* Ten Things of Thankful

Today I am grateful for endings and for new beginnings.  I am a bit subdued, feeling like an 18 wheeler got the best of me.  But thanks to Josie for her faithfulness in keeping this blogging challenge GOING!

One.   This migraine headache is finally relinquishing its hold.  I spent yesterday huddled in the darkness as my dearest widower brought me ibuprofen and Tylenol.  Yet another side effect from yet another statin drug.  Coming to an end, right?

 Two.  The necessary roofing repair, with its pounding and ladders and men of integrity, is also coming to an end.  I’ll miss the way they hung around….

roofer 2

Three.  We are finally tackling some overdue home repairs and cleaning.  The roof rot (above) was a serendipitous discovery after pressure washing the house.  See?  My pressure to get the pressure cleaning was a good thing!  I should remind my dearest widower.

Four.  The clutter in this house is coming to an end.  Baby steps.  No, tweener steps.

Five.   Our hot and humid summer is gradually coming to an end.  Temps dropped to the 80s this week (just for a day or two) and many trees are cutting their losses, with yellowing leaves gulping for water.

Six.  The new school year starts tomorrow!  My dearest teaching widower calls it the Great Everson Giveaway.  I wonder why he’s never as excited as I am.

Seven.  More awesome professional development classes start soon!  My dearest teaching widower asks me if this is what other “retirees” do.

Eight.  The fawns that have been parked on our hill are following mom to sample treats in other folks’ yards.  I know they will be back.  This evening.

Nine.  My dearest widower is shopping for clothes right now!  On his own!  Maybe this is the start of something new.  Maybe he’s an imposter.  He doesn’t think a shirt should cost more than $12.  Yes, it’s been that long since he ventured into a mall.  If I didn’t have such a headache,  I would have accompanied him to immortalize the expedition with photos.  Is this the end of online shopping?  Nope.

Ten.  I will copy The Wakefield Doctrine and leave this one for the special day when I don’t have a headache.  Whee!

 

 

* Keep Your Passion

I am shamelessly borrowing Kendrick Vinar’s message and applying it to a passion for teaching.  The big question is: What drains your teaching battery?    Around here, next Monday is the grand opening!   Best to explore these issues BEFORE the school year starts, right?battery

Kendrick gave six examples of Passion Drains:

  1.  Unaligned priorities.  Ask yourself, “How am I actually spending my time?”  (Not “How do I wish I were spending my time?”)  You might think that you are devoted to parent-teacher relationships, but how much time do you spend talking to parents?  Or perhaps lifelong learning is high on your written list, but do you really devote time for reading and collaborating professionally?
  2.  Unbalanced schedule.  I can provide the perfect example of this, being the only teacher with 40+ years experience who worked at school every weekend.  Uh-oh.
  3.  Unresolved conflict.  This is an emotional drain which may lead to darting into closets to avoid the principal or refusing to make eye contact with another teacher.  For my part, I was actually oblivious to the anger I had stirred up in a colleague.  Yikes.
  4.  Unforgiven sin.  OK, you don’t have to be a Christian to understand that those lies or mean-spirited words can’t truly be ignored or swept under the carpet.  They will come back to bite you unless you make things clean.
  5.  Undernourished soul.  Ever feel like you are running on empty deep inside?  Our spirits need nutrition, just as our bodies do.
  6.  Unclear purpose.  It’s natural to feel some discomfort when vacations end, but do you also feel a genuine excitement about getting to know your new students and families?  Are you excited about all the fun that is to come?  Is it a thrill to inspire others to learn?  Don’t stay in teaching if there’s no passion in your heart.

You owe it to yourself and your students to blaze with the joy of teaching.  

* The Bitter Parent Back-to-School Guide

You never thought the summer could be soooo long; by all rights, it shouldn’t be!  Why do teachers complain about long hours and little pay when they have three months of summer vacation?  And it won’t be long before they are taking off for workdays and so-called professional development.  Plus your kids will have forgotten all the little they learned last year and they’ll probably get that crabby teacher who never retires.  Here are some back-to-school tips just for you.

