Tuesday, March 28, 2017

#SOL17 28/31 - Toast

Well, I've fallen off the pace with daily pace this week, with regards to Slice of Life writing. But writing (almost) everyday has been satisfying, invigorating, and inspiring. And that doesn't even take into account reading what others have written. I'm running on fumes right now. If I taught in public school, I'd be enjoying a much needed spring break. But instead, I'm at the mercy of the Jewish calendar, and Pesach doesn't arrive for another two weeks.

The big revelation this month has been how much my third graders love to blog! I had just started blogging with them at the end of February, when I learned about the Slice of Life Challenge. Talk about timing! Whether or not I continue to write on a regular basis, blogging now has a permanent place in my classroom.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

#SOL17 26/31 - One Week and Counting

The older I get, the more I pare away bits and pieces that used to matter to me, but now feel like extra baggage, weighing me down. Things that would preoccupy me on a daily or seasonal basis. Like sports. I used to watch football every weekend. Then, with the advent of the DVR, I could record a game and watch it later, skipping all of the timeouts, TV ads, and even the huddles. The plays and nothing but the plays. (You can bet that my wife and daughter appreciated that). But now, I don't even watch any football at all. The same goes for college basketball and the NCAA tournament, now in progress. I never followed the sport, but I would at least fill out my bracket, watch and root. No more.  And I can't be bothered with my local NBA team either. Tennis? Nope. Do I miss it? Nah.

But even though I'm paring things away, I will be leaving room for the essentials, and when it comes to sports, I have only one essential - the New York Mets. Starting a week from Monday, I will settle into the little rituals that fill my day from April until October (hopefully to the very end of October!). My ridiculously expensive iPhone will serve as an even more ridiculously expensive transistor radio, to which I will be glued each afternoon, following the exploits of the boys in Orange and Blue. From Portland, I will carry on text message, game long conversations with My old friend Brad, in Atlanta, chatting about Wheeler's return to the rotation, Cespedes's homeruns (and his unavoidable slumps), who's hot and who's not. Standing in the shower each morning at 6:00am, I'll be thinking about who is pitching, how many games up (or back) they are. I think you're getting the picture. Obsessed? Well, yeah.

There's a reason this blog is called Mets Diaspora. Far from the homeland of boroughs, bagels, and Long Island beaches, I'm always searching for ways to stay connected to my roots, and nothing represents those roots as much as the team from Flushing. Some things I can't, and won't pare away.

And if you happen to shadow me throughout the day, eventually you're bound to here me singing this little song: https://youtu.be/Jfz7gW2Wf3I

Saturday, March 25, 2017

#SOL 17 25/31 - A Slice From the Past

“Hey Rand, let’s go bowling”. That’s my friend Ross. Musician, artist, restaurant manager, record store owner, late night coffee drinker, and all hours bowler. We’re bowling after midnight at the 24-hour lanes. He’s a better bowler than I, but once in a while I get lucky, and bowl well over one hundred.

I’m standing at the line, looking at a pretty tough spare. Ross knows I’m over thinking it, in danger of psyching myself, and he pushes me further in that direction by start to sing the chorus to Foreigner’s “Head Games”.  I throw the ball. The two pins remain standing. Yep, he knows me well.

Ross died a year ago today. He slipped away while I was riding my bike, listening to his music. (Great band – The Glands). So today, what else was I to do but hop on the bike, plug in the headphones, and listen to my friend. And think about bowling.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

#SOL 17 23/31 - Playtime

The sun broke through just in time for recess. It really felt like spring.  Most of the lower grades were outside. Usually I stand with another teacher or two, scanning the yard and shooting the breeze, responding to the not too occasional gripes from the kids. ("He just took the four square ball and wouldn't give it to me when I asked him and then he kicked it into the mud.").

Today I walked a couple of laps, and tuned in more than I usually do to how the students were spending recess. It struck me more than usual how so many of the kids are just in constant, active motion for twenty minutes. And such a variety of playing modes. My kids' thing this year has been elaborate tag games, so there was a lot of chasing. The swings were full, and the play structures crowded and teeming with whirring limbs. On the basketball court,  the action was more predictable and organized. The playing field has been to muddy for months now for football, but a multi aged group was playing some their own blacktop version with a blue nerf football next to the bark chip playground. In the covered area, a teacher was leading a large group in a jumprope game. I don't know jump rope games. In this game one kid started, then another jumped in, continuing until someone trips up.

