One Sunflower

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Spend a summer writing, join others who are writing on Tuesdays with Two Writing Teachers

If I’m ever stuck with an idea for a Slice of Life entry, I can always count on my fellow bloggers for a prompt.  Thanks to all of you doing the summer writing camp because your entries are inspiring me.  This one comes courtesy of A Year of Reading  and a mention of sketching before writing.

I have a sketchpad tucked inside my writing folder and probably doodle as much as I scrawl words.  My most recent doodle was inspired by a brother-sister duo at my church. The figures in my picture look less like the flesh and blood youngsters I know and more like the homeless waif and adventurous girl in the movie, Hugo.

Maybe a story will come but mostly my doodle reminded me of other famous friendships.  Frog and Toad, Toot and Puddle, Henry and Mudge, Owen and Mazee.   These characters have quirks, foibles, and the inspirational ability to forgive and forget.  Their steadfast friendships help us remember we, too, are capable of being loveable, doing the possible and impossible, and befriending others in our midst.

Here are two books I stumbled upon this week at my local library featuring such relationships.

Henry and Amy, by Stephen Michael King, is about a young boy described as being a bit out of step with everyone else.  He meets Amy, who is quite the opposite.  They become friends – of course – and a little bit of Henry rubs off on Amy and vice verse. Young children would enjoy this book – as well as newly weds.

Frank and Izzy Set Sail by Laura McGee Kvasnosky is set in my neck of the woods, the islands of Puget Sound.  My husband is very much like Frank, a bit afraid to go sailing and wanting to bring everything including the kitchen sink on a camp out.  Izzy is a bit more carefree, packing only a small bag.  Their little adventure stretches them both.

Another book introduced to me by my good friend, Margie at Courageous Wonderings,
is C. R. Mudgeon, by Leslie Muir.  I don’t have a picture – you will just have to read it and chuckle at the author’s imaginative and clever portrayal of characters with opposing personality traits.

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supporting the children of our future

Two classrooms in two schools, two teachers, two sets of children and their parents,
all will be leading us in the future. May it be better …

It is almost the last day of school.  I stand outside a bright and sunny classroom in a brick and mortar school.  The daily schedule for this preschool is posted and I glance over it, although I know it well.  The children arrive by bus and go first to breakfast. The rest of their 3 ½ hour day includes circle time, outdoor play, indoor play, closing circle with stories and finally, lunch.  Indoor activities are described as games, puzzles, block play, art and sensory exploration, journal writing. Entering the old wooden school house where my niece attends kindergarten, I am transported back to my childhood.  Here is the “cloak room” I remember – pegs on the wall, cubbies for shoes, and benches under the window sill.The half day schedule is posted on water colored paper beginning with a gathering circle and continuing with workshop time, outdoor play, snack, second workshop, closing circle. Workshop activities are described as cooking, wood play, crafts, and dramatics.
Plastic chairs are gathered around melamine topped tables, a counter top is laden with typical Hispanic entrees in plastic bowls and trays, paper plates and napkins are ready for serving.  A huge bowl of blue Jell-O sits in the middle. Outside the classroom, a cloth topped table under a tree is laden with organic chips and dips, vegetables and fruits displayed in wooden and ceramic serving dishes.  Flowers in a glass carafe stand by a bowl with fabric napkins.
Parents gather in the gym to cheer their children as they run and walk in the annual jog-a-thon fundraiser.  English speaking and Spanish speaking parents stand together, giving encouraging hugs to their students as they round each lap. Children with special needs are accompanied by an aide.When the buzzer sounds ending the run, parents gather to eat lunch in the classroom.I catch wisps of their conversation as I pass among them:  work schedules and play date plans, sources for recipe ingredients. My sister-in-law and I enter the Waldorf classroom through a doorway reminiscent of a fairy cottage.  We sit with other parents, who are cookie-cutter versions of us, in small wooden chairs facing the center of the room.  The children, all Caucasian – English speaking – no special needs, are led in a dance and song performance about Ashputtel, better known as Cinderella.  Each child is wearing a cape and headdress according to their role in the play.  After the performance, parents eat and chat about the newest ice cream store that has opened and the values of vegan and gluten free diets.
After the meal, the teacher thanks the parents for attending and shares the accomplishments of the children over the course of the year.  A round of applause is given to the teacher and everyone makes their way to round up their belongings and head home.
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the voice

A month ago I was passing by one of our interns as she led a class to the library when I heard her use “the voice.”

You all know it.  It’s our teacher voice.  Of course we are all unique in the ways we talk to our students but there is also a similar quality to this voice – and while I know it isn’t just our profession that has this voice – when I hear it in a new intern, I smile and remember when I got my voice.

I was 18 and beginning my first job that had a pay check – I was working as a counselor at Girl Scout Camp.  I had been attending camp for the past eight years and had been a C.I.T. (counselor in training) the previous summer but this time, instead of being at camp for 4 weeks, I would be there the entire summer and get paid.

It was the summer I had graduated from high school. I was younger than most of the staff who were already in college. I felt immature and was shy and watchful.  Some were returning staff – in fact, they had been my counselors when I was a camper.  It felt odd to join their ranks in the staff room and be privy to inside jokes.

Pre-camp, the week before campers came, was spent readying the camp and rehearsing work we would be doing with kids.  We hauled equipment from cobwebbed storage sheds, swept out dusty cabins and cleaned latrines.  We practiced swim and canoe trials, kitchen capers, flag raising protocols and campfire songs.  It was hard and sweaty work but really fun.

Part of our training included partnering throughout the week as a way to get to know each other and find good combinations for leadership.  We were hired with general job responsibilities: “unit leader,” “assistant unit leader” or “waterfront staff,” but our unit assignments would vary throughout the summer.  Each unit of campers would have 4 staff members: a head counselor and 3 assistants and we usually moved at the end of each session.  The camp director wanted to be sure to balance old and new staff as well as personalities.

Our assignments were to come on the second to last night of pre-camp.   It was  customary for unit staff to prepare a skit for the last campfire before campers arrived with the goal of unifying each core of staff and generating some unit spirit.  My first assignment was Totem Landing, a  junior high canoe unit.  The three other women working with me were some of the most vivacious and hilarious counselors of the entire staff.   We gathered together in our camp kitchen after moving our gear into the cabin and started to work on the skit and song we would present at campfire.  I was right there in the middle, planning and participating with zest.

It wasn’t until the end of the summer at post-camp packing everything up for winter that I was told “the rest of the story.”  Apparently I was so quiet and shy at pre-camp the camp director decided to  partner me with some live-wires on that first assignment because she worried I wasn’t going to be able to carry my weight leading the unit.  I surprised them all on that first night we worked to plan our skit.  “You went KABOOM,” she told me, and another said,  “You really turned it on the minute those campers came.”

That was the summer I found my voice.

Do you remember when you found yours?  Who helped you find it?

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