The House That Built Me

Yesterday was the start of Spring! Cue blue skies, streaming sunshine, and warmer temperatures. The birds have known it was coming for the last two weeks. They’ve been my alarm clock at 5:30 AM with their chirping-especially the robins. Those guys have been amped about springtime. I was hoping there wouldn’t be any rain yesterday because if there is one thing I don’t like is a rainy start to spring. I prefer to have my windows open and the sunshine streaming in while the breeze makes the curtains dance.

This year I got my wish. I managed through my 2 hour training at the high school in the windowless auditorium. Walking out I was greeted with a cool breeze and puffy white clouds breaking up the bright blue skies. I ran a few errands, got a haircut, was startled as I walked out of the hair shop because someone was driving by and thought it would be cute to blow their horn and induce heart palpitations. They will be receiving payback later. As soon as I got home I opened the backdoor and the pulled up the Venetian blinds in the Dollywood room. Sunlight came pouring into my kitchen. Moving into the living room I pulled open the curtains in the book room.

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The living room was cast in a golden glow that was made all the more beautiful with the hardwood floor reflecting the sunlight. This living room holds several special memories for me and now that I’ve made it my own it will continue. It’s in the back of my mind that with every little change I make I hope my grandparents are happy with the new splashes of colors on the walls or the new furniture. With this house I’ve tried to have pieces of both sets of grandparents present. Example: in the Dollywood room there are the thimbles hanging on the wall that Mam B collected for several years. In the book room is the swing that hung out at Mam and Pap G’s country home. But of course I’m bringing my personality into the house too. You see that in the way I’ve named some of the rooms. The book room. The Dollywood room. The teaching room. These are all very much representative of myself.

Grabbing a book I moved out into the book room, opened up the front door-propping it open to let in the fresh air. Making myself comfortable in the swing I turned on my Spotify reading playlist and let myself get lost in the world of Hogsmeade and trying to figure out just how Sirius Black plays a role in Harry’s life. Time flew by and next thing I knew the sun was setting behind the hills. Blinking a few times I returned to reality and closed my book. Looking around I collected my things and put the third Harry Potter book back on the shelf. Grabbing the fourth book I locked up the house and headed out. I’ll return to this spot this weekend and get lost again, but until then work calls my name.

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Welcoming Spring with open doors and open arms. 
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Smile!

“Awake yet?”

I check the time and see it’s 5:45 AM. Closing one eye I think “‘Uh oh…time to start thinking.’

“Mhmm but barely so fair warning.”
“Well time to rise and shine! Smile darlin”
“No.”
“Is someone being grumpy cat today?”
“Yes.”
“Smile. Come on smile.”
“No. I’ve not had coffee yet.”
“Come on…I know you can.”
“Hard pass.”
“*Raises eyebrow*”
“*Pushes it down.* Smile buttercup.”
“I hate you.”
“Yeah…you need coffee.”
“YAY!”
“BUT before that….”
“Rats…okay go for it.”
“Okay what’s your favorite season and why? And you can’t reply because it’s your favorite because of the weather or because you get to dress in comfy sweaters.”
“Seriously? You suck.”
“Mhmmm.”
“Fine…and you are correct in the season by the way. BUT that’s not what I’m going with so HA!”
“Oh?”
“Mhmmm I’m going with…spring. Even though this season tries to kill me.”
“Okay and your reasoning is…..”
“I’M GETTING THERE!!!!! PATIENCE…I swear.”
“*taps watch*”
“Spring because everything is coming alive again. It’s a time of new beginnings and it’s time for my favorite flowers to burst forth like fireworks. The air is crisp but light and the songbirds are singing their hearts out.”
“Those are all very good reasons.”
“Did I say I was done yet?”
“Okay. Sassy today I see.”
“Just a little. My other favorite reason I love spring is when things begin.”
“You already said that.”
“I know. But think about WHY I’m saying this twice.”
“Um……”
“Oh now who is the one who has to think?!”
“Um…”
“*taps watch* Ahem”
“March 15th. Beginnings. Got it.”
“Indeed you did.”
“Smiling now?”
“Yes. You?”
“Yes.”

He’s not the only one who has tricks up his sleeve. I think this is just part of the reason we’re compatible.

A Cast of Characters

It’s currently 12:07 and my students are silent reading. Well most of them are. There are a few sitting here watching me type this Slice. They are always curious about what I’m going to write about. I see one sneaking up toward the SmartBoard from his seat in the back. I don’t mind because technically he is reading. He’s trying to look like he’s not being sneaky and is still technically reading his book but I see him. Now he’s noticed that I’m typing about him and is looking all cool about it. This is one of the reasons why I like typing during SSR. And now my little group has formed around my SmartBoard reading as I type these words.

