A Midsummer in Oz at the Chocolate Factory-and a Lonely Goat

This week, we are auditioning 85 kids for three plays: Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Wizard of Oz, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This is our third year of drama club, and like a distant memory or a faint dream, I can’t quite place the moment it all became real.

Over twenty kids are auditioning for Midsummer Night’s Dream. I am thrilled that there is such interest with fourth and fifth graders. Of course, I’m sure there is hope for a sword fight, a chase, and a few fairies causing havoc. (The boys are bent on a sword fight.) Then there is the bizarre fascination with the donkey head.

I went to the Leaf Festival in Asheville. While the Moody Blues inspired parade passed me, I had costume inspirations for Midsummer. I can’t use stilts, and I’m still a little bitter about that. That was the my first inkling of my  mild theater obsession. You see, graduate school is over soon, and I must fill my time with another endeavor that will encompass me, completely.

The Wizard of Oz has been done so many times; I am driven to do it a little differently. I could have them set in the future, like that Julius Caesar play I saw in high school. Dorothy is wearing space boots, and the Wicked Witch needs them to find her space voyager monkeys. Glenda is tired of green witch’s shenanigans, and she sends her off in a space shuttle-for eternity. I’m not sure what to do with the munchkins in the space scenario.

This story has always been a metaphor to me. I mean, Dorothy-searching for The WIZARD of OZ? And for crying out loud, he was such a let down.

Her real world is black and white, which could mean a myriad of things that only Dorothy could discuss with the right therapist. Her colorful world could illustrate her awareness of her issues. Her best friends need a heart, courage, and a brain.  We have all been there. Wouldn’t it be lovely to always be courageous, intelligent, and full of love and compassion?  But, it usually comes down to our friends shaking us apart, and telling us to scrape up the last bits of courage from the remnants of the day. I hate when they do that.

The Wicked Witch is a sad little green thing. I can’t imagine being allergic to water. No wonder she was neurotic and a shoe obsessed.

I sat with Shannon, doing drama club paper work, and we sang “I wish I had a Brain” over and over. Sometimes we don’t have brains, and that is really okay.

Oh, I could tell you why The ocean’s near the shore.
I could think of things I never thunk before.
And then I’d sit, and think some more.
I would not be just a nothin’ my head all full of stuffin’
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry, life would be a ding-a-derry,
If I only had a brain.

I tell you, life can be a ding-a-derry. Whatever that means.

My friends, Margarita and Victor, who have kept our community theater afloat for the past couple of years, posted this on my FB timeline:

Dancing Goat Theater

As I am becoming embroiled in our school theater productions, I am saddened by the fact that this wonderful theater is close to shutting down. This is where we saw, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, A Thousand Paper Cranes, Macbeth, Macbeth Junior, The Holiday Hootenany, Ensler’s monologues, and so many more amazing performances. This is where I performed with my daughter, for the first and last time.

When I think of this theater, I think of some of my dearest friends; Daniel chewing wood while directing Shrew, Margarita encouraging me to have the Macbeth narrators dance to Liza Minelli’s All that Jazz, avoiding the giant MACBETH boulder in the middle of the theater, and most of all-laughing through our creative spirits.

I think of my personal growth as an educator, because I saw the need for theater arts in our elementary school. We have 85 drama club members, within two grade levels. That means something. That is huge. Sometimes, that is overlooked.

I think of how quickly hours of work can become a wrinkle in time, because the cause is so very worth every single, tiny, moment spent, working with these kids. I think of our volunteers, who came together from diverse backgrounds, to keep the heart of performing arts beating in the theater.

My hope is that by some miracle, Oz is real-somewhere. Maybe, in our little theater? Maybe, in the hearts of our performers? Maybe in our audiences? Our community? Because without them, we have no theater.

GLENDA WHERE ARE YOU?

“Now I know I’ve got a heart because it is breaking.

- Tin Man”
― L. Frank BaumThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Here’s to theater.

