Emily and The Tree

Little Emily loves the Japanese maple in the Maywood yard.  It’s over fifty years old, planted by Emily’s great-great grandmother Retta. And it is the perfect tree for little ones to learn to climb on.

The main trunk divides into two very low to the  ground, so little legs can easily climb into it.  The next branch is a short leg swing above that, providing a perfect spot for a three year old to sit and ponder.  Of course, the natural thing to ponder is how to get up higher in the tree.

“Help me up,” she says.  “I want to go up there,” she says, pointing to a branch that is over my head and absolutely impossible for me to reach.  I can’t put her there.  The only way to get there is for her to climb there herself.

“But I want to go up there,” she says.

“You have to do it all by yourself.  You have to think about it and figure out how to do it.”

If you think that three year old Emily thought about it and climbed up to the high branch, you will be wrong.  I turned around to watch out for her little brother and–that quick–she fell out of the tree.

Boom. Right onto her elbow on a stick.  Instant adult panic that she could have broken her arm on my watch while the parents were away.  Instinctive reaction to protect her, take her away from the dangerous tree and go back to the house for a popsicle.

That’s when she amazed me.  She got up, surprised but not crying, and she climbed right back into the tree.

emily & the treeThis time she had real respect for the tree.  She carefully considered where to place each foot, how to hold on.  Her goal was no longer how to get up to that very high branch.  Her new goal was to master the distance from the ground to that first branch.  And she did.  While I diligently spotted her.

Oh, the Winnie-the-Pooh lessons to be learned from Emily and The Tree.  On the way to school Monday, I thought of how I wanted my students to be more like courageous Emily.  They tend to want me to implant knowledge in their brains, like Emily wanting me to put her on the higher branch.  However, they panic when things are difficult, fear making mistakes, and want to bail on the whole learning process when it doesn’t go as quickly as  they want. They also absolutely, positively do not focus on anything for longer than a nano-second.

“I want to tell you a story,” I began first period class.

“Are you going to yell at us?” they asked. (They are so paranoid.)

“NO! I just want to tell you a story!” (Ok, I might have yelled that a teensy bit. Sometimes their way of thinking makes me crazy.)

So I told them about Emily.

“Are you saying that learning French is like climbing a tree?”

Um, yes.  And then I told them what branch they were currently on and how we were going to climb today to a higher  branch.

“Are we going to fall out of the tree?”  they asked. (FYI, these are high schoolers and 8th graders.)

“Actually, yes, some of you are going to fall out of the tree.  But we aren’t up very high.  You will not die.”

That seemed to calm them down.  Apparently they believe that learning will kill them.

Friday, my colleagues and I attended a workshop on Teaching the 21st Century Learner.  The speaker was good and had extensive handouts of his very scripted presentation that covered all the usual blah-blah about active learning, none of which I can recall without reading the handouts.  His presentation did not teach me nearly as much as I learned from little Emily.

  • Students want to climb high.
  • Students want the teacher to put them where they want to be, but…
  • Students have to do the climbing themselves.
  • Students are afraid to make mistakes, but…
  • Students learn from their mistakes.
  • Students need diligent coaching and spotting while they climb.

I’m tempted to assign tree-climbing for homework, but they would fall from their trees, injure themselves so they couldn’t participate on their sports teams, and I would get blamed for such a stupid idea. I guess instead I’ll focus on how to better coach and spot them.  They do want to climb, and I don’t want them hurt on my watch.

 

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Spinning Wheels

Let’s start with a poll:

When I came home yesterday, I immediately noticed footprints leading to the front door.  We hardly use the front door, so we don’t shovel to it.  Maywood Man has enough to do with plowing and there’s no reason for me to shovel a walk that no one ever uses.  There has been snow upon snow all month, so we’re just waiting for spring to deal with it.  Hence, my surprise at the footprints.  UPS knows better.