It’s always the same group: 4 girls and 2 boys. The boys are always questioning what I’m doing and the girls are asking if my topic is about them. Well today it is. One just snickered when I typed that while the other two smiles. The boys are trying to act like they’re too cool to react. Now if you ask these boys they’re and I quote, “Young men!” I just shake my head and act like I’m agreeing with them. But what they don’t see is it’s followed by an eye roll. Of course this makes the taller boy mutter something about me being sassy and he’s right. But then again there’s a girl who just shouted out excitedly, “OH THAT’S ME!” Clearly she wasn’t reading the entire sentence in context. The other three girls are sitting here smiling and just shaking their head at her. Two of these girls are my animal lovers. One adores foxes and every so often I make her day by looking up fox videos on YouTube. The other one adores pandas. She draws them when she can and I’ve even awarded her that nickname.

Now another boy has joined the group. This one is my reader of all things Harry Potter. He’s the one I’m trying to keep ahead of in the great re-read of 2019. However he’s winning because he just started Goblet of Fire and I just started Prisoner of Azkaban.  I have a long way before I’m tied with him.  Today during library he made me smile because as soon as he finished reading book 3 he leapt up and took off running to return it. As soon as the book was scanned in he hopped around and took off running again. However he almost fell in the process but he quickly recovered. As soon as he checked the Goblet of Fire nothing could distract him.

This is just a small glance into my classroom and I’ve only introduced you to six of them. Now it should be noted that one of the students I mentioned is my happy-go-lucky student who resorted to eenie-meenie-minie-moe during STAR testing in September. And the funny thing is he just asked if that was him and I nodded in the affirmative.

Smoky Mountain Memories

Sittin on the front porch on a summer afternoon
In a straight back chair on two legs-leaned against the wall
As I watch the kids a-playin with their Junebugs on a string
And chase the glowing fireflies when evening shadows fall
In my Tennessee Mountain home life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh

For some reason I’ve been missing Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains. Last year was the first year we didn’t go there and we’re not going there again this year. I’m not sure when I’ll get back there unfortunately.

I think I’m not only missing the mountains but I’m missing my grandparents that I would go camping with seven months out of the year. I miss camping at the KOA Campground too. One of my favorite things about camping was returning from the closing show at Dollywood. As we drove through the winding campground road I always loved to see the different awning lights hanging up. Some had little lanterns,  others had little chili peppers and we had owls. Multicolored little owls that ranged in color from red, green, yellow and blue. But the other part I loved was the smell of the campfires. If we didn’t go see the closing show then we would sit outside of either our camper or my grandparents’ RV and talk. Either we would plan the next day’s activities (which always started with Breakfast at the Old Mill) or we would talk about when we would be returning to Tennessee the following month. My grandparents were planners-meticulous ones at that-and always wanted to stay one step ahead.

One memory that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is how my mornings would begin. I would get up, get dressed and run out the camper door. It was a straight shot to my grandparents’ RV. Knocking three times Mam would open the door and welcome me in. I would stay for a few minutes then run right back out again to get ready to go to Dollywood. Mom and Dad always knew I had been to see Mam because of all of the lipstick that was on my face. She was affectionate I’ll tell you that. She’s who I get my love of reading from.  My stubborness and being quite blunt in my opinion of you that comes from Pap.

We went camping several years together and what I would give to do it all over again.

Signs of Spring

On my way over to the house this afternoon a splash of purple caught my eye. Walking back down off the porch I looked closer and saw my first true sign of spring.

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The hardy crocus. Just the sight of this tiny bloom made my heart burst open with joy. Looking around I began searching for any others and I didn’t have to search very far. Just a couple feet away was another small bloom.

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It seems the weather has been a little more harsh to this one but it’s staying strong. Oh and please excuse the wild strawberry leaves that are running rampant in this garden. The next warm day I have I’ll be cleaning this area out properly.  And if you look closely to the right of this crocus you’ll see the next spring floral preparing to bloom.

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Along the side of the house the daffodils have finally decided to open up. There are a few more on the south side of the house and the north side but they’re not ready to make their arrival just yet. The tulips are still dormant but not for much longer. And one very nice surprise I found was a patch of poppies. I was sure my aunt had dug all of them up before she left in July. Knowing that there will still be poppies in this backyard makes me happy.

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Spring is even arriving indoors. I added the two bunnies to the mantle and just that little addition really brightened it up. These are my signs that spring is arriving. What signs are you seeing?

Cold Summer Memories

This afternoon on my way home from the grocery store while stopped at a red light I happen to glance to my right. In the wind was a sign whipping back and forth. After reading it a slow smile began to grace my face.

For a moment I could think of bluegrass music being blasted through speakers that were made to look like rocks. The smell of hamburgers and cotton candy came to mind. And the feeling of the hot July sun beating down onto my shoulders. What kind of sign whipping in the wind could trigger this memory?

