Isn’t so simple. Our lives are more complicated than ever in some ways – I’m working two jobs, my oldest daughter at home is working and a senior in high school this year with all the attendant financial aid applications and college visits, and the living situation continues to be challenging (more about that later). Throw in a few extra complications like another new boss (third in 3 years), a road that has been under construction for more than half a year and a car with no air conditioning or heat and debilitating rust at important connection points and you’ll see why I crave simplicity!
So over the past few months I’ve been working on simplifying things. Starting with the animals:
Our beloved chickens were once again being picked off by local predators – possibly the family of foxes that have a den across the road on neighbor’s property- despite our attempts to keep them safe. When we lost our rooster and one of my youngest daughter’s beloved silkies (the sweetest, fluffiest chicken you’ve ever seen- the white ones in this photo) while I was away in Houston at the Code.org workshop, I decided to give the remainder of the flock to my relative whose poultry set up was more secure.
So we are no longer tethered to the chicken coop (birds must be locked safely away at dusk) and we are back to buying eggs from the store. We miss the relationship – yes you can have a relationship with your chickens as you get to know them as individuals and enjoy their ways of interacting with you and the other animals. But we also no longer have to worry about the dog chasing and maybe catching one, or having to hunt down the stray that insists on nesting in the barn instead of the coop, or counting them and finding one missing.
We have also said goodbye to the goats – the Kikos anyway. We sold the entire herd at the beginning of the summer. We still have our little pygmy rescue goats but they will hopefully be moving on to new homes too.
No more evening feeding or buying barn loads of hay or chasing the odd goat that managed to scale the fence. And yes we (ok, I’m speaking for myself here) miss them as well. Their noisy greeting and curiosity whenever we were outside doing something, their individual voices maa’ing at us at feeding time. And especially their crazy goat antics that were such a delight to watch.
So we are no longer hobby farmers – in fact we aren’t even much in the way of gardeners either. After our little plastic covered greenhouse with all our seedlings in it took flight during a spring windstorm I pretty much gave up on that as well and the ‘garden’ consisted of a few cherry tomato plants in containers!
My only summer project was the patio, which I am proud to say we made a decent job of – doing it right by digging up the area, laying down weed barrier cloth, gravel, and sand before placing the paving stones. We even locked the stones and painted them with coating to make them more impervious to the elements.
It turned out to be smaller than I’d hoped, due to issues with cost and help, but I’m hoping to expand it next year. For now it’s a decent outdoor gathering spot.
As much as these actions have simplified our lives a bit new complications have arisen. The most daunting of these have to do with the house which seems to be deteriorating on an almost daily basis. Since it’s not on a solid foundation, but just on soil, it has settled and is no longer level. This means that the back door doesn’t shut completely, allowing for cold air to come in now that the temperatures have started to drop. Exacerbating the issue is the torn underbelly and oozing insulation.
I discovered this one night when I had to crawl under the house to catch our dog who was barking at a possum which had taken refuge there. As you can see not only is insulation spilling out but so are electrical wires. Before it gets much colder I need to suit up and crawl under the house and attempt repairs. You must know that while I can say that with a serious tone and a straight face there’s a little woman in my mind who is dancing around, tearing at her hair and screaming “What do you mean, attempt repairs? What do you know about repairing the underbelly of a mobile home????” Can I just say that my life is NOTHING like I expected or desired it to be? I’m not even going to go into the fact that we don’t have running water due to some fault in that system because if I do I’ll be late for my shift at the grocery store.
Happy Halloween. May all your monsters be imaginary!
PS – if you’d like to help with repairs there’s a few necessities on my Amazon.com wishlist.]]>
Not too long ago I took on a 2nd job. I thought I would share how that’s going. I work 20 hours a week (two 4 pm to 10 pm evening shifts after school and an 8 hour shift on Sunday) as a cashier at a large grocery store. I earn some money (about $6.75 an hour after taxes) and get a 10% discount on store brands. While I tend to spend that 2nd paycheck in the store it still means I’m spending less of the 1st paycheck there.
