Saturday, September 28, 2013

Great Old Broads for Wilderness

I called my friend Loretta this morning to see if she'd like to go up the canyon with me. It's been awhile since we've hiked together...but she promptly ditched her grandchildren and we met up for a lovely afternoon. Loretta and I used to teach at the same school and we used to having this teacher hiking group called "Tuesdays with Mountains." Every Tuesday there were 4-8 of us who would hike and snowshoe after school depending on the weather. Good times, people! I could tell you so many stories!

Anyway, it was great having Loretta all to myself. I gave her a quick hug and noticed her tee. I was just reading about Great Old Broads for Wilderness and here was a MEMBER wearing their shirt! Had to take a picture! Loretta drove and we had no idea of our destination other than "up the canyon." Well, she stopped at a pullout and she found these frosted leaves on the ground. That's what I love about her--oohs and aahs about all the same sorts of treasures I like to find in the woods. We eventually made it up to the summit and decided to hike a bit although the trail was quite muddy. We were locking the car when she found some Cracker Jack. She was hoping to stuff two boxes in her jacket pocket. I mentioned I had apples in my pack and that we could probably get by with sharing a single box of Cracker Jack. She said, "No, let's take two. That way we can EACH get a prize!" Laughter ensued.

We chatted and rambled and shared stories. We caught up to a family with three small children who were also hiking in the muddy snow. The youngest, perhaps two, was stalling in back and his mother was urging him to keep moving because we had come up behind them. This little kid stopped, straddled the trail with his two year old legs and called out, "Crawl through!" Hilarious! One afternoon was not enough time to catch up, but it was time well spent. We cleaned the mud off our shoes the best we could and headed to Cascade Springs.

Cascade Springs is a soothing place no matter the weather. We walked around and sat on a bench for a few minutes. Then we saw the Alta High School cheerleaders lifting one another effortlessly onto a tree limb. They had a photographer with them, so I snapped a couple myself. Not only did they lift each other with such grace and confidence, but they did it in cute clothing without a care in the world. After pictures, they began to jump down, landing safely and properly as I suppose they've been trained to do. So quick! So young! So beautiful! Perhaps they'll turn into Great Old Broads for Wilderness too one day.

Oh, Loretta, it was a healing afternoon. Thank you for making time for me!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Grocery Gurus

Ah, Math! The children were so excited today to "go shopping." Their assignment was to spend $30 as a group and boy! They have definite likes, dislikes, and powers of persuasion. I loved their creative thinking. One group planned a meal, another a picnic, another a trip to Clear Creek, and another planned a Halloween Party! Some cared about throwing in a fruit or veggie, but some felt really good about a case of Kit Kats with Scooby Snacks, cookies, and Powerade to go with. One group had steak, ribs, and chicken! One boy was advocating for himself amongst his group, "Guys, I LOVE candy! We gotta have some candy!" Another girl sort of screamed out, "Chips!" Somewhere in the middle of that we practiced rounding and estimating.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

"I can't think about Jesus right now."

What a nice weekend!

I just got back from a "ranger rendezvous" with my Darling in Idaho Falls. It was so great to spend time together. He is staring at his last week in YELL.

Church was pretty comical thanks to the prettiest little three year old blonde terror sitting on the bench in front of us. My! In K's words, "They have their hands full with her!" She was funny as well. The sacrament bread was being passed and she took some. A couple of moments later she said in her well-projected voice, "Mom? I can't think about Jesus right now. I need more bread!" When the water was being passed, she grabbed a little cup of it (comes in tiny little disposable cups, so you can drink it and then deposit your cup in the tray) and decided out loud that she would be keeping her cup. Her parents handed the water tray back to the person passing it and then she changed her mind and declared, "I think I want to put my cup back." So the guy holding the tray had already moved on, but he heard her (we all heard her) and came back in order to oblige. She dropped her cup in and then said to her father, "That was really nice of him to come back for my water cup!"

