Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Astronauts

 From a Lynda Barry book, I've used the idea to have the Thirdlanders draw self portraits on occasion.  Draw yourself as Batman, a monster, an astronaut.

This week we drew ourselves as astronauts. The Thirdlanders were to write a few sentences about their most recent trip into space to go with their self portraits. 

Many asked me if their writing could be fake.  

I repeatedly responded to that question and even made general announcements to the class.  Even after the general announcement, a third lander raised her hand to say, "Can this be fake because I've never been in space before?"

"Yes, your writing about your space travels can be fictional," I told her.  The Thirdlanders have typical listening issues, but aside from that, they seem to have a tenuous grasp on reality that simultaneously concerns and cheers me . 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Classroom

 I've been back in person with the Thirdlanders for 4 days, though it feels like much longer. 

Mask wearing is going well, social distancing less so.  

On Thursday, I gave directions for using the tablets to request library books from our awesome school library.

Many Thirdlanders had issues with the directions, but we were slowly getting there.  One patient gal waited quite a long while for assistance.  When I finally got to her, she said, "I've put in my username and password 5 times and it doesn't work.  I don't like to touch their stuff, but I typed in her information and the library catalog instantly popped into being.  I asked her what kind of books she wanted and she said, "Strega Nona books."  I told her to go ahead and type Strega Nona into the search box.  She looked worried and I asked her if she would like me to type the titles.  "Yes," she answered, "Because I don't know how to speak Italian."

So we're rolling along. So far no one seems to have covid and most of us are enjoying our time together.  Another Thirdlander said to me on her way out Friday, "This is going way better than I thought it would."  I'm still nervous about someone getting sick, but so far we're all in good shape.  They're a sweet crew and if we can stay healthy, all should be swell in Thirdhand. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

The Fun Factors

Room 200 has a ghost town feel to it.  All our tables have been taken away so now I stare out onto a sea of little empty desks, from a computer in the front. All day, I stare at a screen, but much of the day, I'm staring at the faces of Thirdlanders, hearing their stories, helping them with their assignments, teaching them about John Lewis and Audrey Faye Hendricks and the Young Hoosier Picture Book Awards and haiku and point of view and some math too. I feel I've actually come to know these people in this weird way. I imagine where they should sit when they get back to the classroom.  I know already the kid who will need to be in the back so he can pace around.  I know the gal who will need to be directly in front of me so I can remind her about what needs doing and give her extra encouragement. I know that one Thirdlander will need moments of extra quiet and the newest Thirdlander will need some extra friendly faces nearby.

I look forward to seeing them in person soon, but I'm nervous. In one week, we'll be back in the classroom. 19 Thirdlanders and me.  It's hard to figure out how six feet of social distance can occur when we're in the room.  I suppose I can just stay up in the front and not walk about.  The Thirdlanders will have to stay put in their little desks, so why should I be free to move?   I was asked if I'd like a plexiglass sheet to be hung in front of my computer area in the front of the room. I decided to pass on that, but maybe that was a mistake?  We're going to wear our masks.  We're going to use our tablets for some assignments. We're going to use alphabetical order for our line up spots.  We're going to go outside and not play soccer or football or four square. 

It might be safe, but will it be fun? With so many physical restrictions, I don't really get why people are so pumped up for this kind of school experience, but many are cheering the reopening.  I'll keep an open mind as I always do and find the ups along the way. What else can I do? My first goal is to keep us all out of the hospital. Everything else will fall in to place as we take one day at a time, do our best, and forget the rest.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

The Distance


There are things that are not too bad about the distance learning gig.  I will discuss them thusly:

1.  When I work with a small group for 20 minutes, there are no interruptions.  We just work together and I don't have to yell out to anyone across the room to please get focused nor do I have to write a health pass because someone has an itchy bug bite on their leg nor do I have to answer urgent questions from Thirdlanders who just remembered something they need to ask me.

2.  In the afternoons, kids pop in on on our Teams Meeting to work on their haiku with me.  Sometimes they stay for a long time and we get a lot of haiku writing done.  Again, with no interruptions.  It feels so weird talking to one Thirdlander for 30 minutes about their work.  Usually I have about 2 minutes tops to work with a kiddo before moving on in a harried rush. One Thirdlander was stretching out her visit with me and when I said we had to wrap it up, she said, "But I just want to be with you."  Once again, bittersweetness rears its head. 

3.  Thirdlanders are making movies for some assignments.  And though I always groan a teeny bit when I see a movie's been submitted because the movies are time consuming to watch, I end up laughing or smiling 100% of the time when I watch these movies.  The Thirdlanders are super creative and sometimes their younger sibs or their pets make surprise appearances in their productions.

That's mostly what I like about the distance learning at this point in time.  There are definite down sides, but we'll ignore those for now.  The bottom line is...going the distance is hard on most everyone. I really feel bad for the parents who I can see are juggling so much.  

Here's a random tangential aside.  We went to TC Steele State Park yesterday.  They have a new visitor center and a new admission fee.  TC Steele has always been free, but I'm happy to throw some cash their way now.  That place always brings me cheer.  Come to find out, Husbandman qualified for the senior 60 discount.  Though I'm 59 for a few more months, Husbandman told the ranger that I was close to being 60 as well, so the ranger decided to give me the discount too.  My first discount for being old.  At first I wasn't too happy about Husbandman telling my age, but as we traversed the gardens, I came to look upon the two dollar discount in a positive light. 

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Inbox

 I was at school for a hella' long time today.  But the good news is I have 3 days of online lessons all good to go.  

