Celebrating the Mess

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

It’s “Muppet” time in my classroom. Several years ago, my intern and I came up with this project as a way to honor Jim Henson, who she researched for one of her classes. I’ve done the project with each of my classes since then, even though I always try to convince myself to skip a year. The mess! The time! The money! The begging parents to send in supplies and help! The mess! The research! The script-writing and revising! The performance! The microphone technical difficulties! The mess! 

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Just part of the mess. . . 

Yesterday, I walked around helping students thread needles, pin pieces, and attach arms. And, I listened. I tried to collect the reasons why I do this project. There they were, the gems that came from my students’ mouths. Some of them were easy to spot, the students who exclaimed, unbidden, “This is the best project ever!”  Then there were the quieter students. I asked one girl how she thought the project was going. She kept sewing, eyes on her careful stitches and said, “Great. I think this is my favorite project of the whole year.”

Other gems are hidden, hard to capture: the kid looking at his puppet’s face for the first time, after turning it rightside out;  the boys helping each other stitch the mouthplate on; the girls teaching each other hot gluing techniques; the classmates holding each others’ pieces to help with placement; the students who finish a step and then help others;  the students persevering through resewing pieces that were placed incorrectly, and the thread that gets cut too short… There are too many of these moments to count. But, the magic is there during our “Muppet Madness.” The parent volunteers see it too, through the crazy loud mess. They smile and shake their heads with wonder as these 6th graders work through the challenges of creating and they say, “What a great project!”

At the end of the day, I finally sat down. There were just 10 students in my room, not in choir or other activities: 7 boys, 3 girls. They had chosen to work on their muppets, and I watched and listened, and started typing what they were saying. As I listened, I heard students engaged in their project, and having fun with their peers. It sounded like learning, and it felt like camaraderie:

“I wish making puppets was more like photoshop.”
“This is the best project ever!” 
“Wait. I know how to do this. Don’t question me. “
“Who has the scissors that really help cut?”  
“This is going to have giant eyebrows. Giant blue eyebrows.” 
“I need some glitter.” 

“Hashtag glitter!”
“We should all do our own little muppet show.” 

“That is what we are doing.”
“No, I mean,  a muppet movie. Each of us.”
“Who took my scissors?” 
“You shall not pass!” 
“Pins. I need pins.” 
“Is this a sharpener?
“I’ve got glue.” 
“So, how do you control arms with no hinges?”
“You don’t. You use little sticks like this.” 
“There you go. This looks nice. A nice little fabulous shirt!” 
“I laugh when I’m nervous.” 
“I bite my nails when I’m nervous.” 
“Is there glitter anywhere?”
“I sewed one side of my pirate hat. It is going to be beautiful.” 
“Ms. Feinberg? do you like it?”
“Ms. Feinberg, where can I find glitter? My shirt is pretty. “
“Huh!!!! No Glitter?”
“See these stitches on the side of my body?? Those are battle scars!”
“You have to sew through all 4 layers.” 
“Ms. Feinberg, I never realized how hard it would be to cut out fabric letters.”
“Here’s ‘Tinkerbell’ fabric.”
“Ms. Feinberg, this was so cool — I mean watching it go from fabric to a muppet!”

 

A slice (or 2) of that crazy puppy, Finn

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Sunday evening, I was sure I had a slice for this week. A puppy slice! That day, we had finally decided enough was enough with our couch. Sure, Finn loved to sleep on the couch. He loved to snuggle on the side, sometimes propped with pillows. It was adorable to watch him nest himself in for a long cozy puppy nap.

But, a few months ago, he spent a good deal of effort destroying parts of the couch. And even though he seems to have stopped that craziness, the couch did not heal.

So, we took the couch to the curb this weekend, much to Finn’s disappointment.IMG_6640

Then, we continued to try to teach Finn to sleep on his soft (and expensive) doggy bed. It’s the one he tried to eat 6 months ago, but will sometimes rest on for short amounts of time, when given a lot of praise.  Sometimes.

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At last, a little before Mother’s Day dinner, Finn did rest on his bed, after we covered it with his favorite blanket. (It used to be my favorite blanket, just saying.) But, then we got a wee bit distracted by dinner with my parents, and we might have left the dog in the family room with his bed a little bit too long.

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After watching us rake the family room (and sweep, and vacuum…Thanks, Mr. Thought), Finnegan decided he didn’t need any couches or beds, because he had our Ikea chair, and he had me to put a pillow under his head.

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So, I thought I had my slice about Finnegan, the crazy Puppy. Oh that puppy!

