Reading with Alice

In August, I asked my son if I could practice my teaching with technology skills with my granddaughter, Alice, who is a home-schooled 6-year old. I was thrilled when he and his wife agreed. Alice is the fifth of six children and has a spunky (sometimes sassy) personality. I figured I could help her with her reading as I became more comfortable with Zoom-style instruction.

We now have a routine to work together four mornings a week for about 40 minutes. I sent her a box of reading tools. She has magnetic letters and a tray, a mini-whiteboard, a “bumpy” board, crayons, markers, and a composition book. I also sent her some decodable readers and emergent readers to get her started.

One day last week, we were working with the word, “come.” I knew she would be needing that word soon. First, we tapped it on our left arms and said the letters, c-o-m-e/come. We repeated that several times. We wrote it in the air, on the whiteboard, and with our eyes closed.

I said, “Alice, can you build the word come?”

Immediately, she sat up tall. She pushed the laptop back a little. She moved some papers, and wiggled her bottom in her chair. Finally, she let out a big sigh, and said, “Okay, let’s DO this!”

Whereupon, she built it. I’ve never seen a prouder smile on a child’s face. She turned her tray to the camera to show me “c-o-m-e.” It was perfect.

Next, we got out our book for the day.

I said, “Alice. I think you know a word in this title.”

“Come!” she squealed.

A reading teacher grandma’s delight.

Not the first day of school

If I had not retired,
Today would have been the first day of school.
Today I would have had the jittery joy of a new beginning.
I would have combed my shelves for just the right book to read.
I would have had new markers and notebooks to share.
I would have worked hard to learn new names and remember names of former students.
I would have dressed up and put on lipstick.

But today is not my first day of school, so I spent the day imagining it.
September, 2020 marks a shift in what school is and what it may become. I hope that school will open like a dahlia bloom with every petal having its place in the Fibonacci sequence. Each petal important to the shape, color, and size of what is possible.

It’s not my first day of school, and I miss it deeply. September beginnings are in my blood. This is my time to find out what the school of life has to teach me next. Perhaps it can be my first day of school, after all.

Rage Against the Roach

It’s war. This week we have had many heavy rains and I have come across not one, but four large American cockroaches in the house. They are huge! More than 2 inches long. Some may think their cherry wood brown color a lovely match to my end tables, but I’ve been freaking out. I don’t know how they are getting in as their habitat is OUTSIDE.

I found one roach already dead downstairs. Relief. The next one I trapped under a glass. After showing it to the grandsons, my husband took it outside. The third I was able to wound and catch; whereupon, it was promptly flushed.

Then last Thursday evening, I happened to glance up at the painting over the fireplace and was horrified to see another creeping down the wall. It was huge! The biggest one yet with long feelers moving every which way. I jumped to my feet, grabbed a flip-flop, and was determined to end this invasion of my home.

It dropped. It moved so fast; I couldn’t find it. A few minutes later, I heard a noise coming from behind the lamp on the window blinds. Aha! I whacked it with my flip-flop, but only grazed it. It dropped again. I saw it hiding in the corner. Slowly, I crept toward that brown menace. Whack! Whack! [scream] Whack! I know I made contact, but that blasted roach took off again.

I moved the couch ready to pounce. It had vanished. I got up twice in the night to surprise attack. But there was no roach. I’ve been on edge ever since. Roach #4 is still at large.

My husband reminds me that cockroaches have existed longer than mankind, and that they will likely survive long after we’re gone. That was not comforting, thank you very much.

August 11, 2020

All the best to my teacher friends and colleagues who are beginning this unprecedented school year! You can do it!

*****

This may be a ramble, but I have many things going through my mind. As teachers are preparing for the fall and school decisions are filling the news, the reality of my retirement is sinking in. I think I have noticed it as a bit of relief that I don’t have to be the one to support the reading needs of an entire school during distance learning. Our county has decided on virtual instruction at least through the first quarter.

That said, I am retired, but I am also a learner. I have continued to sign up for webinars and virtual conferences to do my best to stay current with my skills as a reading teacher and to improve my skills with technology. I’ve also signed up with teacher/writers at https://www.teachwrite.org/ to participate in writing workshop. Many are virtual friends from this SOL community. I have loved writing with them and trying new things in my notebook.

I also signed up to take a course in learning to draw with https://www.thegreatcoursesplus.com/home. This is a stretch goal for me. I’ve always wanted to be able to draw, but lost my confidence when my 8th grade art teacher said things that made me feel like I had no talent and it wasn’t worth my effort to try. I realize now how sad that was and how many years have gone by that I let her voice speak too loudly in my ear. I’m ready to try, to enjoy, and not to worry if I have talent or not.

