Archive for the ‘education’ Category

I can put it down but… do I really want to?

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek was recommended to me by several people after I expressed delight with Where the Crawdads Sing.  I wonder why.  What did they see in this book that reminded them of the other one?  And why don’t I see it?

It’s not that I dislike the book.  Quite the contrary.  But I don’t see much similarity between it and Where the Crawdads Sing.  I am finding Book Woman scary and depressing on just about every level.  But super informative.  And not that I don’t love the concept of women on horseback delivering books to those who would otherwise have no opportunities to read or to learn or to expand their horizons.

But this book covers so much more — extreme poverty, terrifying prejudice, and ignorance of unimaginable proportions.  It’s a horrifying story made more so by it’s proximity to truth.  Mind you, I’ve not finished the book yet, and I may find that it redeems itself, but so far…

And yet… I cannot return it to the library unfinished.  It seems that with each turn of the page there is a new reveal. Like this:

Nester Rylie’s been reading it, and she told me in passing last year, she ain’t rubbed groundhog brains on her babies’ sore teeth or needed to use the hen innards on the gums of her teething ones since.  An after she’d read about a good paste recipe that cured thrush, Nester said, none of her nine young’uns ain’t ever had to drink water from a stranger’s shoe again to get the healing.

More than anything, I wonder what my friends saw in the one book that reminded them of the other.  And I wondered what I am missing.  Come to think of it, though, that’s the best part about expanding our horizons — no two of us end up in exactly the same place,

I’m not sure I’m recommending this book.  But maybe…

Chicken Scratch and Loners In The Coop

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Sociogram

I love sociograms.  When I was teaching, I found them a wonderful tool for learning how kids were (or were not) relating to one another.  Sometimes, those interactions were obvious but, once in a while, it helped to have a bit more insight.

They worked this way:  Each child and I would have “a secret.”  I’d pass out small pieces of paper — one per student.  Each would write his/her name on one side in red crayon, turn it over and write the name of who they would most like to sit by in green crayon.  Sometimes, if I needed more information, I’d ask them to also write, perhaps in a third color, the name of the person they’d least like to sit next to.  And, “Sh!  Don’t tell!”

2nd Grade, Southgate School, Hayward, CA – 1962

Then I’d take all those papers home and draw a sociogram — each child’s name in a circle with a green arrow pointing to their first choice (and, perhaps, a different colored arrow to their “least” choice.  Instantly, I had a picture of who was most “popular” and who was least liked,  of how much interaction there was between girls and boys, and of who the loners were (if any).  I could act on that information (or not) as I planned group work and team activities — hopefully helping kids expand their social horizons along the way.

I’ve been thinking about those sociograms as I observe our chickens.  All three Rhode Island Reds — the rooster and the two hens — usually hang out together, even though one of the hens is oldest by two years.  The Russian Orloff (Slutvana) sometimes stays near the Reds, especially when it’s snack time.  But she stays on the periphery.

The Loner

Snowhite, the little white hen, seems to be a true loner.  When I take treats out in the morning, she is the last to join in the grazing and usually snatches a large morsel and runs into the cypress “grove” (can one huge tree be a grove?) with it.  She eats quickly and repeats the process — never getting her share, but obviously preferring fewer treats to associating with the others.

I wish I knew how each of those chickens felt about the others.  Is Snowhite’s behavior one-sided or have the others made her life miserable so she’s avoiding them as much as possible?  Who would she really like to sit next to?  Who would secretly like to sit next to her?

The Three Reds

Last night when I went to say “good night,”  the three Reds were on the roost on one side of the coop. On the opposite wall, the Russian and the White hen were settled into the north and south nest boxes with an empty nest box in between.  The Reds were totally isolated from the others and, though they could see those on the opposite side of the coop, there was no chance of interaction.

Would that I could pass out paper and do a sociogram!  If only I could read chicken scratch, it might just be helpful.

Raise your hand if you remember!

Monday, January 27th, 2020

Learning About The Olden Days

“Do you miss teaching?” my friend, Miki, asked me.  “No!  Not a bit!” was my instant retort.  Since this is the first year of her retirement as opposed to my twentieth, I thought that maybe the question was more a reflection of her own feelings than an interest in mine.  But, as I thought about it, I back-pedaled a bit.