K

Half of Ninety…

Many things have happened this year. I just had my forty-fifth birthday. I know I am half of ninety, and I round up to fifty, but I feel this year will be one of my best. I am still doing what I love at work. My daughters are amazing people. My suburban village is steady and strong. And I have a chance to open up my heart again.
I still need to reconcile being forty-five. I can say things like ‘thirty years ago’, ‘back in the seventies’, and ‘I ruined my Sean Cassidy bell-bottoms in a biking incident.’
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Forty-five is also-
  • the atomic number for Rhodium. 
  • a record
  • the dialing code for Denmark
  • a gun
  • an Elvis Costello song
  • the speed limit
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This year, we welcomed 90 drama students (that number again). We are producing three plays: Peter Pan, Hamlet (modified for younger audiences) and Alice in Wonderland. I will be living in Wonderland and Neverland, while trying to kill off all the characters in Hamlet on an elementary school level.
I thought about making Hamlet a lost boy, or the King of Hearts. Maybe later…
We read through Hamlet and I was explaining the plot. The conversation with my Hamlet cast went something like this:
Me: “Think of the Lion King. It’s the same story, but with animals.”
SILENCE
Cast: “OOOOHHHHHH”
Ophelia: “Everyone dies in this play.”
Horatio-”Ha, I don’t die!”
Marcellus: “Yah, but you are  all alone.”
Hamlet: “When can we practice the sword fights?”
Me: “How about light sabers for the sword fights?” (No weapons in school.)
Ghost of Hamlet: “Hamlet, I am your father.” (In a creepy ghost voice.)
I have a friend who is helping me with drama club. I’m not sure she realized what she got herself into. She is directing Alice in Wonderland. Thank goodness she is taking out the murderous oyster scene. There is no real justification for me to kill everyone in Hamlet, and save the oysters. Maybe it’s the bonnets? Maybe it’s because they are so trusting and BAM they are eaten?
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I am grateful to have this club. It is cathartic to me, and the kids keep me laughing and hopeful.
 In the very last scene of Peter Pan and Wendy, Wendy’s daughter (Jane) tells her mom she can’t fly anymore. The grown ups are not the heroes in this story. Eventually, the they lose the ‘ability to fly’.  I imagine this is because life knocked them around a bit?
I was reading through my archived posts, and it is so interesting to see how things change in the span of a couple of years, months, or even days.  I realize that each event brings you to the next experience, even if you don’t have control over any of it. But we really don’t ever have control; we just think we do.

My  foundation was cracked and my trust in people faded. Our wounds heal, yet those imprints remain. I am learning to sift through the yucky stuff, and find the things that made me grow, reflect on my own foibles, understand what I deserve (better yet, what I don’t deserve) and move on with more wisdom and fewer regrets.

I can relate to Alice trying to find her way, Hamlet seeking truth, and Peter Pan not wanting to grow up.

Happy New Year.

K.

Allegory of the Educator

I have waited to post my final paper on my philosophy of education. If you are a philosophy geek, and an educator, you may enjoy the post. If not, don’t bother reading it, because it is weird. 

 The first day of class, my professor talked about the Allegory of the Cave. I was drawn to the story, partly because it is an extended metaphor, but mostly because it captures the essence of the human condition. I began writing a generic regurgitation of my personal educational philosophy. But, the images of the cave in reference to our current educational predicament inundated me. I often call my home office, my cave, because there are no windows, and I spend much of my time in there, writing and planning for instruction. So, from my cave, I wrote about the educational cave.

Thanks Daniel for the awesome sketches. Somehow, you captured what was in my mind. Wow.

Allegory of the Educator

Long ago, there was a school, nestled between a mountain and a river. On the side of the river, the sun shone directly into the library.  The view from the mountainside of the school was solid rock. The teachers on the mountainside lived in the school. The inside of the school was the only world they knew. Nothing else existed. And if anyone talked about a world outside of the school, they would create a new philosophy representing the idea of that made-up world. For ideas could exist without matter, and matter only existed because of ideas. Sometimes, the stories of the other place became myth and were re-told as fictional accounts.

