A Link to the Past SOLSC 3

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/ 

“Mr. Gels, I’ve got a turtle for you.”

“Um, huh?”  The look on my face must have been an interesting one, as kids continued to file around us into the classroom to start their school day.  Students have brought me a lot of different things over the years, but this was a new one.

“I bought him for you in Florida,” he said, as he held a well-used food container in my direction. The container certainly wasn’t store-bought (not recently, anyway), but there was indeed a turtle within it, suspended at the surface of an inch or so of water, looking, well, like a very small turtle with no place to go.  Not panicked or frantic.  Resigned, really. “He wasn’t expensive; I bought him with my own money.”

Okay, a short word about my student: (Here’s where I’d write about him if I could, but that’s not something I’m free to do because of the privacy concerns we all know about.  Thinking about him, though, reminds me of the stories I could tell.)  I miss him and think of him often.  Fond memories, and all of that.

A shorter word about me: The turtle was not something I could resist.  It was a gift, right? Purchased with his own money…how could I turn it down?  I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

An even shorter word about the turtle story: It was actually caught in the neighborhood pond.  The kid confessed a few years later.  Sigh.  That kid.

The turtle spent the rest of the day in that same container, sitting on the counter at the back of my classroom.  That night I took the first of many trips to the pet supply store, getting the supplies needed to set up a suitable habitat in the classroom.  The first of many, indeed–over the years, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on that turtle.  I keep her for a variety of reasons, but one is the attachment to that student I feel through her.

As I’m wrapping up this short story, I feel like there’s more unsaid than said.  Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it?

The turtle, well, she’s a slice of my life, splashing when she’s hungry and basking under her light when she’s not.  She’s a connection to my past and a pleasure for the students of my present.

Donations kindly accepted, just not another turtle, please.

Note: I know I changed the gender of the turtle as the story progressed.  For years, the turtle was “Mr. Tuttles.”  Then, a few summers ago, she laid four eggs.  We call her “Ms. Ruby,” now.

54 Squares of Color SOLSC 2

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

I really enjoy walking down the hallway just after school lets out.  I’ve taken the students in my third grade class to the bus, and heading back to my classroom takes me down the hallway where all of the “car riders” are sitting.

And sitting.

And sitting.  It’s not uncommon for some of the kids to wait thirty minutes for their parents to show up, so they oftentimes find something to do to while away the time.

Homework and reading are probably the most common activities, but every once in awhile I’ll spot a student with one of my favorite diversions in his or her possession. With its six faces comprised of nine squares each, the Rubik’s cube can’t be beat when it comes to idle hands, at least not in my book.

I’ll walk up all casual like, and quietly ask, “Mind if I take a look?” I’ve never had a student say no; usually they hand it to me like they’re in trouble, despite the grin on my face. Being well over six feet tall in an elementary school world might have something to do with that response…I don’t know.

I’ve never claimed that I figured out how to solve the Rubik’s Cube, but solve it I can.  I’m not a speed cuber, but within just a few minutes the puzzle is normally restored to a state that it’s not seen in quite some time.  I follow up my feat with the admission that I’m not smart enough to have figured it out on my own–I learned it the old fashioned way, by reading a book.  In my fantasy world, the student is inspired, by gosh, to get a book and learn it himself (I offer a copy of my own).  In reality, though, I usually just get the pleasure of solving a puzzle and looking to be just a little bit awesome in the eyes of a student.  Sometimes, that’s enough for me.

Simple Joys SOLSC 1

This was originally posted on http://www.yetthereismethod.net/

The simplest things bring joy to my heart, and lately it’s been birds. Birds.
I’ve never been an avid birder. I can, perhaps, recognize and name more than most folks, but for the most part only by sight.  Real birders, in my mind, know them by their calls, their flight patterns, and their behaviors. Me, though?  I just like birds.

Here in north Alabama, my wife and I live in a modest home in a small subdivision (someone years ago used to own a small cotton field, I suppose) that’s “out in the country.”  We’re within a few miles of civilization, but only because it’s come out to us in the past decade.  The porch on our house has been home to a number of birds over the years, but the nests have almost always ended in disaster.  In the bird world, house finch versus grackle or starling rarely ends well for the finch.

For the past few years, though, we’ve had guests that bring a smile to my face every time I see them.  We’ve got a pair of wrens. I don’t know if they’re together, though they occasionally roost as if they are. They come as the last bit of light is fading from the sky, and leave just before dawn. They aren’t here to nest; they just spend the night, apparently feeling safe from whatever dangers a wren faces in the wild.  Roosting in the corner, perched on the aluminum trim of our siding, they’re tucked just out of sight from the yard.  Occasionally we’ll inadvertently frighten them away, but for the most part they’re comfortable with our infrequent comings and goings. They’re comfortable with us, and we find joy with them.

Wrens.  Simple joys in a not-so-simple world.