Friday, February 26, 2010

The Olympics, Lady Bug, and the Ceilings in Our Bathrooms


I couldn't sleep last night. We decided to make breakfast for dinner. So out came the eggs, asparagus, cheddar cheese, spinach, hash browns, turkey bacon, and of course, one can't have breakfast without a pot of coffee, right?

Big mistake.

So at 11:15 PM, eyes wide shut, I tuned into the Olympics. I must confess, I haven't watched any of the Olympics to that point, so when I discovered the evening's event was women's figure skating, I almost switched to a re-run on Nickelodeon. But I stayed with it for a few minutes, and soon found myself caught up in watching the skater's perform. Something about it kept me riveted.

Perhaps it was the back stories of the skaters, like hearing about the fortitude of Canadian skater Joannie Rochette competing days after her mother's death.

Or perhaps it was the simple beauty, the grace, the precise execution of a difficult routine. Maybe the pressure to perform at that particular moment, years of work and practice coming down to a few minutes on the ice, and one bad landing, miscue, or fall, and the dream was dead.

Korea's Kim Yu-Na's routine was flawless, and the sixteen-year-old American, Mirai Nagusa, put on quite a show. Sixteen and almost garnering a medal at the Olympics. Amazing.

When I was sixteen I was trying to pass math class, hit a few foul shots in the driveway, and get a girl to notice me at a dance. Barely passed math, went 6/10 at the line, held up the wall at the dance. I'd give that a 6.2.

Lady Bugs

Once in a great while the English department at Bacon Academy gets a request to host a student teacher, usually either from Connecticut College or Eastern Connecticut State University. Such a request came several months ago, and I agreed to meet the candidate, but in the back of my mind, I had already decided I would say no. While some might think having a student teacher take the reins lightens the load, in reality, particularly when one has sophomores (CAPT pressure, remember?) it's not as easy as it looks.

I've had four student teachers over my seventeen-year career, and three out of the four were wonderful experiences. One of my former student teachers is now a colleague at Bacon, another a Library Media Specialist at a school in the northwest hills, and the third, left teaching to become a successful entrepreneur. The fourth, well, I'm not sure where this individual ended up.

So, on to number five. I met this individual at ECSU, and was immediately impressed, especially when she indicated that she'd like to come in over her winter break to observe and get to know the kids. So, as we talked about her teaching philosophy and ideas for lesson plans, the "no" firmly planted at the back of my mind became an instant "yes." We're now nearing the halfway point of her experience, and she seems like a natural in front of the kids. She's competent, plans well, is reflective, and adjusts.

Which finally brings us to the lady bug.

I happened to be watching a lesson unfold earlier this week when a lady bug descended from on high. It was interesting to see the reaction from the kids. Some exclaimed, "aww, a lady bug," others recoiled and screamed, "get it away!" Still others announced, "it brings good luck." And so the lesson derailed, as lessons sometimes do, but within a minute or two, the student teacher got the class back on course. Interruptions are part of the business, and the teacher's ability to adjust or incorporate the distraction develops over time.

A lady bug, a fire drill, a student having a bad lesson often goes as planned. A teacher has to constantly monitor, adjust, regulate, repeat, etc. I'm not sure outsiders understand this. It falls under that heading "teaching as an art." It is often not precise or scientific, especially when one considers we are dealing with the human spirit, the human emotions. We have to be open to moments that cross our threshold. Sometimes they're worth embracing and not mere annoyance.

The lady bug appeared in several other classes, with varying degrees of disruption, comment, and care. That is until period seven, when a young lad decided to stomp it into the rug.

Freshmen have their moments, don't they?

Ceilings in Our Bathrooms

In our quest to ready the house for sale in March, I rolled up my sleeves to right a wrong from my past. Many years ago I vowed to re-do the bathroom off our bedroom. Fell short a bit on that one, particularly when it came to the ceiling. It was a popcorn ceiling, so I decided to scrape it down and create a smooth surface. Big mistake. It was hard work, and judging from my efforts, I'd say I successfully scraped about 80% off to make a smooth surface.

Now it was time to right a wrong. So, in my infinite wisdom, I bought a new can of ceiling white, and a sand additive to make a pock mark surface. Not quite popcorn, but enough to hide my inconsistencies. I have to say, after three coats, it came out pretty darn good. Only took me three years, four months, seventeen days, and 5 hours to finish my original ceiling project. Not bad, eh?

I mean seriously, how often do you really look at your bathroom ceiling?

1 comment:

  1. I love it that a ladybug became an event! There's a refreshing innocence about ladybugs, somehow, and innocence isn't something I automatically associate with American high school students. (Remember that my children are very much in primary school still, and high school seems a bit scary!) I'm amused by some of the students' reactions you describe, though - I guess they're not country kids :-)

    On a more serious note, I appreciate your pondering over the art of teaching. I'm thinking - very much in the background at the moment - of enrolling in a teacher training course, and find the prospect a bit daunting. Teachers have such enormous responsibility, and so much of good teaching cannot be taught.