“Actually I don’t miss the job,” I said.  “But I truly miss the kids — the first, second, and third graders.  I miss the incredibly cogent things they say.  I miss their unfiltered look at the world.  I miss their artwork and their wonderful journal entries.  And I miss reading aloud to them and explaining ‘hard stuff’ and seeing those aha moments when it would all become clear.”

All Aboard in Kelso!

Miki nodded and murmured in agreement.  “Yes!  It’s the kids and the real teaching I miss,” she said.  “Not all the proscribed, lock-step, formulaic stuff that we had to test them on again and again ad nauseam.”

I don’t know if I said, “Yes, the things the textbook companies say are important and the testing companies are making millions from.  Corporate America has been in the classroom for a very long time.”  But even if I didn’t say it this time, Miki and I have had this discussion before.  And will probably have it again.

Easel Painting

Sometimes I think that public school teaching and our political system ran amok at about the same time.  I think both were better in the 1960s when I was yet a new teacher and a young voter.   I am thankful for those years — the years we could teach kids what they wanted and needed to learn (not teach them to simply pass tests) and we still felt that we could make a difference in the voting booth!

Raise your hand if you remember…

 

There’s Still Space Available at OSA!

Saturday, July 20th, 2019

Sydney c. 1944

When I was a kid in Oysterville seven or eight decades ago, summers were all about freedom and being outside and playing and exploring.  My memories are filled with picking blackberries in the meadow,  of finding the baby crabs that lived under the ballast rocks at the bay, of talking with Jimmy Anderson when he walked into town for his “fresh” can of milk each day.  The days were long, though the summers, too short.

Too, for part of each summer I attended Camp Willapa which was run by family friend Dorothy Elliott.  Although there were “rules” and “schedules” it’s the fabulous adventures I remember — the three-or-four-day canoe trips over to Long Island or up the Naselle.  Or camping at Beard’s Hollow or fishing off the end of the old wooden Nahcotta Dock.  There were animals to care for — bunnies and ducks and horses and goats — and new kids to meet who would become life-long friends.

The Oysterville School – Home of Oysterville Science Academy

I thought about all that when I received a note yesterday from a former Oysterville Science Academy student.  This is what it said:  OSA was one of my favorite camps! I loved participating in this weeklong camp for many reasons. One of them was meeting so many interesting people! We got to meet a blind wood worker, and many other awesome crafts people and scientists! Another great thing that happened was being able to go outside as much as we did! We got to go on little field trips, play in a tree fort, run around, and hang! We had great fun with an abacus and geography stars! My aunt got to talk to us about her Mars mission, which was really special. OSA was a great experience and I think others will enjoy it as much as me and my friends did!

This will be the fifth year of the three-week-long Oysterville Science Academy.  Each year I have taken great pleasure in seeing and hearing children’s voices over in the school yard.  (The Oysterville School has been closed for lack of students since 1957!!)  I have marveled at descriptions of their “process-driven” curriculum — presenting the building blocks of science (observation, classification,inference, measurement, etc.) while meeting experts and investigation the world (Oysterville!) around them.

OSA Students in Lab Coats, 2016

But I never quite equated it with summer camp.  And, yet… how did I miss that!  I am told there are still spaces available for this year’s Academy which will be held August 12 – August 20.   Incoming or outgoing fourth graders are the target participants.  If you know of a likely candidate — a neighbor, a friend’s child or grandchild — please spread the word.  It’s free!  It’s fun!  And it’s state-of-the-art science in an old-fashioned, historic setting.  Would that I were nine again!

For further information, contact Diane Buttrell at edianebuttrell@gmail.com or 360-214-1267.  Hurry!  Time flies in summer!

 

The Reason Chickens Get Into Trouble

Monday, July 15th, 2019

Fake Listening By Svetlana

It isn’t because they insist on crossing without looking both ways.   Far from it.  I’m here to tell you that the reason chickens get into trouble is because THEY DO NOT LISTEN!  No matter how many times they are told, no matter in how loud a tone, or how they appear to be paying attention — do not be fooled.  Chickens are the worst listeners ever.

