Friday, March 31, 2017

SOLSC #31 - That could be a slice, Dad!

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



That Could be a Slice, Dad!

I've been slicing all month and my 6 year-old daughter has been an inspiration for many of them. Actually, Clara has been an inspiration for countless slices the past four years and this is the first year she's shown some interest in my writing. We have been having discussions about why I choose the slices I do and she is asking if various things that have happened might make a "good slice." So here are some slices she suggested over the past few days:

- A walk on the cold and windy beach up in Maine where we found a perfect sand dollar, watched snails move and saw a live clam with its "foot" out of its shell.

- When she lost her small stuffy that she had just bought with her own money. We looked all around the car, retraced our steps through my grandma's retirement home, and had given up. It was found after 25 minutes of tears and searching in the handle above the door where she had placed it for safe keeping.

- A fashion show while trying on outfits during a shopping trip.

- Finding a huge and intact moon shell on the beach. She heard a mermaid splashing in it!

- How the beach changes with the tides each day. She was amazed that the waves were crashing right where we had been walking a few hours earlier.

- Her jumping in piles of yellow foam that the wind and waves were pushing up onto the wet sand.

So these are some great ideas for me to keep going with my slicing and my writing overall. Thanks for another great month everyone! 

My final tally this year is 30/31 days with another day where I was about an hour late. I wish I were still perfect but I'm still proud of my efforts. I'm even more proud of my students who did such an amazing job of slicing, especially since they only had school 14/31 days during the month. Most sliced all 31 days!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

SOLSC #29 - Hotel Fort

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Hotel Fort

My daughter travels very well and until this trip has gone to sleep well, even when we are in the same hotel room. We get a double-queen bed room with my wife and I in one bed and my 6yo in the other. We turn out all the lights but one so we can read, and Clara has usually gone to sleep close to her normal bedtime.

Not this trip.

The first night, we all were exhausted so we went to bed about the same time and after some tossing and turning, we were all 'out' quickly. The second night, Clara would not go to sleep until we turned out all the lights and even then it was hard. It was after 10:30 before she was asleep. Last night, I tried another tactic.

Since the light has been part of the problem, at least according to her complaints, I built a fort over her on the bed. The cozy seaside inn (It's actually called The Seaside Inn) we are staying in has tall headboards with posts on the beds. I tied an extra blanket around the posts and used extra pillows to prop up the blanket further down on the bed.

It seemed an instant success! Clara quickly settled down, snuggled with her stuffys and cooing about how wonderful the fort was. I was ready to award myself the "Dad of the Day" award and had a Facebook post prepped in my mind with the hashtag #dadftw (For The Win) at the end of it.

Over an hour later, Clara was making small rooms for her animals in the fort and was excited by the prospect of giving mom a thumbs-up from the fort when she returned from an evening out with some family. In the end, she got to give the thumbs-up to her mom, was awake until almost 10:00 and slept well through the night, once she was asleep.

So, while I didn't really win the battle of bedtimes with my brilliant idea, she is still excited by the fort and is lobbying to just leave it up for tonight. At least I'm a cool dad for her, even if she won't go to sleep at her bedtime, on this trip.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

SOLSC#28 - A Crapple?

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



"We could name it a Crapple!"

That's what I just heard my daughter say.

I'd been sitting in the high-backed chair in our hotel room, laptop on my lap, trying to get my slice going for the day. A conversation about Asian pears had been going on because there was one cut up on the table as a snack. I really wasn't paying too much attention. But then in that loud clear voice of a six -year-old, my daughter said, "We could name it a crapple!"

I looked over at my wife, a little perplexed, while also silently shaking with laughter. She said, "We were talking about the Asian pear." I continued looking at her, still perplexed.

My daughter helped out. "Because it's like a crunchy pear apple. A crapple!" She looked satisfied having explained herself so well and took a big bite of her slice of Asian pear...or should I say crapple?

Monday, March 27, 2017

SOLSC #27 - Rainy Day in a Small Town

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Rainy Day in a Small Town

We are visiting my 95 year-old grandmother in Kennebunk, Maine for our spring break. It's not exactly an exciting spring break and the weather is less than optimal for walks outside when she needs a break. But, after a morning and lunch of catching up, Bubba (What I named my grandma when I was two) was clearly ready for a break until dinner time.

