Hoo, Hoo, Hoo Hoo Hoo…….

Hoo, Hoo, Hoo Hoo Hoo…….

This morning, I woke to this sound coming faintly from outside our bedroom window at 4 a.m.  It made me smile. Our resident Great Horned Owl was back in the coulee, probably looking for a meal. The wide, dry creek bed adjacent to our property was occupied by grazing cows up until this time last year. There are a few downed trees, as well as two, less than healthy looking, oaks still standing.  I am assuming any of the tree branches, now loosing their leaves, would make excellent perches for the owl.

Over the years, after moving to the midwest, I have been able to listen to different sounds in the early morning. First, I listened to a train whistle, far off in the distance, being blown as the engine and cars approach one of the many small towns next to the Mississippi. It was always a comforting sound.  Then, the first shots of duck hunting season, being heard from the marshes and fields, before those were replaced by houses, and the people within.  The gun shots were not welcome sounds, as we do not have hunters in our family. Still, they marked the time of year, for many years to come.

We have lived in a house now for ten years that backs up to a valley and a dried up creek bed. The owl’s sounds, once he returns, are always welcome by me. It tells me that there is still nature outside my window. The cycle of life, continuing for bird and prey, the hunter on his perch, looking for a meal.  Nothing is as natural as that. So, when I hear the Hoo-hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo in the early morning before it is light, I smile.  I just wish I could get a glimpse of him someday.  PC: Pixabay, No Attribution Required.

If you would like more information about owls and their sounds, check out these websites:

Cornell – All about Birds.org – Owls

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology – Great Horned Owl

Journey North – Listen to Owls: Audio Clips

This post is part of a community of writer’s encouraged by the TwoWritingTeacher’s  Blog and Slice of Life Tuesdays.


What is Wilderness to You?

What is Wilderness to You?

Recently, I started a new graduate course for my Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. Week one is done. Today, starts week two. There is a paper due each week. The course is Environmental History.

Last week we focused on early America and how wilderness was perceived and used by those already living here –  namely, the Native Americans and the Aztecs – to the preconceived notions held by the Spanish Conquistadors, European immigrants – including the pilgrims and colonists – and later Jesuit missionaries, as well as the Westward expansionists. There’s nothing like grad school to cover several hundred years of history in one short week!

We learned that the American Wilderness was altered by all of these groups, including the natives.  Terms including conquest, conquer, God-given, superiority, and even culture, were sprinkled liberally throughout our assigned readings.  Man alters the wilderness just by being in it.

What I found somewhat alarming is the fact that we are still facing the same problems today that were faced by those that lived hundreds of years before us. The degradation and disappearance of our land – America, The Beautiful. The same mistakes of monoculture, rapid development, greed, and misuse are all still occurring, not just in America, but globally. The problem, it seems, has been exponentially compounded.

The European settlers came with a need to conquer the wilderness and felt that they had been bequeathed the right to own and consume it from their Christian God. They used the bible as a directive that nature was there to serve the needs of mankind – that it had been put there for man to use. They consumed, destroyed, ravaged, and raped the wildness of it bounty, all the while holding on to the belief that the land would replenish itself.

Several hundred years later, we have not come much further. Still, we overdevelop. Still, we build for the sake of greed, expansion, and right of ownership. The beloved places, distant from our homes, the places we want to remain pristine and love to visit, such as the Hawaiian islands or Alaska, are no longer pristine.  There is a faint smell of sewage on Maui now. And visitors to Haleakala Volcano trample the protected Silversword plant in order to gawk at the sun rising above the clouds at 10,000 feet.  And on the North American continent, a beloved iconic butterfly is in danger of extinction because of a need (partially) to rid the monoculturally planted corn and soybean fields of the noxious milkweed plant. A plant that is on this earth to sustain the entire life cycle of that one species – the Monarch.

Wilderness, although proclaimed to be loved by Americans, showed through their collective quests to camp, hunt, snorkel, hike, and climb, as well as their art such as Ansel Adams and other photographers, painters, novelists, and poets, have altered the wilderness to the point where there is not much left.

So, today, I ask you to think (and share, if you could) what wilderness means to you. Is it important that we have it? Why? If so, how can we make sure it still exists in the future? How can we better learn what the early Americans did not?

Still Broken: Talented & Gifted Education

Still Broken: Talented & Gifted Education

A number of recent things have got me thinking about Talented and Gifted (TAG) Education services in our school district again.

