Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"No Devices At The Table!"

"No devices at the table!" is said in exasperation, again, by the third grader.

Yes, you read that correctly. It is the child who is the enforcer of this rule and more than 3/4 of the way through nine weeks with grandparents in the house she has had to say it more than ever.

Oh, the irony.

It has been fascinating to me that over the past two months the over seventy crowd has been much more attached to their devices than the rest of us. This has been true both at our house and as we have traveled. 

At one point we are on a layover at some airport and I went to forging for snacks in whatever shops I could find. I came back to find three 70-something-year olds with their noses in their phones or iPads while the third grader played cards with her dad. Yes, I snapped a picture!

I love that she is very adamant that devices not come to the table, though there is some balance to be found between this rule - that I wholeheartedly agree with - and how to put her foot down and be respectful of her elders at the same time.

If nothing else, these moments that I share with her now I am storing away for the moments when she is tempted to revamp the rules.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Three Out Of Four

Hi Sara,

I got up in the night to phone you (I am in Saudi Arabia) only to be told that the phone number on your signature line is not setup. I was really hoping to speak with a person as I am in a pickle. So, here it goes - and remember, truth is stranger than fiction!

We live in the Middle East - teaching at an American International school. We have had our condo for 8 years. I have never had a late payment. I would love to be paying you right now, but our funds are wired from our bank here to BECU every month and then I send you a check. For some inexplicable reason, our bank here, which we have used for 2.5 years, decided it couldn't wire any of our funds because they were suspicious as to why we were wiring money to CUBA. Yes, you read that correctly. On top of it, they didn't tell us this was happening. I went to pay our bills and the funds hadn't arrived. For TWO WEEKS we have been trying to straighten this out. So now last month's paycheck and this month's paycheck are lost in some limbo land simply because three letters of BECU happen to also be within the name of a country that we have nothing to do with.

What can be done? I have $200 in my daughter's savings account. I have had to borrow money for our mortgage. Thankfully other payments go onto our credit card, which we usually pay off. This month they will be thrilled to receive the $36 so they finally get some interest out of us. What can we do with you? Our employer (who chose the bank for all of its employees) is working to rectify the situation. 



Hi Kristi,

My apologies.  My old signature has the incorrect number, the correct one will be below in my updated block.

I’m so sorry to hear you’re having such a time with banks, they can be problematic.  Your dues payment history is spotless.  I will happily hold off on late fees until the end of January.  Do you think that’s enough time for your employer to get the situation in hand?


So, three out of four letters can get you in a pickle AND there are kind and helpful people out there.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Punked or What?

"What is going on?! Am I being punked?" I thought as I started to explain for the FOURTH time a very simple word study activity. As I repeated myself AGAIN, using both the same words and a simple variation - pointing to the explanation on the board, I could feel my patience slipping.

And then it hit me.

It was the day of a full moon.

Unfortunately we were only approaching morning recess. There was still hours of the day to go. I was pretty sure it was either going to be, or them, making it to the end of the day.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hamilton Strikes Again

My Hamilton obsession strikes again. Carvens Lissant was the guest on The Hamilcast and, among the many riveting things he said, this gem was one. "I was in awe of people who had dexterity in language."

What a quote! He was speaking as a poet, as a manipulator of words, as someone who pays attention to how others use words to communicate their point. It has stuck with me. I may need to put it up next to my desk.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Weather Report: Reality or Myth - The Anticipation

It first showed up more than a week ago; the potential of rain. When there is rain in the forecast everyone here is glued to their weather app. It was forecast for Saturday night. We were set to go camping Friday and Saturday (our weekend). Rain is such a rarity that we don't have camping gear for it here, (as opposed to our camping gear in Seattle - rain/shmain). Knowing that a forecast is a moveable target that far out, I was just hoping it didn't creep up into our camping trip.

As we packed the car Thursday night the rain had been pushed into Sunday. Phew!

