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.

Going Back to School

As adults, we often forget what it is like to have regular opportunities to start anew. We become used to having made enough mistakes that from here on out we can reliably predict what will happen as a result of our actions or inaction. And so, we float along secure in the knowledge that we are “done” learning and can simply work hard to get ahead.

But children, and adults who are trying new occupations, walk on shifting, uneven ground. The familiar terrain of the people who have “been there, done that” is off beyond the horizon. Rather, each step, each turn, each moment and day provide the unknown — situations where the outcome is unclear; disappointments from which recovery is not certain; words that are unfamiliar; even the roadmaps of directions and examples are so new as to be unintelligible.

This year (2014) I am going to do something “completely” new. I am going back to third grade. Now, truth be told, third grade was probably not my finest year as a child. I butted heads with my teacher (I am sorry, Mrs. Russell!) on many occasions, based probably more on factors outside of school than inside her classroom. I remember pronouncing a word in one way, to be told that it was incorrect (it was an alternate pronunciation, not incorrect!). I remember staring out the classroom window at the old, abandoned house outside, in a snowstorm and wondering about the people who used to live there — and whether that house felt sad like The Little House (story by Virginia Lee Burton).

I don’t remember what I learned, but I do remember “my” spot on the bench outside the principal’s office… and if Mrs. Wright ever reads this, thank you for being so patient!

I have taught in middle school classrooms mostly; even as a substitute my calls were mostly for middle schools once they knew I liked that age. I have volunteered in grades K, 1 and 2, and 4… and student taught in grade 5. But no prior contact with the missing year other than three sub assignments (I went back and looked). So going to third grade? Shifting terrain, for sure!

Add in to this learning I had the job only ten days before the school year. Today is the day after –

And I can tell that already, before the school year starts, I am “behinder” than I have ever been. I will try to pick up copies of the teacher manuals tomorrow, and read over them in the evenings.

I am researching (this is one of my strengths) and, having subbed for many teachers in many places, I know that kids are resilient and any beginner’s mistakes I make this year the students will be fine. I can figure out what they need to learn — and teach it — and they will learn a lot, and grow.

I am fortunate that, in this new territory, I have the most amazing guides. Publicly, I want to already say think you to my colleagues Marilynn, Kim, Cindy, Liz, Cathy and Jeff who have already offered to help me with everything from setting up the room to figuring out the first days and beyond.

And yet, still, persistently, I feel unsure. I am uncertain whether my decisions from day to day are the “right” ones, if the outcomes will be what I hope. I will need to learn new vocabulary — from having taught primarily Language Arts at the middle school and upper intermediate level, I now move into teaching “everything” (except music and PE and computers) with much younger students. Will my vocabulary be appropriate? Will my demeanor?

I am in a new land. With strange and wonderful creatures, landscapes and denizens. Everywhere I turn there are (and will continue to be) amazing sights, wonderful vistas, and occasional frights.

The advantages of starting anew are not inconsequential. Old ways that didn’t work can be left behind. Ideas that weren’t useful can be forgotten. The gait of the walk, the rigidity or fluidity of responses, the optimism that things might be somehow more magical here and now… those are precious gifts, and unusual in adulthood even if the accompanying growing pains are not much fun.

This is my second time in two years to feel this way. Excited about new beginnings, unsure (and a little anxious) about the unknown.

My students are feeling this way for the third time in three years (more, if they move often!). I hope to remember this as we get to know each other and develop our class into a community. When they are unsure, I will be patient with them. When I am unsure, I will be patient with myself. And I will step out confidently knowing that my guides can keep me on the right path!

We may be on different journeys, but for this segment at least we travel together.

New Beginnings

Well, this past month has been a series of ups and downs. Losing a friend to cancer, doing poorly at several interviews (including one I really had my heart set on), and dealing with a series of allergy-induced migraines made it hard to get much done. So add guilt to the list of negatives…

But thanks to good friends, and a small amount of desperation — and rethinking my health — I can finally report good things again.

I realized that allergies were the cause of the headaches and used the “sanitary” feature on the washer for the sheets and blankets. Cost: three hours of washing and an hour of drying. Waking up headache free? Priceless.