The store I work at is a huge flagship store setdown in the middle of a college town surrounded by forests and corn fields. The workers are diverse in age and ethnicity and in other ways as well. It is a tiring but good job and I like almost all of the people I work with and a good many of the customers too. The customers are as diverse as the workforce with a lot of international college students among them. I’ve tried to learn how to say hello and thank you in many different languages, including ASL so I can have more authentic interactions with them in the brief time we are together.
Because our store is so big we have an amazing array of food. We have a bistro, a butcher, a bakery and a deli, a sushi chef and a fine wine steward. We have gourmet cheese (like the Swiss cheese is really, actually from Switzerland) and our own Starbucks with all the macchiatos and PSL you could ever want. We have vegan, vegetarian, gluten-, high fructose corn syrup-, transfat- and GMO-free, low sodium foods and locally grown organic produce as well as exotic items like yucca root and dragon fruit. We have cruelty free cosmetics and wild-caught salmon. We have kimchi and potstickers, empanadas and curry. We have 20 lb bags of rice and individually packaged nibble-sized snacks. We have frosted flakes and Hohos and an entire double aisle of ice cream and three more of chips and crackers.
Food aside we are a happening sort of place, particularly on the weekends when we have live music and wine and craft beer tastings, free samples of small amounts of delicious foods, face painting and free balloon animals (and I’m talking golden-horned, black eyed unicorns here, not little pink wiener dogs that slowly untwist as you shop).
We are a very busy store – the closest to the college campus and currently benefiting from an influx of customers from a grocery chain that recently declared bankruptcy and closed its doors. At certain times, before a college football game, or holiday weekend, during move- in or family week the crowds are overwhelming and the pace frenetic. The work can be both physically and mentally draining – long hours standing on your feet (even with those cushy mats beneath them) and a fast, repetitive pace with the stress of timing goals hanging over your head (scan 27 items per minute from the start of the transaction to payment).
The customers are the best and worst part of the job. I love the little connections that are made and the stories shared – the chemistry professor from the university who promised to come do out reach at my high school, the young men from Hangzhou, China (which I visited last year) who were so surprised when I greeted them in Mandarin, the little old lady who buys a single carrot, banana and apple, a sliver of cheese and a can of chicken noodle soup because, as she confides each time, her children are grown and she lost her husband and she doesn’t have anyone to cook for anymore. I have my regulars – folk who shop late or early on Sunday and come through my line because I recognize them and I’m always ready to sacrifice my 27 items per minute goal to chat about how their day has gone or ask after their family or pets. There’s even an older gentleman or two who appreciate my sense of humor and come through my line to enjoy a little banter or sharing a joke.
On the flip side are the rude and unkind customers, the ones who find fault and complain about everything – the lack of parking spaces, the number of other customers, the damp counter in the bathroom, the lack of fresh golden chard… There are the customers intentionally trying to rip you off by printing the label for a less expensive bulk food item when the bag is obviously full of the premium stuff or who have peeled off the organic label on their half dozen avocados in hopes of getting 2 for $3 instead of 2 for $5. There are the ones who, even though there are no baggers present and a long line behind them, won’t lift a finger to pack their own groceries or who remember at the last minute that they forgot the cream cheese and ‘could you send someone to get it?’ and when you do they don’t like the brand the errand boy comes back with and tells you to ‘just forget it’ while mumbling under their breath about bad service. Luckily, most days, those customers are fewer than 1 in 10.
One of the downsides of the job is the additional amount of money I spend at the store. Food shopping is a weakness of mine, linked I am sure to periods of want in childhood and more recently, so I have a tendency to stock up when there are sales. And we always have sales! I am working to cut back on that, reminding the kids of needs versus wants and not cashing my check at the store.
