Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

At the Beach with Dogs

Useless Bay, Whidbey Island

I love summer. Yes, I’m a teacher, so I have seemingly endless days off, I get to travel, and I get to sleep in. But, one of my most favorite things to do when the weather starts to turn nice is to take my dogs to the off-leash park. I live in a condo, so while we can go for daily walks, there isn’t a place where they boys can run around and have fun. There is a park with a nice off leash area. It’s hard to take them out there in the winter, though, as it’s sort of a former swamp that’s been converted into a park. When we do get out there, though, the boys are really happy and come home exhausted.

Well, yesterday, we decided to one-up ourselves. Out on Whidbey Island, a short ferry trip away, there’s a place called Double Bluff beach. This wide and very flat beach has a large off leash area. We took the dogs out there and let them go crazy. By the time we got home, they were covered in sand and their paws had a sort of greenish tint. Walking back to the car, Riley was lagging behind because he was so tired. When we got home (and the boys both had a thorough bath), they both crashed and slept the rest of the day.

Here are some pictures from our adventure!

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Summer Flashlight Tag

I’ve been inspired by everyone’s delightful, nostalgic summer memories posts from a few weeks ago. I’m also home on the East Coast this week, spending some of my time in my hometown at my parent’s house in State College, so I’m reminded of many past summers. We had some good ones! Summers here, after all the students go home for break are wonderful. It’s so green this time of year, and the trees are sparkling with fireflies, just as Samantha described. The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts has always been a highlight of the summer and simpler fond memories include eating dinner on the screen porch, picking fresh vegetables from the garden, building fires in the backyard fire pit and playing catch with my dad in the field.

My favorite summer was the year we played flashlight tag every night. We had about seven kids in my neighborhood, all within three grades of each other. We grew up riding bikes and roller blades on our street, playing tag and many variations of hide and seek around the neighborhood. When we were old enough though, middle school to early high school, we started to play flashlight tag after dark. All of us, and more if anyone had friends or family staying with them, would meet each night after dinner and play flashlight tag until midnight! The rules were simple – set the boundaries of the playing field. For example: the creek to the street and one yard boundary to the fourth yard boundary. One flashlight with the seeker and all the others had a minute or two to hide. The first person to be found with the flashlight was the seeker for the next round. So, naturally, we got very good at this – dressing in warm dark clothes, moving stealthily in various alliances, not using the flashlight until we’d spotted someone. It was great fun with good friends. This group of kids were all really good sports, so we played every single night one summer and sporadically for the next several summers.

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School’s (Almost) Out For Summer

When my son takes standardized tests

Image by bionicteaching via Flickr

Here we are in the penultimate week of school. Many of my friends across the country are already enjoying their summer break while some others are deep in the throes of state testing. Out here, we’re just biding our time, waiting until the end comes. What I never really realized when I was in school is that teachers are anxious for the end of school as any of the students.

Ever since we did our state tests in early May, we’ve been deep into final projects. This has lead to a high level of stress in the kids as the struggle to complete their large assignments. Many of these projects are accompanied by a oral presentation, which sends kids into a whole other level of anxiety. It’s no wonder that kids are blowing out of classes left and right. I had a kid on Wednesday who left my room to print her paper, ended up cursing out another adult, returning to my room, and the storming out moments later. I had to take her down to the office where she eventually calmed down and apologized. Another of my students was suspended Thursday morning because he was fighting. This kid, normally a very sweet boy, just is under so much stress right now that he snapped.

Then I also worry about my lower income students. How many of them rely on the free/reduced lunch program here at school for their meals? Will they continue to get the food they need during the summer? Will some of them simply be at home alone all summer because their parents can’t afford the camps and classes that some of their peers take advantage of? I have at least three kids that I am concerned about going into summer break.

Then there’s my stress level – trying to get the curriculum done before the end, trying to get all the grading done, doing IEP progress reports and sending them home, plus helping families find ways to encourage their kids to continue reading and doing math over the summer to limit regression. I’ve also been in various year end meetings almost every night the last two weeks.  My only respite has been the running club that we started here – a group of teachers who are aiming for the half or full marathon in November. We run at least once a week, often more, and it gives us a chance to vent about all the issues we are facing these last couple of weeks. Teaching can be a very isolating experience, so having this outlet has been a lifesaver.

So, as this posts, we have five days remaining (including today.) The last day is an all school activity day, so really, there are four academic days left. I just hope we all make it that far and survive reasonably intact.

Don’t forget!…Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club next week (June 20th-24th). This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

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The Summer I Was 16

1-second exposure of fireflies flashing in a f...

Image via Wikipedia

I have always loved summer. I remember from an early point of my childhood making elaborate summer plans.  I’d leave my house early in the morning and romp through the woods, not returning until dinner, and then turning around and heading back out until sunset.

