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Showing posts from 2018

The Time

I wish some magic would happen and I could teach a bunch of kids in Thirdland more about how time works.

We're having some troubles. I created a cool virtual field trip to the zoo that involved learning about animals and solving elapsed time problems like, "You're at the meerkat exhibit from 10:05 to 10:25.  How long did you spend there?  Also, how do meerkats communicate?"

I thought it would be a fun practice for them, but many kids need way more practice with time in order to do the activity.  One kid made a time line and counted up one minute at a time.  He did not get the correct answer despite his work.  Another kid wrote down, "1379."  I mean... what the heck?  I was kind of glum about this yesterday, but today I'm back in the game.  We can do this? I don't mean to be a kvetcher, but I just don't feel time's on my side right now.

The Challenge

The vacation is winding down, but I don't care.  I'm going to wring out every second of fun.  For instance, right now, I'm going to a place called Albany Bulb. I have 24 hours left of vacation.  The clock is ticking.  This just might be the best day of vacation I've ever had.  We don't know. 

The Super Hero Turkeys of 2018

The Air

In the first days of our trip, we had smoky days with unhealthy air. We wore the masks off and on, but they weren't that comfortable. ( Sorry, Lungs).  We still managed to have indoor fun with museums, movies and meals as well as chats and chortling.  And a great get together with old college chums. We love them all so.

Yesterday we had rain.  We ventured into Chinatown and had lunch, saw a global calligraphy exhibit and watched fortune cookies being made, which was fascinating.  #1 Son got the best fortune of course:  You hold the wisdom of the ages.

We are liking this new situation where we travel to foreign lands for our Day of Thanks.  We started the day with cinnamon rolls (Eli) and pie is being made (Bill).

I'm blogging and reading a book.  All is swell on the bright side of the bay.




The Fragile

Inspired by a snow day, I fooled around with a fiction snippet today.  You can see I have the California fires weighing me down a bit.  But other than that all is swell.  I never look a snow day in the mouth.

I woke up so early to get there on time.  Put the leash on Finn and the mask on my face and walked along 19th Avenue for a mile or so.  Poor Finn. He seemed to be lagging and confused. Was it the smoke or the earliness? By the time we got to the bridge, the sun had come up.  The smoky sky was orange and we could see the bridge towers through the haze ahead. When we reached the middle, we stood waiting.   A man nearby talked to a woman.  "The moon is in the 9th house.  Only certain Libras have the sun in the twelfth house which could be related to everything. Does that make sense?  It's the house of self determination. Saturn in the sixth house..."  She kept saying, "Uh Huh, Uh Huh" and "That makes sense," in a whispery voice.  I wanted to lean ov…

The Fables

Have you ever listened to Fables of Faubus by Charles Mingus?

Mingus wrote it to protest Governor Faubus' use of troops to keep the Little Rock 9 kids out of Central High in 1957.  Here's part of the story that really gets me irked.  

After Eisenhower sent in federal troops and the kids were allowed to enter the school and finish the school year, Faubus CLOSED ALL THE HIGH SCHOOLS in Little Rock the next year. 

“The Lost Year” refers to the 1958–59 school year in Little Rock (Pulaski County), when all the city’s high schools were closed in an effort to block desegregation. One year after Governor Faubus used state troops to thwart federal court mandates for desegregation by the Little Rock Nine at Central High School, in September 1958, he invoked newly passed state laws to forestall further desegregation and closed Little Rock’s four high schools: Central High, Hall High, Little Rock Technical High (a white school), and Horace Mann (a black school). A total of 3,665 students, bo…

The Cold

There's a Thirdlander I know who's been fairly distant so far this year.  She's a great student and a powerful writer, but she's not one to start the day with exuberant hugs, face breaking smiles and long stories about hilarious escapades. She's more the eye-rolling-indignant-stare-sighs-of-annoyance kind of Thirdlander, which, truth be told, has its good points.

 On Friday, we went out for an extra recess.  It was cold. The feel of snow was in the air. This gal didn't have a heavy coat.  She stood next to me, glowering.  "Usually I play happy games at recess, but right now I'm cold."

"Sorry you're cold," I told her, and I felt it sincerely.  "We're only going to be out here for ten minutes, so maybe you should run around?"

She scowled and stared off into the distance.  I stood with her, perusing the playground, wishing I hadn't lost my gloves last year.

