Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Field Day Camaraderie

I do not enjoy Field Day. Spending hours in the sun, under any circumstances, is not how I would choose to spend my time. (We won't even get into the fact that heat is one of my migraine triggers.) That being said, I know one of my favorite memories of this year was made yesterday, during Field Day.

Our school splits Field Day up by age so we are all able to fit onto one, big field. Fourth and fifth grades took to the field yesterday morning. Each class was sporting class colors, ours was white. First up in our rotation, volleyball.

Our P.E. teacher does a great job preparing the kids for the events. They have practiced all the games and know the rules and how to play. I asked my 22 students if they had been playing volleyball 11 on 11 or rotating through. They informed me they played seven to a side and rotated in and out.

With the class split by cubby numbers, they took to the court. I sat on the cement, in the shade, and cheered them on. There are almost no successful volleyball servers in my class. That said, there was not one negative or snide comment made throughout their 30 minutes of playing. They encouraged one another and both sides cheered when a serve actually went over the net.

When it was time for our next activity I gathered my class around me and bragged about what I had seen. I love this group of kids and I want them to realize they have something special going. I want them to be proud of how they work together. I want them to know that I notice. I concluded by pointing out that most activities for the day were about working together, teams.

The next activity was the one thing we would be doing that was all about the individual. I pulled my phone out of my pocket and asked them if they knew what I had. A few looked at me as if I had gone mad. I quickly added, "a stopwatch". They instantly 'got it' as they looked at the obstacle course before us. I let them know that we would go by reverse cubby order, told them they could sit on the grass with their water bottles, and got the first child to the starting line. The high school volunteer walked her through the course while I reminded everyone else they just had to watch as she would be their example.

"Ready… Set… Go!" I yelled. She took off over pads, high stepping tires, weaving through eight-foot poles, diving over mats, and the rest of the course until she arrived, panting, at the end. Meanwhile the entire class sat on the grass cheering her on and chanting her name. They continued to do this for every one of their classmates.

Thirteen students later it was one of my special needs student's turn. He had not been happy about Field Day. In fact, his iPad was on the field and if he participated he was able to sneak off for five minutes of use here and there. We had even contemplated moving him up in the rotation, but he was content watching his classmates overcome the obstacles. Now he stood at the starting line, ready. I yelled "go!" and he began the course.

What I hadn't noticed was that the entire class had come over to the starting line, encasing both sides of the horse shoe. As he began the class not only cheered, but they followed him through the course, always at his side. I stood, beaming, at this special group of students I get to work with. Maybe Field Day isn't all bad.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

November 29th has been the U.N.'s International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People since 1977. Palestine has been partitioned since the 29th of November 1947. What does that mean? The 'land without a people' has had its native population displaced for 64 years. In honor of the Palestinian people and their unique challenges, let me share a few articles with you.

Here is The Independent's article about touring Hebron with the focus of the tour on the intentional abuse of the Palestinians. Seeing is believing and I have been to Hebron to see this with my own eyes.

Photo credit URL

The olive harvest is what first took me to Palestine. Years later I am still trying to get my head around all I saw and experienced. When I do I will write about it myself. Until then I have to share what others have written like this article from the Guardian.

Uri Avnery writes a fascinating piece on the "Boycott Law" within Israel itself, which can be found here. One day after it was enacted into law there was already a 22 page application submitted to the Israeli Supreme Court trying to annul it. What causes such a strong reaction? Will the law stand? What would Charles Boycott think?

Archaeologies or law-breaking grave-diggers. Intrigued? Here is the article.

Two Israeli human rights groups have published a report in which they claim, among other things, "that [many doctors] allow Israeli Security Agency interrogators to use torture; approve the use of forbidden interrogation methods and the ill-treatment of helpless detainees; and conceal information, thereby allowing total immunity for the torturers." The Guardian reported on it here.

So, no matter what your background is please take a moment on Tuesday to think of the plight of the Palestinians. I bet you can find something in their situation to rally behind.
Photo credit URL

Friday, November 25, 2011

End of Life Hard Questions


When does life end?

How much is a person with no brain activity aware of?

How do you balance the previously expressed wishes of the patient against those of the family?

What about loved ones who aren't technically family?

How do you process laws of a country that don't fit with your understanding of 'right'?



Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Grown Up?


Even though I am quickly approaching 40 I don’t feel like a grown up. It is not that I think there is a numeric age that magically makes you a grownup. There are people younger than myself whom I consider to be grownups, just not myself.

I have a hard time trying to figure out a way to explain my feelings. The first time I ever tried I was in my mid 30s and a couple of months pregnant. In between sobs, I wondered aloud to my husband, “How can I be having a baby?!” sob, sniffle “I am not even a grownup!” It is one of those hysterical pregnant lady moments we laugh about now, but the feelings are still true. I do not feel like a grownup.

The next time I thought about trying to explain these feelings was when Christine, a friend I knew in high school, posted similar questions on her blog These Stones. The link to this particular full post is here. The part that I really connected with was when she said, “I’ve been a mom for almost 4 years, and I’m still asking questions. I guess it is hard to know if we ever really feel like a mom.” For me, forget wondering about being a mom, I stumble on the grownup question first.

I am trying to figure out how to express these feelings that I’ve never heard or read about anyone else experiencing. Is it just me? Or, if I feel this way and Christine has questions, maybe there are others with similar ponderings. Maybe lots of people still feel like someone who is ‘growing up’ rather than someone who is a grownup.

