Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home Visits

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The afternoon sun blistered down from a nearly cloud-barren sky as I drove the neighborhoods around my school. Upon reaching the first designated address, I stepped from my weakly air-conditioned vehicle into the sweltering summer heat.

It was time for home visits.

Now, undoubtedly some of you are wondering just what home visits are…well, to put it simply: they are visits to someone’s home.

Yeah, pretty self-explanatory.

I decided to start doing home visits a few years ago when I transferred to a new school. My incoming students (as well as their parents) had absolutely no idea of who I was, and I could think of no better way to introduce myself than to personally swing by. This way I could let the kids know just who I was, tell them how excited I was to have them in my class, and drop off their first two homework assignments of the school year—due the first day.

I already can tell what you’re probably thinking. Teachinfourth, you really give homework during the summer? Before the year even begins? The answer I give to that question is a hearty, “You betcha.”

As I see it, being required to do homework before school starts sets the standard for the rest of the year, and gives the students a basic idea of what to expect in the days ahead. No only that, many of the students are bored after three or four weeks of vacation, so homework is a way of fixing this little predicament.

Okay, the assignments are fun, too. After all, I don’t have a heart completely made of ice.

Home visits can be—like I said earlier—a lot of fun; however, you never can be too sure just what it is you’re going to get in regard to parents (most of whom I’ve never met) or students who are—more often than not—surprised to see you at their house…after all, teachers belong at the school, seeing them someplace else is usually cause for something like a brain aneurysm.

I approached the door of my student’s home and knocked soundly. A moment later, the door cracked open and I immediately recognized ‘Joey,’ one of the boys who’d be in my class this year. He looked sheepishly through the crack in the door, and upon seeing me, a look of recognition flashed across his face, followed by a glaze of excitement.

I let him know that I was coming around for a short visit to meet with he and his parents, and to drop off his first homework assignments. I asked if they had a few minutes of time.

Joey’s eyes widened a little, and he stammered for a second before admitting, “I’m not wearing any clothes right now, Mr. Z.”

How does one respond to something like this? After all, I know that when somebody comes by my house and I’m not dressed, I usually put something on before answering the door—or I don’t answer the door at all. Of course, maybe he wasn’t ready for the day because it was simply too early—one o’clock in the afternoon can be such an early hour for some people, or perhaps it was just too hot to get dressed.

From the interior of the house Joey’s father told him to go and put something on. The boy turned and walked down the hall, inadvertently causing the door to swing inward, revealing him walking down the hall wearing nothing more than a pair of Fruit of the Loom.

And this, my friends, was just the beginning.

It was nearly 4 hours later that I finally completed my last call, and slumped down in my car with a migraine beginning to pulse in my skull. The visits were fun, the day was long, and I had met with 20 of 26 students and/or their parents. My mind careened through the varied reactions I’d received on doorsteps including everything from bewilderment, awe, and pure unadulterated excitement as groups of students and their friends shrieked like they were attendees at a Justin Bieber concert.

Home visits, just like those Christmas presents from your eccentric Aunt Rhonda, make you realize that you just never know quite what you’re going to get.

P.S. If you’d like to do one of the class’ assignments, you can view that here.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Media of the Week - Batman Vanishing

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Image from:

I really wanted to share this, but unfortunately, embedding was disabled. It's most definitely worth a look. It'll make you laugh - I promise.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Indecision and Essentials

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I went out to purchase school supplies today.

I meandered through the shelves at the local retailer—those burgeoning with the items that seemed to spell August; additionally, they served as a bittersweet reminder that vacation was nearing a close, and home visits would soon be in order—perhaps tomorrow.

Why is it that I seem to get so excited when shopping for school supplies?

I thought about buying a lunchbox today. Really. I was reading another blog early out, and what the author said reminded me of a lunchbox I had when I was a kid…I hadn’t thought about that thing in a score of years. I found myself feeling somewhat sentimental, but passed by the Eclipse, Transformer, and High School Musical lunchboxes without so much as a second glance.

I would not be tempted today. I’d just buy the essentials for school, and then bug out. No sense in making irrational purchases, after all.

I began to dig through spiral-bound notebooks, packages of Crayola markers, and multicolored pencil sharpeners. These were all unceremoniously dumped to the cart as I passed down yet another aisle.

Vividly bright three-ring binders seemed to gently whisper my name as I walked between the towering shelves. Packages of purplish glue sticks beckoned to me—hoping that I would add them to my cart. New scissors and hole punchers glistened from behind their shiny plastic—tantalizing me with their sheen.

I quickened my pace and shut my ears to the call of these items. I reset my resolution button, and passed by these items with an upturned nose. There would be no impulse purchases for me today, thank-you-very-much—only school supplies that were essential.

