Tuesday, December 18, 2007

dare to dream

Yesterday during writing workshop a student spontaneously wrote my husband a thank you note after receiving a gift from him. The gift was a US Marine cover (hat) that had been part of my husband's daily uniform while on active duty. This student had spoken about being a marine when he gets older but, until I read the note I didn't realize how much he wants to pursue this. Miguel* is learning English and the text of the note which follows reveals this. It is amazing to me what else is revealed in so few words- a deep passion, a kind heart, a goal, and a writer intent on communicating. We should all have something about which we can write so spontaneously and clearly!
Dear Dan,
Thank so much for (the) cover. I'm so happy I will Follow my
Dremes thank you.
To Dan
From Miguel*

*name is changed

Thursday, December 13, 2007

wow... love Peter Sis

Ever since I bought Follow the Dream by Peter Sis for one of my daughters to commemorate Columbus Day and America's quincentennial I have been a big fan. Our family library holdings include many hardcovers by this incredible writer/illustrator. His books are rich works of art and text. I came across this trailer for his book The Wall on Read, Read, Read and can't stop watching and listening. The video is produced by Michael Eisenburg.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the new generation of teachers

Our school, ever the learning lab, hosts Professional Development School interns from George Mason University who spend a school year with us as they complete a graduate year of Ed. School practicums and work toward elementary certification. It is full time work while one is a full time student. Not easy. It is an authentic experience that helps one prepare for the real thing.

These resident interns presented their reflections of their first placements in an end of semester seminar share for our staff last week. Despite the fact we had our first snow and afternoon school events were cancelled in our county, we had a record turnout of teachers and administrators in attendance. Glad I went. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me. Our interns range in experience from fresh out of undergrad programs to second career (maybe third career) folks. They are a wonderful mix of personalities, preferences, and styles. There were five presentations and this mix was reflected in the presentations. Technology, dancing, singing, speaking, and a general good time were shared. Some thoughts I heard that remind us all about what teaching is on a daily basis follow:
  • teachers create learning environments everyday
  • teachers are learning everyday along with the students
  • effective classroom management is ongoing by the day, by the hour, by the minute, by the lesson
  • lessons often hold unexpected outcomes (see next item)
  • Alan Greenspan has nothin' on 4th graders determined to create an effective economic (i.e. black market) system that applies the essential skills taught in class
  • Teaching responsively means you are adjusting to the learner (see previous bullet) and creating positive teachable moments when there is an unexpected outcome
  • responsive classroom techniques work
  • responsive classroom techniques school wide are awesome
  • responsive classroom techniques make so much sense
  • kids need the same respect adults need
  • teachers have to model that respect with students
  • social interaction is important learning for teachers and students
  • getting to know individual student's needs helps with everything
  • kids taking risks is exciting
  • flexibility is helpful... maybe crucial
  • administrative duties are very time consuming... even with systems in place
  • reflecting and sharing is necessary if we are going to grow as teachers

If you were there... please feel free to add what you heard that afternoon! I can't wait to attend next semester's share after their month long independent teaching experience. I'm hoping for more dancing.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Safe Technology

I'm just back from the VASCD Conference in Williamsburg. One of the keynote speakers was Alan November. He made a few humorous yet, serious points about how we effectively integrate technology in our curriculum with which I really agree. Basically he said educators don't effectively integrate it. It made me think of "family life education." Much like family life education, we are in denial about our students having technology. We don't want to believe it is a normal phase of development in children and teens. We think if we avoid saying "technology" we can prevent technology from happening. We think having a "talk" once, where we are nervous and the kids know more about it than we do, is enough to support their needs. Some educators believe older students can have technology but it should be safe technology. What should we do with fourth graders who are already experimenting with technology? There are some who actually want students to wait until they are married to have any technology. You know what happens once kids are having technology. They'll want to have more. They'll want to have it with any device available... cell phones, laptops, external hard drives, i pods. They'll start blogging. We are adults and we know they'll expand their technology use before they are capable of coping with the repercussions. We want kids to know technology is special. We want to protect them from the fallout of devices that aren't dependable. We want them to know how to communicate the way we did in simpler times. Gee, I thought it was our job to present technology as a normal phase of development in a respectful manner with facts to base our judgements. No wonder kids are learning about technology on the streets!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Bistro

Starbucks has nothing on room 210. Hot java is brewed first thing and teachers wander in to the "kitchen" at the rear of the room to grab a cup of joe before students meet at their door. In eight years I'm only on my second coffee maker. Not bad when you consider I've conservatively brewed 10 cups a day, 190 plus days a year (I only count the work days!) for the last eight years. I calculate that to be 15,200 talls of Columbian or French Roast or Breakfast Blend or Kenyan or Ethiopian or Kona or Verona. That's a lot of ground beans. That's a great appliance.

