Tuesday, June 20, 2017
And more specifically that teachers need to learn something hard for them at least once a year. I've been doing that this week. I'm participating in a Tech Ed Bootcamp. It's not something I have to go to. It's PD I want to go to, because I'm a teeny bit old, and I want to make sure my tech skills are as good as the younger teachers in my building. OK, actually they're not as good, but I at least want to know what they are talking about.
Yesterday didn't go so well for me. The district has replaced the platform they use for all of the online classes. I've actually been teaching a class using the new platform for a couple of weeks and it's going ok. I can log on, and view and respond to my students' work. I can show my students where things are on the page. But I keep getting lost. It feels a little like when you are in a new neighborhood, and the streets kind of loop around, and you just kind of drive in circles until you think, "Hey, I've seen that ugly purple house before." And then you set what you think is a new course, but pretty soon you are back at the ugly purple house again.
That's how the new platform is going. I just haven't quite got the hang of how it's set up or where things are. And sometimes I can't find what I need even though I have seen it before. So I was excited to take a class that was called, ** 101, because I thought it would give me the basics I felt like I was missing. And then I had scheduled three more classes on related topics throughout the day.
The day started out ok. The presenter had a two-column google doc, with a whole list of topics. There were links you could click on to get to different topics. We jumped right in, creating passwords, logging onto the website, etc. About two minutes in, someone raised their hand and asked, "But what is S** for? What is it supposed to replace?" And the answer felt a little vague. To me, the platform felt a lot like Google Classroom, and I wondered why we were replacing something our teachers had just spent two years learning to use.
I didn't have time to think about it for very long though, because the presenter was clicking madly through step after step. And I was feeling a little panicky. I felt like every time I looked at the keyboard to do one step, I missed three more steps. There were two people from the Tech Department helping people like me, but evidently there were a lot of us, because it seemed like they were keeping really busy. At first, I tried to raise my hand and get help, but by the time the helpers got there, the presenter was several steps beyond. Finally I gave up. I spent most of the morning feeling pretty lost.
At lunch time, I took a walk and gave myself a little pep talk. "You can do this," I said. "You're already using the platform. It can't be that hard. You just need a little more time, or a little more practice, or to get a friend help you a little." And I couldn't help but think about the kids I work with. How they must feel every day when they come to school. How they struggle to self-advocate. And how they don't have the benefit of a whole lot of school successes to fall back on or use as evidence in their personal pep talks.
Despite my best efforts to talk myself into doing better, the afternoon really didn't go much better than the morning. I sat through one more session about how to make your page pretty. I thought I was getting it, but then it came time to download the work you had created, and it said I had used something that cost money, and needed to pay before I could download. And I couldn't figure out, then, what I had downloaded, or what I was paying for, and I finally gave up. I left before the final hour. I had had enough.
Today, I had a hard time making myself go back. It's not a required training. I didn't learn that much yesterday. I could use the time for other things. I had to force myself to pack my bag and get in the car. I am so glad I did. I had a terrific day!
C, the person who was teaching, not only knows a lot about computers, she knows a lot about how to teach. She calls people by name. Makes her audience laugh when she talks about going to the dollar store and buying things she doesn't really need because they cost a dollar. Starts her presentations with something really easy that any teacher can do. Shows a few exemplars, then turns people loose. Each of her presentations today had six or seven different "genre" of app. Within each genre, there were at least three choices- one easy, one medium, and one medium hard. Each app had a sample, and a tutorial, and a link to sign up. We all tried things, and collaborated on documents where we shared ideas.
I went to four different sessions that C did today. In one I made a Google site. In another, I learned how to make a Civil War museum simulation. I sent an email to my social studies teacher. I got some ideas for my math and science teachers. And I had a laughed a lot.
Because I am a teacher, I thought a lot about what the teacher did. How she built relationships. How her organization and all of her hard work building the presentations and embedding probably close to 200 links enabled all of us to have choice and to meet our needs. How encouraging and positive and hopeful she was. How much I learned and how successful I felt.
It was a terrific day. The teacher really does make the difference.
Thursday, June 15, 2017
|Welcome! Poetry Friday is here!|
|Photograph by Shawn Miller, Library of Congress.|
This is an exciting week to host. Earlier in the week, Tracy K. Smith was named the 22nd Poet Laureate the United States. According to the Poetry Foundation, Tracy graduated from Harvard University and got an MFA from Columbia University. She has published three poetry books, THE BODY'S QUESTION (2003), DUENDE (2007), and LIFE ON MARS (2011), which won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Another book, WADE IN THE WATER, will be published next spring. Ms. Smith currently teaches writing at Princeton University.
