Thursday, January 31, 2008

New Word!

Maybe this will just reveal my ignorance, but I found a new word today that I've never heard, ever.

crepsucle: n twilight; just after the sun goes down (from middle English)

I was amazed. There are many words I hear or read that I'm a little unsure of, or I'm unclear about their pronunciation, but this is a word I've never heard, nor recall reading, ever before.

How about you? Have you read or heard it? Do you know a context for it? A book, a play, whatever?

And, on another tangent: is there a corresponding word that refers to "dawn"? Mmmm...I must explore

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The North Star

President Hinckley died tonight. There have been three funerals in my family in less than three years, and again this morning I learned of another tragic death of a dear friend's son. But Pres. Hinckley's death isn't tragic. I will miss him in conference. He was witty and sincere and very kind and loving. He was also amazingly hard working, savvy, and obviously "raised up" for this time of the world to be the prophet of the Lord. I keep discovering yet another aspect of the church in which he led a role in a pivotal, behind the scenes, creative way. He took all the fabulous inventions of the twentieth century and used them to spread the gospel across the earth. He engaged the media and they met their match in this articulate, humorous, well-spoken man who answered the questions he was asked with intelligent and articulate prose. He might have entered their orbit just a figure of curiosity, but he left as their friend.

I'm most mindful tonight that he is home and back with his wife of whom he spoke often, always with respect, love and--since her death four years ago--tears in his eyes. I hope I can provoke even a part of this reaction in my loved ones when I pass on--they'll miss me, and hold me in high regard. Both Pres. Hinckley and his wife were beloved by millions of us Mormons and many other people with whom they came in contact as they traveled all over the world. I was astonished at their stamina. I'm half that old and travel is tiring.

In Primary several years ago, we learned a sweet song based on an incident from Pres. Hinckley's life. When he was a boy he loved to camp out and admire the stars and he learned about the North Star and its role as a steadfast guide to all. The song has three verses that are very inspiring, and here is the chorus that my Primary kids used to love to belt out, accompanied by gestures that one of our great parents taught us:

Be constant as the North Star, that shines for you and me

Anchored in the Gospel with pure integrity

Steadfast in your service to God and fellowman

President Hinckley has shown us that we can.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Day Late

Arrgh...this is the problem of my tendency to read my daily newspaper the next day (or even two days later.)
I could have gone to George Thorogood at the House of Blues on Friday night!!!

But, I didn't read about it until Saturday at lunch. Sigh.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Loopy Idea

We had a discussion today with the fifth grade teachers about "looping". One of them is strongly in favor of doing this. It means to go to a grade level below yours and teach those students, then move with them up to the next grade level, so that you are their teacher for two years in a row, with the appropriate curriculum each year. It would involve the current fourth grade teachers (me) moving up to fifth grade with the students we have now, and the current fifth grade teachers taking on the new crop of fourth graders in the fall.

I once talked to an Israeli teacher who did this in her school, but you started with the group in Kindergarten and continued all the way through 6th grade. There is research that shows many benefits with this model: cohesion, a family-like structure, teacher doesn't have to waste time each beginning of the year establishing raport--determining the learning styles or teaching routines, etc. The fifth grade teammate whose idea was the catalyst for the discussion has been to a seminar on ideal schools or something like that and is really enthused about the notion. We fourth grade teachers think it has something to do with the reputation of the group of fourth graders we got this year from the third grade teachers. It was a rough year in third grade. It hasn't been all bad in fourth grade, but there is a contingent of really tough cases.

I, for one, will never participate in "looping". And all of the reasons I gave her just caused her to say, "So you're saying that this job isn't about the kids??" Yes, on this topic, I'm saying that it IS about me. For the last four "first day of school" I have been in a new classroom with a new curriculum. I'm tired of that. I'm tired of switching rooms and switching lessons and having to create everything brand new out of the air. The last thing I want to do next fall is teach fifth grade. Especially with the students who will be the fifth graders. And it's not just these students. Every year I've taught school I have been able to identify by the end of September at least one student for whom I'm already counting the remaining days of the school year in anticipation of having them move on out of my daily orbit. This year is no different.

I like fourth grade. I like fourth graders. I don't want to change grade levels. In addition to that: what would you think if you were a fourth grader this year and you showed up to school in August 2008 and you had the same four teachers, in the same four rooms (no one planned on switching rooms for this experiment). Would you feel like you'd been promoted to fifth grade? No, you wouldn't. There are probably some students who actually will do better with some of the current fifth grade teachers than they are doing with us just because of their different personalities, or because the kids will be another year older. At any rate--these reasons are all just academic because I will not do it. Nope, nada, not. Our relationship is going to be different in the future, I can tell from things that were said. But, no amount of bullying (however mild) or guilt-tripping (however overt) will move me. I know what I want to do and looping is not it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How's the Weather?