However, there is one summer that really stands out in my minds as one of the best I ever had. It was the summer of 1995 and I was just shy of 17. At the end of the previous summer, my family had moved from the Seattle area to State College, PA, home of Penn State University and where my dad’s family was from.  The transition from Grungeland to Pennsyltucky was eye-opening, but rather uneventful for me. I’d had a good year and made some friends. I was definitely looking forward to my senior year and especially whatever came after high school. However, there was one last summer before the end of high school and I planned to make the most of it.

The first major choice I made was to go to Jazz Camp. This is what music nerds do during the summer. I spent a week learning to play jazz from the Penn State music staff.  It was the first time I ever stayed in the dorms and gave me a taste of what college could be like. We worked hard, but we had a lot of freedom and it was a fantastic experience.

The second major thing I chose to do was to join the apprentice program at the State College Community Theatre. This theatre group worked out of a converted 19th century barn. The talent was pretty much all local and gave people a great starting place in theatre. I was a tech intern – I did costuming, lighting and stage crew. I learned a lot that summer and went into the fall much more confident in my abilities. In fact, that may have been the point at which I seriously considered majoring in theatre in college.

I also got my wisdom teeth out that summer, but I’d rather not talk about that. 🙂

Finally, the most memorable part of the summer was something that most people, especially those on the East Coast, take for granted. I was sitting out on the back porch of the theatre as the last of the sunlight slipped from the sky. Sprinkled through the tree line at the edge of the property were thousands of fireflies. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest and only visiting PA in May and November, I had never seen fireflies before. I sat there, entranced, as they twinkled in the warm night air. It was an amazing sight that I feel so fortunate to have seen and really epitomizes that summer for me.

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Our View From Here is doing our second virtual book club the week of June 20th-24th. This time we are reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Read along with us as we “discuss” this great book and are joined by guest blogger Erin!

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Summer memories

Some of my most enjoyable summer memories occurred somewhere in the 1987-1991 range. In 1987 (I think) we moved to a new house. The neighborhood was still being built and many of the other lots had yet to be cleared and developed. Fortunately for my sister and me, there was a house a bit down the road that already had a family living there by the time we moved in. The family had a daughter my sister’s age and a son my age. They also had a younger daughter but we didn’t really know what to do with her. We became fast friends with this family and concocted many zany childhood adventures over the course of the next several years.

Without question the first summer we lived in that house was the best. The lot across the street from us and adjacent to them was still covered in the forest that had once covered the entire area. We spent hours playing in this “forest” and had it divided into several distinct “forts.” The first was the main fort. If you told the others to “meet you at the fort” this is where you would go. It was closest to the street and spanned toward the other family’s house. Here is where we would hang out, talk and come up with the rest of our games. There was also the “playground” fort, so called because there were two logs running perpendicular to one another, forming a see saw, and a branch hanging out of a tree that you could flip around like the bars on a playground. There was also the “triangle” fort, which got its name from the three logs that had fallen in the shape of a triangle (we were very creative children, as you can deduce from our naming abilities). We spent hours through our forts coming up with all sorts of imaginary games. I have vague memories about a witch and maybe something about outer space? It’s all a little fuzzy now. I think we were all devastated when the contractors were ready to start clearing the lots for the other houses, thus destroying our fort.

The other great thing about our surrounds was a giant hill that ran from the main fort to the cul-de-sac below, where our friends’ house was. In reality, it really wasn’t that giant – 20 feet long maybe? My diminutive size at the time skews my impression of the hill. It was grass covered and somewhere along the way we got the brilliant idea to slide down it. Being the kids we were, we plopped right down and scooted down the hill on our rear ends. Another neighbor saw this and suggested we get some cardboard to use as a sort of sled. I think he may have even brought some over for us. The introduction of cardboard was revolutionary. Soon we were flying down the hill. We used small pieces of cardboard for single rides, larger pieces for pairs and I think on a few occasions we got all 5 of us on one piece. That was a bit anticlimactic though since we were so heavy and spanned half the hill before we even got started. I think at one point in the heat of the summer we ended up putting a tarp down and ran a hose to it to make a sort of water slide, but I can’t say for sure. We also had fun sledding down our hill in the winter. It really was an all season kind of hill.

Each year that passed we played a bit less. We stayed good friends while we were neighbors, but as the other houses were built and more kids were introduced in the neighborhood, the relationships changed a bit. No longer were we the only kids on the block, and some of the camaraderie that had been built over the previous summer had eroded. We also got a bit older. I think my sister and the older girl from the other family started middle school our last year in the neighborhood and sort of outgrew a lot of the play that we had done in previous years. Nevertheless, I still look back at that time as the quintessential summer childhood experience, and the memories still bring a smile to my face.

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