But then we took Finn to check out a doggy day care out in the country this afternoon. It was beautiful. A classic rolling hills farm:  green grass, blue sky, wonderful people. He ran around with a few dogs while we talked to the owner. The kids ran off with the owner’s kids to look at the kittens in the barn. Finn wasn’t annoyingly interested in the kittens — he just licked them hello and went on his merry way. Bucolic. Peaceful. Perfect.

And then he caught a rooster.

I watched in horror as he chased, then caught it in his mouth. “Oh, it’s just a rooster,” the woman said, highlighting the differences between my vegetarian family and her farm family. “He can kill the rooster.”

We tried to catch Finn, and the rooster did get a way, a few times. And then someone caught Finn, and the rooster walked slowly into the pasture. A pile of feathers was left behind.

“I’m so sorry!” I kept saying. My kids were wide eyed and her kids were smiling, “Oh, it’s okay. it happens all the time.”

“Does this get us kicked out of doggy daycare?” I asked.

She laughed and said, “No! When can he start?”

We met her husband and when I told him we were all vegetarian, he remarked, “Well Finn’s not!”

True. He’s not.

They thought the rooster would probably go off into the woods and die pretty soon.  I think the image of my sweet puppy running with a giant rooster in his mouth will not die soon enough.

Please, Finnegan, stick to killing couches and doggy beds.

 

Celebrate 3.1

celebrate-image So happy to Celebrate with Ruth Ayres this weekend! 

Celebrating getting back into running…
A few of my thoughts before during and after today’s run: 


Pre-Run: Awesome. I ran a 5K last weekend, I can do it again today. Maybe I’ll run 4 miles! Earbuds in, water bottle filled…walking up this hill before I start, for sure!

Mile 0-.75: This feels great! Out in the open air, it stopped raining, great music. I love running. I’m so glad I found some pretty flat areas of the neighborhood to run in. Isn’t it cool how your pace goes with the music? Lucky day, lucky life, lucky I can run. 

Mile .75 – 2: Why would I think I can run 4 miles, ever? Why did I move to another hilly neighborhood? If I stop now, that’s okay. You are supposed to run various distances. What’s so special about a 5K? Why can’t the park have a track that is flat? What’s with all the dog walkers? I have to pass them obviously, I’m running. But that’s annoying. I should just stop and walk home. That’s exercise too. Plus, I have to get home and do other stuff. Why do I have such a lame running playlist on my phone? Why would I want to listen to this music? This path looks like it belongs in a murder mystery. I wonder if I can find a running partner who runs at my s-l-o-w 12 minute mile, and doesn’t want to talk…just someone so I’m not alone on these wooded paths.That’s silly. Nobody runs this slow.  

Mile 2 -3: Fine. I’ve done 2 miles. I can just do the next one. If I can just find somewhere flat to end this run, I could do more than 3.1 miles. I’m fine. This music is good. I’ll just skip a few of these tracks. How do people drink their water while they run? If I stop now to take a drink, I might not start again. If I run up there and then back that way, that will use some distance but not take me too far from home. If I go that way, I’ll have to go up that hill. If I go over there, I’ll have to go up that other hill. This would be stressful if it were a race. I think I’m more of a solo runner. I better be able to pass that old lady walking her dog up ahead. 

3 Miles!Woot! I’ll just go around this bend, and see how much more I can do. 

3.12 Miles: And that’s another hill. I’ll just stop now. 

Post run: Ahhhhhh… I did it! Water, water, water. I bet I could do that again tomorrow. Or Monday. Or tomorrow. Maybe Monday…

 

A slice of swimming lessons

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

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Melancholy has taken over E, and I blame the steroids he’s on right now. This sadness can come to play all through the day, but for sure on the way to school, on the way to karate, and during swimming lessons.

Tip of the day. Don’t start your 7 year old in any fun extracurriculars at the same time he starts a 12 week course of prednisolone! 

Today as I walked E and H into the YMCA for their swimming lessons, the difference between how each boy viewed this activity was clear.

H: I don’t know if I should move up a level, or just stay in this. I mean, it’s easy, but it’s good practice. How many more classes do we have left?
Me: Well, this is your third class, and there are 8 total .
H: 5! We only have 5 left?
E: 5! We have 5 more?
Me: You can take another round of classes after this if you want —
H: Yes! Please? Please?
E: NO! Do we have to? I don’t want to!

Once in the building, we hurry into the pool lobby. H and E walk through the men’s locker room, and I meet them via the women’s. E looks worried and says, “What if they make me go under water? Last time they just expected everyone to go under, and I can’t!” Then he tells me that the other kids splash, and that really bothers him. “If I hold two fingers up like this, that means they are splashing! That’s what I was trying to tell you last time!”

