Give peace a chance

So a couple of kids got the bright idea to start a catfight in my classroom today.

I was decidedly Not In The Mood For It, so I stepped between the warring factions while they were still busy posturing and calmly explained that anyone planning to hurt one of my kids would have to come through me to do it.

Apparently I sounded convincing, because the confrontation ended right there, and we didn’t have any more trouble the rest of the hour.

Score another one for the pacifist with the Mama Bear streak….


How cool is this?


I got a nice surprise in the mail the other day: My friend Mike sent me this gorgeous linen postcard showing how my school looked in 1946. It looks basically the same now, except the trees are a lot taller and more plentiful, and the windows look slightly different because of an update that was done a few years ago to improve energy efficiency.

Our campus, which is just off Route 66, is really beautiful. I love our main building’s great Art Deco lines. (Zaphod didn’t know it at the time, but when he offered me the job last year, it was the tour of the campus that helped clinch my decision. It’s hard to walk through a 1938 building and say, “No, I don’t want to work here.” As I told Zaphod later: “You had me at Deco.”)


Lovely evening

Today started out rather shakily — I got up much later than I’d planned and had the nagging feeling that I’d just cheated myself out of half my Saturday — but once I got going, I picked up steam.

We went to Sapulpa for lunch at Chinese Family, then went down to the Frame Shoppe to get a gameboard laminated for classroom use. Frank gave me a very generous discount because it was for school (or maybe just because he’s looking out for a fellow roadie).

After we got back, I relaxed for a little while and then got to work on the question cards for the game. I found some inkjet postcard blanks on a shelf in my office and used them to make the cards, which saved me a lot of time. They turned out very well.

I mixed up a bottle of horchata and put it in the fridge to chill while I took Gretchen to the lumberyard to get boards for a collaborative project with another teacher. I came home with 10 boards, which I cut into two-foot lengths. Any Saturday that includes both Gretchen AND power tools is a goid Saturday, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m about to give the bathroom its weekly scrubbing and head into the tub for a soak and a facial, followed by a mug of hot cider, some homemade kettle corn, and a Bogie and Bacall movie.

Hope you’re having a good Saturday, wherever you are….



A few happies today:

1. Our academic team won their match this afternoon with a sudden-death tiebreaker question. The rules and structure of the games are different in Oklahoma in 2009 than they were in Illinois in 1993, and the buzzer systems have gotten WAY more advanced … but in the end, the game is the same, and I love it as much now as I did when I was playing. Awesome that our coach lets me tag along and help.

2. I went to Burger House for dinner after the game. Yum.

3. From the “Why I Love My Boss” files: After learning that a particular student was making a low grade in my class due to attendance problems, my principal agreed to meet with the kid, who likes him but doesn’t trust very many other adults. I like a boss who gives me what I want. I love a boss who gives my kids what they need.

4. I made some hot chocolate a minute ago. It was lovely … especially on a cool, gray afternoon.

5. Random thought: One of my girls wrote this great little riff the other day about eating oranges with chili powder and lime salt when she was visiting her grandmother in Mexico. The way she wrote about it made it sound so good that I am now dying to try it. I wonder how late Las Americas is open tonight?

Hope your day was full of little happies. 🙂


Six degrees

I had to help give a standardized test today, so I had a sub for my morning classes. The test ended a little earlier than I expected, so when I got back to my room, I had a chance to chat with the sub for a few minutes.

He had read the autobiographical article I’d posted on my newspaper-themed bulletin board and noticed I was an SIUC alumna. He said his girlfriend was from Carbondale, and her grandfather was a retired SIU math professor.

The odds of an English major knowing anyone in the math department were fairly slim, but on a lark, I asked him if he remembered the professor’s name.

“Dr. Elston,” he said, searching for a first name.

“Not George Elston?” I asked.

He thought that sounded right.

“Does he have a daughter named Jetta?” I queried.

“Yeah! You know her?”

Do I know her? She was my seventh-grade English teacher, my little sister’s scholar bowl coach, and the mother of one of my little sister’s best friends from Sunday school. In high school, I used to grade papers for her while babysitting her daughters. That experience more or less cemented my decision to become an English teacher … and here I was this morning, 500 miles and 22 years removed from Jetta’s classroom, talking to her niece’s boyfriend.

I never cease to be amazed by life’s odd little John Guare moments….


Things I learned today

1. “Across the Universe” is magic: It has a calming effect on rowdy teenagers.