I asked for help improving my interview technique, got better for each one, and finally it paid off.

I lost my friend, but in thinking about it, I have such good memories and a desire to see her legacy continue. And now…

In my own elementary classroom, I will!

I have been hired at a district I never subbed in, but is closer than many I considered! Third grade will be a real challenge this year, it will also be a joy. To be able to work with students at this age all year long, to see them grow (and they grow a lot at this age) and help them explore and interact with the world will be priceless. My friend who works at this new school has told me for years what a great place it is, and I am very hopeful that I will be an asset to the community.

I met the other third grade teachers and a few others,, and they are going to be wonderful to work with. I can tell this is a caring, focused community.

And now — open house is in five days. Students in the classroom on the second of September. I will be posting here as a way to think things through — and to record the small successes we have.

Pictures — house/yard/classroom — when I have the time again.

Allons-y!

Passages: Mentor

My friend, Denise, has passed on.

I hadn’t seen her in a couple years, except for once at my school last year and once at a restaurant this summer. She was busy with parenting and teaching, and so was I. She was terribly ill, I was trying to recover from the fire. So many regrets…

She was a kind person, an excellent teacher, and the best mentor for a mid-life new teacher I could ever have had.

This is a hole in my heart, and a crater in the universe.

Today in the garden

Tom cleared more of the veggie garden today, and so did I.

Grant weeded part of the pond garden today, and I helped.

The deer have all-but killed one of the smaller Asian pears. The crows are ravenously grabbing all the possible upper fruits…

We have blueberries, blackberries, red huckleberries and pears coming on. Plums are done — made three batches of plum jam this year.

Earlier this week, my dear friend Dorothy brought some lovely plants — a jade plant, some coleus and a pink oleander (never knew how beautiful they smell!). They look lovely in front of the house.

Below are a few pics.

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Shelf Elf

Two actually — my shelf elves put up the last shelves in the linen closets over the weekend.

Here they are, hard at work.

working in the hall closet

Master bath linen shelves

The process is getting easier, as we learn more about the Closet Maid system. The best part is, once the horizontal hang tracks are in place, the rest is very easily reconfigured as our needs for storage change. We are starting with just a few shelves in each location, and will add in or move them around as needed.

Today in the garden…

(Pictures are from yesterday)

I woke up around 5:30 this morning, managed to stay in bed until just after 6 — couldn’t sleep, didn’t want to stay in bed. So I wandered out to the hardware store to get some hoses and hose materials (mostly connectors so I don’t have to have a single, 300-foot hose), and some more shelving pieces. Now working on the two linen closets, and trying to figure out a way to have taller items on the floor but sufficient shelf space. I like the closetmaid system because it is pretty easily reconfigured if I change my mind! Which I tend to do.

The rest of the day was spent looking in some boxes, found a couple books I thought I had discarded after the fire. They still need to be discarded, but since I had forgotten to get the title and author names, I am glad to have had the reminder. Also a lot of of miscellaneous items that I want to keep “for now” but not forever, and will simply box up again until I need them. I’ll put labels on the boxes this time, after I sort them into the appropriate piles! Someone seems to have mixed up some of the items; I find cleaned items next to soot-covered items, which is disconcerting and means I have to be very careful when lifting things out so I don’t smudge the clean ones. {note: I made a couple editorial changes when Tom suggested that perhaps some of the items were “scrambled” by having been taken to the apartment and hastily reboxed at some point}

And then I spent some time sitting with Mother on the little patio Grant built me, just visiting and talking about how things are going. Little by little both the house and the yard are taking shape. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday. I’ll post a few more of the patio and front entrance once I have cleaned it up a little more. I finally have some ideas that will better define the “drivable” and “off-limits” areas, and will get that finished over the weekend.

Here is my official “greeter” who used to sit facing south, but now relaxes under shelter as people walk toward the door. She was a gift from my mother in law when we first moved here.

the hens-n-chicks have been replanted since we moved home

the hens-n-chicks have been replanted since we moved home

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