Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Girl of High Morals

Bible Teacher: Have you ever had someone do bad to you and then they said they were sorry? You forgave them, and then they did the same thing again?

Student (not her real name): Yes! My sister hits me and says "sorry" so I forgive her, and then she hits me again!

Teacher: (with a twinkle in his eye) Hmm... I guess an important question is "Do you retaliate?"
Student: Well, yes, sometimes... but I always wait till I'm done hitting her before I say "Sorry."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Knocked Silly

Mike had clobbered Pete (not their real names) on the head with a science book (not the real implement). Now both boys sat in my office making sure the appropriate apologies were made and the friendship restored.

Me: Mike your head isn't hurt? You don't have a head ache? You're not angry with Mike?"

Pete: Yeah... I mean "No." My head doesn't hurt and I'm not angry with Mike.

Mike: Sorry I hit you on the head. I thought you were laughing at me.

Pete: Yeah, well I was, but I said, "I was only joking."

Mike: Oh, I didn't hear that part.

Pete: Yeah, that's okay. It didn't hurt that much.

Me: So... you guys are cool with each other?

Both: Yeah, we're fine.

Me: ...and is there anything else we need to deal with?

Both: Uh... no.

Me: Okay, Pete, you can go back to class.

Pete exited with one last handshake with Mike who'd attacked him. As soon as Pete was out the door, Mike turned to me with a shocked expression and wide eyes.

Mike: I must have seriously injured him; he's never been that nice!

Mike was suspended according to our policy dealing with physical aggression, but he had shown sincere remorse and a good sense of humor.
(Published with "Mike's" permission.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Innocent One

We're in the dining commons and the second grader stands in front of me saying I'm the best principal he's ever had. I thought I was the only principal he'd ever had, but no, he tells me had another principal when he was "just a little kid."

"She was SO MEAN!" His eyes are bugging out. "She'd lock me in the dungeon where there were spiders forever!"

"Well, that sounds pretty mean, alright," I commiserate.

"One day I got sent to her office because I was crying. And when I got back, someone had lit my desk on fire!" He watches to see that I'm "getting it." Then he continues, "And there was a note on my desk that said, "Ha! Ha!" That's the day I got kicked out!"

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Early Morning Funny

Opal watches our students who arrive early for school. As the many students jostled in the hallway last week, stowing books and gathering supplies for the day, Opal needed to get one boy's attention.

The problem is that two brothers, John and Jacob, are in the same classroom and she used the wrong name first. The cadence of her correction was perfect to allow John-Travis, a third boy in the same classroom, to sing a happy little joke. Here's how it went:

Opal: (calling down the hall) John!... Jacob!

John-Travis: (humming the "Jingleheimer Schmidt" part, then bursts into...) That's my name, too!

It happened fast, and John-Travis's wit and excellent timing made it funny!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Time off for what?!

"My Grandma says you need time off to kiss," said the little tyke from the other side of the lunch table. I made some nonverbal sign that I'd heard him while my imagination strove to grasp what kind of situation called for that sage advice.

He thought I wasn't understanding - which turned out to be true - so he repeated himself: "My Grandma says you need time off from kids." Ah, that made sense, and I nodded, grinning.

He looked perplexed, "Can you actually do that?"

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Password Please

“Record your password in a safe place in case you ever forget it.” No problem. I have such safe places to record things that even I can’t find them. For five months I have wracked my brains and spent hours trying different username/password combinations to no avail.

Until this afternoon. With failing memories of stories occurring this school year, I desperately gave up and began setting up a new blog, “RAS Berries 2” it would be called. Suddenly, there it was! My old username and password. Don’t ask me where, but it was in a very safe place.

So here I am, trying to play catch up. The dates of the stories below are fabricated to keep the stories in proper order. Hopefully, they are close to right.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Operation Whitney

A group of six has stopped into my office and is refining their scheme.

“He keeps the whole school clean and the garbage emptied and he cleans out the bathroom sinks when they get all gross. And he has to clean the dining commons every day!”

“Yeah, we don’t think he gets thanked enough. Besides, if we thank him in public, then other kids might start taking better care of things.”

