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Category Archives: teaching

School’s Out!

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The weather’s hot, the grass is growing, and teachers around the city are beginning to relax.

Yesterday was my last day of school for the year.  Hooray!  I have approximately 10 weeks to sleep late, go to the bathroom any time I want/need (without waiting for passing periods), eat when I’m hungry (rather than only at 12 noon), and do those things I’ve been putting off.

So maybe you’ll see more blog posts from me.  Things have been happening on the homestead — animals born, others butchered, progress on the house-building, fruit ripening.  But I also have a lot to do this summer.  I agreed to develop an orientation program for new teachers at our school, and I need to write curriculum for the second year of my two-year honors class.  There are home chores — cleaning the chicken coop and the rabbit barn, putting a cover on the pool and taking down the fence, reorganizing the guest room closet.  I picked the first strawberries today, and there will be raspberries and blackberries ripening soon.  There are little green cherries and little green peaches on our trees.  Then the rest of the garden will start to be ready to harvest.

I want to write, knit, and draw up plans for a tree house / writing studio.

There is a lot of stuff to cram into 10 weeks.

I hope to make the most of the time.

Encouragement, Sort Of

I told my students that I’m writing a book.

I don’t remember how it all came out, but after I told one group of kids, they told others, so that now most of the seventh and eighth graders at my school know about it. I get some interesting questions.

“Are you going to have it published?” they ask.

“I hope so,” I say, “but it’s not finished yet, so I don’t know.”

“Can’t you line up a publisher now?”

“No. I’m not J.K. Rowling or John Green. I can’t line up a publisher without having the book finished.”

Another question I get often is, “Will you finish the book by the end of this year?”

My reply is always, “I’ll be happy if I finish the book by the time you graduate from high school.”

One seventh grader asked me, “Are you going to use a pen name?”

I said, “Well, the book isn’t finished yet, so I’m not even thinking about that.”

“A pen name is cool,” he insisted. “I haven’t written anything yet, but I have a pen name.” (At least he’s got his priorities in order.)

In a sense, I suppose it’s encouragement.

In another sense, they may just be trying to get me off-topic.

The Swirl

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At 9pm, my eyes get sandy and my energy drops.  Time for bed.  I tuck myself under the covers and drift to sleep.

At 2am, my bladder wakes me and I pad off to the bathroom.  When I return to bed, I snuggle back in, thinking that sleep will return to me.

Instead, a hurricane of thoughts fills my head.  Lessons I need to plan, copies I need to make, a quiz I need to alter.  The research paper I need to write for the class I’m taking.  And when will I get it done with house guests two weeks in a row and a mini-vacation planned after that?  And the refrigerator needs to be cleaned, and I forgot to buy flea prevention for the dogs.  There’s a log cabin show at the state fairgrounds this weekend.  Where will I buy the fruit trees I want to plan and when should I plant them and where?  Do I really want the strawberries where I had originally planned them?  If we buy a tractor, will there be enough money left to purchase the supplies to build an outhouse this summer?

I roll over, hoping a change in position will help.  The cat shifts her weight on my legs, wondering why I’m disturbing her sleep.

I remember I didn’t put away the laundry yet, or vacuum the living room rug.  I wonder if bleaching the well is the best way to get rid of the sulfur smell in the water.

The cat box needs to be cleaned.

I ask God to clear my mind so I can get back to sleep.

Will the research project I thought of for my eighth graders be too hard?  Is it okay if it’s hard because they need a challenge?  Why haven’t we heard back from the meat processor about the deer Stephan took there a few weeks ago after he hit it with his car?

Flip the pillow to the cool side.  Look at the clock.  Thirty minutes have passed.  Forty-five.

Everything I just thought about runs through my head again, this time in a different order.  Trees, tractor, strawberries, outhouse, research, guests, fridge, vacuum, lessons, laundry.

I try to release it all, but mostly it continues to run in the mental hamster wheel.

My eyes droop again, and I hope this time it will be for good.

Soon, it will be time to get up.

Thinking Ahead

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I’m a list maker, a planner, a thinker.

Each work day, I consider what needs to be done and I cross the items off as I accomplish them.  Copy handouts.  Grade essays.  Write test.  Plan next week.

The same thing happens at home.  Clean bathroom.  Do laundry.  Trim dogs’ nails.  Wash dishes.

I’m always thinking about what’s next, what needs to be done.  Planning is not only enjoyable to me.  It’s how my brain works.  At work, I’m already considering next year and how I’ll change the lessons I did this year.  What I’ll tweak, add, toss.  At home, there is much to do on our new place.  It’s hard even to know where to begin.  Cut down dead and dying trees.  Pull out mulberry bush.  Plant flowers.  Plant garden.  Build outhouse.  Build treehouse.  What about fixing the pool?  When will we start on the cottage?  I overwhelm myself sometimes.

