Friday, June 13, 2014

Standard 5

This time of year I am especially reflective.  At different points this week, I have looked back at the last ten months and asked myself - Did I really make a difference?  Even though I have poured out my best and I'm running on empty, I still think I could have done more. I evaluate - I wonder - I reflect. 

I'm not alone.  In fact, I'm one of over 95,000 just in my home state.  Do we all take this time to look over our shoulders at the past days, weeks, months? Absolutely not.  But the good ones do.  The good ones do it on a daily basis.  The good ones look at what we do and ask the hard question - how can I do this better? How can I make a bigger impact?

Who are we?  We are group of individuals dedicated to trying to make a difference - a difference in the lives of people we may never meet again after our ten month sprint - our students.  We are teachers.

Good teachers take what others may see as ordinary, incorrigible, and even at times, unloveable and we encourage, model, and love. Good teachers look beyond the ordinary and truly believe that each student holds promise.  Do we believe it everyday?  No way.  But then we pause, we take a step back, we reflect, and then we believe again.  

So while most, most outsiders that is, think we are olly olly oxen free because summer break is on the horizon; think again.  We are taking a good hard look at we've accomplished and  also, facing  a head on collision with the goals we didn't. We are looking ahead to how we can make the next year better.  We live Standard 5.   

Standard 5: Teachers reflect on their practice. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Summer Home

I frequented there often.  My visits would begin in the spring, not long after the temperatures started to rise ever so slightly.  The trees began to bud - leaves sprouting from long limbs that had slept all winter long.  They had had plenty of rest and were ready for action - so was I. 

It wasn't a large home, only one room but it was secluded and absolutely all mine - or so it seemed.  Plain, simple decor but that didn't matter. It's simplicity added to its charm. I'm not sure how long my summer home had been around before my visits began. Maybe 20-30 years.  I never bothered to ask - it didn't matter.  What did matter was that my summer home was a place where I spent hours playing, hidden away from the world - a place to pretend, dream, imagine.  All things that children do because they have absolutely not a care in the world - as it should be.  I miss it.

I especially miss it this time of year because when I look out my bedroom window and into my backyard, I'm reminded - reminded of my sweet summer home.  Reminded, but not saddened.  It brings a smile to my face and happy memories that warm my heart.  Memories of my summer home and special memories of the man the "built" it - James Clebborn or as all knew him, JC.

I'm not sure when he planted the weeping cherry tree, my summer home, that gave me hours of joy as a special hiding place to play.  He often worked in the yard and I can just imagine him standing there determining the exact perfect spot to plant the small tree.  I'm sure he evaluated all options carefully - I'm mean after all, this man got the string and stakes out when plotting a garden.  Those rows had to be straight.  I smile again.

He spent hours in his roses as well - trimming, pruning, powdering.  Too many times to count did we drive up to his house and I'd see him in the side yard where they were planted.  Garden tools and gloves on hand. I smile again.

I knew JC as my paternal grandfather, my papaw as we say in the South; however, he wore many hats.  Gardener, framer, furniture refinisher, father of three boys, insurance salesman who never met a stranger.  

This time of year when I look out my bedroom window and into my backyard at my own little weeping cherry trees, those pink buds remind me of him.  
They remind me of -

my summer home,
his rose garden,
the owl that hung in his garage to mark just the right spot for parking,
the $5 he would slip me and my cousin when she came to visit,
the tools I would play with as I watched him work in his shop,
his insatiable sweet tooth that I have inherited,
trips to the movie theater only to look over a see him snoozing,
his snores in the recliner with an old western playing on the TV,
trips to the mall and having him disappear while we all shop but spotting him later at the ice cream shop,
Louis L'Amour books,
traveling on summer trips and sitting in the front seat between him and my daddy,
the sticky mess he would later find in his pants pocket because he had stuffed jelly packets in there after our breakfast stop on those trips,
cardigan sweaters,
the long rock wall that lined his driveway that served as a balance beam at times - built by his own hands,
the matching fireplace in the backyard,
a family man,
I smile again, and again, and again...

Not more than probably 7 feet tall, my summer home was the perfect height for my vertically challenged stature. As I entered the one and only room, its long draping and skinny brown limbs and dark slender leaves became my walls that hid me away and left me to my imagination. It's funny, I don't really even remember the blooms - the very thing that now takes me back to those carefree days, but I'm sure they were there.  The blooms that remind me of him.

Happy memories that warm my heart. I'm reminded, but not saddened. He was a wonderful part of my carefree world - I miss him.  I smile, still.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Driving in the car a week or so ago, my eldest one-of-three says, "I just don't understand what it is with all English teachers and hyperbole!"  (Her pronunciation was hyper - bowl!)  The former English teacher in me took offense to this mispronunciation and said, "For the 10 millionth time, it's hi-per-bu-lee!"

Hyperbole, simile, metaphor, irony, pun, personification, and don't forget oxymoron! These all too familiar terms of an English teacher's vocabulary don't really excite others.  But to us word junkies...

Oxymoron - a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction. 

This winter has to be the worst for winter weather that I can remember since leaving my Tennessee mountain home in 1992.  Just this week we were slammed, yet again, with another arctic blast that caused incredible destruction.  Power outages, entire trees toppled, large limbs from trees scattered.  

I left early Friday morning in the hail-like sleet to head for a conference about an hour east of my house. Thinking slick roads were my biggest concern showed that I clearly misunderstood the dangers of this winter weather. Upon returning home mid-afternoon, I was absolutely stunned by the sights during my drive. Stunned of course at the too-many-to-count trees that hadn't been able to bear the weight of the ice. But also, stunned at the terrible beauty of absolutely everything covered in ice. Oxymoron.  How could something so beautiful be so destructive?

I came home to no power, but everyone was safe in our comfortable misery.  So out came the camera.  I mean what's a photographer to do when faced with no power in an ice storm?  Take photos, charge her laptop with the AC converter in the car so she can edit, and post pics online using her phone hotspot if necessary! 

We spent an evening of melancholy merriment playing charades by candle and firelight.  Kiddo's laughed, logs popped, blankets were stacked high in our conspicuous absence of heat.   We slept in the deafening silence - no power, no white noise!  But we had a roof over our heads, no trees on our roof, and all were safe and healthy.  And that - that was awfully good! Oxymoron.