Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Slice about something slice-able - 3.22 #sol17 Story Challenge

The student with whom I sat to read aloud was eating an apple. He took one more crunchy bite, leaving the fruit looking like the perfect cartoon core that had been gnawed all around. I could see his mind turning, weighing: "I can't keep eating this and be able to read aloud clearly." His mouth working noisily, his eyes scanned the surroundings for an apple landing zone. He contorted himself and set the apple on the shelf behind us. The apple rolled off, but he deftly caught it in midair and replaced it on the shelf. He turned back to me, ready to read. My eyes, though, we're still on the apple. "That's going to be there all day, isn't it?" my brain told me. We went on reading. (An excellent fluent rendition, by the way, with top-notch comprehension from our young apple eater.) We then proceeded to other business; an hour later, our period over, we parted company. It was five hours later when I rediscovered the now brown apple in otherwise unchanged repose.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Would you rather? - 3.21 #sol17 Story Challenge

Would you rather have an uneventful, unremarkable day, just like any other, or one that has quease-inducing ups & downs?

Say, a day that featured a great classroom moment like the student who's so excited finally to hold the printed text that accompanies his audio book, and then an exhausting moment when a knot of students temporarily lose the battle to stay focused; the chance to celebrate by email with the family whose child shows dramatic growth and to celebrate in person with that same child, followed by a gut-punch conversation with a different child about all that's not working in that same class; the simple joy of three kids in one period each checking out books from the classroom library, and after school the simple frustration of trying to corral a dog who'd rather be sampling poop than jogging trails; or, in the evening, digesting a litany of professional shortcomings via email chased by a glowing compliment shared by blog.

You can probably guess the kind of day I had. Now, I'm ready for an unremarkable one.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sucker! - 3.20 #sol17 Story Challenge

I'm fortunate to lie in a professional bed largely of my own making. That said, the bed has drawbacks like the fact that it's taken me just under two weeks to review the latest round of student work from the end of third quarter. I aimed for a one-week turnaround, and my estimate was badly off.

This work amounts to a digital portfolio where seventh- and eighth-graders are presenting evidence to justify they've met course standards in reading, writing, and speaking. One of my roles in this process is to confirm their mastery or to send them back to the drawing board with guidance. The upshot: I'm doling out more feedback and fewer grades. There's a lot about these dynamics that I like. That said, it has not been an easy path. New approaches rarely are.

So, I was disproportionately happy just before five this afternoon when I rewarded myself with a treat. I unwrapped a Blow Pop that had been sitting on my desk, waiting for just such a pick-me-up moment. I would enjoy it while reading through the last portfolio. And then, having opened that file, I found I'd already reviewed the work; I'd just overlooked entering the requisite grades.

My sigh of relief was almost as sweet as the sucker's synthetic taste of watermelon.

p.s. Follow-up from Sunday Slice: Wildfire danger appears to have been contained for now.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Sound of Sirens - 3.19 #sol17 Story Challenge

With apologies to Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence"

Hello dryness, my old friend,
You have parched earth's sandy skin,
And now a fire softly creeping
Spread its flames while I was sleeping
And the smoke that was drifting o'er the plain
Still remains
Amid the sound of sirens.

Living in most parts of the western United States means fire danger, so I'm not totally surprised when I crack open a bathroom window this morning before taking a shower and smell smoke. A few minutes later, I learn of the wildfire about a mile away, and that my home sits in a pre-evacuation zone. In other words: limbo. I gather the few valuables I claim, go on with the day. Periodically, I check updates from the city's Office of Emergency Management or peek at the smoke leaking from a nearby canyon. I notice how the usual ambient noise is studded with aircraft fly-bys and siren songs. Thanks, police and fire crews. I wish you an uneventful evening.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Change of plans - 3.18 #sol17 Story Challenge

Today was a beautiful day where I live and, in between grading binges, I intended to enjoy it. I made a plan.

Plan A ~ Ride mass transit south for 15 minutes to hook into a trail network through the foothills that would enable me to trail-run back home. The journey on foot would be about seven miles, and this was within the realm of reasonable for me these days. All proceeded as planned until I hit the first trail closure sign. Due to maintenance stemming from severe flooding back in 2013, the Mesa Trail wasn't open to take me back north. I needed a new plan.

Turn around? Not my bull-headed style. My inner GPS started rerouting: I can still do this, I calculated. It would just be slightly less comfortable without water and food. Sure, it'd be farther, but I'd be okay.

Plan B ~ I shifted gears, mixing in running and walking as a means of conservation. I kept going west, up near the summit of Bear Peak, at 8,400 feet, notably higher than Plan A called for. I'm glad I walked. I caught my alternate route north, down the west ridge of Bear Peak and up to a saddle below Green Mountain, down to Flagstaff Mountain, and then one more stretch of trail back to town.

