Sunday, August 31, 2008

Northern Exposure

My sister, nephew, and I went north for a few hours yesterday to visit our parents. It wasn't a long visit, but long enough to feel refreshed. Delicious lunch, complete with home-grown vegetables (green beans, tomatoes, carrots, green peppers) and raspberry shortcake; good music (CD of my niece soloing on the Lalo Cello Concerto somewhere in Europe); good conversation; and the usual tour of the lovely, although weather-battered backyard gardens.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tired (it's a good thing)

The week has been exhausting. And exhilar- ating. This is the beginning of my fourth year as principal and I can't remember being so tired, or so satisfied, at the end of a first week. It is a relief, in so many ways. Our enrollment is up, we have a great staff, the kids' attitudes are positive. It's a good thing.

I won't say it was an ideal week, but it was close. I realized last night, not for the first time, that it's a blessing for us that we now have an extra day in our weekend after an intense week. If we started after Labor Day, we'd have to wait until Columbus Day for our first break. Even though it's early, it's coming at a good time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's Getting to Look a Lot Like . . . SCHOOL!

We start classes again tomorrow. I was going to say "start school," but we actually did that two weeks ago when teachers were back on contract.

The first week was crazy busy with meetings elsewhere. The second week was crazier busy with meetings in the morning and endless work in the classroom and office from noon on. And for some (me), hours of work after going home as well.

Now, we're down to the last day. I've been helping the registrar with the over- whelm- ing job of scheduling, creating attendance sheets, etc. I was working on that until 1 a.m. this morning and I'm still not done. I need to finish with that ASAP and then go to school to put my classroom to order. There, I'll find others doing the same thing: painting classrooms, putting up bulletin bboards, making lesson plans, copying syllabi for students, and so on.

I love this time of year. It's overwhelming and exhausting. But oh, so satisfying and exciting!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Be Still and Know

I've been listening to Stephen Curtis Chapman's Be Still and Know that He is God from his Speechless album on my way to work lately. It's a beautiful song based on Psalm 46:10 that has brought me great peace of mind to start my day:

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is holy
Be still oh restless soul of mine
Bow before the Prince of Peace
Let the noise and clamor cease

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is faithful
Consider all that He has done
Stand in awe and be amazed
And know that He will never change
Be still

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know that He is God
Be still
Be speechless

Be still and know that He is God
Be still and know He is our Father
Come rest your head upon His breast
Listen to the rhythm of
His unfailing heart of love
Beating for His little ones
Calling each of us to come
Be still
Be still

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Quick Turnaround

My alarm didn't go off this morning when it was supposed to (4 a.m.), but luckily I woke up on time anyway. Well, almost. It was about 4:20, which caused a little stress, but I made it to the airport in good time all the same. Then again, there's very little traffic at 5 in the morning, in for Boston on a week day. I got to the airport, parked, checked in, went through security, and essentially walked right onto the plane without any waiting. So, except for the anxiety initially, sleeping later turned out to be a good thing.

The flight from Logan to JFK in New York City was quick, smooth, and uneventful. We barely got to cruising altitude before we were descending for our landing. Someone from the group I was going to in-service picked me up. Turns out he had his wife with him, also a teacher, who was a student of mine . . . 19 years ago!!! Teachers aren't supposed to have favorites, at least they're not supposed to say so, but she was a member of one of my all-time favorite classes. What a great surprise to see her again!

The workshop went very well, although I had less time than I expected. I led out in a Writing Across the Curriculum seminar for about 30 high school teachers. We talked a little bit about cross-curricular teaching as well. It was fun, and I enjoyed my time, however brief it was.

Once done with the workshop, I sat through the keynote session of the day, had lunch, and then it was back to the airport. The return preliminaries took much longer (perhaps the difference between NYC and Boston, 2 p.m. and 6 a.m.), but the flight itself was just as short and sweet. We even had the same flight crew!

Photos of NYC from when I was there at the end of June.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

14 on the 17th

It's my nephew's 14th birthday today. I celebrated the day by working 14 hours, half of them at school (it was our Registration Day). I did take a few hours to go out to eat with him and his family, though--California Pizza Kitchen, his favorite restaurant (he's a huge pizza fan).

The past week was busy, full of meetings and in-services. I presented and lead out in workshops two of the days, and will do the same this coming week. Last week was for our conference schools. This coming week will be for my school (except for Tuesday, when I will present to dozens of schools in New York City).

The past two weekends, I've spent time with our staff, getting to know them on a personal level before we settle down to the nitty gritty of pre-school meetings. Last Sunday we had a pool party at my sister's house. Last night we went to a house-warming party for one of our staff members. We all have a "good feeling" about the coming school year, and for that, I'm grateful...and excited, eager to get going.

Photos: My nephew blows out the candles on his cake; flowers in my sister's garden.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Bees, Blooms, and Birthdays

We have three birthdays to celebrate in the month of August (mom, nephew, and brother-in-law), and today was our day to do it. We went up to our parents' in Maine, and spent a delightful few hours together eating, talking, and enjoying nature.