I'd say that it is "relative." Here in the desert everyone was all a-twitter this morning because---(trumpet fanfare)--IT RAINED. And that is very big news here. We always need rain. The pool likes it because it adds fresh water for free, and it helps the ph levels. The plants love it because, even though they can still survive for weeks/months without rain, at some point they do need moisture. The air loves it because it cleans everything up nicely. This time of year it is cold here and so all the mountains surrounding the valley were coated with snow and it looked fabulous as the sun rose illuminating the white-washed red rocks. "More rain in the forecast," the gleeful TV weather folks crowed! We could get nearly 3/4 of an inch by Monday!

Meanwhile, beyond those frosted western mountains, Santa Barbarans are driving around with rain up to their lugnuts. It has been raining for a while and it will continue to rain. They've had more rain in this recent storm than Southern Nevada had all last year. Hmmm. In our time in California there were two things that were regular: it would not rain AT ALL between June and October; but when the wet season returned, it was a deluge. Every eight to ten years we'd experience a year when it could rain so many inches that the streets flooded simply because the storm drain system was overwhelmed. There would be a foot and a half of water sitting on the runway apron outside Cool Guy's hanger. The lawn became a swamp. It could rain like that for an hour at a time. It could rain less intensely for hours. The year Cool Guy was transferred to Maryland he was delayed for two days in his attempt to drive out of town because Southern California was closed. Truly--all the interstates were flooded and no one could travel east.

Stayed tuned for excessive heat warnings--coming our way in summer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Tonight I started a 12 lesson class called "Reality Spanish" (copyrighted name) that the school district sponsors. Its purpose is to give you, the teacher, some vocabulary for everyday classroom life. At the end of the class the student will be able to:

  • ask and comprehend culturally appropriate questions and give answers
  • give command phrases for quick and effective communication
  • instill confidence through language and insights of another culture for establishing connections with Spanish speakers

We will not be able to conjugate verbs, write, or read, but if tonight's lesson was an indication, it'll be quite useful in a classroom in Las Vegas. We learned several words, and a corresponding gesture to help us realize the meaning. Next we were to draw a picture to illustrate each word, and then we got up and acted out a little story that our instructor told, using just the words we'd learned. We also received a CD to listen to spoken language to improve our accents, and a CD rom to use for lessons and homework.

I learned these techniques many years ago in California in the best teacher training class ever (of all the classes I was required to take). It's called TPR--total physical response. You see it, say it, and act it out. You draw a picture, you use your whole body to define this word and create meaning for yourself. It really works. I used TPR on English speaking kids in Southern Maryland to teach them vocabulary words and it's very effective. I will definitely use "El chico--sientate!" Probably tomorrow.


I was really sad to hear that Heath Ledger died because he was so amazingly cute and fun to watch in movies.
Then I read that he had a two year daughter, and I read about his parents' reaction, and I remembered that he was a human being with a family and now I feel bad that I was so shallow about my sorrow, and I feel really sad for his family. 28 years old. Too young.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

My Year in Places

Here's another interesting way to chart a year I've copied from here. A list of places, not home, where I stayed for at least one night in 2007:

Yuma, AZ
Seattle, WA
Leonardtown, MD
Smoot, WY
Marrakech, Morocco
Aday, Morocco
Essouira, Morocco
Madrid, Spain
Leonardtown, MD
Salt Lake City, UT
Provo, UT
Tecopa Hot Springs, CA
Salt Lake City, UT
Smoot, WY
Salt Lake City, UT
Provo, UT

This was an unusually exciting year for traveling. I got the first stamp in my passport. Ever. I'm hoping to add a few more states to the list this year--like Maine, Oregon or Hawaii. But, likely, it'll be the I-15 circuit again, mostly. But, that's why I moved back home to the West: it's where the people live who I wish to visit.

Notes on the Trip

  • It's always amazing how quickly people can pull together really awesome things to commemorate a loved one. Pictures, memorabilia, poetry and speeches.
  • I keep having some new reason pop into my head as to why this death is so unfair and wrong.
  • There were hundreds of people who came to the viewing and to the funeral.
  • The theme of these mourners was "an honorable man" and "the greatest friend"
  • I hope I have half of these accolades when I'm dead.
  • It was 2 degrees at the cemetery at 3:00 P.M.
  • Grandpas should not die until their grandchildren are adults.
  • We really do have to just go on with our lives, but sometimes it seems almost impossible.
  • His children really did appreciate their dad while he was alive-I'm glad for them; it's so sad they have to live now without him.
  • Check out this view for Resurrection Morning:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sorrow Again

I'm going to be gone for a few days because of a funeral. It's almost too sad to say. My sister's husband and his two friends were killed in an avalanche while snowmobiling on Saturday.

