Archive for April, 2009

Teaching Science

The best mood lifter I’ve found is teaching science to elementary-age students. Their absolute wonder & joy is infectious, and I cannot resist the light of discovery that fires their eyes. They are utterly seduced by finding out real things, and it’s hard not to feel positive & innervated by their passion.

In Which I Suddenly Like Something

So, I have never been a big fan of tomatoes. I love marinara sauce, tomato-based soups (even tomato soup itself), salsa (not pico de gallo though), etc. I just don’t particularly like tomatoes. Because of this hangup, I have always shied away from bruschetta (being as pretty much every type of bruschetta involves chunks of tomato on types of bread).

However, on a whim a bit ago, I ordered the bruschetta appetizer to share with him when we tried a new restaurant (Appetez off Roseburg next to the Virginia corridor). Not expecting much, I was thrilled when a sampler arrived – 3 flavors, 2 of each – perfect for sharing! There was a traditional one that was delicious & fresh without being overly tomato-y… and I actually liked it! The cheese & garlic & onion one that I expected to like the most was actually my least favorite. I was very into the heaps of fresh toppings on the other two. However, saving the best for last, I absolutely adored the clam bruschetta. I am a big fan of seafood in general, but it seemed to really pop – juicy & flavorful.

We’ve been back since & tried another appetizer (or, as this restaurant deems them – Appetez-er), and it was good (spinach-artichoke dip) but not as memorably flavorful as the bruschetta. My stalwart dinner companion has been enraptured by both of his entrees (veal parmesan & a spicy pasta), but mine were just good (calamari steak [the non-pistachio one as they’re still not serving pistachios] & stuffed salmon). Both the desserts we tried were excellent (tiramisu & a warm apple ‘n’ pear compote), and we’ll return again.

However, inexplicably, the bruschetta was what won my heart.

Note: Although this restaurant has been in business for over a decade, the last time I had been inside was when my high school boyfriend worked as a dishwasher in its former life as Deja Vu Cafe. Because of those late night forays, I have an interestingly thorough knowledge of the layout & location of supplies. Not really relevant, but it made me smile when I walked in.

Spring: A Promise

It’s still cold and windy here – too chilly in the morning to really justify short-sleeves but too warm in the afternoon to merit long ones. It’s a time of transition, which I tend to like, honestly. However, these teases of spring make even me, the cold weather aficionado herself, long for a little spring sunshine.

I was looking up spring quotes for a little project I was working on yesterday, and I came across these two (which I didn’t use) which really sum up raw April to me.

The sun was warm, but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day. ~ Robert Frost

April is a promise that May is bound to keep. ~ Hal Borland

Happy almost May!

Small Gripe

The husband installed Vista on my computer awhile back. To forestall the inevitable “I hate Vista!” comments, let me say that this is not a Vista gripe, per se. I’ve had it on my school computer for a couple of years now & am fine with it. However, it irritates the heck out of me that the calendar always insists on putting a comma between the month & year (i.e. May, 2009). Gah!

I think it’s a personal defect that makes me get up and flip the physical calendar rather than “subject” myself to the wayward comma.

Uncertainty

This is an uncertain time economically, of course, and that uncertainty has shaken our little school district quite a bit. A small district, we boast less than a dozen schools but a closely knit community, and I have always been happy teaching here. Repeatedly, I’ve said that the best part of working in this district was knowing that the administrators, teachers, classified staff & volunteers are all working toward what’s best for the children (and, sadly, not all districts are as hands on & child-centric as mine is).

That said, it’s breaking my heart to see the strife caused by our uncertain state budget and its ramifications on my profession in general, district & school in specific. We currently have six third-grade teachers at my site. If we stay at a 20-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, we’ll keep those six or even have seven classes next year. If we move to 25-to-1, one teacher is bumped. If we move to 30-to-1, two teachers might be bumped. At best, they’d be moved to other grades at our school. If not at our school, they could be moved to other sites at any grade level. At worst, they’d have no job.

These are my friends & colleagues whose futures are so uncertain. It’s my first student teacher, the girl who sat across from me at Bunco a couple of weeks ago, the woman whose baby shower I just attended, the girl whose hiring committee I sat on, the lady with whom I chat on yard duty, my grade level teammates & site colleagues… and it’s killing me to watch them unable to plan their futures.

We might know what’s going on by the end of May. We might know by the time our year-round school is slated to begin (July 7). We might know mid-August (after which some tracks will have been in session for 6 weeks).

I know that everyone is feeling the pinch, and – trust me – I know how lucky I am to know I have a job next year. It’s not the layoffs per se that are causing such discontent. It’s the uncertainty.

The worst part of all of this is that every single person in our district – from the superintendent to the yard duties at lunch – just want to know… and we don’t. We can’t begin fixing our problems until we know what they are, and our problems aren’t in our hands, which is extremely frustrating. Argh.

Lost

One of my greatest fears is being lost. I hate the feeling of not having a place, not knowing where I am going. I dislike being in the dark because I lose my way. I have been known to get irritable & panicked when slightly lost (thank you iPhone for your built in GPS). In a wider net, one of the reasons I believe in having service-based elements in my life (vocationally or casually) is because they help center me in my community. I feel stronger and more sure of myself when I am reaching my hand out to assist someone else.

That said, I saw this movie at The State tonight. I didn’t expect it to end as it did & sat through the credits hoping for more details (none, sadly, were forthcoming). Ultimately, it’s a story of what it’s like to feel lost & how friendship and a helping hand can make a difference – two themes that terrify and soothe me, respectively. One of the most interesting elements I found was actually not in the movie, but via a snippet of a review I read on the movie’s website after seeing the film. It was this:

“’Wendy and Lucy’ is rated R.  It has some swearing, a little drug use and a brief implication of violence, but no nudity, sex or murder. The rating seems to reflect, above all, an impulse to protect children from learning that people are lonely and that life can be hard.” – AO Scott, New York Times

I think that struck me because there was really nothing in it that was objectionable (a couple of swear words and a very mild moment of someone smoking a joint), but I wouldn’t take a kid to see it. I was so scared for her during the movie that I had to take my date’s hand and clench it. However, seriously, there was nothing objectionable. As the girl who once forgot that a Kevin Smith movie might not be appropriate for a 13-year-old (seriously just forgot about the swearing), me not finding a movie appropriate for kids takes Very Clear Cut Levels of Adult Material. That’s not present in this film, but it is so heart-wrenching that the reality is bringing tears to my eyes 90 minutes after I left the theatre. I cannot imagine one of my third graders seeing that movie and yet I wouldn’t say I advocated shielding them from reality.

Maybe it’s just that this one hits close to home?

Fair Skin

Although I’ve made peace with never being able to wear deep red with the aplomb of a dark-haired Greek olive-skinned beauty, I can never quite come to terms with the limitations of the fairness of my skin. My three closest people have oft-repeated how much they like my light skin & red hair, but 20 minutes out in the sun with my students turned that white skin to a medium shade of pink. 20 minutes!

I wouldn’t change anything about myself, but I am relieved that I married a man who tans gorgeously whenever he’s outside & never burns. Perhaps our children will be able to split the difference & venture into the sun without fear.