Sometimes, I have to stop.  I need to enjoy the present.

Over spring break last week, I could have spent the whole week working and planning for school.  But I would have missed out on lunch with a friend, naps in the recliner, a journey through a good book.

I could bury my face in my computer or my books, researching and planning what’s next on the farm.  But then I might not relish the kitten sleeping in my lap.

I need to add some things to my to-do list:

Slow down.

Enjoy the moment.

Just be.

A New Blogging Venture

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As I look over my posts for the last couple of years, I notice that many of them are based on my professional life.  This blog was not originally intended to be a “teacher blog,” and I’ve had to learn what it means to put on the internet my ideas and experiences as a teacher.  It was a learning curve I hadn’t expected, but I am getting the hang of it.

This blog, Oldfangled, was originally intended to talk about how I live in the 21st century despite sometimes wishing I had been a pioneer girl.  The teacher stuff didn’t really fit that mold, but it was still about my experiences, so I didn’t worry about it too much.

But the lines began to blur a bit.  And I like things neatly categorized.  So, as Eminem says, “my OCD is konkin’ me in the head,” and I needed to make some boundaries more defined.

I started a new blog called Good Morning, Class!   That’s where I’ll write about all the teacher stuff I think about.  Books, curriculum, student achievement, lessons, classroom management, the whole bit.

Oldfangled will keep to home life: running, raising rabbits, home stuff, and so on.

If you’ve liked my posts that talk about my job, I hope you will follow me at my new blog!

The Longest Week

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The last week of school is the longest week of school.

We are out of routine.  There are no new lessons or units to begin, so once we finish something, that time must be filled somehow.  Schedules are disrupted with locker clean out, awards ceremonies, talent shows, and picnics.  Books and iPads have been turned back in, so those materials are gone.  I’ve tried playing games (moderately educational games such as Taboo or Scrabble) but at this point, the kids are over them.  I don’t like showing movies.

Last year, I did more actual teaching until the last two days of school, but this year, my units finished up a little bit early and presentations didn’t take up as much time as I’d anticipated.  So I’ve been treading water for over a week.

It has not been my best week of teaching.

Tomorrow is the last day.  In the afternoon, we have a talent show and a picnic.  In the morning, however, I must do something with my kids.

I think we are all a little tired of looking at each other.

So I’m going to try something new that will require them to communicate and work together as a team.  I think it will work better with some classes than others, but I am going to experiment with it anyway.  We’ll see how it goes!

One more day.


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Today’s teenagers and young adults have a verbal tic that drives me crazy.


They pepper their language with it.  They use it as a filler word when they are trying to figure out what to say, and are too afraid of silence to just be quiet for the half second it would take them to organize the thoughts in their mind.

Lately, I’ve been calling it to their attention, because it’s getting really out of hand.  I will say things such as, “Well, I think I understand what you’re saying, but I’m having to sift through all of your likes to sort out your meaning.”  Or I will respond in kind: “I think, like, that I, like, understand what you are, like, saying, but, like, it got a little, like, confusing, because, like, you kept saying LIKE.”

(I use like as a filler word sometimes, too.  I freely admit that.  But I don’t use it a dozen times in a minute-long answer.  And I’m not exaggerating there.)

I had one student who interrupted a two-syllable word with like.  Not just a sentence.  A WORD.  “For these projects, are we gonna have to pre-like-sent?”  He is sure he didn’t do that.  He swears he said, “like, present” but I know what I heard.  I would never make up such a thing because it would never even occur to me to make that up.

When I have students give speeches, I’ve started adding “avoiding filler-words” to the rubric on which I grade them.  (Most of them use like, but there are plenty of ums, uhs, and you knows as well.)  It makes them more aware.

I want my students to sound like intelligent people.  (That like was not a filler-word!  It had a purpose!)  They are intelligent people, but when they say like every three words, they don’t sound intelligent.  In fact, my husband just had a client (probably a twenty-something) who had the same verbal tic.  He said it was incredibly difficult to understand her point when she was talking to him.  I want my students to get out of that bad habit while they are still young.  I don’t want them to go into a job interview and get rejected for the position because they can’t speak clearly.

I will probably make an even bigger deal of this next year.  So if you are a student reading my blog, here is your homework for the summer: eliminate filler words from your conversations!  (And also, don’t check out yet.  We do still have four more days of school!)