Life will be over for all of us eventually but we all pray for death to stay away until we're really old. He was not really old. He was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and stepfather and it is nearly unbearable to think of my sister losing him. They were so good for each other. She is my baby sister, and she has been so happy with him for the ten years that they were married. It was a second marriage for both of them, and they made the most of it, but they deserved 30 more years. At least.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Life in The Cage

On Monday, I asked my students to write in their journals "One thing during Winter Vacation that was good, and one thing that was bad." I gave them the example that GOOD: I didn't have to set my alarm every day and BAD: We went up to Utah for a couple of days and it was 20 degrees at noon--brrr.

One boy wasn't writing (as usual) and I sat down near him to encourage him. I get him in my room for the last hour of the day, and by then, his noon meds are wearing off and he's really "jittery". (talks constantly to seatmates and won't stay in his chair and always has a reason why nothing can get done.)

"So, you haven't written anything yet."

"I didn't do anything."

"You did nothing for two weeks?"

"I was like a wild monkey locked in a cage. I couldn't leave my house."

"You couldn't leave your house? Why?"

"Because my dad is a big fat jerk!"

"What do you mean?"

"My dad is a big fat jerk!"

"But, you didn't go outside and play with your friends? Or go somewhere?"

"No! I was like a wild monkey locked in a cage!"

"What happened? What caused this?"

"My dad is a big fat jerk!"

So, finally we established that maybe he went out on a couple of occasions and played, and sometimes in the house he played some video games (violent war games, or violent wrestling games). But mostly:

He was like a wild monkey locked in a cage, and his dad is a big fat jerk. Hmmm...right on both accounts from my personal experience with this family. Sadly, what this kid really needed was a trampoline, or a big hole to dig and then refill, or about 25 sandbags to fill or just a pile of sand to play in. Sigh.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Nice Try--No Biscuit

Here's how NOT to make a casual Relief Society visit...

Today after church I thought I'd drop by my new VT partner's house and give her one of our RS booklets that we copied and put together last week containing all the lesson schedules, activity schedules and names/phone numbers and addresses of the sisters. It is a great resource and the other counselor thought it up and typed it. My partner isn't really too active, they used to come more often when the boys were younger. I know them because I taught her son in Primary.

The whole family was outside, one boy raking, one helping dad with truck repairs, mom was cleaning out her car. I pulled in, picked up my booklet, stepped out of my car. They have a beautiful, but large and rambunctious, dog so I stayed by my car for a minute and let the lady approach me so she could hold the dog back, too. We talked for a minute, I showed her the booklet, greeted the boys and dad. Then I turned to leave, and found I'd locked myself out of my car!! Doh!! I'd hit the door lock on the way out, but I'd not taken my keys out of the ignition, nor did I have my purse (where my spare key is.) So I called Cool Guy on their phone (because mine was in my purse, too) and he said he'd be right over with the other key. I told him the street and the cross street--we'd been there at Christmas dropping off cookies.

However...I told him the WRONG cross street. I couldn't even call his cell because I don't know the number since I always just call him with re-dial and anyway it is an out-of-state number because it is his work phone so I've never memorized it. Double DOH!!

Finally he went back home, hit redial on the house phone and called us back to get the real directions. A few minutes later he appeared with the other key clicker and, voila, opened my door. So, instead of spending a couple of minutes, and not interrupting them too much, I blew off about 25 minutes looking like a complete dope. At least we had a nice chat, and we've made a plan to go visiting teach on Saturday to at least one of our ladies.

I really do need to get another spare key and a magnet box to stash it under my fender or something. Sigh. Oh, and memorize Cool Guy's cell phone number. Oh, and not be such a doofus.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Back to Work

The trouble with vacations...
  • I always plan WAY more things to get done than there is time to do them
  • I get lazy and start thinking of ways to get along in life without having to go to work
  • I can't think of any good ways yet to accomplish that
  • my sleep schedule gets out of wack
  • I start LOVING all the unstructured time
  • three days before vacation ends I start having the nightmares about going back to work

But, I think I will keep having vacations because there is no way a person could maintain the pace of a schoolteacher without the light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel of vacations.