Monthly Archives: August 2012

Whew. First week back.

The first week of school for teachers (no kids) passed in a whirlwind, and I’m still not ready for the first day with kids.


Actually, that’s a productive panicky noise.  As in, I still have boxes to unpack (mostly books).  I have file folders to put together for easy use.  And I need to devise a scope and sequence plan for the first semester.  Um, guess what’s happening this weekend?  I’d be more panicky but I know that the first week is more about establishing routines, figuring out schedules, and setting up patterns.  We changed school start times, consolidated offices, and put in a new phone system that is of course being cranky.  Plus I picked up a class I have never taught before but will be fun (8th grade US History).  I am part of a team, so that’s also helpful.

What a difference a change in leadership makes.  I’m still overworked and overloaded, but I have a boss who is putting in lots of hours and sincerely cares about the kids.

The biggest challenge will be pacing myself and not letting me work myself into a frazzle.  I know myself.  I’ll be going gangbusters into health problems if I don’t remember to write, see Miss Mocha, work out, and take care of myself physically and mentally.  My bad foot is already hollering at me.  Time to take a deep breath, pace myself for the long haul, and stop bouncing like Tigger.  As it is, I’m in a seriously ADHD phase and I’m probably more hyper than some of my students.  Ah well, it will pass as I settle into the year.

Last night was open house and I got to see a lot of my kids, plus have some productive parent conversations.   Dang, I’ve missed seeing them.

I am so looking forward to this school year.  But it is going to be a wild and crazy adrenaline run.

Off to the races now.

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Moving ahead with things; teaching, horses

The first thing that is notable about this upcoming school year is that I’ve had a surprising lack of beginning-of-school-year stress dreams (a norm for most teachers, and a feature of all my previous teaching years).  Now whether that reflects changed circumstances (new principal who I worked with as a colleague, some changes in my schedule and tasks) or whether it reflects the reality that my summer has been both horrible and wonderful simultaneously (as I have been describing it to colleagues and friends/parents as I run into them this fall), I don’t know.  I suspect it’s a combination of both.

I’ve had to tear my room apart to find where I hid my staplers when packing up last June (or where the kids who helped me pack put them), and needed to request a new password for my grading/attendance program.  Usually I know what that puppy is or else note it.  This year I totally blanked when I first tried to get in, and I couldn’t find where I put my password note.  After a few tries, I requested a reset rather than risk getting locked out.  That usually is more complicated to fix.  In any case, I’ve had some indications that yeah, one of my reasons for not getting anywhere with much this summer and being down flat has probably been a need to rest, which suggests significant brain burn from both summer events and from three challenging years with difficult building leadership.

(Granted, my definition of not getting stuff done this summer probably looks like getting a lot done to many people.  But I digress.  For me, I didn’t get a lot done.)

Conversely, I have a principal who I actually know fairly well.  I taught with her for six years and have a great deal of respect for what I see of her vision for the building.  I’m eager and engaged in doing what I can to support and promote what she needs and wants to do.

Additionally, for the first time I am an equal member of a teaching team.  Not a specialist member but someone who is teaching part of the content.  It also helps that all three of us are specialists in addition to our general education responsibilities (Sped, ELL, and literacy).  In some respects, I think this may be reflective of where education specialists need to be moving (more on this later as I think about it).

I am also looking forward to spending this year teaching Social Studies as it gives me much-needed experience teaching a content classroom which is not a resource classroom.  Plus I just plain like the content area.  Had I not gone into sped, I’d probably have tried to get into teaching Social Studies.  In any case, this gives me the experience in following content standards while differentiating instructional levels, and I will be coordinating what I do with my two colleagues.  I’m really excited by this challenge as well, as teaching a content area which is not a resource class is vastly different from teaching either resource content area classes or study strategies classes.

My other classes are also going to explicitly be intervention classes.  Not Study Strategies, not electives, but flat out intervention classes designed to help the specific students I will be working with.  That also makes me happy.

So there are several good things there.