These thoughts started when we learned at the recent senior meeting that one of the high school counselors was now being called a career counselor and would be the contact person for TAG students, Advanced Placement (AP) classes, Acceleration, Youth Options, and Course Options. Students can visit him to get help with registration for the above opportunities. It sounds like he is popular since his other counseling responsibilities were alleviated by the hiring of an additional student services school counselor. I came home excited for our talented and gifted student population, taking this as a “win” for the students a group of us had advocated for some years ago.

But, my excitement did not last too long, perhaps a few days to a week.  Within a very brief time, I found myself instead thinking about who was being serviced by this counselor and exactly what services were being offered.

A number of years ago, our high school (HS) went to a self-selection process for AP classes, instead of referral or need for registration approval by an assigned faculty member.  Our family found this former system faulty,  and within the leadership of the TAG Parent Group, a group I co-founded with other parents, we pushed for self-selection and deleting the need for the so-called “approval”.  This action was far removed from helping my oldest son, who ended up leaving our resident district shortly after being denied the ability to take three AP classes as a junior (he had taken AP Calculus as a freshman and AP US History as a sophomore). He was ranked number one at the time with a 4.33 G.P.A..  There was no need to deny him the opportunity of three AP classes except to weld administrative power over our student.  Subsequently, the district lost its claim to our National Merit Scholarship winner, who ended up being valedictorian at his adopted, virtual high school, as well as a Phi Beta Kappa inductee as a sophomore at his University, and a national Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention winner for student research who has already presented at an international level science conference and published a paper.  They were short-sighted, then. And, I am afraid that their sight has not improved.

I have had two more students qualify for TAG services at both the elementary and middle school levels as they progressed in school. Yet, neither have received anything in terms of service from our HS.  My second oldest son, now a senior, received a letter as a sophomore from the counselor at the HS who was going to service TAG students as part of a newly expanded position, two years ago.  This is the same counselor who was now  servicing only TAG students and enrichment opportunities. Unfortunately, it then happened that our student went on to have some difficulties caused in part by an overloaded schedule (which, admittedly, we allowed) and more so, because of insensitive teaching practices such as being called stupid in front of his peers.  Unfortunately, the TAG counselor did nothing to help rectify the insensitive and unhelpful instructional situation our son found himself in.  We learned, through self-examination and reflection, but with no help from the school’s administration or guidance office,  that our senior learns “differently” than most.  That, and only that, is what he is guilty of.  Stupidity does not come into play.  At all.

And then, there is my youngest boy, who is a sophomore at the HS this year.  He has consistently tested in the 97-99th percentile in mathematics on standardized tests since being a young elementary student. He accelerated in math to the extent that he is now taking AP Calculus as a sophomore. He used to be a gifted writer, having published several times, and in at least one adjudicated compilation.  In addition, his artful origami creations, a former passion, were included in a national travelling library exhibit several years ago through Origami USA.  Yet, he has never heard from the so-called TAG counselor at the HS.  He did not even get the “letter” than my second son received.  It makes me wonder if he was even referred by the middle school personell for continued TAG service – something he had benefited from since second grade, which in, and of itself, is another story. My experience has shown me that gifted education is embroiled in the politics of education, with support of the these students and their needs being highly questioned by many – but, sadly, mostly by educators, themselves.

In the spring of his eighth grade year, my current sophomore student was provided an opportunity to “double up on English” credits during ninth grade which was mis-labeled and mis-billed as acceleration but was not.  After some consideration, we refused this course of action which really attracted many by casting a wide net, and by reports was not well tolerated by some of the students.  One of the reasons for our refusal was that he was already accelerated in mathematics and was only one of five students who took pre-calculus as a freshman.  Enough was enough. However, it does seem that we should have at least heard from this counselor at some point last year. We did not. It has made me wonder if the refusal of the “accelerated” English took him off the TAG list that was sent to the high school prior to his entering last year.  It would account for the TAG counselor not knowing of him.