But best of all were the three girls standing on two bales of hay, left over from the middle school Charlotte's Web production. They were joyously and enthusiastically performing their own, private song and dance number to a song about sushi.

The joys are there for the taking. You just have to stop and take them.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

#SOL17 22/31 - A Promise

I will never teach math in the afternoon again. I will never teach math in the afternoon again.

I switched up the schedule so I could have the iPad cart in the morning for social studies, which meant teaching math in the afternoon, right after recess. This did not go well.

I will never teach math in the afternoon again.

Aside from a couple of kids, they lacked energy, focus, stamina, and interest. And we had such a great morning. I pulled out all the stops - cheering them on! Egging them on! Having the heart to heart "we're really not connecting today. Can anybody think of a reason why?" talk. All I got were glassy stares, the wiggles, and requests to go to the bathroom. So.

I will never teach math in the afternoon again.

I guess there was a reason I taught it in the morning in the first place.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The floor of the laundry room is getting wet. The little throw rugs that cover the concrete are damp after every load. My wife thinks there is a leak from the rear of the machine. But I have a vague recollection of this happening a few years ago, and I start moving the clutter that's accumulated over the last fifteen years and find the drain hole in the floor. There is a little bit of standing water around it. I believe I've found the culprit.

"But if the water is coming up from that drain, how come the rugs close to the drain aren't wet?"
She has me there. But I'm not giving up on my theory.

"The drain is clogged, and that's just messing up all the pipes under the house, and that's causing the wash water outtake to back up."

"Do you even know what you're talking about?"

Of course not. "Yes. Tomorrow I will pour Drano down the drain in the floor and everything will be fine"

Well, today is now tomorrow, and there is a puddle of Drano, which would not go down the drain, on the laundry room floor.

Channelling Dr. Bones McCoy: "Jim, I'm a 3rd grade teacher, not a plumber!"

Monday, March 20, 2017

#SOL17 20/31 - Tick Tock

The classroom clock stopped ticking today. One of the kids pointed it out to me. The clock said that it was 1:58, when it was actually going on 2:10. It wasn't really a big deal. the class got to PE on time, and while they were gone a new clock was installed in the classroom.

No big deal, but it got me thinking. So much of the school day revolves around the clock. Math at 8:30. Language Arts at 9:40. Writers' Workshop at 1:15. Each morning I write the schedule on the board, and I try to stick to it, somedays more successfully than others. But os this the best way to do things? I know that students need (sometimes crave) consistency, but sometimes this adherence to a schedule seems counterintuitive. What if, instead, we worked on something until it was done - taught a lesson until it seemed the class got it? Maybe even longer if we were having fun! What if we spent more time reading independently, just because everyone was really into their books? To be honest, I've moved more in this direction. I no longer put the time next to the item on the schedule. But it is a sequence, nonetheless.

My favorite sport is baseball. One of the things I love about it is that there's no clock. Teams play unit the inning is over, inning by inning until there are nine in the books, and sometimes more. They play unit they get the job done. And during the seventh inning, everyone gets up, stretches, and sings a song.

Anyway, we have a working clock again!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

#SOL17 19/31 - Another Year in the Books

Another birthday gone by. Another year older,  but not necessarily wiser. As kids, we all love birthdays, don't we? They were still fun through my 20's and 30's, into my 40's, as well. But then I started to view my birthday warily. Because let's face it, we don't really want to get older, do we?

Now at 56, I feel my relationship with my birthday shifting once again. Because, knock wood, how many more will there be. Maybe I should just squeeze every bit out of them that I can.

At the very least, my birthday is a day when I can count on at least three phone calls - from my three older brothers. Brothers Two and Three did not disappoint, but I did not hear from Brother One this year. That bothered me. No word. Today I spoke with Brother Two again. We were talking about Chuck Berry (I picked up from Brother Two my love for rock and roll, especially old rock and roll.) He relayed a conversation he had yesterday with Brother One (that's right, the one who didn't call me on Friday, my birthday. Apparently, Brother One backed up Chuck Berry on bass at a gig decades ago. (Berry almost never travelled with a band, but picked up local players instead, leading to some very uneven shows). According to Brother One, it was the most stressful gig he had ever played. Chuck would start a song without telling the band what song it would be. Throughout the show he would get in my brother's face shouting "1, 1, 1, 1....4, 4, 4, 4.  It was a funny story, but when it ended I replied that I did not have have a Brother One, because if I did, he would have called me on my birthday.

"He said he wasn't able to call you, but he texted you instead". I believe I replied with a hearty "Hrumpf", because I certainly did not receive a text.

