Monday, August 26, 2013

Slice of Life August 27, 2013 – Searching for Fireflies

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hosted by Stacey and Ruth
There are almost no fireflies in Colorado, so when we travelled to the East Coast this summer, I was bound and determined to find some to share with my three year old daughter Clara.  I remember being a child, running around at dusk with my brother and cousins, watching the magical bugs blink on and off, the humidity heavy in the air and a feeling that I was someplace new.  I recall catching one and having it light up in my hands and my amazement of these little creatures.  I wanted to see Clara’s eyes light up brighter than the fireflies and see her face in that moment of surprise and wonder that I have grown to love when she “discovers” one of the joys of the world.

So as dusk fell at my aunt and uncle’s house near Boston, we went out every twenty minutes searching for fireflies.  We’d make a circuit around the house, over the lawns, through the gardens of flowers and along the path that we called “the secret passage” because it was so narrow and the bushes hung overhead almost blotting out the sky.  We found no fireflies, but we discovered frog lawn ornaments, flowers we had never seen before, new smells, pretty rocks and some great sticks that became magic spelling wands.

Two nights later, we were in a state park in Portland, Maine at my cousin’s wedding reception.  As Clara tired of the adult dinner conversation under the large lawn tent, I took her for walks on the grounds, looking for fireflies in the gathering darkness.  Once again, the fireflies were hidden away, but we stalked woodchucks and tossed them apples that had fallen from the trees so we could watch them eat.  A flock of wild turkeys, a mother and six juveniles, strutted out of the underbrush and chased down grasshoppers on the lawn.  The stars emerged from overhead and the reception tent looked like a fairy castle, lit up from across the way.

Tomorrow, twenty-two students will enter my classroom to start another school year.  We just completed two solid days of parent/student/teacher conferences, talking about goals, plans for the year, subjects to be covered and hopes and dreams for this year and beyond.  I know we have goals we may not reach, standards that may not be met, and dreams that may not be completely realized.  We are starting a journey, in search of our own metaphorical fireflies. 

If I were to measure my summer search for fireflies with Clara against the standard most public school teachers are held to, I was an “Unsatisfactory” parent.  We were searching for fireflies and did not find single one.  But was that wasted time?  We discovered and learned so much!  We explored, shared, touched, observed, laughed, played and loved where we were and the moment.  Fireflies were only the excuse for that exploration.  If we had found fireflies that first night, the first time around the house, would we have gone out again?  Think of what we would have missed.  I’m all for having goals in my teaching and my students’ learning, but I must remember to not be so myopically focused on what I hope to find, that I miss what we discover.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Slice of Life - August 20, 2013 - What the Mayan Calendar Taught me about Communication

The Tuesday Slice of Life is hosted by Stacy and Ruth
on their blog 
Two Writing Teachers.  Here's my weekly Slice.
He had a certain ageless quality that could have been a hard-lived forty-five or a relatively healthy eighty.  He was thin, almost gaunt, wore dirty jeans several inches too big for his waist, held up with a hemp rope.  His face was wrinkled, teeth long and yellowed, lively embers for eyes, and a long, white and wispy beard.  His hair was the biggest thing about him, coiled and matted into a tangled dreadlock, balanced above his head and contained in a homemade rasta hat made of old denim.  He was a character to say the least and he initially intimidated the students, but some braver ones finally started chatting him up.
I could write pages about Merril, the name he gave us; about his expert chess playing, seeming knowledge of everything, husking and tapping coconuts for our morning drink, or go on an on about his appearance.  But his gift to me was to further my understanding of my classes as a group of with different strengths and abilities to communicate.