In an NPR interview, Ms. Smith says:
"One of (my) goals as poet laureate is to make even more people aware that poems are, another resource that you can turn to" in times of uncertainty.
What excites me is that I'm an ambassador for poetry, which is something that I wholeheartedly believe in and that has been an anchor and a force of stability and consolation throughout my life," she says. "I think that's good news.Here are several poems I found online. There are five poems published on Ms. Smith's page on the Poetry Foundation website.
"WADE IN THE WATER"
BY TRACY K. SMITH
One of the women greeted me.
I love you, she said. She didn't
Know me, but I believed her,
And a terrible new ache
Rolled over in my chest…
I love you in the rusted iron
Chains someone was made
To drag until love let them be
Unclasped and left empty
In the center of the ring…
We could let ourselves feel, knew
To climb. O Woods--O Dogs--
O Tree--O Gun-- O Girl, run--
O Miraculous Many Gone--
O Lord--O Lord--O Lord--
Is this love the trouble you promised?
Listen to Ms. Smith read the entire poem here.
Tuesday, June 13, 2017
That's where I have been this week.
Early Monday morning my phone dinged. A text message. I'm not that much of a phone person, and I don't get that many texts, so I was kind of surprised.
It was one of the second grade teachers from my school. She is vacationing in Canada and had gotten a phone call from one of our parents. M had called to say that her husband, Fabian, a stay-at-home 33-year-old dad had passed away after complications from surgery.
Fabian had four daughters- a kindergartener, a third grader, a seventh grader, and an eighth graders. The three youngest girls are students at our school. I've worked with two of them in my reading intervention groups. I had just met with Fabian last week to make plans for summer reading. He was a really active dad- someone who goes on all the field trips, supports teachers, and is super proud of his four girls.
Since Ang was out of the country, she wondered if I could help. Ordinarily that would probably be a job for a principal, but we have an interim principal, who technically doesn't really start until July, and is currently out of state on vacation. I had spent part of last week with our AP, and knew that she is attending a funeral in California this week.
"Of course," I said, not quite sure what handling a situation like that might mean.
I waited a couple of hours until it seemed late enough to call, then called M. She seemed like she wanted to talk. She told me that Fabian had liver surgery last week. And was doing better. And they sent him home. But Thursday night he was feeling really badly so they want back to the emergency room. They checked him over and gave him the choice of staying the night or going home. He wanted to go home, but had to be rushed back to the hospital by ambulance later that night. He died the next morning in surgery.
I asked how we could help. She said the family needed money to pay for the funeral. And groceries and living expenses for while she was not working.
I wasn't sure how to start a collection. Go Fund Me? A special bank account? My school has a Facebook page, but I wasn't sure we could post financial stuff there without special permission. I emailed our instructional superintendent. She emailed the financial advisor for our network. He emailed me and said it would have to be set up through PTA, not a teacher at the school.
I called the PTA moms. They would be glad to help, but wanted a picture of the family for the Go Fund Me page. I texted M again and she sent pictures of Fabian with his girls. The pictures made me cry. Again, I was struck by just how much Fabian loved his family.
And then there was the letting people know part. I sent an email to teachers at my school. I wasn't exactly sure how many people actually check their email, especially since we had just gotten out of school, so I also sent texts to as many people as I could.
My colleagues' responses made me cry again. Lots of people are out of town, but almost a third of our staff have said they will come. The girls will know they are loved.
I've been checking the Go Fund Me page all day. We have collected over $1500. Not lots and lots, but at least something to help.
Hopefully, four little girls and their mom will feel loved on Thursday.
Friday, June 9, 2017
One of my goals for this year was to participate in Poetry Friday every week. Despite that, it's been several months since I posted anything. This summer, I am determined to get back in the groove. Which might be extra good since I am supposed to host next Friday!
This week, our first week off (if you don't count four days of professional development), I went to Tattered Cover, in search of new poetry books. I found OUT OF WONDER, by Kwame Alexander, with contributors Chris Colderly and Margjorie Wentworth. Maybe it's not considered new anymore, because it was actually published in March, but it's new to me. OUT OF WONDER is a collection of poems celebrating poets influential in the life of Kwame Alexander- Naomi Shihab Nye, Mary Oliver, Pablo Neruda, Robert Frost, Sandra Cisneros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickens, Terrance Hayes, Sandra Cisneros, Billy Collins, e. e. cummings, Judith Wright, Okot p'Bitek, Chief Dan George, and Maya Angelou. Back matter includes additional information about each poet. The illustrations, by Ekua Holmes, are gorgeous.