They’re not sure of the whole plan, but it will involve cards and letters from the 344 students, a gift certificate, and a large display board bearing the custodian’s photo.

While they scheme, they keep the secret and occasionally say “OW” to each other.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Rice for Cambodia

They’re only third- and fourth-graders, but they doubled their goal of $140. They’ve been saving nickels and dimes to send to Cambodia with our local radio station’s project. Now they’re sending $280.

That in itself is pocket change for some people. But the kids know what it means. It means there will be food on the table for four families of four members each for eight months!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"Wanna Fish?"

“Well, actually I don’t,” I responded. She looked disappointed.

“None of the teachers wants a fish,” she laments, “Who wants an animal that swims in its own poop?”

“A teacher said that?!” I ask somewhat alarmed.

“Well, not exactly, but that’s what they’re thinking.”

“Why don’t you want to keep your fish?”

“Fish are yucky. I had two and the other one died and I didn’t even know it. I thought he was floating belly up just to be funny. Then he was gone and Mom explained that Dad had flushed him. I said, ‘Dad!’ And he said, ‘Your snail was eating him.’ And Mom said, ‘Honey, you weren’t supposed to tell her that part.”

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Funny Slippers

“You want to buy slippers for someone in your Family Group?” I ask. Never heard this request before. Now this seventh-grade Family Group leader is showing genuine concern for one of his younger Family Group members.

“Yeah, it’s Red Ribbon Week and tomorrow everyone will be wearing funny slippers as part of the “Give drugs the slip” day. I don’t think this guy has any to bring.”

“And you’re willing to shell out the money if I give you this student’s shoe size?”

“Yes, I was afraid if I asked him, he’d figure it out. If you tell me his size, I’ll go buy them tonight and then tomorrow you can give them to him, or to his teacher, or something.”

“I’m really impressed that you would care about him and plan ahead to avoid a potentially awkward time for one of your members. Why don’t you want to give them to him yourself?”

“Well, I would, but I don’t want the other members of my Family Group to think I’m playing favorites.”

I look at him for awhile. “I’m impressed with your foresight and wisdom. The problem is that he has a sibling who would also be left out.”

Without hesitation, he says, “I’ll buy two pair.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lost Cat

This drawing is on my fridge now. The cat has been found! The drawing makes me laugh. Go ahead, look at it for a bit, then look away, then look back suddenly. You can’t help laughing.

The three girls asked permission to hang the sign on our Public Announcements board to help a neighbor find a lost cat.

I had looked at the drawing and then at the girls.

“This picture shows what the cat looks like, huh?” I asked them, keeping a straight face despite what looked like tire tread marks on the cat's back.

“Yes! And it looks just like him!”

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Another Bake Sale, But Different

“Well, what kind of bake sale?” I ask the earnest third grader.

“For my friend. He’s sick and he can’t pay for help.”

I’m pleased that she wants to help, but over the last month we’ve had bake sales, coin collection and down-right begging till it’s running out our ears. Hurricane Katrina kept students and classrooms busy with many individually-initiated efforts. Now this girl wants to help a young man she “sort of” knows. He attends college about five states away.

She tells me more, and I give in. Yes, we will promote her bake sale. Who could resist after the promise she made. “If not many people help, I will add my $500.” It’s her life savings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"I Think I'll Pass"

She is one of my quieter, more reliable crossing guards. She’s been at one of the loneliest posts for weeks. Five days ago she asked for a position closer to the school. I was happy to give her the spot.

Now, when I remind her that she gets a new, more popular position, she says, “I think I’ll pass.”

“Hey,” I encourage her, “you deserve the new position as much as anyone.”

“I know,” she says thoughtfully, “It’s just that every morning a little girl rides by this spot and I wave at her. Yesterday, she said she likes seeing me first every day. So, I think I’ll stay here for awhile.”

As she’s talking a station wagon pulls up to the stop sign. Up pops a little black-haired face. The eyes barely clear the window sill, but you can see they’re smiling.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Case for Backpacks

You can hear the tuba all the way down the hall. It’s the first day of band and this new band member is proud as punch of his new, BIG instrument. He and his younger brother are headed home, lugging the tuba, the tuba case, and two backpacks.