As for the horse bit, I am still wavering about the next round of hock injections for Miss Mocha.  It’s been nearly a year but she’s still not demonstrating significant steady symptoms of needing injections.  There are occasional days where she’s funky on spins or rollbacks, but I have a serious question as to whether that’s caused by my own ouchies (rehabbing a hip muscle right now which is a big thing in cueing her) or if she’s just getting experienced and more inclined to take shortcuts.  Yesterday I picked up a bat (crop with a spanky hand on it, I prefer those sometimes to the sting of a dressage whip because it’s a broader tingle with a louder popping noise).  A couple of well-timed pops with it and she was much sharper with no discernible off feeling as she did her spins and rollbacks.  Plus I’m not getting the sense of her lope deteriorating and she is doing some very nice and springy rounded lopes using her hind end.

Last night was one of those nice quiet workmanlike schooling sessions.  Snaffle, western saddle.  It took a while for her to warm up but that’s pretty standard for her when the temperatures start to cool.  She can be a bit of a slug in cool weather but once she gets warm she does well.  She two-tracked without resistance and started working through intricate flying change patterns (essentially, random changes of direction where she needs to change with no clue about where I might send her next or when she needs to change).  I didn’t feel any signs of developing hock issues in that work.

At the end, we had a long rein gallop in both directions.  She nearly dropped her nose to the ground in order to stretch out and relax.

Not an intense schooling session.  Quiet, workmanlike, and steady.  I’m hoping this is the pattern for the year ahead, not just for horse but for teaching and writing.  I Can Haz Plans…and something like that would be very, very nice.

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Cricket summer

There’s a bittersweet short period at the very end of summer that, if I had my druthers, I’d preserve and extend past its all-too-short tenure.  Before I began teaching it was the two weeks before Labor Day, before either I or my son had to go back to school (and when I was a kid, that was when my mother went back to work and I had the fierce joy of private time mixed with occasional town trips for back-to-school shopping).  Usually by this point the harshest heat of summer has passed, and the ever-shortening days bring cooling breezes to ease the day’s high temperatures.  The bite of cool damp in the air from offshore marine flows serves as a reminder that winter is coming.  Winter is near.

But not yet.

Now, too, is the glorious high season of sweet summer fruit.  Peaches, tomatoes, apples, berries, early sweet corn (here in the Willamette Valley, where tomatoes and corn can be iffy).  Canning season.  As a child, I spent plenty of time helping process peaches, pears, beans, etc, etc, etc.  For a while I continued the tradition but as my son grew older and I developed more commitments, I stopped doing as much home food preserving.

As the nights cool, the crickets begin their chirping.  As a child, I was told by my elders that the crickets start chirping six weeks before frost.  Well, considering the first frost is sometime around the first part of October, that’s roughly true.  The cricket song, however, identifies this part of summer for me, all the way from rural childhood to urban adulthood.  Cricket summer.  The last delicious bites of August, before school begins and the days shorten even more.  Cricket summer.  Where the grass crackles dry and sharp underfoot, a slight scuff of the foot raises uncharacteristic dust, and the light changes from day to day.

Cricket summer.  The fleeting, brief moment of the change from summer to fall, before the first steady rains.

In my farm youth I’d linger outside on cricket summer nights as long as possible.  The moons of cricket summer hang huge on the horizon.  Some evenings I’d wander out to the horse pasture and ride my first Shetland, Windy, bareback, with not much more than a lead rope around his nose.  We’d thunder around in the twilight, Windy enthusiastically leaping over the small ditches and scrambling up a small pile of gravel.  He liked a good wild gallop around the pasture in the dusk.  By this point he’d gotten past the point where unloading me was a priority–the two of us running together was much more fun and I wasn’t coming off of him very much.  We’d grown up together and, for a few sweet cricket summers, we had those wild rides.