It was my brother-in-law, come to check out locations for tree stands for next year’s hunting season.  Tromping through the snowy woods in March must mean he’s going a little squirrely indoors.  However, he didn’t count on our driveway being a sheet of ice.  That’s another thing about March this year.  If isn’t snowing, it’s coating us with freezing rain.  So Jim and his truck slid down the driveway to within inches of the Weber grill that waits forlornly for warmer weather.  And then he was stuck at the bottom of the driveway with nothing to do after his woodland walk but sit with Maywood Man sipping coffee until the driveway melted.

Where was I?  At work.  With some difficulty and great trepidation, my Camry and I made it up the slippery slope so that I could go to school and manage squirrely teenagers and their Ipads.

I had a parent conference at noon.  The mother shared that her daughter seems to get overwhelmed by too much stimulus.   It’s not that she can’t focus.  She just can’t figure out where to focus.  I totally get it.  I told her about my sister, the one with Attention Surplus Syndrome. (You gotta love the acronym!) She pays attention to everything. Try riding in the car with her while she drives, notices every realtor sign, and avoids every manhold cover and pothole in the road.  She needs blinders, like a horse.

So what am I supposed to tell this mother whose daughter sits in a class with audio files and video clips and online text and online workbook and online classwork submission all in different apps while doing partner work with classmates who can’t even figure out that I want them on page 152?  She doesn’t need more stimulating activities.  She needs blinders.  I explain that the technology of the paperless classroom is actually helpful for those students who lose all their work in a crumpled mess at the bottom of their bookbags or somewhere in the hallway or maybe under their bed at home, but even as I speak, I know that often I am completely overwhelmed by the “too much” of it all. The mom and I can’t even get our days straight as we talk…the umpteen snowdays have the two of us completely befuddled.

Today, while it pours snow, I ponder remedial work for some students.  There are so many resources available to the students online that they did not have last year.  I search for something that will be helpful.  One auto-correcting activity will not work with pop-ups on the Ipad.  Another has so many publisher errors in it, that I will not use it.  I discover video activities.  I regularly use these in class with paper handouts, but–voila!– all the resources are right there on the Ipad!

Or not.

I click on the video pages to discover that the video activity link does not contain video activities.  It contains all the teacher answers to the workbook.

I’ve spent the afternoon spinning my wheels online.  I’m thinking that I need less.  I need slow.

I like the idea of sitting by the fire with a spinning wheel, simple work.  A manual task that is repetitive and yields a tangible product.  If I’m lucky, I’ll prick my finger and a  magic spell will let me sleep for a hundred years.

Embracing the lunatic fringe

I was called a lunatic this weekend and it made me really happy.

Why?  Because I was in an auditorium filled with other lunatics and it was so nice to have company.  We were all lunatics.  Language learning  loonies who sold out a conference to hear a linguist.

Stephen Krashen spoke at the MDTESOL conference.   For the 99% of you reading this who do not know who he is, Stephen Krashen is an eminent linguist whose theory of comprehensive input has had a major impact on the field of language learning.  One can agree or disagree with his theory, but he is the man you agree or disagree with.  How cool to get to actually see him and hear him speak!

And then he called us the Lunatic Fringe.

And I was delighted.  I am a certifiable member of the linguistic lunatic fringe.  I love language learning in a country of monolinguals where being bilingual is like being a freak.  I cut my linguistic teeth diagramming sentences with Catholic nuns. (To this day, diagramming sentences is a fun thing for me to do.)   Krashen cracked a grammar joke about French past participles that only a smattering of other lunatics picked up on.  It was great.

Then Krashen said that “nobody cares” about language learning, which we all know to be true, but he wasn’t calling us unimportant.  He affirmed my membership in the club of linguistic geeks while reminding all of us that having a compelling story is what draws people in.  Compelling stories are irresistible.

Compelling story is what led one student in my 7th period class Friday to say, “I only came to school today because I knew we were watching the movie!”  That made me smile, but the student who made my Friday was the kid on the lunatic fringe.  When asked to translate Les poissons imitent un dauphin (the fish imitate a dolphin), he gave the smarty-pants answer “The fish imitate the son of the king of France.”  And I shot back, “I guess that makes it a pretender to the throne.”  The two of us were laughing like lunatics while the rest of the class went “huh?”