It’s a struggle, many bulky, heavy things to manage for two little boys. Crossing the street, the two boys stop to readjust the load. The music teacher watches with amusement as the older brother rests the tuba carefully on his tennis shoe to keep from scratching it. Then he tells little brother to open the tuba case. In go the backpacks!

Off they go, big brother proudly oompahing, little brother lugging a beast of a tuba case.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


It’s a new school year. Many things are new. New clothes for one. New school supplies. And I have a new beard. My name badge still carries a picture of beardless me from last year.

A second-grader stops me as I pass his table in the dining commons. “Mr. Weller,” he pipes up, “you look different.”

“Oh,” I test him, “in what way?”

“You have a beard,” he says almost accusatorily.

I see him eyeing my name badge, glancing at my face, looking again at the badge. “Which way do you like best?” I ask, maybe a little apprehensive of his response.

He does a little more silent comparison, glancing back and forth, then boldly proclaims, “Both!”

I’m relieved. A mom nearby says, “Teach my husband to answer that wisely.”

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Who Are You Playing For?

The kids are gone. Only memories walk the halls. Well, look at that! Here comes one now.

Our final concert was held in our school gym – a first. Our bands, bells, and orchestras combined in one colossal last hurrah for the music department. Very enjoyable.

While picking up chairs after the concert I spied a note that one band member had left on her chair. The notes kids leave around school are always interesting… and personal. So practicing great self-control, I, of course, read it. Here’s what it said, word for word.

“Dear Sarah, You’re not playing for mom, dad, or your teacher. You’re playing for God.” And it was signed, “Sarah.”

The concert now is a memory; an enjoyable one. Hopefully Sarah carries with her the memory of a night when she practiced playing for God. I’m hoping she felt His companionship.

She raises a good question for us: “Who are we playing for?” And does that change how we play?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Elijah's Kleenex

Remember the story of the widow whose oil and flour never ran out as she fed her son and Elijah during the famine? I have a Kleenex box like that. Every time a visitor to my office sheds a tear, I whip out the trusty box. I am always fearful that the next Kleenex will be the very last. Amazingly, there is always one more.

Our school year ends in 50 minutes. In 50 minutes we’ll have the Big Countdown and final cheer. In 50 minutes, the bells in our tower will ring joyously, but I’ve noticed students looking ahead with mixed feelings. Many are feeling sad about leaving friends and teachers for the summer.

This morning several people have cried in my office. A mom concerned for her two kids. A recent divorce has split the family in half. Mom is managing pretty well with all her new duties, but she has concerns for the near and distant futures.

I hand her the Kleenex box, and guess what? She picks out one more Kleenex… and then another!

Another mom drops in to wish me well as she takes her newly-graduated son – her youngest child – away from this school for the last time. She’s been a fantastic helper at Rogers over many, many years. From fundraising to friendraising, she’s done it all to make life better for all of us.

She’s suddenly overcome with nostalgia, gratitude, and sorrow at leaving. I hand her the Kleenex box, and guess what? She picks out one more Kleenex.

Dads, kids, moms, relatives, friends… they’ve all taken my Kleenex through the year. Life has been so fast over the last month that I haven’t even been able to share with you the stories that continue to happen. Soon, the bells will ring, the feet will hurry past, and the school will be empty and silent.

There is still one Kleenex left… That one’s mine.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Fire Safety and Donuts

Today I helped cart kindergartners to and from their field trip to city hall. During the fire safety lecture at the fire station. Firefighter John told them, “Your mom and dad might think this is strange, but you will be safer if you sleep with your door closed.”

A very energetic girl raises her hand and says, “Not my mommy! She shuts my door every night… and locks it!”

Later I was laughing about the girl’s response, and a mom told me the following story.

When the kids had entered the police station, one of the officers was eating a donut and another officer made a self-conscious crack about that stereotype. The kindergartners were ushered into a room that had quite a library.

“What do you think is in all those books?” asked the officer in charge.

One boy seriously offered, “How to eat donuts?”

