Category Archives: Slice of Life

A slice at the Grocery Store

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

 

There’s only one register open at Wegmans, and it’s a little bit slow. E and I can handle it though, and while we wait, a pregnant mother of 3 kids pulls her cart behind me. Her toddler keeps throwing things on the floor. So, when it’s my turn to put groceries on the belt, I ask her if she wants to go in front of me.

“No, that’s okay. They need to learn to be patient.”

“Are you sure?” I ask, “I only brought one of my kids with me today, so you are welcome to go first.”

“Nope, I’m kinda hoping they open another register. Usually they open registers when there are lines.”

The cashier rings up my groceries, and the woman has to start loading hers.

“Can you get those things on the bottom? No the bottom. The very bottom of the cart.” She explains to her kids. “Grab the milk from your sister before she drops it.”

I’m pulled out of my noticing by the cashier complaining about the line. She needs a price check for one of my items, so now she is the only cashier and her lamp is blinking. Another worker walks by, and my cashier yells after her.

“Is anyone going to help me?”

The woman walks away, saying “I’m going to accounting.”

“It would be great if you said something.” the cashier tells me. “That will make them listen. This is crazy. I’m all by myself.”

I nod. “It really puts the pressure on you.”

“That’s true.” she says to me, and then turns her head towards customer service, calling out the name of her manager. “I could use some help!”

Her voice is stressed, and snippy. The manager looks up, takes a deep breath and says “I’m with a customer. And then I can help you.”

The cashier grumbles to me some more, and I don’t really know what to say, so I just tell her that it must be so hard. The manager walks over, a smile on her face, asking what she can do to help me.

“I’m the only one on register.” the cashier says as the manager walks away, looking for the price we need. When she gets back, she asks the cashier if the item got on my order.

“I have no idea. I’m the only one on register. Can someone please come help over here?”

The manager checks that the item is now on my order, turns to the cashier and talks in a very patient voice, “More people are coming on. It will be okay.” She walks away.

“I hope your day gets better.” I tell the cashier as I walk away. E looks at me, eyes wide and rolling a little. It’s the look he gives me when we witness something a little odd. So, we talk a little about how hard it must be to be the only cashier, and how hard it must be to be the manager trying to get other people on the registers.  In my head I think about how patient the manager was, and how stressed out the cashier was. I wonder if this was supposed to teach me something. Is it ironic that the manager was all smiles to me, and on the patronizing side of patient with her employee? I don’t know. But, I noticed.

E reads this over my shoulder. “That’s sad” he says, and then, “Why are you writing about Wegmans? Write about something else.”

 

 

A Slice of just stopping by

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

I was just stopping by, a quick summer visit. Camp was in session. I am not a part of the camp. I was just stopping by. A quick meeting or two.

A boy was wandering the hallway, with a look a teacher can spot from a mile, or at least a hallway or two away. It’s the look of “Maybe I’m doing something I’m not supposed to be doing, but I’m a little lost, I don’t really know. Am I in trouble? I don’t want to be in trouble, and I don’t want to go where I’m supposed to be or do what I’m supposed to do.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

A camp counselor came out of a door at the other side of the hallway, and she called out “Mark! Mark! Where are you going?” (Names have been changed, of course.) He said nothing, just wandered further away, closer to the outside doors.

“Get back here, Mark! Where’s your counselor? Where are you supposed to be? Upstairs? Come here. You need to find your teacher. Does she know you are here? You have to come here.”  She kept repeating these kinds of statements, then said something I couldn’t understand, and walked back into her room for a moment.

Mark just kept walking, almost out the door.

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to leave.” I said, and then I called out, “Is he supposed to go out here?” (Sometimes we have to ask obvious questions…)

“No! Are you with him?” the counselor asked me, and I started to wonder… who is with this boy?

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

Mark walked back, as the counselor walked away and up the stairs. I watched him, but he didn’t follow. He walked slowly towards the outside doors down the other hallway. I easily caught up to him.

“Hi.” I introduced myself. “I’m Mrs. Thought. Is there something I can help you with? I’m a teacher, and it looks like you might need some help.”

“I lost my lunchbox.” he sniffed. “I left it outside, but I don’t know which door it was.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

We talked a bit, and as I was convincing him to not go outside until he found his counselor, another woman rounded the corner.

“Mark! You can’t just leave like that! You have to stay with me.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

“He thinks he lost his lunchbox outside.” I explained.

She looked at me and shook her head, mouthing, “He didn’t lose his lunchbox.” in a way that meant, “This isn’t about a lunchbox. Don’t believe everything this kid tells you.”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

She walked away with Mark, and I heard her softly say, “Do you want me to go outside with you to look for your lunchbox?”

I’m just stopping by. I’m just here for a couple of meetings. I’m not involved. 

His camp counselors have it covered…

But wow, I would really like to know the rest of this story, the rest of his story, and if there was a lunchbox out on the playground.

A slice of getting ready

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

Every time I go to target, I find myself looking at the dollar spot. I look at the cute wooden signs, and the fun mini clips.

“I don’t need any of these things!” I whine to my kids. (Which, Mr. Thought would argue is what I should always say when I think I should get something for my classroom.)

Summer is a weird time for a classroom teacher with no classroom of her own.

Every time I read a blog, a school idea floats through my brain, or I see a great deal on colorful pens, I pause. I wonder a little about my choice to take a break from the classroom and move to an instructional coaching role for awhile.

