Monday, December 31, 2012

Best Teacher Present, Ever.

My principal and our curriculum specialist made one of these for each teacher on campus as a Christmas present.   I love it and it hangs on my classroom wall.

In a sneaky manner, which I suspect involves my assistants, the children in my class were asked to tell something about me.  I love that I am happy, silly, funny, and nice.  Pretty and tall don't hurt much, either!  There is that odd "barbie" comment but I think, given that my children have speech and language deficits, that the intended word is "baby."   Playhouse and baby dolls have been big this year and I try to spend language development time with some of the kids while they are playing in the house and with the babies.

I asked about Teacher.  It was not added by the principal or curriculum specialist.  They added the school name, my name, and my grade level.   "Teacher" came from the kids.

Teacher is a title that has not rested easily for me over the years.  I'm a speech and language pathologist with an authorization for a classroom.   I see myself as a speech and language therapist and resist being labeled a teacher.

The more I look at this, though, the more I am honored and delighted with the title of Teacher.  It is how my children know me and how their parents think about me.   I think I need to shake out the title and wear it with pride.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Not so very many days ago 28 people died in Newtown, Connecticut.   I usually see 26 listed but a mother and a son died on that day when 20 children and 6 educators were shot to death by that young man.

I've been surprised at my ongoing reactions to this horrific tragedy.  All over the internet there are conversations about how this could have been prevented and what we're doing wrong as a society.  My journey has been more inward.  

I've worked with young children in preschool, daycare, elementary, and special education classrooms since I was 19 years old. (35 years if anyone is counting) There were very few years, even in college, when I didn't have a job working with little children or tutoring up to about 4th grade age.

The first day was simple shock from the horror of it followed by streaming tears of sorrow for all the lives lost and tragedy of that day.  I feel as if I have been grieving for their loss from those first moments even though I don't know them.  9/11 didn't hit me this personally, Columbine and Virginia Tech didn't hit me this personally, nor did the dozen other incidents in malls, movie theaters, and even other schools that we've had happen in the last few years.  It took me the better part of a week to understand.

These are my people these teachers and these oh, so young students.  Their lives are my life and these students are my students.   This has to be similar to the solidarity that firefighters and police officers felt after 9/11 when their people rose with heroism to face horror.

After a only a short while I had to stop reading news stories, seeing pictures, or even going on Facebook.   I would see the faces of the children and then picture the faces of my littles, my preschoolers or those of the dozens of Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd graders who have been my students over the years.  

I prayed for much of the weekend for the ability to set the grief and horror aside and to reach peace and calmness so that I could be normal in my own class that next Monday.

I'm not so sure there is normal.  This is what I wrote on a message board of women I have known online for over a dozen years:

I am broken-hearted today over the tragedy in Connecticut. Columbine and Virgina Tech didn't stab at my heart this way. They should have, I think, but natural that this is more visceral and emotional as I've spent my entire career working with kids from 3-8 years old.......

.........The things that run through my mind are things like, Do I need to keep my classroom door locked during the school day? Should my door have a peep hole? Are the blinds to my classroom closed so someone like this isn't peeking in? Do I have emergency supplies? Do I have what I need to turn a trash can into a potty? (well, no, but kitty litter is cheap and so is TP.) Are there safe places and safe ways to evacuate? Where do we plan to take 1000 children if we do evacuate? How do I keep track of my 12-15 squirrely ones? I know what to do during a lock down but are there more things I can do inside the classroom to keep my little charges safe? And so on. 

And, to cope, I began to answer those questions and many more.  No, I can't leave my classroom door locked during the day.  I can't teach or lead from a place of fear and I have to trust that if there is an incident at or near my school that a lockdown will be called, that we will respond appropriately, and that we will be safe.

Yes, the blinds to my classroom are closed.  I have one window that faces the playground and behind my classroom are tetherball poles.  In concern over one of the balls flying off it's chain and striking our window I've, by habit, kept those blinds closed.   The blinds on the other side of the room are over the south facing window.  For much of the year it's just too hot not to have the blinds closed so, by habit too, those are closed.