Take our Russian Orloff, Svetlana,  for instance.  (Otherwise known as Slutvana or the Russian Slut, especially among the cocky local rooster crowd.)  She has decided to go broody.  Not that there are any guys in the coop or even in Oysterville right now.  Not as far as I know.  Where was that silly girl when I gave all the young pullets the Sex 101 talk?

“Don’t be getting yourself in a family way,” I told them.  “Unless there are guys around, your eggs will not result in chicks.  So don’t be going broody and just sitting in your nest all day.  Nothing will happen.  The eggs won’t hatch.  That’s all there is to it.”

Did Svetlana listen?  Apparently not.  It’s hard to tell with chickens.  Their ears aren’t obvious like a cat’s or dog’s ears.  They don’t perk up when they hear something interesting or flop forward when they are disappointed.  Oh no. But chickens do have ears and they are located on the sides of their heads like most people’s.  The reason they are hard to see is that they are usually covered by feathers.  And earlobes.

Broody Svetlana

And here’s a trick not many people know:  the color of the lobe is a great indicator of the color of the eggs the hen will lay.  White lobe — white eggs.  Brown lobe — brown eggs, although they could be any shade of brown from the lightest tan to a deep, rich chocolate color.

Of course, I know that Svetlana can hear.  She is not the least bit deaf.  She just picks and chooses what to pay attention to.  The whole sex talk just wasn’t interesting to her.  She had made up her mind eons ago that motherhood was for her.  She practiced mightily when we had those two randy roosters but, for reasons probably outside her control, she didn’t go broody until months after the boys had had their way with her.

And that brings us to the here and now.  Ms. Svelana has been in one of the nest boxes for two full days.  When I’ve gone to check on her, she just looks at me… broodingly.  Today I felt four eggs under her.  She may have chosen a nest that already had eggs in it or she may have begun working on her clutch before I noticed her broodiness.  When she has laid “enough” eggs — usually six or eight, she will not leave the nest for 21 days except to eat a little and drink some water.

Svetlana Feeling Frisky, August 2018 —

According to the chicken gurus, “There is no exact science to exactly what makes a hen go broody- it’s a combination of their hormones, instinct and maturity.”  And even if there were a scientific reason, you can bet Ms. Svetlana wouldn’t care even if we explained it to her.  That’s the way it is with chickens. They do not listen and that is the reason they get into trouble.  Period.

Cathapotle, Stella, and the Oscar B.

Sunday, August 19th, 2018

Inside the Cathapotle Plankhouse

Talk about making every minute count!  Yesterday, Carol, Tucker, Nyel, and I went on another of our “summer field trips” – this time to two destinations with a bonus ferry ride thrown in!  Any one of those activities could have been the entire focus of the day, but it was definitely one of those “and while we are at it…” things.  Except for the ferry ride.  That turned out to be the only choice if we wanted to get home in a timely manner, and a great choice it was!

First, we headed for Ridgefield, Tucker driving – old duffers in the front, ladies in the back as usual.  We arrived about lunch time.  First stop:  a Mexican Restaurant and a quick ride around town.  We liked what we saw.  Worth going back, we thought.  Then on to the Catahpotle Plank House which is located on the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

The Old Duffers

The Plankhouse was built in 2004-2005 in partnership with the Chinook Indian Nation, Portland State University, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and numerous other community partners and volunteers. The House serves as an education and interpretive center and is used by the Chinook Indian Nation for cultural events throughout the year.  It is open to the public on summer Saturdays and Sundays from noon to four and it is well worth the trip – and the walk from the parking lot once you get there!

Several years ago, Tony Johnson, Chairman of the Chinook Tribe, urged our Pacific County Community Historians to visit.  He spoke of the Plankhouse building process using traditional materials and techniques and the best historic information and extant examples available. He didn’t exaggerate one bit – it was all he had said and more!

Still at the Stella Museum

We decided to take Highway 4 home so we could stop in Stella at the Historical Museum there which, also, is open on weekends only, but from eleven to four.  We arrived about 3:30 and learned that the museum includes four buildings – three jam-packed with interesting things from Stella’s heyday and the fourth, an almost-completed blacksmith shop.  We also learned that Stella was not known for its cannery (as we thought from the Mary Garvey “Cannery Shed” song), but for their production of cigar rafts, once a major method for transporting logs down the Pacific Coast to San Francisco.

