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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!

Poetry Month Day 20

Posted by on 20 Apr 2016 | Tagged as: NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, school, Uncategorized

Poem #20

Thunder, or not,
the children still have to learn
the lessons still need to be taught
but right now on the playground
the sun is beckoning
and Simon Says


Posted by on 27 Aug 2013 | Tagged as: Education Professional, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, house building, school, teaching, Uncategorized

This was today’s “reveal” —

Moving up the driveway:

Murphy, learning who has been visiting "his" yard.

Murphy, learning who has been visiting “his” yard.

(Murphy is Mother’s dog!)
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My classroom, and stidkid

Posted by on 18 Feb 2013 | Tagged as: children, Gardens and Life, good things, parenting, school, teaching, Uncategorized

Tom helped me set up anther computer for the room today.

And I finished rearranging the tables. It is looking better, hopefully there are some good improvements in my technique as well.





The last pic is of Mother and Grant with Tom in the background at the Solo and Ensemble day last weekend. He got a “Superior” rating… Not bad for his first time out!

Fourth Graders

Posted by on 13 Mar 2012 | Tagged as: children, education, Gardens and Life, good things, school, teaching, Uncategorized

I spent the last two days with a class of fourth graders.

First day: power flickered regularly for the first couple of hours, winds were strong and an announcement made AFTER students were in the building that teachers should have their walkie-talkies on standby in case the power went out… the kids were pretty on edge for a while.

Second day: At our house it wasn’t even sprinkling. By the time we reached the high school to drop off our son it was snowing lightly. By the time Tom dropped me off at my assignment school it was snowing heavily. So the kids came in (a little randomly as some buses hadn’t been on time/able to get to all their stops) already feeling a bit “off” — and then a special program for parents mid-day, with treats… the kids were pretty on edge (snow) and then very excited (performance), and then overly tired from adrenaline/sugar overload.

Fourth graders can handle the pressure!

Both days, I explained to the kids that I knew what we were doing, that I knew what to do if things changed, and then I set clear expectations that I enforced. A lot less enforcement needed on day two even though it was actually a more difficult energy day.

Both days, there were only minor incidents between kids, easily addressed.

Both days, there were only minor attempts to flout rules, which were easily addressed.

Both days, I had a really good time; and most of the kids had a really good time, too.

Both days, I actually knew what I was doing in terms of teaching, and I became a lot more comfortable thinking ahead and pre-addressing misconceptions. I am not “there” yet at this grade level, but I can see where I need to be, and think that with a week or two to develop a sense for where each and all students are I would be proficient at explaining tasks and concepts at this level. I think my biggest issue these past two days was just not knowing what vocabulary and prior knowledge were in play in the room. As I figured these two factors out, things got smoother.

My feet… today I stood and walked almost the entire time kids were in the classroom. My shoes aren’t bad, but I think when I have my own classroom I will definitely invest in a couple of cushiony floor mats for the places I stand while presenting.

I really love teaching. It’s a good week!

And that is what I have to say about the week so far.

New pages at

Posted by on 19 Jan 2012 | Tagged as: education, Education Professional, grad school, school, technology in education, Uncategorized

I have added two pages, both are in the sidebar to the right.

Under "About" is a Page that reads My Online Resume. No surprise, but it has the basic text of the resume I walked in to a local district last week. I am going to add in some of the additional activities and training sessions I have attended in the last 7 months as well as some of my hobbies and skills — those would go on a second page, if I were to hand it in.

In the "Papers" section is my Master’s Paper. Titled, Access to Opportunity it is a cursory exploration of some of the issues surrounding technology literacy in schools. While the writing process was artificial and disorganized, I think there is information in this paper that could help other teachers who are also struggling with either how to articulate the need to take instructional time to support student use of technology, or how to understand the variances in capacity between students.