The walls were always walls, and only ever walls. The floor could only be floor, and made only of floor. There was something they breathed in and out, but the true nature of that was somewhere in a book, found on the riverside of the school. It wasn’t important because the thing they breathed in and out would never run out, according to a story they re-told one another.

Many of the teachers had been chained to the walls of the school, because they thought that was what they were supposed to do as inhabitants of a school. They didn’t need mobility of mind nor body.

Seldom did anyone venture to the riverside of the school. The chains kept teachers in their respective rooms, and there was no need for books since everyone had memorized the curriculum.

The students had lost two and a half dimensions, and they became a generation of shadow students. The shadow students had smoke and mirror thoughts. All student thoughts conglomerated into one mass thought. At the end of the school day (when the lights were turned off) all thoughts evaporated. They turned into thought vapor, and when the new day began (when the lights were turned on) the thoughts would trickle down and return to the dim brains of the shadow students. The same thoughts were recycled daily. If there was a new thought, where would it go, and what would the teachers and students do with it? It wouldn’t fit anywhere, so why have it?

The atomic make-up of a shadow student consisted of percentiles, rankings, and standardized test scores. When shadow students were injured, numbers would leak from their bodies.  The school nurse would scoop up the lost percentiles, and attempt to put them back into the shadow students. Unfortunately, once a student lost a percentile or a ranking, it was almost impossible to put it back.  In order for the percentile to be valid again, there was extensive paperwork that had to be completed. It had to be stapled three times (one millimeter apart) in the upper right hand corner, be signed by fourteen school dignitaries, and be put in a red folder, with a tab in the middle (not on the left or on the right). As each number bled from the shadowy bodies, the students began to further fade. So, it was in their best interest to keep still, sit in seats, and stare vacuously at the stone walls.

On murky school day, after students learned about the philosophy of penumbra, took three hundred forty-five assessments, filled out sixty-two scantron sheets, and watched the nurse sweep up the numbers left by a faded shadow student (who met his demise with an errant pencil) a teacher realized her chains were broken.

She stood up and balanced herself on the cinderblock wall. She felt dizzy and unstable. She had been chained to the wall since the beginning. The beginning of something important. Long ago.

No one noticed as she stood up. They continued to sit; they remained chained to the walls and watched the shadow thoughts move through the thought cycle. The only noise in the classroom was the clanking of the chains when a teacher would re-position him or herself.

She looked beyond the classroom and saw a light curving its way into the thing outside the room. Later, she would learn the words hall, brick, mountain, block, learn, books, brain, chain, teach, learn, walk, ask, breathe, and choice. She limped to the door and peered to the left. She glanced to the right. She gazed straight ahead. She closed her eyes and felt that thing in her chest pound. She stepped outside of the room.

Her gait was unstable for she had been chained since the beginning. As she walked, the thought dust obscured her sight. She had only seen the classroom to which she was chained. Her brain couldn’t assimilate the new images bombarding her consciousness. Eventually, she found the room with the books and light. Beyond that room was a door. She could see outside the door and the stone was gone. She remembered the myth of the outside place. She was instructed to teach the shadow students that the pictures of the things in books were only a product of someone’s mind. They weren’t real. But, now she was looking at trees, sun, river, squirrels, and grass. The invisible thing (later she would know it as wind) was blowing in her face, and it moved through her hair. Had she found the truth? How could she trust what she saw? If she left, would those things still be there? What was REAL?

She ventured outside to see students with all dimensions intact. Each student had a thought bubble attached to his or her head. Instead of smoke and mirror thoughts, each child’s thought bubble was full of images of concepts they were learning. Some students were playing musical instruments, and others where playing soccer. The teacher with the students was wearing a shirt that read, I Heart Socrates.

The mountainside teacher heard the students’ conversations. They were working in groups to solve various problems. The students shared new thoughts. And the thoughts were original, unlike those of the shadow student back in the school. There was a sign on the grass that read: “Please frolic and play on the Dewey grass.”

The riverside teacher introduced himself to the mountainside teacher.