Yes, it was really nice and I hope your parents have the patience and fortitude to help you to learn to become really nice as well. Her dad folded the church bulletin into a paper airplane to entertain her, but she got pretty rambunctious with that and wouldn't stop flying it in an ever-so-distracting manner when he asked her to, so he abruptly grabbed the thing back and crunched it into a wad of paper. Of course, she found this to be upsetting and began screaming, "Stop it! Stop it!" She grabbed the spherical wad from him and threw it. It ricocheted off my chest and toward someone else sitting to my left. That's when Daddy picked her up and carried her screaming, "Stop it! Stop it!" out of the chapel. Mom was conducting the choir during all of this.

Hats off to parents everywhere!!!

On the way to Idaho Falls, I stopped off at the Brigham City Temple to do some ordinance work. Beautiful! So happy to spend time in The House of the Lord. It helped me to think MORE about Jesus. And a few other things.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I first read Wonder back in April. Then I read it aloud to my fifth graders in May. And then I started reading it to my new batch of fifth graders in August. They are loving it! And today...we met magic with that book.

So, I don't do book reports. I don't believe in them. I've read enough research and other books on reading to support my decision. However, my team does them as do millions of teachers in America, so I said that I might make them optional this year. This book report format/worksheet showed up in my box and then became lost in a stack of math and reading copies. I found it day before yesterday and thought, "What shall I do with this?"

During Literacy time, the Power Hour, I decided to bring up the whole topic of Book Reports with my darlings. Wish I would have taped that conversation. I heard some pretty bold, straight-up confessions about how these students don't really ever read the book, they don't enjoy reading the book, they don't like being forced reading from a certain genre, they watch the movie instead, they do the same book they did the year before, their mom does all their book reports, etc. I also heard some positive comments from children who enjoy reading. They especially love the art projects attached to book reports. Nobody likes the writing. It's the writing they really hate.

I enjoyed the candor and straightened them out on a couple of things. For example, I preached, "There are many things we still do even if we don't enjoy doing them because they are GOOD FOR US!" I also told them they are expected to read and I have sneaky ways of getting them to do it. I also have sneaky ways of teaching the stuff they are supposed to be learning when they have their mom do their book reports. So let me get to my point.

We decided to do a class book report. Yep, all of us are working on one book report together. And naturally, we're doing it on the book I'm reading aloud. And fortunately, it happens to be a Realistic Fiction piece which was required this month. In Wonder, the main character is August who is a fifth grader who was born with a craniofacial abnormality. This afternoon, I decided to model writing by tackling one of the book report requirements. We had our choice of describing the character's physical appearance OR...or describing the character's personality. We talked about which one we would choose and why.

My kids had a great discussion about this! In the end, they decided we had better go for personality because no one should judge a book by its cover. They decided Auggie had been scrutinized his entire life because of his deformity and we didn't need to scrutinize any further. It wouldn't be fair to him. And so we began to write. We cranked out a five sentence paragraph and revised a little as we went along. We searched for just the right words and we even quoted one of the characters in the book. It was a beautiful teaching moment.

But then...even more magic happened. One of my students asked about the book report requirement to draw a picture of the character. "How are we going to do that?" The room got really quiet. Long pause. Then someone else asked, "What if we drew him and made him look worse than he really does? That wouldn't be nice." Another stated, "We already said we were going to focus on his personality and not his physical features." My students and I were at a little crossroads. More silence. And then someone said, "It wouldn't be fair. I don't think any of us should draw him at all. He's already been through so much." Guys. Guys, I was getting emotional! Again, I was thinking, "Where is that video camera?" This discussion was so incredible! So then we decided that in order to honor Auggie and all of the challenges he has alredy overcome in life, we would leave him undrawn. But then...a boy had an idea! He said, "Maybe we could draw him with his astronaut helmet on!" And another said, "Or like the Bleeding Scream (Halloween costume)!" The class decided this would be acceptable.

But no one will draw his real face. That's not how we treat a dear friend.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Spencer, We Waited For You...

Brenda and Matt got married today. She was stunning. They are so happy together. The minute I met Matt I felt like he was the match for Brenda. In fact, after our dinner together, I messaged her and said, "For what it's worth...we vote Matt."