I am a wife, a mother, a teacher. I run a household (two actually, on two different continents) and a classroom, yet if I think of the big picture – the huge responsibility that comes with being a grownup – the weight bears down on me and I start to feel overwhelmed and squished by its enormity. I can manage daily chunks. I can grasp loving, nurturing, and protecting for a day. I can take care of paying the mortgage and planning meals today, but not the idea of 29 years of payments or the never-ending need to feed us and clean up afterwards.

Maybe that is the key. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be a grownup, but continue with our journey of growing up. Maybe we are supposed to just take each moment and hold it for its fleeting bit of time. Maybe the point is to be present in whatever the moment may be. Perhaps we are to be concerned only with the task in front of us and let the grownups worry about the rest.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Starting Points

I read so many blog posts and news articles that get me thinking. They are great food for fodder and often things I want to write about. So, in an effort to keep me going (that is one of the purposes of this blog) I am going to start posting three times a week. (If you haven't noticed it has been two - SOLC on Tuesdays and another piece of writing on Fridays.) Today I will kick off my Sunday posts with thoughts on Parent / Teacher Conferences.

Kristin at Rage Against The Minivan posted this last week. She shares her seven stages of panic after she realizes her son's first grade conference is scheduled with an open block following her time slot. What does that extra time mean? I promise you will laugh!

The web is my primary form of communication with my parents from day 2 onward. I schedule all of my conferences via email and the parents don't see the actual schedule until they are at school when the times are posted on my door. I do think about the perception of those seemingly extra blocks of time. After reading Kristin's post I will be even more aware of what might be going through a parent's mind. Perhaps I will leave the name of a student listed even when I know the parents have rescheduled, just so the schedule doesn't have unexplained gaps!

Conferences themselves? I believe in communicating with parents early and often so any major challenge a student is facing I have already been in dialogue with the parents and student. (I even have taken to showing students potentially sensitive emails to their parents before hitting 'send' and asking the student if they think it is fair and accurate.) Also, I have been teaching long enough now that I don't get nervous or stressed about conferences. Plus, I only have one per year as our spring conferences are student led. On top of that, this year we are in the process of switching to a new standards based report cards. The quarter ended last Wednesday, but the report cards have yet to be finalized and won't even be ready for us to start marking until after conferences.

So what will we be talking about at conferences? I have M.A.P. (standardized test) data to share with the parents. This is our second year using M.A.P. and the first time the data is being shared with parents. There were information sessions available, but I know I will be doing quite a bit of educating about the assessment and how to interpret the data. This is just one snapshot of the child as a student. I will have other student work to share to 'fill in the picture'. Of course I will have a few minutes to address any questions or concerns the parents have and then send them on their way with something wonderful I have observed about their child.

Thank you, Kristin for helping me to keep the stages of parent panic in mind. I hope I can alleviate those feelings for the parents of my students.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Scene of the Crime

I had very little sleep last night so mid -morning I was in desperate need of a nap. G went downstairs to help Daddy with the dishes. I crawled in bed.

An unknown amount of time passed and G came in wanting to wake me up. She ended up climbing on the bed to 'snuggle' with Mommy. (What that really means is I will lay down and look like I am going to snuggle until Daddy goes away and then I will climb over Mommy going back and forth from one side of the bed to the other testing each bed side lamp each time.)

At one point she pulled the blanket up to my ear and patted my shoulder. The climbing stopped. I figured she had left and I went to sleep.

When I woke up I rolled over to look and the clock and was shocked to see G sitting with my makeup spread around her using my mascara as nail polish on her toes (as she had already finished her fingers).

She had gone into the bathroom, gotten a stool, brought it out and used it to climb up and take all the things she was interested in off of the dresser. This included red nail polish, which I am thankful she was unable to open. She had also gotten a couple of tissues. She had removed her bracelets and socks and those were sitting on my bedside table along with the crumpled tissues, a book, and Daddy's clock.

Vaseline got most of the mascara off of her fingers and toes. A baby wipe removed the other bits of makeup that were on her knees and neck. I am not sure the sheets will ever be the same.

I did manage to not crack a smile and I figured taking a picture of her before cleaning anything up would send the wrong message. Once she was downstairs having a snack with Daddy I did photograph the scene of the crime.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why the long silence? Traveling Staycation

We were on vacation. You might even term it a “traveling staycation”. How is that possible? Well, we traveled by plane out of the country, but we were not headed to be tourists. Instead we went to visit friends in Amman, where we used to live.

What did we do for nine days? We hung out. We made meals, ate meals, and cleaned up from meals. We were entertained by 5 kids ages 2, 3, 7, 9, and 11. We talked about life. We went grocery shopping and to the pharmacy. We slept and read. It was a break from regular life – from the cycle of work and weekend and it was great.

Now we are back and through most of a week. (Remember Wednesday is our Friday.) The rhythm of life is good. It is dependable. Times of pause are restorative. I am restored. (And Christmas Break is less than 4.5 weeks away.)


Tuesday, November 1, 2011




Ding-Dong     Ding-Dong  Ding-Dong Knock      Knock Knock  Knock

I was only ten feet from the door, but whoever was outside was anxious to have the door open. I grabbed the yellow bowl full of lollipops and opened the door. Before me stood three Arab boys, about 12 years old, dressed in jeans and t-shirts rustling plastic grocery bags.

“Happy Halloween” they say, in near unison. Ah, I think to myself. This is a scene I want to capture on film. This is my moment to train the “natives” on American customs.

You need to say ‘trick-or-treat’ I tell the adolescent boys. “Trick-or-treat” they each say as they grab for a couple of lollipops. They turn and head off grinning. I figure they were thinking they just discovered the best way to get free candy, ever!

(Perhaps next year I should have face paint to teach the costume aspect of the ritual.)