Categories
Family

Back to School

It is that time. . . .  Back to school for teachers and for students. Officially, I start Monday. Unofficially, I’ve been working on school stuff all summer long. I’ve spent a few days working with my yearbook staff making plans for this year’s book. I’ve been reading, and reading, and reading, and researching. Now, I have to put it all together. I have immersed myself in teaching literature, not reading, not literacy, but LITERATURE. I completed the Advanced Placement Literature and Composition Institute this summer.

I’m not ready.

I’m getting the butterflies in the stomach.

I’m asking myself, “What the heck do you think you’re doing going back to secondary education at your age? You should be retiring!”

Well, the answer to the question is that I really, really enjoy my job. I love the little school where I teach. I am comfortable there even though I get nervous at the beginning of the school year. It’s the introvert in me. But come August 15, the first day with students, I will be ready, and I will put on my “learned extrovert” shirt, and get out there and put myself out there.

So, what did I read this summer? Well there was the required summer reading:

Jane Yolen’s Mapping the Bones, the story of twins Chaim and Gittle who try to escape a ghetto in Poland with the Polish resistance but end up captured. They attract the attention of one of Mengele’s doctors when Gittle contracts typhoid

Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, the story of a little girl who is placed in foster care and who steals books as seen through the eyes of Death.

Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place, the story of her family’s participation in the resistance movement to save Jewish lives and her imprisonment in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.

There is a theme there, can’t you tell? The upper school is going to Washington in September, and one of the places they will tour is the Holocaust Museum. I want my students to be fully away of what they will experience when they enter that place. I know, there are other places of equal importance throughout that city, but for me, this place is especially hallowed ground.

I’ve also re-read Wuthering Heights and The Picture of Dorian Gray. I had forgotten how creepy Dorian Gray could be! I had also forgotten about some of the darker themes in that book.

And I’ve done a ton of professional reading, 180 Days, A Novel Approach, Whole Novels for the Whole Class, Write Beside Them, among others.

For fun, I’ve read several Regency romances—formula stories, really, but light, easy to read and finish in a day or two. I’ve also been reading Linda Castillo’s Kate Burkholder series. Kate is the Chief of Police in Painter’s Mill, Ohio, which has a fairly large Amish population. It’s one thing to be the first female Chief of Police in this small rural town, but she is formerly Amish herself. It is her knowledge of the Amish ways that helps her solve the crimes that come her way. These books are seriously researched. They will keep you turning the page until the very end.

Tomorrow afternoon, I meet students and some parents to give out textbooks. School is starting.

Categories
Photo Projects

What Happened to My Plans?

When I started the summer back on May 26, I made plans. I had BIG plans.

1. I was going to do Ali Edwards’s project “ A Week in the Life.”

2. I was going to approximate the Story in Sixes project from Lensworks magazine to see if I could tell a story in six photographs.

3. I was going to catch up on Kim Manley Ort’s “Impermanence” class.

4. I was going to catch up on Laura Valenti’s “The Art of Wellbeing” class.

It’s June 28. I’ve been out of school for a month. I haven’t done those four things. What have I done?

I’ve read two BIG books, The Book Thief and Mapping the Bones. I’m about a third of the way through The Hiding Place. I’m reading and studying with an online group a professional text, A Novel Approach, to discover other ways of approaching whole class novels. I’m reading 180 Days to learn more about structuring a year’s curriculum.

I started writing, but I haven’t gotten too far.

I’m trying to work on Jamie’s Summer Yearbook “project” so that I pay more attention to my creativity.

I’ve been running back and forth to the Academy to finish organizing my room for the summer and to work with the yearbook staff to get started planning for “next year.”

I signed up to meet with a personal trainer one day a week at the gym in Newberry. I tried to do the Couch25K (C25K) plan, but it is way too hot to run outside, and treadmills scare me.