“We’ll stay as long as you’d like,”” said the friendly docent.  She turned out to be the museum’s primary mover-and-shaker – knows our friend Nancy Anderson of the Quarantine Station in Knappton and is working with Lucien Swerdloff who teaches Historic Preservation classes at Clatsop Community College. The museum’s annual fundraising event takes place the weekend after Labor Day and, by then, they hope to have the smithy up and running.

Aboard the Oscar B

We headed homeward about 4:30, only to find that the highway was closed just beyond Cathlamet.  Tucker did a bit of quick maneuvering and we were across the highway and headed down through town to the ferry dock before we could give it much thought at all.  Just in time!  The Oscar B was being loaded and we were the next-to-the-last vehicle to get on board.  Woot!  Woot!

Home by 6:30. Too tired to fix dinner.  Cheese and crackers and grapes while we watched the PBS News Hour and one Jeopardy rerun.  The best field trip day yet!!!

That Old Retirement Dream

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Second Grade, Southgate School 1962

Contrary to what you might think, my “retirement dream” isn’t about what my retirement will look like.  Been there.  Done that.  For the past seventeen years.

No.  My retirement dream is the actual, recurring dream I have periodically when I’m asleep — now that I am retired.  Not a nightmare, but definitely an anxiety dream.  It always involves me being hired to teach in a classroom in which the regular teacher (for undisclosed reasons) has not shown up.  It’s always a first or second grade with the kids at their desks waiting expectantly for the day to begin.  There are usually no supplies available, no roll book, no clue as to the expected curriculum and, last night, no coffee in the Teacher’s Room.

The dream is very close to the scenario I faced in 1961 when I reported for my first teaching job.  It was about this time of year and I had been contacted on a Saturday morning by the superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District.  A second-grade position was open if I could report to work Monday morning.

Second Grade Puppet Show, Southgate School 1962

He met me at the school that very afternoon.  We visited the classroom which had been stripped bare.  Not a bulletin board decorated.  Not a roll book or a class list.  Nothing to indicate what reading groups there might be or what the kids were studying in Social Studies or Health or… anything.  To compound matters, three stern looking PTA mothers were at the door on Monday morning and sat in the back of the room all day to “observe.”  It was a real-life nightmare.  It wasn’t until the following school year that I learned that my predecessor had had a nervous breakdown due in large part to the Three Furies who apparently had been watching her like a hawk all year.

I arrived at school early on my second day, told (yes, snippy second-day teacher that I was) the principal that I did not want those women or any other visitors in my room during class time.  He argued with me but complied… sort of.  I had to put up with him being in there every day, apparently so he could report to them. I’m happy to say that he was not at the school the following year.  But I was.

Sydney with Second Grade Student, Southgate School 1962

In my dream last night, I was passing out paper to each student and instructing them to write their name on one side and draw a self-portrait on the other.  (I’m not sure where I was going with that.)  At one table, a boy said to his neighbor, “That’s not your name!” and looked at me hopefully, like maybe his ‘friend’ would get in trouble.  “You can use any name you want,” I said, “as long as you spell it correctly!”

I don’t know where I was going with that, either!  But, it has possibilities.  I wonder if some kids would behave better or learn more easily if they had a different name.  Do our names set some parameters and expectations?  Who knows.  I can’t even figure out what I’m anxious about if, indeed, that’s what prompted the dream.  Maybe I was just looking forward to my morning coffee.

What day is this again?

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

Thought Police Poster

Most literate Americans know that this is day we can hear (or not) the President’s State of the Union address.  But do most of us know that it is also Data Privacy Day?  Yep.  Really.  Since 2008, many nations of the world (including ours) commemorate an international effort held annually since 2008 to create awareness about the importance of respecting privacy, safeguarding data and enabling trust.  Yep.  Really.

I was noodling those not-so-disparate bits of information around last night when I came upon my friend Martha Williams’ FaceBook entry.  For those who don’t know her, Martha is a retired teacher and has now embarked on a new career – working with elementary students as a “Science Warrior” according to the Chinook Observer’s article about her last April.  (http://www.chinookobserver.com/co/local-news/20170418/martha-williams-science-warrior.   Here is what she wrote on FB yesterday:

Wow- I receive frequent updates from a Trump site and was asked to answer questions for information he was to gathering for his state of the union speech. You know me. I answered them in length. After Submitting my comments, I was informed that I was blocked because of certain words I used. I did use Climate and immigrants and making each American great again. SO, my dear FB family- we are not a country that can be heard when we disagree with Papa Prez- not that I thought we could, but this was so personally blatant and yes ?. Does it stop me??? No way, back to work ??