Middle school TAG services were not favored by my boys, with one of them even opting out of them during his 8th grade year.  Content did not focus on their high interest areas and both were self-directed enough in their learning to continue to explore new subjects or deepen areas of learning on their own.  We did not make a big deal about it and let them drop the time spent with the TAG teacher.  Unfortunately, she was a friend at the time and this made for an uncomfortable situation.  But, we allowed it.   And, to give some credence to her effort, they were not the most willing students, shunning attempts she made at engaging them in the topics of her choice, like the law and philosophy.  Still, dropping the TAG course content did not change what they are capable of achieving – only, it seems, who might possibly know of their specific, and perhaps, niche capabilities.

So, can you understand my wondering about who is being serviced by the TAG counselor at our HS?  Of course, I could name a few students. I have a long history of advocacy in this area with local students. I have probably helped other students more than my own and that is something I somewhat regret.  Unfortunately, in addition, I do not see much improvement to our system of providing TAG services (beyond self-selection for AP, and other advanced curricular offerings) than we experienced when our oldest son was still a student at our resident district high school – that was seven years ago.  The players have changed but the scenarios have pretty much remained the same.  It is too bad we have not come farther in helping our most academically talented students to succeed. I wonder if they still feel as alone as my oldest son felt at times.  I hope, at least that aspect has improved.

What I have come to realize is that despite whether this counselor knows of my youngest son or not, he will be challenged and he will succeed.  He took an online math class over the summer through a highly regarded national university that specializes in offerings for talented youth.  We registered him for the course and set up his study schedule.  He finished on time and did well.  He is a talented artist.  He took care of setting up his own independent study in art this fall.  I am sure the experience will be enjoyable for both him and his teacher.  We really do not need the TAG counselor.  But, I still wonder …… if my son is not on the counselor’s list – a student who qualifies for service, without a doubt, by many definitions – who is on the list?  Or are they just not reaching out to students at all now?  I am not sure I want to know.  And, if he is not on the list – why not?  It is frustrating to realize that a system I knew was broken seven years ago, remains so.  It is also liberating to realize that I do not have choose to try to fix it again.


Monarch Education

Monarch Education

I spent this morning at a neighboring school district, about twenty minutes away by car.  Sixty first graders, in three separate classes, sat quietly and listened to my presentation on the Monarch Life Cycle, the importance of milkweed, Monarch Migration and the development of the Monarch Highway. With the exception of the information on the Monarch Highway, it is a presentation I have done many, many times before. And, I still love doing it.  It truly is my passion.

It is now, at this time of year, that monarch butterflies migrate. The little details of this migration are lost on many.  What follows is a little bit of what I shared today:

  • Only monarchs born in starting in late August and into the fall migrate South to the Sierra Madre’ Mountains in the central region of Mexico.
  • Monarchs travel several thousand miles to reach the overwintering grounds in Mexico. Actually, from my home in West-Central Wisconsin to the preserve in Mexico is approximately 1, 750 miles. An insect, weighing roughly as much as a paperclip – a mere 1/2 a gram, flies this entire distance on its own power. It is the only butterfly to migrate and can cover the span of three continents, up to 3,000 miles if travelling from Canada.
  • Monarchs also overwinter in Florida and, if west of the Rocky Mountains, on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Monarch butterflies have declined in population by 90-97%  over the last 30 years  depending on the source you rely upon.
  • Monarchs born in the warm months, preceeding early August, only live about a month. It is only the last (fourth/fifth generation – depending on where you live) that migrate. This generation of monarchs lives 8-9 months.
  • The monarchs we see in the upper midwest in the Spring are NOT the same monarchs that we saw in the fall. It is most likely their grandchildren or great-grandchildren.
  • Nature signals when the migration should start in the fall.
  • Monarchs cannot survive our cold winters, so they start leaving when our days shorten and get cooler.  Monarchs cannot fly if it is less than approximately 60 degrees F.
  • Monarchs need habitat. Habitat loss is one of the reasons for the decline in this iconic species. Other reasons include: widespread pesticide use, mono-culture farming practices, and the spread of human development.

Couching this all in terms that first graders can handle takes some practice putting terms into phrases they can understand and making connections to things that most first graders know. We spent most of our time talking about the life cycle stages today, and obviously part of the reason for that is due to the Common Core State Standards being addressed with the content.

However, today, I also talked about tagging monarchs, which is something I have been involved with doing for the last three summers. It is part of Citizen Science. Monarch Watch is an organization that studies monarch butterflies. You can purchase tags in August and attach them to butterflies you raise for release or capture wild just to tag. You report your tag information, release date, and sex of the butterfly, along with the tag number (found on a sticker that goes on the distal cell of the hindwing) to a Monarch Watch data base. When the butterfly is found, the individual can report the information to Monarch Watch and then the recovered tags are reported to the public.