So with three hours on out own and a dreary sky casting down a steady rain, we decided to go for a walk. Kennebunk and across the river Kennebunkport, are lovely little towns with long histories. The houses and shop fronts are nothing like we experience in Colorado. But it's also not tourist season and most of the shops are closed, including the cozy-looking coffee shops where we could warm up with a little nip.

But the library is open.

It's a large sturdy, brick building with two stories and a friendly atmosphere. Each floor is full of inviting rooms with built-in book cases, large windows, comfortable chairs and boat paintings and models. On the first floor, a small room with even smaller door gave me my first clue that it once was a bank. With a few questions, I learned that was indeed the case. Next it became the customs house for all of Maine, before that operation was moved to Portland in the 1920s. At that time it was bought and donated to the library district. This library is almost 100 years old!

So while I slice on a computer in the YA room, my six year-old daughter sits in a cozy window seat reading Dr. Seuss and Mo Willems books, and Susan does some book browsing of her own. The rain outside is steady from low clouds. Inside it is bright and warm and I'm going to start reading an interesting book (chosen by it's cover) and see if it would be good to buy for my classroom.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

SOLSC #26 - Hard Landing

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Hard Landing

Landing in Boston is always a little weird to me. Like many coastal airports, the approach tends to be over the water, and then about the time I start to get anxious, the ground appears twenty feet below and zipping by at 200 mph. 

Today, we were on final approach into Logan (Boston's airport) and I think we came in a little high. When the ground appeared under the wing, we seemed higher than usual and it was clear there was some wind by the way we were being bumped about.

The pilot brought us down quickly and we touched hard and bounced a couple of times before coming down for good. But it wasn't just a simple 'bump-bump-bump.' I was in the very last row and at first contact, we were at an angle and I could see the top of every heard jolt to the right in unison with my own. There was an obvious correction and the next bump caused every head to jerk left before we were airborne again.

In that split second before we came down again, a lot was going inside of me. Adrenaline started coursing through my body. My brain was trying to decide if it was just a bit of a rough landing and to stay calm, or if this would be a newsworthy event and I should let myself get scared. I waited for the next feeling of the wheels on the ground, eyes wide and brain wondering what direction the heads would move next. 

Every head nodded slightly forward at the third and final touchdown as the tires gripped evenly and the plane started to decelerate. My hand unclenched from my wife's with and extra squeeze and I made a silly joke about the contents of the overhead compartments probably shifting "during flight," parroting the taxiing announcement of the flight attendants.

It was not newsworthy. Phew!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

SOLSC #25 - My stomach aches...and it's a good thing

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



My Stomach Aches...and it's a good thing

Before the break of dawn:
The stars winked out
The last sliver of the old moon's pulled the sun over the horizon
Peach brushed the sky;
We gathered

Coffee mugs carefully wrapped around each other,
Morning embraces and high fives
Quick catch-up, and then,
We overcame group inertia
And were off

Foil wrapped breakfast sandwiches
More coffee
A bathroom break
Sixty minutes wedged into the backseat with three not-small men,
We unfolded our limbs into
Crisp morning dew,
Steam from the river,
The disc golf course

Two rounds of play
Peppered with insults, jokes, fist bumps,
Shenanigans!
The eight of us took everything too far,
Built joke upon joke,
Laugh upon laugh,
And couldn't have been happier

My stomach aches.
Cheek muscles exhausted.
Laugh lines deeper than before.
Belly and heart overfull.


Friday, March 24, 2017

SOLSC #24 - Dandelions

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



One Million Dandelions

It's been a dry winter in Denver and until yesterday, we had gotten less than a tenth of an inch of precipitation in March. Last night, it rained, sleet/snowed and got everything nice and wet.

Today, it was in the 50s, windy and the skies were sunny when the clouds were not racing by. I got home after school and went outside to check for eggs in the chicken coop. While my eyes were initially drawn to the bright daffodils and I was checking for tulips to be budding, I suddenly realized that my lawn was dotted with dozens of dandelions. 

I know they were not there yesterday. 

