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Not-quite-summer vacation

Posted by on 17 Jun 2017 | Tagged as: 3rd Grade, caring, education, Education Professional, Vacations

It’s not-quite summer in our part of the world.

My students finished their last day of the year this past Wednesday. Like all endings, it was a bittersweet day for me. I handed out their report cards, we talked about how they can keep up with all the progress they made — and how if they spend their vacation NOT reading and NOT thinking about math the entrance to fourth grade won’t be as easy as it could be; and how if they just read for an hour a day and keep practicing their math facts they will find fourth grade a lot more manageable. I sent them home with worksheets, and a little toy, a rainbow crayon and fancy pencil and a little journal for writing and drawing in. We played some games…

Then they were dismissed, and I walked the few who weren’t being picked up by doting families to the buses, and waited with the other teachers for the signal for the buses to leave. One fifth grader (from my first crop of third graders) was in tears as her bus left the lot and we waved them on.

And then back to the room to pick up the pieces of my heart that the kids left all strewn about.

Yes, their summer vacation has started, but it’s still not-quite summer.

I am moving rooms this vacation — the new teacher in our grade will have my old room, a nice, secure location right in the middle of all the other third grade teachers. I get a room that has some advantages over the other but also some potential pitfalls. We are working to figure out ways to minimize some of the potential disruptions to my class’s learning environment. I spent several hours Thursday and Friday working in the two rooms — emptying out one and filling the other. Thankfully, I have help from unexpected places, but it’s still a gargantuan task.

So, for me, it’s not-quite summer.

I am getting some lovely new tables for the students to sit at, smaller than normal school tables but I am going to provide something called “flexible seating” where the kids get to decide the best locations to work (after some training!). I will have a smaller class, and this is the year to try a change. If it doesn’t work, we can go back to the old desks in nice, neat rows… I don’t think the kids would prefer that! We’ll have some open space to sit on the floor when I am doing whole-group teaching, and there will be space for some tables at the sides and back for group work. I have a couple of very small “teacher desks” that this year will be side-by-side because that’s the best layout for the room. I don’t really believe in carving out a large slice of the room just for my use, so I try to find ways that I can move among the children and teach from several spots.

It’s not-quite summer.

On the first day of summer, I am playing in a concert with the local orchestra. Then it will be summer — a concert with only three actual rehearsals. I would have been panicked at the thought only two years ago, but here I am — able to pretend to know what I am doing at least part of the time…

And so, as it’s not-quite summer I am sitting here with a blanket on my lap and a dog on my feet relaxing in the evening and not-quite planning lessons for the class that I don’t have quite yet…

Just dreaming. Dreaming of summer.

NaPoWriMo 2015.16

Posted by on 17 Apr 2015 | Tagged as: caring, education, Education Professional, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, Uncategorized

a day late
a dollar short

teachers have many choices
and schools have services
but not much influence

when a child enters late
departs early
naps through social studies
or math
or science-reading-all
day after day

who watches the children after school
who nurtures them at night
who wakes them lovingly (but insistently)
in time for them to eat
before they catch the bus

who cares for them
as a parent
when the parent
does not care

the teacher appears in a child’s life
a day late
and resources abound for education
but a dollar cannot make up for love

Difficult Times

Posted by on 31 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, editorial, Making a Difference, musings, politics, Politics and War, Uncategorized

I generally try to avoid politics here.

I feel, however, it is important to express important things.

And right now, I want to express my sorrow at the escalation of wars in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I am distressed and concerned about the possibility for a very serious and wide-ranging involvement.

What can we do?

What follows is “more of the same” concerning my focus on citizen participation in government and education.

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Mothers in My Life

Posted by on 13 May 2012 | Tagged as: caring, Family Matters, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, parenting, Uncategorized

I have one mother, whom I adore, and see as often as we can get together. Her mother, my beloved Granny, died a couple of years ago. My paternal grandmother, my Nana, died in 2001. I have many fond memories of both my grandmothers, and though we lived at a distance, we tried to visit them as often as possible.

I found a few pictures from my Nana’s collection yesterday when I was going through a box and put them together in some pictures I snapped on my ipad.

The first is Nana with Bert, my grandfather, probably taken in the late 1980s.

The second is Granny, me, and Mother when I was in high school.

The next is Nana on her 90th birthday with her two living children, me and my boys.

The last one is of my two darling grandmothers together, taken on a day they visited graves, two families in one cemetery.

I have had other grand/mother figures, mentors and guides in my life, for whom I am also and always grateful. Some are still with us, some are gone ahead. My mother-in-law who early on advised me that my kids would be completely different people (boy, was she ever right!) and so I was prepared to have some conflicts between the kids. My dear friend Betty who has been patient and supportive since I was very flighty 16-year old. MaryJo, a friend I knew when I was in college. Mrs. Lupher, who gave me refuge every week for a morning to watch nature programs, garden, and eat coffee ice cream. And many, many others.

cruel consequences

Posted by on 05 Feb 2012 | Tagged as: caring, children, passages, Uncategorized

So sad, so terribly sad

murder and abuse happen in large and small ways, all around the world

every day;

and every time,

every day,

it is a tragedy.

