Thursday, March 15, 2018

SOL 15/31 - Conference Day

I am writing this post during a break in my long day of third grade parent-teacher conferences. But during these (almost) spring conferences, we add in an extra ingredient, and have student-led conferences. For twenty-five minutes, a third grader gets to fill in their parents about their learning – Use a multiplication strategy! Explain the writing process! Demonstrate how to use a dichotomous key to identify different conifers! Read sentences in Hebrew!

Sometimes a student led conference is a little bit like doing a high wire act without a net. What if they can’t solve that math problem? What if they freeze up in front of the map of Portland? This was my biggest fear when I started to hold this type of conference. And then I realized that if that was the case, it was important for the family to see.

The reward for having students lead conferences is the joy and exuberance that radiates off of them as they show what they know. And the satisfaction from knowing that we’ve actually taught them a thing or two!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

SOL13 - Devil vs. Angel

I shouldn't have popped in to Kim's music studio today. I just wanted to say hi, shoot the breeze for a few, maybe generate some ideas for our upcoming third grade extravaganza. I wasn't ready to be plunged into a half hour of agonizing deliberation.

"Hey did I tell you that I got tickets to see Hamilton?"

"You're kidding! It didn't sell out?" I was sure that the upcoming road show had sold out out within minutes of tickets going on sale late last year. Why should Portland be different than anywhere else?

"The just released a bunch of them. Check it out". Kim fired up the Google, and soon we were looking at two weeks of shows, almost all of them with some tickets available.

"Click on one of them. Let's see how much". The tickets ranged in price from $175 to $350. Decent seats, most of them in the orchestra. A few in the first section of the balcony. I felt my body temperature start to go up. My palms actually started to itch. Two tickets would be at least $350. Then add in charges, and I was looking at around $400.00

"Go on!, said the devil on my left shoulder. "It's the theater event of the century! You consider your self cultured, and you're going to pass up this chance? You're going to keep being jealous of your one student who's actually seen it? And keeps talking about it? All year long? This is your opportunity! your moment! Seize it!"

"Hey, cool your jets pal", cautioned the angel on the other side. "You've almost paid off that credit card debt. You're doing major work on the house this summer. And after all, you did just see Book of Mormon, didn't you? What if you buy the tickets and you don't really like it? How stupid will you feel then?"

I texted my wife, but she was no help. I could tell she thought it was too extravagant, but when I asked if, money aside, she wanted to see it, she replied, "But of course!"

I let that angel and devil fight it out until my prep period ended. The fever started to lessen, and I began to wonder what was greater, my desire to see the show, or the idea that it was something I should do, whether I really wanted to or not. And that's when I knew that I probably would not buy the tickets.

But then again, tomorrow is another day, and that devil might not give up so easily.

Monday, March 12, 2018

SOL 12/31 - The Easy Way Out

Here's the inevitable Slice of Life about writing Slices of Life. It's bound to happen, and it's happening because I missed yesterday, and I don't want to miss today. But here it is, 8:00 pm Pacific time, and I've still got loads of work that has to get done, but I must post!

Why is it so difficult to find an earlier time to write? My schedule provides enough prep time. I sure as the dickens get up early enough in the morning. Yet I continue to tell myself "I'll do it later". And then I come home and make dinner, because my wife has a chiropractic appointment, and then afterwards, before tackling the other stuff that has to get done, it's time to plotz for just a little while and watch the latest John Oliver episode.

So here it is. I've done it. The post about posting. I swear, it will be the only one this month. Tomorrow I vow to make better use of my time! By Grabthar's Hammer! (I cannot resist the occasional, obscure movie quote. Anyone?). Over and out.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

SOL 10/31 Vancouver Morning

Corner of Davie and Denman in  Vancouver BC, looking out over English Bay at seven in the morning  A line of red hulled tankers stretched in a line, still snoozing before they start their day. Across Denman from the Starbucks where I’m sitting is a small park ringed by a number of palm trees.  Do they ever wonder how in the world they got here?  Maybe that’s the punchline cosmic joke that the circle of bronze men find so funny. They are larger than life, and they form an outward facing ring in the middle of the park. I say men but really , they are the same man, shirtless, eyes closed, doubled over in mirth with a huge grin on his face. Whatever the joke is, it's obvious that he/they are having the last laugh.

"May this sculpture inspire laughter playfulness and joy in all who experience it"

Thursday, March 8, 2018

SOL 8/31 Fruits of Our Labor

A gratifying moment during our literature discussion following read-aloud. We've just started and read a couple of short chapters from Katherine Applegate's The Wishtree.

"So what did you think of the beginning of the book?"

There is some discussion of genre, and of point view (the story is told by a tree). Then S raises her hand.

"The first chapter was really short. I think that the whole first chapter is a really great lead".

And there it is. One of those moments when you that the stuff you're trying to get across, really is getting across.  A big reason to smile.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

SOL 7/31


Is it food or love?
2:00 in the morning
nudged awake by her incessant and insistent meow
Is she protesting the empty food bowl?

2:00 in the morning
offering my chest for her to lie on
Is she protesting the empty food bowl?
her nightly session of vigorous petting

offering my chest for her to lie on
I pretend not to hear
her nightly session of vigorous petting
walking up and down the length of the bed

I pretend not to hear
Then she settles in
walking up and down the length of the bed
dissolves in a steady hum of purring

Then she settles in
nudged awake by her incessant and insistent meow
dissolves in a steady hum of purring
Is it food or love?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

SOL 18 6/31 - Transitions

"Transition coming up! Quickly, quietly, put away your chromebooks and math journals, and put your snack on your desk. I'll send you out to recess when you look ready."

10:00 a.m. It's a transition alright. Transitions all around. Eight and nine year olds get to transition from this middle aged dude telling them all the time to "Actively listen!" "Focus!" "Tell me that in a complete sentence".  They transition to freedom to run! shout! throw! tag!  And middle aged dude gets to transition from a state of constant of awareness, to just being able to sit, and breathe. Deeply.

"Hey, did you have a few minutes to chat?"

 It's the administrator from the private school in Tacoma. She's been one of three visitors to stop by this morning during the math lesson. They are all part of The Visiting Team, representing our school's consortium. Its the last step of our school's self-study - the process whereby a private school renews it's accreditation. It's a long process, and we're all glad it's finally over, but there's still this last step. We're smiling hosts, under a microscope for a few days. The visitors are all pleasant, friendly, and very professional, and I am happy to do my part and be interviewed. But it's 10:00 a.m. Transition time. Snack time. Empty my brain time.

"I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit of what inquiry looks like in your classroom?"

"How exactly do you differentiate as you move through a unit of Everyday Math?"

"What is an example of a PBL unit with which you have engaged your class?"

Somewhere in my brain I have the answers to all of these questions. Good answers. Thoughtful answers. True answers. Unfortunately that's in my 8:00 a.m brain. The just-finished-my-coffee, let's greet the day brain! Not the 10:00 a.m, already beat, hungry, can't wait for Spring Break brain. This brain is already toast. It's transitioned.

My mouth opens. Words come out. They are almost good, and they are mostly true. They're the best words I've got at the moment.  Maybe they can catch me again later, after another transition.