Prophesies

Posted by on 06 Oct 2018 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, hope, Making a Difference, musings, poetry, politics, Politics and War, social justice

Dark times, dark of intellect, dark of hope, dark of prosperity, dark of joy, dark of freedom, dark of life.

Current events.

Cautionary tales a half century old (and more), based on suppositions and “if this, then that,” Toffler may have been right, Roddenberry designed it…  the ancient hermits in the desert railed against it.  What has happened will happen and now is happening.  Look there!  The last of….  Hark to the new…  Stepping out of the comfortable, the familiar, to envisage this brave new Huxleyan scene:  those who wield power, and those who rejected it, caught in the web of uncompromising consequences.  Best to reject Orwell and Bradbury outright.

It never was enough just to live and let live, and never will be.  Is it too late?  I whisper to the unborn: never.

In the dark are the mysteries of promises half-made, and all-but forgotten.  In the dark are echoes of pleasures to come.  In the dark reside your ancestors’ hopes/fears/pain/joy.  In the dark…

Prophesies are not promises.  They do not restrict this person or that, they do not require belief or obedience.  They will (or won’t) manifest in this lifetime or another.  The route may lead through many unseen and fortunate misadventures; and unbidden ease may assault our purpose. 

What conditions will compel us to stay?  To go?

Survival is not the question.  The question is:

Is survival desirable?

August 2018: Back to School?

Posted by on 15 Aug 2018 | Tagged as: economy, Education Professional, school

The season of going back to school has begun again. Teachers plan and get their classrooms ready, families shop for school supplies and new clothes, and custodial and grounds crews work at breakneck pace to get everything safe and shiny.  Teachers eagerly anticipate returning to their hearts’ work, and wonder if last years’ students will drop by during open house, and whether the new crop of kids will like us.  I will be ready — tomorrow I will get most of the rest of the organization completed and put together an order for the print shop.  

However, as I write this update, it is not certain that our district will start school on time.  Many Washington State school districts renegotiate their staff contracts regularly, and in those years everything usually goes smoothly.    Tomorrow (August 16) our union’s negotiating team will meet again with the district to discuss the contract that needs renewing.  So far, most districts are still negotiating, a process that started fairly late this year when the legislature met the “McCleary decision’s” obligation by simultaneously releasing large pots of money to schools while tossing aside the state teacher salary schedule which used to set minimum salaries for every year and for several levels of education.

Earlier in legislative history, the state guaranteed to meet education obligations for through an altered property tax calculation while restricting levies to only “extra” expenditures.  Districts around the state have come to different conclusions about the purpose and meaning of this. Many districts are trying to keep any salary increases to under five percent saying they are capped (untrue) or that the legislature won’t fund salaries to this same extent in the future (untrue).   There is a lot of uncertainty as to whether teachers may need to strike (which is very bad for morale statewide) as representatives of the teachers attempt to educate districts on the import of the laws and new revenue streams. There are also issues with classified staff (mostly paraprofessionals and office staff) who are also having to renegotiate contracts.  My school is scheduled to start the week  before Labor Day, though most seem to start the day after, which means we are rather pinched for time.

What <em>is</em> certain is that the $1 billion dollars allocated by the legislature for staff salaries cannot be used for anything else.  Everything else from transportation, to books and teaching supplies, to special education, should be fully funded by the state according to EHB 2242 (final bill report) instead of local levies; and within four years this transition should be complete.  There were four items in EHB 2242 that were line-item vetos, those are listed at the very end of that document.

Meanwhile, many districts are choosing to interpret the salary money as a one-time investment on which contract negotiations should not depend; they are also claiming that the lost ability to ask for levies for basic needs -after current levies end- will eat into future state funding.  Which, according to SB 6232 (final bill report) is incorrect.  The salaries that are to be negotiated are not going to roll out incrementally as in EHB 2242, but immediately beginning with this new school year.  And the funds proposed by the state for future years outpace the previous state+local monies.  In other words many districts are using red herrings.