"How Billy Collins Writes a Poem"
When you first wake up, notice
how your mother's voice calling
you to breakfast, sounds like a fire alarm.
Watch the steam rising off your oatmeal
like tiny clouds and guess where it goes.
Pay attention to the smallest things:
a fly buzzing near the kitchen window,
bright rocks in the driveway,
the handful of marbles in your pocket-
the sound they make when you walk.
Imagine that the leaves spinning in the wind
on the walk to school are alien ships
and that barking dogs belong to a prince.
At night, when the stars seem close,
reach up and grab some.
Our lives are made from these things,
and when you describe them,
you discover magic. It's the way
your pen becomes a wand in your hand
and this may be the only need to see.
Celebrating Nikki Giovanni
people forget…poetry is not just words on a page…it is…
a snowflake on your tongue…a tattoo on the inside of your arm… a dashki and a kaftan…
tripping down the streets of Lincoln Heights…shouting from the hills of Knoxville, Tennessee…
poetry is…barbeque…cotton candy…purple skin beets from Daddy's garden…
blues…the Birdland Jazz Club…Sunday morning gospel…chasing justice…freedom…
poetry is remembering the things that matter…the ones you love…
when night comes softly…like ripples on a pond
Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Sweet sweet S.
A sixth grader. Oldest of three girls. Arrived three years ago, when she was in fourth grade.
We were told that her story was sad. It was. Mom had disappeared into Mexico. Grandfather had taken S and her two sisters. They had looked for the girls' mom for several months then returned to Denver without her.
All three girls were quiet beyond belief. Not surprisingly, given their lack of schooling and the family's traumatic history, none of the girls read at grade level. And none spoke more than a few words at a time. Or at least none spoke with words.
But S did speak. She spoke through her art. Her specialty was pencil sketch hands, thumbs and first finger touching in the shape of a heart. Soon those were all over the school. On the fourth grade teacher's bulletin board. In the assistant principal's office. In her friends' plastic slide in notebooks. There were hand hearts everywhere S had been.
Earlier this year, the family had another run of bad luck. The grandfather, the girls' caretaker, was deported. S and her two sisters stayed with the the grandfather's girlfriend. They spent a lot of time at school, participating in almost every after school activity. There was no one to go home to. School was where there was food and kindness,and care.
Last week I saw S and her sisters in the office on the last day of school. They were sitting with the school psychologist, who told me that the girls were going back to Mexico. I asked if they had enough books. They showed me a bag they had collected off the free table.
I asked S if she had enough paper for drawing. She said she didn't. I found some sketchpads over the weekend and met the girls' caretaker at the school today to give them to her. The caretaker explained, in rapid Spanish that I only partly understood, that she had been caring for the girls, feeding them and buying them clothes, since March. She loves them, but they are not her daughters. They are going back to family in Mexico. She dug her phone out of her purse and showed me the two story stucco dwelling where the family will live.
The girls are leaving tomorrow. S was born in the U.S. and can return, if she has someone to take care of her. Her younger sisters, J and K, don't have the right paperwork and can't return unless their family situation changes dramatically.
My heart aches tonight.
The goodbyes do not get any easier.
Monday, June 5, 2017
THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE is historical fiction. Probably my favorite genre. And it's World War II. Another favorite. A strong, independent female character. Yep. A situation similar to foster care. Yep. And it has horses. Which I totally loved as a child. I still do actually.
Ada is a ten-year-old girl living in London with her mother and younger brother, Jamie, at the start of World War II. Ada was born with a club foot. Her mother, embarrassed by her twisted foot, has kept her hidden away in their one-room apartment for almost a decade. Ada does not even have crutches or a pair of shoes. She crawls around the apartment on scabbed and bleeding knees, finally teaching herself to stand upright and walk at age ten.
When World War II starts, the children from Jamie's school are going to be protected by being taken out of the city. Ada hears about the transport, and steals her mother's shoes so that she can escape with Jamie. A neighbor child carries her piggyback from the school to the train station.
Ada and Jamie end up on a farm with Susan Smith, a woman in the deep throes of depression after losing a dear friend. Although Susan does not want to take the children, somehow the three become a family of sorts. She provides the children with life's necessities- food, clean clothes, baths, books. Ada falls in love with life on the farm, including a stubborn pony named Butter. She also becomes friends with other villagers, Maggie Thorton, a wealthy girl from a nearby estate, and the stableman from that estate, Fred Grimes.
