Posts Tagged ‘education’

Betwixt and Between

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

So, now that the library is open, we are back to the waiting game.  Only worse.  The books that were on hold for us in March are again making their way through the list of waiting patrons, but the books we were reading to tide us over are long since finished and returned.  So, I’m still reading from our bookshelves here in Oysterville.

Right now, it’s Life In A Medieval Castle by Joseph & Frances Gies (1974) complete with many photographs and diagrams showing towers and guardhouses, baileys and barbicans and all that good stuff.  Probably my dad’s.  I’m interested in the construction methods and designs only because I’ve visited many of the castles and/or ruins that are described.

William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke
By Kjetilbjørnsrud, CC

What interests me more are the stories of those who lived in those castles.  Take John Marshal who, in the chronicles of 12th century England won mention as “a limb of hell and the root of all evil.”  Among his other ‘accomplishments:’ during a battle he hid out in the bell tower of a burning church and, despite the lead of the tower roof melting and a drop splashing on his face and putting out an eye, he refused to surrender.

Later, having made good his escape, he was prevailed upon to hand over his young son William to the king as a hostage against a possible act of treachery during a truce.  John went ahead, committed the treachery and when King Stephen threatened to hang young William unless John surrendered his castle, John cooly replied that he did not care if his son were hanged, since he had “the anvils and hammer with which to forge still better sons.”  Yikes!

Magna Carta, 1215

Luckily (probably for us all), young William’s “cheerful innocence” as he was led to the hanging grounds won the King’s heart and the child was spared.  He grew up with his father’s “soldierly prowess but without his rascally character” to become one of the most distinguished of all the lords of Chepstow Castle and the most renowned knight of his time.  According to the authors, “He served King Richard and then King John for many years and played a leading — perhaps the leading — role in negotiating the Magna Carta.”  And I’m only on page 36!

It’s always nice to know how really difficult periods of time turned out.  We can only hope that we are still around to see how our own siege is resolved.  Who will be the William Marshal of our time?


“It’s required.” Except when it’s not?

Friday, May 1st, 2020

I was five years old when the United States entered World War Two.  I spent my early school years collecting tin foil, buying savings bonds, standing in lines with my mom with our ration books.  I remember us all being full of patriotic fervor and singing songs like “The White Cliffs of Dover”  and “Over There.”  It was our government right or wrong, no question.

By 1970, I was married, had a teenaged son, and had been teaching for a decade.  We watched the news and “special coverage” programs on television and felt “up close and personal” with regard to the war in Vietnam.  We participated in the Peace Marches in San Francisco and sang “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” and “If I had a Hammer.”  We wore peace buttons, urged “Save the Whales” and “Make Love Not War.”  We questioned everything, especially the government.

So here we are in 2020.  In the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, we look for leadership and wisdom.  Directions from the government are conflicted; from the scientists and health officials, more cautious and, seemingly, more sensible.  If we have to trust one or the other, I’m putting my faith in the science and health departments.

But then last week, the government and the health officials met, face to mask you might say.  Our second-in-command (government-wise) refused to wear a mask when he visited one of our nation’s most esteemed medical facilities.  Of course there is a huge flap.  After all, the Mayo Clinic REQUIRES that no one enter without a mask.  So, why, one might ask, was Mr. Pence allowed inside?  Does “require” have a new meaning now (health-wise)?  Or are our health officials not to be trusted either?  It is disconcerting to say the least.

Stimulus money for dictionaries all around, I say.  REQUIRED READING. Paid tutors to be provided as needed.

Chaos vs. Stability

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

“Remember when we had ten superintendents in eight years?” my friend John asked me the other day.  No, actually, I didn’t.  The RDP (Revolving Door Policy) had developed as an unusual phenomenon when John was teaching here in the Ocean Beach School District (1977 to 1984) but, by now, it is BAU (Business As Usual.)  In fact, I’ve long ago lost count of who and how many have served in that capacity!

