Freedom

Tonight, for the first time since the fire, I experienced over an hour of complete and total immersion — bliss — concentration — joy… I played a drum for our local community orchestra.

It was so much like dancing — or making dolls — or painting — or being in my garden.

And, for a while, there were three generations of our family in the room, making music together.

It was magical (for me at least) and I think I am going to do this for a long time.

New Year Intentions

Working on stating things in the positive this year:

  • I will organize my home office/studio in easy stages
  • I will be patient with myself as I continue learning to teach a new age range
  • I will organize my school files as I finish each week, so the work does not pile up
  • I will begin making plans for my next year, now that I understand what needs to be in place at the mid-year point
  • I will plan my garden upgrades with long-term sustainability in mind instead of short-term appearances
  • I will maintain my health and as I am able increase my exercise and improve my diet

May the new year bring opportunities for abundance, prosperity and joy.

Snippets

I am trying, during my two-week (16 days!) break this year to get ahead on a few household tasks as well as spend some time just doing the artsy-craftsy-teachery things I enjoy. The teacher-tasks are waiting until Thursday afternoon, when I will enjoy sitting down while watching football or movies and going through scope and sequence for the rest of the grading period. The artsy-craftsy tasks are mostly waiting until I have my office in better shape.

The house is already cleaner and better organized than it has been since just after we moved in. I keep hoping for that “Open House” but now I think it is going to wait until Spring break… It’s all “baby steps” for now while I try to finish the last organizational and decorating tasks and wait for the funds for additional enhancements.

Here is something Grant helped me put up today:

A gift from Mother (one of two limited-edition ornaments) this year.

A gift from Mother (one of two limited-edition ornaments) this year.

This is a “completed” task (but need to clean the windows properly before taking more pics).

Here is a “before” shot of the desk in my office/studio. At the time of writing, the surface is clear, but the shelving isn’t yet properly mounted. This is one of several tasks I have been needing to attend to for several months, and one that is finally going to get done!

The desk is three feet deep and five feet wide.  The surface in this picture is covered in months of additions waiting for their homes.  Some of them belong on the shelves that are about to be mounted above, others will go in files in the cabinet to the left.  The small set of drawers and the sewing machine under the window have already been moved out, increasing the floor space by over 8 square feet!

The desk is three feet deep and five feet wide. The surface in this picture is covered in months of additions waiting for their homes. Some of them belong on the shelves that are about to be mounted above, others will go in files in the cabinet to the left. The small set of drawers and the sewing machine under the window have already been moved out, increasing the floor space by over 8 square feet!

The house is definitely looking lived-in… now the trick is going to be getting the last remnants of construction and the last bits of demolition debris removed before Spring. Planting time is coming soon and the ground is not yet prepared. I will be putting some bulbs in pots this week, and the rest…

There is always another season, another year, another project. Here’s to seeing what 2015 will bring!

Long silence but not low effort

This school year has, predictably, been a time of extreme effort on my part. I rarely have time to just sit and enjoy fun things, when I do sit I am usually working on a small present or reading the news.

I feel inadequate most days, knowing that there are so many more strategies I could be using, so many more data points I could be tracking, so many other things I could be teaching. I keep telling myself, “next year,” as if that means that this year’s inadequacies are somehow understandable and therefore I should stop worrying. Each day I go in, I teach the best I know, I learn more about these particular students and this grade level’s expectations and abilities, and I fit more pieces into the teaching puzzle.

“Next year” has a reassuring ring to it — I work so hard to try to meet the needs of all the children (24 at the moment, but up to 25 again soon I expect), and I am seeing progress. But I don’t see as much progress as I would like, I don’t know how many missed opportunities I have, and about once a week I have a moment when one student or another clearly doesn’t get what he or she needs. Next year I think that I will be able to predict many things and spot many things, and prepare in advance for many things (truth be told, a lot of the preparations from this year will serve for next year).

In the moment, I respond appropriately and catch many misconceptions, I predict what kids will need in advance most of the time, and my explanations are making sense to my students. We have a couple of long-term projects underway, and I am feeling comfortable modifying those as needed. Usually I overestimate their readiness and understanding of concepts and have to go back and fill in. But I am getting better at figuring things out quickly so we don’t waste too much time!

And one last niggling teaching issue I have been struggling with is balancing the good of the whole class with the excursions of individual students to specialists, not at the same time or for the same purposes. I cannot fill in the gaps for all of them, so have finally made the decision to stop trying. I will provide some students with less instruction in the “exploratory” instruction for this grade level, such as science and social studies. This saddens me because I think all students need to learn in a wholistic manner — but I have a responsibility to make sure that the most essential learning is taught. Perhaps next year I can figure out a way to incorporate everything.

Next year. Always next year. Next year I will be more knowledgeable. Next year I will be more organized. Next year I will be more prepared. Next year…

It’s good to think about a “next year” and so I will continue to give this year my all, knowing that these children are teaching me far more than I am teaching them.

The classroom after an actual MONTH

This is how I left the room today, set up for a sub who gets to do the “fun stuff” with the kiddos. :-) I try to keep a few tricks up my sleeve just in case, and today it was necessary to pull a few of them out.