I loved this story on a lot of levels. I think one of the things I loved most was that the story reminded me of my own sons. Like my boys, Ada and Jamie came from a life of horrific physical and emotional abuse. And they were thrust into a new life with a single woman, who had not a clue about what she was doing as a substitute mother. And her good intentions, such as providing a beautiful Christmas dress, were often overshadowed by the boys' past. But somehow they all survived…
I loved this book. And the good thing about reading it so late is that I only have to wait until October for the sequel, THE WAR I FINALLY WON. You can bet I won't be waiting two years to read that one!
Monday, May 29, 2017
For the past five or six years, I have participated in the Google community #cyberpd. We select one book, divide it into chunks, read a chunk every week for the month of July, and blog about it. I love reading and learning with other people. The folks who organize this are in the process of selecting a book and have asked people to post what they will be reading this summer. Here is my stack!
Ralph (and his wife JoAnn) are dear friends. I pretty much love anything he writes. I also know he's a great writer and very accessible. Exactly what I need for my first read of the summer.
I teach at a dual language school. Our goal is for children to graduate fully bilingual and biliterate. I read THE TRANSLANGUAGING CLASSROOM about a year ago. I want to revisit this book and several other dual language books.
I will pretty much read anything Kylene Beers and Bob Probst write. This year, we struggled with getting our middle schoolers to engage with books. This seems like a must read this summer!
I loved WHAT READERS REALLY DO by Vicky and Dorothy Barnhouse's first book, and I'm looking forward to this one.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
I've been thinking about it ever since.
Before the play, the drama teacher, a 30ish gentleman, who also happens to be the head football coach, got up and talked for a few minutes. "People are always talking," he said, "about how they want to support public education, and about how they want to support our (struggling) school. But then we do something like this and no one supports it." He gestured to the half empty auditorium. "This is by far our biggest crowd," he said. I thought about how hard that teacher and those kids had worked. How many hours they had put in. How many nights that teacher had been away from his family and friends. And I felt really, really sad that so few people had come to see the play.
Saturday night was Senior Night, the final performance for kids who had been involved with drama throughout their high school careers. At the end of the play, the drama teacher told a story about each senior, then presented each senior with a signed play poster. There were lots of hugs and lots of tears.
And again I was struck by this young teacher's dedication. For my boys, it was football. For these kids, it was acting. I wondered how many of these kids had gone to school because of drama. How many had sought advice or friendship in his office. How many kids were graduating because of him.
I'm so grateful there are teachers like this in our profession...
Thursday, May 18, 2017
We are currently suffering through a rash of "mean girl" syndrome at my school. I feel like I have spent the better part of my recess duty for the last couple of weeks helping kids resolve conflicts, talking to the social worker, calling families, etc., etc., etc. I'm really glad, then, to have discovered a brand new graphic novel.
REAL FRIENDS by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham, is a graphic novel, a biography, of Shannon's intermediate grade experiences. It includes stories of friends who become "not friends," being part of groups, and not being part of groups, getting glasses, bullies, loneliness, making new friends. All of those intermediate grade experiences that are so much a part of kids' lives, and so, so, so hard.
On a teaching note, REAL FRIENDS includes a lot of short, episodic stories. I can see myself using it during a unit on personal narratives. Kids could tell their friendship stories in graphic novel format, then move to a more traditional personal narrative.
I'm thinking this is a book I'm going to be replacing pretty regularly. I suspect it's going to get read a lot!
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
I do holidays, at least a little, and I'm going to Colorado Springs to have brunch with my mom. I grab my keys, head out the door, and then I see him. David. He has mowed my lawn for years. His mom lived down the street for over half a century. He lived with her, at least most of the time. Recently, she moved into assisted living, and he's living on the streets. This morning, he looks like he has probably been out all night. He is more than a little rumpled. Wearing a backpack. A sleeping bag hangs from the handlebars of his bike.
I never know what to say to him. Everything seems so trite when he is so lost and so alone. We talk about the lawn. It needs cut. I ask if he will see him mom. He tells me he won't. I think it's probably a pretty long bus ride across town. He tells me he wants to find a church to try, and I tell him there is a new one at the school down the street.
I want to do something, but I don't know what that would be. We make plans for the next yard work, and I tell him to take care. Wave goodbye.
I have to make a quick stop on my way to Colorado Springs. I have some boxes that need recycled. They are too big for my bin, so I want to drop them off at a recycling dumpster at a park not too far from my house.