People often said that I had a talent for playing the piano. There may have been some talent, definitely exposure to classical music at home, but I also WORKED at playing the piano. I spent probably 15-20 hours per week for 10 years of my young life practicing scales, argeggios, Hanon, and the great piano literature of Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms. Those practice hours have served me well. Music will always be an important part of my identity.

Now I have some freedom to explore and expand my identity further. I’m going to work at my writing and my drawing over the next few months. We’ll see what happens.

Swimmer

Invited by clear blue water,
I dive in the pool.

Age slips away,
and I am 10 again.

“Swimmers!”
“Take your mark!”
“Go!”

With goggles suctioned to my face,
freestyle feels as natural as walking.

But backstroke feels even better
because looking up at the wispy clouds on blue sky
and gazing up at gigantic oaks and tulip poplars
reminds me

I am a swimmer.

My body rhythmically pulls the water.
I kick with joy.

I am free.

A Swimmer

I dive into the water and the years dissolve and I am 10 again. The water invites and seems eager to feel my arms pull and my legs kick. I meet it with my own joy in rhythmic strokes and full breaths. It seems like so long since I have felt this free. I am a swimmer once again. The odd laps are freestyle; the even laps backstroke. I count the laps, remembering how my dad celebrated our lap count each evening at dinner. He gave us other challenges such as measuring how far we could swim under water with no breath.

My father taught me to swim at Tuckahoe. I remember feeling is hand under my back as I learned to trust the water to hold me while I floated. Then his hand under my tummy as I learned to use my arms and legs. He taught me all he knew about freestyle. Only later did I realize that he wasn’t a very strong swimmer (speedwise) because of the unique way he used his large, gentle hands.

Most swimmers know that a clean hand entry into the water with a strong pull of the hand and forearm is what helps you move smoothly and quickly through the water. My dad’s big hands seemed to pet the top of the water like he was petting a horse. His flat hands with his fingertips up were caressing the top of the water, never going too deep, almost like he didn’t want to break the surface tension of the water or cause too big of a disturbance.

I love the memory of my dad swimming. He didn’t often stop working long enough to play at the pool, but once or twice a summer he was there with us. Those few hours are precious to me now. Perhaps he was remembering younger days as well, when he swam in the cold North Sea off the coast of Germany where sperm whales gently migrate.

April 21, 2020 – Hope

how powerful the life force
which says, “I was meant to bloom”
even now

OLW – Reflecting

In January, I chose my OLW and wrote about it here. Little did I know then, how much I would miss my room with its daily parade of small groups of students, teachers, and friends.

I didn’t know then how soon I would face the days of unstructured time. It’s been hard to have my retiring year abruptly end without the opportunity to feel finished, to feel closure, and to say goodbye.

I didn’t know then how much room (brainspace) I would need to learn new tools and best practices for distance learning.

I didn’t know then that I would be home facing rooms that need organizing. With unmeasured days ahead, I’m trying to do a little bit each day.

Now I know that the room in my heart hurts for those suffering physically, emotionally, financially, or in any other way due to COVID19. I worry for kids who might be hungry or worried that mom or dad can’t go to work.

Now I know I must also keep room for joy. I find joy when I hear from my family. I find joy when I walk and hear children playing and see them riding their bikes. I find joy when I connect with teachers online.

I hope we can all find a room for peace amidst the uncertainty.

Buttons

Earlier this month, I wrote about my sister and her role as “keeper of traditions” in our family. She is also the “keeper of the button box.”

My mother was a teenager during the Great Depression. Her mother and grandmother were widows, and together, they raised three children. It was a difficult time. My great grandmother took in laundry to help earn money. She stayed home and ran the household while my grandmother worked at a department store.

Many families have remnants of behaviors learned during the Depression. Saving buttons was a practice that stayed with my mom. She must have snipped off the buttons of every worn out dress shirt my dad ever had. There are hundreds of them in the box. She also strung buttons on thread to keep sets together. It was an act of love and care.

My sister said that she felt a huge responsibility when my mother entrusted her with the button box. She has kept it well. When I needed a button for a baby sweater I made, I went “shopping” in Mom’s button box. It’s always fun to rummage through the box and remember the past. Recently, I found a card in the box that was called “Movie Buttons.” A piece of the past.

The button box makes me wonder what lasting behaviors will run in families for generations to come from those of us who are alive in the time of COVID19.

A Day Not to be Remembered

My husband and I have 5 children. When each was born, my husband liked to gently push on their little noses. Somehow, he determined that we have three squishy-nosed children and two hard-nosed children. He also thinks that I have a hard nose. I have no idea what that means except that this distinction came to mind today as text messages were exchanged.

It seems that the three of us hard-nosed persons were feeling especially trapped by current circumstances (weather and COVID19) and were exhibiting similar unhealthy behaviors. I’m not proud of this, but merely stating the reality. Here is evidence from a day not to be remembered:

Previous Older Entries