  1.  Let your kids stay up as late as they like, especially for that first week back at school.  It’s about time that teachers get to see what you have to put up with.
  2.  Send high-sugar-and-carb snacks that will fill your kids’ bellies and don’t fret about wonky blood sugar levels.  These snacks are much more appealing and will boost your child’s social credit.
  3.  Arrive late to school at least a couple of times in the first week.  Nothing much happens before 9 or 10, so at least your child won’t be as bored as usual.
  4.  Send your child in flip flops on PE days.  PE teachers have enough time in their schedules to sort that out.  After all, they play games all day!
  5.  Remind your kiddos that if someone hits them, they are to hit back three times as hard.  Better yet, encourage them to be proactive, not reactive.  That will take care of all those bullies at school.
  6.  Give your child a break from that ADHD medication.  See #1 for the rationale.
  7.  If your child is attending a new school and has an IEP, keep it a secret as long as possible.  Why prejudice the teacher’s opinion of your child?
  8.  Don’t bother with that heavy packet of forms from the school.  If it’s important, they’ll send it again.
  9.  Put the first PTA meeting on your calendar.  You will want to suggest that schools skip summer vacations all together.  How are kids supposed to learn anything in just 180 days?annoyed woman.png

* The Bitter Teacher Back-to-School Guide

You never thought the summer could be soooo short; between a second job and staff development, you had one week off!  Why do parents complain about taking care of their children for a few weeks?  And it won’t be long before they are griping about workdays.  Plus the kids will have forgotten all they learned last year and you’ll probably get that crabby administrator who is shuffled from school to school.  Here are some back-to-school tips just for you.

  1.  Enjoy your last night before school starts, staying up as late as you can.  You shouldn’t smile at kids before January anyway.
  2.  Resurrect those old boxes of crackers for the classroom snack.  They don’t have peanut butter and you can’t even read the expiration date.
  3.  Lock your classroom door and keep the lights off so any late kids and their parents are forced to return to the main office.  After all, what is the intercom for?
  4.  Double-check with the principal to ensure that subs are available when the specials teachers are absent.  That’s your planning time and the PE teacher doesn’t need any time just to organize a game.
  5.  Take tranquilizers before the Back to School event.  Watching the way kids run around like crazy while their parents ignore all misbehavior is a sure indicator of a long year ahead.  Identify bullying parents and see if their child can be reassigned to a beginning teacher.
  6.  Contact the school nurse well before the first day of school to see who takes meds for ADHD.  Have the school social worker on call to summon parents if ANY kids seem unmedicated.
  7.  Assume that all new kids are behavior problems and figure out how to have them placed elsewhere or medicated.
  8. Print up your stacks of reminders to parents about clothing for specials, rules for the playground, field trip chaperones, lunch money, snacks for the classroom, requests for supplies, room parents, PTA meetings, book fairs, and Teacher Appreciation Week.  Have your assistant use a different color of paper for each set of reminders.  Make sure the request for classroom supplies is stapled on top.
  9.   Figure out how to skip the boring PTA meeting, especially the first one where all the troublemakers start agitating the group.bitter teacher.png

* All the Little Children

All the Little Children,” by Jo Furniss, is fantastic.  You might think that an apocalyptic plot is overused these days, even passé, but this book will blow your socks off.  The story is set in northern England.  It could have taken place this week.  Marlene and her sister-in-law, Joni, have ventured on a camping trip deep in the woods with their kids.  The trip was precipitated by Marlene’s selfish husband’s need to have them “out of his hair” while he packed up to leave the family.   Marlene, a successful businesswoman, has always placed her work and her needs above those of her kids.  She’s even trying to hide in the trees, talking to a partner in China, when her phone stops working.  Then Peter climbs a tree and sees “volcanoes” across the countryside.  Their magical trip is transformed into a nightmare.  People are dead, animals are dying, and some local children- Wild Things- are left to fend for themselves.

