Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A New School Year

     I haven't posted in the last month or so. I have been having fun posting to my other, new blog. Find the Welcome page here: It is all about my daily life as a high school teacher. I wanted to start the new blog before school got going so I was busy doing that and getting ready for the new year. We had some changes this year (school districts just can't leave well enough alone!) Our campus has been on a block schedule for over 10 years, long before I started my tenure here. It was a nice schedule: 3 block periods a day every day. The students took 3 classes in the fall and 3 in the spring, very similar to the semester schedule of many colleges.
     When I first started to teach on this schedule I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep the kids busy for 95 minutes at a time. But I quickly learned that I could do so much more with 95 minutes: group work, monitored essay writing, daily SSR (Sustained Silent Reading), art projects, days in the computer labs that actually produced a nice volume of work, etc... Now, we are back to a 6 period day, (the norm for a lot of high schools in the United States and the schedule most people my age grew up with) and it is proving difficult to adjust. The school day is longer, we teachers get here earlier than we used to and stay an extra 1/2 hour. That is because we have to have 10 minutes passing periods because our campus is so large, so those extra 3 passing times add on to our day. Since I require a certain amount of work from my students, (quite a bit this year because I have all Juniors) and now there is only 50 minutes in a class, there is not enough time in a day to do everything I used to do, so they have more homework. And the activities we have done, have taken longer. Take for instance their common notebooks formatting. I am used to being able to do that in 2 days. This year it took 4 1/2 days. A trip to the library, to check out books, pretty much takes up an entire period. And now I have 130 kids all at one time, which means I had to have more copies of everything done at once. Add to all of this; we are trying to fuly implement the new Common Core standards, which means I had to revamp much of my curriculum to accommodate them. And I find I am really tired. Just so much more to attend to everyday. I am hoping as the months go on that I will acclimate to this new schedule.
     The students are adapting; some faster than others. the Juniors and Seniors are having a hard time of it. The Freshmen don't know any different, so they are not stressed. The Sophomores are busy grumbling. It means all students take 6 classes a day and because we do not have the budget for class sets of books, all the kids have to carry, sometimes, up to 5 big textbooks around all day. We no longer have lockers on this campus, (they were removed many years ago and they are quite costly to maintain) so the burden is on the kids. Here's what I've noticed: Kids walking around with backpacks on but carrying their books. Why don't they put them in the backpack? Because they're not used to carrying books. When we were on the block schedule only 1/2 the population took, say, English, at a time so we had enough books to have class sets, which meant the kids didn't have to carry around their books everyday. It looks really odd they way they do it. And it not as if their backpacks look full already. I guess it will take all of us a time to adjust.
     So, if you are looking for me, I will be posting every school day on my other blog "Good Morning, Mrs. Nelson!"  I'm not giving up this blog, so don't worry! I will be back to rant and ponder and opine, hopefully on a regular basis. And for those of you who have been following me, I am hoping to publish my personal essay work (blog posts included) in the near future. I'll keep everyone posted as that process goes along.
     In the mean time, the day is almost over for me. I need a nap!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


     It has been 37 years since we moved into this house. We had been married 2 years and moved from Bakersfield, CA to Grover City. (Yes, now it is called Grover Beach. The city changed its name formally quite a few years ago to capitalize on the fact that it has access to a beach and, I think, because the city officials wanted it to sound more vacationy like Pismo Beach and Shell Beach.) The first 6 months we lived on the Central Coast, (as in the Central Coast of California) we lived in a mobile home out in Arroyo Grande, on the road to Lake Lopez. The couple that owned the mobile home were good friends and neighbors of my husband's grandmother. They had recently retired and decided to take a 6 month RV trip around the United States. We house-sat for them. Rent was $80 a month. It was heaven! The mobile home was part of a small park, just one road long, with the homes sitting on one side that gave them all views of greenery. It was quiet on that road that wound away from the main road to the lake. We had a huge yard and a creek that ran through the back yard. We had deer and other wildlife including quail every morning and evening. After the owners returned from their trip we moved for a short time into another mobile home in the park but started looking for someplace more permanent.
     We found our house. It was an old Spanish style house with a flat roof (but a facade of tile so you couldn't really tell it was flat) dirt front and back yards on a lot that was only 50' wide but 100' deep. It didn't look like much from the outside but I could see it had potential. We walked in and I fell in love! It had coved ceilings in the living room and a large, natural rock fireplace. It had an arch between the kitchen and dining room  and was two bedroom, 1 bath. In the dining room was a walk-in pantry that contained the original ice box, for you see, this house was built in the early 1900's. Before refrigerators and forced air heating.
     But, the kitchen. I don't know whether the charm of the house skewed my vision or at the time I thought it was just old and quaint, or if I figured we would surely have enough money to change it, but the kitchen was impossible. Now, I should mention that I have been living and cooking in this kitchen since the day we moved in. The kitchen consisted of a stove with a double oven, (made in the 60's, they don't make them like this any more.The second oven looks like a microwave above the cook top but it is all one unit) 3 ft of counter space, a sink and 2 more feet of counter space. That's all. The room was 9'x11' but the counters stuck into that so the floor space was only 6 1/2' wide. There was no dishwasher. There was no refrigerator in the room. At the end of the 11' was a doorway leading out onto what used to be a utility porch that had, at some point, been enclosed and dry-walled. In that utility room was the refrigerator.
     The first thing we did was install a garbage disposal. Then, in a year or so we installed a small dishwasher to the right of the sink, where a column of drawers had been. We moved the drawers to a part of the pantry. And that was it. Over the years we had children, lost jobs and got new ones. But never had the money for a renovation. So I have cooked in this kitchen for 37 years, yes, even preparing holiday dinners on that three feet of counter space (the 2' on the other side of the sink was taken up by the coffee maker and a little shelf that held coffee accouterments) and had to go into the utility room to get anything out of the fridge. Some things one just gets used to over time.
     It is 7:35 in the morning as I type this. We are expecting a contractor within an hour. Demolition on the kitchen starts today. Finally, after 37 years, I will actually have about 10' of counter space, all new cabinets and appliances and a refrigerator in my actual kitchen! Call me happy! I will miss the walk-in pantry but will take the space in the utility room where the fridge once lived and build a new pantry. But most of all I will miss the original icebox and the arch from kitchen to dining room. I tried to configure the new kitchen to keep them but they just take up too much real estate and when you are dealing with a room that will be 11'x18', some things just will have to go.
     I have been planning this new kitchen in my brain for so many years, it seems impossible that it is actually coming to fruition. Will I miss the old kitchen? No, except in the fact that it was a personal achievement every time I actually cooked or baked in there. But I plan on enjoying my new kitchen. I will have enough counter space to take a nap on! (Not that I would, but I'm going to be very tempted!) Wow! I can't wait!