After a prolonged silence, she blurted out, "I'm bore…

The Broom

This is how a lot of conversations go in Thirdland.  From 2 days ago---

- Dr. H.  I'm going to be a witch for Halloween.  Can I bring a broom for my costume?
- Sure.
- I can bring a broom?
- Yes.
- You're seriously going to let me bring a broom in to the classroom?
- Do you have plans to hit anyone with it?
- No!
- I think it's not a problem then.
- So, I can bring a broom?
- Right.

Then yesterday.  Same kid.  Dressed as a witch,

- I decided not to bring the broom.
- Well, you look great without it.

A lot of my time went in to that broom's presence, so I was a little resentful, but I got over it.  Our party was fun.  Great parent volunteers ran the show.  Today's going to be a Halloween hangover for everyone.  I hope we can get back on track without too much delay.  I heart Halloween, and I'm always happy to see it pass into the past.

The Parents

I'm visiting my parents in the southland.  Right now my mom and I are watching Game Night.  We saw this excellent film in the theater last summer, as you may recall. If you haven't seen it yet, you probably should, if you feel like it.

We've also watched a lot of news.  My parents have opposing political views.  Mom's with CNN down in the basement.  Dad's up in the living room with Fox.

Mom can't talk well any more, but she makes good use of her notebook.  We've had some great written conversations, many focused on the impeachment of DT.  She wants this guy gone and has even written that she could die in peace if DT could be impeached soon.

In contrast, Dad pretends that everything stated about DT is hyperbole and perhaps could be fake news?

So, that's how it goes down here in the Southland. We're not letting this rift rip this family apart.

We all side with Mom.

The Observation

My principal is coming in this afternoon to observe my teaching.  I'm teaching more about red tide.  Last year, My Principal (MP) sat in the back at a table with his computer.  While I was circling around in a "with it" fashion, an expectation on our evaluation checklist, one 3rdLander decided to work at the table next to MP.  I kept moving around, interacting and checking on comprehension and focus, challenging all learners at their individual levels, when I noticed the kid at the table with MP was whispering constantly to him.  I wandered over there and MP told me that the kid didn't like this assignment and didn't like a lot of the assignments in my class.  This was the same kid who told his parents I treated the 3rdLanders like they were "mindless slaves."  

So, everything turned out okay in the end, but I want to make sure no one sits at the same table as MP today while he's writing his opinions about my teaching.  I don't need extra help…

The Reaming

I work a lot, but then sometimes things get in the way of me working a lot and my life goes to hell in a hand basket.  Ipso Facto.   Just for the sake of argument, let's say I have a birthday and I don't work on a particular weekend.  The next week is hideous.  Or, let's say I go to a book club meeting and discuss a classic book called Lathe of Heaven and I have a fun meal with great beverages and lots of laughing conversation late into the night. Because of literacy, the next day is going to be messed up, with unclear lesson plans thrown in with some fatigue.  Or, let's say I want to visit my parents and I want to take Friday off so I can hang out with them and watch movies.  I can't even tell you the repercussions of that move. Basically all hell is going to break loose.  Human sacrifice, cats and dogs living together.

But here's the thing, huddle up and listen up.  I'm not telling you anything you don't know here, but the bottom line is teachers nee…

The Maps

Alton Ziegler, the main character in Map Trap, loves maps.  He creates maps of people's brains, based on evidence he has for what seems to preoccupy their thoughts.  His map of his teacher's brain shows that she thinks quite a lot about her little brother as well as the Chicago Bears.

We used brain pictures to design our our own mental maps.


A big portion of my brain is labeled, "Thirdland."  I think about my job constantly.  Room 200 is always with me.  I also have sections labelled WRITING, WORRIES, and NATURE. I think about my family a lot, but I didn't add a section about family.  I figured everyone would have that on their maps and I want to move past expected topics.

I talked through my map with the Thirdlanders.  Then we looked up geography words in our social studies books and checked out some physical feature maps. I want this writing project to be from a cartographer's perspective, so we're going to integrate geographical terms into our descrip…

The Release

Last night we went to an event to celebrate the work of people in our town who take care of injured wildlife. I was stoked to go because during the event, three screech owls were to be released into the wild. I'm not sure I told you this yet, but just last week I opened my front door in the evening (to get the mail) and a screech owl was sitting on a branch in my front yard. I never see owls in the wild, so I was stoked, as I've mentioned. Seeing the owl in the yard was a massive mood elevator. Basically I'm all about the owls right now.

