I finished out the week with a half day subbing with 7th and 8th graders, starting each class with a solid fifteen minutes of silent reading, then supporting them as they worked on stuff, the first being a reading evaluation, which I figured was some sort of response to what they were reading, but turned out to be a self evaluation rubric on which they ranked their attitudes and proficiency and several other aspects of their reading. That irked me somewhat—another item that I’d be tempted to forego, if it were me teaching, or against the negative effects of which I’d try to immunize them. There was a wee box for their comments on what they were currently reading, which might have some merit, I suppose, if used in some way to deepen their experience. As we finished up the last minute of reading, I asked them, on a whim, to trade books with someone at their table and take a few minutes’ taste of someone else’s literary diet. The boy who worked through a few sentences of my Aldous Huxley novel labored with a perplexed expression.
Tutored for an hour in geometry, with some conversation about “Much Ado about Nothing” and grammar review, then home for supper, picked up some apples fallen from the tree in the back yard, cut some for drying and made a jug of cider. That’s become an evening ritual before bed time–the hum of the juicer and the repetitive motions, sometimes with the companionship and assistance of my twelve year old, is pleasant after a busy day among the young.
Saturday morning I joined a biology/chemistry teacher colleague and helped her get caught up in grading, for which she compensated me, saying it was money well spent for the mental health improvement it provided her. We worked five hours straight, going through three classes of lab books, three lab write ups per student, and poster projects, reading, scoring, adjusting expectations for students with I.E.P’s, taking breaks for tea, fruit, and pastries. So wise, I told her, to ask for help instead of feeling the ever increasing weight of that burden, and knowing students needed to get the feedback before the opportunity to improve the next time around had gone. She’d just changed schools and was using a completely new curriculum, which was being fed to her in chunks with not much lead time, so that tests would come up–with all teachers giving the same one, for which she hadn’t been able to adequately teach all the concepts. At her previous school all the science teachers had been autonomous, though of course sharing materials and a common set of core concepts. Also at the new school there were half the number of long class periods, and the pace was so fast there wasn’t much opportunity for review or to go deeper with concepts and application. Still, she said, “It is what it is, and I’ll learn it.” She has such a desire to serve these students, including a large number of special needs students–nine in one of her class periods!–who learn differently, have limited capacity, or have communication problems. Had to plead for extra support, got some by having the assistant principal observe what was going on in the classroom. I told her I appreciated the work, but had also gained just hanging out with her and hearing her perspective.
She also told me the story of how she had been hired for an additional half time of biology position the previous year at the other school, at the tail end of my subbing for a sick teacher for several weeks, how she had pleaded with the higher ups to hire me for the opening, that she didn’t want the job at substitute rate and I would do a great job. She said they kept calling and texting her until she said she would only take the job if she got the curriculum rate, and so consented and she couldn’t refuse. She said that’s how it works–it’s still cheaper in the long run, and less bother for them, to hire a teacher already in the system than go through all the process to hire someone new. Gave me an idea of the activation energy, the startup costs, in other words, that keep new teachers out of the loop, until demand gets high enough. It was encouraging to hear how she had rooted for me.
That evening I took a few hours to finally watch the presidential candidate debates, was so energized by Bernie Sanders, as was my husband, who rolled up a chair to join me at the computer. We even decided to donate to his campaign, and I started thinking again about going through the citizenship process, just so I could vote for him–that would be four of us. Surprised to read the next day that commentators were declaring Hillary the winner of the debate, but then my son told me that CNN is owned by a company that donates to her campaign. As Bernie said, it will have to be about millions of people coming together to counter the billions of dollars coming from the PACs.
Final item for the weekend was to take a second look at a house that has shown the most promise of satisfying all our main requirements for a new home–not too big to retire in, not too small to fit us all now, a second story of some kind, several acres of land, privacy, garage and shop, a quality, artful house with character and no major work to be done, good enough location, and a decent price. The three kids that live with us all approve, though the oldest said she finally loved her (adapted garage) bedroom and now would have to share or have a smaller space (only for part of a year). My oldest son, away at college now, weighed in that he’d rather come home to a different house than come back to the old one painted a new color he didn’t like (not cheerful enough). Which I thought was interesting–I’d been concerned he’d feel that the rug had been pulled out from under him with this deal. Still lots of conversations to be had–what rooms would be used for what, which would be temporary bedrooms when the kids were home for the season or we had visitors, where all our books, now in storage, would go, where I’d do my sewing, whether the much smaller kitchen was adequate, and where the barn, with a welding area and foundry, would go. And how to do the money thing–sell our house, or take a risk with a bigger loan and make it a rental to preserve as a retirement investment. Our realtor advised us to consider that rather than selling, which is a credit to her integrity and good will, since she’d lose revenue by that option.
Down side is that it’s not easy to bike or walk that busy road and the ones it’s connected to, no fence yet to keep in the dogs, and the small kitchen. But somehow, as I just love the house, and know how rare such a thing is, having kept my eyes open for years, those things just don’t seem to matter.