“Hello, I’m UTO P. IA. You can call me UTO. Are you a new hire? What is your name?”

The mountainside teacher stared at UTO. She had never needed her name before, but she knew she had one. She reached into her frontal lobe and pulled out her name.

“Hello. I’m..well. I’m PAV L. OV You can call me PAV.”

She touched UTO’s shoulder and flinched when she realized that he was not smoke and mirrors. She longed for the safety of the cave. As she wandered back inside, she pondered the term, ‘new hire’. The sounds of the multi-dimensional students faded and the light dissipated.

She knew she had to go back and tell everyone that they had been wrong about the ideas. The ideas were real. Or the things were real. Maybe they were both real.

On her way back into the school, she saw a small, plump man sitting in the middle of the hallway. He was bald and effortlessly smiling.  His t-shirt read, I’m Siddhartha. Just call me Buddah. She walked close to him and he said, “You have desired nothing, therefore you haven’t suffered. Now, you are experiencing the desire to learn about life, and share that knowledge. Well, now you will suffer.” He smiled and then he began to laugh. As he laughed, the word truth flew out of his mouth. With each breath, a new version of truth came out.  Some truths were small, some were large, some had fancy fonts, and others were looked as if a child scribbled them. Pav didn’t see any of the truths as they few over her, under her, and around her.

She walked past the little man, because she didn’t know how to respond. She was never taught what to do when a new sentence was uttered. And in this case, a new sentence with a new thought.

She found her way back to the classroom where she had been chained. The teacher in charge introduced herself.

“Hello. I’m UT O. PIA. You can call me UT.”

Pav had known UT since the beginning. UT ignored the faint bouts of recognition and decided that she didn’t know Pav. The thoughts weren’t real without words to support them.  Pav realized that UTO and UT had the same names. But the two teachers were polarized, yet very content. This confused Pav because she only knew one form of contentment, and that was the classroom cave.

Pav knew that she had to tell everyone about the outside place.

“UT, I need to tell you about something. It will change everything we do here on the mountainside.”

“Well, okay-go on. The thoughts have not completed their cycle yet. I don’t need to clean the empty thoughts off the floor yet.”

Pav was nervous for the first time.

“UT, I found the outside place. There were children, who were different from the ones here.” She pointed to the shadow students and they were still and staring.

“They didn’t just sit. They talked about the things they were learning.”

UT was noticeably shaken.

“Pav, stop there. You of all people should know that those alleged children out there are behaving as they were told.  This is what we know: It is our truth.

Pav thought of her words before speaking. She tried using her common sense to talk to UT, but it didn’t seem to be working. Their words were different now. Pav’s words didn’t mean what they used to (before she visited the outside place).

Pav wondered what was real. Was UT really there, or was she experiencing the idea of UT? Then, she began wondering if she was real. She wondered if anyone else saw her. Did she really teach?

“UT, don’t you want to know what is out there? Aren’t you curious? It’s real! We don’t have to continue to teach like this!”

UT looked at Pav, and she hesitated before she began to vacuum the empty thoughts from the stone floor. The empty thoughts looked like giant dust clouds as they retreated to the guts of the vacuum.

Pav had some decisions to make. Familiar things are easy. She could go back to teaching the shadow students, and perpetuating the smoke and mirror thoughts. But, the more she thought about the outside place, the more curious she became. What if she ventured to the riverside and learned that all that she knew was wrong? What would happen?

We run the course of philosophies during a teaching career. There is no one, set philosophy that lays the foundation for my instruction. Every day, I strive to be the teacher that students can count on. I want to be mentally aware, as I teach, not on autopilot. 

I may have lost the idealism I had when I began teaching. The invincibility shield has been tarnished. It isn’t the kids: It never is. It’s the quagmire through which we sift in order bring us close to the place where we felt we could change the world. That place is not lost; it is hidden beneath the years.

So, hopefully Pav will take the road less traveled and take a few risks to make that difference.