While I was working, a message popped up in my learning platform inbox.  It was a Thirdlander.  He asked, "Hi Dr. H.  What's your favorite thing about being a teacher?"

Honestly, getting messages like this on a Sunday afternoon isn't really my favorite thing of all time, but I played along.  Told him some stuff and then asked what his favorite thing about being a student might be?

He wrote back right away, "My favorite part of being a student is getting to know stuff about my teachers." 

This Thirdlander is AOK in my book!

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Slack

 Look, Blog.  You're going to have to cut me some slack.  Let's lose the attitude.  Doing my best, forgetting the rest right now.  I'll be back soon.  For now, it's going to be a sentence here and a sentence there.  

The first 3 days of digital school went pretty well.  New Thirdlanders are good people.  

Friday, July 31, 2020

The Peachoid

Here are some facts about this fine water tower in Gaffney, South Carolina.  Photo credit goes to Rachel.  

The leaf on the water tower is an actual living plant.  
There's a small apartment in the base of the water tower that can be rented out as a vacation rental.
The peach tank holds one million gallons of water that is lightly flavored with peach juice.  

If you know of any other facts about this water tower, please share them in the comments. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Award

This is the collage I made.

Our roof is leaking.  Our water heater is broken.  We have an ant problem.  But let's focus today on some good news.  

Our school system has revised the re-entry plan.  School is delayed one week and we're going on line.  I'm not going to lie.  I feel safer. I don't like going in rooms with lots of people.  And I also don't like keeping distance from the Thirdlanders when I'm teaching.  I'm more of a "Huddle Up People!" kind of teacher.  And huddling with 21 kiddos equals covid.  That's just plain facts. Maybe.

I feel like I got the hang of teaching on our learning platform in spring, but come to find out, now I can't remember how to set up the pages.  I've watched unhelpful videos and I've felt unhelpful frustration. Eventually, as with the roof and the water heater, there will be fixing and falling into place.

And back to the good news:  Nate Powell, the artist who helped create the March books with John Lewis, lives in Bloomington, Indiana.  I just discovered this fact today from our beloved local rag.  I need to find Nate and talk to him about what he's up to these days. I'm hoping he can share some memories of his time with John Lewis.  I'd also like to get a glimpse of his National Book Award.   If you have Nate's address or phone number, please pass them on to me as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

The Freemanville Water Tower

Gloria helped carry her uncle's telescoping ladder to the water tower.  It was midafternoon. Neighbors drove by and waved. Kelly waved back.  She loved this town.  People minded their own business. 

After stretching the ladder to its full length, Kelly began climbing. Gloria held it steady.  When she reached the tower's access ladder, Kelly pulled herself onto the first rung.  She could see the police car in the distance, so she hurried, climbing like the ladder was her natural habitat.   Gloria, hearing the siren, panicked.  She let Uncle Tim's ladder fall to the ground and took off running.  Kelly watched her sprint across the cemetery as the cop car parked below.  She continued climbing.

She was over half way to the catwalk when the cop yelled for her to come down.  Kelly just yelled back, "What?  I can't hear you.  I'm climbing the water tower.  My grandmother assisted with the design of this tower.  It's okay."  

For the next 30 rungs, the cop and Kelly repeated this exchange, him yelling for her to come down, her yelling back that she couldn't hear what he was saying.   In this way, she made it to the catwalk and took a victory lap around the perimeter of the tank. "Freemanville sure looks fine from up here," she mused as she circled her way back to the ladder.   She could see the cop below, leaning against his car.  Was he smoking a cigarette?  

Exhilarated, satisfied, she began her descent. She had climbed her grandmother's tower. She had seized the day. She had honored her unique, adventurous spirit.  

At the end of the access ladder, Kelly paused.  Without Uncle Tim's ladder, she would have at least a 20 foot drop.  She lowered herself and hung from her arms, taking a moment to gather her gumption.  

The cop walked beneath her and held up his taser.  "Don't tase me, Bro," Kelly yelled to him.  

"What?  I can't hear you," the cop replied, calmly blasting the taser upward.  

Handcuffed in the back of the squad car, Kelly looked out the window.  She was amazed that she wasn't more hurt. A broken foot wasn't a big deal.  She'd be fine.  She looked behind her and waved to her parents, following in their miniature van. They weren't smiling, but still, Kelly was grateful that Gloria had alerted them that their daughter might need some assistance over at the water tower. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Riders

We watched the John Lewis documentary last night.  Good Trouble.  I just love that title.  This morning I read some articles about the Freedom Riders.  There were only 13 Freedom Riders at first.  John Lewis was one of them.  They got beaten up a bunch of times. They were also thrown in jail. Their bus was bombed.  One of the Riders said that John got hurt many times by white thugs, but that he was incredibly strong and always stayed committed to non-violence.

I'm not sure about my strength.  I've got to work on that.  I want to be like the Freedom Riders.  I want to get into some good trouble this school year along with the new Thirdlanders.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Family Tree

 I've been fooling around with some ancestry documents that my dad has collected over the years.  I'm trying to fill out a big family tree chart.  The tree is filled with laborers, a sea captain, a director of a minor league baseball team.  There's even a Minuteman on the tree. I think my favorite branch on the tree houses a comb maker.  Combs are helpful and some of the combs of yore were made of the bones of WHALES.  

The Astronauts

 From a Lynda Barry book, I've used the idea to have the Thirdlanders draw self portraits on occasion.  Draw yourself as Batman, a monst...