The best part of the reception was the roommate reunion. We weren't ALL there, but there were enough of us to make it a good time. So good to see the spouses, the photos, the precious children. So good to see folks. I am one blessed person to have crossed paths with so many incredible people on the earth. I'm so glad for all these friendships and relationships. It's the stuff life is made of.

The bride ditched her shoes pretty much from the get-go. Some of the rest of us followed suit as the evening wore on. I could have talked all night.

A student from last year passed by me this afternoon while I was on bus duty, "Is Ken home from Yellowstone yet?" I answered that he will be soon. Very soon. I was startled that this student was thinking of me and the fact that my husband has been working away. They think of me more than I would have guessed. And I think of them more than they know.

I think of you more than you know.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Cave Joy!

All of the pictures from our field trip today have pictures of minors in them, hence, no pics for this post.

It was a beautiful day at Timpanogos Cave! The students were great on their 3.5 mile hike! The parent chaperones were amazing!!! The weather was nice, the rangers were the best, and that cave...I just love that cave. I also loved being able to give the tour to MY students. I hope they'll remember on the standardized test at the end of the year what a FAULT is, because we walked through two of them today and I was sure to stop my group and say, "THIS! This is a fault! You are standing inside a crack in the earth. Remember that!" :)

The bus driver was delighted when I explained that one of my boys didn't show and that we had an extra ticket for the tour. I invited him to hike up if he wanted to and see that old cave. He lit up like Las Vegas! On the way down, he thanked me three or four times for the opportunity. He went out of his way to explain that he thought I gave "a very nice presentation." That just made me so happy because I truly am an interpreter and sometimes (only sometimes) it's hard to sit around and watch my husband do all the interpretation at NPS sites and keep my mouth shut. An employee made mention to me that I did a great job and he felt like my group was really into it.

The parents. I swear, the dearest, neatest parents from each class came to chaperone. They kept the children safe and weren't afraid to discipline when necessary. My heart was just so full when I saw them doing such a great job helping the students, and me, and the rangers. My hat is OFF to all of the parents of all of the children I teach! I enjoy watching other folks parent and I know it is the hardest thing ever. One of the moms hugged me when we got off the bus back at the school. All of the parents were sharing such positive comments about this field trip and how great it is. I'm so glad everyone had a good time.

The kids. At the end of the school day, I usually stand by my classroom door for dismissal. I hold my hand up so that I can high-five each student as they head out the door. Today, I had my hand up just like usual and the first kid out the door, a boy, spontaneously gave me a hug. Then, every single kid in the class proceeded to hug me saying things like, "Thanks for a great day!"

I'm so thankful I got to share such a special place with my students. I hope I can share many more extraordinary things with them whether it's within the walls of our little classroom or elsewhere. Thank you, Cave!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Wolves! And They Howled So Beautifully!!!

No, we weren't this lucky. We visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. Learned a lot. Loved listening to them howl.

TR showed me a very nice time again this weekend. I miss him so! He's my prize!

Parking Lot Thermal Feature

So over at West Thumb there's this bubbling pot at the far end of the parking lot (near the road) which we've never really looked at and we found it to be very cool and interesting this weekend. It's constantly bubbling, but it has this cone inside of it and sometimes the muddy water spurts out of the cone and sometimes it spurts out of the big hole itself--I tried to document the natural progression of things. LOVE the big splash at the end!

West Thumb Hikes

Went to see The Ranger this long weekend and enjoyed some little hikes in the West Thumb area of the park. First we hiked the Lake Overlook trail. It's a pleasant little hike which, obviously, takes you up to an overlook of Yellowstone Lake. At the top, there's this thermal area that didn't manifest itself until last year. They had to reroute the trail when the trees around it began to die (couldn't take the heat) and when steam began to pour out of the rocks. You just never know in Yellowstone when and where the geologic changes will take place!

After the Lake Overlook trail we hiked the Duck Lake trail. One thing I've enjoyed at various lakes around the park is the Beach Art left by other humans. We ended up being thankful for it here because it helped us to find the trail back. That's a pretty big shoreline and one might get a tad lost trying to find that one place in the pine trees that takes you back to your car. We saw elk tracks along the shore. We had the place to ourselves. Lovely little walk.