Inquiry Science-Ten Questions or Fewer-L…E…S…S…

Thank you Publix for fixing all of your lessess to fewers. It is a step forward for all grammar kind. I felt pure joy when I saw these new signs. I looked at the people around me, and they were just counting their items to make sure they didn’t go over quota. I count mine too, and even have guilt when the eleventh item makes its way into my cart. Then there is always that poor soul who didn’t see the sign, and has placed sixty-five items on the conveyor belt thingy. We all know because not only do we count our items, but we also count the items in the cart in front of us. Again, this brings me to my thoughts on inquiry science and the manner in which instruction is changing.  It happens, over time-even if it looks and sounds unfamiliar, like the cadence of fewer versus less.

Publix-2-0012

One of the last classes I took to complete my specialist degree was physical science. The class was inquiry based-or what I call  McGyiver science.

My professor insisted that we never give students the exact materials for an experiment that will guarantee the desired outcome. Science is about trial and error, acknowledging variables, and persevering.  She asked us if we were expecting perfect results, or encouraging students to re-work hypotheses, collaborate, and discuss the work? It may turn out that the growth is in the mistake.

That summer was complete with my ill constructed foam roller coaster that had neither a loop nor a hill, a defunct lemon battery, and toy cars breaking down because the load was too heavy. It reminded me of my home economics class where my decorated cake looked like abstract art, and my A-line skirt was used as an example of what can go wrong in sewing.  The other day, I was faced with a vacuum cleaner and a bag. The vacuum mocks my inability to get the bag to ‘snap’ in. However, I did use that vacuum cleaner to fight a snake in my house-so I used what I had available.

This year as a gifted teacher, I have focused on inquiry science with my 3rd graders. Part of teaching inquiry is letting your personal control freak go. The first step is to admit you are a control freak teacher. Then it is time to let go a little, and let the kids do the learning.

Things are messy. Stuff spills. Students have odd ideas of what will and won’t work. They are determined that a pound of bricks weighs more than a pound of feathers.

I asked them what they thought about inquiry labs:

“You never know what is going to happen.”

“We can do things on our own.”

“We have to figure things out.”

“We got to use duct tape.”

I will say that if you add duct tape to any classroom activity, you will have the undivided attention of your class. I don’t know why, but it is true. Of course, we had the discussion about DUCT tape vs DUCK tape.

“How do they use this tape on ducks?”

Asking questions is an art of sorts. I have been asking questions my entire life, and I now find myself teaching my students how to ask questions. If I were to get philosophical, I would say that we could use the Inquiry method to drive all our life choices. We are given some random supplies and a task to complete. We try to figure it out. If it doesn’t work, we change something and try again. Getting upset over a failed outcome doesn’t help anything. We have to figure out what went wrong. Sound familiar? We are challenged daily. The results of our efforts don’t always come out the way we expect, even if we use all of our supplies.

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Design a boat that will float with 100 pennies.

The 100 penny lab was a great one to start with. Kids were given duct tape, tin foil, 100 pennies, a pan full of water, and a task to design a boat that would float with all 100 pennies in it.

I asked about the variables and the answers I got were very interesting:

“The design on the duct tape. The ink may weigh differently depending on how many colors are in the tape you choose.”

“How fast or slow you put the pennies in.”

“How smart the people in your group are.” (I admit, this was one of my favorites. )

I loved how these kids persevered until their boats floated. They were so excited, because THEY figured it out.

So, I became a little zealous.  The made duct-taped boats float, so they can build a bridge out of pasta!

“This isn’t working.”

“Are you sure you got the right pasta?”

We will be revisiting that activity with stronger pasta.  The kids did their own research on bridges that day. They told me what structures and shapes are stronger than others. They are re-designing the bridges for next week.  To think-I was ready to scrap the entire thing because it didn’t work out the first time. The kids assumed we would be doing the pasta activity again.

My students taught me my own lesson. Then I began to wonder how often I have scrapped something because it wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to? We cannot teach without bringing these lessons home, because ultimately that is what we want our students to do. It is unlikely that a potential college or job will ask a candidate to build a pasta bridge.  But, isn’t it about the perspectives in which we perceive our obstacles?  And isn’t it great that eighteen third graders reminded me of this with their perseverance?