The copious rains of the past month (or more) have wrecked havoc on most of the flowers and after a bumper crop of raspberries last year, there are none this year, much to our disappointment. Still, there were some pretty flowers to look at. And the bees were having a great time on the cone flowers, sometimes piling on two and three at a time on a single blossom.

As usual, I went out in search of some pretty posies =)

Slithery Saturday

I was at my parents' today with the rest of my family to celebrate my mom's birthday. One of my nephews was outside throwing a ball around in the back yard when he yelled "SNAKE!" Sure enough, there was a Garter Snake (I think) slithering along in the grass. When my nephew and I came near, it sped up towards the blueberry bushes, which have been enclosed in netting to ward off hungry critters.

Poor thing (the snake) had just eaten something and was too big where the meal was lodged to get through the netting. It tried to get through, and kept pushing its meal further down, but ultimately, it had to figure out that it should back out instead of keep going.

At one point, it had woven itself in and out of the netting. We tried to help it, but ultimately had to let it work its own way out.

I'm not a big fan of snakes, but I was rooting for this one to get out and go on with its life We thought it might have to stay stuck until its meal digest, but it finally backed out and stayed out.

Friday, August 08, 2008


For at least half the summer, my alarm has gone off at 6:30 in the morning. Even on Sunday. Don’t ask me why. It just does. Most days, I even wake up before the alarm goes off! Still, I try to lie in bed as long as I can, savoring the fact that I don’t have to leap up, hurry through my morning routine, and rush off to school.

When I finally get up, not really all that much later, I shower, dress, eat breakfast (while watching GMA or the Today show, something I can never do during the school year), and (yes, at the same time) turn on my laptop and spend the next 30-45 minutes checking e-mail, reading blogs, and writing an entry on my own blog.

All too soon, it’s time to go. I pack my laptop, make sure my digital camera is in my bag, grab my new cell phone (complete with “better” camera and a keyboard so I don’t embarrass my nieces with my “terrible texting”), and go off to work (two hours later than during the school year). Once in the office, I turn on my laptop again, check my e-mail, glance at the RSS feeds, especially the Facebook ones (have to keep up with all my children, you know), and get busy with the work at hand.

All of a sudden, a flash at the bottom of my screen catches my attention. It’s Ed on Yahoo “chat,” needing advice on how to flesh out the 10 page paper he’s writing for a “head start” college English class. No sooner do I put his mind at ease, than I see that I have 8 new e-mail messages. There’s one from Astrid (director, not cousin) asking if I’d help her with an in-service for Northeastern Conference, one from Gary telling me about a schedule change for the SNEC in-service, one from Ron suggesting some changes to the PowerPoint Presentation I’d sent him, three from Edwin (replying to my five different messages of the night before), one from VistaPrints telling me they have something special “just for me,” and one from Martha asking if I’d write an editorial for the first issue of TechBytes, SNEC’s new quarterly technology newsletter.

I answer the other messages, but ignore Martha’s. Sisters can get away with that. Sometimes. I go back to work editing the Staff Handbook, periodically checking the notice bar to see if I have any more messages. The phone rings. It’s a prospective parent. We talk awhile, and then she asks “do you have a website where I can see more about your school?” I tell her the URL and give her LeeHan’s e-mail address as well so they can work on financial registration without either having to step foot in the school.

As I’m hanging up the phone, I happen to see the date on my calendar: August 6. I pick up my new phone and press 9. “Happy Birthday, Mom!” I say. (It’s her 80th.) I’ve caught her out running errands, so I don’t keep her long. “I’ll call you later and see how your day went” I say.

My notice bar indicates I have another message. It’s from Martha, sending me a draft of TechBytes, showing me how much space she’s left for “your editorial." I read through the document, and am impressed by the extensive list of technology “help” out there for educators. She’s even annotated it! I resolve to go on a “field trip” with the EW/GBA faculty at some point during our Pre-Session. I ignore the obvious nudge regarding an editorial.

A flash of red outside my office window catches my attention. I grab my camera, press the 5X zoom lever and snap a perfect picture of the cardinal I’ve been watching throughout the summer. The 8.0 pixels show every detail!

It’s a brief interlude, but enough to revive me. Back to the Handbook. I come to the page about GradeQuick and Edline and am reminded that I need to nail down some serious in-service time to insure that the bugs are worked out of this helpful-but-frustrating program. I go to Windows Messenger and send Martha an urgent request for help. Within seconds, she responds. “I’ll do your in-service if you’ll send me your editorial.”

Ain’t technology grand?!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

...And Not to Yield

Today's Writer's Almanac celebrates the birthday today of another great English writer with whom I have a connection: Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Besides the fact that I have loved his poetry for years, and that he is easy and enjoyable to teach, even to teenagers, his poetry is filled with wonderful lines that you can extract out of context and still find great meaning. For example, we are using the last line of one of my favorite of his poems for our theme at school this year: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

I love the determination, defiance, focus, and passion of that statement. It comes at the end of his narrative about Ulises (Odysseus) at the end of his life contemplating yet another journey. He contends that just because he is older and has already made many a great trip doesn't mean there's nothing left for him to do. In the words of another poet, "The point of the journey is not to return." Once you arrive, it's time to depart for another destination. If we let ourselves think that reaching our destination is all there is to life, we will never reach our full potential, and will cut our lives far too short.