Obviously the roots and leaves were there, camouflaged in my grass. But after just a spot of moisture, the leaves were bright green on the brown-green grass and the yellow flowers had just appeared as if the dandelion fairy had visited.

How long before they burst into the little puffballs of seeds that my daughter won't let me do anything about since they are so fun to blow?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

SOLSC # 23 - Slow Lane

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Slow Lane

On the way home I dropped by the grocery store to grab a few items my wife texted me about. Cat food, 4 apples, 4 oranges, chocolate bars, and bananas. With such a light cart, I was going to zip through the self-checkout and be quickly on my way home.

Instead, I chose the slow lane.

I'm not saying that I chose the cashier with the longest line or anything like that. But I was at the end farthest from the self-checkout and the first cashier I passed was Paul; with no line. We have been going to this store for nine years and Paul has been there for most of them. I recognize quite a few employees there but he is the only one I really know by name and who also knows my name. And Susan's. And Clara's. And he is slow.

It took two minutes before he even scanned my saver card because he was telling me about the new car he had bought, including showing me pictures. I asked about his races, because he runs 5k and 10k races and apparently places and gets medals often in the over 50 division. He asked how Susan and Clara were doing. He again expressed his desire to get married within two years (he's not dating anyone though because he would have told me about that too). 

As all this is going on, and he is deliberately (read slowly) scanning my items and sending them down the conveyer belt for me to bag, I'm feeling impatient. Without Clara there for me to be distracted by, I am struck by how slow he is talking. I'm ready to go and get home and get hugs and EAT!

But I stay patient. I knew what I was getting into when I stopped at Paul's lane. He is kind. He cares. My daughter loves to say, "Hi Paul," when we see him, even if we don't choose his lane. And I like that I know a little something about him and he of us. 

So I smile. I take the time to breathe. I make sure to really connect. Because it's not going to make a difference of more than a minute. I just hope the people behind me appreciate him too, and have a little patience.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

SOLSC #22 - Magic Blue Blanket

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Magic Blue Blanket

In my house is a magic blue blanket. It usually lays on one of the couches in the living room unless it had been appropriated for a fort. It's a soft blue pile material that is great for wrapping oneself in and cuddling up. 

But that's not why it's magic.

It's magic because once it has been placed onto a lap, it calls to one of my cats, like a Siren called to Odysseus. Upon seeing it's blue coziness spread out over legs, Pip will immediately march from wherever she is and lay down. And while Pip is not the most friendly cat with strangers, so long as the magic blue blanket is involved, she is there and purring away. 

So tonight, I will take a few minutes on the couch, put the blanket on my lap, and smile knowingly at my wife, as Pip treads over for a cuddle.




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

SOLSC #21 - Classroom Loft

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



Classroom Loft 


My middle school classroom is set up as a core class, much like younger elementary classrooms. The students spend most of their time with me and I get some planning time during their electives and math classes. Most of their academic skills are worked on with me via their individual units. They are also given a list of projects to work on for the week and then large blocks of time to do them.

So with all that set up; over the summer, I built a loft in my classroom.

My students all have seats around the room and there are a few common tables for group work, but the loft has created a lovely additional workspace. Students can work up top writing or typing on the bench, hang out below, or even lay back on the pillows and while holding laptops, look like they might be working. While it takes some clear rules and a little personal responsibility, my students have handled the privilege of the loft well throughout the year. I can't believe it took me so long to build one.





Monday, March 20, 2017

SOLSC #20 - The Chiropractor

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.



The Chiropractor 

I stand tall, facing him. My chin nods towards my chest, and then raises to the ceiling, showing him my full range of motion. Somehow, in those few seconds, he diagnoses me.

Head off to the right (probably genetic)
Hips rotated (from disc golf)
"Are you having headaches? Your atlas is locked up." (Probably from sleeping weird and yes; I was having headaches)

I'm not really sure how he does it, but my back, my neck and my bad knee (and my other bad knee which is also my good knee) are generally in less pain since I have been seeing him. He either notices what hurts without me telling him or he responds well to what information I give him.

Then, it's down on the green leather "drop-table." 

He pushes a lever and my hips raise up.

"Take a deep breath and blow it out."

I do that, attempting to relax my muscles so it's easier for everything to move in the momen...

Push! Drop! 