Tomorrow, Grant has a surgery to repair a hand damaged at work earlier in the week. Should be an “easy” fix and he should be fine, but just in case I thought I should be there.

So I took a few pics of the classroom. Here are a couple. I am not commenting on them individually since they are relatively standard schoolroom pics, but the room is looking more and more lived in. The large leaves hanging from the ceiling are felt. I got them at a local large kitchen and bath store, and they have really made the room feel less cavernous.
Continue reading

Passages: Joe

Joe was the life partner of my mother’s cousin all of my life. He was an intermittent, but important part of my life. We loved him.

My mother’s cousin died several years ago. After our house fire last year, I didn’t have the heart to write to Joe, so he never knew. Joe had been very ill from complications of diabetes for years, and I had been trying to figure out how to restart the conversation but…

And now it is too late.

I hope he is finally comfortable. I hope that his memory will fill others with as much joy and love as I feel for this kind, generous, gentle man.

I hope that my heart will stop feeling like it is going to break — I think I am done with big losses for a while.

Memories

A year and a half ago this evening, I was planning the pizza party for the class that had “most improved” in behavior and academics; and deciding to have cookies and juice for the other classes, who had been working very hard as well.

Tomorrow will be the 18 month anniversary of the last day of that grading period, the day that I entered in all the data I had and started making comments in the evening so parents would know how their kids were doing in school. That was a Friday. I was so looking forward to the weekend, to the following two weeks (right before spring break). The weather was lovely and we were able to take Lucky out nearly every evening for a walk. I had plans for the garden, for the house, for figuring out where I was going after the break (when my long-term sub position would end).

I liked my home, my cluttered corner where I planned lessons, read books and watched TV. I loved my purple and yellow and green bedroom with the basketry light fixture over the four-poster bed and the walls of books…

I loved the times we spent cooking in the cramped kitchen, eating at the linoleum-topped table, playing games.

I walked the gardens daily. I knew the plants, the animals, the sunrises and sunsets. Predictable, but ever-changing.

On Thursday, it will be a year and a half since all of that was taken from us, the bright Monday afternoon that home was lost and we learned the true meaning of neighborliness and friendship. A year and a half since we ended up in a hotel without a clean change of clothes, or toothpaste or even a hairbrush. A year and a half … that feels sometimes like yesterday and sometimes like a completely different world.

We have been back on the land, in a new house, since the first of June.

I still sometimes feel out of place, not sure where I am.

I don’t yet walk the gardens daily, too many things perished while we were gone.

I don’t yet have a handle on everything that is lost, because there are still boxes to go through. Every box holds memories…

Every memory I have to let go because the papers or fabrics are too damaged (and toxic) to keep hurts. It goes slowly.

And yet, a year and a half of new memories are already built. The picture of Grant and his girlfriend’s senior prom is clipped to my lampshade next to my new corner where I plan lessons, read books and watch TV, and think about maybe tidying up someday…

Once again, Tom cooks in the kitchen, this time a more spacious and workable space, with a separate area for the table where we eat and play games.

This autumn we will plant bulbs, tubers and corms in the back yard, reclaiming the ground that was damaged by construction for a pleasant view that doesn’t need mowing.

This winter, we will sit in front of the fireplace when it rains (or snows), something brand new for us.

And in another nine months, we will have been back almost as long as we were away, and I hope we will finally feel home again.

For now, the memories still invade at inopportune moments, and I have to catch myself and figure on which side of the memory I stand…

This loss hasn’t been the hardest we have faced, but it has been very difficult. Recovering from something like this … never easy. But recover we do, and every day a little more falls into place. Every day, the new memories are stronger and the painful memories are easier to bear.

Ready for Customers!

I think of my students as my clients, or customers. I provide a service. They benefit from my instruction (although as with a dentist it isn’t always “fun”) and I have a purpose.

Here is the view looking toward the front of the room as I got ready to leave today. Student desks lined up, names on cubbies and books and folders…

The front of the room...  the large map will disappear at some point, we don't use it at this grade level.

The front of the room… the large map will disappear at some point, we don’t use it at this grade level.

And the beginnings of the calendar. The students will be coloring stars tomorrow as part of a math lesson on patterns and then the stars will be the background for the calendar days this year. I will laminate the calendar after we get the stars up. I will also put days of the week on the calendar, trying to decide how best to do that.

The beautiful stars are courtesy Tabitha and Grant, more to come from the students!

The beautiful stars are courtesy Tabitha and Grant, more to come from the students!

So, we are ready. Or, ready enough. I have subbed so often that even if we get derailed I should be able to move us along. This should be a truly grand adventure!

Making Progress

The classroom as I left it this afternoon about 1…

desks in appropriate rows, space in front for "floor time" space in the back to add computers, space for a small-group table...  and I know where the materials for the first couple of units are!

desks in appropriate rows, space in front for “floor time” space in the back to add computers, space for a small-group table… and I know where the materials for the first couple of units are!

I have things cleaned, I have things (roughly) organized.

I have also planned the first day (need to get the materials pulled together).

I am ready for tomorrow! And almost ready for the first day of school.