In 2005, when I was writing Ocean Park School: The First Seven Decades, I asked my colleague Jan Bono if she’d write a commentary on the District’s superintendents.  She wrote a poem which is one of my all-time favorite accounts of the situation in OBSD’s head office to that time:


(A virtual parade of Superintendents from consolidation through remodeling)
By Jan Bono OBSD Teacher Since 1977

Carl Aase began the transition,
Louis Reis was next in line,
Reis was followed by Thompson,
For awhile things were fine.

John Thompson served for seven years,
In 1980 retired,
Who knew for a quarter century
He’d be the longest hired?

Lew Moorman devoted a pretty good year,
Moved on for better pay,
But after that the “name on the door”
Was changing by the day.

Al Fedje was here for eight short months,
And spent the budget reserve.
Pat Stara made it a year and a half
Before she lost her nerve.

A double levy failure
Sent George Kontos out the door,
Guy Glenn filled in as interim,
His months just over four.

Another interim followed Glenn,
Four months we saw Tom Poe.
July ’87 brought Al number two,
We hoped he would not go.

But scarcely a year went flying by,
And Vandenberg was out.
Dick Grabenhorst agreed to help
When given a short-term shout.

Gil Johnson gave us seven “school years”
Which rivaled Thompson’s feat,
Just four months short of “history”
Vacating the top seat.

The second Dick, the second Johnson,
Was an uncontested choice,
Then his main man, Dennis Bolz
Had a year to sound his voice.

A former teacher, now board chair,
Ray Provo had time to burn,
Then hired a former colleague,
Nancey Olson took her turn.

July ’02 Tom Lockyer came,
We finally passed a bond!
But while yet “under construction,”
Our Lockyer moved along.

We almost had another one,
In June of 2005,
But he changed his mind and faxed regrets
Before he could arrive.

The Superintendents, they come and go,
The only thing changed is the name.
Though Ocean Park School has changed its look,
Her heart remains the same!

I was greatly pleased to read in yesterday’s paper that Amy Huntley – a long-time and Ocean Beach employee with wide experience from classroom teacher to administrative positions – is being considered for the superintendent’s position which is now open yet again!  Stability comes from the inside out it seems to me.  Maybe by hiring from within, OBSD can finally get it right!


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:  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.

No Tee-Hee About It!

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

The Doctor’s Diagram

They call the Transesophageal Echocardiography a TEE for short – not tee as in tee-hee but TEE as in the initials said one at a time.  Not much tee-hee about it!

According to the American Heart Association:  Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is a test that produces pictures of your heart. TEE uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to make detailed pictures of your heart and the arteries that lead to and from it. Unlike a standard echocardiogram, the echo transducer that produces the sound waves for TEE is  to a thin tube that passes through your mouth, down your throat and into your esophagus. Because the esophagus is so close to the upper chambers of the heart, very clear images of those heart structures and valves can be obtained.

The Magic School Bus – Inside The Human Body

According to me and my limited understanding:  Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) borders on magic and is reminiscent of The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body.  In Joanna Cole’s story, illustrator Bruce Degen takes Ms. Frizzle’s class on a visual tour of classmate Arnold’s body, where they flow up a blood vessel and into his heart – a healthy heart, of course.  The whole point of the TEE of Nyel’s heart was to show what the trouble is or, more specifically, how his troubles have improved since his TEE of five weeks ago.

Yesterday’s TEE procedure was the third one Nyel has had in the past few years.  From his point of view, the nurses and technicians set up the equipment at his bedside, right in his hospital room; the anesthesiologist prepares an IV, the doctor arrives, and the next thing he knows thirty minutes have elapsed, the doctor has disappeared, and the nurse and technicians are packing up.

