Thursday, May 30, 2013

Last Day Of School

            “Are you kidding me?” I wailed.      

            I stood looking out the front door five minutes before the dismissal bell on the last day of school.  It was pouring rain, and I had outside duty.

            I walked into the back office, donned the oversized yellow slicker, pulled the hood over my head, and slopped out into the rain.  

            The parking lot was chaos.  Six large yellow buses lined the walk in front of the school.  The teacher’s parking lot was flooded.  The water soaked my sandals as I splashed over the crosswalk to my spot in the pick-up lane.  The two lanes were clogged with cars, filled with parents waiting for their students.  Twenty feet beyond where I stood, cars lined the road waiting to turn into the pick-up lanes.  

            To keep my head from getting soaked, I tugged the hood forward.  But the sides of the hood blocked my vision for anything other than five feet wide in front of me.  The big yellow rain slicker was cold, wet, and stiff.  To see to either side I had to turn my whole body.  There must have been a cut somewhere in the hood because I could feel rain dripping down my back.

            I stood in the middle of the two pick-up lanes staring into headlights as the rain cascaded down over the vehicles.  The cars’ wipers swept the windshields, and I could see faces inside straining to catch sight of their students coming out of the school.    

            Three minutes later kids began filling the crosswalk as they scanned the cars looking for their rides.  Cars in the right lane could park and wait.  Cars in the left lane were supposed to keep moving.  As kids got in the cars, the left lane came to life and began emptying out.  As cars in the right lane filled, they signaled, moved into the left lane, and drove out. 

            I stood in the middle of all the confusion waving cars forward and hoping the yellow slicker made me visible enough to keep from getting run over. 

            Three carlengths down to my left, a black Suburban sat immobile.  Cars pulled up behind it, but the Suburban didn’t budge.  I furiously waved it forward as I walked towards it in the middle of the two lanes.  The vehicle’s windshield wipers flicked back and forth, and I could see movement inside.  I stepped directly in front of the vehicle and waved my hands back and forth to get the driver’s attention. 

            I didn’t care if it was the last day of school, this parent was blocking everything and I was not going to be nice telling them to move.  I continued over to the driver’s side and tapped on the window.  A dry, yellow Lab looked out at me sadly.

            “Seriously?  You left the dog to move the vehicle?  Where is this driver?”

            I turned and squinted through the rain.  Up by the crosswalk I saw a woman prancing towards me holding a large golf umbrella over her head.  Her arm was around her 7th grade daughter.  Both had rain slickers on.  Mom’s rain galoshes were turquois.   Her daughter’s galoshes were fuchsia.  My once beige sandals were now dark brown.  The mom held her keys out, beeped the Suburban open, and escorted her daughter to the passenger side.  Her daughter climbed in, mom slammed the door shut and walked around to the driver’s side.

            Over the rain I yelled, “You can’t leave your vehicle here like this.  You’re blocking all this traffic!”  My face was slick with rain.  The hood had blown back and my hair was soaked.

            As mom climbed into the car, she turned and yelled, “I had to go in and get my daughter.  I couldn’t let her get wet in all this!”  She slammed the door shut, started her vehicle, and pulled away. 

            I stood with my mouth gapping open.  I spread my hands out and looked around, just sure that the fifty other people watching shared my outrage.  But all I heard were horns honking.  I splashed back up to the crosswalk and continued waving cars through.

            Yay!  It’s summer vacation.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Free Time

            “Why can’t I have my free time?

            I looked across the table at Caitlyn.  Her pink shorts and black and white polka dot blouse contrasted perfectly with her pale blond hair.  Her skin was porcelain, her eyes were crystal blue, and her mouth was a frowning pout.

            “We need to do the corrections on your test.  Kids who got a low grade on their math test have to do corrections to get ready for the retest tomorrow.”

            “But I want my free time!  All the other kids are getting free time.”

            “No, everyone else is not getting free time.  The only kids getting free time are those who don’t need to take their test over.  Roberto is doing corrections with us,” I said sweeping my hand at Roberto sitting at the table with us.

            “I don’t want my free time,” Roberto said quickly.  “My mom’ll get mad if I don’t get a better grade on this test.”

            I turned back to Caitlyn, “Let’s get through these corrections so I can make sure you know how to do the problems.  If everyone stays focused, we should finish in time for you to get back to class with some free time left.”

            Caitlyn slid down into her chair, pushed her lips out even more, lowered her head, and glared back.  I laid the kid’s corrected tests in front of them.   Even though the tests had been graded with a bright green Sharpie, the 58% at the top of Roberto’s test and 53% at the top of Caitlyn test looked ominous.

            Caitlyn was not giving up.  “I already know this stuff.  Why can’t I just do the new test tomorrow?

            “I need to make sure you know how to do the problems.  And remember, you can’t do the retest unless you’ve corrected this test.”

            “I want to correct my test,” Roberto said quickly glancing back and forth between Caitlyn and me.

            “Good,” I said crisply. “Let’s look at number three.  I can see both of you missed that.  Caitlyn, why don’t you read number three out loud?”

            “Why can’t I do my corrections at home?  I want free time.”

            “I’ll read number three,” Roberto said.

            I paused a minute waiting for Caitlyn. 

            Breathe slow.  Wait.


            “Roberto.  Read number three.”

            He read quickly, “Below is a list of the scores Mrs. Robinson’s sixth grade class got on their math test.  Make a Box and Whiskers graph to show how the scores are distributed.”

            “Thank you Roberto.  Now guys, what’s the first step you do to make a Box and Whiskers graph?”

            Roberto raised his head and squinted at the ceiling.  Caitlyn set her test on top of her notebook, pulled both of them into her lap, and began writing.  I wondered if she was writing, “Mrs. Jones is stupid.”