Although being a Citizen Scientist is where I am in my journey in raising monarchs, I realized that the tagging was information that was just not necessary for most of the first graders. There were probably only 1-2 students per class that showed understanding of what the tagging actually meant and was used for by the scientists. However, is that not differentiation? All learners should have something to reach toward and be able to grab on to once they are ready, right?  Would it not be boring to sit there as a first grader and only hear what you already know about monarch life cycles?  I think so. I would rather err on the side of too much detail than not enough. This has always been my approach.

Milkweed was discussed since it is the only plant that the caterpillars eat in stage II of the monarch life cycle. This one plant sustains and entire species of butterfly. So, I asked what could be done about the monarch’s population decline.

And, you know what?!

First graders can actually come up with what needs to be done!

We need to plant milkweed.

Since I was at this school two years ago to discuss the same topic, their supply of milkweed has grown and is plentiful in their school yard garden. With the exception of caterpillars brought in from the students’ homes, I believe they are raising only the wild caught caterpillars for subsequent release.  This is an improvement over ordering caterpillars through the mail, a practice that needs to be strongly discouraged due to the possible spreading of disease.

I mentioned the Monarch Highway at the conclusion of my presentation today.  It is a relatively new phrase coined to designate the I-35 corridor that runs from Minnesota through states further South to Texas and into Mexico.  These states, along with academic institutions and environmental/conservation groups such as Monarch Joint Venture, are leading the way to provide increased habitat and milkweed in the ditches and rights of way along this highway. Attempts at curbing roadside mowing, especially in the fall, is also being promoted. Monarchs need milkweed and hopefully, soon, the Monarch Highway will provide a plethora of this sustaining plant.

As you can see, there is a wealth of information that can be shared and excite children, even the very young, into providing for the well-being of another species. It is one of the things I love about this topic – I can customize my presentation to be appropriate for preschoolers to adults, making the topic awe-inspiring for the young with the miracle of metamorphosis and migration, to a pressing need for adults to be called into action. Butterflies are pollinators and without pollinators, our food supply is greatly diminished, and that fact has great implications for humans.

I left the classrooms today with hope for the future. Thursday, I will return to speak to three more first grades.  After that visit, all 120 students will be armed with milkweed seeds to plant in their home garden beds.  They got it! Monarchs need Milkweed, Monarchs go through Metamorphosis, and in the late summer Monarchs Migrate to Mexico! The monarchs might need a miracle now to keep their population from dwindling further. But, on days like today, I think it is entirely possible!

Thanks, West Salem Elementary First Graders!

Tending My Own Garden

Tending My Own Garden

By 6:50 a.m. this morning, they were gone. My two students were off to the high school for another year. One was excited, and one was reluctant but glad it was the beginning of the end of high school for him.  He is ready for something more.

On the first of this month, I wrote about my wishes for this school year.  The post is filled with reflections, observations, hopes, and desires for the year that starts today.  The first week of September is always jam-packed for my family. Not only is school always scheduled to begin, we also have two birthdays to celebrate, back to back. One today and one tomorrow.  Luckily, we were able to do some celebrating over the weekend, so I feel good about taking care of that.

Now, it is my turn. I need to tend my own garden. I mean this metaphorically as well as literally. Over the last few weeks, I realized that I did not have to run over to school to weed the butterfly garden in an attempt to have it presentable for our students and their families on the first day of school.  I have not missed going, however much I will miss the students. It was a task that always made me resentful, for many reasons. This summer I relieved myself of this self-imposed duty for the first time in 13 years. It actually feels good!

Today, I can tend my own flower garden, not because I have to, but because I want to. Over the weekend I planted mums. Today, I will weed the front perennial bed. Later this week, I will have monarchs to release. And soon, there will be milkweed pods to collect.

Today, I will tend my mental garden. A new round of graduate classes start for me, one of which includes a research study which I am designing and need to prepare to implement by the holidays.  My time is freed up to attend to my own needs as a student, life-long learner, and community educator.

Today, there is much to be done. I have given myself time to do it. Today, while the house is quiet and my students are starting their own year, full of new classes, friends, and activities, I have time to tend my own garden. I am grateful for that.