Sometimes it is spectacular, headline grabbing, internationally noted.

Sometimes it is quiet, hidden, and personal.

And every time

it is a tragedy.

No child should be subject to pain unnecessarily.

No child should be taken from this world deliberately.

All children should experience love, security, and nurturing from all the adults in their world.

All children deserve to live.

We need to do a better job of protecting our children.

RIP, Charlie and Braden

Occupy the New Year: A Challenge

Posted by on 30 Dec 2011 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Making a Difference, Peace Making, Politics and War, social justice, Uncategorized

This is a good time to dedicate ourselves to making the world a better place. Rather than focusing on self-centered goals at this time for resolutions (lose weight, clean out the garage, exercise more), why not choose one specific project that will help many people?

For example, this is an election year. If you are eligible to vote but aren’t registered, register! If you find yourself feeling powerless, assert your power: write to your elected officials, volunteer in a campaign (whether for a politician or a cause, you can help spread the word about something you are passionate about, even from behind the scenes and even if you are not eligible to vote), attend rallies and opportunities to meet the candidates. Do you attend your school district’s board meetings? Some things they do are mundane, others affect how the school interacts with the community. Do you know who your school board members are? Or your public (utility-port-library…) district’s board members? Do you know what budget or project issues they are discussing?

Obviously, no one person can keep track of everything or participate in everything. But every person can keep track of something, and participate in some way, whether eligible to vote or not. Not everyone can attend rallies, not everyone can write letters, not everyone can run for office. But everyone can be creative and realistic about volunteering time and talents!

In the United States, while corporations are adept at purchasing face time and favors with politicians, the people still have a great deal of influence, if they choose to wield it.

A democracy functions best when all the people make their wishes, dreams and needs known.

I have friends who volunteer at the food bank, who volunteer in schools, as firefighters, for political causes… each one of these people makes a difference in the lives of many others in the community. And in the process, their work expresses their values.

How will you choose to occupy your time in the new year?

How will you express your values in the world?

How will your life this year make things better for other people?

I am thinking over my possibilities. I will definitely continue volunteering at my local school as I have time and energy… is there one more thing I can add? I lack monetary security that would let me donate money to organizations and causes I believe in. Perhaps I can use my writing ability more productively to support them. I always vote, but I think this year I will write to one of my elected officials on a cause I am passionate about (education!). I also hope to have a productive garden this summer, and to donate some of the foods we grow to the local food bank. I want to be more consistent in keeping in touch with some of my friends who aren’t in the same spheres as my daily life. Keeping my resolutions to a reasonable list is the hardest part. But I think I will stop there so I don’t feel overwhelmed.

LATE Blog Action Day…

Posted by on 29 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: blog action, caring, economy, environment, food, Gardens and Life, Giving, good things, Green Living, Uncategorized

I was so distracted by the trip I took this month that I completely forgot to post for Blog Action Day (which was on October 16).  So here is what I would have said, had I been less distracted, and more alert.

Food is good.  Next to air and water, it’s an essential.  And yet, too many people around the world, and in my own country which is known for abundance, have too little to eat.

It’s not just that they can’t afford the food, sometimes it is that food that nourishes is simply unavailable, as in many places where drought, flood and other weather problems have destroyed the crops or livestock on which people depend. It may be that there is abundant growth in the fields, but not food crops: many farms have switched to corn and other plants that are used in fuel rather than as food. And, it may be that the food that is grown locally is shipped elsewhere, around the world, so that the local people don’t have access.

Could it be that there is really too little food for our world? We just passed the 7-billion-person mark. That’s more than twice as many people now alive on earth than there were when I was born. About 1.5 billion new people since my children were born. Check out the BBC’s online app “What Number are You?” I read today that by mid-century there will be as many people just in urban areas as were in the entire world about 100 years ago. That is, to me, a startling, alarming idea. People in cities generally lack the ability to grow food at all — they must rely on outside sources, so they are more vulnerable to fluctuations in supply, and more vulnerable to unscrupulous sellers who charge premiums on the foods that are available for sale.

What can we do to provide food for more people? We are learning – too late – that when the climate changes we have very little ability to prevent weather-related crop losses. We are learning – too late – that when cropland is converted to industrial zones or suburbia it is very expensive and sometimes impossible to go back. We are learning – too late – that the more people there are on earth, the harder it is to keep fuel costs (both monetary and environmental) down, and the more expensive food and other necessities become.

We are also learning that sometimes the old ways (pre-industrial) work best: Ranchers are returning to free-range practices that restore and preserve grasslands; farmers are returning to no-till (very labor intensive) and organic farming practices which can restore and maintain soil structure and health; urban people are beginning to think about living locally, eating what is in season rather than importing foods from around the world. We are learning that good food, healthy food needs to be available from an early age, so that children learn to eat and prepare healthy food and to avoid or minimize consumption of less-healthy food. We are learning that sometimes less can be more, when we eat foods closer to their natural state without added sugars and salts we tend to be healthier.