“How about 1 finger up means ‘I love you?'” I ask him.

I’m so glad to make this signalling system, because the first time I took the boys to swimming lessons, E kept looking at me and mouthing whole sentences that I couldn’t understand. If you have ever been on the other side of windows looking into an indoor pool where your 7 year old is scared of swimming lessons and is dramatically mouthing his concerns about drowning, you know what I’m talking about.

The classes are called to the pool, and I walk to the plastic pool chairs that parents sit in to watch. I’m not going to lie. Trying to watch 2 kids in 2 pools…not my favorite thing.

E is getting splashed. 2 fingers up from him, and I mirror his signal while mouthing, “It’s okay. You’ll be okay.”

Every few minutes, E mouths, “How many minutes left?” and I flash the number on my fingers.

25 minutes left.

E is so mad about the kid next to him acting crazy. His 2 fingers are up, his eyes are rolling. I give what I hope is an empathetic and encouraging look.

“What if I drown?” he mouths.

“You’ll be okay.” I mouth back, gesturing to his 2 teachers and the lifeguards nearby.

“How many minutes left?”

I look over at H, who is diving for rings and swimming back and forth in his class’ lane.

E does a front float, and a  doggy paddle to his teacher who keeps moving farther away. He looks at me, and I give another encouraging smile, with 2 thumbs up.  His teacher pushes him away, off towards the side of the pool and he is doing great. Until he’s not. And I see the mini panic as he loses steam, and goes under. His teacher is there in a second, and helps him to the side, and he seems fine. But when I mouth, “Are you okay?” with questioning eyebrows, and one thumb up, he shakes his head no. He rests, arms on the side of the pool, looking sad.

He swims again, and this time mouths, “Was I good?”  Thumbs up buddy.

H is diving off the diving board.

“How many minutes left?”

The kids in E’s class are taking turns jumping into the water. Last time, E jumped into his teacher’s arms. But today, he jumps straight into the pool, submerging himself.

“Was I good?”

“So good, honey!”

“How many minutes left?”

One more jump, and then I am handing the boys towels, talking to H’s teacher about moving up a level, and reassuring E that he did indeed do a good job.

I meet them on the other side of the locker rooms, and we walk out…Swimming lessons are done…until Thursday.

 

A Slice of a Testing Day (A regular slice)

Slice of LIfe Part of Slice of Life by Two Writing Teachers

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I weave slowly through the tables. I watch for issues,
I watch for cheating, I watch for problems.
I look carefully but I don’t look too closely.
I’m not allowed to look at the test. Only at the students taking the test.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I follow rules, even though I’m not necessarily known as a rule follower.
I read my manual.  I’m prepared.
I picked up my tests by 7:50. I counted them in front of someone. I signed for them. I protected them. I never left them alone.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll bring a baby blanket to wrap them in, just for extra protection.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I place some things on my rolling stand.
The stand flips up, and all the things drop to the floor.
It’s loud enough, in the complete silence.
So, I silently apologize, and wave the kids back to their work.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
It’s boring. I try a walking meditation, I stretch my neck, my arms. I even do a squat in the corner of the back of the room.
It’s boring.
I wish I could take the test!
That would at least give me something to do.

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
Active Monitoring! Sounds so professional,
feels so gosh golly boring.
A few students finish too early. This is not a good sign.
There’s no way they read passages and questions closely and carefully! No way!

Step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…step…
I wish my dog hadn’t eaten my fitbit. I’ll never know how many steps I’ve taken.
I collect tests when students have finished.
I pile them in alphabetical order to return them, counting them once again in front of someone.
As if I’d want to take one for myself.

 

#sol17 March 31 A slice of the last slice.

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

My students filed in, sat down and started their slices.

“It’s the last day!” Someone said.

Another student’s face fell, in puppy dog sadness. “I’m sad that it’s over.” she said, and then paused, shook her head a bit and added, “Well, sad and also kind of happy too, you know?”

Yep. I know.

#sol17 March 30 A slice of marching

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

One of my favorite bulletin boards this year is my “What Would You March For?” board that we made from a collection of the things that my 6th graders think are important issues. This was part of a larger activity from our celebration of Martin Luther King Jr, and watching  Teaching Tolerance’s The Children’s March.

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I love it because the kids were so genuine when they made their signs, and I love that we happened to make the signs on Inauguration Day. I love the memory, even though it broke my heart a little bit that day.  After watching my students write that they would march for LGBTQ rights, The Environment, The Animals, Global Warming, Freedom, etc., I was reading news of White House taking down website pages protecting some of those very same things. But, it gave me hope to see my students thinking about things that were important to them.