I haven’t followed any of my plans. Sometimes, I have to let go of those plans and just let nature take its course. That’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to follow the rhythms of my heart and mind to do what feels right for me at this time. The reading, the notetaking, the learning—these are the things I feel I need right now. Returning to full-time secondary education has been a challenge, but a welcome challenge. I have thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and the students! I feel at “home” in the classroom again. While I may not always agree with the very conservative headmaster (he’s a classicist when it comes to literature, and I do like to include more modern literature and YA literature), he respects my judgments as a professional. I know my students and I can determine what they need from me as their teacher.

So, with the AP Literature and Composition Institute coming up in July and inservice programs on Google Classroom on August 1, I don’t have much time to work on those “BIG” plans for creative production. Perhaps now is not the time to pursue them. Perhaps by reading good books and studying other professionals, I am feeding my creative side and the photography just needs to sit for a while.

Robert Burns wrote, “The best laid plans of mice and men often [go] astray.” My plans certainly went astray, but that’s okay. I’m still productive.

Categories
Family writing

There’s a First Time for Everything

On Monday, my mother called me to ask if I wanted to ride down to Bennett’s Point with her. She wanted to check on the place down there and cut the grass. She hadn’t been in a month or so and wasn’t sure my brother had been recently. After I rearranged some plans for Wednesday, I told her I’d go. As usual, I packed the necessities, including my camera gear. My gear IS a necessity!

We arrived at our destination only to discover that water was standing in the front yard and the back  yard. There would be no grass-cutting Tuesday afternoon!

We did go “sightseeing” Wednesday afternoon. We took Highway 17 toward Beaufort, drove through town on Carteret Street, crossed the drawbridge to Lady Island, circled around through Port Royal and headed back toward “home.” The camera was in the back seat the whole time.

This may be the first time I made the trip to Bennett’s Point without taking the camera out of the bag. There are NO pictures of the trip.

There are memories.

My mother is 83 years old. She is still in excellent health. SHE did the driving!

We talked. We remembered Daddy, who passed away three years ago this coming August.

We “solved” the problems of the world.

These latter things are not unusual. Because we lived way out in the sticks, I did not have a clutch of friends my age to hang out with. It was just me, my sister (who is eleven months my junior), and my brother (five years younger), and my parents and my granddaddy on my father’s side. Daddy worked out of town on construction sites for the M. B. Kahn construction company out of Columbia, so we spent our time with him on Saturdays and Sundays. Saturdays were “farm” days—working with him in the garden or the hay field. Gosh, I’ve hauled enough square hay bales to fill several barns! On Sunday, after church, we played, usually riding the horses all over Richland and Newberry Counties where Daddy owned land. Those rides often took us past the Counts place, and we would have to stop and visit with Mr. Pid, Ernest, and Willie Counts. Mr. Pid was elderly, and it delighted him for Floyd and his young’uns to ride up to see him. But Mama was more than a parent; she was also our friend and our confidante.  I never understood those girls I met in college who proclaimed loudly (usually after long, heated phone calls on the pay phone in the dorm hallway) that they hated their mother. Seriously?

Mama is still my friend and my confidante. She is my rock.

So, even though I did not get any pictures of this trip, no physical record of the road trip, I have the memories. Perhaps we’ll get another chance to go back together, just the two of us, and do more sightseeing and rambling to see what this glorious state of South Carolina is all about. And maybe there will be a second trip with no photographs. That’s okay. There are memories. There are precious times.

There will be no regrets.

Categories
Photo Journal Photo Projects

Summer Vacation 2018

It has been a while since I had a teacher’s version of “summer vacation,” that extended period between June and August when I am not in school. For the previous five years, I taught at Remington College in Columbia. We worked in four-week modules, and since I was part time, I worked a mod and then had the next mod off. Now that I am working full-time in secondary education again at Newberry Academy, I now teach for thirty-six weeks and now I’m off for about 10—all of June and July and two weeks in August. Oh, perhaps I should say I also have most of this last week of May off as well, even though I’m going back to school tomorrow for a yearbook mini-camp.