I don’t have answers, or even any real suggestion this year. I do have a desire to make this world livable for my children and the rest of the planet. What can I do in my own life to promote healthy food for more people? When I grow food in my garden I can give some of it away to the food bank, necessary now more than at any other time in my life. When I prepare foods for my family I can use in-season, less-processed foods (which are both less expensive and healthier). When I participate in public debate about land use I can advocate for both open spaces and public gardens so more people can grow part of their own food. I can support organizations that help people in weather-stricken areas to eat for now and reclaim their croplands as soon as possible.

I can do little things. If we all do little things, together, we can make a big difference in the health of the rest of the world.

Sometimes, a little bit of publicity can save a life

Posted by on 07 Oct 2011 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, Giving, good things, health, illness, Uncategorized

And if my half-dozen readers aren’t “a little bit” I don’t know what is!

I was alerted to a pressing need for a bone marrow donor through Seth Godin’s blog.

Here is the post that caught my attention: Eliminating the impulse to stall.

And here is the website for Amit Gupta who desperately needs a donor.

If this finds a donor for Amit, or raises awareness of the pressing need for donors of all kinds, then my blog has done its job today.


Amit found a donor and has had the surgery. Now he needs to recover and get used to being healthy again. I hope the transplant “takes” and that Amit will have a long and happy life.


Posted by on 07 Nov 2010 | Tagged as: caring, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, Making a Difference, passages, social justice, Uncategorized

My beloved Granny died this morning. She was a rock, an anchor, an inspiration for four generations. Though for several years she was not able to live independently, she nevertheless maintained her positive attitude and good humor throughout.

For those of you who didn’t know her, Granny was more than just the family matriarch after her mother passed away. She was a fixture on her street, where she had lived for over 60 years. She also worked for many years as a secretary at the Optimist Boys Home in Los Angeles. Her scrapbooks of newsletters and articles were an endless source of conversation and interest on our visits to her home, as they focused on the best that the young men had to offer.

Granny agreed wholeheartedly with the Optimist Creed, which I reproduce here:

Promise Yourself

To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.

To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something in them.

To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only of the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.

To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.

To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.

To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

Thank you, Granny. We will miss you.

May the best always be yours, may there always be light and laughter in your days, may your path lead always toward good things.

Passages: Sam Hinton

Posted by on 11 Sep 2009 | Tagged as: caring, citizenship, editorial, Gardens and Life, good things, hope, Making a Difference, musings, passages, Politics and War, social justice, The Fallacies of 911, Uncategorized

Sam Hinton. The world will miss you.

Though I never had the chance to meet Sam personally, I grew up looking through a book he had written and illustrated on the sea life of the coast of California. I think we all grew up knowing some of his songs.

As an adult, I rediscovered him through his granddaughter who became a penpal, and have set a goal to learn how to play the harmonica, an instrument both my grandmothers played, as well as Sam. But he was far better than any of us!

Far better, not just with the harmonica. It seems Sam was one of those bright stars who light up the lives of everyone they encounter. He brought new awareness to the beauty and fragility of the oceans. He helped re-introduce folk songs to the United States, founding a local group where he lived. He genuinely cared for people, individually and collectively.

He was a good man.

Today, there are tributes to the insanity of war. I would much rather our nation and the world focused on those people and events that heal… people like Sam. People like the public school teachers who do so much with so little for our children. People like hospice volunteers, designated drivers who take their role seriously, emergency responders. People like street performers who play the fool or bring us beauty, people who dream of better things, and those who help us unite around common causes.

Today, let’s focus on the essence of being “American” — not our beliefs, our language, our politics; let’s focus on the American willingness to stick our necks out for strangers, to stand up to injustice, to speak our minds in the face of tyranny. Let’s focus on that wide-eyed optimism coupled with hard-earned skepticism that allows us to simultaneously be enthusiastic about new prospects while spotting the flaws in time to fix them. This, more than our affluence, our laws, our governmental structures, makes Americans unique.

[Side note for my friends in other places: how do your countries’ traditions and legends inform your sense of self? What are the qualities that make your people unique and ready to set the world to rights? In other words, how would you define your positive national identity?]

Let’s look at what has gone wrong in the last decade, and the reasons for failure, and let’s do the right thing: fix the problem, and get on with our lives.

We don’t need to dwell on the horribleness of everything in order to pay tribute to the brave and innocent who lose their lives in tragedies. We can focus on the gifts they brought to the world and help realize their vision.

Rather than focusing on the gap Sam leaves behind as he exchanges one existence for another, I am going to focus on the ways he enriched the world, and how I can emulate him to the best of my ability. I think, if the world had more Sams in it, there would be fewer 9/11s.

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