It is clear that the legislature intends for salaries to be brought closer to a reasonable standard relative to other occupations this year; there is NO CAP on salaries that are negotiated this year although there are minimums; there will be caps for future salary negotiations based on cost of living indexes.  They are also reducing the interval for examining cost of living increases for teacher salaries from 6 years to 4 years; and there are additional calculations for districts that have high costs of living (mine really doesn’t), have high poverty rates (mine is), or other factors that would increase staffing needs or costs to hire.  It is disingenuous for districts to allege that teacher salaries will not be honored or paid fully by the state after this school year.

So through all of this, I am setting up my room (as we all do), planning lessons (as we all do), buying a few “homey touches” for the room (as we all do)…  and trying to keep my cool.  The kids deserve to know they will have school starting up; that their teachers are ready for them; and that the school district values their education and future enough to be sure the people who care for these children for more than 8 hours each day are given the income they deserve.  I am eager and happy to be returning to the same school for the fifth year, working with dedicated, passionate colleagues who do the best they can for their students under sometimes very difficult conditions.

Some editing for clarity on 18 August 2018.  And a quick update:  our district negotiations with certificated staff were fruitful and school will begin on time (pending union vote just before school begins).  We are, however, still waiting on a final decision for classified staff salaries!

Rules for Being Human (Cherie Carter-Scott)

Posted by on 28 Jun 2018 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, children, citizenship, editorial, musings

I didn’t know the original author of these (nor apparently did the Washington State PTA in 2010). It is apparently Cherie Carter-Scott, according to the website elephantjournal.com.

These were typed on a piece of paper in a slightly altered form by my mother in 2010. The paper has soot all over it, but I found it when organizing this week and thought I would record it where others can see it and enjoy it (and I won’t lose it).

  1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period this time around.
  2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the opportunity to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them irrelevant or stupid.
  3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error, experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiment that ultimately “works.”
  4. A lesson is repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it you can then go on to the next lesson.
  5. Learning lessons does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain its lessons. If you are alive, there are lessons to be learned.
  6. “There” is not better than “here.” When “there” has become a “here” you will simply obtain another “there” that will, again, look better than “here.”
  7. Others are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects something you love or hate about yourself.
  8. What you make of life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
  9. Your answers lie inside you. The answers to life’s questions lie inside you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.
  10. You will forget all of this.

Now, there are some parts that I think in today’s world need caveats, but what I will say is that apart from the author’s obvious privilege (for example assuming that “there” cannot be better than “here” – obviously has not lived in a place of war/high crime/high poverty) and lack of disabling conditions, the core is true. We are all given a life, a person, and situations to deal with. How we comport ourselves, how we deal with situations, is central to our character. We can sit and complain, or we can do what we can.

Those who “know” me via facebook will know that the last few years have had many sometimes life-threatening health struggles, but I have persevered and this coming year will be my fifth year teaching third graders. I spent five of the last seven days attempting to deal with a migraine without OTC medications, and yesterday was my first day that I didn’t actually sleep for several hours mid-day. Today I am working on organizing art supplies that have piled up and become unusable because I couldn’t find them. Little steps, small gestures, taking advantage of moments that arise — What do we do in our daily lives to make our small sections of the world better?

Missing month… catching up

Posted by on 26 May 2018 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month

This is the first year in a long time that I didn’t participate in NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month). I was working with poetry, reading and writing it nearly daily, but didn’t have the energy to even sign up at NaPoWriMo. So here are a couple of poems I wrote during that time.

Song of My Heart
The children on the lawn struggle
I sit in the shade and languidly point out that the toy they desire is near me.

The youth on the roadside with his friends shaken and shaking
I arrive and tenderly direct them to the safety of my car.

The figure on the bed no longer moves or breathes,
With my camera I capture one last moment and preserve the silence.

The smell of the cow-fields across the road, the scent of dryer sheets in the wind, the town-folk waking to another day in the rain,
The churning of tires on gravel with diesel fumes, the giggle of recognition and mumbled greetings,
The rumble of carts in the halls, the unlocking of doors, the slamming of books,
Lights, projectors, desks, chairs, shuffling feet dusting off snow or mud, The maestra standing in the doorway or in the center of the room,
The students peering solemnly at the topic without interest or understanding,
The playground now empty, now full of chasing, racing, gamboling figures,
A whistle, or a call, and the fun ends,
Books and papers strewn about the room, a pencil or highlighter sent across the table,
Chairs tipped backward falling suddenly and gales of mirthful laughter,
No harm done, microscopic wounds need less attention than imagined slights,
Shifting, moving, growing, pushing, emerging,
Fighting for survival, for friends, for attention,
In a minute, these small bodies will be sent into Life,
to work, to vote, to battle, to marry, to rejoice and to grieve,
I watch them through the decades —
and I let them go.