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"Serious Talk"

Today I drove from College Place to Marrowstone Island and back. Twelve hours of driving to attend a funeral. The woman who died was the mother of two girls who sat for four years in my one-room school – my first teaching appointment. Today would have been the mother’s 53rd birthday.

The long drive was worth it. Five former students attended the simple service in the Nordland Garden Club. “Going home” to this island school community brought up powerful memories of the students, their families, and my efforts.

One young mother introduced me to her husband saying, “Honey, this is the man who is the reason I am what I am today.”

He shook my hand and with mock concern said to me, “Well then, you and I need to have a serious talk!” We all laughed.

I enjoyed seeing these former students again; some of them for the first time in 21 years. Interestingly, the students – though now older than I was when I went to teach them – are virtually unchanged. They’ve grown tall and beautiful. They know more. They have traveled life’s bumpy road and learned some things the hard way.

But they are still the same people I knew back then. Their gestures are the same. They receive and process new information with the same direct focus, or the same tilt of the head, or the same smiling nod. They have the same individual levels of energy, curiosity, humor, or doubt that they had 21 years ago. The jokes they didn’t get then, they still don’t get today.

I drove away feeling that I had seen the souls of these girls. I could see each one, somehow, stripped of age, accomplishments, and acquisitions. I could sense that unchanging piece that makes each one unique and irreplaceable. It made me value the years I was privileged to be with them. God couldn’t have blessed me with a more colorful first group of students.

Driving back into sleepy College Place I realized that I am again surrounded with a colorful collection of once-in-eternity characters. Each child, each parent, each teacher is unique and irreplaceable. “Lord, help my eyes stay open to the inestimable value of each soul.”

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Quick Learner

The boy bursts into the restroom where I am washing my hands. “Ptui!” he spits a mouthful of something into the wastebasket and turns to dash back out. “That is the last time I put 15 mints in my mouth at one time.” I agree that’s smart. Minty fumes are already beginning to clear my own sinuses, and I'm 10 feet from the wastebasket.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Planting a Legacy

Today our school planted trees. More accurately, the community showed up en masse to buy and plant trees for us. A legacy, these trees will benefit generations to come. The trees will bear the names of the donors or those they wished to honor.

One anonymous donor chose to honor six hardworking children, four of whom attend Rogers. It’s a long story but it has to do with another kind of legacy.

Two months ago our school was in the middle of its annual magazine campaign. I was walking home and saw a seventh-grade girl trudging up the road with three small siblings trailing behind. They looked discouraged and tired. I asked how they were doing.

“No one wants to buy magazines,” she answered. She had tried all the sales pitch strategies, but still hadn’t found buyers. Students get prizes for turning in order forms. It’s not easy work, and I was impressed that she would be willing to share her earnings with this tribe of four. I had already bought through another student, so I passed on her plight to another person who ordered in her name.

The seventh-grader and her siblings were happy with the order. Surprisingly, as the days passed, she continued to make sales and did quite well for herself and her brothers and sister. Her generosity and hard work paid off. It’s the kind of mix that helps us leave legacies.

Today we planted trees. The magazine buyer remembered the girl’s hard work and her caring for her family. So the buyer decided to donate a tree in honor of her and the family. We say “God helps those who help themselves.” Jesus said, “To those who have, more will be given.” Either way, when we act as though we “have” and we act in faith, Someone always notices. Sometimes we see the blessing today… sometimes years down the road.

Friday, April 08, 2005

... Won't Happen Again

Last Monday an eighth-grader gave me a pledge to do things better. He’d flippantly written something offensive, and according to our practice, he was asked to write what the problem was, how it could be avoided next time, and what level of commitment he had to making sure it didn’t happen again.

I accepted his folded piece of paper as he headed to class. In my office I opened the paper and read of his shame at what he’d done. He ended with a single earnest line… and a mistake. Instead of promising that it wouldn’t happen again – as he intended to write – he omitted the “t” and wrote a whole different message.

“I will never happen again.”

I chuckled… then the truth of it hit me. He’s right, he won’t happen again. Neither will I. Neither will any of us. That is why all this effort of educating people is so worthwhile.