All the Little Children

This is a book of stark contrasts, of lyrical writing amidst the buzz of flies on dead bodies.  Of selfishness and incredible sacrifice.  Of Lord of the Flies and the humorous antics of little kids.  I must share a quote to give you some sense of the author’s gift to her readers, of her ability to breathe vivid imagery into every moment.  Marlene tells the story as she searches for some Wild Things:

We traveled a land of little terrors, a place where one misstep might kill; one gulp of tainted air, one wound we couldn’t treat, one single bullet.  Death would be small.  Tiny.  It would snatch us in the space between one breath and the next.

All the Little Children” recounts Marlene’s transformation as she shepherds Joni and all the little lost ones.  As she is accused of murder by the very kids she struggles to save.  This is a terrifying book.  We see the world through Marlene’s eyes and wonder how we might cope in that wasteland.  The book ends abruptly but with hope.

And I do hope the author is working on another amazing story!

 

* Saying goodbye

Our adventures, tutoring, and movie nights with the kiddos have come to an end.  After a couple of years here in North Carolina, my nephews and niece have returned to Texas.  It was tough to say goodbye.  They arrived quite traumatized, but were nurtured by a most precious couple who sacrificed greatly in restoring these dear ones.  It was a joint effort to socialize them, to love them through their sometimes unlovable moments.  That is when we all most need to be loved, right?  When we are at our most unlovable?

We had many many delightful movie nights, digital events where they played hard and mostly cooperatively.

movie night

There were some days that I failed miserably, when my patience evaporated, but overall, we learned and loved together.

Speaking of learning (so get ready for the teacher in me), there was absolutely no learning curve for this Action Movie FX app (below).  Created by Bad Robot Interactive, it features every kind of Star Wars menace (and more) that you can imagine.  Fortunately, this is not our car!  Once I contained them inside, they became quite adept at blowing up every person and every piece of furniture as well.

Our goodbyes today at the airport were difficult.  Plus I thought I might get stopped by security with that guitar case, which seemed like a perfect cover for an automatic weapon.  Yes, I’ve seen too many movies.

airport

As the departure time neared, Christopher hid his tearful face while Isaac gave me hugs every few minutes.  We waved faithfully every time they looked back at us on the other side of the security check.  Christopher yelled a reminder that I will tutor him via Google Hangouts.  Or else.

One consolation for us all is that they will spend summers here in NC.  I imagine my patience will be tested again, but I smile at the thought of greeting them next June.  I love you, dearest kiddos.

 

* Back to school we go

Back to school.jpg

As long as I can remember, each year begins at the start of school.  I may be semi-retired, but I’m already having those back-to-school nightmares dreams!  Here are some teacher survival tips for handling the new school year.

  1.  Never live for vacations.  Sure, they can be marvelous, but there’s no telling what might happen during that supposedly carefree time off.  I’ve had a taste of that disappointment.  Live for each day instead.  Live for each school day.
  2.  Cut yourself some slack.   The beginning of school can be hectic, so don’t beat yourself up if those trips to the gym or time with a loved one get squished a bit.  Or a lot.  Give yourself time to get into the workplace rhythm again.
  3.   Set up your room early, if possible.  If you get a head start on organizing bulletin boards and arranging tables and chairs, you’ll have more time to catch up with colleagues and offer support to others.
  4.  Assess your digital organization.  Maybe your desktop is neatly organized without stray files and your documents are not tossed into one humongous file called “school.”  If not, this is a great time to think about more specific categories for documents, purge junk, and clear that inbox.
  5.   Get back on a workday sleeping schedule.  If you’re a night owl, it’s time to transition to being an early bird.  (Hey, wasn’t that clever?)  There are apps for that transition; iPhones also delight in giving you bedtime reminders.  If you have to drink a lot of caffeine to focus, you might not be getting enough sleep.
  6.  Remember that the only behavior you can control is your own.  Sure, you must set up an environment and use strategies that encourage cooperation and a sense of community among your students.  But in the end, all you control is your response to those around you.  Respond with kindness, patience, self-control, and flexibility.
  7.  Look forward to all you will learn this year.  Isn’t that why we teach?  Because we love to learn?  You’ll learn from everyone, including those tough kiddos, if you have that growth mindset we are endlessly hammering into kids.
  8.  Teach all kids well, not just those who look like you.  

I hope your new school year is a wonderful adventure!