I suppose everyone belongs to some sort of lunatic fringe group: actuaries, tuba players, liverwurst makers.  We all just want to belong.  And hang out together. Sometimes even at a conference.

How crazy is that?

 

Clouds

apple in hand

looking through windows

at the cloud

 

What do you picture?

A puffy white cloud seen through a window frame with a crisp Red Delicious waiting to be eaten?

Or do you notice the incongruity of trying to access the Cloud using Windows and an Ipad?

My day began with clouds.  Real clouds.  Beautiful golden puffs of strato-cumulous lit on the east by the rising sun.  They were so delightful my heart burst into a hymn.

When morning gilds the skies

my heart awaking cries

“May Jesus Christ be praised!”

Yeah, it was that kind of  O What a Beautiful Morning. I would have stopped to take pictures but the traffic report already had me dreading the deadlock near school. And it was predictably bad.  So bad that all late students to school had an automatic excused tardy.  So I ate my egg-bagel sandwich and enjoyed the view through the car window as I drove.  (The apple came later as part of the Wednesday morning teacher snack.)

Ensconced in my classroom I no longer notice clouds.  I am in the Cloud.  It feels more like a fog though.  I have trouble knowing where I am.  Most of my files are on the school server via my desktop.  They are Windows files.  But as a pilot teacher in the technology program (roll on the floor laughing, yes you may), I am using the Ipad for many new innovative things, like note-taking, accessing the online textbook program, and submitting paperless documents for grading.  All of these can be done with plain old textbook and pencil and paper, but that’s another story.

At any  given moment, I have no idea where I am.  Students give me letters they have written for their French penpals.  Some send me a Word document.  I can’t read that on my Ipad.  Others send me a Notability file.  I can’t read that on my desktop.  Still others give me a plain ol’ piece of paper that I have to scan into a PDF–at home, because I know how to do it with my printer at home.  All these get sent to a  teacher in France, but I send them piece meal because they are getting sent from different devices.  Ok, yes, I’m sure there is an easier way to do this.  But I haven’t figured it out yet.  (The simplest way, of course, is to put all the letters in an envelope and mail it to France, but the quick turn-around of replies from France wins over the technology curmudgeons.)

I have found an app (Showbie) that could very well be the answer to this dilemma.  I show it to my students.  It’s on the Ipad.  I switch the input on the Smartboard from my desktop to the Ipad.  My Ipad is now displaying on the board.  Cool, huh?  But the Ipad is not in my hand as I freely roam the classroom.  The Ipad is tethered to a cable and sitting by my desktop.  If I go to type on the Ipad, I use the computer keyboard by mistake.  I try to scroll the Smartboard screen with my finger but have to remember that I’m on the Ipad and must scroll via the Ipad screen.

The students find this rather amusing.  They love it when teachers pull their hair out in class.

Then there is the issue of browsers.  Once upon a time, like last year, I was blissfully using Internet Explorer for all my computing needs.  I knew there were other browsers out there, but, what the hey, my life was relatively simple.  Ah, but then issues arose and we were instructed to use Google Chrome to access our gradebooks.  Do I need to tell you how that messed up all my preset links?  The default browser on the Ipad is Safari.  I was fine with that until a student explained to me that the new online textbook will only open in Google Chrome.  So just getting onto the worldwide web is now a jumble of options.

I have no idea when I go to a website if I am on Internet Explorer, Safari, or Google Chrome.  Yes, yes, it looks plain as day that I should just use Google Chrome, but I have all these icons preset to send me to sites.  Do I have to reset them all?  Really? I don’t even know how I did it the first time.

I  can’t remember when I look at a document whether I am in Word or PDF.

A colleague suggests putting all my documents on DropBox.  She loves DropBox.  I have at least a bazillion files on the school server, and more at home.  I know where they are.  I’m not moving them.

