Tuesday, December 18, 2012

After Twenty Years

While my first hour seventh grade class is reading A Christmas Carol, my second hour is reading "After Twenty Years" by O. Henry.  

This year, we've all been studying the ELA standards.  Red Lake County Central teachers have been searching for ways to look at the common core and take the ELA standards to develop high order thinking according to Bloom's Taxonomy.  We've been concentrating on the first ten standards across the curriculum. 

We've been digging and searching and digging some more on how to get our kids to make the jump from objective ABCD answers on tests to digging deeper and writing meaningful answers.  

Change is hard, but the standards are important. 

When the students and I started reading "After Twenty Years", I asked them to think about their friends and how they thought their friends would change.  I put up a picture of my graduating class, and to pick which Purple Person was me. Surprisingly, they found me right away.

Monday, December 10, 2012

On Changing Courses

Last week, we started the drama version of A Christmas Carol in seventh grade.  My first hour loved it.  My second hour??  Well...  I changed course. 

We moved from the version of the book and when to a Reader's Theater version that only took one class time to read.  From there, I found other Christmas plays with a Reader's Theater theme.  They loved reading out loud and trying new voices.  They really did.  I just had to accommodate for their attention spans. 

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure they even noticed. They were just reading a Christmas theme, and that made them happy. 

In the meantime, first hour marches on reading A Christmas Carol.  They even seem to enjoy the complexities of the language and the historical context of Scrooge's world. 

It always surprises me how I need to be flexible....  It surprises me so much at what interests kids and what doesn't.  And if it doesn't? I have to ask myself if they are just being lazy and need to be pushed, or if this is something critically important that can be wrapped up and re-gifted?

Finding texts is the most important part of being a teacher.  If I can't find the correct text, my day was useless.  Students spent forty-five minutes being bored.  What good is that?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today was a Good Day

In Practical English, We are reading Red Earth, White Earth by Will Weaver.  We are also watching An Overdue Apology, taking notes, and writing.  At first, we were only going to read the first chapter of Red Earth, White Earth.

 I'm finally finding the light bulb moment.

They care.

I had wondered if they just weren't there yet.  I had wondered if I lost them.  I had feared my lack of teaching experience with them had them lost in a wave of superficial giggles. 

They knew I care. 

They knew there were no solid answers.

So, I'm finding more Red Earth, White Earth books.  I'm ordering them and hoping they get here fast.  I have their attention.  I want to keep it.

They care. 

They have a heart along with those silly faces.  And they're giving me their's... 

The story of Guy and Tom have their attention.  They want to know more.  They understand Will Weaver's language, and it matters because the setting is less than fifty miles away.  They find every literary device.  They see the imagery, after they are reminded of what imagery is.  They have friends.  They have parents that fight.  They can smell the river.

And not only do they want to know more about Guy and Tom, they want to know more about the White Earth Indian Reservation.  And even though they might not have answers, they want to know.

They want to know? 




Yes.  Really.

They want to know.

And this is why I'm a teacher.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Personal Narratives

  This week, I assigned the first paper to my practical English students this week.  They are writing Personal Narratives.   I think they were excited to write even though they have been writing for me all year in their journals.  They looked at this assignment as though it was different, as though it was something fresh.  I didn't tell them, "Dudes, you've been doing this since September  - this assignment just requires you to write a bit more formally with correct spelling and grammar."

  Monday afternoon, I passed out a post from Penelope Trunks blog entitled "My 9/11 day.  My husband.  The meaning of my To-do list".  The students didn't know what to think of the imperfect writing of a blogger.  I'm not sure they fully understood that she was a blogger.  I passed out the rubric I would be using to grade their papers.  On a whim, I asked students to grade Trunk's post via the rubric.  She scored an average of a 22/25.  They scored her down for her grammar usage and the organization of the piece.  I thought that was rather interesting - they were pretty picky.

  Today, I handed out another post from Teacherscribe, "Detention".  I smiled deviously knowing that I had one former student of his in my class.  Again, these kids didn't give any writer any slack.  He scored a 22/25.  Geez, one of the best teachers and writers had been given a B+ by my Practical English class.  I wonder what they'll say when they see their grades from me.
  After reading the delightful, "Detention", I took Teacherscribe's advice and shared David Sedaris' "Big Boy" taken from his book Me Talk Pretty One Day.  I remember reading this years ago and laughing so hard I probably had pop blow out of my nose. They were in awe.  They were grossed out.  They never knew.   They never ever knew anyone would dare write about poo.  Never never ever had heard anything like that.  And to read it in English class?    Sedaris' scores varied from 0s to 24/25.  Sedaris' writing elicited the most response.  Comments made on the rubrics included  "This was the best ever."  to "Disgusting.  Who would write about Poo.?"

Awwww I can't make everyone happy.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Getting My Teacher Groove On

It's hard to believe that two months of teaching have breezed by me so quickly.  Ok - it hasn't been a breeze.  Going back to teaching full-time has been a challenge.  I haven't always mastered this challenge with grace.  I haven't walked from school every evening with the feeling that "Oh - I made kids' lives better today."

