I had a "Garfield" Monday (as you might have guessed from my frustrated ranting). When I began student teaching my aunt advised me to "Keep your eyes out for the positive things that happen each day. You'll find them even in the midst of the difficult days..."
My list of positive things was short Monday afternoon--I could only think of one. But Tuesday was a much, much better day. Here's my list of Tuesday's positives.
The eighth grade band went on a field trip, so I only had seventeen students instead of thirty. It was much easier to manage the class and I was able to work with individual students.
A group of Seniors are on their second day of self-imposed silence (they're protesting something--I'm not sure what since they won't talk). About half of the Yearbook class is participating in the experiment. Thus sixth hour was quiet.
I was able to resolve an incident that occurred on Tuesday with a student.
The days are getting longer in Michigan. Each morning I see more of the sunrise.
Wednesday I will be halfway done with my fourth week of student teaching.
Yesterday's emotion was frustration. According to SVSU's policy, I can substitute teach in my host teacher's classroom while I am student teaching. Yesterday one of my host teachers had a meeting, and I taught two sections of 8th grade math. However, my substitute teaching permit hasn't come through the system yet, so I couldn't officially sub.
So, in the afternoon I called the alphabet soup name offices. The lady at the ISD said they hadn't receive my fingerprints from the ESA. When I called the ESA I listened to the pre-recorded message and then pushed the numbers for the correct extension. The phone rang a few times and then forwarded me to the pre-recorded message again. I repeated the cycle two or three times before I concluded it was impossible to reach a real person or a voice mailbox.
Later I called the ESA again and was able to reach the person I needed to speak with. She assured me than my information had been sent to the ISD two weeks ago. After talking with her, I called the ISD. The lady there said she would contact another department to see if my fingerprints had been accidently sent there. If they can't locate them, they will have to send a request for them again.
There are so many adjectives for bureaucracy. I am resisting the urge to be descriptive.
Did I mention that last week I had a conversation with people at the Registrar's Office and Financial Services at the University concerning a transcript request and an account balance error? And the week before I exchanged phone calls with the ESA because of a quirk in the State of Michigan's system? All of this for a substitute teaching permit.
Saturday afternoon I was in portrait mood. Julie can always devise a reason she needs her picture taken, so she was my first subject. The younger girls declined the opportunity, but Betsy was willing to pose. As usual, after I took their separate portraits, Julie wanted me to take a photos of the two of them together.
Libby's Little Man lazily enjoyed afternoon sun rays
in the doorway of the goat barn.
It's been warm outside the past few days--in the 20's. Compared with the negative degree weather of earlier in the week, it seems like almost picnic weather. The animals took advantage of the warmer temperature Friday afternoon and lounged outside in the little afternoon sunshine that was available.
The low temperatures don't bother Lou much--
she's practically a walking bundle of wool.
The mama goats are beginning to swell around the middle.
They are expecting kids in a few months.
Really, this cat is friendly.
So friendly, in fact, that I was only able to capture one frame
I had given up on this amaryllis bulb. In November I brought it up from the basement where it had spent several dry, dark weeks in the basement. I inherited the bulb from my sister or my aunt (I've forgotten the exact history), who enjoyed its bloom last winter. The slip of paper that came with the bulb promised that it would bloom again. So I planted it in my garden in the spring and repotted it in the fall. After I brought the pot up from the basement and placed it in my windowsill, a tiny bit of green appeared. Weeks passed and I faithfully watered the soil and checked its growth. But the plant was stunted. It didn't grow and it didn't grow and I gave up on it. Then one day this week I pushed back my curtains and discovered a new, green sprout poking up from the bulb!
I have friends who remind me of my amaryllis bulb. I watch their lives, waiting for them to grow but they appear stunted. Deep down inside, though, I trust there is growth that isn't observable on the outside. Oh, how I look forward to the day when the first tiny sprout of life appears!
Yesterday I met a line of pre-schoolers threading their way down the hallway to their classroom. Two of the little girls looked up at me and asked, "Are you a teacher?" I said I was. As I passed them, I heard one little girl say to her friend, "She's so pretty!" The other replied in admiration, "She looks like a witch."
Saturday is my baking day. I usually bake bread or rolls for Sunday dinner, and bagels or cinnamon rolls or sweet bread for Sunday morning breakfast. The last two weeks Libby has been the substitute baker, since student teaching has consumed my time. Two weeks ago she mixed up a batch of our favorite Edna Ruth Byler's rolls. She formed part of the dough into cinnamon rolls for breakfast and shaped the rest into rolls for dinner. The rolls are especially delicious when eaten warm, directly from the oven. We rarely indulge in the luxury of freshly baked rolls. Though the recipe makes one hundred rolls, if we let the boys sample baked goods on Saturday we might not have any left by Sunday dinner.
Edna Ruth Byler's Rolls
7 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups scalded milk, cooled
2 cups mashed potatoes
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon salt
17 to 18 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water. Add milk, potatoes, butter and sugar. Beat in six cups of flour. Let mixture stand until it foams (about twenty minutes). Add eggs, salt and as much remaining flour as needed to make a sticky dough. Knead dough for ten minute, or until satiny, using additional flour as needed. Let rise until double. Divide into 100 portions. Shape. Let rise and bake at 400F for fifteen minutes.