“It’s easy,” she says.

“I’m not moving them,” I reply.

She’s lucky I do not launch her to a Cloud through a Window.

I drive home watching golden puffy clouds through the car window, lit now by the sunset in the west.  I forgot the crunchy teacher apple that I saved for my ride home.  My other Apple, the Iphone, dings text alerts.  I ignore the distraction.

I’m happily distracted by golden puffs of clouds lit by the sunset in the west.

The Pedometer Contest

Oh, the tyranny of a tiny purple belt attachment.

State of the art pedometer....not.

State of the art pedometer….not.

The health care provider at work was so kind as to give each plan participant a pedometer recently. They also are sponsoring a contest to encourage us to be more active, become more healthy, and thereby cost the plan less to maintain us. I see their point. I personally cost them a bundle last year for my hip and I know a few of my colleagues could use new knees. Replacement parts for aging teachers add up.

So, we have these little purple pedometers to calculate every step we take throughout the day. We write down our daily totals, send them to the office, and see who gets rewarded for taking the most steps.

Here’s the first glitch: the pedometers are, shall we say, not top of the line. They are sooooo not top of the line that everyone in the contest has to use them because using a good pedometer would be unfair. Let’s compare apples to apples, okay?

One contestant has noted that you get about 10 extra steps when you go to the bathroom. This is not a bad thing. She suggested drinking lots of water so that you have to go to the bathroom a lot. That’s a healthy way to let the cheapo pedometer work for you.

Another contestant found that the pedometer wasn’t registering steps at all. She kept attaching it to different body parts to get it to work. I pointed out that putting a pedometer on her wrist was not going to measure how many steps she took. Unless she walks on her hands. Last I checked she had it clipped to her shoe.

She might have been on to something when she had it clipped to her blouse, but jiggling boobs might technically be cheating. However, the pedometer won’t stay straight clipped to a blouse and the gizmo won’t work if it gets turned sideways.
It can also easily get turned sideways when you sit down. A little pudge here, a little pudge there, and next thing you know the pedometer is crooked.

Or it completely falls off.

Pedometers don’t work at all when they are lying on the floor. I would have thought that one’s muffin top would keep the dang thing in place. But when muffin top and tummy pudge meet at the waistband, that pedometer goes flying like a popped zit. Thankfully, this has so far not resulted in any injuries–which would cost the health provider in claims. (Although the most likely victim would be a student, seated at about eye level with a flying pedometer, and they aren’t on our health plan.)

So what’s the protocol for discovering that the pedometer has fallen off? Do you shake it a few times to estimate the steps you’ve missed? Suffer the consequence of an “inaccurate” step count? Or maybe go the bathroom a couple more times to make up for it?

It is actually nice to know how much one walks in the course of the day. The cheapo pedometer says I walk about 5000 steps in the course of the school day. That’s right in line with the bare minimum requirement for being “non-sedentary.” But how far have I walked in 5000 steps? A good pedometer would calculate this for me. In theory my purple pal will too, but I don’t trust it and calculating a stride is a nuisance. One fitness website says that a mile is 2500 steps. Another one says it is 2000 steps. Yet another says it is based on your height, so for me it would be about 2600 steps. On Saturday I walked a mile with my GPS-based walking app and compared it to the pedometer. The pedometer read 3600 steps. It must think I’m Japanese.

There are times I want to press a re-set button on the day, but not while I'm counting steps!

There are times I want to press a re-set button on the day, but not while I’m counting steps!

Another problem I discovered this weekend was the device resetting itself. Gah! I had already racked up about 6000 steps walking outside and trotting around the house doing laundry when I decided to rake leaves out of the flower beds. Raking leaves doesn’t really take you anywhere but it does involve stepping. I was curious to see what it would amount to. When I checked, the blasted gadget had reset to zero. It sat on the kitchen counter for the rest of the day. And all day today.