I will probably be spending time this coming summer organizing and re-arranging pages, to make it easier to navigate what is rapidly becoming a catch-all site. I might break out some of the functions again, and start maintaining separate sites for my professional teacher activities, storytelling and arts, and my random but hopefully fascinating observations on life in general…

Nearly done…

Posted by on 28 Oct 2010 | Tagged as: children, education, Gardens and Life, grad school, school, teaching, Uncategorized

with the student teaching for this quarter. So much still to do, but I am looking forward to being able to take a few weeks’ breather beginning the end of November.

The students are working on completing their final projects — a formal assessment consisting of a paper and a presentation. I am taking time to answer questions, keep them on track, and help them problem-solve.

I am also trying to keep up with my own paperwork (not quite making it, but definitely better than I was doing at the beginning of my solo teaching… and working on the final report I must do for the quarter.

Anxious about not being able to get it “all perfect” and knowing that “perfect” is such an illusive (and illusory) goal.

Wish I were still the parent-volunteer in my neighborhood school.


Meantime, the garden produced a good bit of squash this year, continues to have luscious swiss chard and broccoli and a couple lettuces. The figs are done for the year. As usual, dozens left immature on the tree. The quince were not as prolific as most years, the apple had a few small green apples that disappeared before we got to them, the pears had nothing we could see. Flowers are all but done for the year of course, so I am thinking about ways to enhance and move things around next year for easier upkeep (weeding).

The children are lively and well. The elder is enjoying his school, the younger is not complaining. The elder has a job doing yard work that he found through his school’s job placement office, so he is pleased about that. The younger is in the school play. Both are in a concert November 7, and will for the first time be in the Conservatory and Brass Choir together! We are very pleased and excited for both of them.

And Tom… Tom is pretty much managing the fort until I am done with the work for this quarter. I couldn’t be doing this without him!

Three weeks in…

Posted by on 17 Sep 2010 | Tagged as: children, education, Family Matters, Gardens and Life, good things, grad school, parenting, plans, school, Uncategorized, weather

and I am still here.

Student teaching is rougher than I imagined, but as I do more actual teaching (as opposed to observing and being the “extra eyes” in the room) I am improving. Somewhat.

It is clear I have a long way to go, in both developing lessons and delivering them.

On the other hand, I am seeing progress, both in myself and in the students.

Seven more weeks to go in this go-round, then a quarter of being just a student again, and one more student teaching in the spring.

For now, we’ll assume it will go as planned.

Meantime in the family, we have two students in the same school again, although the elder son is more than half-time at the community college rather than high school. It is nice, though, to have one bus schedule (and school schedule) to remember for a bit.

Both in the band, both considering debate this year, both enjoying being with their friends after a long summer.

Meantime in the garden, we have squash! and apparently pumpkins. And swiss chard and lettuce, cucumbers, potatoes, various herbs and flowers, and in the wings, if they can outgrow the hungry baby slugs that finally appeared in the last month, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages.

I was fortunate, the day after I wrote the previous post to have a lovely warm afternoon. I remade the scarf that didn’t turn out and improved the design as well as the color. Constant refinement, in arts as in life, provides both variety and opportunity. I didn’t take any pictures, though. Not enough time.

I am sure I am forgetting something.

The beautiful goldfinch that sat in the medlar last weekend while I worked on lesson plans?

The mists that hang heavy in the morning and many evenings already?

The long commutes most mornings that get me up three hours before the school I am teaching at begins? Or the long commutes most evenings that see me home sometime after everyone else is long ready for evening recreation?

It’s raining again, more than 6 inches since it began earlier this week. Soon the boggy area down by the road will fill with water and the frogs will stop singing. The maples will turn a brilliant yellow and the (non-native but now ubiquitous) sweetgum an eye-popping scarlet.

If we are lucky, there will be a few days of glorious sun while the colors are on the trees.

And then the landscape will rest, and bid us do the same.

Meantime, there is research to do, lessons to plan and deliver, and a family to tend.