Coffee is always available and if you are a regular you know the top drawer of the file cabinet above the social studies, science, language arts, health, math, and administrative files has food. The coffee is served gratis. There has never been a used coffee can with a slit in the plastic lid for change. No one has ever been asked to bring a pound. No need. When low and one never knows when that will happen, a bag of coffee shows up. We've had coffee of every flavor. We've had imported good stuff from the Netherlands. We've had organic beans from Kenya. We've had Eight O'Clock. We've had Starbucks. Yumm.

The Bistro is a wrought iron table with two chairs sitting in a well-traveled hall just outside room 210. It's a commissioned Impressionist scene painted by our art teacher as our French window view. It's lunch, a snack, or conference over a writing piece at this table. It's parents sitting and talking as they wait after school for kids coming out of the computer class. It's an invitation to sit. Many mornings a home-baked product appears for teacher consumption. Pastry chef unknown. Leftovers, quiche, coffee cake with crumbly topping, and juice from a team birthday celebration find their way to this tiny table. The goodies stay out all day with only a student or two feeling at all tempted to try a bite. They seem to know it is for teachers. We've even heard one student say he wanted to be a teacher so he could have something from the Bistro.
This fine establishment opened "its doors" during the work week before the start of the school year as a spin off from everyone knowing where the coffee was. It was a response to a customer need. I did promise the principal I would move it before school started and the fire marshal shut us down. She liked the table so much she let us keep it. I think she saw the possibilities- she's that way!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

weather, hearing, and crankiness as a thesis

One of these days I'm going to do a teacher research project that shows the correlation between crazy weather and hearing challenges which I believe results in cranky teachers at least 95% of the time. Up til now I only have observations. As we are learning in third grade science, research questions come out of observations. I believe I have some real science ahead.

Today in reading workshop (though there was evidence much earlier in the day) everything I said seemed to be lip synced as there was no action taken after any of my polite requests or comments. In fact, as I continued, my comments got less polite. "Please, find a good learning spot," "Please, don't trade books," "Please, stay in your seat," "Can you use a soft voice to conference?" "You must be reading or writing about reading; that doesn't look like either," "Don't bother her," "What are you doing?" I had a literature group with me and the students who were independently reading and know after 13 weeks of school that "reading is thinking" and that it is to be done quietly, among other things, heeded none of my requests. I finally raised my voice to one boy. I don't reach that decibel level too often . You think that might have brought some collateral results; but no, everyone kept right on keepin' on. It really made me cranky.

At the end of the workshop, I gathered everyone to the front, praised some students who had commented brilliantly about the cover from "The Green Book" and then pulled up the list of "Guidelines for Reading Workshop" the class had authored earlier in the year. This made the students a little cranky. After all they knew this stuff already. Having the chart and seeing the response to it, students looking sheepishly but, generally positive, reminded me that maybe little guys needed repeat lessons once in awhile. Maybe the expectations for independent work weren't part of the focus enough when we introduced our new novels today. I still think it was weather but, maybe there are just days we (teachers, too) need a little reminding about expectations.

Monday, November 12, 2007

an invitation to learn

The earlier post about my experiences at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA only begins to touch the surface of my reverence for the museum's founder, the mission, and the gentle manner in which high level learning occurs for those who walk through the doors. Ever the packrat, I mean collector of any item that can be potentially used for a future lesson, I recently pulled out and reread the small activity flyer from the exhibit, The Art of Allen Say: A Sense of Place that closed October 28, 2007. Even the words on the cover of the "Gallery Search" activity were kinder and gentler: "We invite you to look...", "We encourage you to describe...", "...express what you feel...", "Remember to look..." These nudges to purposefully look at the art were invitations, not directives. Built into these few extra words were the difference between being asked to do something and being told to do something. Embedded were choices.