It’s not like I’m going to win the contest. How can I compete with my colleague who does line dancing on Monday nights? She scored a crazy 18000 steps that day. My big nights out were a singing rehearsal on Tuesday and babysitting grandkids on Thursday. Both were calorie burning and exhausting but did not score me many points. Alas, swaying side to side with a 17 pound baby wailing in your ear does not register clicks on a pedometer.
That said, it is still good to have some silly competitive fun at work and I will dutifully put on my purple taskmaster the minute I get up tomorrow. I won’t want to miss the 10 steps from my bed to the bathroom.

Hmmm…I could add a hundred steps by going downstairs to get my coffee instead of letting my husband bring it to me. Nah….he needs the exercise.

The pedometer doesn't count picture taking, but we are taking steps toward spring at Maywood.

The pedometer doesn’t count picture taking, but we are taking steps toward spring at Maywood.

Frozen Fog

Frozen fog?

I’ve listened to a lot of weather reports over the years, but this morning’s was a first.  Frozen fog was causing accidents all over Carroll County.  The pre-caffeinated brain has trouble conceptualizing this.  How can fog freeze?  Isn’t that oxymoronic?  Isn’t fog water suspended in the air?  If it freezes, wouldn’t that make it sleet or snow?  If fog freezes, can you walk through it?  Or it is like crunchy air?  Could you get stuck in it?  These are difficult questions to ponder in the early morning darkness.

Is  it any wonder I hate waking up?  Too much information bombards me too  early in the day.  Snow and sub-zero temperatures are bad enough…but at least they are predicted.  But freezing fog?  What am I supposed to do with this information?

Ah, but a cup of coffee lifts my mental fog.  The air is foggy but the temperature has dropped to below freezing, so all that oogy dampness on the sidewalks and roads has frozen.  And that makes for very treacherous driving.

Ok.  Now the caffeine needs to kick in so I can plan my alternate route to work.  The traffic  report lists many roads that I traverse on my avoid-the-highway route. Alas, the back roads are not an option today.  I will be forced to take the Beltway.  Oh, let’s hope that drivers can avoid crunching into each other or it will take me twice as long to get to school.

While I ponder this, Carroll County decides on a two-hour delay.  It’s a rather late call and I know at least one of my colleagues is already on her way to school.  Now the question is whether we will shift our half-day exam schedule or cancel school.  I wait for the call.  Caffeine and anxiety course through my system.

School is cancelled.  And I’m wide awake. Frozen at the window.  Peering into the fog.

Woo hoo!

Hip chronicles: The bionic woman vs. the athletes

Here’s a little quiz.  You will know my correct answers by the end of this post.

 1. What does IT stand for?
     a. information technology
     b. iliotibial band
     c. idiot teenager

2. What does TFL stand for?
     a.  texting as a foreign language
     b.  Tahitian Football League
     c.  tensor fascia latae

3. What does GM stand for?
     a.  gross mismanagement
     b.  the general manager of General Motors
     c.  gluteus maximus

4. What does PT stand for?
     a.  part-time
     b.  physical therapy
     c.  post-traumatic

5. What does THP stand for?
     a.  total hip replacement
     b.  teenage halitosis problem
     c.  take your hands off my peanut butter

6. What does ACL stand for?
     a. anti-cheerleading league
     b. anterior cruciate ligament
     c. almond cocoa latte

It’s 3 pm on a Saturday and I have just migrated from p.js into sweats.  I’ve been so zoned into internet articles on my Ipad that my entire nutritional input for the day has been two cups of coffee, one of them gone cold.  I’m not even taking a walk today.  I’m stretching my IT band and feeling lazy—and smug.  I am so hip. I have the same physical woes as a triathlete.

I’m goofing off today because my IT band is hurting.  No, it does not refer to information technology.  It’s my iliotibial band, a band of muscles which stretches from the hip to the knee.  If you were a triathlete or distance runner, you would know this.  I know this.  My internet research repeatedly sent me to websites for intense athletes who are plagued by IT problems that have nothing to do with technology. Their knees hurt.  Just like mine.  The IT band is why hip problems result in knee pain.