Commentary on Whitman’s Leaves of Grass

Section 6 “Grass”
The grass… This one really wandered around for me, and I had trouble catching the thread of his thoughts. The grass seems to point to an overarching purpose or design in the stanza “Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropt, Bearing the owner’s name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?”

I am reminded that in the 1800s it was
common for lovers to leave a handkerchief, or visitors a calling card, or the dead mementos of their passing through one’s life. The grass, on the other hand, also stands for democracy — the egalitarian dream that Whitman had: “Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white, … I give them the same, I receive them the same.” And it stands for the enduring nature and persistence of life: “The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.” This reminds of some of the other sections where life and death are juxtaposed and held in tension or opposition or comparison: Just as you are, so I was once (a consistent reminder in Crossing Brooklyn Ferry).

I think the beauty of this section is that Whitman seems to note a child’s question and take it seriously. As a teacher, I would like to think that he was able to make time for children and young people, and that his willingness to explore the possibilities of a blade of grass shows a patience that many people lack. I also think… going back to that first week of the course, that the use of grass as a metaphor here isn’t accidental. It’s related to the title, and the somewhat feminine style of the binding; perhaps emphasizing that even the least-grand materials are worth exploring to uncover the deeper connection and meaning.

A Lesson that didn’t happen
I had enthusiasm for teaching poetry to my current class, but the class itself was apathetic about so many things there was little time for innovation this time around. Still, the lesson’s bones are good and I want to try it again next year. We did talk about Theodore Geisel’s anapestic tetrameter and ABAB patterns, so we got to part of it!

Classroom Discussion
I am going to share The New Colossus with my third graders in April, to help them recognize that immigrants have been the backbone of progress, the drivers of economies, the creators of opportunities throughout U.S. history. So this is a relevant question for me: how do I introduce this Very Big Idea to such young children? I think by first addressing what symbols our nation currently has that support the ideas of freedom and opportunity, and asking my students what they would choose as a symbol and why. What would speak to their experiences and knowledge — or to children just like them from other lands — what would it look like? How big would it be? Would it make a sound? What could it be made of (a living animal, a statue of metal or stone… fabric?). I would ask them to draw a picture of their symbol and write about it in prose. Getting them to think first about how something could appear would provide an entry point for them to understand what Lady Liberty symbolized for the original sculptor as well as the immigrants who saw her as their first introduction to their new home.

I could then ask them to compare their idea for a symbol with Lady Liberty, and offer The New Colossus as one way to think about her as a bridge to writing their own poems. I have taught 6th graders to write sonnets, but I think that form might be too complicated for the students in my current class. The idea of rhyme is familiar enough to them, but learning to recognize the patterns would be enough of a challenge, so I would start with asking the kids to work in groups to identify the rhyming patterns in either the octave or the sestet. Then I think I would ask them to write quatrains based on the rhyming patterns they identified (ABBA, or ABAB). I would set the task as writing about their own symbol. And I think making a class book or bulletin board of their pictures of the symbols, prose, and poems would be a great way for them to display their work.

Dr. Seussian Doggerel
All the kids in grade three
think they know what they’ll be
as a grown-up of age twenty-nine: a police man, or soldier, a fine master chef, fire fighter, or rich without effort, or struggle, or itch, super heights they’ll achieve
with relative ease
they’ll say, “Hey!
I am number One-A!”

April 22 Lesson Plan – scuttled

Creative Assignment for Third Grade
With the best intentions, I had poems and lessons ready to go for this month, but there were some very weird days, and my students were resistant to trying new forms of writing. These particular students are less moAtibvoautted in general than most third graders, and so it is difficult to anticipate what will work — things that have sparked kids’ imaginations in other years consistently fall flat this year.