And then I see them. The car is from out of state, and loaded down with boxes on the seat and a luggage rack on the top. A woman is in the driver's seat, small children are in the back. She looks old to be their mom. Maybe her grandchildren? I wonder if they are living in the car.
I drag my boxes out of the car and walk around the back of their car to put the boxes in the dumpster. I almost run into a man, pulling a royal blue shirt over his head. I know those shirts, they are the uniforms for a local amusement park, and many of our parents work there. I wonder if this man is trying to support his family on the barely above minimum wage pay most of the workers earn.
And again, I do not know what to say. I make small talk. Say it's a beautiful day. Say there will probably be lots of people at the amusement park. He wishes me a happy Mother's Day.
I drive away, wondering how I could be so ungrateful when I have so, so, so many blessings in my life. Starting with a roof over my head.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Tomorrow, I am triple booked.
We have faculty meeting tomorrow at 7:15.
Like we do every Wednesday.
Except my principal retired midyear and we kind of haven't had regular meetings for the past few weeks. So this morning, when someone asked me if I could attend another meeting, I said sure, I could come.
And then I found out we really are having a faculty meeting.
An then I also remembered I had said I would help with playground coverage, because we are doing teacher appreciation this week. And tomorrow morning we are having a breakfast for the paras.
Except the paras do morning recess duty. So the leadership team offered to cover the duty.
And I'm on the leadership team.
So now I'm triple booked.
Before 8 a.m.
And then again at 10. I have a regularly scheduled meeting at 10:10 on Wednesdays.
And I'm supposed to be testing kindergarteners, which is taking way, way, way longer than I hoped it would.
And then my new principal emailed and I told him sure, I could meet at 10:30.
So I'm triple booked twice.
I really hate this time of year.
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
When I think about kindness, one of the he first people I think of is Miss A. A has been at our school since first grade. Reading, actually school, has never come easy to her, and she's worked and worked and worked. She's in fifth grade now, and has never scored proficient on any standardized measure.
But she is proficient in lots of things that matter.
Last Friday, for instance, I accompanied the fifth grade to the library. I grabbed a stack of books to book talk. They are all new books, and there were a few I didn't know. One of them, the title of which I can't remember, was about a young girl whose mother has left. The girl thinks if she wins a poetry slam, her mother will come home.
D is another student in that class. She is new to our school this year, the oldest girl in a family of four children. D's stepmother and step-siblings moved out of the country earlier this year. Now it's just D, her dad, and three siblings.
D immediately asked for that book. Someone else had already snagged it, but I did a little finagling, arranged a multi-book trade and was able to procure it for her. But then they got to the checkout counter and it turned out that D has two books checked out from her previous school. And the district has a new policy that no one who has old fines can check out any books until they are taken care of, so D couldn't have that book.
I understand the district rationale, but I also know that sometimes a kid just needs a book. Nevertheless, the person in charge of the library wasn't bending. D was crestfallen.
Miss A. was right behind her.
"Can I check out that book?" she asked.
I told her she could. And she put down one of the books she had chosen, and checked out the book D had wanted to read, then we went back upstairs.
On the way back up, I suggested that maybe Miss A could share her book with D. She looked at me like I was crazy. "I didn't check the book out for me," she said. "It's too hard. I checked it out so D could read it."
And with that she handed the book over to D.
"Here," she said. "Here's your book."
And for about the millionth time, I wondered why we never measure the things that really count.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
My younger son went and met with a recruiter today. Took some kind of a preliminary test. Discovered that he was smart enough to be in the Special Forces. Made me dig out his birth certificate tonight, so he can take it, and his diploma to the recruiting office tomorrow.
And I have to tell you I have very mixed emotions.
On one hand, he has got to do something. For the past four or five years, since his senior year in high school, it's pretty much been one failure after another. Two different junior colleges. Motorcycle mechanic school. A zillion different jobs that he likes the first day, and quits the second or third. He's been going nowhere fast for awhile. The military might be really good. Structure. Discipline. Male role models.
And at the same time, I am absolutely terrified. I don't want him to go to war. I am afraid he would come back with missing body parts. Or with more PTSD than he already has. I am afraid he wouldn't come back. I don't know if his older brother could bear it, if he didn't come back.
And yet, at the same time, he has to do something.
So this morning, when I knew he was going to the recruiting meeting, I texted him and wished him luck. And called him afterwards. Tried to feign excitement when he showed me the recruiting pamphlet. Tried not to look at the picture of the person holding a very large machine gun. Tried not to think about where someone might need a gun that big.