So, how will I spend my summer?

First, I’m going to catch up on my fun reading! I don’t have a reading list yet per se, but I have several books on my Kindle that I want to read.

Second, I’m going to work on my photography. I have subscribed off and on to Lenswork Magazine, a print and online magazine that focuses on the photograph itself, not the gear or even the techniques. For the last couple of years, the publishers have had a juried “contest” in which photographers submit a story in six photographs. I don’t think I can enter that contest this year, but I think it might give me a focus for my summer work. Can I make images that capture the story in six images in such a way that each image can also stand alone and tell that story? In preparation, I’m charging up the batteries now, and soon I’ll clear the memory card!

I’m also planning to work on editing techniques. I joined the Shift Art website (pricey!), but I think it will be worth it. There are tutorials and articles and other goodies to inspire me.

This morning, I worked on learning some editing techniques using Auto Tone and Auto Color in Photoshop. I used an image I took a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know the name of this flower, but it’s pretty, and it’s interesting. I wanted to make sure the flower was dominant, so I practiced, and edited, and started over. This is the image I came up with. I used Auto Tone and Auto Color. Then I applied two layers of patterns and textures. Finally, I added a light vignette. I’ll put the original and edited image side by side to show the two versions.

 

The first image is the original, unedited image. It’s too dark. My edit, the second one, lightens the image and brings out the flower. I like the kind of hazy background, which is further emphasized a bit by the pattern and the texture. At the end of the process, I added a vignette using a curves adjustment layer, dragging the curve down toward the bottom right corner, and then using a black brush to uncover the portions of the image I wanted to reveal. I lowered the opacity of this vignette layer as well because I did not want it too dark on the edges. I still wanted the brightness and haziness of the background to come through.

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(I think I may have desaturated the background slightly as well so that the color of the flower can stand out.)

I enjoy floral photography, and I enjoy applying textures. I want to stretch myself as a photographic artist.

Categories
writing

When “Something” Is Missing

I’m sure you know the feeling.  Something is missing, but you can’t quite put your finger on it. Life is busy—job, family, chores, errands. . . . The list is endless. But still, “something” is missing.

For me, it’s been creating things. Oh sure, I’m creating lesson plans and activities for my classes all day long, but that’s for other people, and not for me. I come home in the evening, and I do knit or crochet while I’m supposedly watching TV. That is creating something. I’m working on the last square of the blanket I’m knitting (I miscounted—made only nineteen when I needed twenty!).  I’ll start putting the border rows around the last four squares and joining them to finish the blanket. So far, it looks like it’s going to be HUGE! But even though, the knitting has been relaxing, it didn’t fulfill the thing that’s empty.

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This week at the Academy, we started the two week “mini-mester” during the electives period (third period, from 10:00 to 10:48 a.m.). I offered to teach a photography class. I’m not sure how much photography students are learning, but we are doing some shooting. I take my “big girl camera” out with me; the students are using their phones. I send them out with a very loosely structured assignment—find a unique way to photograph things; look for lines and shapes; photograph color. . . . Nothing too technical, but something fun. Monday was a washout—it rained all day (hard, heavy rains!). Wednesday was beautiful! We went to the Tent market near the school. Oh, the color and textures! And the hibiscus! Or should it be hibisci? The employees had just watered the flowers and plants, and there were water droplets everywhere. The cantaloupe presented its roadmap to me, and the tomatoes were beautifully red. On Friday, we walked the Main Street area. I set myself the task of focusing on lines and repetition. I forced myself to look. One of the students said that it was hard for her to be inspired by “assignments,” that she needed to go out and be “inspired.” She reminded me of Christine Valters Paintner’s ideas from Eyes of the Heart, to be ready to receive images while walking with the camera.

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I think I know what has been missing: my camera and using my photographic eye. I have not been looking at the world, or as Paintner says, gazing at the world with soft eyes. I have not been allowing myself to receive images.