A few hours later, I did come across an Happy Birthday email from Number One that was sent yesterday. Don't know how I missed it, but I felt better. And a little guilty.

But really, he still owes me a call. After the parents are gone, staying in touch is harder, yet, to me, even more important than ever.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

#SOL17 18/31 - Choices

I was the proverbial kid in the candy shop yesterday. But even better than the promise of candy, I was on the loose in Powell's City of Books with a big, fat gift card burning a hole in my wallet. Thankfully, I didn't have a lot of time to spend. The meter was running out, and we had someplace else to be, but for half an hour I was able to dive into the stacks.

My first stop was the Gold Room. My first inclination is always mystery/thriller/suspense. I'm a sucker for genre fiction. Especially when the real world crowds in from all sides, it's helpful to have some pure escapism. But that first inclination usually gives way to feelings of guilt - why go for the ground beef when filet mignon is available. There are so many classics I've never read, and so much contemporary literature that I'll never even know about. I need to to challenge myself more!

And then a glance at the phone told me my time was just about up. I was standing near a display of new paperback release, and the cover of Patti Smith's memoir "M Train" was at my fingertips. Done. For now. Like I said, it's a big, fat gift card. And there are plenty more rooms at the City of Books, waiting for me to explore.

Friday, March 17, 2017

#SOL17 17/31 - Friday!

Today is a teacher work day. I have a tradition for teacher workdays. I treat myself to a nice breakfast out. Today is also my birthday. All the more reason to treat myself right, right?

I was planning to go to Zell's Cafe - an old school breakfast/brunch cafe. Tried and true (not to mention, delicious). But the iconoclast inside of me butted in saying "Come on Rand, lets try something new!" A little bit of Yelp-ing later, I found a well reviewed sandwich shop, Meat Cheese Bread, that boasted a great breakfast burrito and steak & egg sandwich. I arrived shortly after 7:00 am. The place had a definite Portland vibe - hip, bearded counterman, minimalist decor, big blackboard menu. But something was missing. The place felt cold. Not unfriendly, but not entirely welcoming. I'm sure that sandwiches are great, and someday I'll actually try one, but today wasn't the day.

I was only two blocks from Zell's, my original destination. Cozy dining room with antique, dark woodwork and ornate bar; Sinatra and Ella and Dino playing softly in the background, warm, welcoming floor staff.

Sometimes you just gotta go with tradition. And the day is still young. I'm about to sneak out of my teacher workday (with the blessing of my principal, of course). There's still room in my day for something new.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

#SOL17 16/31 - Can We Talk About the Weather?

The sun is out. There are a few wispy clouds up there, but mostly it's blue, and it's amazing what this does for my entire outlook. Especially considering that yesterday my weather app displayed the rain icon. Actually, all five of my weather apps showed rain icons. Yes, you read that right. I have five weather apps. I'm a little obsessed. Especially when there is a rumor of snow.

So not only is it a sunny day, but it's a sunny day that was supposed to be a rainy day, and here in the Pacific NW, we've had way too many of those. I heard a stat recently that said we've only had three or four sunny days all winter. That must mean days with no rain at all, because I know there have been rainy days during which the sun has poked through for a while. Who knows, today may turn out to be one of those days, but so far, it's glorious. In a few minutes I'll take the kids out to recess, and I'll just stand there, soaking it in, imbued with a sense of hope and possibility.

Tomorrow is my birthday. The weather icons say rain. What are the chances of a repeat performance? Now that would be an awesome present.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

#SOL17 15/31 Little Musical Slices

7:00 am in my classroom. Getting things ready (spinning my wheels, more often than not) for the day. But that's not really what I'm doing. It's just an excuse to put on my headphones and listen to music. This morning it's a new album by a band called Hurray for the Riff Raff, called The Navigator. A Folk-rock concept album that tells the story of one woman's Nuyorican experience. The lyrics are deep and meaningful, and the music loose, lively and at times Latin tinged. As I move about the empty classroom I lose myself in the lyrics, singing a little, dancing a bit (so glad I'm alone!). This is my space.

Music has always occupied an important spot in my life. It suffuses my day. During my commute, while I cook, when I bike around the city. The timeline of my life is marked by personal, musical milestones. Hearing my parents harmonize at home (Down By the Old Mill Stream, and other golden oldies). Having my first favorite am radio pop song ("Close to You" by The Carpenters). Discovering the 60's as a teenager in the 70's ("Stuck Inside of Memphis With the Memphis Blues Again"). Having my mind sonically blown on a front porch in Baltimore while at college (Talking Heads Remain in Light).