The other downside is how much the job eats into family and ‘me’ time which is already limited. The two days I work the evening shift I barely see the kids that I am working the 2nd job to feed and support. And I am much more tired these days. I am not sure how long I will be able to keep up this pace but with my youngest daughter needing braces and the rear suspension of the car about to come loose due to rust, I suspect it will have to be awhile longer!]]>
I have never been faced with a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey. I’ve weathered minor, but still frightening, earthquakes in Santa Barbara, a wildfire that licked the edges of the city and flooding that closed the highway underpasses but none of these caused me anything more than anxiety or inconvenience. I’ve never had to flee my home, leaving behind possessions or pets, or risk my life getting to safety. I’ve never spent a night in a shelter surrounded by other displaced people.
So I’m not going to say that I understand what the people of Houston, and other coastal towns in Texas are going through right now. I can’t imagine the enormity of the recovery effort that is in front of them. The clean up, repair and rebuilding will be a difficult and lengthy process as will the mourning for those lost.
I really feel for the people who have lost nearly everything. Who have lost their homes and don’t have insurance or the wherewithal to rebuild. The renters who no longer have an apartment which to return. The person who lives paycheck to paycheck and who no longer has a job because the place they work has shuttered its doors. The homeless, already displaced but pushed now even further to the edges as services are overwhelmed by those newly in need.
I do know what some of these people will go through. The difficulties they will face keeping their families together, housed and fed. The anxiety as funds diminish and needs accrue. The despair over lost dreams and derailed lives. The unending and unrelenting hardness of it all. I hope that by ending up in this situation due to a catastrophic natural disaster that has garnered the attention of the nation they have more help and resources available to them and a community to which to turn for comfort.]]>
That is the question! If I were to answer just from the data in front of me (extremely long periods without a blog post) I’d have to say my response apparently is to not blog. But (gasp) data isn’t everything. When faced with the decision to pay the blog hosting fee one more year I considered pulling the plug. I have a reasonable sized audience with whom I interact on Facebook; perhaps that’s enough. Facebook, however, seems to prompt quick ‘of the moment’ posts, suitable for some topics but not for all. And not everyone is on Facebook (some days I wish I weren’t). So I went ahead and paid for another year (which also gives me time to figure out the best way to download and archive all the Boxcarkids blog posts for my kids (and theirs if they opt to have/adopt any). Their memories and perspectives of the events that played a major part in shaping their childhoods are different from mine. I hope reading the posts when they are adults will help them figure some things out.
Regardless, I still face obstacles to blogging. I don’t have as much time for the pursuit as I once did. This year I not only have my relatively new job (STEM Coach) but also another new boss and I am teaching two new classes only one in which I’ve had sufficient training. I took on a second job last spring to help cover expenses (we are slowly getting out from under medical bills but of course new ones, and new car repairs and home issues keep cropping up), working 20 hours a week as a cashier at a local grocery shop. The pay is not great – about $6.50 an hour after deductions but it helps as does the small discount on store brands. Three hungry teenagers can really put a dent in one’s food budget! And those teenagers, busy with extracurricular activities (especially my middle daughter who is a senior this year) eat into my ‘free’ time with all the requisite chauffeuring I do as the only licensed driver in the household.
So time is one issue, but another is the feeling that the blog has outlived its purpose. It was a lifeline for me when our world was cast asunder and I was on shaky ground in so many aspects of my life. It gave me purpose and connections and I felt I was a voice for the many people facing similar hardships who weren’t being seen or heard. But we’ve graduated from the slightly newsworthy family fallen from respectable heights of home ownership to living in a cramped RV. We’re now just one more poor family living in a mobile home in rural Indiana. Drive on folks, not much to see here! Our struggles aren’t particularly interesting (to me they are merely mind-numbing and frustrating) and our few ‘triumphs’ are really just getting over one more hump or through one more hoop. Yawn. Not the stuff novels are made of that’s for sure.
So whether I will continue the blog is still an open question. I do plan a series of short updates when I can get time (and the computer away from my daughter – we are now a one computer household) but I won’t promise they will occur with any regularity. I will continue those short Facebook posts so if you’re on that platform check in with me there.]]>
Today is prime day at Amazon.com – all sorts of deals for prime members! If you shop from any of the Amazon links on the blog we will earn a small commission which will help with our back to school shopping.