Here’s to using all the materials available to me (even if they aren’t the ones I wanted).

K

Where Do the Words Come From?

Writing comes from a blank space. There are no multiple choice options,  fill in the blanks, or answer keys. It is invisible until it manifests on paper or the computer. We arrange the words in various orders to convey thoughts. We move them around and shuffle them until they fall into  just the right spots.

words

I have been writing since I could hold a pencil. When I was younger, I didn’t talk much (which will be a surprise to those who know I won’t stop talking now). I remember just wanting to fade into my surroundings when any attention was focused on me. Just let me write!

In second grade, during show and tell (a school tradition that should be banned for good) my teacher asked me to get up in front of the class and tell something that happened over the weekend. I was already in trouble for having a daily “stomach ache” during math. I am convinced that my teacher believed that I got sick at the same time every day. Even if math was at a different time, I would suddenly fall ill. Who knew that skipping second grade math would haunt me for years to come?

I created a story where my brother was lost on a raft on the Chattahoochee River. I said he was wearing my mother’s dress, and we haven’t seen him for three days. I gave sensory details about the sounds of the water. I described the setting of the warm day and the sun beaming down on my brother, as he floated away into oblivion. I was on a roll. I wasn’t even self-conscious about the ‘pixie’ hair cut my mom insisted I get. Another blog. Another time.

I didn’t get to finish my story, because my teacher stopped me and told me to sit down. Later that day, my mom was called in to talk about my ‘storytelling’. I told them that my story was more interesting than what we really did that weekend. From that point on, my words came out of my pencil, not my mouth.

Many teachers have a story like this. A story where their spirits were lifted or bruised. A story where they had trouble with a subject and a teacher either helped them or didn’t notice. We all come to this job with a vision and a hope that we will do something to make a difference in someone’s life. I wanted to make sure that no child was made to feel that her words were unimportant.

The year I was asked to be the literacy coach at my school, I felt that I had an opportunity to give back to all of those teachers and administrators who held me up while making sure I had a safety net on which to fall. And when I did fall (which happened often) they were there without judgement and made me get up. They even overlooked my leprechaun trap gone bad project my first year of teaching. For the rest of the year, I was scraping green paint off the walls near the window where the leprechauns ‘escaped’.

This is my third year as a literacy coach. My first year, I just wanted the teachers to let me into their rooms. Other lit coaches told me suburban legends about how they didn’t visit certain halls, or how teachers had requested that they not come in. YIKES! I went into the job having been inspired by those teachers who kept me afloat my first couple of years of teaching.

My second year, I tried out lessons, implemented county initiatives, and got a global understanding of literacy from the view of the teachers and the students. Of course, there were many days I felt useless, and hoped to just inspire a student to write, or a teacher to teach writing with more confidence than the day before.

This year, I had a rather bumpy start because of some personal setbacks. I had a complete paradigm shift in my understanding of human nature. My suburban village was by my side at a very difficult time, and I am more grateful to them then ever. But, I tried to write, but I couldn’t find the words anymore. They danced around me, and I was unable to pick the right ones. If I couldn’t find my own words, how could I teach others to find theirs? Writing has always been so cathartic to me. This was more than writer’s block, it was a semantic void.

I taught writing in various classrooms last week.  The small people found all the words I was missing. They grabbed them from the air. They found them under their desks. They pulled them from their book bags. The scraped them from the floor. There were plenty to go around.

Not only did my words come back, but so did my spirit. After thirteen years in education, I still love my job. When we let our guard down, and the kids in-we can find all of our words.

K

Theater Mom to Soccer Mom

There is an underground society of sportmania that has eluded me for years. They live among us. A friend suggested that is ME who was living in an underground society of theater. No, that couldn’t be true.

I have two amazing daughters (Serena 19 and Violet 10) whose extra curricular activities have always been composed of reading, art, and acting. Neither one has ever played a sport, until this year.