I might become a military mom.
And I'm terrified.
Friday, March 31, 2017
"All we are, yes, all we can be, are the stories we tell," he says, and he is talking as if he is talking only to me. "Long after we are gone, our words will be all that is left, and who is to say what really happened or even what reality is? Our stories, our fiction, our words, will be as close to truth as can be. And no one can take that away from you." Nora Raleigh Baskin
This came across my Facebook page today. And somehow, it seemed perfect for the last day of March, the last day of slicing for this year. Actually not really the last day of slicing, because we will slice again on Tuesday. But this day, the last day of March, even the seventh time, feels, like always, a little bittersweet.
I think about all of the stories I have read this month- slicers like Linda, Elsie, Michelle, Tara, Ramona, Chris, and Elisabeth and others- people I have followed for years. They've become more than fellow slicers. They have become friends.
I think about all of the new slicers- my Welcome Wagon folks- that I got to know for the first time this year.I have loved getting to know them through their stories. I hope I will see them on Tuesdays.
I think about the people that didn't slice this year- Cathy who started, then went on vacation and didn't pick back up again, and Nancy- who I have followed for years. I hope they will be back next year. I missed their stories.
I think about the stories I have told this year. Stories of possible retirement. Stories of struggling sons. Stories of school. I know next year I will look back on these stories, from farther down the road. I wonder how I will view these stories then.
And I think about the stories yet to be told. So many stories are left.
I think about the stories I have told this year. Stories of possible retirement. Stories of struggling sons. Stories of school. I know next year I will look back on these stories, from farther down the road. I wonder how I will view these stories then.
And I think about the stories yet to be told. So many stories are left.
Until Tuesday, my friends, until Tuesday…
Thursday, March 30, 2017
We call ourselves the Wonder Women.
No, not Wonder Woman like you traditionally think of.
Not the one with the long black curls, red bodice,
and blue and white starred swimsuit bottoms.
Not that one.
We call ourselves the Wonder Women,
because we spend a huge part
of our teaching and personal lives
wondering where we put things.
I wonder where I put my keys.
Kathy wonders where she put the piece of paper with last unit's math scores.
I wonder where I put the reading data I just printed out.
Kathy wonders where she put a gift card someone gave her.
We wonder on and on and on.
Take today for instance.
I had lunch with a friend, then dashed across town to renew my license plates.
I knew the little one inch by one inch sticker is really easy to lose,
so I stuck it on license plate the minute I walked out of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Done and done.
One more thing off of my spring break list.
And then I came home.
And remembered that my son's license plates were also due in March.
The thing is, I would swear I already renewed his plates.
I thought I did it online.
I thought the envelope came in the mail.
And I gave the sticker to him
and told him to put it on.
He swears it didn't happen.
That I never gave him an envelope.
And so I went through the stack of bills
where I found my renewal notice.
His renewal wasn't there.
I have no idea where it is.
And of course it has to be done by tomorrow.
So that means I have to go back to the license plate bureau
and try to figure it out.
Wonder Woman strikes again.
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
The language of money
is a language I don't speak.
I'm not one of those people who spends lots and lots of money.
I don't have a fancy house or fancy clothes or a fancy car.
I don't eat out at fancy places
(or even unfancy places, actually)
or spend a lot of money on exotic vacations.
But I'm also not one of those people who is super careful with money.
If a student asks me for a book, I order it.
If I need snacks for a meeting, I buy them.
If I'm teaching a class and I need markers or copies, I head over to Office Max.
My money habits have never been a problem.
Until now I think maybe they are.
Because now I'm thinking about retirement.
And all of a sudden I'm thinking I should be worried a little more.
I'm not sure I should be.
But maybe I should be.
It all started this afternoon.
I went to a retirement meeting.
Not because I am sure I am going to retire.
But because I might sometime soon.
And if I do, I will need to understand this stuff
A whole lot better than I do.
I had coffee with a friend before the meeting.
She is much, much younger, than I am.
As in her parents are just a few years older than I am.
As in she is expecting her first baby in June.
"I'm not good at money," I confessed to her.
And she told me she wasn't good at money either.
I felt a little better until she told me
that it was ok because her husband is really good at money.
Which might be ok. Except I don't have a husband.
So I went to this meeting.
And I was surprised at how I felt
when I walked in the door.
I really don't want to retire.
I still love, love, love my work
Love, love, love the kids.
I'm not ready to retire.
And it kind of feels like I'm not sure I will have a choice.
I really wanted to just run right back out the door.
But I forced myself to sit there.