Now we are just a few days away from starting our state assessments. All of us at school are trying our best to comply with the rules of what we need to take down and cover up in our classrooms and hallways. Obviously, we can’t have students looking at charts that will help them write Text Dependent Analysis essays, or charts of literary definitions… but not everything is so black and white. I’ve taken to just covering up almost everything with words on it, because the manual says something about covering things that could help students with the test. (Ironically enough, getting my students to use the charts and resources in the room when I WANT them to use them is challenging… thinking of them using it during a high stakes test is laughable. But, I cover everything anyway.) My students, like every year, walk into the classroom after I have slapped colored paper all over and go into mild shock. They ask me why, and I tell them that the PDE wants to make sure they don’t use anything in the classroom to help them, or to cheat. They look confused, asking me “How could we use the sign that says ‘read’ to help us on the test?” I just shrug my shoulders.

Our hallways need to be free of hints as well, so the other day as I passed the “What Would you March For” bulletin board, I stopped to comment to my friend, “Maybe we should just replace all of the protest signs with signs that say “No More High Stakes Testing!”

But, because I like my job, I asked our team para to cover the board instead.

Walking by it today, though, I shuddered.

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Our marchers. Silenced.

Today one of my students looked up at my wall, where I have a little banner that says “THINK.”

“Ms. Feinberg! You better cover that up. It might give us a hint of what we should do during the test.”

I love sixth graders.

 

#sol17 March 29 A Confession Slice, and some poems

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

Confession Slice. 

I wrote a poem slice.
But the rhythm was off.
So I started over,
and that one stunk too.
So here, I’ve written a few:

Today: Bulletin Boards

I had to cover bulletin boards today,
So my students won’t cheat on their standardized tests
I might not agree, but it’s what PDE thinks is best.

Today: My Dog

My dog wouldn’t take a walk with me
Even though I had my sneakers on, and treats in my pocket.
Even when I cheered “Let’s go!”
All he did was stand there, unmoving, saying “NO!”
So I took him to the dog park, where he ran and played
Tired out, I took him home, where he chewed and lay.

Today: Writing

As soon as I start writing,
the dog is no longer tired.
He wants to play tug of war,
Now he seems so wired!

He wants to chase, and chew, and tug
Now he probably wants a walk!
But it’s bedtime for the human kids –
I mean, just take a look at the clock!

I’m not trying to bore you with my griping
It’s just that I’m not so good
at playing chase or tug of war,
at least not while I’m typing.

#sol17 March 28 A Slice of March

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

What does March mean to you?

As a kid, March was full of crafts with little yellow lions, and cotton puff lambs.

In 1990, March was all about waiting for my baby sister to be born. I was 12, and an only child.

In 1998, March brought a proposal. Mr. Thought and I had been together for 6 years, high school sweethearts. He proposed in the Pontiac, on the way home from a visit with his family.

In 1999, March meant the sudden passing of Mr. Thought’s dad, Al, just shy of 3 months until the wedding. In a haunting video from the previous summer when we took family to see the wedding location, Al is shown saying, “I hope I’m alive and well.”

In 2003, March was spent waiting for my own baby girl to be born. Life was about appointments, preparations, baby showers — and I just remembered this — patiently waiting for the next Harry Potter book! (Which I had time to quickly read that June right before L was born.)

In 2006, March had me hiding the fact that I was pregnant with H. I was nervous that I’d have another miscarriage, and feeling so very sick!

In 2010, March… An early spring…me on family rearing leave with my  3 kids. That March was filled with taking L to school,  H to preschool and trying to get newborn E to nap anywhere but on me.

In 2011, it was my second March at home, on leave. I hadn’t yet figured out how to get napping to work, though! (Although when E started at a babysitter that fall, he easily napped for a few hours a day for her!)

In 2014, I started my first Slice of Life March challenge!

In 2015, I sliced for all of March again.

In 2016, More slicing. Although, what I remember about March 2016, is my 14 year old cat, Billy dying. He was so sick, but still his death seemed sudden and unfair. My children were there for his last breath, and I arrived just a few minutes later.

And now, March means once again, a month of noticing, of reflecting, of writing.

What does March mean to you?

#sol17 March 27 A slice of not making sense.

Slice of LIfe

 

 I am participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge: A slice a day for bloggingwithstudentsall of March.  You should do it too!  Thank you, Two Writing Teachers! Readers, check out their site, and start slicing!

 

It doesn’t make sense. 

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

She was just a baby.  How could a baby be expected to take Geometry? How could a baby decide between English 9, and Advanced English?

I’m not sure why I’m helping my daughter pick out classes for High School.

It doesn’t make sense.