Archive for the ‘Bright-eyed and Bothersome’ Category

My first class just graduated. Well, some of them did.

I went to graduation for the first time this year. The senior class always comes around to each school inviting teachers. Not many go. I’d never gone, because I’d never had former students graduating, until now.

Anyway. It kind of felt like my own graduation, too. That some of my students made it makes me feel like I made it, too. They survived the insecurity and instability of a first year teacher. And I’m still here nine years later, despite some significant bumps along the way.

I only counted thirteen out of twenty-five former students. That seemed low, but who knows? I might have missed some. Most of those other twelve probably moved. Some might have dropped out. Probably my fault. Among those thirteen, there were state champion athletes, a valedictorian, ASB President. Also probably my fault.

It was an interesting night. Interesting to see the traditions of a high school other than mine. Interesting to see a teacher throw down some rhymes in the faculty address. Interesting to see students who I knew would make it, who I thought might not, and who were completely unrecognizable.

It was good to know that I didn’t screw them up. Well, most of them.

I’ll go again.


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I make snowflakes each year with my class. Proper, six-pointed snowflakes. No rectangular or square four-pointed deformities.

It’s a great thing, unfolding that flake, wondering how it will look. A little mini Christmas surprise. Sometimes they don’t quite turn out as envisioned. (more…)

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We’ve been hearing, this week, about the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down.

In my mind, I have a memory of a political event. It is one of two things: Either the fall of the Berlin Wall; or the Soviet coup attempt. If it is the former, I was ten. For the later, I was almost twelve. Now, as I’m writing, I think it was the coup. But the Wall fall anniversary is what reminded me of it, so I’m going to write this now, instead of in two years.

Here is what I remember:

I was at my friend’s house, in the car, about to go home. My friend’s mom was in the car, about to leave. On the radio they announced the event [Berlin Wall/coup]. At which point my friend’s mom, jumped out of the car and ran in to tell her husband.

I don’t think I really understood the significance of either event. But the fact that it couldn’t wait until my friend’s mom returned home, ten minutes later, made it different than other “news.” It was important. It was something that couldn’t wait.

This is the first memory I have of a political event that caused a significant reaction from a close adult. I think that is the foundation for its relevance in my childhood memory. Politics exist all around us. Who knows what makes us remember this rather than that, or the other. The only other political memories previous to it that I can think of are seeing Oliver North on TV, asking my dad who it was (I think because he had a military uniform on), getting an answer, and not really knowing or understanding anything about it until much, much later; hearing about “Star Wars,” (I don’t know the year); and my dad voting for Jesse Jackson in 1988. These were just passing moment, however. They do not carry any meaning or importance in my memory. Because of my friend’s mom’s reaction to that news on the radio, that event was different.

So I wonder what will be/is my students’ first political memory? They are too young to remember September 11. We read Time for Kids. They hear about things, as I did. Maybe more. What will be the thing they first remember? It is highly likely that it could be the election of Obama. They would have been eight or nine at the time (already a year ago, you know). I wonder if the reactions of the adults in their lives, positive or negative, may have resulted in the searing of that event’s importance into their memories.

And what will be the next thing they remember?

And what will the Corbchops’ first be?

And will they think back on it, twenty years from now?

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For many I’m sure, half the glory and delight of Thanksgiving food comes from the leftovers. The dinner itself is grand, indeed, but the creations that follow can be even more satisfying.

Some at my house went with the traditional repeat plate, or the simple, beautiful turkey sandwich (though when the chance presents itself and the yearning creeps, my turkey sandwiches have all the fixin’s–gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes…).

The Dude Monger had a bowl of everything, all mixed up, then opted for a plate the next time, and finally settled on a holy burrito.

I kept coming back to the Thanksgiving quesedilla, layered with mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, scalloped oysters, and gravy. Oh glorious scrumdiddlification!

The Corbchops even got into the foodiness of the weekend.

It’s always sad when the gravy dries up (it’s always the first to disappear), or the stuffing dish sits empty (usually just a few bites behind the gravy). Though by the time we head home, I’ve usually stuffed myself enough times that I don’t mind a little break.

Maybe we should celebrate half-Thanksgiving.


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Yesterday we spent the day at the Northwest Washington Fair, up in Lynden.

The fair is a wonderful thing. When I was little, the fair was scones with raspberry jam and rodeos.

Now, it’s crazy chickens, a lot of pigs and cows and sheep and goats and horses and ponies that start looking all the same to me, seeing many of my students, and eating good bad food (Deep-fried Oreo, anyone? Don’t mind if I do…mmm…yum…er…ugh).

One of my favorite parts is the Collections.

I don’t remember ever seeing collections at the Kitsap County Fair. Maybe they had them; I don’t know. I do know that the fair collections fascinate me. Apparently, kids just submit their collections and then display them. There are lots of SpongeBob displays, My Little Ponies, baseball cards, Hot Wheels. Mostly consumerism-based collections–“Momwillyoubuythisformetoaddtomycollection? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease?”