The soundtrack is an endless string of slices of life. After this week I'm on the downward slope of my 50's, but I don't feel it. I think a big reason is that I keep expanding that soundtrack. It grows richer, and more eclectic. And when it's done, it's going to be a doozy of a boxed set.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

#SOL17 14/31 - Writing. Not Easy

For the first time this month, I feel like I don't have it in me. But I do love the fact that this SOL challenge is doing just that - challenging me. Even on a night when I feel totally spent, and just want to lie back with the Daniel Silva spy thriller that's loaded onto my kindle app, I know that I have to write something.

Throughout my life, I've often thought of myself as a writer, until the other shoe drops and I say to myself, no you're not. To be a writer, you have to write. You can't just think about it. You have to do it. And I have a history of not doing it. But right now I am doing it. I'll be doing it tomorrow as well, and the day after that, whether I have anything worthwhile to say, or not.

And after this month? Maybe I should just take a page out of another book, and take it one day at a time.

Monday, March 13, 2017

3SOL17 13/31 - Listen

Today I realized that sometimes I spend so much time controlling the oral outpourings of my students (3rd graders) that I miss the pleasure of hearing what they have to say. Understandably (I hope!) it's usually when I'm attempting to convey some kind of information - directions, information, strategies, hey, even wisdom once in a while. And these kids love to talk, bless their chatty little hearts and mouths. But sometimes there can be joy in just letting it flow, and being a fly on the wall.

It happened in the afternoon while they were painting their salt dough models of Portland topography. (Portland in a Pizza Box, I like to call it.) They were painting, and I was refilling little cups of acrylic paint. It's a small class, and they know each other really well, most having been together since K or even longer. So they're more than just classmates. Its often more like family, with all the negatives along with the positives. Anyway, They started a conversation around the room. Almost all of them took part, which is kind of rare. And their voices didn't automatically escalate to "outdoor level", also a rarity. I can't even remember what they were talking about, but it was such an easy give and take, conveyed with a dash of humor, and a big helping of idiosyncratic personalities. It was a pleasure just to hear them as people, not just as students. Of course, I had to spoil the party after a while, pointing out that there was way more chatting going on than painting, and it was time to finish this project, and yadda yadda wahhh wahhh wahhh....

But it was really nice while it lasted. I've got to remember that.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

#SOL17 12/31 - Sunday, Where Did You Go?

Each weekend, I go through the same cycle of moods and emotions. Friday is a day of relief. I've made it to the week's finish line. Time to go home and collapse into the easy chair after dinner and a glass of wine. Family time (which includes the cat, napping on my chest!)

Saturday is the day for recharging. My wife and I start out with a yoga class, and a hearty breakfast. And then it's time to relax. Maybe some yard work, or a relaxing bike ride for me, weather permitting. Perhaps a movie in the evening. Enjoyment and contentment are the goals.

Sunday is the day to refocus, to start thinking about the week. Sunday is the day that I get up early, brew a pot of joe, and waste no time in starting to plot out my lessons and activities for the coming week. Well, in theory, at least. Because inevitably, the Sunday times crossword takes way longer than it should (who am I kidding, I rarely finish it). Or there's one more TV show I want to watch, or one more chapter to read in the book that I am reading solely for pleasure. And the day starts to slip away. That's when denial sets in. And sadness, that the weekend is almost over. And the conviction that next Sunday, darn it, I really will catch up on those papers! And.... who am I kidding? One more chapter....

Saturday, March 11, 2017

3SOL17 Day 11 - Every Other Friday

Last night - Shabbat dinner. Every other Friday is a special night. It's the Friday of the weekend M, my stepdaughter, spends at home. The other Fridays my wife and I might light candles, split a mini bottle of wine, root out a stale piece of bread to stand in for the challah. But on M's Friday we order the real thing. And M insists that mommy cook a feast, dessert included.

Full disclosure - in our household, I'm the cook. My wife keeps the books. Cooking a big meal puts her in high anxiety mode. But for her daughter, she wades into the kitchen fray, like a trooper.

Back to last night. Corned beef and cabbage. Yes, it was a week too early, but M won't be here on St. Patty's Day - my birthday - so we set the clock ahead by a week. Lest the Sabbath meal get a little too Catholic, we also had kasha varnishkas. Dessert? homemade rugelach. By eight o'clock, M was passed out on the sofa, exhausted from another week of 12th grade. I was snoozing on the la-z-boy, cat on my chest, exhausted from another week of 3rd graders. Soon we would rouse ourselves for a little family TV time. So unexciting. So wonderful.

