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Category Archives: teaching

What Summer is About

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On Sunday, I saw one of my students at the grocery store. We said hello to each other and I asked if she was having a good summer. She said she was, but lamented that it was going too fast and that it seemed to be nearly over already. I assured her that we had five weeks left – I had counted – and she has plenty of time to relax.

Of course, I have to remind myself of that as well. I don’t feel as stressed out as I did last summer, when I was trying to develop an entire new teacher induction program from scratch, but I’ve still been plenty busy, and certainly not ready to go back to the classroom yet.

Husband and I vacationed in Prince Edward Island at the end of May and beginning of June. It was a lot of driving – two days of driving there and two days back, plus quite a bit of time in the car as we explored the island. Husband drove every last mile of it, which made us both happy. He loves to drive; I prefer to gaze out the windows until the hum of the motor and the movement of the car lullaby me to sleep. (And then I wake up with a sore back and a stiff neck.) We listened to seven audiobooks on the trip. While we were there, we went sailing (sort of – the wind died so we were really just out on an engine-powered boat that has the ability to sail). We kayaked out into the ocean (with a guide) till we found a sand bar where we dug for clams, and then kayaked back and assisted our guide in making (and eating!) clam chowder. We visited Green Gables (walking through the Haunted Wood and Lover’s Lane), toured an alpaca farm, walked along several beaches, and ate a lot of seafood. Lobster, clams, haddock, crab, mussels, and oysters.

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PEI is beautiful. Every single part of it is picturesque, and most of it is rural. I think Husband would like to live there. He’d have to live there without me, though, because one lady told us that last year, there was still snow on the ground at the beginning of June. No, thank you. Indiana might get miserably hot and humid, but at least our winter doesn’t last eight months. Of course, that’s one thing Husband would like about it.

Coming home made me happy. Everything is green here in the summer, and when the thunderstorms aren’t rolling through, the sun shines mightily.

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In June, Husband did some sand sculpting, and I picked raspberries and visited with friends I haven’t seen in ages. He worked on installing I-beams in the big carport we’d had put up in the spring, as part of setting up his wood shop to work on the timber frame house he is building.

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I went to a workshop on Project-Based Learning and started the second course in my Master’s program in Curriculum and Educational Technology. As July began, he drew designs for ice sculptures and house plans while he watched movies, and I listened to teacher podcasts while I washed the dishes or made dinner. We put up 13 bales of hay from our field, and then it rained three and a half inches in about two hours, and the hay – which we’d put in the barn but not in the hay loft – got wet because the barn floods. (Lesson learned.) He’s been playing soccer. I’ve been running and biking… and going to yoga, which seems a very middle-aged-woman-thing to do, but hey, I’m a middle-aged woman and I’m trying to embrace that. Besides, yoga helps keeps me flexible since I never remember to stretch after I run.

My book has languished. I’ve been waiting for feedback from a few of my students who promised to read my manuscript and let me know what they thought. And just like adults, when kids don’t have deadlines, sometimes they take a long time to get things done. It’s not such a bad thing, though. Most of my creative energies have gone into developing PBL unit plans, drafting emails to our new teachers and organizing their orientation, responding to online discussions for my class, and coming up with ways to redesign my classroom, both physically and culturally. Sometimes I play the ukulele. Sometimes I knit… and on days like today, I rip out twenty rows of knitting because I made a huge mistake waaaaay back there.

Summer, I’ve decided, isn’t about being lazy. It’s about giving my mind a rest by doing other things, by stretching it in new ways.

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.