I can now turn a trash can into a potty with the addition of a storage box next to my desk that contains kitty litter, toilet paper, and some emergency food and a few small, light blankets.  We have a water dispenser in the room so I didn't bring extra water.   We almost always have a 5 gallon jug of water unopened.  In fact, we have had extra so I took one out to our playground storage unit so we'd have emergency water there.

As part of our emergency preparedness we have a large manilla envelope on the wall by the door with all of the kids' emergency information.  I've ordered wrist bands to add to that envelope so that in the event of an evacuation all the kids and adults in my classroom will have matching, bright yellow wrist bands.  When they arrive I'll fill one out for each child and assistant.  

That next Monday morning we had an e-mail in our inbox reviewing lock down procedures.  I reviewed these with my assistants.  We had a conversation about what to do in each of the places we are such as the playground, the bathrooms, the library, the cafeteria, going to the buses, and when we're on the move between those places.  We talked about nearest classrooms to duck into if we were out during a lockdown.  We reminded each other that we can lock ourselves into our bathrooms.

I still felt shaken and sorrowful.  Knowing what to do and being prepared take the edge off of what I realize is the underlying anxiety.  As the week progressed I also realized that I don't feel safe at work and that I am mourning the loss of that sense of safety and the illusion of control as much as I am mourning the loss of 28 lives. 

And coming upon these realizations I came to re-learn the benefit of having a brain filled with hymns and choir anthems.  It is these that my heart sings as I struggle with grief, with anxiety, and to learn to live with the loss of a sense of safety at work.  It is the connection of music, praise, and worship that leads me to turn to my Lord with my grief, my fear, and my anxiety.  I pray for wisdom from God our Father to teach from a place of confidence that He is my safety.  I pray for comfort and release from my anxiety from the Holy Spirit, and to have renewed in me the peace that passes understanding.

From this strong connection to God I can learn to let go of anxiety and fear.  Elementary schools may now be targets but I can have safety, peace, and assurance.  My faith won't prevent an incident at work but it will heal my heart, broken over this tragedy, and my faith will anchor my soul and my emotions so that I can work, even in a public school, to give God glory. 

Other random thoughts:

How proud I am of the teachers those who lived and those who died caring for their students.  I am confident that it is in the nature of most educators to do the same should the need arise.  We cannot shrink from talking about what to do and how to be prepared.   Planning helps us react in the best ways to keep our young charges safe.

I mentioned at the very beginning the lost lives of the mother and the son.  Sadly, these too, could have been my people, one of my families.   I have had those young children that I wonder what havoc they will wreak when they are grown as they seem to have no internal control or compass.  A friend who teaches Kindergarten wondered in a Facebook post, when will what teachers see and report be taken seriously when it comes to early mental health and early identification of children in trouble.  We can point to those children who could end up as the young man whose mind and understanding twisted so that he became capable of such violence. 

And I worry, sometimes, for the future of my language disabled preschoolers.  What will happen to them along the way to keep them whole and healthy and how can all of us, educators and parents, work so that the fragile and disabled, whether of thinking, of language, of physical limitations, or of the mentally ill, are protected and supported.   It's not a problem I can solve but I can look for opportunities to advocate for the best education and support that we can provide for the children who are with me today.  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Choir Retreat

We had a marvelous weekend at our annual choir retreat at ECCO.  The theme was hymns and several choir members shared devotions based on hymns that were favorites or personally meaningful.  Good singing, good fellowship, good food, great location.

I enjoyed a nature walk before breakfast Saturday and a prayer walk during our individual worship time on Sunday morning.

Leaving Bakersfield

 Saturday morning walk

 Sunday morning just before worship

During my prayer and worship walk.
The retreat center has a little path with the 
Station of the Cross.  This is right at 
the beginning.