* Mark of the Plague

mark of the plague

A student just finished “Mark of the Plague,” the second in Kevin Sands’ Blackthorn Key series.  What a winner!  As in the first book, Christopher, an apothecary’s apprentice, gets caught up in mystery and death, with self-sacrificing best friend, Tom.  Christopher also renews a casual relationship with Sally, another former orphan from Cripplegate.

The year is 1665, the city is London, and the plague death toll is already 30,551.   The wealthy folks of London have fled and the remaining population lives mostly indoors, in dread of contracting “the sickness.”  Christopher is struggling to make ends meet after the death of Master Benedict and reverts to his usual love of pyrotechnics.  When an old friend, Isaac, gives them a paltry sum for shopping, he also describes a prophet who’s come to London, some extraordinary figure who can predict the course of the plague.  Isaac also shocks them by revealing that Master Benedict has left Christopher a hidden treasure, one that must be solved by following impossibly cryptic clues.   The boys head to the market, eventually rescuing Sally from ruffians on the streets, at least temporarily.  While at the Exchange, they are amazed by an apothecary, Galen, who claims to have a free plague cure.  From that point on, the three young friends find themselves in serious danger from all sides.

“Mark of the Plague” is an excellent mystery for middle schoolers and up, with complex characters and a battle against evil machinations and a devastating illness.  There are a number of significant themes in the book, drawn against a backdrop of bizarre plague remedies, minds overwhelmed by grief, and cruel greed.  The author faithfully represents this time of despair while leading his main characters through life-and-death struggles and into a newfound freedom.  Students will marvel at the complexity of the plot, which is equally likely to stump adult readers.  And the ending?  Even more remarkable than the previous book.

I highly recommend “Mark of the Plague” and await the third in The Blackthorn series, “The Assassin’s Curse.”  

* The One True Love of Alice-Ann

Enthralling.  Captivating.  I was shocked by The One True Love of Alice-Ann.  I could not put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover.  Alice-Ann was more like a movie than a book.  The author, Eva Marie Everson, has created a full screen novel of life in a sleepy southern town in 1941.  When Pearl Harbor was attacked.  When young men rushed eagerly to war.  When an awkward 16 year old falls in love- or does she?  And when the men don’t return, or come back broken in body and spirit.

Why was I shocked by The One True Love of Alice-Ann?  Because romance novels are at the bottom of my reading list.  Give me a detective or legal thriller, please.  Yet this book amazed me.  I crouched in Alice-Ann’s bedroom, watching her weep over precious letters from the man of her fantasies.  I hid behind the door as she tended to a friend who came home blinded and crippled.  I eavesdropped on Alice-Ann’s conversations with her father, aunt, friends.  I heard her crying.  I watched her grow up in a time of great despair.

Alice-Ann was an inspiration to me, and I’m 50+ years older!  She served and loved and judged and prayed and cried.  Wait a minute.  Alice-Ann is not real, is she?  Eva Marie Everson has a gift, folks.  Whatever your preferred genre of books, The One True Love of Alice-Ann should be on your reading list.  Read it in full technicolor.  You won’t be disappointed. Alice-Ann

* Long Story, Short

Long Story, Short spells d-o-o-m for my bogging posts.  This is one area where blogging and reality coincide.  I have three versions of any story (or any thought, for that matter):  one for my dearest teaching widower (his preference being 10 words or less), one that struggles to include no more than 4 tangential topics, and the Real Deal, an unscripted, spider-webbing marathon.  The latter version is best shared with family, who are forced to love you, or good friends, who then take a turn with their own Long Story, Short.

Don’t get me wrong.  Some folks can actually tell a Long Story, Short.  Our son and his wife both fall into that rare category.  I’m so glad they are forced to love me.  When I started blogging, my posts were typically 1,000+ words, paralleling my conversational “skills.”  The only people who read them were spammers, but in my naivete, I thought they were similarly challenged folks who enjoyed reading my blog.  When i clicked on their links, I ended up in boat manufacturing and cosmetics, with nary a story to be found.

The key to my success as a blogger?

No, I’m not using a picky definition of ‘success.’