So last night, we're drinking wine at the event and getting excited about seeing the owls released into the wild. While we waited we got to see a kestrel and a barn owl. KR and Nancer were there as well. When the owls came out with their volunteer helpers, we took some pictures. Then we walked over near a pond to watch the first owl (O#1) get his first taste of freedom in quite some time. As we huddled together in anticipation…

The Crawfish

A few crawfish are coming to live in Room 200.  Not sure what to do about that.  They've donated their lives for science education.  I wish they could be free, so I may release them to our playground creek. On an unrelated note, I'm looking for cat ears.  Today's Picture Day.

The Money

We read about advertising and the ways ads are targeted to kids.  I was working with 2 Thirdlanders who were having trouble getting along.  To distract them from glowering at one another, I read an interesting fact listed under the subheading, Kid Power.  "Look here.  It says elementary age kids spend fifteen billion dollars a year."

"I don't spend nearly that much," said Thirdlander One.
"Me either.  I don't have that kind of money," replied the other.

I explained to them that the writer didn't mean each kid spent 15 billion dollars a year, and they seemed to understand.  They got moving with their sketch notes, at any rate.  I left them, in search of others who might need assistance or clarification.

The Land

I've been inside today.  It's cool in here and I'm grading papers and doing lesson plans and drinking tea and enjoying the quiet.

But let me tell you something, dear reader, on this very morning my ear was hurting horribly.  I was concerned, but the doctor had said that I would feel worse before I would feel better.  He said that I shouldn't expect my ear to feel better until late Wednesday.  I was skeptical as the worsening throbbing pain, resembling a knife being repeatedly thrust into the side of my head, greatly concerned me.  I'm not going to lie.  I even wondered if I might secure some pain meds if I drove over to the ER.  But because of my inner fortitude, I stuck it out and the pain has dissipated quite a bit.  At least we're going in the right direction now.  We're in the Land of Less Pain.  This is a Labor Day for the Ages.  I've been singing to my ear the classic Labor union song, Which Side Are You On???

The Labor

We went on a hike yesterday at Trevlac Bluffs.  We saw two frogs and a turtle shell.  We also saw a wild turkey on the drive over there.  Later, we had dinner with Nancer and KR.  Then we saw Marc Maron at the Comedy Attic.  So yesterday was good.  But today has been a wash out.  Started off the day at the clinic because of a bad ear ache.  Come to find out, the doctor thinks I have cellulitis behind my ear.  Cellulitis is nothing to fool around with.  Then I went to school to work.  I lost the file I was working on and that put me into a bit of a sad sack funk.  I had spent 2 hours on that file.  So who could blame me?
I'm turning it around. Husbandman and I are heading out to dinner.  I'm going to pretend we're in NYC, out on the town.  I'll make comments about the exhibits we saw at MOMA and chat about the awesome actors in the brilliant Broadway play we attended.  I wonder how long it will take Husbandman to figure out what's going on.  

The Power

Kids sign up to share relevant topics at morning meeting.  We've discussed the meaning of relevant --- "the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate."  We're learning about all kinds of wellness with our IB unit, so I believe it's relevant for kids to share about their soccer games or their chess tournaments.  We're learning about book blurbs, so of course it's relevant for kids to recommend books. We've gone outside to write haiku, so signing up to talk about a bug you found in your yard is relevant.  You get the idea.

On Friday, a Thirdlander shared this, "My mom bought me a new Nintendo Switch yesterday."  I asked, "How is that relevant? Does it connect to anything we've discussed or dealt with?"  In retrospect, the Switch purchase probably made this kid extremely happy and met some of his wellness needs for love and belonging, since it was a special gift from a parent.  But, I don't like this kind of …

The Shadow

We have a new classroom pet.  A black cat puppet.  We voted for her name, so she is now Shadow.  I walked around with Shadow during writing time because she loves to be part of writing workshop. She wants to see what the Thirdlanders are writing.  She taps their papers and pencils with her paws and utters approving meows in their ears.  

At the end of the day, Shadow came with us through the school during dismissal.  One Thirdlander, who had already spent a full day with Shadow perched atop my hand asked me, "Is Shadow a real cat?"
"No, she's just a puppet cat," I told him.  He gave Shadow a last pat and walked out the door to his bus.

Is Shadow a real cat?  It's an amazing question, but one that I like.  I wish I had told him, "She's a puppet cat, but she turns real at midnight and roams around our school." That's clearly what he wanted me to say.  That exchange would have made for a fun conversation with his parents tomorrow night at Ope…

The Jumble

We've lived in Thirdland for nearly 3 weeks. It all feels like a jumble, to be honest.  We've wrapped seeds in wet paper towels and sat out in the garden with our notebooks and played some math games and we've sung some songs. We've taken hideous tests on the tablets and written about horses, teeth, sword fights and broken windows.  We've made brains out of play doh and hamburgers out of newsprint.  Parents have sent in crackers for snack and a very few aren't too happy that there will be no weekly spelling test and others want to volunteer in the room as soon as possible.  Harriet the Tarantula has been photographed and tapped at and blown upon and has 25 new fans.