No one again will ever bear our unique fingerprint of personality, our approach to life, our spiritual potential. It’s the reason we must value each other… the reason we must practice compassion, the reason we must insist on competence.

Monday, February 07, 2005

More Homework, Please

A man recently called his friend whose third-grade son attends Rogers. When the studious boy answered, the friend made small talk by asking if the boy had been doing a lot of homework. “No,” sighed the third grader, “They’re not preparing us for college.”

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Pile o' Poo!

A pre-schooler is hanging around by herself in front of the school waiting for mom. I hear her say loudly to no one, “Boogaloo, Pile o’ Poo!” Then she skips into the building to find mama.

Her sixth-grade brother is just coming out and I ask if he heard what she said. He hadn’t, so I repeat it, “She said, ‘Boogaloo, Pile o’ Poo!’”

Her brother makes a rather pained look and replies, “She’s trying to say, ‘Parlez vous.’”

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Not at Home

A happy mom passes me in the hall as she is leaving the dining commons. She has her children in school after years of home-schooling.

“Being here for lunch is a good thing,” she tells me. “First, the teachers need my help at lunch time, but even more,” she continues, apparently thinking of the many spills and piles of crumbs, “it just convinces me that I did the right thing putting my kids in school. It is better to have them here… on your floor, and not mine.”

Friday, November 12, 2004

To Tell the Truth

Our weekly assembly of cross-age student groups spawns some interesting stories. When playing “To Tell the Truth”, the students standing in front were secretly given a strange-but-true event from the life of a classmate. Each student was to say, “My name is [their own name], and once I [whatever story was being guessed about.]” Then the audience was to ask questions of each child in front to see if they could tell which child the story was really about.

As one group stood in front, the lined-up students began to say, “My name is… and once I…” The Leader for that Family Group noticed that one second-grade boy was looking uncomfortable. As it came closer for him to talk, tears began to slide down his face.

The leader knelt by his side to coach him. She asked, “What’s wrong?”

“I forgot,” he said.

“Forgot what?” she asked, thinking the story had been too complex.

“My name!” he quavered.


In another round, a crafty student tried to get around one of the rules designed to let all students play. He asked, “At the time this happened, were you a boy or a girl?”

You Smell Like a Hotel Room

After every Family Group activity, the Chieftains discuss on how it went. They identify what worked, what didn’t, and whether the activity should be used again, or if it should be changed.

At the beginning of one debriefing, an eighth-grade girl said, “Mr. Weller, one of my youngest members said I smelled like a hotel room!”

I’ve never heard that before, so I asked, “Well, was that a good thing, or a bad thing?”

The girl thought for a moment and said, “Probably a good thing, because she said, ‘You smell pretty… like a hotel room’.”

Friday, September 24, 2004

Heavenly Music

One of the things we enjoy in our new school is space. The entire school can finally assemble together all at once in our own building. We do so every Friday morning.

Today, at the close of Family Groups, I walked back to the office and was met by one of the regular mom volunteers. She and other moms had been listening to the students’ songs of worship as they wafted down the long hall into the lobby.

The mom says, “It was so beautiful… we were nearly in tears.”

I was too. God has blessed us with a school that finally fits our mission.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Is It Contagious?

A first-grade boy bites a sixth-graders finger. It breaks the skin. The older boy is okay with that; I'm not.

I tell the younger boy, “There are two reasons we don’t do that. One, people just don’t go around biting people. Two, your mouth is a germy place. You can cause bad infections.” Then thinking about universal precautions, I add, “If you had HIV, you could give it to your friend.”

The firstgrader's brows knit together for a moment in thought, then he offers helpfully, “Well, I do have dust allergies.”

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Turning Point

This morning we’ve had a grand excursion. All 310 students and teachers and staff walked to the new school several blocks away from our current site. We knelt on the dusty, mid-construction, concrete floors of our classrooms, music rooms, gym, and offices. There on the floor, each individual wrote their favorite Bible verse.

In a few weeks, these precious promises of strength and protection will be covered with carpet and tile and wood. But we will know what’s there, invisible yet present.