And with an exhale like a martial artist performing a move while staying one with his chi, he makes the first adjustment.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

SOLSC #19 - 15 Things I Trust

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




15 Things I Trust In - 

1.  There are people in my life to give me hugs
2.  Clouds will always amaze me
3.  West is towards the mountains (I live in Denver)
4.  People are kinder than what I read about in the news
5.  Teenagers are deeper than they are given credit for
6.  Animals leave tracks and I want to follow every trail
7.  If we can dance together, we can get along
8.  Procrastination - I will always find creative ways to do it
9.  Bridges and airplanes; when I am on them
10. That my colleagues will always amaze me
11. I will always misspell "Colleagues" the first time
12. Spring flowers are more colorful than all others
13. Perfect athletic moments are worth all the fails along the way
14. The ability to make my own fun
15. Summer wind through pines trees is perfection

Saturday, March 18, 2017

SOLSC #18 - Coffee Shop People

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




Coffee Shop People -  

I often go to coffee shops to do my work. There, I can slip on my headphones, crack open my laptop, and work. But my mind wanders often and I spend time wondering about the people around me. Here are today's wonderings.

A woman sits to my right, young enough that I think she's is in high school at first. Her hair is long, brown and her face is not yet as defined and angular as obvious adults. But she is taking studious notes from a huge science text and has a quote tattoo on her arm. I've decided she's is either a nursing student or perhaps in a pre-med class in college.

On the other side, another young woman creates artistic doodles in a well used 5x7 notebook. She has a colored pencil case I'm a bit jealous of and twice I've handed her drawing implement back that have rolled off the table. She is also of an indeterminent young age, blond hair in a bun on her head, that younger round face and some acne. Initially I thought she was in high school as well but her face holds more wisdom and experience than that.

Two middle-aged men speak in another language against a window. They are probably from an African country. The one in jeans and a zipper fleece is probably in his late thirties by his face, although no grey highlights his black hair. The other in blue slacks and a white collared shirt, closer to fifty and bald by nature and razor. 

A woman, who looks like a grandma in her bifocals and scarlet Gryffindor hoodie, reads from a tablet while sipping on her iced coffee. The font is set large enough I can almost read it from my spot in the sun 10 feet away.

In the corner, a young man in jeans, white t-shirt, ball cap and ear buds hunches over a laptop, possibly watching a March Madness game via the free WiFi. His paisley boxers creep above his black belt and his bear length matches that of the hair showing below the cap line. He has the tall, broad-shouldered physique of a former athlete trying to stay in shape as life has moved on from extra hours to spend working out an being part of a team. Then he pulls out a graphing calculator and shoots down a lot of ideas about what he he's doing here.

A shaved-bald man with short beard and bushy eyebrows talks on the phone, reads a book on the table and types on a laptop. His white dress shirt is untucked from his jeans and has the sleeves rolled up his forearms. He is joined after an hour by two women and a girl who sits on his lap and lays her head on his chest in a huge hug; like my six-year-old daughter does to me. I see my own face in his as he strokes her hair. She is in the tween/teen age range and I wonder how much longer she will do that and if he wonders the same thing. We both consider, when will be the last time?
The sun has moved around behind me causing glare on my computer screen and heating the black sweat shirt I put on an hour ago when the AC kicked in. Customers of all kinds constantly flow through although the rush that was going on a while ago is well past and the baristas are a little more relaxed and friendly while they fill the orders. There are a lot of places to people watch but coffee shops are among my favorites.

Friday, March 17, 2017

SOLSC #17 - Yur-in Trouble

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




Yur-In Trouble:
Yup. That's a urinal with a bag on it. It's out of order and it's a slice of my life every I head into the bathroom across from my class. There is one urinal and three stalls and everyday for the last ten school years, I've used it. But for the last two weeks, the bag and sign have been on it and I'm such a creature of habit I can't get used to it.

Like a lot of teachers, I 'go' when I can go, or 'go' when I have to go! After ten years of opening the door, taking three steps, and turning ninety degrees right, I'm set to get right to business.

And then I see the bag and the sign.

And I turn around to one of the stalls.