Yesterday, I had that moment.  Finally.

Finally.  I feel like I got my teacher groove on.

The biggest help for me to get "my teacher groove" was to ask my principal for advice.  He gave me some great classroom management ideas and gave me some excellent words of encouragement without making me feel belittled or inadequate.  Having a mentor within the building makes life so much easier.

Also, I think it makes a difference to be "coachable". I hear coaches in the teacher's lounge say "Oh yeah, an excellent athlete, but that kid is not coachable.

This makes sense in teaching, too.  Kids need to be coachable, but also, teachers need to be coachable, too.  Coaches need to be coachable.

We can all improve.

I know I can.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saving Hester Prynne...

Wednesday afternoon, my Practical English class finished chapter 8 of The Scarlett Letter.  On Teacherspayteachers.com I found a e-text of the Scarlet Letter - I'm finding that this is working quite swell.  I've been modeling how I read within the text - how my brain works.  I remind the students that I'm not a genius...  That this is the fourth or fifth time reading this text, and I think this helps a bit.  It puts them at ease.

As we finished reading Chapter 8,  I realized that the last two paragraphs had some deep thoughts.  This is the chapter when all the men get together to decide if Hester should keep Pearl, or if Pearl would be better off with more fitting parents.  In the end, Reverend Dimmsdale speaks up for Hester asserting that Pearl has saved Hester's soul.  Hester leaves the house and is confronted by Mistress Hibbins to join her in the woods.

The affair being so satisfactorily concluded, Hester Prynne, with
Pearl, departed from the house. As they descended the steps, it
is averred that the lattice of a chamber-window was thrown open,
and forth into the sunny day was thrust the face of Mistress
Hibbins, Governor Bellingham's bitter-tempered sister, and the
same who, a few years later, was executed as a witch.

"Hist, hist!" said she, while her ill-omened physiognomy seemed
to cast a shadow over the cheerful newness of the house. "Wilt
thou go with us to-night? There will be a merry company in the
forest; and I well-nigh promised the Black Man that comely Hester
Prynne should make one. "

"Make my excuse to him, so please you!" answered Hester, with a
triumphant smile. "I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my
little Pearl. Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have
gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black
Man's book too, and that with mine own blood!"

"We shall have thee there anon!" said the witch-lady, frowning,
as she drew back her head.

But here -- if we suppose this interview betwixt Mistress Hibbins
and Hester Prynne to be authentic, and not a parable -- was
already an illustration of the young minister's argument against
sundering the relation of a fallen mother to the offspring of her
frailty. Even thus early had the child saved her from Satan's

 We finished reading together.  I turned to the students and sighed "Wow - I missed this.  How could I miss how important this passage is?  How could I miss this?"

So, tomorrow afternoon, we are going to think of how important a mother and child relationship is and how a mother can save a child and a child save a mother.  Will they draw conclusions into their own lives?  Will they connect the dots?  Will they realize just how important they are to their parents?

Monday, October 8, 2012

On lexiles and such

If you've ever read A Day No Pigs Would Die, you would understand my students' excitement.  When I would stop reading, multiple seventh graders would moan..."Nooooo, keep reading!"

The first chapter embraces excitement. The kids laughed and were scared and amazed at young Rob's bravery. 

"Oh wow.  This is a good book."

The lexile is at 790.

In eighth grade we are reading Treasure Island, the lexile score is 1100.  Even though we are reading out loud, the jump in lexile scores has the kids trudging along and often confused. 

In my older class, we are reading The Scarlet Letter.  Again, we are reading this out loud, but the students seem to be into the story.  I had one student ask me;

"Mrs. Aakhus, if this is so hard, why are we reading it?"

"It's worth it."

They seemed to be content with that answer.  I think the themes speak to them.  I found a lesson plan that paired stories and songs  with The Scarlet Letter by theme.  What a super idea!  Of course, this educator as included great activities from The Holocaust Museum,  "Run to the Hills" by Iron Maiden, and The Help. T  I will also pair this with Will Weaver's first chapter in Red Earth, White Earth and Dr. Suess' Sneeches

The Scarlet Letter has a lexile score of 1100.  Granted these students are three years or more older than my eighth graders, but what makes The Scarlet Letter more accessible to students?

Could it be the theme?  Could it be the thinking required of the deeper meaning of life?





OK ok ok -   It's MONDAY.  It's a whole fresh week of journal entries, correcting quizzes and tests, and READING.

Last night, I sent a question out to all my co-workers; "What is your favorite book?"

We need to share this with our students.  Our students NEED to know that we are readers.

What's my favorite book?   oh geez... How do I pick just one?  I believe it is To Kill a Mockingbird.  How very English teacher of me.  I just love the characters.  I love people.  I love quirky characters who try and try to become better people.  This is why I love To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Let's Talk About Books Baybe

Last week, my older students began reading Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter.  I left the book for the Sub to start. When I called to see if she had any questions, she asked me if she could give them a summary of the Introduction, "The Custom House" and move on to Chapter 1.

"In my experience, that first bit loses about half the students before the really nitty gritty even starts."  I decided we could go back to "The Custom House" if we really needed to and gave her the go-ahead to start reading chapter one.