Martha-The-Science-Warrior

It’s not that what happened to Martha falls precisely under the Data Privacy umbrella.  Or maybe it does.  No matter.  For me, it was an illuminating convergence of circumstances and events.  One more illustration that the times we live in are troubling and that Orwell’s Thought Police are right inside our devices and in the very air we breathe.

I doubt if Martha spoke of “climate” in the context of distrust, but that is certainly part of the take-away for me.  Climate change is happening in more ways than one.  And woe be unto those of us who speak out about it.  The silencing has begun.  Even here on our tiny sandspit.  Actually, I should say the attempt at silencing has begun.  Whoever blocked Martha’s words obviously hasn’t met her.  I can’t think of a more articulate, vocal, impassioned champion of our most basic rights.  You go, girl!

An Easy Choice… More or Less

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

I wish I could remember who that woman was.  She was ‘of an age’ – gray haired and soft spoken – and must have been a member of the Community Historians group.  We were on a field trip to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Motor Lifeboat School and were following several young uniformed men along the walkway down to the boats.

“Such tight little buns!” she said softly to me.  I don’t remember if I reacted or not.  No doubt, though, that I grinned hugely in agreement.  How could I not?

That little vignette came to mind the other day when I learned that The Oysterville Town Hall Lecture Series has invited us all (and the public, in general) to tour the United States Coast Guard Lifeboat Rescue School as the guest of Senior Instructor Chief Brandon LaVelle.  Those who attended the September 21st lecture at the Oysterville Schoolhouse had the pleasure of meeting Chief LaVelle and hearing about the incredible work of the young men stationed at Cape Disappointment.  Here is a chance to see it all ‘up close and personal.’

Unhappily, I’ll not be in attendance.  It’s going to be Nyel’s coming-home-from-the-hospital day and I’ll have to ‘depend on the kindness of others’ to learn how it went – buns or no buns.  In truth, I’ve been out there a number of times.  It was a favorite field trip for third graders during my teaching years, plus I think I’ve been twice with the Community Historians and maybe with another group, as well.

The tour is on Thursday, November 9th at 10 a.m. at the Coast Guard Station at Cape ‘D’.  Here are the Parking and Entrance instructions:  There is room for 24 cars directly in front of the station gate.  Room for more cars adjacent to Cape D Café.  (Discover Pass Required).  The gate will be opened at 10:00 only.  Sorry but late arrivals will not be admitted.  There is no charge for this event.

Bully for Burger King!

Sunday, October 29th, 2017

From “Bullying Jr.” – Burger King PSA

Nyel and I don’t do fast food.  People don’t usually believe that – not completely.  Especially when I say that we’ve never been to a Pizza Hut or a Taco Bell or a Jack-in-the-Box or a Carl, Jr or… any of the others.  Not in the thirty-five years that we’ve known one another.  Oh… except to a Starbuck’s once or twice.

It’s not just the quality of the food we object to.  We even understand there are some fast food chains that sell fairly healthy foods. Our avoidance has more to do with economic diversity (as in McDonald’s putting small potato farmers out of business) and the obvious problems of low wages to employees and the contribution of the fast food biz to obesity and to a life-style we don’t really want to embrace.

Having said all that, though, I want to give a shout out to Burger King for their current anti-bullying public service announcements – especially their latest one, “Bullying Jr.” which can be seen on YouTube or by cutting and pasting this url: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnKPEsbTo9s.  It is brilliant!

From “Bullying Jr.” – Burger King PSA

I can’t speak to its effectiveness as far as actual bully-ers go, but it gets an A+ from this old teacher for raising awareness in the general public and for reinforcing the need for kids to stand up for one another.  I’m not sure if that PSA (or even their whole series about bullying) is enough to make me change my anti-fast food stance.  But, should circumstances dictate that I had to choose one among the many possible fast food chains, I’d certainly put Burger King at the top of my list.