Wednesday, March 20, 2019

I can't believe it's not a run-on sentence 6 - 3.20 #sol19 Story Challenge

File this one under irony: Less than one hour after a history-teaching colleague dropped by my classroom to share a conversation he had facilitated with eight-graders this morning about dynamics of compliance and resistance among specific subgroups in Europe during World War II, I found myself in a lunchtime meeting doing the due-process dance that involves force-fed logistics in advance of annual state-wide testing in reading, writing, math, and science for three days next month, circumstances that left me weighing the costs and benefits (a.k.a. risks and rewards) of myself complying, resisting, or seeking alternate ways to those two forks in this particular road.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hall pass hall pass - 3.19 #sol19 Story Challenge

As per a school directive, I keep a clipboard in the classroom next to the hall pass hanging on a lanyard. I expect students to sign in and out when they use the hall pass, noting the times of their comings/goings. For this purpose, students jot their information in one row of a blank table, printed double-sided on sheets of paper.

I was reminded today of a quirk in this system: The number of students who will try to squeeze their details into the white space below the table, once the last row is occupied, or who will even try scribbling details around other margins, is a predictable surprise.

I've demonstrated for students, with mock theatricality, being the hero who flips the full side to its pristine reverse or (even more courageously) rotates a sheet with no more room to the back of the clipboard stack. All to no, or minimal, avail. Perhaps it's a developmental issue among middle-schoolers, a path of less resistance from their vantage. I'm pretty sure, based on other observations, that it's not a bid to conserve resources.

Monday, March 18, 2019

More rhyme than reason - 3.18 #sol19 Story Challenge

In a chair at the barber's, my eyes go wide
reading on the counter the glass jar just spied.
Plain white print spells out: Barbicide.
Below that, "Disinfectant, Fungicide & Virucide."
Inside, Jolly-Rancher-blue juice looks undignified,
though no doubt strong stuff, I must confide.
While my hygiene habits constitute no guide,
can't help pondering with a hit to my pride
what's crawled through my hair, then died.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Worth waiting for - 3.17 #sol19 Story Challenge

Patience paid off Saturday, twice.

First, a recreational ski day began with constrained terrain while patrollers navigated steeper slopes -- loaded with snow from a recent storm -- to assess safety and, in some cases, to trigger purposeful avalanches with explosives. Word trickled our way by early afternoon that Kachina Peak was open for hikers, so we joined a line of ants, numbering in the hundreds, to follow the kick-steps along a lengthy ridge to the top of the mountain. The way up demanded 45 minutes; the way down, less than 10. As I've written about earlier this month, it was worth it.

The ski day done, that night found us at a recommended restaurant nearby. Crowded with diners, the small establishment already had an hour-long wait, but it was well-equipped for the scenario with outside space. We pulled a few vacant chairs into a circle of people around a fire pit. We stayed warm and made fast friends, three of whom we ended up dining with when our eventual tables proved adjacent. The New Mexican food, by the way, was delicious.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Animal xing - 3.16 #sol19 Story Challenge

Driving conditions around 8:30 on Friday night are ideal, more or less. In the 'more' column go dry roads, light traffic, ample visibility. All of these permit a high rate of travel, near the speed limit of 65, certainly not under. In the 'less' column land the four elk abruptly lit by my high beams. I inhale, short and tight.

"Why did you cross the road?" my mind dumbly wonders wanders as my right foot mashes the brake. Though sudden, the subsequent stop proves controlled and (frantic calculating) not quite short enough -- the tires avoiding screeching or skidding; the implacable animals keeping shuffling. I aim for the probably-bigger-than-car-sized gap between two of them who are still on my side of the road. Rewinding the moment, it feels analogous to bizarre miniature golf: vehicle as colored plastic ball and golden specimens of Cervus canadensis as thick, slow-rotating windmill paddles. My foot still pressing the brake, the seemingly nonplussed elk maintaining their cadence, we roll through the space in their ranks, all of us unscathed this time.

Then, the voice from the passenger seat: "You want me to keep my eyes open for a while?" I exhale, long and loose.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Ups and downs - 3.15 #sol19 Story Challenge

Language is perception, not to mention imperfection. It packs symbolic power to capture specifics even as its connotations make its meaning sometimes slippery, elusive, or imprecise. Language use is also a habit.

Those abstracts thoughts circled through my brain as I walked to catch this morning's bus. I was reflecting about recent difficult conversations having to do with students' course placements for next school year. That process is underway currently, and one particular quirk of language has come up often. Most offerings where I teach are divided into two levels: standard and honors. That leads to habitual use of phrases like "moving a student up" when we recommend placing a student who has been in a standard class into an honors one. When we recommend moving a student from honors to standard, we often say we are "moving the student down." That's come into focus for me as a language problem for us and our community -- not merely as an issue with semantics, though, but with perceived realities our word choices have created.

An article from Choice Literacy I read this morning crystallized that thinking, sparking me to wonder how small changes in our choice words (hat tip, Peter Johnston) may hold farther reaching power than we realize.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Admission - 3.14 #sol19 Story Challenge

The unfolding scandal surrounding college admissions got me thinking, many moons ago, about when I applied to college. Then, here's what scandal amounted to...

I spent winter break during my senior year of high school in Florida, visiting relatives. I had college applications to finish, which involved (in that era) filling out forms on paper. That meant I needed a typewriter. It didn't make sense to lug one from home, and purchasing a Sunshine State model to lug back or even stash with family in the South hardly made sense. So, I bought -- or more likely my supportive parents bought -- a basic electric typewriter that I proceeded to put through its paces for the next several days. (For "put through its paces," read: hunting and pecking.) Once the job was done, I returned the typewriter to the vendor, noting my displeasure with some function or another, and secured a full refund.

See what I mean? Scandalous.