Other summers I’d wander in the pasture, followed by Windy’s successors to see if I’d pick them some blackberries.  Horses could nibble blackberries off of the bushes but of course it was much better if nimble human fingers plucked berries to feed to horses.  I’d sit down somewhere, maybe play my recorder, or just sit and listen to the crickets sing.  One night I saw a meteor wink out just above the pasture.

Well, these days I don’t have the farm.  I have other memories of cricket summers as an adult.  The cricket summer in Wallowa County, thirty-two years ago, learning the rhythms of a new microclimate.  Learning the cricket summers of Portland.  Learning the cricket summers of my in-laws’ place on the Coast.

But where ever I was, I savored the cricket song, the cool moist bite of evening air, the soft whisper of the breezes in the trees hinting of winter to come.

This year is no different.  This year, this place.  The Gravenstein apple tree still clings to a few of its apples, big and full in comparison to previous years.  The little Grimes Golden apples aren’t quite ready yet, while the Italian plum trees are almost ready to be picked.  The crickets are in full song as the thickening crescent moon sets and the light fades away.  The breeze has a soft bite of damp coolness in it.  If I sit outside long enough I’ll probably see yet another raccoon family wander through the yard to eat the fallen plums.

Cricket summer.  Would that it were longer.  On the other hand, if it were longer, would it be as sweet?

That I do not know.

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Happiness #22

I woke up yesterday with nasty arthritis pain, especially in my back (byproduct of moving all that stuff the day before).  But wearing my Spiffy New Corset over a chemise and under a regular shirt really, really helped!  Much of a coolness.

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Happiness #21

Finding lots of good social studies resources cached in the classroom, and getting my mind wrapped around teaching that class!  US History, here I come!

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If I’d written half the posts I’ve been thinking about in the past few weeks, there’d be a lot of them.  As it were, I’ll half-write them (usually while falling asleep/waking up) and then the topic and brilliant words flee from the brain once I’d find the time to sit down and write.  Aiiee.

Life has settled, somewhat (still lots of unwanted drama and sadness but not as close in to me–murder of an Internet friend’s spouse amongst other sad things).  I am going to be teaching a social studies class (non-Special Ed) this year which has me excited in various ways and trembling in others.  It will be a steep learning curve, for certain.  But I’m hoping it will be a good process.  I get to teach U.S. History and while it appears that the process is fairly much laid out for me, nonetheless I get to work with one of my passions.

It’s only now that I’m realizing the degree of brainburn I’ve gotten from the past few crazy years at work.  The impact has been hard on my creative brain; at this point the wild summer coupled with a heat spell has made even revision writing hard.  But going to GearCon this weekend had the hoped-for effect of stirring up ideas and concepts.  Recovering in other ways will be a challenge.  The stress of the past two years, especially the past year in particular, has left me with a trashed-out GI system.  The slightest upset in either grease or acidic foods has me yarking at the Great Throne and I’d just as soon avoid that.  Hopefully this year ahead will be uneventful and maybe I can get the GI system back into a state of calm.

I’m also finding it hard to pull myself into a state of high energy.  I don’t know if it’s the late summer doldrums, fatigue finally catching up with me, or just a lack of structure.  I do know that I have a lot to do and some changes to make.  All good ones, but it’s a time of challenge.

And with that, I’ll be about my day.  A good day to all, and may your challenges all be productive.

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Happiness #20

Buying a corset at GearCon and rocking a new style.

(Yes, I’m being consumerist in this one!  No, I don’t feel guilty.  I was supporting a small designer who commissions their own fabrics.  Plus it’s nice on my sore back.)

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Happiness # 19

Dancing with poi at the GearCon Mad Science ball and not whacking myself too horribly or looking too clumsy in the process.  Still not ready yet for fire poi, but getting there!

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Happiness # 17

Sharing a glass of tea with a friend and catching up in the cool shadowed indoors during a hot day.

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Happiness # 16

Talking with a friend about steampunk costumes for this weekend’s GearCon and planning my outfits for the weekend…then coming home and realizing that the vintage pocket watch in my drawer will make a perfect accessory….

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