One activity gives students a brief description of how Say sees painting versus writing as a more natural way to express and describe things. The activity has students looking for paintings that convey different feelings- surprise, lonliness, frustration, satisfaction, affectionate connection. It doesn't say, "Go to... and find the painting that..." It allows the observer to interpret those feelings using any number of paintings suggesting there are so many ways to express and interpret those universal emotions. How many times in an effort to be efficient, have I written activity/ response sheets for students with direct instructions? (Look at the image...) In fact, the prompts were sequenced and numbered. Heaven forbid a student go to step 3 before completing step 2! So what if they are more interested in step 3 and know how to do step 2.

The next activity in the Gallery Search further challenges the student to higher level learning by adding a writing piece. "Write about what in each picture made you match it to the described feeling?" So much teaching and learning in just a few words. These are the kinds of tasks all teachers are challenged to place in their daily lessons.

I rationalize my sometimes direct approach in curriculum writing by saying so many students are English language learners. They don't need to navigate so much text. Hmmm. But, don't they still need to be invited?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

title IX, moms and daughters

My daughter's field hockey team just qualified for the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. I'm a proud mom. It is resurrection for a team that has risen in the last year above challenges athletically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, collectively, and individually. I'm an empathetic mom. In a few ways. I played college sports (tennis and field hockey), too. I was in that first generation of title niners in the mid 70s whose favorite subject after English and Geometry was recess. The year Title IX became a federal mandate (1972) our girls high school basketball team was still wearing the boys hand me downs over white t-shirts. Legislation rarely ensures immediate compliance- federal or otherwise. Hey, at least we had a team. I remember riding in a parent's car instead of on county buses to matches and games, some of which were over 2 hours away. But, at least we had a team. We did not get meal money for away trips like the boys who played football. We ate at McDonalds while they sat down and had steak and pie. Booster money was for football and boys basketball. But hey, we had a team. Pretty progressive stuff for a little high school of 600 students in the middle of the high desert. Now this next generation is enjoying the fruits of a year round labor, all expenses paid, hotel, per diem for meals, gear, shoes, coaches with impeccable reputations of the international ilk and most importantly, the joy of playing a physical and intellectual sport hard with your best friends!

As I write this I'm en route to my college field hockey team reunion. It's been almost 30 years. Talk about dilemmas! I had to make a choice between attending her game or this reunion. I have my daughter's blessing even though it could be her last collegiate game. Love that kid. As I torturously pondered the choices I finally realized I wanted to go to honor two coaches and some teammates who were such a positive and powerful influence on me personally and professionally. These were mentors who brought out the best in you, who developed your every dimension through a daily dose of sport and hard work, and did it without yelling. They were my family and women before their time. So after almost 30 years I'm acknowledging the bonds of friendship, family, and sport as much as anything else. It is the same bond I know my daughter will enjoy for the next 30 years with her coaches and team... and hey, do they ever have a team!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

mother bear and the substitute

Mrs. R. was in my class substituting til lunch today. The time and initial has been changed to protect the hopefully innocent. I can only assume this innocence. I was at an offsite Teacher Research meeting working on my professional project. Love my school. Love my administration who supports me personally and professionally by giving me time to work on what I want to work on. But I digress. I came back in time to enjoy a real lunch with a few friends basking in the fact that I had a productive morning. I was met by the sub who had come looking for me. Immediately and with no regard for who else was also enjoying lunch in the teacher lounge, she began telling me negative things about the morning, her voice tinged with emotion and specifically about one student who "...drove her crazy" among other things. "Hi, are you Mrs. R?" I asked. She slowed enough to reply yes. I smiled semi-sincerely and thanked her for her information while thinking about how many of my colleagues and additional substitutes (lots of us were out for Teacher Research that morning) also "received" the information.

While my literacy partner and good friend went to get our students from recess I went to the class to prepare for the focus lesson on reading log responses. A parent volunteer walked in to prepare the "Tuesday" communication folders that go home to families each week with school announcements, forms, newsletters.