Friday, March 10, 2017

#SOL17 Day 10 - The Artist Formerly Known as ...... Queen Esther?

Words that describe a Jewish day school on Purim - fun, laughter, costumes, creativity. Especially creativity in our school and especially in Kitah Hay (grade 5). That's the grade that produces the annual Purim Shpiel. The shpiel is a (comic) dramatization of the Book of Esther. punctuated by rousing choruses of boooo's whenever the name of the story's villain, Haman, is mentioned.

At Portland Jewish Academy, the Shpiel is a highly anticipated event, thanks to the above-and-beyond efforts of our outstanding music teacher, Kim. Each year Kim chooses a different musical theme, and writes song parodies that fit the story of Purim. This year's Shpiel was titled Purple Reign, and was set to the music of...... hey, do I really have to say his name?

The theme was the power of words, and there was also a not too subtle, yet hilarious subtext featuring a King Achashveros who does nothing but sit on his throne all day, tweeting about how great he is (When he's not riding around the kingdom of Shushan in his Little Red Corvette)!

The fifth graders were outstanding, and the song parodies were smart and funny. As usual, it made so so proud to be part of this incredibly creative school community!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

#SOL17 Day 9 - My Morning Movie

6:15 a.m., crossing the Morrison Bridge, radio tuned to KMHD, Portland's jazz station. Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk segues into Wayne Shorter's Footsteps. Headlights cut through the fog and the rain. Downtown building loom, and with the music in the background it's easy to imagine that I am in an early 50's film noir.  Bundles of newspapers hitting the streets, men in fedoras and trenchcoats, women in long coats and heels, and me, cruising Chandler's mean streets, searching for clues to illuminate the dark heart of human behavior.....

Until I arrive at school and last minute prep before the third graders arrive. Spell broken. Until tomorrow morning, at least

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

#SOL17 Day 8 - The Most Important Meal of the Day

I don't know what got into me this morning. Breakfast is always a no-brainer. I always have a pot of steel cut oats in the fridge. Nothing to think about. Pop a bowl in the nukerator, add some butter, a dash of salt, and maybe, if I'm feeling very adventurous, a small handful of currants. Like I said, nothing to think about.

So why did I make that off-the-cuff decision to break the routine this morning? Maybe it was that hearty chunk of seeded red wheat from Tabor Bread, left over from the weekend. Which in turn got me thinking about the sharp cheddar, sitting in the icebox right next to the pastured eggs. (Yes, I pay an outrageous amount of money for eggs laid by chickens who get to romp around the pasture, eating whatever bugs they find. There's a difference, from the rich taste to the deep yellow hue of the yolk. But I digress). Within minutes, toast, egg and cheese were on the table next to a steaming cup of french pressed medium roast.

Routines are important, and they're helpful. Especially in the classroom. But sometimes breaking with a routine can leave you with a fresh perspective, a heightened sense of energy that comes from taking a chance. It can even start with eggs over easy.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

#SOL17 Day 7 - The Countdown

The weather is wretched. The political climate is poisonous. Spring break is still weeks away. Just when despair is about to get the better of me, a friend passes through the doors of the school at the end of the day, wearing his orange and blue cap, flashes me a big smile, and says, "D'Arnaud hit another one today! If he keeps this up, it just might be a good year!" Cryptic message? To some, maybe, but to me it's a soul saving reminder that baseball is right around the corner, spring training has begun, and my Mets just might be on the verge of a very successful campaign.

And even if they tank, as they do more often than not, the yearly renewal of ritual and statistics nourishes me. It reminds me that spring is in sight, summer not far behind, and anything is possible. And living in Oregon, so far from the friendly confines of Citi Field in Flushing, makes it even sweeter to spot a friend, or even a stranger, wearing the orange and blue NY, raise a hand for a high five, and say those magic words, "Lets Go Mets!"

C'mon, April!

Monday, March 6, 2017

SOL Day 6 - Life on Mars

Living in Portland, OR can seem like living on another planet sometimes. In more ways than one. Some days that otherworldliness is found in the weather itself. Today was one of those days. It started out gray and wet, like so many other NW days. During my drive to school the wet transformed into white - a driving snow shower that quickly covered treetops at the higher, west side elevation. The snow continued for a while, stealing the attention of my third graders (not really hard to do, you dig?) until it changed back to rain, just in time for morning recess.