Via TwoWritingTeachers Blog and Slice of Life Tuesdays

Back To School: Is PTO For You?

Back To School: Is PTO For You?

Six months ago, when I started blogging, I started a list of potential topics on which to write.  This list is kept right on my WordPress account as drafts. Some potential posts, such as this one, have just a title, some are blog posts that I started but have yet to complete, and some were completed meanderings but not removed from the draft column because I started the post anew.  They are there to help me with finding a topic if I have a day when I do not know what to write about.  One of the very first on the list six months ago, was “Is PTO for you?” I have many things I want to write about but today, the topic of PTO is something I have to write about. This is because today, is your day.

I am a seasoned parent, meaning I have had children in our public school district for the last eighteen years! Wowza! That is a long time. During that time, I have held numerous “official” volunteer roles, and many (probably, more important) positions like classroom helper, or buyer of the playground chalk and sleds, that were still volunteer roles but more behind the scenes, taking place in a closed classroom, through the office staff, or just by writing a check.

Being a member or officer of any Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is something you will have to consider if you have a child in school. I will not go into the difference between PTO and PTA, as that is up to your district to decide and define. However, having been a former PTO officer when I first started volunteering, and then functioning as a school volunteer in numerous roles outside a PTO role, I thought I would shed some light on this subject for those of you who need to consider the option of being involved in your school’s PTO. I will try to be unbiased, but very well expect not to be successful. Having spent three years on our PTO board and 15 years not involved in PTO, you can tell where my bias might be positioned.

What do PTO’s do?  

It depends. Parent Teacher Organizations meet to find and fulfill needs at a particular school, aid communication, and support the students, as well as the staff.  Teacher Wish Lists are compiled and fulfilled, fundraisers are decided upon and organized, and sometimes, concerns are brought forth. Although not all will admit it, there are politics involved in these associations and/or organizations.  I am not talking red/blue, Republican/Democrat, type politics, but politics all-the-same.  Attend a few meetings and you will see what I mean. There are those who are in charge, those who want to be in charge, and those who do not want to be in charge.  It seems that one person’s idea is always better than another’s. If you are lucky, a consensus will be taken and democracy will be upheld.  As the saying goes, it takes all kinds.  Basically, PTO is a big colander that functions to sift out volunteers for many of the activities and larger supplies that schools depend upon  – like fundraisers and playgrounds.  Parent Teach Organizations meet, discuss, deliberate, delegate, and define what will be done to help the school, staff, and student body.  Either you will agree with their agenda or you will not.  Fortunately, there is usually a lot going on at any one particular time in a school building, so you have a good chance of agreeing with some of what the agenda holds, even if you do not agree with the whole scheme.

How do they do it?

As a good friend recently found out, goals are not always outlined by a democratic vote. Again, it depends. When I served on PTO, it was a long time ago. However, there were definitely leaders and followers. Although I served two years as secretary (this might come as a shock to the newer/younger teachers), I was definitely a follower.  My ideas were never heard, mostly because I was too introverted at the time to speak out. Over the years, that changed for me. Still, the sometimes, “self-appointed” leaders, want their agenda and ideas pushed forward, and they definitely want the credit (especially, if it turns out well).   The leaders tell the followers what to do, whether it is under a guise of democratic process or not.  How your school’s PTO/PTA functions depends to a very large extent who it attending the meetings, and who is in charge of those meetings. The only way to tell will be to attend some of the meetings to get a feel of who is there, what the leadership is like, and whether or not you can live with the politics.

Who is on PTO?

You will find, as I did, that over the years the same parents attend the same school functions. PTO is no different. These groups definitely draw on those parents who want be involved, want to make a difference, and sometimes, unfortunately, want drama and/or credit.  It really all depends on who is at your school and who is attracted to membership in a group like PTO. When I served, I was new to our district. So new, that I was trying to get to know people, families, and find where I fit. While this worked to get me involved, it also associated me with a group of people I ended up not wanting to be associated with.  I remember our neighbor commenting to my husband when she found out I was going to serve as secretary for PTO. She bluntly stated, “Why would Carol want to be associated with those women?”  There were definitely some very strong personalities, and at the time, I was, as were my opinions, pretty easily manipulated.  It only took me a few years to realize that I truly did not belong to this group and made moves to break away.

What gets accomplished?