Update coming soon!
They always get away from me, holidays do. My best intentions are not sufficient to overcome inertia! This year was worse than past years as we didn’t get out of school until just days before Christmas so the few cards I sent out were late. And I’ve gotten lazy about blogging, instead posting short updates on Facebook. I guess the good part about not having hours to write is that it’s due to being gainfully employed, yes? At any rate I hope everyone had safe, peaceful and joyful holidays. Many thanks to those of you who reached out to help make ours happy!
And now, early for once, Happy Chinese New Year! 2017 ushers in the Year of the Rooster beginning January 28 and ending February 15 (that’s a holiday I can get behind – one that gives you ample time to celebrate). One website offered gratitude that the chaos of the Year of the Monkey is now behind us and I concur on a personal level as this was a chaotic year health wise for the family. We had a broken tooth, an emergency appendectomy, a wisdom tooth that needed to be extracted and finished the year with another visit to the ER as my youngest daughter managed to slice through her left index finger and had to get a dozen stitches. Naturally all these doctor visits created some havoc in my finances as well! This year we had no problem making our very high healthcare deductible!
Apparently we are moving from a year of upheaval to one of confidence and energy (but only if one guards against nonsensical plans and avoids being over domineering). What does the Year of the Rooster portend for you?* In general, from my research, it seems that years of the Rooster are marked by success for those who have invested patience and hard work in their projects and stick to practical and well-proven paths. That sounds like a safe prediction to me – work hard,stay focused and reap rewards!
You can check out more detailed prognostications specific to your astrological sign at Astrology Club or Sun Signs. As usual with horoscopes the predictions tend to be general and at least moderately positive – mine promises I can get ahead if I work hard and be patient, be sympathetic and keep out of other people’s problems
I plan to do at least some of that (no promises on the last one). I’m hoping our STEM program will continue to grow in a sustainable and well thought out direction and I’m looking forward to professional development activities in problem based learning and computer sciences. I’ve undertaken to educate myself about engineering as well as computers (who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks) so that I can make sure our curriculum fulfills our new science standards. I’m planning on writing several grants both for basic supplies and for our new aquaponics (fish and plants) center (part of the high school agriculture program).
On the home front I have two projects I would like to complete this summer, one requires an infusion of capital and the other a lot of sweat equity! We really need to get a gravel driveway installed – this has been a very wet year and our soil is a spongy mess of clay that the wheels cut huge ruts into and that sucks your shoes off your feet when you step onto (into) it. Even with 4 wheel drive it’s easy to get stuck. Our estimates for gravel run anywhere from a few thousand to around $6,000.
The other project is putting a porch/deck onto the back of the house. This one we shall attempt to do ourselves which means it won’t cost as much but is likely to resemble Pippi Longstocking’s home when we are finished! If we can at least partially enclose/cover it we will be able to move recycling bins (and cat box) out of the house proper which will give us more room and a nicer interior environment!
My oldest daughter will complete her sophomore year at IU and is hoping to land a summer internship at the Office of Sustainability. Next year she plans on moving out of the dorm – another step towards adulthood, independent living! My middle daughter is gearing up to take the SAT and agonizing about what to be when she grows up. I reassure her that she doesn’t need to have that pinned down just yet. My youngest daughter is wanting to find a job (she’s just turning 14 in February), get to high school and get on with life. She is not one to linger in childhood! And my son continues to be a happy, thoughtful child whose determination to become an engineer hasn’t faltered.
I hope your New Year Resolutions and (positive) horoscopes all work out/come true and that it is a good year for you and your families!
*assuming you have the willing suspension of disbelief that allows you to consider that there’s anything to fortune telling (I don’t but enjoy checking each year anyway).]]>
(Note- I started this post awhile ago and the photos were taking forever to load on our slow internet and life got busy. I decided not to change what I’d written but just add to it.)