Nyel and “Dr. God”

While Nyel was still ‘out,’ the doctor talked to me briefly about what he had learned and what his thoughts were concerning next steps.  Nyel’s blood clot has diminished by 60 to 70 percent.  The mitral valve regurge is also a bit less. Probably no valve repair or replacement at this time.  Perhaps an upgrade to his pacemaker or maybe just an adjustment.  He will get back to us after consultation with the cardiologist who is one of the Cardiac Electrophysiology specialists on the team.  It might be tomorrow in the time-honored fashion of hurry up and wait.  In any case, we’ll probably be here through most of the weekend while they back off one of the dicier meds…  Still not much tee-hee going on here, but things are looking better.

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

Cuddling in the Coop?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Chicken Coop in the snow

These days, Farmer Nyel heads for the coop about 4:30 in the afternoon, just as it’s getting dark.  By that time, the girls have returned to the coop from their daily endeavors and are settling in for a good night’s sleep. Nyel has only to check the nest boxes for eggs and to close and latch the coop door against the possibility of midnight marauders.

His first duty (the egg gathering) has been complicated a bit lately by those two girls who have decided to sleep in the nest boxes rather than on the roost.  Nyel has a choice.  He can either reach underneath each of the ladies to see if they are atop an egg, or he can wait until morning.  He usually chooses to wait, disliking the annoyed rustling and clucking of disturbed hens.

Sleeping Tail-to-Beak

As reported here some days ago, only one of our four girls has been sleeping on the roost lately.  Besides the two in the nest boxes, one recalcitrant hen has been sleeping above the nest boxes – ‘on the shelf’ as it were.  But last night there was a mystifying change in the sleeping arrangements.

For whatever reason, the girl above the nest boxes has returned to the roost… sort of.  Nyel was flabbergasted to see that she was resting comfortably right on top of her sister on the perch.  Now, we’ve all heard of kids in big families who need to share a bed and who sometimes sleep in toe-to-head fashion.  These two hens were asleep tail-to-beak style, one on top of the other.  Definitely a first, at least in our coop!

Exemplary Roosting – Image from Cyberspace

It’s certainly not because of crowded conditions.  The entire remaining four feet of roost was totally empty.  Both girls were apparently comfortably asleep.  What the heck?  We can only assume that at least one of them didn’t get the memo explaining the protocol of roosting.  Actually, maybe none of them did.  They are arguably the most creative snoozers who have inhabited the coop since it was built eight years ago!

We’ve considered trying to educate the girls, perhaps by showing them pictures of ideal roosting situations.  But… educating chickens is a difficult task.  So…whatever floats your boat, we say.  Or in this case, whatever tethers their feathers…

A Conversation across the Generations

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy

On Monday morning when the phone rang, I was ready.  It was a conference call coming in from ‘somewhere near Issaquah’ which sounded pretty exotic in the first place.  The call had been set up by the tutor who was helping eighth grader, Bella, with a special project and I had agreed to a long distance interview – about my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.

Bella had lots of questions – What kind of man was he?  Did I know any family stories about him?  Was the family still in the oyster business?  Did I live in his house?  How had Oysterville changed since R.H.’s day?

I shared a few stories – how he had resigned shortly after being elected sheriff because the County expected him to buy his own badge.  And that though the R. H. stood for Robert Hamilton, he didn’t go by ‘Robert’ or ‘Bob’ but by ‘Hamilton.’  And that his mother had apprenticed him to a tailor when he was ten.  That, at 19, he signed a promissory note for $50 so he could leave his indenture a year early and that he paid it back ten years later, walking from Oysterville to Pennsylvania and back here again.


I had some questions of my own, too.  Most importantly, how did Bella happen upon information about R.H. Espy in the first place?  “He’s mentioned in my Washington State History book,” was the answer.  Who knew?  And, how did she discover me?  She ran across my website, put two and two together and decided to make the contact. Wow!

Bella had two more questions for me:  “How does it feel to be a celebrity?”  “Do you consider yourself a pioneer like your great grandfather was?”  I don’t know that my answers (“I’m not.” and “Not at all.”) and my total delight at both questions were satisfactory.  But we ended our conversation with the possibility that Bella and her tutor will visit Oysterville in the spring.  I hope that happens.  When I think about it, Bella could be my great-granddaughter!  And how great is that!