I think the kids are starting to shake in their boots.  They think the book is too difficult for them.  I think they'll be just fine. 

At this time, Eighth Graders are finishing up Treasure Island.  This book has been a difficult read.  We stop and summarize all the time.  I'd like the students to realize that Stevenson has come up with the mold for most adventure novels.  The Lightening Thief and Harry Potter all start in similar ways with teens as main characters. There is definitely something very Indiana Jones about Jim Hawkins.  Hawkins' dramatic flair adds so much flava to the story.

Tomorrow, seventh grade will start A Day No Pigs Would Die. 

I get to do this.  Lucky me.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First Weeks of School

Oh.... School.  I'm back.  Language Arts- I'm back.  I'm so glad to be here.

The past two and a half weeks have been difficult.  I've been out of practice.  I've been coasting too long by teaching Spanish.  

This year, and probably every year, I'm teaching seventh and eighth grades along with a junior/senior English course, a grad prep course, and a yearbook course.  I have five preps.  I was so tired at the end of the day.  For a brief moment, I wondered what I had got myself into, but today, I thought "I'm so glad I get to read "Almost Soup" by Louise Erdich with my Juniors and Seniors."  I'm so happy to talk about things that matter so much to me. 

This week,  we started reading Treasure Island in eighth grade.  We started reading the book on "Talk Like a Pirate Day."  I think that was perfect timing - if I do say so myself.  I'm not sure if I could ever really explain how awesome it is to have twenty-two students surrounding you - really into a book. I mean really, really into a book.  It's such a good feeling.

And here I am.  After two years, I'm back. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Dear Jordan LeAnn,

I saw you almost a week ago.  You saw me, too.  I realized you were not allowed to speak to me, and so, I held back and didn't rush and hug you like I wanted. I'm using my blog as a last resort.  One day, I'm sure you will search "Aakhus", and you will find my blog. I'm sure you are curious if your biological father's family loves and misses you.  We do.  We love you.  I'm not writing this to explain any reasons why we are not allowed to see or talk to you.  I don't understand that, either. 

I know that we love you.  One day when you're an adult you can choose if you want to get to know us again.  I want you to know that we are here and waiting.

Auntie Bobbi

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Standards

This year, new English Language Arts Standards are put into place.  The newest twist from the old standards to the new standards include Minnesota Indians - I'm not quite sure why they are not worded as Minnesota Native Americans - but the standards say Indians...

  These standards are to be implemented this year in my classroom:

You can find the exact wording of the standards here:


Mostly the Department of Education has noticed a lack of knowledge about the plight of Minnesota Objibwe and Dakota - Why they don't word it that?  I'm not sure, but as I researched lesson plans for these standards I've learned a lot about Minnesota History that I hadn't paid attention to before. 

Jason and I took the girls to Itasca last week to research Native American perspective in Itasca - I hadn't thought of the perspective that even though Schoolcraft was given credit in finding the headwaters of the Mississippi when, in fact, he had a Native American guide who helped him find it.

We saw Burial Mounds and wild rice.  I was just realizing that I didn't even know what I didn't know yet.

Last night, I came across a Minnpost article by Paul Udstrand.  University of Minnesota students have made an effort for us to understand the Dakota War of 1862 and the ramifications it had and has on Dakota and Objibwe even to this day.  The article gives a link to a documentary on YouTube - written and produced by these students.  For an amateur documentary, An Overdue Apology gives a lot of great information.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Hester Prynne's Facebook Profile

This year, my Practical English class will be reading The Scarlet Letter. I hope they find the treatment of Hester Prynne as horrifying as I did when I was a freshman in college.

I hope they find the double standards in their own world.  I hope they look beyond their own worries and wonder what judgments they place on other kids.  I hope the lesson sticks.

Of course, many teachers have found the idea of the Facebook Profile as a characterization assignment to go along with any book.

I am curious on how they will portray Hester's relationship status - will they list her as single, married, or "it's complicated"?

I hope they make the connection on how they view others' facebook profiles and offer judgment to the way the townspeople judged Hester.

I guess the learning ought not stop with the students.  I guess I should think about my own condescending view of my own morality.  Maybe, I ought to learn a lesson from Nathaniel Hawthorne, too..  I hope that lesson sticks, too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


This summer has been a busy summer for me.  Everyday has been devoted to reading my material for the coming year.  I will be teaching seventh and eighth graders along with a section of Practical English for eleventh and twelfth grade.

In college, I was always so excited to create my own material and pick the books my students would read.  The fact is that I inherit work from the previous instructor. What I didn't count on is that even though I didn't personally pick these books out, I've been forced to look at books in a new light.

 I never would have read Call of the Wild by Jack London.  It wasn't my "type' of book at all. I taught the book in a previous district and found that I loved it.  I found that it forced me to grow not only as a teacher but as a person, too.  It forced me to look at nature in a new light.

This summer, I have read The Pigman, A Day No Pigs Would Die, and Treasure Island.  I am delighted.I get to think beyond my own tastes. 