It was a different kind of praying to stop 
at each of the stations and ponder over each
step of Jesus' journey to the cross.

At each station I was reminded of different groups
of people.  It was a very rich intercessory 

Friday, September 21, 2012

One month of school

It feels like so much longer but the kids started on August 20th.  One month ago.   It's been emotionally rough because I have so many children.  By Tuesday #23 and #24 will have started.  I don't know when it became acceptable to have such large class sizes.  The PTB want to cap my classes at 16 each.  That's 32 little preschool peoples to work with total.  16 kids/day in a special ed. class of any kind is too many!

Well, it is what it is.  I've written a letter of protest and made a chart to show why I can't meet the needs of 16/day and 32 total.   In my opinion we're treading on thin ice with meeting our legal obligations but district is at fault, not me.  It is what it is. 

On the good side of work-my kids are fabulous!  The kids in the four year old class play so well together.  We worked so hard last year to create a peaceful classroom and it's showing this year.  The three year olds are starting, just starting, to play with each other for little bits of time.  Mostly it's just sharing the same materials while playing which is perfectly developmentally appropriate. 

This crop of kids is also showing how imaginative they can be.  Wednesday I knocked a basket of crayons off of my table.  The boy I was working with says to me, "I get 'em for you.  You not helping me."  He proceeded to pretend that he was snorkling, diving under the table to get to the crayons.  He'd pick up 3 or 4 and then come up for air and dive back down again.   When he was all finished he exclaimed, "Whew, no sharks." 

This little guy and a half dozen others are on their way out of my program this fall.  It's sad to turn things over to someone else but exciting that they don't need us anymore. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Recent reading

I just finished Dr. Luke's Assistant by David A. Todd this week.   It's a fictionalized account of how the book of Luke might have come to be written from the perspective of Luke's assistant Augustus.

The story chronicles 3 years of time about 30 years after the death and resurrection of Christ.  Augustus is a Jew but from a family that has embraced Roman ways.  His journey of faith, as well as the triumphs and trials of research and writing during that time period kept my interest throughout the book.   Luke and Augustus traveled and researched as much of Jesus' life as they could starting in Bethlehem and interviewing people who would have been alive and witnessed the events of Jesus' life.

It was interesting to read how early Christians and Christian congregations didn't have the gospels of Mark and Matthew unless someone knew someone with a copy and then not unless they could find someone who could read and write accurately and knew how to check for errors in copying.  This was exactly Augustus' work and why Luke hired him.  (in the story)

This was a very enjoyable read.

Earlier this summer I read Rumors of Eden by Kathy Frias.  It is set 2 generations/300 years post Old Testament Flood. (remember how long lives still were)  Culture varies between tribal and cities with city-Kings.  The protagonist, a young Madai, suffers the loss of his wife and experiences a crisis of faith.  Does God exist and where can I find him?  What witness or proof of God's existence can I bring back with me to share with my family and my son?

He decides to take a journey to find an "old one", a person who might have been alive in the time of Noah and who can remember and give him guidance.   The journey is arduous and along the way he crosses a great ocean, dodges evil practicing unbelievers, escapes a corrupt city-state and in the process meets a wise traveling companion.  His journey has him meeting Job and Job's family in prosperity and later witnessing Job's faith in misfortune.  He meets faithful and doubting believers from across the world who are also on seeking journeys.  He and his companions are captured by the warriors of another city-state and eventually escape helped by the Shemites (son of Noah).

Then Madai and his companion get to meet Shem and his father Noah who becomes Madai's "old one" and witnesses to the truth and presence of God in each person's daily walk of faith.  As part of this tutelage they are taken to the Ark, which still rests on Ararat.

Madai learns interesting and special lessons about God, about the peoples of the world, and about himself by taking the journey and through his companions and those they meet.  His journey through doubt and who impacts his thinking and faith was one of the threads of the story that kept me interested.

It's a long book that can feel tedious but just when I was getting a little frustrated with the story it would shift into action mode and pique my interest again. 