I’ve now been back from China for a week and I’m just beginning to get a decent night’s sleep! The jet lag is worse on the return as it only took a couple days to get on China time (exactly 12 hours ahead of home).
The trip was fantastic – the smoothest international trip I’ve been on to my recollection – no delays, lost luggage, illness, missed connections. It probably helped that it was a fairly routine business trip, not an adoption trip! The flight is long – approximately 12.5 hours from Chicago to Beijing, several hours in the Beijing airport then another 2.5 hours to Hangzhou. Our smaller group of 5 met up with the travelers who had opted for the extended tour of Beijing at the airport and we all traveled to Hangzhou together. We were all sleep walking when we got to the hotel at approximately 2 AM!
We spent the first day sightseeing and the sights were wonderful. Hangzhou is the most beautiful city I’ve visited in China. It is full of greenery – plants everywhere! It’s like a park with buildings and streets inside of it. Despite the 8.5 million residents and crazy Chinese traffic, I found it quite peaceful.
We spent the first afternoon at West Lake, where we took a boat cruise on the lake (it’s huge, and actually more than one lake). While the sky was somewhat hazy the weather was very balmy and pleasant.
The lake is a tourist destination so there were a lot of other boats on the water and we shared our boat with a group of Chinese tourists. Their guide had a microphone, ours didn’t, so it was hard to hear much. Still it was a pleasant ride. At dusk the pagoda on the hill was lit up, making it a beautiful sight.
From there we went to Qinghefang Street, one of the most famous historic streets in the city and now a tourist shopping area. Most preserved buildings are from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
According to the guidebook, “Strolling on this street, you will be attracted by the antique buildings and local crafts, such as silk parasols, brocades, noted Zhang Xiaoquan scissors and Hangzhou fans.” I found the people watching to be more interesting than shopping – and while I didn’t buy any, was especially curious about the snacks for sale like this sugar? syrup? dragon!
On the 2nd day we visited one of the top schools in China – the Hangzhou Foreign Language School. It is very large and prestigious and students come from other countries (we met students from the UK and Germany while there) to study while the Chinese students study English, German, Spanish, and Japanese.
Unlike in the U.S. students in China don’t just move from their neighborhood middle school to their neighborhood high school. Instead at the end of middle school (or Junior High) the students take an exam and the results of that exam will dictate which high school they can apply to and even whether they go on to high school.
Hangzhou Foreign Language School has about 2000 students. The blurb on their website says “Every year, 80% of our graduates are admitted to top universities in China and abroad, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.”
After a tour of the school we headed out for more sightseeing – this time to XiXi National Wetlands Park. It was not at all what I would have thought of as a Wetlands Park – while there was plenty of wetlands I don’t think I saw more than a handful of birds and none were waterbirds.
We strolled around the trails and took another boat ride, ending up at a shopping street full of stores selling souvenirs (these are ubiquitous). Hangzhou is known for its silk and everywhere we went there were beautiful, colorful scarves!
Once again there were a lot of other tourists there – and even a model photo shoot!
Then it was off to dinner out as a group. The next day we would all split up and head to the schools we’d been assigned and would see much less of each other.
I will leave it there for now as each photo takes a very long time to load! More on the STEM side of things in the next post.
Less than a week before I leave for China for my trip with the International STEM Fellows. We will be visiting (and teaching in) Chinese schools in the Hangzhou area. This is a wonderful opportunity and I’m excited to be going to an area of China that I have not visited. In addition to the 90-minute lab that I will teach 2 or 3 times to Chinese middle school students I’m one of the four teachers (out of the 12 going) who has been asked to prepare a 30-minute presentation on STEM education for a regional education conference.
Preparing for this experience has been a bit difficult. We are not sure what supplies and materials will be available to us so we need to pack nearly all of what we need for the labs. That made me change my topic as I wasn’t going to pack glass test tubes and beakers! My lab is an engineering design challenge – the students will build their own water filters. So most of my materials are small and don’t weigh much – water test meters, coffee filters, cotton balls, cheesecloth and the like, and I’m anticipating being able to find plastic bottles, clean sand and gravel and dirty water in China!