I am not saying that PTO does not accomplish positive things for the school it represents. It can and it does. We accomplished a lot. We started a basket raffle back in 2002 or 2003, that is still a major fundraiser today. We researched and ordered new playground equipment. Those are two things that the current PTO membership does not even know or remember, but are continuing or working on again.  I have been around long enough to know. It took hard work! I recognize their hard work. Teacher wish lists are fulfilled on a regular basis. Garden club was even a recipient of a small request for funds this year. PTOs do good work, the majority of the time. But, the answer is still …… it depends. What gets accomplished depends on the group, the members, the leadership, and the followers. Do you fit one of those roles?

All of the above need consideration. I currently know several moms who elect not to be involved in their schools’ parent teacher organizations.  I know they contribute in other ways. Contributing in other ways was the right fit for me.

Actually, one of the other issues you need to consider is your ability to provide gratitude and your ability to function without it.  When I was part of PTO, not a lot of “thank yous” were spread around. The president and a few other select parents took the glory. The rest of us were un-thanked donkeys, doing the work but never held up for all to see. Can you deal with that? I thought I could, and I did deal with it for a while. But, when you give, and give, and give, and are never thanked, it becomes a problem.  Basically, it becomes unmotivating to continue to give of yourself and your time. And then, resentment sets in.

A friend of mine has a husband that contributes a great deal to our high school and the community.  His adage is that whether or not you believe someone has been thanked, thank them again, especially if they have not been thanked by you, personally.   It is that important!  Say, thank you, and then say it, again! I am trying to live by that idea now. I know how it feels to be on the other end.  A thank you is needed, no matter what anyone tells you. This is something better done, than left undone.

What do you need to do?

Self examination. Do you “play well” with others?  Can you state your case without being overly emotional? Can you be quiet during meetings and just listen if plans do not seem to be going the way you personally want? If you cannot be quiet, can you state your side of the coin calmly and rationally. Do you, yourself, have an agenda? Most people do have an agenda that attend PTO, even if they do not think they do. Sure, it usually comes down to wanting to help the school or students in some way, but is it THE way you want to help?

I found out, early on, through serving two years on the PTO board at our local elementary school as secretary (2001-2003, or there about) that PTO was NOT a good fit for me. (My presence on the PTO board might come as a shock to those who are too new  or too young to know that I was part of PTO, a long time ago.)  I left the organization and never looked back. But, I did not leave the school!

No! I did not leave! Instead, I found other ways to contribute. These “other ways” turned out to be important ways to contribute and that is where I spent my volunteer role for the last 17 years! Yes!  The idea list that follows took place primarily in one building, and in one district; it or not is not all-inclusive, but highlights what can be done!

2000- Room Parent. We made some awesome ice cream in a can with kindergarteners! Did we not, Mrs. T-M?

2001 & 2002- Room Parent for Multi-age. Organized books, held a book club, and helped with anything the teachers wanted, such as spelling tests or the spring social studies project on Native Americans.

2003 – Classroom assistant for TAG students in 3rd grade.

2004 – Started a garden club for 2nd through 5th grade that met after school, once a month for the last 13 years! No kidding!

2005 – Kindergarten center helper. Ran “centers” once a week for kindergarten classroom. Garden Club continued.

2006 – Helped with reading in first grade room. Garden Club continued. Converted old perennial bed to a butterfly garden, fuelled by student research.

2007 – Guided reading group assistant in second grade room, once a week. Kindergarten center helper (again). Started to substitute teach.  Set up fundraiser for garden club.

2008 – Classroom helper, first and third grade room. Started a book club for first graders that were above “benchmark”. Helped with special events, field trips in third grade. Certified butterfly garden as Monarch Way Station.

2009 – Classroom helper in second grade room, once a week. Continued first grade book club for similar group of students (yet, this time, none were my own).  Fundraiser for garden club. Planted tree on school grounds.

2010 – Classroom helper in third grade  classroom. Started writer’s circle for above benchmark third grade writers.  Continued book club for 1st grade.  Started district wide – Talented and Gifted Parent Support Group, meeting monthly for 3 years. High school band trip chaperone to Florida. Garden Club continues.

2011 – At our elementary school 3 days a week to help with reading in fourth grade room, first grade book club, and third grade writer’s circle, in addition to holding garden club once a month.  At middle school one day a week to assist with ELA classroom activities. TAG Parent Group continues. Garden Club continues.