Often rain disappears from the forecast completely or diminishes to a 10 - 20% chance, which are not odds worth playing. When we got back from our time at Wahbah Crater the rain was still in the forecast, now for Monday night. Not only was it still in the forecast, but it was spread across many hours and with a 60 - 90% chance. I'll take those odds!

We don't get snow days here. An inch of rain annually is a strong dose. Our best chance of a day off, due to weather, is a heavy rain that is timed just right so that the transportation department decides it isn't going to send the buses out. The possibility had the teachers a buzz.

"Now it says the rain will last until 4 a.m."
"My app says 5!"

"We probably need it an hour past that, though." [sigh]

And so it went, but I have to admit, I figured it was wishful thinking. We also had a thunderstorm forecast for during the school day. Sure enough, on the way to school our usually vibrant blue sky was filtered by a blanket of clouds. The lighting in the classroom felt off as the sun couldn't be found. As we settled into Writing Workshop I promised my writers that if they focused on their writing, I would keep an eye on what was happening outside. If rain fell, and they could line up silently, we would sneak out of the building and enjoy it.

There's the proof! We were all excited for the few drops. After about ten minutes we snuck back into our room and continued with our writing. Surprisingly, it continued to rain. As you can see, this outside area is mostly covered so when it came time for recess, they headed out. The ground was wet and the sky (and roof) were dripping, but physical exercise is a great thing for the brain.

Then the fire alarm went off. I left the task I was trying to accomplish while they were out of the room and headed out the door to join my students (who were all lined up where they were supposed to be when I arrived). The volume was a bit louder than normal, but since they were squatting above puddles of water AND getting splashed on their heads, it was to be expected.


Comparing weather apps after school we knew there was a slight chance of the confluence of events that could lead to not having to go to school in the morning. I put a little extra work in my bag, locked the Chromebook cart, grabbed my abaya, and headed home with a bit of hope.

It is amazing what the anticipation of a possible day off school can do. Unfortunately it is not the same as a known day off school and the evening's chores still have to be done as the alarm will go off in the morning.

Turns out that my daughter did not share in our anticipation as she had big plans for school the next day. While visions of her next library book danced through her dreams, I was thrilled when the call came in saying that the Minister of Education had cancelled all school for the following day. I turned my alarm off and crawled into bed, only to be awoken by water dripping on my bed.

I hadn't anticipated a night of moving buckets, changing towels, and having no bed to sleep in that didn't have a leaky ceiling above it. A day off; the myth can be better than the reality.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Room: Before and After

One task on my 'to-do' list at the start of the year was to have an accessible Book Room for faculty. This is the space that has most of our books sets for groups during Reading Workshop be it Guided Reading, Strategy Groups, or Book Clubs.


There had been some organization, but they were not easily accessible. (Each book also had a level plastered to the front cover. The levels are now discreetly written inside the back cover.)


Books are now visible. Each set is in a baggie. The sections are labeled by reading level. And the top shelf is empty since only one of us could reach it without a step stool. Additionally each teacher has clothes pins with their names to mark the spot they check something out from for easy returns. After scrounging around for magazine files that weren't being used throughout the building the only expense for this revamping was the cost of the baggies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Restraining the Eye Roll

Most families don't commute together. Since we all attend the same school we are piling into rushing through our morning to ensure we can pull out on time in the morning. We often listen to audiobooks, but prior to pressings 'play' we make sure that anything that needs to be said has a chance to come to light. 

Family discussions in the car on the way to school cover a wide range of topics, but I never thought I would hear, "Well. I know it could happen because I've seen "Barbie Princess Charm School" and they..."

I stopped listening and stifled my chuckle.

Now that I've had a chance to step back and reflect on her comment my first response is to chuckle and roll my eyes, but right after that I realize that the fact that she is completely engaged in the conversation. She is thinking about what we are saying and pulling from her experience to find a place to engage. 

Perhaps my parenting win for the day is what I didn't do. I didn't laugh out loud. I didn't point out the fictional aspect of the storyline she was relating to. I didn't comment on the probability of the absurd scenario that the Barbie Princess storyline.

I did press "play" and let Amber Brown take us to a different place.