And I felt like I do
when I am listening in Spanish.
I can understand the conversation
if I really, really concentrate.
But the minute I let my attention stray
even for a millisecond
And there were so many Option A
and Option B-1
and if you do this
and if you do that.
And most people seemed really happy
and really excited
And I really just wanted to cry
or run right out of the room.
At the end of the meeting
I gathered up all my papers
and walked out
I didn't fill out anything
or sign anything
I just walked out.
And now I'm sitting here tonight
pushing arond all of these papers
and trying to make sense of everything
The language of money
is a language I just don't speak.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
And really struggling right now.
He gets up about ten.
Plays video games.
Waits for his brother to get home.
Indulges in his favorite Colorado habit.
Plays more video games.
Goes to bed.
He's had I don't know how many different jobs.
And usually lasts about a week.
He's tried two different junior colleges.
And motorcycle mechanic classes.
He says he is going to the military.
But they haven't called him back.
Or responded to his emails.
I've tried talking to him.
I have threatened eviction.
I do not know how to parent this 21-year-old child
who does not seem
to be taking any steps
Monday, March 27, 2017
I teach at a school that is approximately 95% Hispanic. Some of our kids were born in the United States. Some of our kids were born in other countries- mostly Mexico, but also El Salvador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, and others. Some are legal immigrants. Some are not.
The kids at my school have been a mess since November. They are terrified. Many have family members that have gone back to Mexico, or that are living in fear of being deported. Kids regularly tell me that they are afraid they will go home from school, and that their families will be gone.
This is where the power of books becomes real to me. I read, a lot, because I love words and because I love stories. However, I also read because reading reminds me that I am not alone. Reading exposes me to people that are brave and stand up for others and do the right thing. Reading helps me to be the person that I want to be.
I work really hard to expose kids to books that teach them those important life lessons. I read aloud lots of biographies, historical fiction, and narrative nonfiction. I came across one of those books last week and shared it with my intermediate graders and middle schoolers at my school.
STAND UP AND SING: PETE SEEGER, FOLK MUSIC, AND THE PATH TO JUSTICE is a terrific new picture book biography by Susanna Reich. Reich follows Seeger from the beginning of his life to the end- his adolescent interest in Native Americans, how he learned to play the banjo, the difficulties of the Great Depression, playing his banjo at union meetings and strikes, meeting Woody Guthrie, getting married, being blacklisted, working with Martin Luther King, Jr., protesting the Vietnam War, and finally, building the Clearwater.
I loved this book, mostly because of the life lessons kids can learn from Pete Seeger.
• Pete Seeger teaches kids to use the talents they have been given.
"That night Pete saw that music could fill a room with peace and harmony- even if he still couldn't figure out how to sing and play banjo at the same time"• Pete Seeger teaches kids about taking care of others.
"He read about Native Americans and loved the idea that in some tribes, everything was shared. 'I decided that was the way to live: no rich, no poor. If there was food, everyone ate; if there was no food, everyone went hungry.'"• Pete Seeger teaches kids that sometimes it's hard to stand up for what you believe.
"On tour, the Almanacs slept on people's couches or in cheap hotels, including one with enormous cockroaches in every room. The following winter in New York City, they couldn't afford heat in their apartment. Pete didn't mind the cold. It felt good to be making a difference in the world."
• Pete Seeger teaches kids to have integrity.
In 1955, Pete was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He refused to take the Fifth Amendment, but also refused to share names or rat on his friends and colleagues. These choices came at great personal cost- for over a decade Seeger was blacklisted and was not allowed to appear on commercial shows.
• Pete Seeger teaches kids to be brave.
At one point in his life, Pete and the African American singer, Paul Robeson, were in an concert near Peekskill, New York. Some people were angry that whites and blacks were performing together. After the concert, they followed Pete and his family, and threw rocks at the car. Every window was shattered.
"Later Pete found two rocks inside the car and cemented them into his fireplace. They always reminded him how important it was to stand up for his beliefs."STAND UP AND SING: PETE SEEGER, FOLK MUSIC, AND THE PATH TO JUSTICE is illustrated by Adam Gustavson (if you are familiar with Reich's work, he also illustrated FAB FOUR FRIENDS, about the Beatles). Each two-page spread includes a large full color oil painting; many also have a pencil sketch. The book begins with a foreword by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary. End notes include an author's note, as well as an extensive list of additional sources.
In these very difficult times, it's important to be able to give kids models of people who had integrity, stood up for what they believed, and did something to make the world a better place. STAND UP AND SING: PETE SEEGER, FOLK MUSIC, AND THE PATH TO JUSTICE is definitely a resource you can use. I recommend it highly.