I need to say this again, just to make me feel good: I have the same problem as a triathlete.  I feel so validated.  I’m not in the same shape as a  triathlete, but we both are referred to the same set of exercises I’ve been doing at physical therapy.  We both need to stretch the TFL (the tensor fascia latae) and strengthen the GM (gluteus maximus).  No need to get into the reality that a triathlete’s glutes are not all soft and jiggly like mine.  (In my defense, I will say that physical therapy has resulted in my slacks fitting pretty well, even if it has done nothing about the muffin top above the belt line.)  The fact is: triathletes have my same problem.  I feel so cool, although that could  be from the BioFreeze gel that the massage therapist gave me.  See, I am that cool.  I have a massage therapist as well as a physical therapist and an orthopedic surgeon.

Having a physical therapist and an orthopedist makes me cool with the athletes at school, too.  They are all falling apart on the soccer field and volleyball court.  I see high school athletes wincing in pain at the PT office while I increase the weight for my clam shell exercises.  At school, students on crutches hobble down the school hallway waiting for or recovering from ACL surgery.  I swap stories with the injured athletes about PT, surgery, and pain management.

During a fire drill at school this week, I trotted down a long flight of stairs with all the students.

“Hey, Mrs. Harp,” asked a student who has never been in my French class before,” What happened to your cane?”

“I had surgery.  I don’t need it anymore.”

“Hey, I’m taking French I next year.”  (No joke, he really said this.)

Whoa.  I’ve gone from being that old teacher with the cane to someone who has gone through orthopedic surgery.  And let me tell you, THP ain’t no walk in the park like ACL surgery.  I have earned some respect.  I won’t tell the student that my little  trot down the stairs has caused the IT to flare up.  He thinks I’m bionic.  No need to disappoint him.

Answer key for the little quiz:
Answers for normal people: 1.b 2.c 3.c 4.b 5.a 6.b
Answers for teachers: 1.c 2.a 3.a 4.a 5.b or c 6.a or c

Busy as…

images[5]With the school year heading into its final stretch, I’m feeling as busy as a bee.  And I’m feeling about as  productive as the honeybees in our yard.  Oh wait, we don’t have any honeybees in our yard.  The 44,000 bees we ordered from Georgia haven’t arrived yet.  We have carpenter bees in droves, doing their destructive thing and also dive-bombing me while I try to weed the gill-over-the-ground from snaking all over the oregano.  Between the carpenter bees and my limited flexibility (new hip #2 coming in a mere six weeks!), I didn’t get much weeding done this weekend.  I gave up the bending and pulling to sit in a sunny spot to watch Mr. Beekeeper clean the empty beehives with his new power washer.

After a good nap, I pondered lesson plans.  Ugh.  At this point in my career I should be on auto-pilot like a few teachers I know.  Alas, my ESL prep is new this year and requires actual thought.  And my juniors and seniors in French are heading into AP season, so my French IV-V lessons have to try to sync with the craziness of who’s in class on which day.  I try to accommodate them with a more or less self-paced unit, but they will try to whine and complain about their AP tests…which will activate my hyper-angry button.  They have been warned.  Someone tried to pull the AP card last week and I went ballistic.  You could have heard a pin drop in that classroom which normally is so full of laughter that the math teacher next door can’t imagine what is so funny about French class.

(Warning to pretty much anyone in my vicinity: don’t complain to me about anything.  My pain tolerance does not allow for whining. Exceptions are made for my pregnant daughters, especially the one who is teaching full time up until her due date while also moving into a new house the week of her spring concert.  She’s allowed to whine.)

I took a break from my meager attempt at lesson planning to get more familiar with my new school-issued iPad.  Teachers were given iPads in order to explore the possibilities of teaching via tablet.  Training is coming in the new school year.  For now, we’re supposed to figure the thing out.  “Just play with it,” we were told.