Seems silly, for sure — that a few mini clothespins with cute pencil tops could make me question my life choices — but I think it speaks to my love of creating a home for my students and me. My mom might raise her eyebrows here — she knows I have a deep love for office supplies that lives alongside my altruistic teaching heart. However, I think my school “nesting” each year is a way for me to ready my brain and my heart for a new year.  The Reggio Emilia approach to education tells us that the environment is the third teacher, so I try for a bright, organized, calm and inspiring space in hopes that it will help students learn and work. (Considering how hard it is for me to concentrate on writing this right now, on the tiny space I’ve carved for myself on my dining room table in the middle of the mess of a new floor installation … I tend to think the environment really does matter!)

Lucky for me, almost every time I’m at Target, I bump into a teacher I get to work with for the next few years! Usually it is one teacher in particular, but I’ve bumped into several. So, even though I might stare longingly at the book bin labels, a few minutes later I will be reminded of how cool this job is! These teachers are amazing!

When it’s almost August, and my teaching year is on the horizon, I like to think about the 50 kids I’ll be spending the year with. I look at the class list, and make conferring forms and checklists. The promise of a blank-slate-school-year always feels exciting. So, I reorganize my classroom library, and get ready for back-to-school night.

But, now it is almost August, and it’s my coaching year on the horizon. So I’m thinking about the teachers I get to spend the year with – the creative, hard working, smart, kind, welcoming, kid-loving teachers! And guess what? Each of those teachers spends their day with 25 kids or so… so the reality is, I get to spend my year with about 35 teachers, and about 875 kids. How lucky can you get?

 

So I’m readying my brain and my heart in a new way. I’m helping a friend set up her classroom – it’s getting those organizing and setting up needs out of my system.  I’m reading a lot of resources, and focusing myself on learning across a breadth of grade levels, I’m working on curriculum writing teams, getting to know the curriculum, and the teachers. I’m turning my brain into my classroom, I guess! (Hey, the analogy works, until you realize that my brain doesn’t have any cute paper clips.)

…I may have also bought some cute ABC and ruler ribbon from Target, just in case I need to wrap up a little mini “Back-To-School” treat for teachers. I couldn’t help myself.

A slice of a summer night.

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

 

Summer nights come suddenly. I’m just relaxing into the evening with kids, and then BAM! It’s 10:00, and I’ve failed at bedtime — again.

A bad headache equaled a late dinner tonight which made a late bedtime inevitable, so I decided not to care. We sat on the deck, as the light faded, and I just chatted with the kids:  Chairs pulled close together, legs resting on laps.

I wanted to see the stars come out, but the clouds were in the way. One big cloud, actually. So, I closed my eyes,  pretended my headache was gone, and just listened. We talked about makeup that L wants to try, “just for fun,” and the sphynx documentary the boys had watched earlier, and the smoothie E had just made, “even better than my smoothie from yesterday because instead of two ice cubes, this time I added two extra pieces of frozen mango.”

While we chatted and the wind stirred up, the magic wasn’t lost on me. In the back of my head I was noticing that this… this is what they mean when people tell me I’ll miss these days.

 

A (flashback) slice of “bullying”

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

A flashback slice! 

What do you remember about 7th and 8th grade? I’m closing my eyes and I can see the hallways of my Junior High School. I can glimpse a classroom or two. I remember my Social Studies teacher giving detentions to people who said “Shut up.” I remember that Latin was all the way down the hall, on the second floor, I think. I remember my math teacher slamming a ruler on a desk and screaming “Divided BY!” I vaguely remember display cases across from a water fountain. I remember the cafeteria, and the “lunch ladies” getting so mad if you went to the bathroom instead of outside for recess.  And I remember just a few of the kids.

I don’t remember all of their names, and I barely remember their faces. But, there were these girls who decided they didn’t like me. I mean, there were plenty of people who weren’t especially nice to me… but these girls seemed to have it in for me! Snide remarks, sarcasm, a constant stream of jokes at my expense, and (maybe worst of all) a fake friendliness in between every insult.

 

There was that time I accidentally put my chair leg on the sleeve of a leather jacket. That girl looked at me, lips curled up, eyebrows furrowed. I don’t remember her name, I don’t remember her face, but I remember that expression. I remember how mad she was.

There was that time they made fun of me for not wearing a bra. I think I went shopping for one that weekend.

There was that time they cornered me, accusing me of stealing a tube of bubble gum and a dollar from their gym locker. I had no idea what they were talking about. Somehow we were in the stairwell, 3 of them, blocking the door, in front of 1 of me.

This was 1990. Was that really almost 30 years ago? I don’t remember much, if anything, academic from 7th or 8th grade, but I do remember how mean these girls were!

So, this was bullying, right? I’m supposed to tell you that I was targeted, a victim. I’m supposed to call these girls bullies. My parents were supposed to have demanded consequences.

Fine, I was targeted. They were mean. I don’t know what happened to them at school. I don’t know what happened to them in life. I don’t know if they still think I stole that tube of gum, that dollar. I don’t know what they remember: the stairwell, or what they learned in Social Studies class?

I won’t call them bullies though. I will hope that they are all doing fine in life, happy and healthy.

I’m doing a lot of thinking about bullying… This piece in Teaching Tolerance has a powerful perspective. 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_6607

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.

IMG_6619

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.

IMG_6616

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.

 

A slice of swimming lessons

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

IMG_6204

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.

16387145_10211888020456949_2272614389598680437_n

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.

IMG_5859

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.