2. Especially when they find out it was written during the Beatles’ hard-core hippie phase. That “jai guru deva om” bit knocked them out when they found out it was something the Beatles picked up from their guru. My sophomores seem to be obsessed with hippies. Maybe I could command a little more respect if I ditched my oh-so-professional business-casual Dockers and polos and just let my freak flag fly from now on….

3. Speaking of commanding respect, here is an easy way to keep the schmuck in the back of the room from telling you that your musical taste “sucks”: Break out a little Aretha Franklin. Even the professional wiseacres defer to Lady Soul when she demands a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

4. Every time I think I’ve wrapped my head around the impact of Cars, my kids surprise me again. Aretha got a big response, but the loudest cheer of the day — in every class — was reserved for Rascal Flatts’ cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life Is a Highway,” which the kids all recognized from the Cars soundtrack. Even my hip-hop fans and metalheads were singing along with every word. Amazing.

If any teachers or homeschoolers happen to be reading this and would like to borrow the idea, the lesson plan is here.


Rainy night

It’s a quiet evening here in Red Fork. After a pretty morning, the sky opened up around 2 p.m. and dumped buckets of rain on us for several hours. We took advantage of the weather to enjoy a nice dinner out without any crowds or hassles, and then I spent the rest of the evening puttering around the house, making kettle corn and working on lesson plans and trying to comfort Walter, who is afraid of storms.

I’m looking forward to my lesson for tomorrow. It involves using Aretha, the Beatles, and Rascal Flatts to teach figurative language. I can’t wait to watch the kids take apart the lyrics to “Across the Universe” and identify all the literary devices in it.

Hope your evening was warm, dry, and full of nice snacks and cuddly kittens.



I still feel as if I have a million things to do, but it’s been a great weekend thus far. I started it by spending about three hours in my classroom Friday evening, making a big dent in the backlog of papers I need to grade. I didn’t get them all finished, but I definitely knocked the stack down to something manageable.

Ron and I went to breakfast at Ollie’s this morning. I don’t eat breakfast very often, but if you’re going to do a thing, you should do it right … and it’s hard to beat Ollie’s for breakfast.

After breakfast, we took Gretchen over to the feed store in Sapulpa and then spent part of the afternoon moving the chickens back into the garden to get rid of some of the weeds. The girls didn’t like being moved, but they were happy to get fresh forage once we got them settled in.

I had just time enough after our chicken-wrangling adventures to take a shower and make a futile attempt to do something with my hair before heading to school for the Vision West block party. It was nice. The weather was pretty (at last — we’ve had rain for days and days and days), we had a good turnout, and I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a while.

After it was over, I stuck around to help with cleanup, which basically involved moving a lot of folding chairs. I had just finished helping put away the chairs and was standing around, shooting the bull with some of my bosses, when one of our assistant principals shouted my name. Before I could figure out what she was yelling about, my principal pulled me out of the way of a little cargo trailer that had just started moving directly behind me. Suffice it to say that my Achilles tendons are now his biggest fans, as his quick reflexes rescued them from almost certain doom.

Hope your Saturday was filled with sunshine and friendly faces (and, if necessary, blessed with someone fast enough to protect you from any potential disasters that might have headed your way).


Farewell to an old friend

One afternoon my sophomore year of high school, I grew bored with the treacle my peers were requesting on the radio. While rummaging through a hall closet, I found a milk crate full of vinyl, and in that crate, I found an album in a plain paper sleeve, with the words “PETER, PAUL AND MARY” printed across the top in my mom’s neat manuscript.

I spent the next couple of years seizing every available excuse to cut class and sneak over to Carbondale to scour the Record Exchange’s bargain bins for folk albums, which I could usually purchase for 25 to 50 cents apiece. That continued to be a favorite pastime in college; if I close my eyes and think about it for a minute, I can still smell the air in that store, a heady mix of patchouli and dust and yellowing paper, disintegrating cardboard and cigarette smoke and sometimes a hint of something earthier.

I’d always hoped Peter, Paul and Mary would show up to play a concert somewhere within driving distance, but it never happened. Even as I was liberating that first album from Mom’s collection almost 20 years ago, the band was starting to wind down, concert dates getting fewer and farther between. As usual, I was a couple of decades late and a dollar short.

Twenty years ago, Peter, Paul and Mary made me dream of changing the world. Tonight, I’m still trying.

Farewell, Mary. Thank you for sharing your voice with us, and thank you for inspiring a latter-day hippie whose social conscience expanded along with her record collection. Your legacy reaches farther than you’ll ever realize.