One Sunflower

what do you want to be when you grow up?

Aquarium at Stanley Park, BC Canada

We sat in the darkened room, enjoying the ballet of the beluga whales on the other side of the glass,  totally enchanted by their grace and playfulness.

I turned to the young attendant who had just stepped in to prepare the space for the upcoming show.  “Is this a summer job for you or are you an intern?” I asked.  “I’ve been working here the last three summers,” was the reply.  We chatted about the beluga and how we missed the orcas that used to play in that space.  “I’ve always wanted to work here,” she told me.

The show started and we had the best seat in the house.  We were able to watch the trainers above ground on the TV screen but see the whales as they moved down below.  At one point a trainer came to the glass where were sitting and slapped it to get the whale’s attention.  She made large motions with her hands, moving them to the right and then the left.  The whales responded by circling in front of us. Then the trainer slapped the glass again and left.

I sat on the bench with my sister and son watching the whales but also the children around me.  A girl about 4 years old stood next to us, a butterfly tattoo painted on her cheek and her blond hair pulled to the side in a pig tail.  She swept her hands to the right in the “away” motion of the trainer while she watched the beluga.  When they turned in front of her, she moved her hands to the left and then motioned a “stay.”  I was charmed, a future whale trainer.


memory lane

My sister’s phone call interrupted my dinner, “Hey! Bill’s invited me to go out for a boat ride, want to join us?”

“Sure, but I need to put on some warmer clothes. I can be at the marina in 20 minutes.”  And then I called back to ask if there would be room on the boat for my son, we could leave his wheelchair on the dock.  “Of course!”

Even though my brother and I live in the same town, I really don’t see him very often.  It is mostly when one of our out-of-town sisters comes to town that we get together.  An invitation to go for a boat ride is a special treat and while I get out on the lake with my dad, I don’t get out on the bay very often at all.

We slowly motored out of the marina passing sailors coming in from their weekend excursions.  Once we were passed the jetty, my brother sped up and took us quickly along the coastline to Chuckanut Bay, where we grew up as kids.

“I was just kayaking here this morning,” my brother said.  “I’ll show you my favorite sandstone formation.”  We motored quietly around the point and into the still bay.  Some young sailors peeped out of their anchored sailboat, probably wishing we weren’t disturbing their quiet retreat.  “The stone reminds me of a wave, like those painted by that Japanese artist, what’s his name?” 

We motored south looking at houses where we used to have friends, or our parents had friends, places we baby sat or mowed lawns, coves that we used to sneak into and swim.

My son listened to it all.  He’s heard the stories before but not always with such a visual tour to accompany the memories.  I wonder what memory lane he’ll take his family down when he is our age?

Maybe it will be about Hovander Park  with its 19th century farmhouse.  We’ve been visiting it every year since he was born.  Now he takes his girl friend there. 

My husband’s family grew up all over the world.  Their trips down memory lane come from old photos.  I’m glad I get to visit my old haunts and share them with the next generation.


my summer work(shop)

I’ve worked at summer school in a variety of ways for the past five years but I’ve always felt like I was “teacher-support” instead of a primary instructor.  This summer will be different.

We invited every single student from the kindergarten to 4th grade to participate in summer school. Out of 200 possible attendees, we have 42.  This means we have a complete mix of skills among the students.  We also decided to try something new by inviting 5th graders to apply to work as teacher’s aides in the program.  Seven students applied, three of them are kids with special needs, mostly learning disabilities.

Our principal formally interviewed each of them asking why they applied to help out, what assets they felt they had to offer and what goals they would like to set for themselves.  Their answers are inspirational: “I really want to teach the little kids because someday I want to go to college to be a teacher.” (This is a district where not many students come from college educated families or go on to college.)  “I want a job.   I’m a good worker; I’m cheerful and will do anything you ask me to do.”

I will be one of four teachers working at summer school.  We have a large group of students that are recent grads of 1st and 2nd grade, a smaller number of 3rd and 4th graders that will be grouped together and I will be working with 15 kindergarteners – or new first graders.  I’m nervous and am reviewing all my readers/writers workshop materials and have talked to the first grade teachers about what sorts of pre-teaching experiences would be good to provide.

The bottom-line is that our sessions are pretty short – we meet for four days a week for four weeks and only 3 hours a day.  The other teachers and I will be providing some extra-curricular activities as well such as music, art, reader’s theater and puppetry.  Our goals are to maintain skills and stamina, boost oral language and have fun, of course!

Tie-dye t-shirts have become a tradition for our summer school experience; I’ve chosen 4 colors for each of the classes and this year I also bought purple, the school color, for our special 5th grade helpers.  It all starts in three weeks, I’ve got a lot more planning to do to be ready.

Leave a comment »