Pete Seeger at Obama's inauguration.
An interview with Pete Seeger
Sunday, March 26, 2017
(I wrote about him here, and you might remember it, if you have been reading my blog).
And I've missed him. I've missed seeing him on his bike, with its rainbow lit pedals.
I've missed coming home to find him working on surprise yard projects.
I've missed his checking in to see if I'm okay, and his "I got you, baby."
He finally rode by last night. Actually, he came to see his buddy, Kenny, who lives in his mother's garage, two houses north of me. I was walking my dog, and saw him out in the alley.
"How are you doing?" I asked.
"Not bad, for someone homeless," he said.
"Homeless? I thought you had an apartment at Colorado and 17th."
"I was staying with someone, and it didn't work out, she kicked me out. I've been homeless for about a month now. You got a room? I can pay rent. I can pay $500 or $600 a month."
"I don't have a room, David. Both the boys are still there. I don't have an extra room. I wish I did." I'm actually not sure that would be a smart thing, given David's ongoing issues with alcohol, but he is a friend, and I hate knowing that he's homeless.
"You know anyone who has a room? I can pay $500 or $600 a month."
I try to think of someone who might have a room. I don't know anyone.
"So where are you staying right now?"
I think he must mean the Denver Rescue Mission. "You mean at the shelter?"
"Yeah. You gotta be tough, baby. You gotta be tough. I'll get through this."
"You will," I say. "You will."
I know he lived with his mother for many years in the house on the corner. "Where's your mom?"
"She's in assisted living out in Aurora."
"And you can't stay with her?"
"Nah," he says.
There were a lot of other people who seemed to come and go from the house. I wonder where all of them have gone. "What about all of those other people?"
"Nah," he says. "I don't want to go around them. None of them have places."
He tries one more time. "What about your garage? We could clean out your garage and I could live there. I could pay you."
This conversation is breaking my heart. "You don't want to live in my garage, David. There's no heat, and no bathroom. And it will get really hot in summer."
"I got my name on some waiting lists," he says. "About six right now. I want to have my name on twenty lists. But they are anywhere from a few weeks to three years."
"I'll keep thinking," I say, running once again through every connected I might have for someone who is homeless.
By now, the dog is getting antsy. "I gotta go," I say.
"I'll come by and see you," he says. "Maybe I can do some work in your yard."
"Yeah," I say. "I need to do some serious yard work this week. Come by and help me."
"I will," he says. "I'll come this week."
"You can leave your mower and stuff in my yard if you want."
I turn and walk away.
I hate knowing my friend is homeless.
Saturday, March 25, 2017
And I have loved it. Pretty much every minute.
But now I am wondering whether it's time to go.
Life at my school has changed dramatically. The principal who hired me retired a few weeks ago, very unexpectedly. The district has adopted a new model of teacher leadership. Each school is required to have teacher leaders who coach and evaluate. The job is somewhat similar to what I do, with one major exception. I don't evaluate teachers. Nor have I ever really wanted to. For me, the evaluation piece changes the trust I have worked hard to establish with teachers.
I went back and forth on whether I would apply for the teacher leader position. I really love my school. I love my colleagues. I love the kids. I loved my principal. I decided that I would apply so I could stay there. I would just have to do the best I could to use the evaluation system in a way that honored teachers' hard work and growth.
I applied. I interviewed. I wasn't chosen.
And I'm wondering whether it's time to go. I think I'm probably too old, at 58, to be a viable candidate for other positions.
So I'm wondering whether it's time to retire.
And I really don't know.
I don't know what you do when you retire. I have talked to several people about it- one woman, who was a total stranger I met at a meeting, looked at me like I was crazy when I asked what she did every day. Another friend told me she is making plans by volunteering with several different organizations.
I'm still not sure what that means for me.
I have always loved teaching. And it's been a huge part of my life. Before I adopted the boys, I spent a lot of time, pretty much every waking hour, on my job. Since the boys have been grown, I've pretty much resorted to that again. I work a lot. It doesn't feel like work, because I truly love it.
But I don't have lot of outside interests right now. I don't volunteer anywhere, except for stuff that's school or work related, e.g. the state literacy association. I'm hate cooking or and I'm not good at gardening or art. I like to travel, but almost all of my friends are married or in serious relationships and they travel with their husbands. My sons don't want anything to do with me right now.
I don't know what I would do if I retired.
But right now, I'm wondering if it's time to go…