I started out very professionally, looking for word-processing apps and wondering if they were worth exploring.  Then I wandered into French apps and downloaded one freebie from a site that I regularly use online.  After that, I let the iPad inform me on new apps.  Well, the free app of the week was a clever little game called Bee Leader.  Since it was free, I downloaded it and got sucked into its little world.  I am pretty sure that my seven year old grandson would have caught on to it quicker, but I got the hang of it.  The goal is to collect as much pollen, nectar, honey, and  bee buddies as you can before the sun goes down..while also avoiding nasties like spiders, wasps, and little black rain clouds.  If you smash into little alarm clocks you gain more minutes in your day.   Maybe you only have to touch the alarm  clock to gain the minutes, but the way my bee was flying, everything got smashed.  He was buzzing through his day like a maniac.  I could relate.

I don’t really want to fly through this week like a maniac.  I’d rather be a calm, focused, productive little bee, intent on the task at hand. And, wow, I could really use some of those time stretching alarm clocks placed strategically throughout my day.  Is there an app for that?

Jesus wept

CIMG4876Ask a class of Christian school students who are forced to memorize Bible verses to recommend one, and inevitably some wise guy will suggest “Jesus wept.”

“Please…can you  give us that one?  The one we did last week was sooooooooo long.”

Why don’t I want to give them that one?  Well, duh, they already know it.  However, they do not know it in French, so I agree.

Weeks ago, I agreed that we would memorize “Jesus wept” in French.  Jesus pleura.  It provides a good example of the literary past tense and happens to be shorter than the modern translation: Jesus a pleuré.  It’s a nice short verse for a three and a half day week, with some sobriety for Holy Week. Furthermore, it’s the end of third quarter and we are all feeling a little fried.

So Friday I began typing Jesus pleura on my “week sheets” of lessons for next week, but with the fresh news that a dear colleague of eighteen years has end stage pancreatic cancer. He goes from classroom to diagnosis to hospice in one fell swoop.  The news is a punch in the gut.

Jesus pleura.

And God has done it again.  He has taken a verse that was scheduled for some random reason–it’s the next page in my Bible, it’s part of a sermon series planned months in advance, whatever–and entered my world.  That’s one of the tricky things about selecting memory verses.  If I pick one like “Love is patient; love is kind” I inevitably find the circumstances of my week challenging the lack of patience and kindness in my heart.

This time God has prepared in advance a  comfort that he knew I would need.

Jesus pleura.  Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.  With that, Jesus says, “I know.  It hurts.  Death sucks.”

Why did Jesus weep?  Was it because Lazarus was dead?  He was really, really dead, too.  Not like the sickbed miracles Jesus had done before.  Three days dead.  In the tomb dead.  But Jesus brought him back to life.  If he had the power to do that, why weep over it?

Or was it because of the grief of separation–a separation that Jesus himself would soon experience from his Father?  Seeing the grief of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha got him weeping.  It hurts to be separated and death is the ultimate separation.  It hurts even when God is saying, “It is time.”

Wait, God, we’re not finished enjoying Tim yet.  We don’t want him to die.  We want him to get better.  We want his laugh to roll down the hall again and interrupt our classes with our own responsive laughter. “There he goes again!”  We want to enjoy his curmudgeonly attitude during faculty meetings–an outward appearance that represents what we all feel on the inside.  Ok, I even want a bear hug, even though he does it in front of students and makes me feel unprofessional.

Jesus pleura.  Jesus gets it.  He feels it.  Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ death and his separation from his Father, but Easter Sunday celebrates his victory over that separation.  Good Friday is why I weep for the pending departure of my friend and colleague, but Easter Sunday is why am not despondent.  Death is the ultimate separation, but in Christ it is not permanent.  We have an eternity of fellowship without lesson plans and emails to look forward to.   And I don’t know about the streets being paved with gold, but the setting in heaven has got to be better than the pathetic table in the hallway that is considered our “teacher’s lounge.”

Jesus pleura.  Jesus comforts me in my sadness.

Jesus is risen.  Jesus assures me of eternity.