A year ago yesterday my Grandpa "finished" as my Uncle Wayne says. The Apostle Paul wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). The same was true for my Grandpa, though the wasn't the type of man to say so in those words. His life left no doubt of his course.
As our family initially dealt with my Grandpa's death, I wasn't sure I wanted to take photos. I felt a depth of emotion I didn't know I had the capability to experience. It would have been easier not to remember. But photography is part of how I express myself and I had to take pictures.
The Bible says that God's goodness to us is new every morning (Lamentations 3:23). That's a promise that makes life more than livable.
I was exhausted when I returned home Tuesday evening after a day at school and a meeting at the University. I crawled into bed at quarter to eight. I couldn't allow myself to dwell on lesson plans and unit plan and substitute teaching paperwork--everything seemed impossible. But Wednesday morning when I pushed back the bedcovers, I rejoiced in a new day. I'm a morning person. After a restful night I can believe that the previous night's daunting tasks are conquerable.
My expectations were met--I had a good day Wednesday.
I taught about circumference and area of circles and the students were surprisingly quiet, attentive and cooperative
My University supervisor stopped by the school to meet my host teachers
I was asked to take photos of students and tutors in the after-school study program (That may seem like a small thing, but for someone who is in the midst of photography withdrawal, it's noteworthy)
I cross the railroad tracks fifteen miles southwest of our house. Then I pass the bar, the hardware store, the bank, the post office and the library on my drive to school each morning. There's not much else to see in the one stop-light town. Newly installed city water may induce fast food restaurants to build, but for now the only chain store is a Dollar General on the other side of town.
The high school, middle school and daycare share the same one-story brick building. It's the first school in Michigan to install a corn-burning heater. The venture is appropriate for the rural, farming community, where one of the three newspaper-type periodicals in the school library is Michigan Farm News.
My host teacher is a veteran English teacher. She spent the past ten years in the middle school. This year she was moved to high school again and assigned as advisor of the yearbook. She teaches one section of tenth grade English (American Literature), and three sections of eleventh grade English (British LIterature). Most of her classes are small, between seventeen and twenty students. Along with English classes and yearbook, I will be teaching one section of eighth grade math with another teacher. The middle school class is larger, thirty-one, and full of energetic students.
The entire staff at the school, from the principal to the secretaries to the teachers, has made me feel welcome. When they see me in the hall they stop to introduce themselves. I met the Industrial Technology teacher the other day in the office. We went to Sunday School together when we were kids. The long-term substitute teacher in the math class across the hall is a graduate of SVSU. She recognized me because we had a math class together. Another teacher picked blueberries at the farm this summer.
Everyone asks me how student teaching is going--so far it's going well. This week I've mostly observed, though I've also taken roll, handed out tests and reviewed homework. I'm preparing an English unit on Frankenstein, which I will begin teaching in a week or two after the eleventh grade students complete their midterm exams. Next week I will begin teaching a section of math.
I noticed the pattern of the shadows on the snow yesterday morning when I ventured outside to start my car and clear the snow from the windshield. The light on the side of the house illuminated stalks in the lifeless flower-bed. My photo opportunities have been severely limited this week, due to student teaching, so I was thrilled to shoot a few frames before returning inside to my bowl of oatmeal.
My family's reaction to the pond of ice in the back field, depends on whether the speaker views the situation as a farmer or a skater. For Betsy and Logan the situation is positive. Rains followed by cold weather flooded fields and created ice ponds. The past few days the more energetic members of our household have taken advantage of their personal, though bumpy, ice rink.
Over the next fourteen weeks I will attempt to entertain, motivate, discipline and impart knowledge to approximately one hundred 10th and 11th grade students, while I collaborate with my host teacher and meet the expectations of the University supervisor.
I will be student teaching.
My supervisors promise that the next weeks will include some of the most stressful days of my entire life. I've already experienced elevated levels of anxiety as I scrambled to complete paperwork required by the University. While most of my peers received their placements in October, I didn't receive my notification until two days before winter break began (and the next day was a snow day!).
The past few weeks I've undergone a criminal background check, applied for two substitute teaching permits, been fingerprinted at the law enforcement office, completed an in-person interview at a nearby high school (where I wasn't invited to student teach), been photographed for ID, paid union dues, signed and dated stacks of papers, and received training about sexual harassment, blood borne pathogens, FERPA and hazardous communication.
I appreciate your prayers as I embark on this adventure. Please pray that God will grant me sufficient energy, that He will bless my interactions with administrators, teachers, parents and students, and that He will protect me as I travel each day on country roads in the winter weather.
I'm not sure how student teaching will affect my blog. I may be too busy and too tired to post regularly. But I may be too overwhelmed and too stressed not to post. Whatever happens, I'm sure I will not run out of experiences to write about.
One of my bestest Christmas gifts consisted of pieces of plastic piping. After consulting with a photojournalist friend and visiting several websites, Betsy constructed a photography background frame out of various lengths of PVC pipe. The pipe provides a frame that I can drape with a sheet for an instant background. It is light, easy to use, and portable since Betsy sewed me two carrying cases.
My new contraption provided the excuse necessary for a crazy photo shoot yesterday afternoon. One of our favorite children's picture books, Simple Pictures Are Best (by Nancy Willard with illustrations by Tomie DePaola), inspired the session. In the last shot Betsy snagged the parasol on the sheet and pulled down the backdrop as the shutter opened.