We won’t have translators although the students and Chinese teachers know some English (more than the amount of Chinese I know, I’m sure) so I had my oldest daughter make me a video with the help of one of her Chinese friends and fellow students at the University explaining the lab. I also have dual language hand-outs and lab worksheets. It was funny to see the response of all the teachers when we were told that there would not be a translator in the classroom with us – the middle and high school teachers looked somewhat dumbfounded and anxious and the elementary teachers just smiled, shrugged and said in a cheerful voice ‘That’s okay – we’ll just diagram it and act it out!’ Well, of course – they’re used to talking to people who don’t speak that much English!
My oldest daughter will come home from college to look after things while I’m gone and our relatives are just up the street and across the street so she will have help if she needs it. The kids are pretty self-sufficient and used to taking care of the animals so I’m not expecting problems. I am expecting to miss them like crazy as I have not been away for more than a day or two before. I’m also worried about expenses. I was able to get the trip cost paid for through Donors Choose but that did not include buying lab supplies, gifts for Chinese teachers and officials, rental car to get to Chicago to catch the plane (and get home from Chicago) and leaving money at home for gas and food. With my daughter’s appendectomy bills coming in we are stretched even tighter than usual (and usual is to the breaking point).
Thankfully I don’t need much for the trip – I’m borrowing my daughter’s suitcase and packing light. I’m not buying anything extra for the trip aside from a travel umbrella (weather forecast is rainy) and one of those neck pillows for the long plane flight. I do plan to buy travel insurance – too many planes have gone down in the past decade and the Chinese drive like crazy so I figure my chances of being in an accident are slightly higher while traveling! And if anything does happen it would be good to leave the kids a little better off than they are now.
Hmm, rereading what I’ve written I see I’m slightly more anxious about this trip than I was letting on to myself! So to end on an up note – I really am looking forward to the experience. I plan to bring back all sorts of video, resources, connections and ideas to my schools to help our teachers. I’m excited about the networking possibilities – I’ve already been asked to get involved in some other education committees and events because of the trip (yes, even before going!) and I foresee that this will be helpful in my late life career. I enjoy traveling and am grateful for the opportunity to make more meaningful connections than those usually afforded on a tourist trip. So wish me (and the kids) good luck!]]>
That’s how I would describe my new job. It doesn’t have a job description, the fellow spearheading the whole STEM effort quit to take a new job right before school started, and there’s no all important (in education) evaluation rubric. The principals I report to don’t really know what I should be doing. Luckily I’m a self-starter and am committed to making our STEM program work so I’ve hit the ground running (hoping that I’m running in the right direction).
As Secondary STEM Coach I am a resource for the Junior High and High School teachers who want to bring hands on project based learning that connects to real world problems into their classroom. Although I was warned that the High School teachers were resistant to change (okay – that’s what the Junior High teachers said) they have jumped right in. In the first 5 weeks of school I’ve been asked to provide information on building model brains (psychology teacher), for hands on activities to help students demonstrate their understanding of ratios and proportions (math teacher), to help make the cardboard boat regatta more academic (PE teacher, whom I paired with the physics teacher), to help with a project where students build electric guitars to study sound waves (physics teacher) and to add STEM to the student’s English unit that culminates in an intensive research paper on Van Gogh.
I have an office at the Junior High and an entire classroom at the High School (which is sort of backwards as the only class I teach – Computer Science in Science – is at the Junior High). I’m also helping both schools by researching potential science ‘textbooks’ as it’s new standards and textbook adoption year. I have a lot of autonomy – something lacking in most teachers’ work lives – which I enjoy.
I would like a little more structure – since it’s the first year of a new program we are feeling our way and I suspect sometimes going down blind alleys. It would be nice to have a professional development program for teachers – preferably something already developed and tested and established like Project Lead the Way but that decision hasn’t been made. So in the meantime I try to hunt up resources and connect potential collaborators and encourage teachers to think outside the box and give some control of learning over to students. I’m starting with teachers who want to give it a try – more will come on board as they see us having some successes – and that number is keeping me hopping!