Reflecting on the event in the teacher's lounge, my mother bear protectiveness kicked in. I began thinking about how our staff works hard to maintain confidentiality out of respect for our students and families, right down to the preschoolers, how we do not speak about a student's difficulties unless we are seeking consultation and someone needs to know, and how we would directly deal with an issue in private in a professional way teacher to student, teacher to parent, and teacher to teacher. That's when Mrs. R. walked in asking for her water bottle. I had just cleaned up her leftover coffee cup and a few sundry papers left on my desk. I had been looking for her written information and feedback required by substitutes when they are in a classroom. I noticed much of the carefully written plans I left were not completed. I had not seen her water bottle and told her so. I didn't mention the plans. I didn't mention the missing note. Again, she began talking in detail about the student with whom she had difficulty, again speaking publicly and negatively about an eight year old, again with no regard for who else might hear the comments. It was at that point I introduced her to the student's mother who was organizing the "Tuesday" folders for me.

At the end of the day after hearing a few comments about the unprofessional behavior (yelling, leaving a student alone in the hall) of this teacher I sought her out hoping to catch her before she left our school. I found her, asked to speak with her privately and let her know in the future (though with me there wouldn't be a "future") I would prefer she speak with me privately about a student issue. I also asked that she put her positive (there had to be something good!) and negative feedback and information in written form in the event I should follow up later. Mrs. R. apologized. I accepted her apology knowing she didn't have the luxury of knowing each of my student's challenges and knowing substituting is tough work. I suspect she had no idea why I would defend a student whose change of routine created such disruption for her. He may have been the reason she couldn't get through the plans. He is in fact a challenge behaviorally...but he is making progress and hey, he's my "cub", my challenge and I'm the only one who can say that!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Driving golf balls in an elementary classroom

Teaching is a bit like golf for me. Although, I admit I do not prepare for golf a fraction of the time I prepare for teaching nor do I know as much about golf as I do about teaching. Which proves my point even further. The point is a lot can go wrong before it goes well, even if you know a lot. Lots of lessons veer into the woods to the right before you have that magic shot that is easy, effortless, straight, makes the right sound off the club, feels perfect, and lands near the pin. You work for years trying to perfect your game/teaching to fit your style and ability. You love both, but can experience moments of almost debilitating frustration that can ruin a moment, a day, a round and make you wonder why you thought you could do this. It isn't always bad. In fact, it's mostly pretty good and mostly rewarding. You still get to the hole; sometimes it takes you a few more shots. You teach a good unit; it sometimes takes a day or two longer.

But every now and then you do hit that great shot. You realize the materials are just the right club for the distance, you know the course (no pun intended) well enough to be flexible and make adjustments, and you see your students making connections you knew were possible even if you didn't quite expect it. Which makes me ask...why didn't I expect it? I've certainly prepared. And makes me wonder...how do I do this again? It's amazing how one perfect shot in a thousand can keep you playing.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

blog, blah, blah!

I'm taking an online course about blogs. It is my hope I can turn this online writing, sometimes conversation into something that will transfer into student achievement for our third grade students. I see the potential...really, I do. I have a few favorite bloggers (see below) and I'm always getting ideas, thinking new thoughts, laughing, reading some of their favorites, and trying new things in my writing because of them. I think third graders can do the same given a chance. I am not sure how I actually get things on this page sometimes but, heck, at least I'm trying. I find I am doing things on this page out of need and want before I even have the right words for them. In my first assignment for this class I did some exploration of blogs and realized I had only a miniscule understanding of the vocabulary involved in this kind of writing. I continue to look for the right words while bridging my technical achievement gap.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

eric carle museum of picture book art

Today I made my second annual pilgrimage to Last year during my first visit to this sacred spot amid the farms of Amherst, MA I was so moved by the aesthetics of the space, the spirit with which it was founded, and the joy it represented, tears fell as I walked into the main hall. It was church. (Click on photo to take a virtual tour) As I once again walked reverently through the galleries a dozen happy thoughts filled my mind ... all had titles with nature's creatures as the main character. Each included a cozy reading spot, an attentive child (including my own three), the subtle richness of science and math and heart, and a gentle lesson. One gallery showed the common subject of birds expressed in the uncommon artistic styles of Leo Leonni and Eric Carle. Another gallery showed the progression of taking theThe Spiderwick Chronicles byTony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black "From page to screen." The last gallery held a hauntingly comprehensive repertoire of picture book art and interpretation by Allen Say. In this same gallery a year ago was the art of The Wizard of Oz.

Last year I walked leisurely in this kid-friendly environment, breathing in every interpretive caption trying to memorize every photo and painting. I walked into the library or as it's called, "the museum's living room" to see kids and parents reading together. I stopped in the studio and after overcoming my fear of making a mistake, created a collage of my visit using the papers, pens, glue, and cardstock provided, figuring if I can't freely create something artistic here, where can I?