I moved over to another aisle and noticed the small Mead spiral notebook, the type that can be easily carried in a large pocket, or simply in one’s hand. I glanced at the one I carry with me wherever I go. Its pages were chalk full of blogging ideas, reflections and ruminations of life, and important information I didn’t want to forget.

I’ve already filled three of these things to breaking point, and I began to think about how I was already well on my way to filling up the fourth one. I looked at the shiny, obsidian cover. I took it from the shelf and flipped through the blank pages; a proverbial trove of possibility slid through my questing fingers, just waiting for me to fill it.

I set the notebook down and began to walk away. Before I reached the end of the aisle I stopped. I turned. I picked the notebook back up and looked at it again.

No, I told myself. No purchases of things I didn’t need; just school supplies.
I stood there, my resolve weakening by the moment as I held that little spiral in my hands.

That’s when I thought about Joey. Didn’t I need a place to continue writing his antics and exploits? Didn’t I need a place to write the important events going on at school? Why, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity to get a backup notebook in the event that something happens to the one I have now?

After another second or two of indecision, the scale was tipped and I dropped it into my cart; after all, the notebook was an essential.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


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I probably should have mentioned that I posted over at Four Perspectives today.

No hints. No explanations. Just short and sweet…

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Moments with Joey – Entertainment Starved

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. The teacher is out on recess duty. He is walking around the playground when one of his students comes running up. The boy falls in step with the teacher and is silent for several moments. The boy stares at the teacher’s forearm which is showing from underneath his rolled up sleeves. The boy looks down at his own arm, and then back at the teacher’s. After a minute, the boy holds his own arm up.

JOEY: Mr. Z, did you know that I have almost as much arm hair as you do?

TEACHER: Not quite, Joey. I’m afraid you’re going to have to wait until you go through puberty.

JOEY: [Confused]. Puberty?

TEACHER: Yeah, you know…when you start to get hair under your arms.

[The boy's face breaks into an excited grin as he points to both his left and right armpits].

JOEY: I’ve already got eight of them! I’ve got five under this arm and three under this one! [Pause]. I haven’t named them yet…

TEACHER: Wow, I’ll bet your parents are proud of you.

JOEY: [Brightly] They are. It was kind of a big deal at my house, you know.

TEACHER: [Surprised]. Oh, because it sounds more like you’re kind of starved for entertainment.

[The boy nods and a solemn look flashes across his face].

JOEY: Yeah, tell me about it.

Fade to black.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Media of the Week - Get Back Up

Pin It There are songs which get caught in your head; those that are not only catchy, but carry a positive message as well. I love these songs...these that cause you to belt out the lyrics (the parts that you know) at the top of your lungs, and take a painful stab at the rest. These are the type of songs that when they end, you skip back to the beginning to sing them all over again.

Yeah, you know the songs I'm talkin' about...

This afternoon I drove along the mountain valleys as the golden California sun dipped away beyond the horizon. The crystaline river next to the road flowed over fall and cataract and the fresh, piney air blew all about me from open windows.

I listened to this song…

More than once.

And by the way, this song is for you. Yeah, YOU know who you are...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Featured Elsewhere

Pin It I forgot that I was to be featured today over at Laughing Out Loud. Of course, it's a post I wrote a while back for Four Perspectives. Nonetheless, I thought it was good enough to write. Hopefully, you'll think it was good enough to click over to and give it one more chance.

If not, I'm totally not offended…just blogvyous.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You're An Ocean...

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There's just something about the ocean…if you feel so inclined, why don't you float on over to Four Perspectives, after all, it's my day to post.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yo, Yo, Yo…Gurt

Pin It Most people seem to love frozen yogurt—in fact, I’ve been with people who get a bit crazy when presented with the idea of going to get this frozen delight (in the case of some girls, this consists of hand flapping, a general air of excitement akin to Christmas morning, and shrieks which reach a level which can only be heard by cats and dogs. I myself am not grouped into this category of thrillation, but I do dabble in the yogurt arena from time to time—usually when there’s no other option left.

Perhaps this aversion was the result of being placated with frozen yogurt as a child when my parents would drive to Spokane with my siblings and I. I guess they figured that frozen yogurt was a ‘healthy alternative’ to ice cream. Unfortunately, this old school yogurt more often than not tasted like frozen, shredded cardboard—especially when the toppings they offered consisted of items such as diced coconut and walnuts.

Fast-forward to the here and now.

My friends and I are currently in California; one of the girls brought up the idea of running out for a frozen yogurt (see above reaction). As we drove the sweltering distance across town, I found myself becoming more and more disappointed. This feeling dropped to an all time low as we pulled outside an establishment named, “Yogurtland.”

Yogurt? I’d rather eat spoonfuls of lard. Generally speaking, it would have about the same consistency, and would most likely have had a much better flavor. As we walked through the double doors I braced myself and brought to mind the lowest of expectations—still fully expecting to still find myself grossly disappointed.