Garden Update

Posted by on 24 Jul 2010 | Tagged as: Family Matters, fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, health, hope, school, Uncategorized

Okay, so I walked through the garden yesterday and today. ALL the plums are gone from the plum tree. All of them. I harvested two (of the several dozen that were there) a couple weeks ago, and now ALL of them have been eaten. Presumptive culprits: deer, raccoons, crows. I am not a happy camper.

Other losses: the large sage plant that I had in a planter next to the driveway has also died. I believe it is due to getting too dry, even though we have had more than average precipitation this year and I didn’t water it much last year. So it’s possible that it’s just old. I have a new one I bought from the local school’s fundraiser down in the veggie garden. Will transplant that one up to the planter in the fall. I will MAKE time. An advantage to being a student teacher is that for a few of the weeks at the beginning of the year I am NOT the one in charge.

Other things of note: we have a LOT of figs on one tree, a few tiny ones on another, and nothing discernible on the third. The hazelnuts are almost ready, I am sure the squirrels will get them before I do, as usual. The pretty yellow wood rose that was by the pond is gone, but there are two very anemic-looking gladioli in evidence. I have one dahlia already blooming, and several plants managed to survive the long wet winter, so I am pleased. I very much hope that I will be able to lift them all in October and let them dry out over the winter for a change. Otherwise, I will need to just purchase a whole bunch of new ones (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing…

On a personal level…. I played in the back yard for a little while on Wednesday and Friday, running around a bit. AND went for an hour-long walk with Tom last night. I think my hip is back to (my) normal. And it is sooooo good to be mobile.

Tomorrow… I plan on a leisurely day, some garden, some berry jam making, and in the evening, going to a performance of The Sound of Music, at which the elder stidkid is playing in the orchestra pit. I am completely in vacation mode.

Year-End Wrap-Up

Posted by on 05 Jun 2010 | Tagged as: Babble, children, education, Family Matters, fun, garden, Gardens and Life, grad school, health, Making a Difference, parenting, school, teaching, Uncategorized

Well. It was a LONG school year for me. And now it is over. I am apparently continuing in the program, and have a student teaching assignment lined up for next year! I will meet with my mentor teacher next week.

The end result of the actual teaching in the school I was doing my practicum was positive. Not only did we all survive (always my first concern), but more than 95% of the students managed to turn in work that demonstrated an engagement with and understanding of the idea of adding description to writing to enhance meaning! A few students even chose to continue to refine their work after I returned it to them. Most students seemed to find either poetry OR prose engaging, but a few enjoyed the whole shebang. I was able to demonstrate improvement in writing for many students, although in the future I need to refine the actual points I document.

The best parts of this school year were definitely the work I did IN the actual classrooms; the hardest and least satisfying were the “lessons” I had to write up and “teach” to my peers — who don’t interact with materials at the same level of interest or ability as real children. Also, most of those lessons provided anywhere from minimal “good job” feedback to none at all from my instructors. What is the point of assigning work that isn’t monitored, and letting students continue blindly in a path that may or may not be profitable? At least now I know from a student’s point of view how that feels (not good).

I have a couple weeks now to relax and recoup before I begin the summer session — five weeks, but devoted to the reading endorsement that so interests me. So it won’t seem onerous. And it’s with the same teacher I had last summer, someone who is engaging and gives good feedback.

The “free time” I will have will be devoted to the garden and house, and to working with a stidkid on refining some skills that his school has (again) dropped the ball on. *stern mama look* No excuse to let a student’s performance not meet their ability!

And in August, just before I dive into the student teaching, there is a Babblers meet up here in Olympia! We are very excited about this. Will get some folks from the local area as well as some from as far afield as Canada and the East Coast of the U.S.!

For today, however… I am resting and getting over a late flu bug that hit this week (yes, I missed my final day of class for the program), and getting my bearings on the tasks ahead for the summer. If the sun comes out, I might even spend time in the garden!

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