Well, Serena took ballet when she was three, but during the recital she ran and hid in the corner. Oh and there was the time Serena was obsessed with social science fairs. She won first place with her Women in the Military project and placed third on her Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian project. (This project inspired her to dress as Audrey Hepburn for Halloween, and to her dismay no one knew who she was.)  She even won trophies for reading a lot of books.  My all time favorite was Serena trying out for talent show in elementary school. She did a little jig to, “I’m Holding Out for a Hero”. Yes, a third grader gyrating to Bonnie Tyler.

Her non-sport winning streak continued to high school drama. I am very proud that she won “Best Stage Kiss” in her senior year. I think that would be hard to do. The practice involved in preparing for such an award would be exhausting. I am just laying the foundation of my personal experiences with my kids competing and winning stuff. Oh…maybe just Serena competing and winning stuff.

Violet considered competing in Battle of the Books. (This sounds like a warrior like battle where the adversaries pelt each other with books of various sizes.) But, it is where kids read an assigned list of books then they compete in a game show like finale. She declined because she didn’t want people telling her what to read. And the list was long. And there were boring books on the list. And there were too many deadlines.

I heard of these alleged weekend games and weekday practices. There were rumors of children being picked for various teams, bladeedahh. I never listened, because thank goodness, none of it applied to me. Those sports words would float into oblivion. I was more worried about whether or not one of my daughters memorized her lines, or had her costume  for the upcoming production. I have spent the last few years in theaters, not soccer fields. So when my youngest daughter decided to play soccer, I was perplexed. My neighbors (Kate and Jay) helped me through the process. I’m sure their conversation when something like this,

“Geeze, she is clueless.”

“How many times did you have to  send her address to register?”

“Does she know Violet will need turf shoes and shin guards?”

“Does she know what turf shoes and shin guards are?”

I didn’t know there was a difference between cleats and turf shoes. Honestly, I had never heard of turf shoes until Jay took me to Target to get Violet her soccer gear. Did you know that soccer balls come in different sizes? I sure didn’t. Then there are shin guards that are attached to the socks, and some that are not. What to do?

So, we go to the first soccer rehearsal, I mean practice, and I stand by the goal to watch. I look around and I’m the only parent standing there. I walked back to my car to see the multitude of family vehicles illuminated with ipads, Kindles, iPods, and phones. Ahh! This is the secret, soccer parent society.

You cannot win or lose in a play-well you can suck to high heaven and we pretend it didn’t happen, or you can be all Sally Field where everyone loves you. During a production, theater moms don’t scream:

“Good job! Get in there! Say those lines!”

“I believe you are the character!”

“Change the director! Bad blocking!”

There has to be some clandestine book of sport mom rules somewhere. I was unaware of the gear I needed to fulfill my soccer mom duties. I didn’t have a stadium chair the first couple of games. Then I needed to look into purchasing a visor cap-not a visor and not a baseball cap.

I just learned that there is a soccer scrap-book club.I thought I could give $30 and have it done for me, but these people wanted me to actually cut out stuff and glue it in a book. Then there is the meeting new people thing, and having to be social thing, and having a quasi-sensible conversation thing. I have already blogged about my social ineptness. I am fully aware of my weaknesses, and I know that my attention span couldn’t withstand such scrapbook tedium. I fully appreciate the scrapbook aficionado, in fact I envy their focus. I digress.

Violet finally gets her soccer costume, I mean uniform. She is number 14.

One evening, I decided to be that cool mom in the front yard, kicking soccer balls with my daughter. Cool huh? Well, the thing is that I don’t play soccer. In fact, I ran track and cross country throughout high school, and I avoided any sport involving balls, sticks, or rackets.  Violet kicks the ball to me. I run toward her. I kick the ball. Slow motion timing ensues, it really did.  SMAaaaacccckkkkkCK  (that is the word in slow motion).  The size four ball pummelled her in the face. Yes, I am responsible for her first soccer injury half way through the first season. I am happy to report that the swelling has diminished considerably.