However, I think I have an idea that could unlock some of the curiosity and wonder that third graders “should” have: Using the idea of tanka (linked poetry from Japan) and word families (common spelling/phonics work from primary grades), I think I can present the students with word lists and ask them to work in pairs to create ABAB quatrains a la Seuss. We dissected anapestic tetrameter last week, and it was a hit, so by asking them to continue the exploration with this lesson I have modified from one I delivered to 6th graders many years ago, I think I can build a little more excitement.

Goal: With a partner write two poems with linked stanzas using ABAB rhyming scheme and a rhythmic scheme (anapest or iamb or other).
Supplies:
Examples of “Seussian Tanka”
writing paper and tools
lists of ten-twelve rhyming words (self-generated for the more-capable students, teacher-created for on-level), or words from same word family (for students who need still more scaffolding)
1) Explain what a Tanka is, and share some examples. Ask the class to discuss how the authors added their own ideas/personalities. Explore why this kind of poetry might be fun and/or useful. Make a class chart of their ideas/responses.
2) Students will each write one line of a poem using one of the rhyming words on their own paper (pre-selected for those who need simpler words, randomly assigned for more capable students), then pass their paper to the partner who will write the next line with a different set of words. Student pairs will be teacher-selected for similar work
Students who refuse to participate will be asked to write a quatrain on their own (likely with a few).
Scoring: (Maximum 20 pts)
Consistent rhythm within own lines – 4; inconsistent rhythm – 3; no obvious attempt to create rhythm or pulse – 2.

After the first line of the poem, the subsequent lines reference the
previous line: every time – 4; most of the time – 3; Sometimes – 2; Rarely or never – 1.

The student retains the mood set by the first line of the poem: Consistently or Mostly – 4; Sometimes –
3; Rarely or Never – 2.

The student can explain their thinking about their own work: Yes – 4; No – 2.

The student conjectures what another student was thinking or feeling: Yes – 4; No – 2.

Golden Shovel

This type of poem is called a “Golden Shovel.” It was inspired by a book of poems by Nikki Grimes that I ordered a couple months ago from Scholastic. You can see more about her book at https://www.nikkigrimes.com/books/bkonelastword.html A Golden Shovel puts the words of an inspiration poem as the final word in each line of a new poem. This is my first attempt at writing such verse, I hope it is at least a little bit successful.

Dreaming of the Future until it is Past (inspired by Dorothy Parker’s The Red Dress)
The Red Dress, stanza three: “And he would be a gallant one, With stars behind his eyes, And hair like metal in the sun, And lips too warm for lies.”

There is nothing like grief; And
when I said, “Come,” he
always forgot so it would
be useless to ask, it should be
easier (I think) to be a
friend, or a lover, a gallant
knight in armor, just for one.

Night, I wandered, With
the best intentions; the stars
were wandering, too, behind
the trees and buildings… his
smile, hiding the pain in his eyes.
Well-hidden thoughts, And
still my heart, my hair
my face and hands like
fire scorching metal
memories in flesh, in
deep brands, the
heavy brightness of the sun
Embedded for life. And
then forgotten, our lips
were lovers too
mixing cool and warm
ignorant of their lies.

Spontaneity

    A lovely time…

I wasn’t sure
if I was ready to take
the plunge
I worried about
note-taking and
rule-breaking
I thought –
This will take forever,
can I go the distance,
Will I pull my weight

Now I look back
with gratitude for
all who took this journey
who carried me
when my strength failed
who shared their own
hearts and grief
generously
walking through the landscape of learning.

Of life and learning

Posted by on 10 Jan 2018 | Tagged as: poetry, Politics and War

so much depends
on the breath of a butterfly
the wings of the hummingbird
or the termites ready to mate

they shift the skies
tossing tree limbs into the heavens
like graduation caps

making craters in the earth as they land
unlooked-for and unbidden
deep gouges in the soil

furrows for tomorrow’s
seeds

Lest we forget

Posted by on 30 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: citizenship, editorial, Making a Difference, politics, Politics and War, social justice, The Fallacies of 911, website review

Many of the people in the photographs in this collection died as the direct result of Nazi oppression (restricting movement, access to employment, access to healthcare, etc — based on “race”). Others would have died a natural death by now anyway even without a war. Some people may still live who experienced these times first-hand.

But this HAS happened.

It DOES happen around the world.