Next week we will dip our hands in paint and leave our indelible prints on the walls of the old school. There is a sadness and a joy in leaving one home for another.

[For the “new school” story in pictures, click on the link to “Our New School”. All blogs below this occurred in the old building. All blogs above are set in the new school.]

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Good Advice

A fifth- and sixth-grade class created bookmarks to send to El Salvador. They were to draw a picture, quote a Bible text or put on some kind of saying. One child did all three.

There was the picture: a monkey.
There was the saying: “Don’t monkey around.”
There was the Bible passage: the seventh commandment!

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Morning Question

Every morning I give announcements over the PA. Each day I ask a question students can answer for “Rogers Dollars.” As I visit a first- and second-grade classroom, a boy suggests a morning announcements question to ask.

With a big smile he enthusiastically says, “Ask them ‘How many teeth are in a dog’s mouth?’”

It’s not unusual for students to suggest questions knowing they’ll be able to answer them and earn easy money. I’m glad this boy knows about dogs, so I ask, “How many teeth are in a dog’s mouth?”

He grins expectantly and says, “I haven’t got a clue!”

Friday, April 30, 2004

What's Missing?

As the day started I was running full-tilt. I’d gotten up early and had already worked several hours before school began. As I hurried out to greet students, I failed to turn on the hallway music. While greeting kids in the hall, I realized that there was a strange quiet in the halls.

The next student to greet me was a second-grade boy. I said, “Hey there, Sonny, what’s missing this morning?”

He shot back, “My tooth! I lost it last night at 9:48 p.m.!”

Thursday, April 29, 2004

New Light on the Revolution

Today, a fourth-grader responded to a test question which asked why the Revolutionary War broke out.

His answer: “The colonists were using tea for gunpowder.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

That Other Education

A room mother reports that a second-grade boy confided in her that he knew the worst word in the world! “Oh Honey, I’m sorry to hear that,” she says, “What is it?”

He leaned close, cupped his hands around her ear and whispered, “S-X-E!”

“I told him that sex is a wonderful thing,” she says.

Now I bet he’s really confused.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Coming to School

Our new kindergartner is upset. He’s just starting school and was hoping to be a first-grader. After testing, his mom and I agree that kindergarten will be a better start. He is devastated and refuses to meet his teacher.

“My friends will all laugh at me,” he wails.

“Do they go to this school?” I ask.

“No, but they’ll find out,” he says miserably.

“What grade are they in?”

“Pre-school!” he pouts.

I assure him that school can be fun. He doesn’t have a choice on what grade he’ll be in, but he can choose whether he’ll be happy or grumpy. “School’s a lot more fun when you’re happy,” I assure him. He looks doubtful.

Wednesday is a snow closure, so Thursday is his first day in school. Friday morning with a slack face and sad eyes, he approaches me, “I didn’t have fun yesterday…”

I’m hurting for the little guy and quickly fish around in my brain for some sensitive, yet encouraging thing to say when he finishes up with “… I had a BLAST!”

Friday, November 14, 2003

Burdens and Blossoms

A third-grade girl is happy to be with her friends at Rogers. Happy, and blessed. She was taken from her mother by the State last year. She is sponsored by her kind-of-grandparents who are both are retired and living on a very limited income. "Grandpa" has serious health problems.

Her sponsors have so many burdens, that it seems impossible for them to sponsor her. Yet, month by month they manage to scrape up the means to do it. They feel compelled to. And undisturbed, planted in good soil, this little girl blossoms.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Growing Girls

I drop by a third- and fourth-grade room to see how two lively girls are doing. The teacher says that the first girl is very observant, ready to offer a pen when she sees the teacher needs one. In fact, the girl tries to direct everything, and the teacher has encouraged her to let other people lead.

I say that’s another advantage of our Family Group program. Yes, we often think of younger ones growing into leadership roles as they mature. But in this case we can ask her to learn to follow since she’ll want that from her Family Group members when she becomes a leader.

“What about the second girl?” I ask, knowing that she has a serious problem staying on task.