While I would recommend Dr. Luke's Assistant to any reader I hesitate to do the same with Rumors of Eden.   You need to be a patient reader or be the type of reader who can pick up and put down a story for a while and then come back to it.  I think it's very much worth the read for the lessons of Madai and for a glimpse of how the world might have been 300 years after the flood.  The author doesn't stint on setting or in letting us feel what the characters feel.  I loved the wonder and awe of meeting Shem and Noah.

I will certainly watch for other books by both of these authors. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Two weeks!

I can hardly believe that two weeks of school have gone by.  Some days it feels as if we never stopped in May.  I have 18 returnees of 21 kids.    Other days I blink and the day or week is over. 

It's going well.   I anticipate too many kids again.  District is working on a plan but I don't know if we'll find another teacher.

In spite of too many kids I do so love my job!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

It's cool!

Or maybe, It's a cooler.  I had my a/c furnace mechanism replaced this week.  After only two days I can already tell that the house gets cool faster, stays cooler, and the unit cycles on for shorter amounts of time and is off for longer amounts of time.  A small part that I think is having a big result is the re-sealing of all the vents.  I'm no longer cooling the attic crawl space.   One technician crawled up into the attic and pronounced the duct work sealed but improperly hung, whatever that means.  It's not an urgent thing to fix and in his experience is very expensive.  It can stay as is.

Old, new, and new!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mid July

Last week...I had a marvelous time with my Sis-in-heart early in the week.  We went to the Botanic Gardens twice and took a courthouse tour.  I enjoyed both!

Courthouse tour:
In the Mural Room

"Postcard Shot" from the clock tower 
over looking downtown.

Botanic Gardens:

On the drive home I stopped at the State's water demonstration/education building.  I played with my new camera's panorama setting:

Later in the week Sis came for a few days.  We were busy bees.   We put my knitting looms on display in my "computer room" and I helped Sis assemble my new porch swing.

All in all it has been a marvelous week.

I'm adding to this post to say how much I love this porch swing.  This morning I was up early and it was cool and calm outside.  I sat upon my swing, sipped my coffee, and caught up with e-mail and some favorite websites.   Thanks so much to my Sister who had her truck so I could go get this, did the bulk of assembly, and helped me pick the extra cushions.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Early July

There are still apricots on my tree.  I have plenty of time for knitting. And, even time for visiting.  I haven't read much more in Michner's Alaska but I'm enjoying lighter weight reading.

For a friend, there are also pink legwarmers 
underway but I can't find a photo.

 Antelope Acres

Hiding in the shadows at Prime Desert Woodland Preserve
Lancaster, CA

 Sunset looking toward the Carrizo Plain.
A bit of humidity anyone?  
There was a wet ground haze in the fields, too.

 Still picking apricots.

Roses continue to delight.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

More and More Apricots

My giving away of apricots has almost kept up with the daily supply.  I plan on freezing a couple days worth for future canning or eating.  

The greenish ones ripen up quickly now.  

 Me, getting ready to pick.

 Me and Dad
The text reads:
Does this face look much like......................................this face?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Pretty things

I visited family this weekend.  On Sunday we went to the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum's Butterflys Alive! exhibit.  It was as enjoyable as ever.  It's hard to stop taking pictures.  This one is my favorite.

Sis picked out yarn for a project.  I started a pair of legwarmers today in a cheerful pink.

This morning I saw this latecomer to the flower show but didn't remember to snap a shot until this evening.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Out and About

Met up with Sis for dinner yesterday and then we had a couple shopping accidents.  

Moonrise as we were leaving

Local shopping center this morning.

A couple late bloomers out front.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Tada! Finished!

The blanket handled a spin in the washer and a short trip in the dryer just fine.

from earlier today:

Pinwheel blanket not quite finished......but close!   Today the blanket gets a wash, rinse, and dry.   Then final photos!  But for now, here is the finished blanket before being washed.