Last year, I recall shot glasses (“They are great for drinking milk of juice”) and bottle caps, including many beers.

This year I enjoyed:

  • The napkin collection, with the Disneyland napkin placed on top, making it hard to tell if the rest of the napkins had anything special about them.
  • The combination SoBe bottle cap and energy drink can collection.
  • The collection of candy wrappers, most of which were not opened nearly as carefully as I would have if I was collecting them.
  • The cleverest this year was a Hotel scan key collection. I’m not sure how she got so many keys, but the 17 year-old who had the collection wrote a very tongue-in-cheek essay to accompany the display that was rather entertaining and well thought out.

Also of particular interest to me are the collections that only contain one thing.

“Mom, I want to have a collection at the fair.”

“But honey, you don’t collect anything.”

“Ye–but…I…unh…unh…unh…MY BLUE MINI DOLPHIN SCULPTURE! I collect blue mini dolphin sculpture!”

“Honey, that’s only one thing. You have to have more than one thing to have a collection. It’s not a collection if it’s only one.”


Which brings me to this:

“OK, Corbin. Last day of school. What do you want to collect this year for the fair? Only two months to get it together.”

“Um…How about…rocks?”

“How about clumps of dirt?”

“No, Dad. No. I don’t want to collect clumps of dirt! That’s not a collection. That’s dumb.”

“No, it’s not dumb. Do you think they’d take it? What do you think we could get them to take?”

“Dad, no. It’s embarassing. Dad. Dad. No.”

“It’s like a challenge: What can we get into the fair as a collection?”

“Dad, I don’t think–”

“How about bugs that have died on the windowsill? We could date and label them, just like a butterfly collection.”

“No. No, Dad. That’s gross. That’s–”

“How about plastic bread clips? Or the plastic thing you pull off milk jugs?”

“Dad, stop. Stop. I’ll do baseball cards. That’s a good collection. Baseball cards?”

“How about baseball cards that you cut in half in fun and exciting zig-zag and curvy designs? You could share with Brody and you could both submit them. Ha! That would blow them away!”


“What about the cellophane from junk mail envelope windows? Or just the return envelopes that you get in junk mail?”


“Or drops of water? Then we could bug them to keep opening up the case because our collection keeps evaporating!”


“And after we get a collection in, we can sit across from it and watch people recoil in horror! So? What do you think? What do you want to collect?”


“Dandelion leaves?”


“Tin can lids?”


“OK. You think about it. We’ve got some time still.”


“Used Q-Tips?”

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Last year I finally found a Mother’s Day project for my kids that I like, that isn’t something pointless, and that isn’t yet another painted pot. We find some nice pictures and make Mod Podged light switch covers. They’re easy, turn out nice, and if moms don’t like them they can hide them in a closet or something.

Anyway, we had the magazines out and one of my students, the “genius-with-some-social-quirks,” grabbed one and said “This has subliminal messaging! This guy has horns!” And he was certainly right. It was an issue of Time, and the man on the cover was positioned so that the points from the ‘M’ made horns.

Kids are smart. Well…some of them. But the best part was the person on the cover, who my student didn’t recognize (understandably…he’s 10). I wonder, did they not notice (like I didn’t), or was this the work of some rogue graphic designer? Because after Jason mentioned it, I find it pretty hard to not notice.

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Or try to tell. It’s not like I’m an award-winning author or anything. But I hung out with award-winning authors today. Maybe they rubbed off on me.

Today I headed to Western (in a rush, since I got up and continued painting) for the WWU Bond Children’s Literature Conference. The only teacher who’s ever come close to being a mentor to me, Nancy Johnson, puts it on each March. I find it to be a very refreshing kick during a time in the school year when kicks are needed.

This year excited me particularly, for two reasons. One was that one of my favorite authors, Christopher Paul Curtis, was a featured guest. The other was that this year’s cast was all guys.

I run a Guys Read book club for 4th and 5th graders at my school. Guys need to read, and enjoy reading. They need guy reader role models. They need to discover good stories that will lead them to more. I choose to run Guys Read for these reasons. Plus, it’s dang fun. And I make chocolatey treats. And then we eat them.

Since I knew Mr. Curtis was coming to Bellingham, I planned for us to read his first book, The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, as our February selection. I thought maybe the guys would think of some questions I could then ask Mr. Curtis. It’s not too often you have a chance to ask an author a question, especially as a kid.

Of course, in typical guy fashion, when I asked the three members who came to our February meeting to think of one question they might ask Mr. Curtis their response was something along the lines of:

“Um…Er…Ah…I don’t know…”

So I didn’t bring Mr. Curtis any questions. Oh well.


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