Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Slice of Life: "I'm SO writing about this!"

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"Oh my gosh!" Emma exclaimed, pointing in my direction. "It's Mrs. Meehan."

I think all teachers have had the experience of seeing students outside of school and having them be shocked that we have an existence beyond the classroom walls. On Saturday night, I went to a professional soccer game in Hartford. When we sat down in our seats, I couldn't miss the familiar faces all dressed up in their uniforms and as excited as they could be. 

For a while, I tried to catch someone's eye, but they were focused on their selfies, their popcorn, and every now and then, on the game. My friend and I laughed at their antics when there was an injury on the field or a break in the action. 

At half time, they all headed to the field, set up a smaller field, and scrimmaged. I'd read many soccer-related writing pieces from my experiences of working in their classrooms. When they came back to the bleachers, that's when Emma spotted me. She pointed me out to the others, then to her parents, and then she headed my way. 

"Mrs. Meehan," she said, her face flushed and her voice still high with excitement. "I am SO going to write about this on Monday."

I high-fived her and told her I'd be sure to stop by her classroom and check that out. 

"That's awesome," my friend said. 

Yeah. It was. 

Happy slicing,

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Slice of Life: Today I'll do better...

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"So what's the name of your character?" I asked D., a fourth-grade student. His class was in the second week of their realistic fiction unit, and I was in the room for the first time, trying to orient myself and learn names. That being said, I expected everyone to have at least a character. D. was not one of the students his teacher had expressed concerns about. 

"Sirius Black," he answered after a few seconds of hesitation. 

Uh oh, I was thinking. "Let's hear about him," I said. 

"He's a wizard," D. said. "He does all kinds of magic things."

In my head, I was thinking about how I was going to get D. back on the track of realistic fiction. Out of my mouth came the words that we'd talk in a few minutes-- I was going to hear from some other students about their characters. 

When I circled back to D., I had another couple of students in tow with different but related issues. Characters who were in college or high school, one girl with a character whose name was another child in class. 

"Here's the deal," I said, proud that I had a quick lesson to show to a new teacher. "We need to have a few constraints about characters in our realistic fiction lesson." I explained the importance and meaning of the word realistic, the need for characters to be within a couple of years of our own ages, and the potential for hurt when there' s character whose name is that of a classmate's. 

The students were compliant, and yes, they did move on. 

But I wish I'd handled that situation differently. 

What if, instead of telling D. he couldn't have Sirius Black be his character, I'd talked to him about how much he loves magic and the Harry Potter books. What if the conversation had spun into his reading life and some shared interested we had? What if I'd even let him contemplate some fan-fiction oriented stories that revolved around D's own version of Sirius? What if...

D. is NOT a student who writes a lot-- I got that quickly. This morning I'm beating myself up for stomping on his potential engagement. Later, when I'm in his class again, I'll make sure I honor him and that my interest in  and respect for students comes before my obsession with getting them to write. Relationships matter. I can teach them a lot of things when they know I care about them and respect them. 

Happy Slicing,

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Slice of Life: Banana bread for fresh tuna

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

When my nephew Jack walked in with fresh tuna on Monday afternoon, I had just taken banana bread out of the oven. Outside in the driveway, I talked to his mom, Amy. I tried to give her money for the fish, but she waved me off. 

"How about I give you banana bread, then," I said. 

"I don't know that Jack will take it," she said. "He's on a fitness kick. He might just take it to be polite."

In the house, I asked Jack if he'd like hot banana bread to take home. 

He didn't hesitate. "Sure," he said. 

"You're not just being polite," I said. "You won't hurt my feelings if you turn it down."

"Actually," he said, "I was worrying about not being polite by accepting because I'd think you'd want it."

(I love that kid.) 

I wrapped it loosely and handed it to him on a potholder. 

"I got a good deal," I said. "I'll trade warm banana bread for fresh tuna any day."

Later, I got a text and picture from Amy. 

I guess we both got a good deal!

Happy slicing!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Slice of Life: The Last of the First Days

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Somehow summer gave me permission and excuses to allow Tuesdays and SOL to slide through without posting. Maybe it was my unawareness of days of the week --such a lovely aspect of summer. Maybe it was the other projects I was working on. Maybe...

Enough! I'm back. 

Yesterday, Cecily didn't argue and complain as much as she has in years past about her first day of school pictures. Maybe the lump in my throat was as obvious to her as it was to me. Whatever the reason, she posed for a picture in the front yard, and then even waved as she drove past me on the driveway. 

I know there will be plenty of milestones to come in my baby's life. However, since she is the youngest of four, the first day of senior year feels like a big one right now! 

Happy Slicing!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Slice of Life: I was mad before my first drive!

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

"You're all set," the golf pro said as he handed me the two tickets to play nine holes. "Just check in with Rich at the starting gate outside and he'll let you know which course to play."

Garth was on the phone talking to one of our daughters, and Rich and I rolled our eyes at him. 

"That's why I leave my phone in the car," Rich said as Garth tried to get my attention, strap his clubs on a pull cart, and carry on his conversation. 