            “Find the middle number?” Roberto said hesitantly.

            “That’s right.”

            Caitlyn looked over at Roberto with hooded dead eyes then bent her head back to her writing.

            “Caitlyn, what do you do to find the middle number?”

            I waited. 

            And waited.

            And waited.

            “Caitlyn, do you remember what you do to find the middle number?”

            After ten more seconds she looked up.  “Why can’t I have free time?  I know how to do this!”

            “All you have to do is one graph with me.  Just do one graph to show you know how to do this.”

            “I’ll do it tonight at home.  My mom likes helping me with my math!”

            I bit my lips to keep from laughing.  I had a dozen emails from Caitlyn’s mom that said differently.

            “I think I know what you do first,” Roberto said hesitantly.

            I pulled a deep breath in, let it out slowly, then turned to Roberto and said brightly, “OK, what do you do first?”

            “Put them in order from the littlest to the biggest?”

            “Yes.  That’s exactly what you do first.”

            “It’s not fair,” Caitlyn muttered from across the table.  “I want my free time.”

            I looked up at the clock.  Thirty more minutes until my plan period.

            Yeah.  I want my free time too!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Two Museums and an Email

            Have you ever noticed how much perspective affects how you think about something?  This past weekend I visited two art museums – The Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri, and Crystal Bridges art museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. 

            Had I seen the Precious Moments Chapel 20 years ago, I probably would have walked away thinking it was a little too kitschy for my taste.  But two years ago I saw the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  Looking at the Precious Moments Chapel, I saw the lovely product of Sam Butcher, an artist who joined Child Evangelism Fellowship after becoming a Christian.  His sweet chapel has the same objective as the Sistine Chapel in Rome – to teach the viewer the truths of Scripture.  

            The Precious Moments figurines my family bought for me over the years were small mementoes of big events in my life.  The last figurine I got is called, “Bring The Little Ones to Jesus.”  Sam Butcher designed it exclusively for Child Evangelism Fellowship.  The mother in the chair is presenting the Gospel to the children at her feet using the wordless book.  Long before the “Four Spiritual Laws” or the “Roman Road,” I knew the Gospel through the Wordless Book.  My husband bought the figurine for me when I finished my teaching degree.  As I looked at the Precious Moments Chapel, instead of kitsch, all I saw was a flood of family memories.    

           The second museum I visited was Crystal Bridges.  While there, John Twachtman’s “September Sunshine” pulled me over from fifty feet away.  Maybe it’s because the weekend had been cold, overcast, and chilly, or maybe I just like yellow these days.  The picture emanated a sunshine glow inside the darkened room that made the painting stand out from everything around it.  I ran up to see it close in, but only saw swirls and globs of oil. 

  I had to step back at least 20 feet to love it again.

            When I got back to work on Tuesday and opened my email, a friend had sent me a video of a moonrise in New Zealand.  Take four minutes to watch the link below.  Put it on the biggest screen you can.  Wear headphones, and give yourself a break.  It's breathtaking. 

            Perspective.  Time and distance bring such beauty to so many things we’re missing every day. 

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

(Better Quality on this link)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Efficient Solutions

            “I got it working Mrs. Jones.”

            “Great,” I said flatly.

            I stood looking at the huge, ancient printer sitting on its own table next to my desk.

            “I didn’t think you’d be able to replace the broken part.”

            Greg, our school’s IT guy, pulled out a towel and began wiping black powder off his hands.

            “Well, I had some parts saved from Mrs. Anderson’s printer before it was replaced.”

            I whined, “Mrs. Anderson got a new printer?  I’ll bet mine is the oldest printer in the school now.”

            Greg furrowed his brow and tilted his head.

            “It is.”

            “Can’t you accidentally drop it or something so I can get a new one?  Aren’t you getting tired of my repair calls every other day?”

            “Aw, that’s my job,” Greg smiled as he pushed the back door of the printer shut.

            The door immediately dropped open.  Greg pushed the door shut again, but the door dropped open as soon as he took his hand away. 

            “OK,” I pounced.  “It won’t work if the back door is open.”

            “Mrs. Jones, I’m really sorry, but replacing your printer is out of my hands.  You know how money works this time of the year.  There isn’t any.  As long as I can get the printer working, the district’s not going to replace it.  Maybe next year.”

            I watched Greg walk out.

            “Maybe next year,” I snarked.

            I stood glaring at the back door of the printer hanging open.  I pulled open the drawer of my desk searching for scotch tape.  My eyes fell on the first aid kit the school nurse had brought around to all the teachers at the beginning of the year.  I pulled out two bandages, peeled them open, and used them to tape the back door shut.

            Three hours later the principal tapped on my door.

            “Could we look at the new mountings for your Smart Board?”

            I looked up as the principal and IT Greg walked into my room.  Behind them was with another man I didn’t know.

            “This is Mr. Evanston, head of IT for the district,” the principal explained.  “I wanted to show him how well it worked out to mount the new Smart Boards right over the old white boards.”

            “Sure.  Fine,” I said pausing at the keyboard.

            All three walked over to the Smart Board and began examining the mounting hardware behind it.  

            As Mr. Evanston passed my desk, he looked at the bandages on the back of the printer but didn’t say anything.  When Greg saw the bandages, he did a double take.   The principal just kept looking at the Smart Board.

            After a few minutes they left, but Greg stepped back in before the door closed.

            “Bandages?  Do you need some tape?”

            “I think the bandages are more efficient,” I said.  “They’re doing two jobs.”


            “Yeah, two.  They’re holding the door closed, and they’re telling everyone what’s really going on.”

            Greg started laughing and walked out shaking his head.

            Two days later I got a new printer.