It is BEGINNING to happen here in the United States.

When we allow ANY group of people to be discriminated against in little ways, we are deliberately turning out backs on people JUST LIKE US. As happened to the Gypsies, Jews, LGBT, atheists, political opponents… when the people who were not targets were afraid to speak up, or (in some cases) genuinely didn’t know what was happening.

These pictures of the Lodz ghetto are important. Consider what is of value to you. Consider whether you want your children to grow up being taught that other children are somehow “less than” and therefore deserving of abuse. Look at the children in these pictures…

Consider whether your grandchildren may someday be the target of such abuse and discrimination.

Consider the legacy we are leaving for the generations to come.

Will we stand by and hope it will work out in the end?

Or stand for what is right?

What motivates you?

Posted by on 21 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, 3rd grade, education, Education Professional, Learning Styles

As a teacher, I am constantly being told (by non-educators!) that I must “motivate” the students. What they usually mean is: make lessons entertaining. They think it should all be fun and game-like. It is similar to the now-passé concept of “learning styles” (link opens a new tab and directs to a study released in 2015) where teachers are encouraged to provide many different types of tasks (it has since been determined that people will learn regardless of the type of task they are given – -although some people are more engaged by specific tasks, the learning occurs regardless).

In an ideal world, if I had VERY small class sizes, only one or two “preps” (lessons to prepare each day), and access to abundant materials that I did not have to prepare or collate in advance, more of the lessons might be engaging to more of the students. However, I can guarantee that even then at least a couple of students would not feel fully engaged for any one lesson. Why?

Because we don’t all think the same way, engage with life the same way, have the same expectations for physical interactions or social time, pursue the same interests… because we are individuals. Students do not all begin a school year at the same level in the various content areas (subjects, for those of us old enough to remember “3-Rs” years). Students may be ill, distracted by out-of-school events, or just dislike the topic or task.

When I homeschooled our TWO children, who were clearly not the same in most respects, I did manage to adapt and adjust for their needs and interests most of the time. Even then, knowing them better than anyone else in the world knew them, I sometimes didn’t quite hit the mark. Still, they learned and grew and are turning into fine young adults. That was just two, with abundant time and energy to think about and generate everything that was needed and wanted. And sometimes, even with the best intentions, I didn’t make it engaging. And sometimes, that was part of the lesson.

Think about it: not everything in life is a competition (and it shouldn’t be); not all tasks are accomplished cooperatively (and needn’t be); many of the necessary tasks appear to be without reward (until they are completed and the final product is useful or beautiful, or…); and sometimes tasks are distasteful, uncomfortable, and tedious. In real life, not everything is fun. Most tasks require the ability to focus for longer than a few minutes (without a sound/movement/visual to pull you back to the task). Most tasks in life are NOT inherently rewarding.

In the real world, of course, I have a much larger class size — 20 or more (sometimes more than 30) students. Children I have generally never met, whose families and communities I may not fully “get” until part-way through the year. Children with vastly varying life experiences and challenges. In elementary school, I have about 6 preps: Language Arts/split between “Reading” and all of the other related skills; both “on-level” and differentiated (we don’t have a current curriculum, so much of this is teacher-created or found); Mathematics/split into the lesson of the day and “differentiation” when I can (this will be easier this year with a curriculum in place!); and Science and Social Studies (when I can fit them in). I have students who come in and out of the classroom, depending on which specialist teachers they see – some I see pretty much only at the very beginning and end of the day, others all the time except ten minutes here or there… I have to account for kids who are absent, who are ill, who have attention or language processing issues, whose vocabularies are limited, who are well-above grade level in all areas, who have traveled to other countries or never gone outside the county they were born in… I have “nuclear” families, extended families, single-parent families, kids with two households, kids in foster care or living with relatives or friends for a while, I have kids living in the home their grandparents were born in, and kids who are homeless. I have hungry kids, tired kids, wiggly kids. I have concrete thinkers and kids who are surprisingly able to connect abstract ideas.

I have kids who master the concept I need to teach in three minutes, and some who will still be struggling with the same concept three months later.

I have some who think the task at hand is inherently fun; and others for whom a reward of candy and games when they finish one question with help is still not enough.

