Author Archives: Debbie Clark

About Debbie Clark

Working hard to be a great teacher, a great mom, and the best ever Grams to my grandson.

We Can Do This!

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I found this in my unfinished drafts from almost a year ago.  So I revised the title and deleted the text.  The original title was “End of the Year – We Can Do This!”

And we did.  We finished the last six weeks of school and all students and staff came out alive.  Then the new school year started.  To say it’s been difficult would be putting it mildly.  For a host of reasons, the entire school, parents, staff, and students have been struggling.  It has taken all my energy to get through each day so I could go home, eat something, and go to bed.

I almost quit last fall.  I wasn’t the only one.

But now it’s Spring, the time of year when everything seems fresh and new.  And many things are fresh and new at school.  We have a new superintendent, a new principal, students have come and gone, and I am left with twenty-one students who still wear me out, but I can honestly say I love all of them.

And in one more week, I can start counting down the weeks on my fingers.  So I know I can do this.

 

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He’ll be Remembered for His Character, Not His Test Scores

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This morning’s daily Facebook check led me to several posts written by my nephew’s wife, whom I adore.  Post after post about a young man named Eric Williams.  He was a friend of my nephew and his wife, and they are grieving deeply.

Sgt. Williams was killed in Afghanistan last month, as he was headed back home after his second tour of duty.  He was a medic.

Jess posted links to articles written about their friend and about his funeral service.  What struck me was this young man’s character.  A friend whose life was saved by Sgt. Williams, spoke at the funeral.  A large group of my nephew’s friends made the trip to California to honor Eric.

This young man will be remembered by his family and friends as compassionate, funny, the life of the party.

What does that have to do with teaching?  As we gear up for another year, I want to keep in mind that the important things I teach are those things that can’t be seen on a test paper, and can’t be measured and graphed.  And I also want to remember that the most important things are taught by parents and the best I can do is reinforce things like honor, compassion, and duty.  I would have been proud to have been Eric Williams’ teacher.

Staff Sgt. Eric Williams

To read more about Staff Sgt. Williams, click here.

Decluttered Closet

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When I moved to my new school two years ago, I was in awe of all the storage space I had in my classroom.  Most of one entire wall is filled with upper and lower cabinets – more storage than I’ve had in years.

This is only a portion of the cabinets on this wall!

 

But wait – there’s more!  I also have a walk-in closet with metal shelving that I don’t even have to share with anyone else.  I was amazed!

 

However, coming in at the last minute, and not knowing what belonged to the school or the teacher who was out on leave, I basically left the closet untouched for a year.

Fast forward a year.  All that is left in the closet belongs to the school or to me.

“Just shove it in the corner for now.”

“Just throw it anywhere, kids.”

 

My June project was to declutter and organize my closet.  What with summer school and a bad back, I haven’t actually finished this project, but I managed to get the declutter part completed, sort of.  Everything from the closet went into one of four piles:  keep in closet, store elsewhere, dispose of, and offer to colleagues as freebies.  Old, out of date textbooks have been boxed up for the custodians to remove, the pile of give aways is boxed up and ready to go to the teachers’ mailroom, and I’m in the process of finding homes for everything else.  So far, the closet looks like this:

a work in progress

 

When I get back from vacation, my goal is to get everything else in its place, see what containers I need and containerize.  Then I’ll need to find homes for the items that will not be returning to the closet, but which I still need to keep.  I’ll have one day to get it done.  Wish me luck!

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing an Old School with New Eyes

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I’ve taken a long hiatus from blog writing – migraine, bad back, and bursitis have kept me in bed a great deal of time.  Concentrating on much of anything was impossible.  So I played with my grandson and rested.  A lot.

My head is in check for the time being, I’ve had steroids for my hip, and I found an amazing chiropractor who has greatly improved my back.  Time to get back to life again!

Currently, I’m spending time up in New York with my family, and last night a large group of us went to a free concert in town, starring my niece’s indie band, Brother Keep.  They’re very good, by the way.  You might want to check them out – they’re on Facebook, of course.  Anyway, the concerts are held weekly during the summer on the lawn of what was originally the town’s only school, serving kindergarten through 8th grade.  My dad graduated from that school in 1947.  By the time I came through, it was a middle school, serving grades 5 – 8.  As a teacher, you may have heard the rumor that middle schoolers aren’t particularly aware of others and their surroundings.  I can wholeheartedly agree with that, from a personal standpoint.  I never paid much attention to the school, except I knew it was old when I was there in the early 70s.  I liked it, but a school’s a school, ya know?

one of the three front entrances – none of the three are quite the same

During the first music set, I took pictures of the band members for my niece.  But during the second set, my eye wandered to the building itself.  It is very traditional looking, and very geometric, but my brother and I noticed there is nothing symmetrical about the place.  The left and right wings are not the same, but quite similar.  The left and right front entrances are slightly different, the stone frames around the windows are quite similar, but not the same.  Not even on the same set of windows.

the left wing with chimney stack (first picture)

Then I found this gem up high above the main entrance.  I had never noticed it before.

How had I never noticed the giant E or the book readers?  And this finally explained the insignia on my class ring.  You’re looking at it.

The dark woodwork inside the front entrance and outside on the eves is of grapes and grape vines, a common site in our part of the state.  My cousin noticed that up in the four corners of the entrance foyer, in front of the auditorium are wood reliefs of wrestlers, boxers, baseball players, and football players, complete with leather helmets.  This was an astonishing find to us, all former students in this school.  How had we missed it?

The most touching discovery for my brother, cousin, and I was of the teacher mailboxes just inside the front door.  There were still names on yellowed pieces of paper, neatly typed on each box.  We found a great many of our former middle school teachers’ names, as if they were still there.  It must have been only a few years after we left that the boxes became obsolete.  They sit empty, not having received mail in decades.

My take away from all this is that it’s important to notice the details.  The little things that are unique.  The way something can be composed of unique individual parts, yet come together to make something that all fits together seamlessly into something grand and beautiful.  Students – unique individuals can come together to make an amazing class, tightly knit, but woven of distinct personalities, talents, and gifts.