And can't believe I'm surprised to see it there.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

SOLSC #16 - Conferences

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




Conferences:

My school does Student-Parent-Teacher conferences three times a year: August, November and March. For 30-45 minutes at a time, students share portfolios of their best work, reflect on their learning, discuss their goals and awkwardly acknowledge shortcomings. I'm blessed to have students for two or even three years so the growth I get to witness is nothing short of astounding.

Today, a student had her last conference with me, after walking in three years ago, scared, lonely, anxious, proud. We have been through a lot of tears, edits, smiles, setback, and successes. As she walked in with he mom and sat down to share, it was all I could do not to shout, "Look how tall you are! Hear how funny your writing is! I love how you advocate for yourself! I'm about to cry thinking of not having you in class next year!"

Tomorrow, I will doing it again, 7:30-5:00, with a 45 minute lunch break. Another  long day. Another joyous day. Another sad day. Five have been with me for three years and will be moving on. Several for two years and will be leaving with another piece of my heart. And some will be coming back and we will talk about our future class and what we want from next year.

This afternoon younger student, walking down the hall with her mother, told me she hoped I was her teacher next year. I was grateful and embarrassed and thankful. And I smiled.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

SOLSC #15 - Spring Poem

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




Signs of Spring:

Yellow daffodil buds bob above
Wrinkled purple and white crocuses
Thirsty grass shoots up new green and begs to be watered
Flocks of robins flit through the trees
Starlings share time with flickers
As they dig through the thawed ground in my backyard
Great-horned owls sit on nests on branches still bare of leaves
And the geese flocks shrink by twos as the long-necked lovers begin their mating dances

Flags snap tight as the wind
Blows away the detritus of winter

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

SOLSC #14 - Good Night, I Love You,...

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.




Good Night, I Love You...

Every night, after putting my daughter to bed, we say the same thing. I'm standing in the door peeking in, she's cuddled up under her covers with more stuffed animals than God around her. How does a child end up with some many stuffed animals. I think we've given her maybe three in her life. 

"Good Night, I love You, Sleep Tight, See You in the Morning!"
"GoodnightIloveYouSleepTightSeeYouintheMorning!" She replies. "Tell Mom and the cats that."
"I will. You tell your stuffed animals."
"Okay."
"Love you."
"Love you."

It's just a few seconds each night, but no matter how fast or slow we say the words, they mean the world to me...and I hope to her.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

SOLSC #13 - Animal/Raptor List

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Animal/Raptor List - 

Today we my class took a trip to a ranch with a replica of a fort on it, up near Greeley, Colorado. We didn't go to see the fort, we went to see the South Platte River, which runs across the property, and talk with some water managers about how water rights work in Colorado. While it was a little chilly, with the sun behind the clouds and a humid wind zipping by, I love that we get to go out into the world and experience it. I, of course, paid close attention to the guest speakers and learned quite a bit myself. But what really makes these trips for me is the chance to be outside, looking for animals and animal signs. That's my passion, and always has been. So here is my animal list from the day.

Immature bald eagle flying across I-70 on the way up
A golden eagle  near Greeley
Several great blue herons throughout the day
Two mature bald eagles while driving home, both near Barr Lake
Countless hawks, mostly red-tailed and Swainson's
A marsh hawk, viewed through the fort window, that was looping up and down over the flood plain
My first meadowlark song on the year!
Raccoon tracks along the river and several deer tracks too
Coyote scat
A two-day old calf, wobbly next it's long-horned mother
Great Horned Owl, sitting on it's nest in a tree. Viewed from I-70 as we entered Denver city limits

Sunday, March 12, 2017

SOLSC #12 - Coffee and Cocoa

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Coffee and Cocoa:

On our way to pick up a bale of straw for our chickens, I stopped at Starbucks for a coffee. Clara, my 6 year-old daughter was with me and of course asked for a hot chocolate. I said, "Yes," but first we had a quick chat about the effects of sugar on her behavior and potential grumpiness.

Luckily, the Drive-Thru line was long so we decided to go inside. Also lucky, the dark roast was just being brewed so we had to cool our heels and wait and began a fantastic conversation about math; and she started it. She told me to give her a math problem so I started with something like, "What's 3 x 2"? Once she came up with the answer, I asked her how she came up with it. She gave me two different ways she had done it and asked for a word problem.

