


 The kids head right in, eyes in the water, between the crevices and rocks and seaweed, searching for anything that moves. . Hermit crabs are the gold nuggets of this mining expedition.  Joey and Charlie dig a hole and build up the sides on the sandbar, "It's a castle for Hermit crabs!"  They scan and sneak their hands in, trying to be stealthy, and snatch the shells from the water to place them in the castle.  One boy stays on guard to make sure they they have plenty of water, (and don't try to sneak out).  There are short breaks for swimming, sunblock, and snacks, but the kids are steadfast in their mission and proud of their work.  They call me from my warm perch on the now sand scattered blanket to check out their treasure.  We were all circled, squatting, kneeling, backs bent and noses down watching the crabs when we saw it.  The one crab who had decided his shell was a little snug, and it was time to leave his too small shell behind!  "Just like in a House for Hermit Crab!"

Now the mission changed course, "Let's find some empty shells!!"  This was a good plan for Lila who wasn't yet ready to pick up the shells that tickled back with crab legs surprise.  But before long, the shifting sun and tides remind us that time has passed. Another day is done, and we must change. . .out of our suits of sand and salt, and into soft dry clothes and sandals.  Our snacks are gone, it's time for a seafood supper, and a happy tired ride home till next year. . .

These pictures are my best from a few years ago, but we make this trek at least once every year since we discovered this treasured spot.