Even though I consider myself to be a well-read individual, I'm surprising myself with new reads all the time.  I'm  delighted with "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce.  

And to think, I haven't even come to the fun part!  I haven't even started writing lesson plans to go along with these treasures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Source: google.com via Kristie on Pinterest

I remember, not so long ago, being a teenage girl and not having a mother who listened to me. It seemed like we were always at odds.  Her brain always seemed to be turned off to my ideas or she seemed to only be half listening.

Now that I'm a mother with a teenage daughter, I can see that even though it seemed as though my mother wasn't listening, she already knew what I was thinking.

I'm finding that I need to grow as a mother.  I have to communicate to my kids that I'm listening to them even though I most likely know what they will say. My daughters need to feel as though I'm listening to them.  They are individuals who are in command of their own lives.  I'm not the owner.  I'm only the mentor.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Apocalypse - a Story of a Water Beetle

 One day, at the end of the school year, I decided to take a little walk to Cenex during a break.  When I left the school, the streets were unusually quiet.  The air felt strange to me.  I felt as though some life lesson or major life event was about to take place.
I skipped a bit and looked down.  That's when I saw a bug.  This bug was the biggest bug I had ever seen in my entire life.  So, I took a picture of it with my cell phone.

The picture was very, very disappointing.  There's no way anyone could have imagined how  big this bug was to me.

That's when I saw two seniors walking into the school.  I was actually relieved because I started wondering if, in fact, I had been left behind and was living in an apocalyptic world inhabited just by me and these scary looking bugs.

 They pondered the bug with me for a while, and we went on our separate ways.  I, to Cenex - They, to class.

I thought about this bug.  I wondered about it and suddenly found myself in front of the store with a big bang.  My shoe had caught on to the first step.  I fell with a thud with my cheek basically smearing down the glass door.  It was not unlike a bird who flies into a fresh window.

A man rushed out of the store and helped me up.  I brushed myself off and found myself inside Cenex which had a bustle of people giggling at my mishap.

I reached for the Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and reached inside my purse to find the money to pay.  And, inside I found I had some yogurt which had sprayed it's contents entirely over my delightful purse.  Key lime pie flavored coins and make up were part of my world.

I went back to school and cleaned up in the teacher's lounge sharing my story with my colleagues. The Biology teacher knew which bug I was talking about right away.

I hadn't imagined size of this bug.  And I wasn't LEFT BEHIND to fight an apocalyptic battle against zombies, either.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Today is the sort of day that makes me think of haikus

A cool, gentle rain
Making me forget worries
I don't have worries.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Call Me Maybe

This weekend, I found this video made from some of the boys on the Fosston Baseball team.. 

They gave credit to the Harvard Baseball team for the idea.

It cracked me up! 

Being who they want to be.

One of my favorite parts of summer is regrouping from the school year.  Part of re-grouping is reading what other teachers have to say.  As I've mentioned before one of my favorite blogs comes from Teacherscribe - Mr. Reynolds always provides great professional reading links and thoughts on becoming a better teacher.  He pointed out this blog post recently and offered his own thoughts in another post. 

George Courous  prioritizes getting to know students as the number one way to becoming a master teacher.  I agree.  Over the weekend, I had been thinking about what makes an effective teacher.  Courous listed "Knowing Students" as a number one priority.  I think this means putting aside their test scores, what we know about their family, and what other teachers say.

We need to show an interest in who they are, and sometimes, this means knowing who they want to be.  Who they want to be is much more important than who they are.  We need to look at their potential.  Who could they be if they had the right cheerleader?  Who could they be if they had one person believing in them?

I'm one of those teachers who always cheers for the underdog.  I get it - kids can do some rotten things to each other.  Sometimes, we just need to point out that it was a poor choice and move on.

Kids need to know we know who they want to be.  Kids need to know we want to help them be who they want to be.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I haven't blogged much lately.  I've been researching too much.  I'll have a different job next year.  I'll be teaching English again this fall at the same school where I am now.

I have taken the standards and compared them to the material left for me.  My colleague had excellent taste in books.  We will read many amazing books such as Out of the Dust, A Day No Pigs would Die, The Great Gatsby, and The Scarlett Letter. The literature books are amazing and fit in with the concepts we need to cover throughout the year.  I'm looking forward to Anne Frank again.  I've missed her.  I've missed "The Highwayman".  I've missed reading students' poetry.

Since teaching Spanish, some of the English standards have changed.  I found it interesting that they've added requirements to both fiction and informational texts regarding Minnesota American Indians.  It hasn't been that easy in finding material to use. Of course, my colleague has been an excellent resource, and we dug up some interesting material on "The Dakota war of 1862".  I've spent my free time at work googling short stories and frankly, there isn't much out there.  The scarcity of material makes me glad that the standards require the search.  The scarcity proves to us that we need to dig more, share what we find, and encourage students to think about our history and question our present. I

And so begins my search and my constant planning for the fall.  I'm convinced I'll find something perfect... I'm betting Will Weaver has something I could use.