2012 –  First grade book club, third grade writer’s circle, TAG Parent group, and garden club all continue.

2013 – Chaperone to NYC for high school band. Garden Club continues. Writer’s Circle continues.  Book Club ends with the retirement of the first grade teacher.  Assist with Art Fundraiser.

2014 – Writer’s Circle continues. Garden Club continues. Return to middle school ELA classroom to assist with students one day a week. Assist with Art Fundraiser.

2015 – Writer’s Circle Continues, Garden Club continues. Return to middle school ELA classroom to assist with students one day a week.

2016 – Writer’s Circle Continues, Garden Club continues until June of 2017.

As you can see, there an innumerable ways to contribute, other than being on PTO/PTA. .

To quote the famous song lyrics by Steve Winwood, “While you see a chance, take it” – indeed, do! Times are changing for me.  Garden club has ended. Most of my volunteering for our district has ended. But, the point of this post is YOU! YOU can make a contribution!  Even more, you need to make a contribution, your child’s school needs you! Find something you love to do and contribute your time.

So, maybe you go to a PTO meeting, and for whatever reason, you decide it is not for you. Maybe you are like me, and just do not feel like you “fit” with the group. Maybe, the personalities do not match yours. Maybe, the meeting times are just not convenient for you and it is as simple as that.  So, strike out on your own. Investigate other ways, ways that are right for you (and your child) to contribute.

You can still make a powerful contribution to your child’s school. They need you. Your child needs you. Be involved! Within this post, I have given you many examples of what you could do!  The contribution of time is one of the greatest gifts one can give. You will not be sorry. I promise you.





Contemplating Immediacy

Contemplating Immediacy

A Photograph

Licensing exams

Nursing Boards

A Text

GRE exams

Certification  exams

MAP Testing

A Tweet


Course grades

A Driver’s License

A post on social media

Responses to a post on social media

The News

Online Newspapers & News Magazines

Medical Laboratory Testing

What do these all have in common?


During some recent family conversations, the immediacy present in our world today became clear to me.  We live in a world different that the one that we grew up in, where live television and a phone call were the most immediate forms of communication.  We waited, sometimes over a week or more, to hear if we passed our driver’s test, our professional licensing exams, get our report cards, know if a friend got our letter and chose to respond, develop and look at the photographs we took, write an opinion and send it to the local newspaper editor, or even talk to a friend.

Our world functions on immediacy today. Immediate news available 24/7 whether we want it or not. Immediate reports and reactions to the reports. No time to think. No time to process. Just react. Some post/share/repost/report/write just to obtain that immediate reaction, that kick of knowing you contributed, you said what you thought, you shared.

Personally, I do not think immediacy is a good thing when it is so pervasive. It leaves no time to process what has occurred, no time to think, no time to consider, no time to rationalize, no time to know what really should be done or said. Immediacy breeds reaction.

Most likely, we have all had the experience of writing an email in a fit of anger, disappointment, passion, or excitement only to regret it, once sent.  I believe people need time to process events whether they are taking place in their personal lives and community, or in far off places.  We are not afforded that time any longer because the immediacy has been shoved upon us.  I am not advocating to be globally unaware, just for less immediacy, for less need to react, and for more time to consider, contemplate, and even anticipate.

Along with immediacy and reaction come gratification and reward. Gratification becomes instantaneous, as well as, addicting. And reward, well, that becomes something all together different from what it has been traditionally.  Reward might come in the popularity of numbers, responses, and shares one has on social media. Reward might come in the negativity you have been able to foster in others. Reward might come in the lessening of anxiety as you obtain the results of your hard work, test, or application right away.

The immediacy with which we live does not always have to lead to poor outcomes, but often, it does.  A break up is just so much easier done by sending a text.  A snarky comment can be made anonymously through a variety of digital apps.  Bullying is easier and more pervasive because it now can be done with words that reach the reader when they are at their lowest in self-esteem and in the absence of having support.

In these recent conversations, I realized that I sounded like an old bitty, pining away for times past.  But, all I really wanted to convey was the importance of time. Time to consider how one really feels, what one really wants, and how best to say it without causing a knee jerk reaction, the type of reaction we have all seemed to become very good at providing and some have become addicted to providing.  Yes, I just think we need less immediacy in our world today.  It might make us all nicer humans, living in a nicer, more considerate world.