DIPPIN’ DOTS SOLD HERE

Reading that sign instantly transported me today back to 1999. My family was on our yearly vacation in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Dad and I had just finished riding Thunder Road for the third time that day. Walking out into the humid and sunny weather made us want to go right back into the cool and dark ride. Mom was waiting by the five and dime store that was made to look like it was the 1950s. As we walked along the other shops staying in the shade of the trees and awnings Dad pointed to a little stand set up near The Pines theater.

“Want to try that,” he asked.
“What are they,” I asked hesitantly.

We walked over and all I saw were these little tiny white and pink balls. The lady behind the stand asked if I would like a sample. Nodding she handed me a little spoonful.  Slowly I brought the spoon to my lips. Letting a few slide in I was shocked by how cold they were. Instantly they melted and I tasted strawberries and cream.  Smiling I pulled some money from my mini-backpack and ordered a large one. For the next 15 minutes while I walked through the rest of the park I savored each spoonful. Suddenly I didn’t mind the humid and sunny weather.

I love when ordinary things spark powerful or wonderful memories.

90s Fashion and Pre-teens

INFER

That’s what I write and ask my students to define. Most of them have heard of it before but weren’t sure what it was. Normally we have our students read a text and then try to figure out what the scene means or how the picture relates. But today I tried something different. I brought in my yearbooks from grades Kindergarten to 4th grade. I showed them various pictures that were candid photos the yearbook staff had taken throughout the year. When they found me cue dropped jaws and looks of disbelief. 1st grade me may look just slightly different from 4th grade teacher me. Then again we’re comparing 1993 to 2019. Things kind of change.

While they were at Specials I showed a colleague my 1st grade yearbook. She couldn’t believe how different the 7th and 8th grade students looked compared to today’s group. In the 90s the 7/8 students looked like they were already in high school. In 2019 they look like they would fit in with 4th or 5th graders. It’s funny how fashion and one’s personal appearance can make them seem older than they really are.

When you stop and think about it how many of you can agree that today’s teens aren’t like the ones of the 90s.

Four Houses

Yesterday a fellow teacher wrote about overhearing a conversation about the Houses in Harry Potter. That led to me thinking about my class this year and last year. What houses would they be in? The class of ’17-’18 I would sort in the following houses (but first a reminder about what each house is truly about):

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Starting with Ravenclaw I would have three sorted into that House. One would probably be shocked she wasn’t sorted into Harry’s house, but her inner heart would be Ravenclaw.

Hufflepuff would have seven new students. These students had a lot of heart and genuinely cared for their fellow classmates. They were our go-to people when their friends were having a bad day.

Slytherin-ah yes the most notorious House. Five new students would be joining their ranks. But before you begin thinking they’re manipulative and cold remember not all Slytherins are evil. They just had ways of being calculating and persuasive. Yes, a few were in trouble a lot, but by the end of the year they were more kind.

Gryffindor, the most coveted house, would have seven new students. They were always brave and ready to defend their friends. One, though they were small in stature, had a lot of heart and ready to defend anyone who offended him, his friends, or his favorite animal: horses.

But now let’s shift our focus to this year’s bunch. I have 18 students and if I were to sort them the totals would be:

Ravenclaw: three would fit well in this House. Their love of knowledge knows no bounds.

Slytherin: four would seamlessly fit into this House. They have a way of being sneaky and persuading others to see their way.

Gryffindor: four brave students who have proven their heart time and time again this year.

Hufflepuff: almost half of my class would be sorted here. They have big hearts like their teacher and are the go-to cheer up people for their friends.

And now as my students are reading this all of the non-Harry Potter people are scrambling to figure out what any of these words mean. One is not happy that one of his friend’s isn’t in their House. But one-the student sitting next to me-is excited that she’s a Hufflepuff and she even made up dance moves to go with each House. The ones who aren’t sure what Harry Potter is are just excited that their symbol is a Snake or an awesome Lion. If only they knew…

And my day was just made because a student asked, “Who is Gryffinpuff?”

To which my sassy one replied, “THAT IS NOT EVEN A HOUSE!”

Oh my kids…

What Do You Say?

Today I woke up and my voice was nothing but a squeak. I knew I was in trouble. I put in for a sub from 11:30-3:15. After getting ready I checked the site-still an open job. Gritting my teeth I knew getting a sub may be a problem. Arriving at work I write the morning work on the board and then check again. Open Job. My students arrive and I just point to the board. They get out their notebooks and begin writing. Five minutes in one student realizes that I don’t really have a voice and starts messing around. Then his friend joined in. I sat there, tightening my jaw, for ten minutes just waiting to see how far they would push their luck. Finally after they started joking how today would be a piece of cake since the teacher can’t talk or do anything about their behavior I snapped. My voice was kind of back but not near the level it should be. They sat down and got to work once I laid it all out for them. They knew I wasn’t to be tested again. Periodically I checked and still no luck. At 10:20 our secretary called and said she tried to get it filled but no sub for me. I thanked her and then sent my kids to Specials. I spent that time figuring out easy stuff for my students to do this afternoon. Lunch came and I went to the lounge to eat and there four of my co-workers asked at once, “Why are you still here?” “Simple. I couldn’t get a sub. Therefore I can’t leave.” My grade level colleague about went through the roof when she heard that. And then it happened. A substitute who was a retired teacher said, “Well maybe no one wanted that job because they know 4th grade is a troublesome class. That’s one thing I like about being a sub. I have the luxury of saying no and staying on my couch for the day.”