Friday, May 11, 2012

BiografĂ­a Poema

Wednesday afternoon, I had an epiphany.  My Spanish 1 students were ready for a Bio Poem.  As an English teacher, I've always enjoyed the Bio Poem assignment.  I've learned so much about my students.  After 8 months of hard study, my Spanish 1 students were ready for the same thing.   I quickly translated the directions into Spanish.

My home students loved the assignment - even though they complained.  I noticed that there was a lot of thought going on the paper.

I ended my day in Red Lake Falls.  I brought out the assignment.  I heard a few snickers.

"Mrs. Aakhus, we are doing the same thing in English class.  Our teacher just assigned us this today."

Monday, April 16, 2012


There came a time when a mom could no longer sing along with her favorite songs, especially inappropriate songs  by Prince or Kiss.  I could listen to the music.  I just could not sing to the music.  The girls would not notice inappropriate lyrics if I didn't point them out.

Now, the time has come when Nat has started pouring over my queue on my Kindle and points to songs.

"Mom, don't you know what this song is about."

"Uhhhh, no?"  I say to a song by The Wanted.  "What's wrong with this one?"  I turn it on.

"Mom!"  She says to whenever something Inappropriate comes on pointing to my Kindle.

"I don't get it.  What's so bad about that?"

She rolls her eyes.  She's not cluing me in.

Only she doesn't know that I know.

And I pretend to be a bit more innocent for her sake.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I had a Concussion?

At some point Monday, I bopped my head on a coat rack while visiting with another staff member.  All I remember is a smarting pop to my ear, and my co-worker asking me if I was okay.

"Yeah.. I think so."  I rubbed my ear packed up what I needed to do for the next day's class and went home.

Later that night, I brought the family to Natalie's Public Speaking Night for her Speech Team.  Those two hours deserve a whole blog post in its own as those kids gave an amazing performance.

I came home to an earache.  I didn't think I could take any pain medicine as I was to have a small medical procedure on Wednesday morning and thought I was told not to take anything four days before my procedure.  I went to bed early and had the WACKIEST DREAMS EVER.

For instance, I dreamed I was filling a dishwasher over and over again.

I dreamed my co-worker WAS DATING MY MOTHER-IN-LAW.

I dreamed that I was teaching school in the basement of a church.

After that wacky night, I awoke to a Smart Wool socks infomercial on our local radio groaning at the host's description of his Athlete's Foot.

The first thing I realized is that my ear hurt.  I stood up, put my robe on, and walked into the kitchen to make coffee.

"Holy Cat Chow"  I whispered.  My head was throbbing.  "I need coffee."

My stomach seemed upset so I took a few Tums and started a bath. 

In the bath, I realized I was too sick to go to school.

"Why is this pain happening to me?  Who around me had the stomach flu?  Why does my head and my ear hurt so bad?"  These thoughts tried to form in my spongy brain.  I called for Jason, but it hurt to say his name.

"Jason....  Jason..... Jason ... Jason"

He wasn't hearing me.  Finally,  (and sorry about this)  I rushed out of the bath to toss my cookies or Tumsss...  and Allison rushed to the bathroom door...

"Mom are you okay?"

"Kind of.. go get your dad."

"Dad,"  I heard Allison call to Jason.  "Mom is sick; she needs you."

Jason came to the bathroom and brought me to my room.  He helped me get dressed and took directions on how to call a sub in for my.  He met a co-worker at her home in Terrebonne to bring the Despicable Me and  Kung Fu Panda  DVDs to the sub.  Which of course, why were they watching these movies in Spanish?  That's another blog post for another day.

Meanwhile, Allison decided she was sick.  And she had all the same symptoms I had.  So, she had tears and everything.  Somewhere in my head,  I knew that she just had sympathy pains for me, but I was too tired to argue with her.

When Jason, finally, left for work, She went to her room with my kindle and played Angry Birds.

I got a phone call from the nurse regarding my surgery the next day.

She gave me some sort of instruction.  That went something like this;

"Number one, blah blahdy blah blahh blah."


"Get here  at atey thirty blah de blah blah."

She went on, and I listened carefully as I lay  on the couch.with the phone to me ear.  When she's finished, she asked if I have any questions.

"Yeah,  I do."  I braced myself to speak. "Can I have Tylenol?  I bunked my ear, and now, my head hurts so bad, and I've vomited like four times.  Tylenol sounds so good."

"Well," she answered.  "If you feel that you have the flu, please call ASAP so we can keep our schedule.  And yes, you may have Tylenol."

I hung up the phone and walk slowly into the kitchen and take two Tylenol.  I called my mom at home.  I wanted sympathy from someone.

"I think you need to go to the doctor."  she said.  "I don't think you'll be having surgery."

I called and told Amy my predicament.  Being the mother of a certifiable hypochondriac, I knew the receptionist on a first name  basis.

"Come in at 1:30,"  she said quietly.

I fell asleep for twenty minutes.  The phone rang.  The phone ringing brought the most pain in the world.  It was Amy.

"Uhhh  do you think you could come in, now.?"