When it’s my turn to go, I expect a booming laugh to greet me when I arrive.  Tim is sure to be assigned celestial “car pool” duty. (And if he doesn’t want it, he’d better put his request in now!)

Life-long learning…

Teachers are constantly astounded at how much there is to learn.  We are so surprised that, some days, it’s what draws us to the classroom.  Other days, it makes us want to hide under our warm comfy covers until summer.

What lack of knowledge will we face today?

This past week, the teachers at my school were encouraged to work out a professional growth plan.  What courses, conferences, seminars, videos, books, and what-not do we need to maintain certification and/or grow professionally?  This is, of course, in addition to mastering the interactive whiteboards, the new computer operating system, and the many features of Edline, while simultaneously test-driving a new grading software package as we await the imminent arrival of Ipads so that we can teach ourselves how to teach electronically with one-to-one student/teacher interactivity.

imagesCAC2OJ3BMeanwhile, we also teach actual content lessons.  To teenagers.  With attention spans the length of a tweet.  The big excitement in French class recently was finding out that the Academie Française had banned the word “hashtag”  (that’s the symbol #, known to us old people as the pound sign or to even older people as the number sign).  The students came running to me with the news:  “Madame!!!  The Academie Française has banned the word ‘hashtag’!!!!!  It’s now called a mot-dièse!” 

Every once in a while we have discovery learning moments like this.  The rest of the time, we discover amazing things that the students don’t know.  Like how to operate the digital recorders.

I have a classroom set of digital recorders for recording student oral work.  I got them over ten years ago, thanks to a computer-teacher colleague who found them cheap on eBay.  Although a few of the recorders have died, I still have enough for them to be a pretty great classroom tool.  Except, the students can’t figure out how to use them.  If the device had an intuitive circle in the center or a screen to pinch and slide, the students would be ok.  As it is, there are buttons labeled with words: ON, OFF, RECORD, PLAY, STOP.

All through French I,  the same questions come at me: “Mrs. Harp, how do you turn it on?” (Press ON.)  “Madame, how do you record?” (Press RECORD.)  “What do we do when we’re finished?”  (Press STOP.) Then in French II: “Madame, I can’t remember how to use these.”  (Sigh.)

Alas, my antique technology does not compare with what the drama teacher learned at school this week.  While rehearsing with costumes for the school play, she discovered that the male actors did not know how to put on an overcoat.

Man in overcoat

Man in overcoat

Later, we shared this incident with the incredibly brilliant older brother of the lead actor.  His response: “What’s an overcoat?”

“You don’t know what an overcoat is?”

“I know trench coats.  They are light and khaki-colored.  And I know pea-coats.  I don’t know overcoats.”

Well, why would a young man know overcoats?  They never wear coats.  They exit the climate controlled comfort of a car to dash a few yards into a climate controlled building–in polo shirts in twenty degree weather with a windchill of minus three.

“It is scientifically proven,”said one shorts and flip-flops in winter student to his Spanish teacher mom, “that going outside without a coat will not make you sick.”

The teachers’ reply (in chorus): “But if the car breaks down and you are  stuck by the side of the road, you will die.”

The overcoat-challenged actors were baffled by the difficulties of putting the coat on over a suit jacket.  Clueless as to the technique of gripping the jacket cuff while sliding the arm into the coat, the boys found their jacket sleeves bunched up around their elbows.

” I can’t move my arms!”

"I can't put my arms down!" from A Christmas Story.

“I can’t put my arms down!” from A Christmas Story.

After teaching the boys how to put on an overcoat, the drama teacher had to  teach them how to take one off.  No, it does not fall into a puddle of fabric on the floor.  For the scene in question, the coat is to be folded gently shoulder to shoulder and draped over the back of the chair.

I can’t wait to see the school play next weekend, just to watch the boys put on overcoats. And someone should give the drama teacher an award for teaching life-skills.  With all that these students still need to learn, they are going to have to live a very long life.

As for all the things I’m going to learn this week, hiding under the covers sounds really inviting.