About four hours and 11 miles later, I drank several glasses of water, ate a banana, collapsed on the couch, then woke up to write this. Since pictures are worth thousands of words, here's a map, with Plan A in blue, B in purple, and the infamous closure in red.

Friday, March 17, 2017

(Green) Day in the Life - 3.17 #sol17 Story Challenge

So make the best of this test, and don't ask why. "Time of Your Life," Green Day

Two birds, one stone is the blogging game here. I'm posting about a day in my life (this one!) as part of the Slice of Life Story Challenge and the latest #sunchatbloggers group topic, which means I'm not writing short.

5:12am | In darkness, blurry voices from the clock-radio alarm.
5:33 | Clean, dressed (swap blue jeans for green ones), check in with #bfc530, tidy up loose email ends.
6:04 | Meal planning: cereal, decorated with sliced banana; yesterday's uneaten lunch=today's 2nd chance.
6:28 | Stroll through the dark to catch bus. Spend commute reading slices and a book.
7:10 | Amble into school. Chip away at review of student work. Prep for first period.
7:38 | Get news to be ready for spontaneous Spirit Week next week. Ponder how wardrobe requirements might necessitate accelerated laundry schedule.
7:40 | Students start stumbling in. Chairs start falling over.
7:55 | First period is on. Students read for 10 minutes.
8:05 | I book-talk Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and Epic by Connor Kostick. We revisit claims made earlier this week about best pie in honor of Pi Day and related structures for persuasive writing. Students try their hands at writing the beginnings of literary analysis, using some of the same structures. Students also shoot bi-weekly feedback my way about their progress.
8:50 | Second period. Small group for literacy support. We read, too. We talk about what we're reading. I describe how disparate pieces in the novel I'm reading (Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay) have just clicked together during the morning bus ride, and I now feel ferocious momentum to finish the book. Students describe how the feeling I described fits -- or doesn't -- with what they're reading. They then complete formal reading practice on computers. I pretend I'm an audio book for one student who reads along silently, and then I check in with a few kids who read aloud to me, hearing how their fluency is progressing.
9:45 | Third period. Similar story as prior class, but bigger group. Lots of coming and going as students bounce between literacy and math support, the latter with a colleague in another room. Some students still manage to be productive; many don't. Two voice their increasing unhappiness with me.
10:40 | Fourth period. Mailbox check. Only occupant: one piece of green-foil-wrapped chocolate. I dash off an email to a guidance counselor who's out today, seeking help mediating with those two unhappy students from third period. Then, more chipping away at digital pile of student work needing feedback.
11:30 | Homeroom. Announcements: "Spirit Week is coming!" A student enlightens me that, " 'Funner' is actually a word in the dictionary." She and I confirm this with a dictionary on hand.
11:35 | Slow-rolling start to eighth-grade team meeting with six colleagues. Double-duty with lunch, triple if you count bathroom break.
12:25pm | Fifth period. My aim is to repeat first period, which mostly happens. Except for part way through class when a panicky student comes over brandishing his cell phone. "My dad's calling. I need to talk to him." I respond, "It's okay. He'll leave a message. If it's an emergency, he can call the school office, and they'll ring our room." Moments later the classroom phone rings for you-know-who. I'm still unclear if I made an accurate prediction or revealed a trade-secret that the student communicated via seeing-eye text magic.
1:20 | Sixth period. Smaller, lively group that chased my book talks with several of their own.
2:15 | Covered part of study hall for a colleague. Jockeying students, library passes, craft supplies including rulers and tape, and questions like "What's the lowest grade I can get and still pass?"
3:05 | Last bell. Students exit for the weekend.
3:10 | I check-in with talented-and-gifted coordinator and principal about unfinished business. (Rhetorical question: Isn't it all?)
3: 30 | I steal a little more time to review student work before the next bus home departs.
4:07 | Back on the bus. Respond to a few Slices to keep part of the Welcome Wagon rolling and then return to my own reading.
5:00 | Mind off school, instead on March Madness and whether I need a suit for a family wedding next weekend. Tangential learning about the ambiguities of 'cocktail attire.'
6:18 | Leftovers for dinner
6:50 | Respond to more Slices and get my own contribution going.
7:54 | Recognize that slicing and trying to watch basketball mean I'm doing neither very well.
8:48 | Off with TV. Reread blog, revise, publish. Then, off to bed to finish Sarah's Key and nod off by

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Et tu, Clerihew? - 3.16 #sol17 Story Challenge

I don't always write short, but when I do, I write clerihews.

While the Ides of March proved painful for a certain Julius Caesar,
now into this month's second half, I hope the slices do come easier.
Hard or easy, long or short, let's keep writing through the thirty-first
since we've got enough momentum that blogging bubbles won't be burst.