I was a bit surprised as I saw an entire bank of yogurt dispensers with flavors like Cookies and Crème, praline, and New York cheesecake. Basically ranging from mouth-watering to pure awesomeness.

This was clearly not my mother’s yogurt.

I was a bit overwhelmed as we moved to the rear of the building and grabbed the self-serve cups furnished in two convenient sizes: large and larger. I tried a dozen different flavors and ended up with three or four different kinds in my container. As I moved to the toppings, I gasped. Reese’s, Kit Kat, cookie dough, brownie, a plethora of cereals and fruit toppings—a veritable smorgasbord of garnishing goodness and a celebration of diversity. Several times I found myself pushing down the yogurt to allow for another scoop of peanut butter cup or fresh strawberries and caramel sauce to sift down through all the cracks, cementing it into a cylinderish brick of pure unadulterated awesome.

We paid for our desert—a deal at $ .30 per ounce and moved to one of the tables to enjoy.

Halfway through this blissful experience, I felt nauseous and my overpowered taste buds were screaming for me to surrender. Naturally, I didn’t—it was simply all so delicious that I couldn’t help but eat the whole thing. Spoonful after spoonful were consumed and brought me further and further toward the edge of diminishing return.

Frozen yogurt? At a Disney-esque playground for your mouth? I find myself giving a voluntary interior shriek and a proverbial flapping of the hands. Yogurt, my friends, is the bomb.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Problem with New Blogs: Finding the Best of the Best

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It always seems to happen to me. I find a new blog. I’m excited. Then I see that they have somewhere in the vicinity of a thousand posts. I read five or six of them going back. I feel overwhelmed. I give up on the archives and start to read from this point forward with the new posts and will maybe go back and read the archives when I have time. Yeah, like never…

Sound familiar?

In thinking about this dilemma I always seem to encounter, I wonder if others feel this same thing.

Of course you do…

As a remedy, today I read through my previous 722 posts and picked out what I felt was the best of what I’ve written over the past three years. Then, I created a link below the topbar photo which provides additional links narrowed into categories. The link is titled, ‘The Best of Archive.’

In reality, this is just like a Greatest Hits CD, but without the music.

I present to you the following categories:

Humor – Stuff that I thought was funny (or made me smile) when it happened.

Thoughtful – Things that made me think. Deeper stuff.

Favorites – A collection of those posts I just really enjoy.

Moments with Joey – A link to the boy who makes us all smile.

Summit Valley Memoirs - Stories of growing up in the Pacific Northwest.

Taking Better Photos – A link to all of the lessons in one easy click.

You’re welcome.

And since I posted this new page with all of the links, I’ve decided that I will be taking a week off from the blogging scene. This’ll give you a chance to catch up.

So, until a week or so, happy reading. But don’t feel obligated to do so. After all, why read over the best stuff you’ve already missed out on at least once?

Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Media of the Week - Oh Africa

Pin It Like a fireworks display for the eyes and ears…

This commercial was originally created by Pepsi for their new campaign, Refresh Your World. Their main purpose was to help enable youth to make a positive change in the world. It not only has 16 global artists and 6 soccer superstars, but also Akon and Keri Hilson.

This, my friends, is art.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's Been a Year

Pin It When I awoke this morning, I laid in bed for a while. Today was important - for some reason or other. Only I couldn’t recall what it was. I lay there; consulting with and rejecting varied ideas in my head as I drew up blank after blank.

It wasn’t until I saw the balloons that I remembered.

I wondered just how I could have forgotten.

- comments off -

Moments with Joey – Genes and Brains

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SCENE 1, INTERIOR. AFTERNOON, CLASSROOM. The class has just completed a lesson on heredity. They’ve put away their Science notebooks and are heading out to recess. One boy lingers behind the others. When the room clears, he approaches his teacher.

JOEY: Mr. Z, is it really true?

TEACHER: Is what really true?

JOEY: That our genes really decide who we are? You know, our hair color, how tall we are, and all that stuff?

TEACHER: Yep. There were about 70 trillion different ways you could have turned out.


JOEY: I think I got ripped off…

[The teacher stares at the boy for a second].

TEACHER: Ripped off? Now why on earth would you say that?

JOEY: [Whispered]. I don’t think I got a brain.

[The teacher grins].

TEACHER: Well, you know what? I hear that brains are overrated anyhow; you probably don’t really even need one.


JOEY: Well, I still think I got ripped off. [Pause]. Hey, there’s always brain transplants, right? Maybe I could get yours!

TEACHER: And take the risk of you learning all my teacher secrets? I don’t think so.

JOEY: Now THAT would be awesome.

TEACHER: Get used to rip-offs...

Fade to black.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Voyage Home - Part 4

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Today is my day to write over at Four Perspectives. Sorry that I wasn't a bit more snappy in letting you know as I posted it earlier this morning.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Voyage Home - Part 3

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy TeachinFOURTH of July

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