Open House is coming up this Thursday.  25 people will ask me, "How's he/she doing?"  I wish I could be honest and say, "Not really sure.  It all feels like a jumble right now. Your kid seems to be a fun little person for the most part. I enjoy spending time with him/her. As far a…

The Flu

I was in the drugstore last night picking up one of my dumb prescriptions when the pharmacist said, "How 'bout a flu shot?"

It seemed so inviting, like "How 'bout some dessert?"  or "Can I get you another glass of wine?"

So I said, "Yeah, let's do it."

He was so spontaneous with his question that I assumed he was going to pull the shot right out of his pocket and jab it in my arm from across the counter, but this was not the case. I had to stand around for 30 minutes while the pharmacist prepared the flu shot event.  That put me in a bit of a bad mood, to be honest.  So many times I thought about just running from the store to freedom.

In the end, though, I did get the shot and I'm glad about that. It may seem early to get the flu shot, but there's no time like the present to do the right thing for your health.  People die from the flu every year.

The Assessments

I was at car duty on Friday and a little kiddo came bopping out of school with a big smile on his face.  His mom said, "Hey Buddy, how was your day?"

He said, "Good. We did another assessment."

The mom and I looked at each other.  "That's a little sad," I told her, "but I admire his upbeat attitude."

This week the Thirdlanders are going to have some assessments.  I hope they enjoy them, but I also hope these assessments don't stand out as highlights.

The New Blue

Our home is being painted.  I love this new blue.  It used to all be the red brickish color of the deck as shown above.  For various reasons we can't get the deck painted blue and we're sick of the brickish, so we're going with a dark grey.  We went with a light grey, but we don't like it.  So more stuff with the house paint, but the good news is... we like the blue.

As for Thirdland, I have another great group.  We are getting to know each other and easing into the school year.  More on my peeps later.  They are a bit too loud, but other than that, I'm enjoying them heartily.  Bon temps in Room 200 yet again.

The Supplies

I've been going back and forth for a few days on the important issue of whether or not I want to purchase a small area rug for the classroom.  Don't really need it, but why not get it anyway?  Could add a little snap and pop to my entryway.

I decided to go for it, so we ventured over to the everything store this very evening.  I got the rug and then decided I needed some new markers.  The school supply section was packed with peeps.

The atmosphere was fun, but somewhat tense over there as I heard a mom say to her kiddo,  "Just look at the supply list and focus.  Please.  Look at each item and focus on getting that item.  Please."

I decided to leave markers for another day.  These kids are coming my way this week.  I'll be talking about focus and task commitment with many of them. It's going to rock.

The Euchre

We play euchre now.  John and Patricia taught us.  I'm okay at euchre.  Not saying I'm amazing or anything, but I'm passable. I've been known to take a trick or two here or there.

 There are parts of the game that I still don't quite understand.  Husbandman is surprised by this.  Today he said, "You've played 5 times."  Then he started to explain the bidding process again.  After awhile, I said, "I'm not really listening to you."

I'm on a need to know basis with euchre.  This is the last day of summer vacation. Euchre was my main accomplishment of the summer, in terms of learning new things.


The Job

Husbandman and I have enjoyed a long summer of traveling and eating lunches together and solving difficult crossword puzzles.  Yesterday I headed in to the compound to start getting the classroom ready.  Husbandman said, "Well I guess I won't see you until late tonight?"
        I wryly replied, "In reality, you won't see me until late May."
        It was kind of funny, but also not so funny.
        I spent a long time at school yesterday and truth be told I didn't get much done.  I needed to keep the big picture in mind and stop getting distracted with small details like should I rearrange all the chapter books.  Today will be better.

The Movies

When I'm visiting my mom, we watch a lot of movies.  Here's the lowdown on some movies you may also want to view if you feel like it.

Mamma Mia.  You might think this is going to be kind of dumb but then you might be pleasantly surprised.  The movie doesn't take it self very seriously.  The songs are catchy.  And then there's Cher singing Fernando.  SCORE.

