Tuesday, August 20, 2013

slow start

Thea is easing her way back to the school year by attending Marching Band camp for three days this week.  She has to be at school at 8:00am, a time of day she has rarely seen for the past two months.
It’s got me thinking, what’s better: to practice waking up and getting going in the morning or to blissfully lag about until the morning of the first day of school? And I have to think, option two is the better choice. Really, no matter how much we “prepare” the first week of school is exhausting, for both teachers and students (and parents). There just are no true test conditions that can recreate the stressful mornings of stuffing breakfast in your mouth while searching for the new bus pass. And what can prepare you for being “on” for six hours after being essentially “off” for six weeks? Even though we’ve used our brains quite a bit (my girls and I have done an awful lot of reading and writing this summer, and even visited a museum or two) it’s different from the intellectual demands of school. Or maybe it’s just the scheduling of it – you must be cognitively ready during the hours of 8:00 am and 2:00 pm., not at randomly inspired times.
In the summer we ease ourselves awake with reading, we eat when we’re hungry, we stop what we’re doing to write down a really good story idea, we lie down when we’re tired. In school we jump out of bed to get to the bus stop on time, eat at the scheduled lunchtime, stay on task, and lie down when we get home.
So, I don’t want to ease into that. I want to enjoy every slow minute of time before it.
Thea’s starting early but she loves marching band, and there is lots of time to socialize. But for Anya and I, we’re leaving our days unplanned and taking things as they come. And, even though I’m doing a ton of work to get ready for the first day of school next week, I’m doing it on my own time with iced coffee and reading and writing breaks and the occasional nap.

My end of summer Slice of Life

Friday, August 16, 2013

Small - a Five Minute Friday post

A bit late in the day, but here's my contribution to the Five Minute Friday challenge. Take five minutes and join us. You can get details here.
This week's word: small


“Good things come in small packages” my parents used to say. My mother said it with a defiant smile, holding her five foot self erect and proud. My father said it as he looked lovingly at the woman he called his sweetheart even after nearly 60 years of marriage.

I loved that phrase when I was small. As the youngest, I was smaller than everyone. My voice was small. I felt my very presence was small.

But then I got big. I was taller than both of my parents by high school. Once I had kids of my own, I was heavier than both of them, too. Not hard, granted. As my mother aged she improved, got better and better (read, smaller and smaller).

But just the other day I heard my mother’s voice through me tell my youngest about the good things in small packages as she dragged a stool over to reach the bowl on the top kitchen shelf, complaining about her height. And though she is not my sweetheart, I think I must have had that same loving look on my face when I saw my daughter straighten up with a proud sly smile. That smile is no small thing. 


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

creating a purposeful space

It could be described as aimless wandering, the way I walked from point to point in my classroom yesterday. My daughters and I arrived at about 11:30am knowing we had about three hours to begin to put the room to rights. We had water bottles, snacks, and a plan. But I looked out at so many desks that the custodians had left in rows, book boxes piled on the table, three computers along the windowsill, my desk in an odd central spot and the reality of the room and its contents did not match up with the beautifully organized learning space in my head. How do those Pinterest teachers create so much space in their classrooms?

We started with a list. I wrote on the white board the spaces I wanted to create and we surveyed the room together. Mailboxes need to go near the door, without blocking the phone the way they did last year. The library shelves would go along the back wall, under the literacy bulletin boards. For now, I’ll set up the computer table at the end of the library, boxing in the space a little, creating a “room”. Thea got to work constructing the shelves I bought over the weekend. Anya and I focused on arranging the desks in groups and finding places for the work tables. The girls picked out bulletin board colors for me and we created display space on what was once bare walls by creating two big green blocks for Science, a large purple box (to match the purple storage case) for Math, and an orange wall for Social Studies (because orange is my favorite color not just the new black and because we wanted to brighten up that particular wall).

When 2:30 came with the announcement that we all had to leave by 3:00pm, the girls and I looked around the room to see well-defined spaces. I could imagine the students and I maneuvering easily to get to where we needed to go. The room is not complete, but it no longer inspires mindless wandering. It now holds purpose.

We’re hoping to go back on Thursday, when we can stay all night if we want to since the custodians will be back on their regular school year schedule. Thea is going to put together the cart of drawers that I think will serve as the writing center. I am going to clean out a few corners and finally get rid of the big TV cart that we never used but that we had to keep in the room last year (rumor has it I can get rid of it, I just have to ask the right guy). We’ll add borders to the big color blocks we hung on the wall so the edges appear straight and neat. I have some bulletin boards to create and books to sort into leveled and themed boxes. And I wish it were Thursday already. I was so happy to be in school yesterday, to be creating a welcoming learning space.
This bit is offered as my Slice of Life. Add yours, or read others, here.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lonely - A Five Minute Friday post

 Here's my contribution to the Five Minute Friday fun hosted by Lisa-Jo Baker.



You know how sometimes it seems like the whole world is in sync. Like the way it’s raining today. Or the fact that the Five Minute Friday word prompt is “Lonely.”

Today is the one year anniversary of my mother’s death and I have been lonely often this year. How do you learn to be in the world without a mother? I know I’m fortunate that I had her for 43 years. I’m even more fortunate than my brothers and sisters because I remember (at least a little bit) having her all to my self for a whole year when they all went to school and I was the only one left at home with her. I remember going with her to the Pewter Pot for lunch with a friend or with Nana. We went to Nana’s house and visited Aunt Nora and ran errands. We hung around the house and she sewed and made bread.

And for the last few years of her life I drove her to work and to errands (yes, she was 80 and she worked part time for my sister). I took her to doctor appointments and got to know her medical history as I had never known it before. And I saw my Mom one on one as I guess I hadn’t done since that year before I started school.

And every time something comes up with my growing into teenage girls (ages 12 and 14) I think in my head which questions to ask Mom about it, or how I’m going to explain this latest thing to her next time I pick her up. But I’m never going to pick her up again and the loneliness is so intense I’m sure there’s a gray cloud around me that everyone can see.