Lunch recess was more of the same, but as soon as I pulled the kids back in to hang out in the classroom, out came Mr. Sunshine, blazing with a coming attraction for Spring.

But the biggest treat came after my commute home, which was once again wet and gray. There's something about the late afternoon light in Portland, when the dying sun bursts out from the west, and hits the wall of gray to the east, illuminating the clouds and creating a contrast that can seem to be straight out of a Caravagio masterpiece. And to top it all off, a rainbow, of course.

Like another planet.

SOL Day 5 - Dry Cereal Heaven

In our household Sunday is grocery shopping day, and as luck would have it, weekends at New Seasons market are tasting days! And today did not disappoint. Today was Dry Cereal Tasting Day! 
At this stage of my life, I no longer eat processed, sweetened dry cereal. I've become more of a whole grain kind of guy. Steel cut oats with a touch of butter and a dash of salt get my day going. But when presented with an array of flakes, and puffs, and chunks, and clusters, flavored with cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, peanut butter, honey, peanut butter, maple (did I mention peanut butter), well, I kind of went crazy. Sample cup after sample cup, filled with flakes and soy milk, puffs and coconut milk, and with each one the thought that I really, really don't want to eat this stuff anymore. And then another cup. 
Maybe I should go shopping on Wednesdays.

SOL Day 4 - March 4th

How do we keep the departed with us, years after they've gone? 
As March 4th approaches I start to write mental reminders - Don't forget to call Beverly. Beverly is an 85 year old woman living in Tallahassee. She's the mother of one of my best friends. Lisa died more than fifteen years ago. Her birthday was March 4th, and for the last fifteen years I've made it a point to call Beverly each year on her daughter's birthday.
"My phone says Oregon, so it must be Rand" usually opens the call. The first few years the calls were mostly about Lisa, but now they focus more on families. Mine and hers. Since we've started this tradition her granddaughter (Lisa's sister's girl) has grown up, married, given Beverly two great-grandkids, and become a teacher. I've married, my parents have passed away, and my dear stepdaughter is about to go to college. Life keeps happening.
I always say that this year I'll get in touch before next March 4th. I haven't made good on that promise yet, But who knows, maybe this is they year. I may never see Beverly again, but we're a part of each other's lives now, and we've managed to keep Lisa with us.
That's one way do do it.

SOL Day 3 - Well Trained

Lulu does not like snow. She also doesn't like the TV, when it's on, or being scratched on her belly. Lulu is a cat, and she likes things to be just the way they she likes them, case closed.
Some cats do like snow. I know this because last time it snowed - and we're talking about a lot of snow - I took a walk with my wife a witnessed some cats fearlessly foraging through the wet, white stuff, some even enjoying it.
Not Lulu. And this leads to a big problem. Lulu spends time inside and outside, but when it comes to nature's business, she's an outdoor kitty. We have a litter box in the house, but she hasn't used it in years. She refuses. So when she has to go, she cries at the door, peeks out at the snow, and runs back inside. Soon, she's going crazy, meowing to go out, yet afraid, and getting more and more uncomfortable.
Good thing she has a well trained owner, because when it gets to that point I have to put on the boots, coat, hat, and carry Lulu outside. But wait, there's more! I have to carry this freezing bundle of fur to the side of the house, kick away the snow until I've exposed the dirt, and then put Lulu down and wait until she's completed her mission, and then carry her back inside.
One of us is very well trained.

SOL Day 2 - The Writing on the Wall

As teachers, we all know that explicit instructions are the key to getting the results we’re looking for. Or at least an approximation of the results we’re looking for. One of my early lessons in clear instruction giving came during my student teaching stint. One of the fifth grade boys in my assigned class decided to draw a permanent marker masterpiece on the wall of the bathroom stall.  When confronted he admitted that he was the artist, and I escorted him to the principal’s office to witness first hand the concept of natural consequences.
 The principal was a very calm, even-handed fellow, and he guided the offending artist to the realization that, as good as his artwork was, someone had to spend time scrubbing the wall of the stall. Not pleasant. What could the kid do? On his own, the student offered to write a not of apology to the custodian.
 The next morning, the principal asked me accompany him to the bathroom. We walked in and he led me to the original scene of the crime. Flashing me a “you’re not going to believe this smile” he opened the door and stepped inside. Written in marker on the wall facing me was a note – “Dear Janitor, I am very sorry for drawing on the wall.”
 Explicit directions. They really make a difference.