The teacher tells me that one day she assigned a project for the class and the students asked if they could sit together. She responded with, “You can sit any place that will help you focus and be successful.”

The students were getting settled and the teacher had begun her own work when the second girl plunked down right next to her.

Surprised, the teacher asked the girl, “Is this a place where you can focus and be successful?”

With a weary sigh, the girl replied, “I hope so.”

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Foresight and Foundations

Tom describes himself as a “low-life foreman” on the foundation work at the new school site. Tanned, lanky, and leather-skinned he told me we were really lucky that we had chosen to go ahead on “shelling in” the cafeteria. In moving ahead with it, they had discovered that the load of the additional roofing was greater than one of the planned footings in the commons would have been able to support. The change in design has been made and it is all okay now, but wouldn’t have been if we had decided to add the kitchen later.

Tom also told me that there was a lot of “overkill” on this project. I asked him why all the forms were being built under the shower rooms. He grinned and said, “See, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. Normally, you’d just pour thicker slab under each stall, but your architect is putting in a footing and foundation under every single stall. I’m not saying that’s bad: ‘When in doubt, build it stout. Don’t cheapen it out.’”

Tom thinks our design shows the cautious planning of a woman. He's wrong, but I'm glad he noticed the care in our plan. (PS, if you want to see photos of the building project, click the link in the sidebar.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Pills For Your Paynes

Today, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Mrs. Payne reports that at recess, a second-grader ran up to her on the playground and said, “I’m a pill! You’re a Payne. Pills get rid of pains!” Hmm... was he being a pill or a pain?

Thursday, September 13, 2001

Ethan and the Scary Railing

Ethan loves movement. He's in first grade and can hardly sit still. After school he used to slide down a railing on the school's front steps. For safety reasons I've asked him many times not to. Now he's taken to looking wistfully at the railing as children stream by headed for their rides.

Ethan's a good guard. If another child dares to slide down the railing, Ethan makes sure I hear about it. I restore justice and Ethan is glumly content.

Two days ago, terrorists flew jets into the World Trade Center. Now the school sports yellow ribbons tied on everything: bushes, door handles, backpacks... even Ethan's railing has several.
Ethan notices them for the first time and asks, "Why are there yellow ribbons on the railing?"

"Well, Ethan, the ribbons are for those people who died last Tuesday," I answer.

Ethan’s eyes grow wide and a wrinkle creases his brow. "They died sliding down the railing?!"

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

What's With These Kids?

It’s my third day as principal at Rogers. I am amazed by the courtesy the students show in the hallways and at doorways. I'm used to urban kids. I’m also surprised at the size of many students’ vocabularies.

I play music in the halls as students enter the school each morning. Today I’m playing some peppy music and I stop a third grader to ask, “What does this music make you think of?”

She thinks briefly and offers, “Gershwin?”

Later in the day, I drop in on our librarian’s first meeting with one of the first-and second-grade classrooms. They’re all huddled around Mrs. Bailey who sits in a rocking chair showing them an atlas.

“Then I traveled over here to Colorado,” she says tracing the route on the atlas. Just weeks ago, Mrs. Bailey and I and all the other teachers attended a huge teachers convention in Dallas. Being new at the school, I’m still newsworthy, so she continues, “Then I traveled all the way down to Texas, and who do you think I saw?” She glances up and smiles at me over the sea of raised hands.

She calls on a second-grade boy who blurts out, “An illustrator?”

Monday, August 28, 2000

The Very First Day

Kids are great. Little kids on their first day of school can be hilarious!

I’m listening to the happy hubbub of incoming parents and out-flowing kids as they mingle after the very first day of the brand new school year. This is also my very first day as principal at Clara E. Rogers Elementary School.

One mom asks, “Did you like kindergarten today?”

“Oh yes! Can we come back here sometime?”

“Honey, you’re in school now. You’ll be coming here everyday.”

“NO WAY!!” he happily screams.

Another mom sees a friend's child leaving the school. She can’t believe he is now old enough to be a school kid. “Hey!” she exclaims, “You’re going to school now?!”

“Nope,” he responds matter-of-factly, “Been there. Going home now.”