"If Sally is ten and her brother is half her age, how old will he be in three years?" I was very curious what this problem would do to her and if she would be able to solve it and track her thinking. I think she has a wonderful math mind but I'm a big-kid teacher so I'm not totally up on primary grade development. Also, it seems like young minds make unexpected quantum leaps related to just about everything and I can never tell when her last one was.

So it went on like this for twenty minutes. After I asked her a few problems, she asked me a few. We sipped coffee and cocoa, watched for a Hawaii license plate out the window (the last one we are looking for this month) and solved math problems.

Since you are probably wondering, yes, she quickly solved the problem of Sally's, bother's age. I had to come up with harder questions. She's also is doing a good job of not letting sugar be the problem is sometimes is. Double-Dad-Win!

photo credit: Network Osaka Deep down inside we all love math T-shirt via photopin (license)

Saturday, March 11, 2017

SOLSC #11 - Mental Challenges

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Mental Challenges:

I step up to the the colored disc, laying on the dry brown grass. My peach colored putter with the skull stamp on it, spins on the index finger of my left hand as I size up the situation. I am about twenty-seven feet from the basket, my goal, facing into a slight headwind. I check quickly for any branches along the line of my putt that might impede it's flight. The ground is mostly flat but slops gently away and if I completely miss there is a chance my disc could roll away. I make up my mind that I should be putting to make this shot and not laying up. That is an important conscious decision because if I'm not clear on my specific goal, my body does weird things. The results are usually a missed putt and often it is so poor that the comebacker is at least as long as the putt I just tanked.

The above takes a few seconds. It's where all my observations, analysis of the situation and decisions are made. Once my mind is set, it's time to let my body and muscle memory take over. I go into my routine, trying to treat this putt like I do every other putt. It's about feel, finesse and just a second of action to pull back and then toss the disc towards the basket. Thoughts are to be acknowledged and then moved along and thinking is verboten. Thinking, while doing what should be automatic, introduces tension and takes away the smoothness of athleticism.

But today I am having mental challenges. I've missed several putts, it's a tough course, it is the first tournament of the year, and nothing about putting has felt smooth.  Even easy short putts under ten feet feel rough and I've almost missed a couple. I should be solid on all putts under thirty feet. They won't all go in but they most should and the rest should be close. Today, I'm short, right, high, and my misses have led to tougher putts than is reasonable. I'm holding my breath and even biting my lip once I release each putt, hoping it finds it's way to the bottom of thee basket. So really, I'm just trying to get through the round without completely blowing up.

I try not to think about what this putt means. If I nail it, I get a birdie and perhaps can start a little comeback the last few holes of this relatively poor round. I step back, replant my foot and start my routine. I focus on the link in the chain I will hit with the disc and imagine throwing the disc through that link. I move my arm through the throwing motion a couple of times. Once it feels good, I rock back and forward on my legs and toss the disc...just as a thought about my score wanders into my mind

It's off. The moment it leaves my hand, I can tell I didn't follow through enough and the disc sails left of the basket, skipping on the dry grass to twenty-one feet on the other side. Frustrated, I try not to hurry and go through my routine again. A four on this hole would be pretty demoralizing. The next putt feels tight and awkward but it manages to fall into the basket anyway and I give a little hop of relief and celebration. I blow out a big breath, collect my putter and grab my bag to head to the next hole. 

Putting is mostly mental for me and today was one of the days where nothing came easy. I managed to come back a little in the afternoon round of the tournament and putt a little better. It didn't ever feel easy but I made most of the putts I should have made. In the end, I placed 10th out of 30 players in my division and made back a little more than my entry fees in prize money. I had higher hopes for the tournament but I still a wonderful day playing disc golf with friends I've known for 15+ years and new friends I made today.

Friday, March 10, 2017

SOLSC #10 - Early Riser

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Early Riser:

Tomorrow, the sun rises at 6:15am and I will see it from the road. I'm actually a night owl but I'm playing in a disc golf tournament in the morning and it's two hours away. So I'll be headed south from Denver along I-25, watching for the first hints of purple in the black sky. Clouds are in the forecast, but if I'm lucky, there will be a break in the east, allowing the suns rays to cast painted hues of pink, orange and red across the sky. Maybe it will be a classic Colorado sunrise, growing and glowing better and better until I realize it's gone. Maybe the clouds will be so dense it will just get lighter and lighter until I realize I don't need my headlights any more.