Today's visit was different from last year's...it was way too quick. I got to the entrance with 30 minutes til closing mistakenly thinking the museum closed at 5pm not 4pm. The admission price was 1/2 since I was so late. An enormous bargain even with 30 minutes to go! I didn't read every caption or try to memorize the visuals. I did have a moving experience, though and can't wait til my third annual trek back.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sostantivo casa due*

My home visits (post 2)* for 2007 are almost over. They have once again literally opened my eyes a little wider. They were:

  • hour long (sometimes more) conversations and sharing
  • images of hard working parents (chefs, construction workers working in other states, salesmen, retail store clerks, restaurant servers, building supervisors, moms, dads, single moms and single dads, housekeepers, manicurists, computer technicians, government workers, bank personnel, staff assistants)
  • grandmothers, grandfathers, cousins, aunts, uncles, boyfriends of aunts, older and younger siblings, friends, and pets listening and sitting with us to support their favorite students
  • doors opening to the sight of over animated, excited students greeting me
  • the sights of libraries for children in the homes of families whose first language is Spanish or Vietnames or Korean or Urdu, small desks with pencils and crayons, neat homes
  • the sounds of a trumpet and keyboard played by two students and singing by another whose talents were hidden from me til then
  • delicious bites of hot Indian food, grilled salmon with potatoes, orange juice and crackers, cold water, fresh fruit, offers for more food and beverage
  • translators who thought they were coming to provide parents access to negative news (they told me so)
  • a fresh look at how I would start second quarter
  • three weeks of afternoons, weekend mornings, and evenings (I have a supportive husband) that I wouldn't trade for anything else I do professionally

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Autumnal equinox and home visits

Every year at this time leaves begin to turn back to their hidden bright colors and fall. That whole photosynthesis process bugs me a little. As good for the leaves as it is, it masks the brilliance of the leaves' born with color. Why should we only get to see those colors when days become shorter and the angles of sunlight change? The bright autumnal colors also signal another favorite season for me...home visit season.

Just past the first quarter's halfway point I begin to build a new bridge. My student's parents make appointments with me to share and conference about their child's progress in third grade. Instead of meeting in our classroom we meet in their homes. We meet after work in the evenings, before or after dance practice on Thursday, after soccer practice on Friday, before or after church on Sunday, during dinner, and sometimes before breakfast on Saturday. It is the chance for parents to talk about their precious children, at their convenience, in their space, with the whole family present, in the comfort of their own home.

It started 27 years ago in my first year of full-time teaching. I was in a second grade classroom in a diversely populated Title I school in northern California. Included in the majority of our school population were families who had precariously immigrated from southeast Asia escaping communism or dictatorships, families living in poverty, families with little to no English speaking skills, single parent families who had become single parents due to abuse or other crimes, and a few middle class families living in small pockets of our boundary enclosures.

A blink moment: Intuitively I felt the more I knew about my student's whole life, the more I could respond to the life we shared between 8am and 3pm. I thought if moms and dads had a chance to tell me about their children in their own words, those words would more naturally flow if they were surrounded by the things that made them naturally think of their children. That had to happen in their homes. My revered principal, a retired career Air Force aviator drawn to the service of teaching after his 20+ years of military service reluctantly gave me his blessing. So I started out finding my students' homes on maps, plotting a schedule, making calls, often using my seven year old students as interpreters for their parents to set up our meetings.

My first home visit was with Destiny and her mom. Destiny was a dark-haired, verbal, socially confident little girl. She was also mature...too far beyond her 7 years and that was reflected in her words, actions, and style of dress. Mom spoke only Spanish and Destiny often served as her interpreter between home and school communications. I arrived at 7pm in a dimly lit apartment neighborhood that paralleled highway 101, a major freeway. The apartment had the thinnest front door I'd ever seen and I had grown up in very modest homes. The noise from the highway was overpowering. Note to self...quiet reading time is impossible at home.