On TV we watched Tom Cruise in American Made.  My mom and I agreed that it wasn't your typical Cruise fare, but very watchable.  We also watched Table 19, which was silly, but kind of okay because I always like Anna Kendrick and June Squibb.  We capped it off with The Equalizer, which I've seen about 12 times.  My mom had never seen it.  She said, "I don't usually like movies like this, but Denzel makes it."  So we lucked out with the movies. My dad was cranky and wouldn't watch the movies with us, so that was frustrating, but everyone is entitled to freedom.  Overall, a fun visit down in t…

The Legs

Husbandman  was mowing the lawn this evening last when this snake stealthily and swiftly wrapped around his left leg.  We couldn't persuade the snake to release him.  Come to find out,  the snake was squeezing Husbandman's leg with a surprising amount of force, preventing Husbandman from finishing the mowing which was a drag because he only had a small bit of lawn left to mow.

We sat on the deck together, the three of us, for the better part of an hour, when a baby rabbit caught the snake's eye.  The rabbit was munching grass, nary a care in the world.  Our snake who we had started calling Legs, slithered off Husbandman's leg and headed to the rabbit.  Legs never made it over to the rabbit who hopped away in a flash when he sensed something was amiss. Legs slid back to the deck, but by that time, Husbandman and I had gone inside to eat some peach cobbler.  Legs spent the night on the deck in a state of what can only be described as despondence.  We wish we could think…

The Conference

ILA 2018 has come to an end.  I'm still here in Austin.  I was going to venture out to see the bats tonight, but you know what they say.  If you can't stand the heat, stay inside the air conditioning.  So that's what I'm doing.

But that's neither here nor there.  Let's not judge me for making the lesser choice.  Let's focus instead on the conference and my many accomplishments.

The conference has been quite good.  My session went well and that was a big relief. It was delightful  talking about Back and Forth with Katie Wood Ray.  The people at the session were supportive and enthusiastic. Go EDITOR MINDSET!

Other highlights:  I listened to 5 great authors on an LGBTQIA panel. I could have listened to them all day long.  I also heard a funny session about punctuation and bought a hefty book called #Patterns of Power that will help me with teaching about apostrophes this year.  I also spent some time analyzing a poem with a group of peeps. I also talked with…

The Clickiness

So today I got on a plane and flew to Austin, Texas.  First thing I did when I got here was check into my pleasant hotel.  Then I went to get my badge.  Then I went back to my room to keep practicing my talk.  This talk's been giving me grief, but it's not really the talk's fault. I just keep getting distracted by stuff.

My mood brightened when I discovered a little shop in the lobby where you can buy sandwiches and bottles of WINE!  Once I feel like I'm 100% ready for tomorrow, I'll relax and watch TV and enjoy the fruit of the vine.

My room overlooks a beautiful outdoor pool.  I'm tempted to make my way down there, but every single person, save one,  is part of a cool in crowd group, also known as a clique. There's one guy who is not mingling but he's talking on his phone while he stands in four feet of water. I feel sorry for him.  It's best for me to stay up here and practice the talk again.  Then I'll catch up on The Bachelorette and imag…

The Annoyances

I'm sitting in a coffee shop, surrounded by men and women chatting.  Several have  sweet lilting voices that are getting on my last nerve.  I wish they would go away. Zip it, people.

Tomorrow I go to Austin.  I don't feel ready for the ILA Conference and as usual I've turned the talk into a ridiculous chore that still isn't quite done.  Surprise, surprise.

On the good side of things, our trip to Oregon was fantastic.  We ate at amazing restaurants, visited beautiful parks, hiked to  stunning waterfalls, stared at sea lions and sea stars along the coast.  

We talked about things that annoy us at our jobs and 20 Something led us in a goal setting session. In short, #VisitOregon

The Editor Mindset

Toward the end of the month, I'm going to Austin to talk about Back and Forth at the ILA Conference.  I'm working on the talk and as usual, I'm getting down to the wire.  I got brave last summer and asked Katie Wood Ray to present with me.  KATIE WOOD RAY, people! As you undoubtedly know, she's a famous writing workshop guru who has written many amazing books for writing teachers.  She's also an editor at Heinemann.  So I thought it would be great to have a real editor sharing thoughts on the editor mindset as I share ideas from my editor mindset work with the Thirdlander authors of Popcorn Press.  I'm still surprised that Katie said she would do this.  How nice is that?

I need to get this power point done so I can send it her way before I leave tomorrow for Portland.  I'm pretty sure I can do it.  I keep getting stuck because I can't stop looking up new information about editors on the internet.  This Harper Collins site, "Inside the Archives&qu…