But I know that the sun will sleep in an extra hour on Sunday and I will curse the darkness and the time change Monday morning.


Here is a video of me hitting a sweet shot in a tournament four years ago. The previous shot had flown out of bounds but knocking in this shot from 100+ feet was a great feeling. Hoping for some more of that feeling tomorrow.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

SOLSC #9 - New Units

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Unit List:

Note - This is the first time in four years of this challenge where I have not actually posted a blog on time. I had a busy day and had the blog planned all along but a dear friend was over for dinner and I wasn't willing to end a great conversation early to get this post up. Also, being in Denver, it's not yet midnight here so I'm going to claim I'm still "good."

The twenty-three middle school students in my classroom have chosen new individual units to study for the spring. The job of me and my co-teacher is to use these topics, and the questions generated by the students, to craft educationally appropriate projects for each student. In reality, we will generate ideas, find some great resources, add in our own questions, and then work with each student to get on the same page for each project. We are good at making great projects, but the students are even better because they help us zoom in on what is important to them. We just need to add in the appropriate academic skills, challenges, scaffolding along the way. And we LOVE helping, watching and reflecting with the students as they pursue what that are passionate about. Enjoy the list below and imagine what you could investigate about each topic.

Hip-hop Song Break Down
3D printing
Sneaker Culture
Alternative energy
Supreme Court Cases
The image of beauty through history and how makeup is made
Glassworking
Taxidermy: The study and preservation of natural creatures in their visual appearances, lifestyle, and traits through display
Native American Animal Totems
Dairy
Advertising
Ice Cream
Computer Software
Instrumental Engineering
Marriage
Food Culture and Tradition
Social Media
Solving the African Water Crisis
Political Activism
Criminal Law
Photography and Social Media
The future of humans
Food Around the World
Culture expressed through food
Digital Art

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

SOLSC #8 - Musical Memories

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


Music Memories - 

I'm not particularly musical, at least artistically, but songs have the ability to evoke emotions and memories for me. It's surprising to me how many things I remember, only because I hear a song that is linked to that event or the people associated with it. 

Growing up, I had almost no control over the music we listened to in the car with my parents. My mom preferred silence so we could talk and my dad had his own music or NPR. It was quite the amazing moment when my brother and I discovered, on our first joint radio, that there were radio stations beyond KADX JAZZ and KCFR (Public Radio). But my dad also had a million mix tapes that he had made and his college roommate opened a record store so he was always relatively in the know about good music. Santana and Jimmy Buffett were popular artists we sang along to in the truck as we headed up skiing. I especially remember my dad, younger brother and I belting out, Just the "Three" of Us, along with Grover Washington, while smiling at our clever change of the lyric.

Van Morrison has played a prominent role in several transitions in my life. Into the Mystic was my high school graduating class song, which for 1993 was a surprising but appropriate choice. Moondance is the song my wife and chose for the first dance at our wedding. Our first date (that wasn't actually a date) was a moonlight walk through the streets of Grinnell, Iowa while we were in college there. When I was leaving my first teaching job in Olathe, Colorado, the lyrics and music Steal My Heart Away  brought easy tears to my eyes then and now and seemed appropriate for the moment. I loved the students, colleagues, and friends I made in my nine years there and it was time to move on. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. I don't regret it, but I could have been very happy staying there.

Many songs bring me back to college, especially my first year when my memories are sharp, fresh and unblurred by the subsequent years. I was introduced to new people, passionate about their music and I did not always have control of what was playing around me or even in my dorm room. Plus, the student lounge on my floor had cable and MTV was often on and I spent many an hour watching Mother by Danzig and Dreams by The Cranberries among other early 1990s hits. 