Told you so! Told you so!

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

506afc27dbd0cb30770014f1._w.1500_s.fit_As far as I can determine (and I’ve actually done the research), the current political embarrassment of the United States (read: the leading Republican presidential hopeful and followers) is all related to M&Ms. Yes! M&Ms! Plus, of course, the constant ad nauseum commentary “Good job!” to little kids.

First of all, psychologists and other experts are beginning to speak out about the possibility that Mr. T likely suffers from NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. An article in “Psychology Today” by Randi Kreger lists five main NPD traits:
An exaggerated sense of self-importance and exaggerating achievements
Obsession with image; needs to be the focus of attention
Feelings of entitlement
Lack of empathy
Relationships largely superficial and exist for personal gain and to inflate self-esteem

168605_600All of which may explain something about the candidate, but what is his apparent appeal to millions of potential voters? Perhaps some of the answers can be found in The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, a book by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. It was published in April 2009 by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. These paragraphs jumped right out at me:

There is no single cause of the narcissism epidemic; instead we point to several contributing factors in the book. Admiring oneself is now considered crucial to success in life. This began in earnest in the 1970s, became more influential with the self-esteem movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and today is taken for granted in American culture. We see this in slogans like “You have to love yourself before you can love others” and at preschools with young children singing, “I am special/Look at me.”

At the core of narcissism is the fantasy that you are better than you really are (and better than those around you). Any process that allows that fantasy to exist despite the less glamorous reality is an opportunity for narcissism to thrive…

007 and the QueenOh, how well I remember being the voice in the wilderness at faculty meetings during the 1980s and 1990s, when I spoke against giving kids those meaningless compliments for following the rules or for learning their math facts or for waiting patiently in line.

“Why are we making a Big Deal out of kids meeting normal expectations?” I kept asking.

“The kids know false praise when they hear it,” I kept saying…

“What values are we instilling?” I kept wondering…

“My Kids” — All 800+ of Them!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
A Quiet Chat


On more than one occasion, I’ve written about the teachers who I remember and who (maybe, probably, certainly) influenced my life. I wonder if they knew. I hope so. Perhaps even more than that, I wonder what impact I might have had on them.

That’s no doubt a retired teacher’s thought. In the 39 years I spent in the classroom – 16 in California (1962-1978) and 23 here on the Long Beach Peninsula (1978 2001) – kids influenced and shaped my life in so many ways. I doubt if that ever occurred to them.

From their point of view, I was Mrs. LaRue and, later, Mrs. Stevens. They knew me to be strict and fair and demanding – or so some have told me in later years. They loved the stories I read to them and the social studies projects we did and the field trips we took. And, of course, so did I.



But what I remember best and am most grateful for are all the ways they caused me to grow and learn and become better than I could have been without them. There were the kids with so much courage – dealing with a dread disease or with the loss of a parent or a sibling. There were kids who persevered against every possible learning disability to finally “get it” with a shout of exultation or a quiet smile of satisfaction.

There were kids who were so gifted and talented that they made my head spin, yet they were patient with me and the others who struggled to find proper challenges for them. There were the naughty kids who always managed to find a special place in my heart. And there were the kids who knew just how to push my buttons and, often as not, there were other kids who were so socially astute and dependable they could diffuse any situation, even as my own patience was unravelling,



Mostly these were first, second, and third graders. Six, seven and eight year olds! Many times I taught the same kids for three years in a row. We knew each other inside and out – you know, for better and for worse. Then they moved on. I grew older; they grew up. The girls married and changed their names. The boys got their man-faces and man-voices and I no longer recognized them.  Some are still in touch, but most I’ve lost track of and vice-versa.

Would we still recognize each other? I don’t know. But I will never forget the things they taught me and I’d like them to know that. Every single one of them.