The one bedroom apartment was small, modestly furnished, and dominated by a large television. The television was turned on during the whole visit and the commercials sometimes drowned out the conversation. I learned Destiny and her mother lived together alone, but sometimes aunts and uncles would come by and stay. I wondered where they slept. Destiny told me at one point her mom was shacked up with her boyfriend Lou, (I wondered where Destiny slept then) but he was in jail now. They visited him once in awhile. I tried to look cool and matter of fact when I heard this language coming out of a seven year old's mouth. I'm sure I shared information about Destiny's progress in reading and how she needed to read every night, and that she was reading below grade level. I remember mom nodding as if she understood between translation, but knew she wouldn't be supervising a quiet 30 minutes of reading each night, reading to her, or taking her to the library on a regular basis. She was busy barely making a living.

I didn't get what I thought I'd get out of those first home visits. In fact, I got more. I thought I'd be sharing great educational practices I'd learned about in college with parents and they'd be drinking it all in with wide eyes and open ears. It was a little like seeing the true colors of a leaf in the fall. Instead I built relationships. I bridged cultures a tiny, tiny bit. I laid a foundation that often wouldn't get built on until much later in the year but, at least it was a foundation. I opened some communication between home and school even when the spoken language wasn't the same. I tasted incredible Vietnamese, Samoan, Filipino, Mexican, and American foods. I experienced gracious, generous hospitality when I knew material possessions were few. I had a chance to walk across a bridge in both directions.
I love autumn and all its color!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What will they remember?

If I knew celebrating the number 50 (as in years old) would be so much fun I would have done it earlier. The 50s Museum is now officially open. I'm proud and overwhelmed to be its curator. The artifacts are evidence of a fortunate past and foretell a promising future. Can a national museum of something be anymore important? Included in the finds for view are poems, posters, a joke book, multitudes of cards with original artwork and text, dark is there any other kind? chocolate in various chunks of 50, bags of 50 coffee beans, delicious, fresh nuts, flowers, including roses, a beautiful plant that I swear to keep alive, fine paper (no other description needed), 50, yes I repeat, 50 helium balloons, good tea, good coffee, stirrers for the bistro.
What doesn't appear in the gallery but stays in my artifacts of thought are the singing, the wishes of happy birthday from five and six year old voices, the wishes from near strangers in the hall, and the 119 guests who came by to visit on this opening day of the museum. One student couldn't help herself... she had to keep a running tally. She predicted 50 people would come by. That many friends would fill many a void. Did I mention that practically every adult pinned the number "50" somewhere in view on their clothing? You can imagine the fullness of heart I feel after all those numbers!
The items of great anthropologic interest to this curator however, were the endearing, funny bits of text published in several books by students I swore would remember nothing of their year with me. The bits are poignant reminders of what students deem important in their school year. There are a few reminders of specific academic stuff, such as learning about butterflies and natural disasters. Only a kid would enjoy that range of studies. But the majority of notes were about the treats, the jokes, the help with a problem, the challenge mixed with fun, the dum dums for smart smarts, the indoor recess games, how I listened, helped, taught manners, greeted, made embarrassing moments fun (those were probably my own!). So... over 25 years of working on my instructional practices and content and it all comes down to really just being a mom!
Is this a sign that I need to work on maintaining a better focus on rich, research based instructional practices as I teach this year? Well, maybe. It does however, answer the perrenial question posed to me by the teachers in the next grade level, "Did they learn anything last year...they don't remember any content!"

Monday, September 3, 2007

No Problem, No Thanks

I woke to the sounds of a voice saying "Hey Char, there's a problem with the car," (no rhyme intended) and the "...thump, thump, thump, thump" of a tire rhythmically making its way to shredsville. Yes, a blowout on I-95 at 1:20 am. That in itself is exciting enough, but the bigger issue was my surprise less than 12 hours later at being on the receiving end of a long lost customary response when one says, "Thank you." The young, hip clerk at the tire dealer offered, "You're welcome" after I profusely thanked him for the good service and the great price for the new tire. I did a double take and almost wanted him to repeat what he had said. I walked away smiling.

It probably doesn't bother anyone else, but I admit I have a pet peeve about the response, "No problem" when one says "Thanks" or "Thank you" or "I really appreciate it" or "Many thanks." You get the idea. It sounds like my appreciative comment for the gift I received, a guest's prompt arrival, the great food I ate, the compliment about my longer hair, or the help I got," started out as a problem. I want people to say, "YOU'RE WELCOME." Okay, so the word welcome doesn't exactly translate literally to anything as magnaminous as "It was my great pleasure," but, it does sound sincere and positive. Not like something was an issue. Am I behind the times? Anyone who would use the phrase, "behind the times" probably shouldn't ask that question. As I heard more and more people of all ages say, "No problem," it got me thinking about whether it was me who had an issue.

