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Connecting with Nature

Early morning dawn quietly starting the day

with the beginnings of sunshine caressing the earth.

Surveying the lawn,  my eyes suddenly meet

large almond-shaped eyes looking back at me.

There among the pine trees, blending in with pine straw,

are several large deer, their heads held high.

They maintain their stare with an occasional ear twitch

as if to ask, “May we please stay and rest for a while?”

“Of course, my friends, so glad you stopped by,

you have blessed my day with your gift of presence.”

And so my day began being grateful for God’s grace

that quietly reminded me of what is important in life.

 

A Gift of Love

A heaven-sent gift,

an innocent bundle

wrapped in hopes and dreams

and oh, so much love.

Bright blue pools for eyes,

ears that stick out just a smidge,

and a wide, toothless grin

from where the belly giggles flow.

Snuggles, just so

head in the crook of my neck

our hearts beating as one

as you slowly drift off.

Yes, little one,

you are oh, so loved

as you are

my only grandson.

 

 

Wonderings

Today I had reason to drive for a few hours in the car by myself.  This allowed for lots of think time and my mind wandered.  I decided to make a list of wonderings, nothing earth shattering, but items to ponder as I drove.  Here’s my list:

  1. How much money is enough money to have?
  2. Why do they board planes from the front to the back?  Wouldn’t it be more efficient to board back to front?
  3. How can you get people to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem?
  4. Will the Detroit Lions ever win another Super Bowl in my lifetime?
  5. What will my students remember from my class in 5 years? 10 years? 25 years?
  6. Has the medical community done us any favors by helping us to live far beyond our “usefulness” only to hurt/or be miserable in the final years of life?
  7. If I won a million dollars, how would I spend it?
  8. What would stop hatred in the world and promote mutual respect?
  9. If I could invite 8 people to dinner, living or deceased, who would it be?
  10. If I had not gone into teaching, what profession would I have chosen?  How would that have changed my life?

 

Report Card Comments

Done!  Report cards are completed, printed, and stuffed.  The grades were the easy part as they were collected throughout the marking period, inputted into the software program, and it computed them for me.  The hard part was the comments.  Given a minimum number  of characters to reflect on a child’s strengths, weaknesses, progress, and behavior is a huge challenge.  You want to be honest, but not too honest or direct in some cases.  You want to be gentle, but still get the message across. It can be such a conundrum!

Most often, the comments are what parents look at first.  And you know what?  Kids are the same way.  When I hand back a scored piece of writing or reading response using a detailed rubric, the students quickly scan the paper looking for my personal feedback. One day a student brought her rubric to me and asked me what it all meant.  This was after many lessons on how to use it and multiple opportunities to practice using it.  So, I took a deep breath, sat down with the student and went over her strengths and possible areas that she might think about making into writing goals. When I was done, she looked up at me with bright blue eyes and a furrowed brow and asked, “But did you like it?”

That’s all she wanted.  A simple recognition that I appreciated her work. When had I become too impersonal with my own student? When had I made it more about the work than the child? It should always be about the child first! In reality, I believe that is what parents are seeking.  They want to know if you like their child or not.  If they get the feeling that you appreciate Johnny or Mary, then, and only then, will they listen to your analysis of their academic progress and give it merit.  Of course, I like all of my students.  Some are easier than others, but I like them all.  I re-read all of my report card comments to make sure that message came through loud and clear.

How Brave are You?

“How brave are you?” is the question posed from Uncle Henrik to Annemarie in the classic novel of Number the Stars.  I have read this aloud to students for many years, but today, this one line caused me to pause.  Perhaps a person does not know just how brave they are until they are faced by challenges or danger.  I have never felt particularly brave, but my life has been comfortable with few wants or extreme challenges. My father, on the other hand, served two tours during WWII and was severely injured, even given his last rites, only to survive.  I have always thought of him as being very brave.

Now, I think of my mother as being brave, too.  This frail 86-year-old had always led a very active life until a few years ago.  She played golf, mowed the lawn, could run circles around people half her age.  Then pulmonary artery disease took hold of her.  Her left leg was amputated five years ago, but it did not slow her down much.  She still drove and took care of her own house, living by herself.  The loss of a limb did not dampen her spirits, either; she remained a quick wit that could make the crankiest person crack a smile. Then  the hungry disease proved that it was not done with her and a little over a year ago my mother’s right leg was also amputated.