This year has been a “first year teacher” experience for me—returning to a secondary classroom full time in a new school after six years away. I have been in a state of overwhelm. The result has been that I have made time for receiving images with the camera, for taking the time to play with them in Photoshop to (try to) create art. I know that this has to become a priority in the future. This week has allowed me to get behind the camera and be an artist again. I don’t feel quite so “empty” this morning.

Now, I need to work on finding time to write regularly!

Categories
Photo Journal

Spring Break

What do you do when you go out for a photo walk only to discover that the camera batteries are dead? I had just enough “juice” to change the white balance and the shooting mode. The last time I used the camera was to shoot a school pageant in the gym, so I had the shooting mode set to continuous and the white balance to auto because gym lighting is notoriously bad and hard to get right, at least for me.

Well, I just turned myself around, put the camera back in the car, and started walking again, pretending I did have the camera. I looked for things I would shoot if I had the camera. I paid attention to the light and shadow patterns of trees, tree limbs, and leaves on the pavement. I noticed the color of the leaves, and the contrasting greens against each other. I watched the ospreys soar in spirals overhead, their bodies black against blue skies. I noticed the fallen blooms from the trumpet vines. I walked with my eyes open (at least until my legs began to give out. I actually pushed myself a little bit too far after having a medical procedure yesterday).

Sometimes, walking without a camera makes it easier to see things. I can go back tomorrow or the next day or the day after that. Yes, I know the lighting will not be exactly the same as it was today, but there will be something new to notice.

I think that’s what I like about photography. It teaches me to see things I might not notice otherwise.

I did manage to get some pictures of the sunrise at church Sunday morning before the Easter sunrise service began. After the service I went out to the prayer garden to take a few pictures of the trees that were blooming. The cherry was in full bloom with some red leaves beginning to show. The palm was also blooming, at least I think that’s what it’s doing. It’s a funny looking bloom, though! Oh well! It is spring here in the South. Tomorrow, IMG_4285IMG_4290IMG_4292IMG_4293I

will try again. I may even go hiking in a state park in the mountains with at least one of my sons, who is also out of school on spring break.

Categories
Word of the Year

One Little Word 2017

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In January, I chose the word DARE as my one word for the year. Something happened along the way. I sort of dropped out of following the word through the year.

But then, something else happened. I dared to go back to full-time teaching! I started a new job with Newberry Academy. I took on the head of school’s “dare” to teach/advise the desktop publishing class, aka yearbook, something I’ve never, ever done before. And I “dared” to teach world history. Keep in mind, I am a certified ENGLISH teacher. I’ve never taught a social studies class before in my entire career.

I love it! I love teaching in a small, intimate private school. I know my students—and am getting to know their parents on a first name basis. Seriously. Of course, I discovered that I’ve taught some of the parents before in my life as a public school teacher. And then, there is the one student whom my own son taught when he was the middle school band director in town! That’s a sobering thought. . . . I have a son old enough to teach middle school students who are now my high school students.

This year, as I looked at Ali Edwards One Little Word class and wondered momentarily whether I should take it or not—and I am—my word came to me:  GROW.

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Odd.  I will be sixty years old in February 2018. And I feel I am still growing.  I talked to the head of school last week and told him I’d like to take the AP certification course this summer. He’s willing to pay half tuition. I believe it will “grow” me as a teacher. Besides, I haven’t taken a formal literature/education class in more years than I can remember. I am looking forward to professional growth.

And I signed up for the “graduate” course with Emma Davies and A Year with My Camera. I want to grow as a photographer. I will be teaching my yearbook students more about photography next year so that we get some really interesting story-telling photographs for the yearbook.

I want to grow as a creative person. I want to grow my writing. I haven’t put much effort into my novel in the last weeks. I plan to do that during this Christmas holiday break. I am going to live up to my word that I won’t answer any emails until I go back to school on January 3. Nope, I just won’t do it.