I was somewhat vindicated to read Wikipedia offering the following: The phrase "no problem" is a stock phrase that carries a variety of meanings. Some people associate it with the British Empire and certain former colonies, e.g. Jamaica, Nigeria. It is typically used to mean "I've taken care of it" or in place of "You're welcome", in response to "Thank you". (i.e. "No thanks are necessary; my effort was no problem for me.") It has no real meaning outside of the context in which it is used. A phrase or idiom dictionary translation of "no problem" might read "I'll take care of it" or "there's nothing to worry about". However, it effectively means "I'm not going to give you any other assurances", and thus ends a conversation about whatever risk is about to be incurred. Some think it means roughly the same thing as "shut up".

Okay...did you read the part that says, ...it effectively means...? Negative! It's used so much there's even an abbreviation for it (NP) when IMing (still not convinced that's a verb). We frequently use it in what Wikipedia calls fake Spanish..."no problemo." Should I just accept it?

Thank goodness Wikipedia finishes the entry with: “No problem” implies that the speaker was not inconvenienced. However, “my pleasure” implies not just that the speaker was not inconvenienced, but also that the speaker was pleased to provide the help. “Glad to do it” is a less formal version of "my pleasure."

I'm still not sure how I feel about this phrase but, when I sincerely thanked the emergency road service technicians for putting the spare on the car after working for 30 minutes a foot away from 65 mile an hour traffic that streaked by like a Bullet train, I was relieved to hear him offer "No problem."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Bridging the Differences

Just read a blog called "Bridging the Differences." I have to have a link to it. Love the idea of a passionate discussion/conversation about education policy. No fluff, some humor, real issues. Read some of the paragraphs twice just to keep up. Definitely a bridge I want to cross.

Letting Go

Public radio had a great program on last night called, "Leaving Home." (Sound and Spirit) Heard it while driving from Syracuse after watching one daughter's away field hockey game which was after dropping off another daughter for her first year of college. We went south a few hours only to go north again a few hours plus some. All in all... the round trip was 1,050 miles, 30 hours, 5 states, 100s of ounces of coffee, too much fast food, a thunder and lightning storm that can only occur in the mini climate of the Appalachian range, a visit to WalMart for the last of dorm neccesities, a farewell lunch, the chance to assemble a fan with a butter knife (all women should have a good set of tools!), doling out of a little "walking around $$$", and time to bond. It occurs to me we left home in a myriad of ways this past weekend. Regarding my recent experience, Suzy Bogguss sums it perfectly in her song, "Letting Go." Hearing Ellen Kushner's program last night helped keep the theme in perspective making letting go and leaving home a little easier. Good bridge.

Friday, August 24, 2007

getting dumped for college

I am being dumped for college...again. Seems my 18 year old, like her now 21 year old sister, thinks life at a major university in a bucolic setting will make her happy and nurture her intellectually and socially. I don't get it. Who needs all that? Where have the days gone when she was happy to walk around the back yard in her white mary janes, with a pink bandana around her shoulders over a pink smocked dress, wearing a pink floppy hat over soft, bouncy curls, holding a family of bendable Dalmations in a pink carrying case while singing and talking to her imaginary friends? I suppose 14 years of adding to those experiences could create a few more expectations for her. For me... I could do with a few more days of watching those curls bounce around the house.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

How do we process it all?

Our school year began July 30th. I'm now in my fourth week of instruction. Great time to write this first post. Presently, I'm finishing the second day of a two day meeting with other educators. My blink reaction to the meeting was, "Yikes" how can I be away from my classroom this early in the year for two days?" I have a few students who really NEED my support as they navigate their day and as we build rapport. Second blink moment...how do I process all I'm taking in? I should quit whining. Experience should remind me whining has never paid off. After today I will come away with tools I can immediately put to use that will further support these students who NEED me. I've had some planning and collaboration time with colleagues I would not have had otherwise. I've learned a lot about what is happening across our school district and that gives me great perspective and affirms much of what is happening at our school. I've had a chance to trust good teachers with my students. I've made new friends. A new bridge.