Somehow, I made it to the doctor.  She told  me I had a concussion and to take the next few days off.  No procedure for me.  Also, she offered to call the scheduling nurse and explain my concussion.  I text my sister and husband and told them not to call me.  I called my mom and told her that Lois, the owner of the convenience store, was telling me something probably important about my nephew before my appointment.

"I think he's  been trying to buy energy drinks, mom...  I can't remember though."

I got home with my crackers, Tylenol, and Ginger Ale.  Jason came home for lunch and fed Allison....

I survived.  I slept most of the day and the next day, too.

Today, I will go to work, but don't ask me to do any math. My brain is still a bit spongy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Speech Meet

Saturday Morning, Natalie and I woke up bright and early and headed over to Oklee for the Plummer Lion's Speech Invitational.

This is Natalie's first year in speech.

I was a judge.

I've really enjoyed hearing about Natalie's adventure's in speech over the past few months. It brings back a lot of welcome memories.

Like almost fainting in front of judges at the first meet in Fosston.

Like all the crushes on the many boys...

Like all the bus rides home - and the many jokes.

I watch my daughter experiencing Speech just like I did twenty-five years ago.  I see her developing into a confident young woman.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Trying

The only athletic thing I ever did in High School was try out for cheer leading.  I was in the 8th grade.We were trying out for the next year's squads.

I remember going to practice not being able to do much...  My arms were never precise enough, and I had a hard time remembering the routines.

But I practiced.  I was so sore from trying to do the splits and practicing the school song.

No matter how sore I was, my body needed the practice.  I moved in spite of the pain.

When the day of tryouts came.  I was ready.  I danced the school song with all of my heart and cheered precise and enthusiastic cheers.

I remember waiting the next day for results.

My score was a 494.  I had the highest score of any of the girls my age who tried out for the Football/Volleyball squad.  I had made Varsity the first year I had tried out.  In fact, I had outranked a would-be Senior.  I would be the only Freshman on the Varsity Football/Volleyball squad, and I was thrilled.

I cheered for two years.  My sophomore year I became captain of the squad.  After that, I would sometimes dress up as the mascot.

Now, my oldest is busy with drama and has decided to try Track on the days she doesn't have drama.  Tonight, she complained about being sore and how tough it was to run. She had drama, so she had to run on her own.
"Oh come on... Get out there and run a mile."

"Naw... I'm sore."

"Nawwwwww..." I smiled.  "I'll walk if you run."

"I'll run if you run" she dared.

So, I ran the mile.

Of course, Nat finished a quarter of a mile ahead of me.

"I can't believe I beat you." She exclaimed. "I kept stopping, and I still beat you."  

I guess she's  not a very graceful winner yet. 

"Yeah, Nat, I bet I could beat my mom in a race too."

Monday, March 19, 2012


Last week, I casually mentioned to Jason that there was a cool, looking bike in the window of the consignment shop downtown.

Jason had a light bulb moment.

For the next few days, I'd hear a tap on the window.  I'd look out our living room picture window and find an old bike excavated from the rafters in his shop.  He'd point at me and then, the bike.  I'd slightly nod my head, "maybe," and then, Jason would go back to one of his many man caves.

I've inspired a new hobby.

Jason is watching video after video on youtube, getting the facts on where to find parts.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Twenty Years

The Class of 92 is planning our twentieth reunion.


 I remember fantasizing about my Twenty Reunion and how I'd be a famous writer. I'd drive up in a limo and laugh in everyone's faces. I'd announce, "Hahahah I'm famous and have revealed everything mean you've ever said about me hahahaha. The world thinks you're mean."

 Instead, I'm sitting with my classmates bouncing off ideas on where we should socialize as I drink a Sierra Mist.

 Twenty years can change a lot. Twenty years made me realize that I wasn't the only kid who felt the way I felt. Twenty years made me realize that there probably someone out there who wants to rub my nose in my nastiness from high school.

 No one will notice what car I drive. No one will notice what car anyone drives. We'll probably notice if someone makes a big deal about the car they drive.

Songs My Momma Sang to me in the Car

When I was little, my mom liked to sing. A LOT. I thought she had such a pretty voice. Whenever we'd go places, we'd drive around in her Plymouth Duster without FM radio or air conditioning. Mom would get us singing to keep us occupied and not thinking about the heat.

I always thought my mom made this song up. It never made any sense to me.  Why would we smoke cigarettes and watch Captain Kangaroo? Seriously - that was mom's favorite thing to ask us...  if we wanted to sit around smoking cigarettes -  watching Captain Kangaroo.

I think I loved this song the most. Sigh... so loving...  I always felt mom's love the most while we were standing in the back seat as mom led us in this song.

Such a good song.

Later I would change this song for my Kool-Aid stand..

"It only takes a dime...
to buy a cup of Kool-Aid.
And if you don't like it....
You'll have to suffer because you buy it."

Mom was mad because she thought we were making fun of Jesus.

We had joy. We had fun.

This song was so deep. Tear.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who are You in the Hundred Acre Wood?