PRODUCTION TIME! No, I mean, GAME TIME! Thank goodness I didn’t yell break a leg to the team. I’m sure that the line of parents sitting in chairs would have shunned me.

There she is, wearing her three sizes too big shorts,  running, kicking (sometimes losing focus and twirling her hair) and playing SOCCER!!!!

It took me a while to figure out which goal was our team’s. Then as soon as I get used to our side of the field, they switch sides after half time.

I was pleased to watch my stepmom and 82-year old father bring deck chairs (from their deck) to Violet’s soccer game. At this point, I even  know that I am supposed to have one of those foldy stadium chairs. Geeze.

DECK CHAIRS

After soccer, other sports creep their way in. My boyfriend’s daughter plays softball and half way through the first softball game (I had EVER attended) he realized I had no idea what was happening. Their costumes, oh uniforms, were awfully cute and color coordinated, but there are so many rules, and apparently there is an illegal way to pitch. I learned this from the softball hecklers.

Then last night, I went to a SPORTS BAR and watched the MMA fights. I was totally engrossed in the smack downs. What has happened to me? I watched soccer, softball, and MMA all in one day. I even have a favorite fighter, Roy (Big Country) Nelson. This was more than my theater DNA could handle.

After my day of sports, I felt as if I was neglecting the theater. But this week, we are preparing for our productions for drama club. I have to paint sets, coordinate costumes, schedule extra rehearsals, direct, produce, and not end up twitching and hiding in my classroom bathroom. I wonder how I’m ever going to get through these production, and make sure the kids have good experiences on stage?

Saturday, I saw one of my drama club students (who plays Peter Quince in Midsummer Night’s Dream) playing soccer. Her soccer and theater worlds seem to blend very well. She was also in The Battle of the Books last Thursday.

It is the end of another school year, and I can check off year thirteen in education. As I watch these kids prepare for various events, productions, and games, I can only be inspired by their drive and ability to seamlessly meld their extra-curricular worlds.

Here’s to theater, soccer, and an occasional smack down.

K

Gratitude.

Collective grief is the only way to describe what happened in our school the Monday after the Connecticut school shootings. During car duty, I thought about the parents who kissed their children good-bye that morning. I thought about how those parents didn’t know that they would never see their children again. Without talking, I knew we were all thinking about our own children, and how we couldn’t survive such a tragedy.

The new years come without our permission. We may have unfinished business, or maybe we are still wondering what would happen we had made alternate choices. What could have been different?

When I see a car accident, sometimes I think, That could have been me, if I were here five minutes ago. And usually, I think about what may have delayed me. I wonder about our place in the world, and how many times I will be afforded a coincidental delay. It just isn’t enough to fully appreciate our lives when tragedy happens. But, sometimes we do.

We look for messages in tragedies. There is no message in the Connecticut incident. Sandy Hook Elementary is the new school for the survivors of the shooting last month. I read this quote from the attached article:

Sandy Hook Elementary School parent Vinny Alvarez says he took advantage of an open house at his daughter’s new school to thank a teacher who helped protect her class from a rampaging gunmanSandy Hook

This scenario isn’t something for which we could ever be prepared. How does a teacher shift from teaching, to saving the lives of his or her students? Where did that courage come from? Is it in all of us? I am amazed by the human condition.

We wonder how we got here, and how to prevent such events from happening again. I still think of the faces of the victims. I think about what must have happened that day; I cannot fathom any of it. If the domino had fallen another way, could the outcome have changed?

As the holiday season comes to a screeching halt, and I begrudgingly resume my episodic days, I can only be grateful to have a rut. This year, for me, has been a challenge. My nineteen-year marriage ended, I sent my eldest daughter to college, and I earned another degree. These life events are insignificant when images of that day fill the minds of parents and educators across the country. It didn’t happen to us. But, what if it had?

The moment 2012 came to a close, I felt nothing but gratitude. Gratitude for the ugly parts as well as the momentous occasions. Gratitude for my daughters, my family, my friends, my job, and for a few coincidental delays.

K