I have students who are just disengaged… it’s not through an “X-box” or a “PS” so they don’t care.

What are we teaching our students when we start to think about education in terms of “fun-only” tasks? I have students who enter third grade not knowing how to hold a writing tool for maximum flexibility and strength, who struggle to write — not just the ideas and conventions, but the PHYSICAL act of writing or drawing, or cutting out paper, or … because those are “hard” and teachers in previous grades, and their own parents, think they are not necessary skills. But, think about it — there are third graders every year who cannot open their own milk cartons because their hand strength is too poor. I have had students who cannot put a straw into a juice pouch for the same reason. The only thing I can tell that keeps these children from having the hand-eye coordination, core control, stamina for learning is that they have never had to really use their bodies.

If it’s hard to write, their parents put them on a computer. If it’s hard to sit, they are propped up. If it’s hard to walk as a toddler, someone carries them or puts them in a stroller, or … Many of my students don’t seem to do things like build forts, play with building toys such as blocks, or even color with crayons in coloring books. They have tablets and video games, they even have cellphones. But they do NOT have an awareness of their own bodies. Other students have been accomplished horseback riders, skilled hunters/fishers, avid creators with found objects, dancers, musicians, sports players…

So, what motivates them? Depends on the child.

Many students enjoy seeing how they do compared to the class — others are beaten down again and again when they are ALWAYS at the bottom of the results. I don’t keep track of progress on public boards any more… I give the competitive kids ambitious personal goals instead. And I give the kids who are less-skilled personal goals that will be attainable but still show strong growth.

Many students like to work toward rewards — stickers, small prizes, time to play games. Others aren’t motivated by external forces — they have a more mature approach and realize that they are working toward their own goals. They prefer to be told what they are doing right and supported in the areas where they can improve — those students love to track their own learning.

Many students like to play games with material they are learning, but just like anything else, some children struggle to be successful whether as an individual or as part of a team… letting down one’s team is a big deal in third grade.

Many students like to work with others, except those who don’t — maybe they are just not that social, maybe they get confused when there are lots of ideas; and sometimes they are TOO social and have articulated to me that when they work in groups they cannot help but visit and so they prefer to work alone so they can focus on the tasks at hand.

Some kids LOVE videos that demonstrate tasks and concepts. A few really don’t. Some love music. Many don’t. Some love to MOOOOOOVE! Many don’t.

Some read well and happily at or above grade level and enjoy “popcorn” reading (where their names are picked randomly); many don’t.

And so it goes.

I started thinking about this because I have goals for my summertime. The most important goal for me was to heal from the stress of being sick and teaching all last year (and half of the year before). The reward? I have more energy and strength!

Another goal was to lose a few inches that I gained during the testing interval… since I don’t have a scale at home I don’t know what weight I reached, but let’s just say that the larger sizes I always keep on hand for allergic reactions weren’t quite comfortable even on non-reactive days! The reward? I am more comfortable not only in my clothes but in my movements.

Another goal was to re-organize my office space (requires cooperative support)… not getting there very fast… the reward will be that I can put craft supplies away, and have a desk for doing lesson planning — freeing up the living room for RELAXING in the evenings with small projects and books to read.

A final goal was to get the front entrance garden back in form. The reward, once I am done, will be a more attractive home to return to after a long day at school, more visiting space when guests are over, and a few flowers for bringing inside. And I am getting there… but slowly.

My students’ goals are even more diverse — every year we start out with what they hope to learn: multiplication often tops the list, followed by “curly” handwriting (we do cursive in our school); some want to write better/longer stories. A few know we’ll do bird reports in our room. Many want to study science of some kind (which I fit in when and where I can). Almost none say they want to learn to spell more words — but it is necessary. None have ever articulated that they want to understand parts of speech, or new punctuation marks! They don’t generally perk up when I mention we will be doing more difficult addition and subtraction, or be writing more than two handwritten pages at a time! But again, those are necessary. And most of them seem to think that the learning will just happen, that a single lesson is all it takes… a common misconception even in middle school. The idea that they need to review, revisit, rework, and rethink many times before they have mastered a task or internalized the learning is very distant and difficult for them.