There is the old saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” Well, I may not “bloom” this year, but I do intend to grow—personally, professionally, creatively.

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Categories
Photo Journal

I Miss My Camera

But it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s sitting right there on the piano bench (where else would a camera sit, right?).

I just haven’t picked it up in a couple of weeks.

I have been “too busy.”

You see, I started a new job this week. I left my comfortable position at Remington College, teaching one or two classes a day, four days a week, four weeks at a time with four or five weeks off between mods, to teach full time for a small private school closer home. Instead of leaving home at 8:00 in the morning, I’m leaving an hour earlier. Instead of leaving work by 2:15 or so, I’m leaving well after 3:30, sometimes closer to 5:00. Instead of teaching adult learners, I’m teaching 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, and 17 year olds! Yeah, everything from middle-school English to senior English, with World History and Desktop Publishing/Yearbook, thrown in just to keep my life interesting. And it is interesting.

But still, I miss my camera. I miss having the freedom to pick it up regardless of the time of day to play.

I miss being able to ramble whenever I feel like it.

I miss the creative element of being a photographer and an “artist.”

Perhaps, when I get used to my new schedule, I’ll figure out how to work in the photography.

But for now, I will study. I will develop a new rhythm. I will simply miss the camera.

Categories
Family Word of the Year

The Third Quarter Has Begun

I realized I have not written since June.  So much has happened since my last post, namely I am leaving my part-time teaching position to take  full-time teaching job in a local private school beginning in two weeks.

This is the year of living daringly, of taking chances, of stepping into new possibilities.

Moving back into secondary education is definitely something I had not expected to do, though the possibility has always been there. And now that I think about it, I am ready to take this dare.  It will certainly be a challenge with six preps, including two things I’ve never done before professionally: teaching World History and advising the school yearbook/Desktop Publishing class.  I said the head of school (aka headmaster) suckered me into the latter assignment.  But seriously, I would not have accepted it if I had not wanted to give it a try.

Going from teaching four days a week to five, teaching for four weeks with a month off between mods, will certainly take some getting used to!  I will have to figure out ways to keep up with my creative pursuits and my photography in different ways.  I will also have to figure out new ways to work in practice time at the piano.  Jack’s wedding will be here before you know it!

I hadn’t given the word of the year much thought in the last couple of months, but somehow, I think the dare was working in the background. I realize that I have been out of the secondary classroom for six years.  I will have to re-evaluate what I have been doing for the last few years at Remington.  I will have to re-learn how to relate to teenagers and preteens (I will have that one class of squirrelly seventh graders! In a way, I am looking forward to teaching those middle-schoolers!) And I will have to give myself the pep talk almost daily that I can teach World History.  (It’s just another form of ELA, right?  Reading, thinking critically, analyzing, synthesizing. . . . )

And so, a new school year begins. . . . .

Besides, this new teaching job gives me an excuse to shop the school supplies and office supplies and find really neat stuff to use!

Categories
writing

Making Changes

Time passes.

Things change.

I’ve changed.

And I’m making changes on my website and blog.

I have trouble with consistency in publishing here in this space. I’m working on that, though. Teresa Robinson introduced me to an interesting book, called Refuse to Choose. The author defines a group of people known as Scanners, folks who have a wide range of interests, multiple projects (including reading) going on all at once, and a tendency to drop a project before it’s completed. I don’t know how many of those I have around the house—along with books I haven’t finished and the like.  I think I am a Scanner.

I started my Scanner Daybook last night. Of course, at 9:00 in the evening, there was no way I was making a run to WalMart to buy an unlined, hard cover sketch book to use for my Daybook, so I pulled out a new, unused composition book. I keep a steady supply of those on hand. I have multiple composition books for different things, and none of them are filled up (except the ones that I use for my morning Bible devotions and prayer journals).

I’m working, too, on simplifying things here in this space, decluttering it as it were. This will be a site under construction for a while as I sort things out.