There's someone I know who has lived this quote to the nth degree, and it's her 80th birthday today. I'll be calling her in a few moments to wish her a Happy Birthday, and I'll be seeing her in three days, along with my sisters and their families, to celebrate her life with her in person. Hard to believe, but it's my mom's 80th birthday today! I can tell you, she does not look 80 (but then, what does 80 look like?) and I don't think she feels it either. I think she grows more beautiful with each year. Perhaps that's because I grow to appreciate her more and more with each year. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Here's what the Almanac shared about Tennyson:

It's the birthday of the poet Alfred Tennyson, (books by this author) born in Lincolnshire, England (1809). Tennyson lived at a time when authors like Charles Dickens were turning the novel into the most popular form of literature, and he was one of the last poets who could sell as many books as a novelist. Nearly every literate household owned at least one copy of his poetry. He was also one of the last poets of an era when poets wrote for the spoken voice. In Tennyson's day, poetry was meant to be read aloud among groups of people, as a form of parlor entertainment, like karaoke. He was a friend of Queen Victoria, and he wrote public poems for England, including "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" (1852) and "Charge of the Light Brigade" (1854), which became unofficial national anthems.

At the height of his career, he was one of the most famous men in England. He loved poetry so much that he wrote almost nothing else. Unlike other poets of his day, he never wrote a preface, an essay, a review, a diary, a memoir, or even a fragment of autobiography. He hated writing letters because they took time away from his real work.

Tennyson moved with his wife, Emily, to the Isle of Wight to a big, secluded house called Farringford. Emily loved that their clocks were not even synchronized with those of the rest of the world. Alfred took walks on the great chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, composing his poems to the rhythm of his own footsteps.

In 1864, he published Enoch Arden, which had the largest sales of any book during his lifetime. More than 40,000 copies sold on publication, and in the first year, it made Tennyson more than £8,000, as much as the income of many of the richest men in England. In London, Tennyson was followed in the streets by admirers, and the walls of his country estate were lined with tourists who sometimes even came up to the house and peered into the windows to watch the family eat their dinner.

At the age of 75, he was offered a lordship in honor of his poetry. It was the first time in history that any Englishman had ever been given a title for literary achievement alone. Tennyson said that he accepted the title on behalf of all literature. And that is why we now call him Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Wonderful World

I subscribe to Garrison Keillor's daily "The Writer's Almanac." It begins with a poem and then lists out several key events in literary history. Today is a special day for three reasons according to Keillor, but it's also special to me because it's my parents' 56th wedding anniversary!

It's the birthday of the Romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley, (books by this author) born in Sussex, England (1792). He died before the age of 30, but he gave us many masterpieces, including "The Cloud," "To a Skylark," and "Prometheus Unbound." Shelley was the author I researched years ago in college for my first trip to Europe, a Literary Study Tour that earned me 6 hours of college credit and a serious addiction to foreign travel. I still have an affinity for this rebellious and creative spirit who appealed to me all those years ago.

It's the birthday of Knut Hamsun, (books by this author) born in Lom, Norway (1859). He was considered one of the great Scandinavian novelists of all time. He had almost no formal schooling. As a boy he became an indentured servant to his uncle. He escaped at the age of 14, went to the United States, and found a job as a streetcar operator in Chicago. He was very poor. He wore newspapers under his clothes to keep warm in the winter in Chicago. He went back to Norway and wrote his early novels that made him famous, including Mysteries and Hunger in 1890. I got acquainted with Hamsun in the Oslo Airport three summers ago when we were waiting to board our plane to go home after two weeks traveling through southern Norway. I still had some money to "get rid" of, and purchased Namsun's book The Woman at the Pump with that money. It's an interesting ready!

It's the birthday of Louis Armstrong, born in New Orleans (1901) in a poor section of town known as "The Battlefield." When he was six years old, he and three other boys formed a vocal quartet and sang on street corners for tips. A family of Russian Jewish immigrants, the Karnofskys, hired young Louis to work on their junk wagon, and he bought his first cornet with the money that the family loaned him. He was 12 years old when he was sent to a reform school as a juvenile delinquent, and that was where he learned to play the cornet. One of our church organists is a fantastic musician who, at one time, played with jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert. He often injects tight jazz harmonies into his playing, making his already good playing that much more interesting. This past week at church, he played one of my favorite pieces for the children's offering the Louis Armstrong made favorite: What a Wonderful World. I was already planning to share it at some point this week. Now, discovering today that it's Armstrong's birthday, it seems appropriate to share it today. Enjoy!

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see 'em bloom for me and for you.
And I think to myself what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, clouds of white,
Bright blessed days, dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.

The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, sayin' how do you do?
They're really sayin' I love you.

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself: What a wonderful world.