A few years back, let's say fifteen, Jason and I sat with our friend Ken and for some reason.... thought of Pooh Bear? We thought of all of our friends at college and giggled at who reminded us of whom... For example, Ken was Pooh Bear because he liked treats. Jason was Eeyore because he didn't like anything. Another friend was Rabbit because he liked to scold... I, of course, am Tigger because I'm bouncy, flouncy, trouncy, fun fun fun! We talked about this at the Lunch Bag club, and giggled at who was like whom. Of course, it's always nice to be Christopher Robin.... and of course, there's lots of room in the Hundred Acre Wood, even if it's just the Teacher's Lounge.

Friday, March 2, 2012

My Favorite March 1st

When I was a kid, I prayed a lot.  I prayed to be rich.  I prayed to be famous. I prayed I would have a baby brother.

My prayers were finally answered when I was in 8th grade.

Missi and I came home from school one day to find my mom overjoyed.  She told us she was going to have a baby!  YAY!!!!  We jumped up and down like you wouldn't believe.  A baby.

Nathan was born March 1st, 1988.  Missi and I loved him so.  We fought constantly over holding him.  We even fought about who would change his diapers.

Often times, throughout this year, I wondered what we would have done without that crazy little brother of ours.  Mark would have had to quit his job and give up his insurance.  I would have had to raise their children full-time.  Honestly, Missi and Mark probably would have lost their house.

Thank God for our Nathan.  Thank God for answered prayers.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Life is Like Now

My sister and brother are home.  Of course, they've been home since about Thanksgiving. And even though Missi  has  had a few set backs here and there, but for the most part, she's stronger everyday.

When Missi's kids come home from school, she's there.  When the littlest Peterson brought home her first Valentienes, she was able to corner her mom on the couch and individually explain to her mother which Valentine came from whom.
Nathan has been able to go to classes, in person.  He doesn't miss a single day. And of course, like all good English majors, he's offering books for us to read left and right.

While they were gone, life had felt pretty bogged down.  It felt as though I was always walking in a pool of molasses.  And now, that they've returned.  Life is so easy. I can go shopping whenever I want to.  I can quilt.  I can go to basketball games and hockey games and cheer to my heart's content.

I'm not sure if you've ever had someone gone from your lives and had the opportunity for them to come back.  But it's wonderful.  It's so wonderful.  Life is so good.

Life is so much better with my siblings around.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My Picasso

This winter, my little Picasso has been pushed and pushed to read.  There have been times that I've gotten home from work studied with her for an hour, made supper, and went back to reading and homework until 10:30 at night.

I tried telling her that it was okay to let some of it go.  She could catch up over noon and get some sleep.  She's relentless. 

Picasso's teacher gives her a check off list, and those tasks must be checked off before she's satisfied.

And well, her reading has improved.  Picasso's test score on her NWEA jumped a whopping thirteen points.  I'm starting to think that her brain is finding it's own way - as it does with many dyslexics.

Friday, February 10, 2012

On Sweeping it Under the Rug..

A teacher from an area town is in big trouble.  Newspapers are reporting that he took nude photos of a student and made them into a portfolio for her.  Afterwards, he offered to do so for her friends.

Of course, I don't know the whole story, but I see this school district did the right thing.  They risked embarrassment and bad publicity to find justice.  There are school officials out there who think of the vulnerable teen and stick up for her.

Of course, I can think of other school districts who swept such things under the rug. Unfortunately, dirt like that must come out and often, it often it does, publicly.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bonding over Bondo

For the past two months, Missi has been going back and forth to Rochester for check-ups every week or two.  Missi's three have been staying with us.

Among the five kids around this circus, only one is a boy.  Sometimes, he gets left out.

One day, he followed J out to the shop and then, around the yard.  Ethan started asking J questions about the old cars scattered throughout our yard.  They've bonded over bondo.

Now, when we go into the supermarket,  Ethan will head for the Auto Trader magazine.  He gets one for him and one for Jason.  He scours through the ads and is awed at the beautiful Mopars and discusses the unique aspects of each specimen of steel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Adios Capitulo Tres

Last week, we finally finished Chapter Three. Based on my notes, I finished Chapter three on April 30th last year. Hooray - we're three months ahead of schedule from last year. Of course, we haven't had the obstacles we faced last year. Last year, I had a student who was vocal. Every time she didn't understand something, she would whine quite verbally.

  At first, I was annoyed. Whining is annoying after all. But then, I thought about it. She was giving me what I needed to know. I was getting feedback. I was pushing my students in a direction without a map. From her whining, I realized three things I would have to do this year. I split Chapter three into three sections - 1. Vocabulary 2. AR Verb 3. IR,Dar, Y Estar verbs. Then, I dropped the al y del. I dropped those words because even though those words are necessary, they are subtle and small in every day language and confuse Spanish 1 students so much they turn off their brains to everything else and have a language shut down. Sure, I talked about them, but we moved on. I decided that the confusion wasn't worth it.

And gawrsh, I just realized that Chapter 4 is hard too. Now, I have to teach verb phrases and er and ir verbs. While we're doing this, we're learning about foods. I had the kids make pictures of their favorite meals - and of course, I had to cringe as I got pictures labeled in English - EEEEEEEEEKKKKKKK --- really? REALLY? REALLLY?