Wow, as I have gotten going, I could add dozens more songs and memories. I have not even touched on my early days driving with friends from high school, the songs we danced to in college, music shared with my wife, or my attempts to stay current on popular music by blasting CDs made by my students on extended trips the past ten years. And of course, my daughter, who is six, has a heavy influence on the music I listen to these days and I'm sure there are neural pathways being currently formed that will affect my memories the rest of my life. I guess I'll save all those for another slice this year or in the future.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

SOLSC #7 - On The Fly

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


On The Fly 

Today was the first day of Ultimate practice. Ultimate is also known as Frisbee Football or Ultimate Frisbee. It is the fourth year I have led the team, after a group of students started the team and asked me to be their coach. Ultimate is a coed sport so encouraging girls to play, and boys to include them is an additional concern. Each year I have some of the same worries like: Will enough students come out to play? How will it work having students, ages 10-14, on the same team? How will we make one team from a group that include five classes, at least two genders and a wide variety of skill levels? Am I a fraud (I only ever played casually in college)? Will we have fun?

Well, after three years of having a lot of fun, winning most of our games some seasons and only winning one last season, there were thirty-two students out to play today, and another fifteen-plus who could not make it but said they planned to be on the team. That's a lot of kids! That's actually too many kids but since the focus is on fun and not winning, I know it will be just fine. It is a game only seven players can play at the same time so I work to make sure everyone plays with a low focus on winning and a big emphasis on having fun and skill improvement. Plus, everyone should be able to make a pass and be passed to during the game.

But today, there are thirty-two kids in the gym, looking at me and my assistant coach. Fourteen played last year, eighteen are trying out a new sport, and the wind is howling outside. Spring in Colorado is not kind to people who are learning to throw and catch a 175 gram flying disc for the first time, my practice plan looks to be out the window, and we will be managing things on the fly. Going outside today is not a good option.

Luckily, my assistant coach is an amazing environmental education teacher and we have worked together for the last seven years, taking our students across the country. We have spent over 100 days on extended trips with students, dealing with icy roads in short busses near Breckenridge Colorado, being kicked out of Chaco Canyon NP (that government shutdown a few years ago), torrential rain storms in Goblin Valley Utah, and jellyfish stings in the Florida Keys. We know how to adjust on the fly together, we trust each other to lead, follow, and just plain make it work.

So instead of heading to the park and going through the practice plan we had outlined and shared, we stayed in the windless gym, had everyone make a lot of throws and catches, set up team expectations for fun and spirit, ran a lot in socks, and had the players with experience give a short scrimmage the last few minutes so we could learn some basic rules and answer questions.

A lot of my teaching and coaching goes that way. I have a plan, something happens that makes that plan go out the window and I spend the rest of lesson, or even day, improvising and making it work. 

It does not always work.

Sometimes it works like magic.

Today, the first practice was magic.


photo credit: prawnpie Colorado Cup VI via photopin (license)

Monday, March 6, 2017

SOLSC #6 - The Loose Tooth

For the fourth year, I am participating in the SOLSC and guiding students from my classroom and my school on the same writing journey. Here is the link to our school blog and the 15-20 students who are participating in the Classroom Challenge.


The Loose Tooth

Last night, my daughter got her first loose tooth. She was biting into a chicken nugget, got a weird look on her face and then loudly exclaimed, "I have a loose tooth!" The timing was auspicious because she has a dentist appointment today (Monday) to pull four baby teeth on the bottom. They are not loosing up but the adult teeth are starting to emerge. My wife never had a loose tooth and ended up at the dentist getting most of her teeth pulled and early indications are that my daughter is the same way.


We had just finished explaining the dentist plan to her about ten minutes before the chicken nugget (they are homemade) caused 'the loosening.' The rest of the evening was spent wiggling the tooth, worrying it with her tongue, eating apples, reading Andrew's Loose Tooth by Robert Munsch for bedtime, and a few half-hearted attempts to grab onto it, by yours truly. Clara was really excited and also sensitive about her tooth. She often cries 'tears of joy' when emotions feel big, even if they are not related directly to sadness, fear, and anger. Last night was no exception. We had tissues for tears, tissues for tiny amounts of blood, and tissues to clean up melting ice. 

This morning, the first thing she asked me was to try and wiggle her tooth out. It's not that far along and it's really hard to grab onto those little milk teeth, even with a tissue. I don't know if it will come out in school today (I hope so for her to have the story and sharing) but I do know the next time I see her, there will be a big gap in her lower jaw.