Which is the final point about motivation: not everything can or should be accomplished in one go, or the first time, or instantly, or easily. When we turn all the necessary tasks that kids do into games, into fun, they miss out on the opportunity to learn about patience and persistence. As an adult, I often have to wait: Wait to have a meal; wait to find out the results of a project; wait one’s turn at licensing; wait for a response from a job application; wait, wait, wait.

What motivates a person to tolerate waiting? Practice. Practice in school, and in the family. Practice learning that a question needn’t be answered immediately; a boo-boo doesn’t need a kiss this minute; a flower takes weeks to grow from seed…

What motivates me? Seeing progress, whether it is insignificant or ground-breaking. Knowing that sometimes I won’t see progress and that is okay, too.

What motivates me to get out of bed in the morning? My family. My students. My Wally. My friends. My garden. My music. My books. Learning new things, and sharing with those around me. Making the world better in the small ways that are possible for me.

What motivates you?

I am

Posted by on 13 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: musings, poetry

young
in jovian years but four and a half
in celestial years not-yet

old
by mercurial reckoning now
pushing twohundred-sixteen

Sweet sixteen
around the corner peers
old age staring back

Traveling through time is no trick; existing though…

Existence for longer than an eyeblink

That’s the neat trick.

Trying to stay upbeat, (however…)

Posted by on 12 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: citizenship, climate, economy, editorial, environment, Green Living, Politics and War, science, weather

Climate change.

I worry about the future, not that I would likely live to see the worst effects in my lifetime, but my children might — and if they have children, my grandchildren will.

Already, I believe that our climate has irrevocably altered. Things I enjoy like chocolate, coffee, vanilla… those may disappear in a couple decades, because the species that produce these treats are not likely to be able to adapt quickly enough to changing climate patterns. In our own part of the world, for several of the last ten years we have MISSED the “pre-spring” summer. When I was in college, we could count on getting a couple of weeks of near-summer weather in March before the rains returned. It would gradually warm up, and although we could expect rain as late as early July, we knew that mid-July to mid-September would be dry. So did the plants and animals, and growth cycles adapted to the peculiarities of our rainy season.

Here are two articles that I believe are based on science, that describe what has happened in the past when certain parameters are met.

NY Magazine 9 July 2017

CNN Sixth Mass Extinction 10 July 2017

I do not necessarily think this will happen, but I think the possibility exists. What can I do about it? I am continuing to attempt to live lightly, with fewer purchases in general; trying to take fewer trips by cars with combustion engines; trying to eat locally when possible (with my allergies though I must supplement with additional food sources from far away…); using up and wearing out, recycling, upcycling, and other ways to prevent materials that have finished their first use from entering the waste stream.

I try to teach my children (my own children as well as my students) to be thoughtful, aware, and safe. I know that a worst-case scenario will be devastating world-wide; already such awful conditions exist in many nations near the equator, in areas that suffer drought, famine, and weather disasters on a regular basis. Cholera in Yemen. Fires in Europe and North America. Hurricanes on the East Coast and … this could be a long list. Long story short? Things are changing. They are changing quickly and the old ways of dealing with limited resources won’t work.

It’s not just the economic picture, which will definitely have to adjust; with many on the losing end finishing in poverty. It is the ecosystems that will suffer the most: animals in the wild, plants, the oceans. As each species adapts or, more likely succumbs, to the changes, our world will never be the same. Already, some changes are inalterable. They may not all be bad in the long run, but we will need to change to keep up with them.

For me, step one is to be aware. The second is to address in my own life that which I can without withdrawing from society and waiting to die. The third is to contact my elected officials, friends, others who may care; yes, I vote! But I am ill-equipped with my allergies to participate in demonstrations or sit-ins, my professional training and avocational interests do not equip me to invent a device or material that can restore our atmosphere and biosphere. For other steps, I must hope there are people who will fill in.

Am I worried? Yes. Do I lose sleep over this? Not often — Not sure what the benefit would be of that! But I am doing what I can, to the best of my ability. And I still hope, because my children and my students are worth it. I do what I can.

Do you?

Today’s Garden Tour

Posted by on 12 Jul 2017 | Tagged as: fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Wally!

It’s raw, unedited, and not sure how much will make sense, but decided to try a quick video after I watered the garden this morning. Taking it easy today… will do more garden tasks tomorrow!

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