Oh yeah, so I'll be patient and hand them back and probably give them a bad grade and let them know they can do it again - but they should realize they are in Spanish class - and label them in Spanish for Spanish class.....

So I guess Chapter Four is hard too?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Advice to My Spanish 2 Class: Who Not To Date

We watched this video in Spanish class last week. We still laugh when we see this.. Then, I got serious for a minute - "You know there's really guys like this, right? You know the kind of guy who puts his facebook profile pic as a pic of him in the bathroom without a shirt... "Promise me you will never date that guy." And we all laughed. And then, I reminded them of this song... and told them "Don't date that guy either."

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On Tenth and Eighth Grade...

I don't think anyone can ever know how difficult tenth and eighth graders are until they've had a room of twenty of them. 

Tenth grade baggage has become easier for me.  Both my years teaching Spanish, I've adored my Spanish 1 class at this time of the year.  We've figured each other out.  We've found our groove and even if they don't like me, they know that they should at least, pretend to laugh at my jokes. 

Sometimes, they just want to show us they're not kids, and they forget and are rude.  And, we kindly remind them.  "That was rude."  And go on our way.

Eighth grade is a bit more difficult.  They want to be grown-ups.  They are annoyed that you don't let them just do what they want.  But - if you pick your battles, they get through it.  If you let the eye roll go, and give them a bit of space, most of them come back to being who they really are - that sweet, vulnerable kid who wants to do well in the world -

I remember one mom calling me and telling me that her daughter was "going through a rough patch" and "not to take things so personally," oh and "she just needs some understanding."

When I ended the conversation, I told her kindly; "I get that, but I will remind her of when she's being rude."

Some classes are a bit more difficult than others - and once in while, you get a group, like my eldest daughter's class - who starts in seventh grade.  Kids who want so much attention they are constantly being sent to the Principal's office.  A group of kids who generally believe what they have to say is far more important than Algebra, Onomatopoeia, or the constituion.

We just have to grit our teeth and pick our battles.  Most of the time, we just have to wait it out and say "I think you shouldn't say that."  And eventually, they get it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Lunch Bag Club

Just like the kids, my favorite part of the day is lunch time.  Sure sure, I love the challange of teaching the kids Spanish.   Sure, sure I love making the kids laugh and telling them stories. There's just something to be said about that part of the day when we get together with our peers and - I know this sounds cheesy - enjoy being friends.

I hate to brag, but I work with such awesome cats.  There's many a lunch time when I leave and my sides hurt from laughing so much.  I think each one of us at that table has had a heavy load this past year, but we've been cheering each other on and laughing. And laughing some more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Little Bit of Normal

Missi has been home off and on since Thanksgiving.  We're finding out what our new normal is.  I think for the most part, her kids just like her to be home. 

With so many steriods, Missi's pancreas zonked out for awhile, so the Peterson 5 has three diabetics, now.  Even though Missi is fabulous with figuring out her children's diabetes, I had to laugh when she bought some Tootsie Rolls on the way to Rochester last week.  The next day, her nurse coordinator asked her why her blood sugars were so high.

"Prednisone."  Missi answered.

"Tootsie Rolls." I laughed.

I guess diabetes isn't so easy to adapt to when it happens to one's own self. 

Today, Missi goes back to Rochester for more appointments.  The road is long and hard, but we're glad to make the trek.  Not everyone is given such odds in the fight against cancer. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Scar Face

Of all the nicknames from my hometown, the nickname that affected me the most was Scar Face.  My nick name was Scar Face.  I have a scar on my face.  Mostly, I like to forget that nickname.

When I was five, I was staying at my grandma's house.  She had a dog named Charlie.  I specifically remember my grandma telling me NOT TO FEED THE DOG CANDY.  I remember specifically telling my grandma; "That's crazy.  Charlie loves candy." 

I got THE look.  "DO NOT feed Charlie candy.  He will get sick."

Silly grandma.  She didn't know what she is talking about.

Later that night,  I was playing house and decided that Charlie should be my husband.  I put a blanket over his head and was hugging him.  He got scared and bit me. 

I don't remember the actual bite.  I remember my sister seeing the blood and screaming.  I remember my mom and dad getting me from my grandma's and bringing me to the emergency room.  I remember the doctor sewing up my cheek and nurses holding my hand.

I remember going back to school with stitches on my face, and the kids backing away from me.  I had glasses the size of coke bottles, stitching across my cheek, and a patch on one eye because of lazy eye.

As we grew up, the class ahead of me started watching "The Godfather," and my nick name was born.  Growing up with that nickname was the hardest thing I ever had to do. 

As an adult, I've chosen forgiveness.  When I see the boys who've spit on me and taunted me, I pretend like it never happened, and the men, they've become, are grateful for the amnesia. There is always a silent exchange of "I'm so sorry" and "I forgive you."  If it was said out loud, there probably would be tears.  I would rather silently acknowledge the pain and move on.

When I talk to my students of bullying, I gloss over the stories of being "Scar Face."  When adult strangers ask me about my scar, I'm always suprised that they would ask me about something so personal.