I’m also preparing for my trip to China as an International STEM Fellow. We leave a month from today! We had our first meeting as a group this past Saturday and found out that we would be teaching several classes of 45-50 students without a translator. The elementary teachers among the group were unfazed, “We’ll act it out, and use diagrams!” they proclaimed while the secondary teachers exchanged nervous glances. I’m rethinking my planned lesson and hoping Google translate is relatively accurate!
We will be in Hangzhou, China – the lovely city that just hosted the G-20 summit. One of the things I’ll be doing while there is taking a lot of photos and videotape both for myself but also for our social studies teachers to use in their Asia unit. To that end, because my only camera is on my cell phone, I’ve written a Donors Choose project to fund a decent digital single lens reflex camera: https://www.donorschoose.org/STEMCoach. If it’s funded soon I’ll take it with me.
I gave a presentation on STEM to the Junior High teachers this morning and one of them sent me an email afterwards. It said, in part, “you did awesome this morning… this is a fantastic position for you!” It is. I feel much less stressed and more engaged. I’m learning something new every day – sometimes every hour of every day and am working closely with a lot of adults who appreciate what I’m doing for them. It’s a good fit.]]>
We are all back in school now and settling into the routine that guides the larger part of our lives. It’s an old routine, but also new. New for me with my new position as a STEM Coach instead of a classroom teacher and new for the kids as they move up a grade to different teachers and classes (and in my son’s case to a new school – junior high). We are still struggling with getting to bed on time and up so early in the morning; sleeping in is an aspect of summer we all enjoy. It’s commonly in the high 80s and low 90s with dripping humidity which makes it even more pleasant to escape to the air conditioned schools!
Summer ended (the vacation, not the season) with an unexpected event. The weekend before I returned to school my oldest daughter had to have emergency surgery. She was volunteering at a camp for kids when she started having a sharp pain in her side. Ever the stoic, she ignored it for a day, taking ibuprofen and hoping it would get better. The camp didn’t have a nurse on staff so she finally texted me to come get her. We went straight to urgent care and after waiting there for 2 hours they sent us to the emergency room.
Where we waited some more until in the wee hours of Sunday morning, after blood tests and a CAT Scan, we were told she had acute appendicitis and needed surgery. Luckily she came through with flying colors and was released Monday. She then had a bit of a relapse due to an infection but fought that off and is on the mend.
My new job has gotten off to a slow start as the week before school started the assistant superintendent (who oversees the STEM program) resigned to take a new job! The new assistant superintendent is my old principal. These two men, while friends, have diametrically opposite ways of thinking and doing things. The first is a strategic, long-term planning sort, the latter a jump in and get it done fellow. Even so he hasn’t wanted to jump in on someone else’s planned path but to blaze his own. So we are backing up to go forward and if you have to do that it’s best done before you really get started!
I’m working in both the Junior High and High School and have a small office in the former and a large classroom in the latter. I’m teaching one class – computer science in science class- at the Junior High and consulting with teachers on ways they can bring collaborative, hands-on STEM projects into their classroom. For instance a social studies teacher who has a unit on Africa coming up wants to do a STEM project on drought. The 7th grade science teachers have a unit on soil so we are looking at some projects on what sorts of soil retain water. And the PE teacher at the high school does a cardboard boat regatta that’s hands on and lots of fun but wants to make it more academic so we’re getting with the physics teacher to add some math and physics to it.
I think this job will be a good fit. It’s very creative and requires a lot of research which is my forte. I’m enjoying teaching one class and the kids are very engaged. We have covered the basics of Code.org’s programming system (StarLogo Nova) and are about to program a computer model of an epidemic. I’m co-teaching so next year the science teacher can take over the class (and maybe I’ll co-teach something new). I have a lot more freedom (no more first lunch at 10:14 AM, or hall duty) and I’m feeling like I can breathe again. I’m hopeful that this year, and the STEM program will be a success.]]>