When I allowed that my phone was at home, Rich must have felt bonded with me because his next conversation starter was about the United States Women's Soccer team and the captain's unbelievable disregard for the National Anthem. 

"After they won an unbelievable game, that's your takeaway?" I said. "Really?" 

(I should not have even engaged in a word of conversation with him, but I couldn't resist the antagonism.)

"People like her," he went on. "It's why the country is going to hell in a handbag."

"You and I are definitely not going to agree because I have absolutely no problem with people like her and peaceful protests," I said. "I have a much bigger problem with the disproportionate numbers of Black people harmed by police brutality."

"And what about our state?" Rich continued. "Do you think we'd be in the mess we're in if we didn't have liberal democrats running it?"

I glared at Garth who was still talking on the phone, oblivious to my heightened blood pressure. How was golf going so badly on a beautiful afternoon when we hadn't even hit the first ball yet? 

"How can you relate the state's affairs to the captain of the soccer team?" I couldn't resist saying. "That's quite a stretch."

"People have no respect," he started. I can't remember what else he said, but he kept going. 

"Garth," I said. "Get off the phone. Now."

I turned back to Rich. "The last I checked, I was here for golf," I said. "Not political conversations with someone I don't know who works here."

By about my third shot, I'd cooled off enough, and I played fine despite a year off and an out-of-line starter. I also knew I'd have my slice thought through by the end of the round. 

But I've stayed sad about the interaction. No, I don't think this country is in trouble because of athletes who choose to kneel or not sing. We have larger issues, and maybe I should have handled the incident differently, although I'm not sure how. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Slice of Life: "My Car is Gone..."

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Since Julia is working at an internship in Boston and has a fairly long commute in the mornings and evenings, I frequently hear from her as she's driving. At 8:22, my phone rang. Yes, it was Julia. As the director of our summer writing camp I was just about to head outside to greet parents and organize students, so for a split second, I debated answering. (I ALWAYS answer my daughters' calls.)

Mom: Are you just calling to talk or is there something you need me for now?
Julia: Oooh--I'm not calling to talk. I have something important, and it's going to stress you out. 
Mom: Yes?
Julia: You're really going to be stressed. I already talked to Dad because you didn't answer a little while ago.
Mom: What Jules? 

As I walked outside, she explained how she'd walked to get the car (MY car) from where she parks (we paid A LOT for a summer parking spot) and it wasn't there. 

Mom: My car's gone? You're sure it's not towed. 
Julia: It was in my spot. Why would they tow it?

As people started to arrive, I talked her through calling the police, and I reassured her it was only money. It was a beautiful day. They didn't give her anything important to do at work, so she could be late or not make it there. 

Mom: I have to go. I'll call you in fifteen minutes when all the kids are with their teachers.

For those fifteen minutes, I tried to keep a calm demeanor, answer questions, even hold a couple of conversations. I also tried to think about when we'd have time to look at new cars or where we should go to rent one temporarily. My brain worked overtime for those few minutes. 

As I greeted kids, Julia texted me that it was towed. Okay, that's a better situation. By the time I could respond, she'd already figured out where she had to go and was heading there, and she was mad as she could be. 

Julia: They had no right to tow the car. I had the parking pass right there.
Mom: Talk to them, explain, be polite, and see what you can do. 

My morning continued with unexpected challenges-- one boy had to be carried to his class as he kicked and screamed (NOT MY program, but I was the one his mother found first!) and one of my girls didn't feel well and had to go home. (All this happened before 9:20!) And then, Julia texted again:

So now Julia knows what to do when her car is towed in a city, and she knows to make sure permits and passes are REALLY in sight, and she feels more confident in standing up for herself when she's been wronged. She might have been late to work, but she had a nice walk and she has a great story.

Happy Slicing!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Slice of Life: Delivering Breakfast to Clare

Tuesdays are for slicing about life. Join us at Two Writing Teachers!

Over the weekend, I had a special breakfast request from Clare. She had to be at work early-- before her favorite sandwich and coffee shop opened, so she left me a note. (Yes, a note... not a text!)

Would I bring her a breakfast wrap-- #1-- and an iced coffee latte with almond milk? Sift opens at 9. 

Of course I would! 

With her sandwich and her coffee in hand, I headed to the yacht club where Clare runs the harbor and drives the launch. My favorite boat was at the dock so I got a close up view as I headed up the stairs to Clare's office where she was sitting at the desk making schedules. I sat down next to her and passed over her coffee and sandwich. Before she could thank me, her radio/walkie-talkie went off with someone wanting a mooring. I wish I could capture her response right now, but it contained way too much nautical terminology for me to do her justice. A few starboards... a few ports... a bow... a stern...other terms that were less familiar to me. 

While Clare shares stories of her experiences at the club (my favorites have been the ones where men are surprised at her launch navigation since they don't expect a girl to be at the helm of a boat...much less one they are passengers on!), I don't get to see her in action firsthand too often. 

Listening to her, I couldn't help thinking of how proud her grandfather would be of his granddaughter. 

Happy Slicing!