Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting into the groove...

Ahh...I'm finally feeling it tonight...I'm getting into the groove of teaching again. I'm sitting here in a quiet house grading papers, and I'm not cranky about it. I'm interested in what my students have to say, curious to get to know them better. I want to write comments on their papers that let them know I care about who they are, as well as how skillfully they do or don't insert commas into sentences.

Ahhhhh...I can breathe again, without feeling all tight and stressed about going back to school. I can do this.

It's like this every year. The transition from summer's slower rhythm to the more urgent pace of the school year is always a shock to my system. The first two or three weeks are tough. With all the budget cuts and larger classes, I think I've resented it a little more this year than in the past. There is so much to give up in September: sleeping in till seven-thirty, leisurely afternoons, the luxury of staying up later in the evening, time to exercise, time to hike and garden and play. But there is so much gained, too. Part of the gain is my colleagues: I love working and interacting with them throughout the day, and I am sincerely glad to see them again in September.

But even more than that, I love my students. Some of them were pills today. Another teacher commented at lunch that "the honeymoon is over," and I think that's true for my classroom, too. But the kids were there. They showed up. They brought themselves and their stories and their energies to the space we call classroom, and we made it (mostly) work together for an hour. That's cool. I wasn't perfect, and neither were they, but we get another run at it tomorrow. They'll come in with their energy, their problems, their hopes, their secret fears, and we'll spend an hour together.

And then, I'll bring their papers home to read, to get to know their hearts. How lucky is that??? It's September, and I'm a teacher again.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Back to School

I'm settling into the routine of a new school year. School starts 20 minutes earlier this year (7:40 am) - ouch! Mornings are hectic.

I only teach 1 class every day, first period. Juniors and seniors - Oregon Lit Past. One of my favorite courses to teach, but I haven't taught it for a couple of years, so lesson planning is a bit more of a scramble this year.

After first period, I switch from my "teacher hat" to my "literacy coach hat." I track literacy data for the whole school (2200 students), identify students that need reading or writing interventions, help teachers with how to improve the ways they teach reading and writing in all kinds of classrooms (science, construction, sewing, health, social studies, you name it). I help develop curriculum for intervention programs, provide support to the Special Education / English teachers, and I prepare lots of training sessions for in-service days. Every day is different.

Last week I sorted through all 550+ seniors to see if they were on track for graduation. In addition to requiring credits, we require that students pass the state reading/writing/math tests, or have work samples to demonstrate that they can do those skills. Lots of data sorting to get all that info pulled together. I work with another teacher, who wears a "math coach hat" half the day. Last year she and I tracked all this information on an Excel spreadsheet. This year we got brave and did it all with a Google Doc spreadsheet. It's great! We can share the information, and keep track of the kids, without having to send a document back and forth in the email. Now the principal wants us to share the spreadsheet with all the teachers (100 people!) so they can view the info to see what the kids still need to do for graduation. Yikes! That's pretty public. I'm sure I'll get used to it.

This morning Mark and I walked a 10K (6.2 miles) race - The Best Dam Run out in Estacada. Hop over to The Skinny to read all about our fun.

The race course follows the lovely Clackamas River. Here we are at the start line...

...and 1 1/2 hours and 10K later, here we are at the finish line. We had a great time!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Great Zucchini Hunt

Maddy and Grandpa went out hunting in the garden this morning...

...the tomatoes are getting ripe...

...love the little yellow pear tomatoes...

...and Grandpa caught a big one!! Yellow squash, broccoli, and one gigantic zucchini.

We're going to a church potluck-picnic this evening. I think I'm taking Zucchini Boats!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

White Handkerchiefs

There is something I love about my husband's white cotton handkerchiefs. He is one of those reliable men who always has one is his pocket. I tend to use Kleenex, but there are times when no tissues are available, and Mark is always willing to share his hankie.

When I have a really bad cold, and my nose is raw from being rubbed by tissues, I raid Mark's hankie drawer. His handkerchiefs are always softer than the tissues.

Tonight, folding laundry, I set all his hankies in a separate pile and pulled out the iron and ironing board. When I was a little girl, ironing my father's hankies was the first ironing task my mother set before me. I must have been six or seven years old. I remember the pride I felt, by the time I was ten (maybe a little younger?) because I was skilled enough at ironing to be able to iron my dad's shirts for work. Tonight I ironed handkerchiefs again.

In our permaprest world, no one irons shirts any more. No one irons hankies. No one knows what it is about smoothing the iron over the white cotton, watching the wrinkles disappear. There is something so regular about that white square, all smooth and ready for folding.

I only iron hankies a couple of times a year. Life is full of busy things, and the hankies work just as well with a few wrinkles. Mark is happy with them straight out of the dryer. But every time I do iron hankies, I wonder why I don't do it more often? It is such a simple, straightforward, satisfying task.

Maybe the world seems a little more manageable when it's reduced to a square of white cloth, ready for folding. Maybe the act of ironing handkerchiefs takes me back to a child's satisfaction of learning to do an adult task competently. Maybe it's just the smell of the warm cotton cloth.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Play time with the Grandchildren

We've had several events with grandchildren in the last few days, as family has come into the area from out of town. Here are a few highlights.

The "Super Twin" hike! We had Sam and Audrey (age 4) and Kat & Sarah (age 8) joined by Josh (10) and a few other folks. We hiked from the Oneonta Trail to Ponytail Falls and Horsetail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.

Angela found a banana slug (on the rock) and threatened to taste it (ewwwww) (she didn't).

Josh, Hillary, and Ethan had a good time. Footwear...like father like son...good thing this trail isn't too long or steep!

Mark and I with all the grandkids who came on the hike:
Ethan (with Mark), Sam, Audrey, Josh (behind Audrey), Sarah, Joey (with me), Kat.

The trail behind Ponytail Falls always feels so adventurous! We had a great time on this hike on Friday. All of the grandkids are great hikers.

I got some sweet snuggle time with little Ender on Saturday morning, although he was too young to go on the outing that day with his dad and big sister and me. He's growing so quickly!

David and Arora and I went on a short hike--just under 1 mile--on Saturday morning. We checked out the Clackamas River Trail, a little ways beyond Estacada.

Arora did walk a good part of the way but she loved riding on her daddy's shoulders, too.

Looking upstream, Clackamas River. It was overcast and misty--perfect hiking weather!

We enjoyed a snack here at our "Snack Rock," and then headed back to the car.

Saturday afternoon we took some of the grandkids out for a short canoe outing in Clackamette Cove. This is me, Audrey, and Angela.

Josh, Ethan, Katie, Mark

Me, Katie, Sam, Tim

Mamas and little ones on the shore:
Ethan, Hillary, Audrey, Angela, Polly with Rebecca

Skipping rocks:
Tim, Audrey, Sam, Seth, Angela

Josh, Ethan, Hillary
This was Hillary's first-ever time in a canoe!

Thanks to Polly for taking these canoe-outing photos.