Before this surgery, Mom looked at me and said perhaps she should not have the surgery, knowing full well that it would mean certain death in a short amount of time.  That was a decision I could not make for her. If she chose to have the surgery, she was also choosing a more difficult life, but she would be choosing to live. We talked about what she would miss, events like her granddaughter’s wedding. Then the conversation turned to how we could make it work.  Yes, she probably would give up driving, although she had heard of hand-controlled cars.  She still wanted to live in her own home, but might need someone to mow the yard.  (I live 2 hours away and she definitely did not want to move closer to me, away from her familiar surroundings.) Mom never shed a tear or felt sorry for herself.  When the doctor came in, she told him in her southern drawl, “Well, doc, I guess you got some more work to do.”

Tomorrow I am going to visit Mom who finally sold her house to live in a retirement home to make life a little easier on her. She no longer drives, either, but she still has that indomitable spirit and ever-present sense of humor.  Brave?  Yes, without a doubt, I would say she is one of the bravest people I have ever known. How brave?  Braver than I could ever be.

 

 

Golf

Tee it up

Fear of failure

Club meets ball

Crack! it goes

Ball flies effortlessly

Lost in woods

Kerplunk! in water

Sand flies everywhere

Finally on green

Plink! in cup

A joyous celebration

Count your strokes

Or maybe not…

 

Re-light the Flame

Visiting author, Rita Williams-Garcia, came to our school today and gave a very personable talk about her journey to become a writer.  She shared pictures of her journals that she filled starting in fourth grade and her diaries.  In middle school she started writing short stories to be published and to do so, she wrote at least 500 words every night in her writer’s notebook.  (Yes, she actually counted the words!  Computers were still on the horizon.)  She made writing a habit and would frequently write on the train or wherever she happened to be.  Ms. Williams-Garcia immersed herself in language and found the joy in writing.

As she was talking, I surveyed my students sitting before me and wondered if I have done them wrong.  Have any of them found the joy in writing?  Do they see the world and have sparks of imagination that leads to a story?  Has their language been enriched enough to allow them to express themselves creatively?  I fear not.

Our curriculum focuses on three types of writing:  narrative, argumentative, and opinion. I faithfully use “best practices” in my instruction.  Mini-lessons incorporate strategies to raise the quality of writing.  There are checklists, rubrics, progression learning charts, and many other writing tools that are all good.  But, when do we put it all away and just let the students write for the enjoyment of it?  Isn’t that what will keep them motivated to learn about the craft of writing?  Writing instruction can become too clinical, too dry, too laborious and actually snuff out that flame that we are trying to light.  Where is the excitement?!

Perhaps this is what the Classroom Slice of Life is all about. Creating that habit of writing.  Developing a sense of looking at the world with wide-open eyes.  Playing with language and how you are going to tell your story.  I am experiencing those things now as a first time slicer;  maybe next year it will be time for my students to join me.

Saying Good-bye

Good-byes.  They are something I do or say every day as part of my routine.  I say good-bye to my husband when I leave for work in the morning.  I bid my students good-bye at the end of the day. I end almost every phone conversation with “bye.”  It is just a habit that I never think about.

Yesterday, however, my daughter casually told me that her husband likes the way our family says good-bye.  What?  I asked her what she said again, thinking I had misunderstood her, but I had not.  She went on to explain that when we say good-bye to them when they are leaving after a visit, it is simple.  It is sincere, but it is quick.  An embrace, a kiss, thanks for coming, safe travels, hope to see you soon. Gosh, I never thought about how else we would say good-bye.  How else could it be done?

Apparently, others don’t want to let go.  Their good-byes are long and drawn out. There are tears, there are scoldings for having been away too long, there are promises demanded of when you will return.  Then there are many more tears.  It all seems to elicit feelings of guilt and dread. Though it is all rooted in love, the drama overshadows it.

Good-byes are important.  I have always been one to say them, but from now on, I will be cognizant of how I say them.  Certainly, there are “forever” farewells that are difficult to say and will not leave anyone on a happy note.  However, I am talking about the every day good-byes.  I want the person/people I am separating from to know that I valued our time together.  And, I want them to have warm feelings about it when they think about me.  Even when we dropped our daughter off at college the first time, I cried….but not in front of her.  I did not want to make her feel badly.

So, I will continue to keep my good-byes sincere but simple in the hopes that the person will look forward to being with me again.  Good-bye!