Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Funny thing happened on the way to work

One blog topic to which I resort happens to be transportation and commuting since riding a public bus to work affords unexpected grist for this mill. Today's slice, though, finds me behind the wheel of my own vehicle about 14 hours ago.

It's the first day of school, and I'm a solo commuter -- one more drop in the fast-rising traffic waters where I live. Then, just a few minutes from home, I spy my science-teaching colleague at another bus stop. No cars behind me, I flick on the hazards, roll down the window, and make an unscheduled stop. "Want a lift?" I ask. Once the incredulity clears from his face, he accepts. Our first point of conversation is whether we'll see our history-teaching colleague, another sometime bus rider.

At the next stop, we do. So we gather a new passenger, and now we have a spontaneous carpool. We dispel nervous energy en route to meet our new students.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer reading 2017 recap

Now that professional responsibilities have formally resumed, I suppose summer reading must lose its seasonal qualifying adjective. To mark that occasion, here's a list of books I finished since Memorial Day (along with parenthetical notes)...

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead (soft-spoken picture book inspiration)
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (first tome in epic -- yet intimate -- fantasy trilogy)
Teaching Literacy in the Visible Learning Classroom by Douglas Fisher et al (Hattie's effect sizes explored, applied)
The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser (still topical, alarming inspection of Internet's influence)
Waking Up by Sam Harris (meditations on meditation)
Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (more sweet than bitter MG ride with plucky young hero)
It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (memoir where cultures collide, sometimes causing cliches)
The Beekeeper's Lament by Hannah Nordhaus (in-depth look at often overlooked insects and the industries/people trying to harness them)
Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee (YA sci fi takes on mixed-martial arts)
ROLE Reversal by Mark Barnes (early adopter on minimizing grades and maximizing project- or problem-based learning)
Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Ruby Powell et al (YA verse novel inspired by mid-20th century interracial romance)
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (intersection of US aeronautics industry's launch and related rise of brilliant mathematicians who were black women staring down Jim Crow)
It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd (think twice about assumptions re: teens and tech; question pervasive, pernicious cultural forces)
Translanguaging with Multilingual Students by Ofelia Garcia et al (make room for multiple languages to fuel learning)
New Boy by Tracy Chevalier (Shakespeare's Othello re-imagined in 21st-century elementary school; aimed at adult readers)
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Saab story re: Swedish curmudgeon hiding heart of gold)
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson (Anthology of mind-expanding essays about still-expanding universe and its phenomena)
Why?: What Makes Us Curious by Mario Livio (Look at brain science and historical paragons fell short of stoking my curiosity about this trendy focus)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Dizzying adult fiction about three-plus Dominican generations across five decades)
Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by AKR (Actual text presented as amusing interactive hypertext, with musings loosely inspired by various school subjects/tropes)

This list comprises eight works of fiction and a dozen nonfiction titles. I consumed seven as e-books, one as an audio book, and the rest as I-turned-actual-pages paperbacks or hard covers. Of the latter, two I owned and the rest I borrowed from the library.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Risky business

I signed a waiver that I did not read. In my lame defense, the whole waiver transaction was electronic, without even a copy linked for perusal. I strutted past the signs that proclaimed, "Helmets mandatory." I saw nary a protected head, so I figured my baseball cap would suffice. I read the posted caution about getting off the alpine-slide track if it became wet with rain. ("How?" I should've thought to wonder even as dark storm clouds slid over the sun, making my neck cool.) I felt the first fat drops fall as I rounded turn six. By turn seven, the skies opened; the sled's brake no longer proved effective. I spent the next third of the ride traveling with -- not on -- my sled, experimenting with alternate ways to stop. I also had my camera available (for posterity, I like to tell myself).

The eventual self-arrest came at a reasonable cost: a little skin from one hand, one elbow, and one knee, along with the soaked-through backs of my shorts and shirt. I clambered out of the track with my sled just before the next rider whizzed past -- the last one before the slide closed temporarily due to weather. I considered the possibility of walking down the rest of the way. My escape, though, fueled new hubris, and my scrapes didn't sting much. I dropped the sled on the track, hopped backed on, and finished the ride.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Mesa Verde verse



Crabbing my way
through a low stone entry
polished pearly
by 800 years (nearly)
of hands and knees,
I feel simultaneously
part of and dwarfed by
history.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Floating an idea

I'm sitting in a raft on the Cache la Poudre River, snugly tucked near two friends with whom I used to teach. Their young sons perch at the bow, bubbling more with excitement than nerves. Our raft floats in an eddy on one side of the river. Across the way, seven other craft in this morning flotilla show varying states of preparedness.

"How come they're not ready yet?" asks one boy, pointing his paddle towards the far shore.

Joey, our guide, clicks his tongue philosophically. "Everybody has their talks," he says, encompassing his fellow guides in that pronoun. "Me, I figured out just to tell people what they need to know. Extra stuff just confuses them. We can figure out the rest as we go."

Something in the hibernating caves of my teacher brain stirs; I decide to carry this wisdom back to the classroom in August.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Self, propelled

If getting there is truly half the fun, I glean more than my allotment when moving under my own power -- trail running, hiking, backpacking, bicycling, ski touring, or just walking.

My fun cup runneth over during summer when five of these six modes of transportation are abundantly available. (Skiing, your time will come again.) These pursuits encourage me to appreciate the good health I must not take for granted; the public lands in need of stewarding through which I move; the companionship of friends and family; the unexpected encounters with anyone called outside no matter age or experience, whether we're going the same way or in opposite directions.

And it occurs to me I've left off another essential mode of transport: reading. In its way, it moves me too, during summer and all year long. It stretches my mental and emotional faculties; it reveals literate lands in need of their own stewarding; it introduces me to countless others, real and imagined, like me and not.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Two unique people I met this week

a.k.a. Writing short to keep a slicing streak going

Johnny, who replaced my windshield. He's been working on auto glass for 38 years and takes exceptional, laudable pride in his work, no matter the project before him.

Bill, who is in the midst of running a marathon in every United States National Park. He just tallied the last one he needs in the Lower 48 at Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Click here for his story.