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Playing Musical Chairs April 18, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Student art in the style of Miro. I believe the girl really did poke her eye out! Or maybe it was just her annoying neighbor.

It’s that time of year.   With all the yakking and smacking (gum, rubber bands, and pencils that is), I need to move some kids around. But my students sit at tables for two, so anytime I move one kid, it has a domino effect.

It’s also that time of year when students learn to write a persuasive letter. So if a student wants to switch seats, they have to persuade me. Over Spring Break, I ran across letters students had written in years past, which cracked me up. I gave them a few tips on how to be tactful, and was pleasantly surprised at the results. Please bear in mind some are English Language Learners. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Dear Ms. M,

May I change seats please? Because Ricardo steal my pen and every day Ricardo say “Can I have your pencil?” and “Can I use your sharpener?” I want seats by Anthony.  Because Anthony he can help me, and I can ask to him. Most important Anthony has own pencil.

Dear Ms. M,

I would like to change seats please.  The person next to me talk to much and they are very bossy. That is why I want to move. The person is N and she tells people to do this and do that.  She’s telling me what to do write now. If you move me then I will work harder and help people in need.

Dear Ms. M,

May I change seats please.  The person sitting next to me talks all the time so it is hard for me to focus when you are talking about all the really important stuff.  He is also a big boy so he takes up a lot of leg room.

All three students got to change seats. But then they got to learn an English idiom – The grass is always greener.

When Your Relative is a Pig April 10, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal.
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In her Easter bonnet...

My sister-in-law Jane called from Idaho to tell how her seven year-old twins, Izzy and Kate, told their teacher they didn’t eat pork. When their teacher asked why, they replied, “Because our cousin Maisie is a pig.”  The teacher thought this was so imaginative, she shared it with Jane, who looked at her and with a straight face and replied, “Their cousin IS a pig.”

Of course, Jane then asked if we could dress Maisie up in some clothes and send a picture so the twins could take it for Show and Tell.  Yes, an outfit for a pig.  I added that to my very long “To Do” list.

By chance, our friend Nora was visiting from Chicago.  She’s hopelessly artsy and prone to flights of fancy. When she heard this story, I swear I saw her ears prick up.  “Maisie needs a hat,” Nora announced, as though this was the most sensible idea in the world.

With all the frills upon it.

The next day, Nora was “on it” though she returned home midday to measure the distance between Maisie’s ears.  Two days later, I found her sitting outside fashioning a hat from crepe paper and all the trimmings she’d purchased at Zinnia. There was a chill in the air, but compared to the the weather back in Chicago, it was downright balmy. While Nora fussed over the details, Maisie snoozed in the sun nearby. Every artist needs a muse.

Last week, I finally decided we had to get a shot of Maisie wearing THE hat. Working with a Plus Size model with an attitude is no walk in the park, but Maisie sees Project Runway in her future.  And I finally got to cross THAT off my “To Do” list.

Ultimately, this “project” made me thankful for all the crazy creative people in my life.  Those people, who without hesitation said,  “Their cousin IS a pig!” and “Maisie needs a hat.”  My hat’s off to them.

It’s The End of the World As We Know It April 4, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Personal, Teaching, Worth Knowing.
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A lot of my third graders have asked me if it’s true that the world is going to end in 2012.  I tell them, “The world will end when I say it will.”  They seem relieved.  To them I’m the Oracle of Delphi.  I tell my students that the world was supposed going to end so many times in my lifetime that I’ve lost track. “And I’m still here!” I announce, almost giddily.

To think that all this hubbub about the world ending is because those wacky ancient Mayans were too shortsighted to carve a calendar past the year 2012.  Sort of like my husband and I not planning for our financial future when we were having so much fun back in NYC during the ’80s.

The above map is from USGS shows just how fractured the Earth is.  Imagine if it took into account the global economic climate?  Yikes!

Several weeks ago we had an earthquake drill at school.  An announcement came over the PA informing us that, “the earthquake has begun.”  My students dutifully ducked and covered under their desks stifling giggles. Someone always farts. More giggles.  Then we marched single file out onto the field. If only Mother Nature would actually announce upcoming attractions over the school PA.  Sigh.  Hey, I take this stuff seriously.

My husband and I moved back to California just in time to experience the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. We scrambled out of bed and ran for the doorway.  I stood there in the dark screaming for my sons, who swear that would have slept through the entire ordeal if my screaming hadn’t awakened them.  We lived in a second floor apartment in a masonry building built in the 1920s.  As we stood there listening to the sound of glass breaking, I could feel a wave roll under the hardwood floor as though we were riding a giant ocean wave.  Never have I felt such power.  Never have I felt so scared.

As soon as the shaking stopped, we ran outside and went across the street to an open field in front of Beverly Hills High School.  People were drawn by the safety of a large open space.  After a few minutes, I realized we weren’t going to back to bed anytime soon.  I told my husband as long as he was running back into our apartment to get a radio, he might as well get me my morning Coke.  I’ve got my priorities straight.

We stood there with our bewildered neighbors, in various stages of undress, trying to guess the magnitude. On the horizon, huge explosions of blue light pierced the night sky as tranformers around the city blew out.  It was surreal. My husband returned with my Coke.  While he was in our apartment, my parents had called from Omaha. They were watching CNN.  We learned the magnitude was close to a 7.  (Later it was downgraded to a 6.6.)

We were lucky.  The living room plaster cracked and the TV was tossed ten feet across the room.  It left dents in the wood floor where it landed.   It could have been so much worse.  We invested in straps for the bookshelves and wax that held everything in place, so you could just dust around it.  Two weeks after the earthquake, we were still all sleeping in one bed.  I wore my clothes to bed and slept with my glasses on.  That’s how big of an impression the earthquake left on me.

Time passed.  We bought a house and paid to bolt the foundation with a cash advance on our credit card. Our house is made of wood.  If this was a story about the Three Little Pigs, the smart pig would be the one living in a house made of wood – that’s the way to go in Earthquake Country.  We didn’t bolt the bookshelves because they were built-ins.  We told ourselves that our house, which was built in 1910, had weathered almost a century of earthquakes.  The chimney is in perfect condition. We lost the earthquake wax. This was a period of inactivity on our part accompanied by seismic inactivity on Mother Nature’s. The earthquakes in Haiti and Chili have been a clarion call. It’s not a matter of if, but when.

Today I was doing report cards online when my desk began swaying.  A slow gentle rocking that made everything in the room seem like it needed to be screwed in tighter.  A creaky boat kind of feeling.  I ran outside where my neighbor and my husband were talking.  They hadn’t felt it, but our neighbor told me to google the USGS.  I learned the swaying I felt was from a 7.2 earthquake in Calexico.  In case you didn’t live in California or on the Ring of Fire, that’s definitely a Mama Bear-size quake.  I’ve already double checked to make sure the flashlight is next to the bed.

I’m counting down the days until Spring Break, but not until 2012.  I’m more inclined to think that it’s more likely that the Earth “as we know it” will end. And to be honest, I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing.  Hard times have already forced people to focus on what’s really important in life.  And it sure isn’t more stuff that you can’t even move now on eBay.  Just a thought. Enjoy Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire and REM’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It. Two of my all-time favorite songs.