I kept my composure and chose to ignore it. Did I want to say something? Absolutely. However professionalism won over. My grade level colleague however…well to put it nicely she told the sub to kindly remove herself from the lounge because her opinion was neither needed nor appreciated. The other three teachers nodded their head in agreement. She almost seemed shocked that her opinion wasn’t needed and said, “I didn’t mean any offense.” We just looked at her and she quickly took her lunch and left.

Is my class perfect? No. I have behavior issues and two boys who have zero respect for anyone. I have tried everything and there are days they work for me and days they choose to mouth off. However, I still teach them and try my hardest to get them to do their best. My grade level team does not have it easy this year but we try every single day.

I mean-honestly- what do you say to a comment like that?

 

Favorites

Everyone has a favorite something. A song, a memory, a scent, a book, etc. Looking around the room at my students I see so many reading books that feature their favorite characters or animal. One is reading about zombies in the world of Goosebumps, another is on an adventure with Harry, Hermione, and unbeknownst to Harry his godfather-Sirius, and one is staring at cute & tiny panda cubs.  I just heard her say awww and quite possibly petting the book.

This class has their favorite subjects that are a total 180 of last year’s. Last year LOVED reading and writing. This group LOATHES reading and writing. They are more about Math & Science. Social Studies/WV Studies? Nah. “SNOOZER!,” is what I can hear being yelled by one particular student. Another would yell, “SERIOUSLY?!” To which I reply, “Yes, seriously we are doing ________ <—insert the work they don’t want to do here.” They’ve finally learned that when they yell this that usually means I will make them do more writing and less of the fun activity. Well….MOST have learned. There are those 2 or 3 that either haven’t figured it out yet or don’t care to. But their classmates make them pay for it later (trust me).

Throughout my career as an elementary student I preferred reading, writing, and social studies. To me Math (Geometry, Trigonometry, and Pre-Cal) were the snoozer classes. Science-unless it’s about the types of rocks,  tectonic plates, natural disasters, the ocean, outer space, or completing Punnett squares I tune it out.

But one of my favorite things as a teacher is when I can get that same student who just complaining a week, a month, or even a day before to actually ENJOY the writing, reading or Social Studies lesson. By far writing is the hardest thing for me to get my students passionate about. But I haven’t given up yet and like them there are certain types of writing I prefer to teach. I love being creative and teaching fictional and personal narratives and informative writing when I can make it relatable to them. But the writing we are starting now (Persuasive) is the one that makes me want to beat my head off of my desk. I can’t explain why I don’t like it. I think it’s because it reminds me of all of those papers I had to write in undergrad and graduate school. It just seems tedious and trying to get 4th graders to understand how to pick a side, defend their reasoning or state their position, it just seems like too much. This is the one writing that I cannot make fun even if I try. It’s like the Revolutionary War-Zzzzzzzzz. If I offend some of you who are fans of studying and discussing that time period I’m sorry. I can’t find Continental Congress and The Battle of Yorktown (1781) Monsieur Lafayette…Monsieur Hamilton (WAIT I digress this isn’t Hamilton)….

My point is one of my FAVORITE things about teaching is getting to know my students  and their favorite things. Along the way they learn about my favorite things. By now they know my favorite color is red or blue. My favorite type of dog is a tie between Pomeranians and German/Dutch Shepherds. They know I actually like that “boring” classical music that I put on while I’m typing these Slices. And some cannot understand why I would torture myself with that kind of music. They tell me I should listen to something better like Cardi B or Post Malone. What they don’t know is I do listen to those artists as well as Paramore, Panic! at the Disco, Fall Out Boy, 90s country makes an appearance, Led Zeppelin, Queen, and the list can go on and on. They know my favorite Pixar film is…Up (as Z just whispered).

But one of my absolutely FAVORITE things is pretending that I don’t notice them reading these posts as I type them every single day. I think some of them look forward to this time because:

  1. they can’t believe someone could actually sit down and write for this long without complaining about it.
  2. That I actually have an idea of what to write about.
  3. They get to know a little more about me.

Oh and one thing my students know that ISN’T my favorite is SEASONAL ALLERGIES. Ugh…