It's been quiet around here for many reasons, including travel, planning and contract negotiations for next year's teaching, and . . . an online course I'm taking called Teach Now, coordinated by Jennifer Louden and Michele Lisenbury Christensen.
Wow! The course is as laid-back or intense as each participant chooses to make it. Of course, I've jumped in with both feet. Although I have taught classes and workshops and given occasional keynote addresses for more than thirty-five years, teaching has always been a once-in-a-while event. Next year, I'll be teaching as much as I have time to (my 2012 calendar is full) and I want to make sure I'm doing it as well as I can. I took a gamble on this course and it's been very worthwhile. It looks at teaching as a multidimensional activity, one that every teacher undertakes from a position of both knowing and not-knowing, that is both more valuable (and demanding) than we often recognize it to be, and that deserves attention in ways that will make it sustainable for the teacher to continue doing.
Jennifer and Michele provide lots of audio resources (a focus recording for each week plus interviews with master teachers), homework with deadlines, and conference calls in which we can all work through sticky spots or examine questions that have come up. There's also a private Facebook group for conversations between participants that is a delight. It's taking a lot of time, and it's also paying off in giving me more confidence in teaching (which I love) and ideas for different ways to teach. It's also helping me feel like it's okay that I have way more questions about the topics I'm teaching than I do answers! I know that I know a lot. (Putting together a course is no problem, as soon as I identify the topic. My biggest challenges then are how to focus and trim the material so it makes sense as a whole and can be fitted into the available time.) I'm always significantly MORE aware of what I want to learn about next—what I don't know yet!
One of the things I don't know is when Jennifer and Michele will be offering the course again. To find out, get on their non-bothersome mailing list. I recommend the course strongly to anyone who is teaching any topic at any level. It's best if you can clear enough of your schedule to take advantage of all the opportunities (in my case, drastic measures have been required), but it's also valuable if you can just sip from the fire hose, so to speak. I'm also reading Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life, which Jennifer and Michele recommend highly (with good reason), even though it's not a specific part of the course. (An interview with Parker Palmer is included in the course materials.) There are both independent and facilitated versions of Teach Now. The facilitated option is amazing.
Meanwhile . . . we have had one of Colorado's weather shifts in the past 18 hours.
I've also been appreciating our neighborhood, which is generally somewhat boring. Houses all built to the same handful of plans, too many of which are painted in shades of beige. Privacy fences made of cedar boards, arranged vertically, six feet high. Grass. A few trees. Not much individuality. Except. . . .
One of our neighbors has recently painted her fence! We're THRILLED! (And we told her so.)
Her mural looks super whatever the weather. Note, though, how there are no tree limbs hanging in front of it in the first picture and there are several in the second.
I seriously wanted to bike to the coffeehouse last night for my evening work session, but it was spitting rain-snow at 5, and by the time I was getting ready to leave at 5:30 the back deck was completely wet. Worse, the forecast indicated that we would likely get several inches of snow and a significant portion might have fallen by 9 p.m. I usually work at the coffeehouse until they close at 10. Sigh. I took the car, even though I knew today would likely not be great for biking and thus I'd be losing my last opportunity for a while.
It turned out I wasn't just being a wuss. By the time I headed home, I had to scrape a couple of inches of snow from the car and free it from some limbs that were overhanging its roof.
Yesterday, briefly revisited
Here's more of yesterday:
Those are likely violas—maybe actual violets, although the blossoms are bigger than those of the midwestern violets I grew up with—that we've been enjoying all summer. They've grown through the street's asphalt. The truck parked behind them hasn't pulled forward over them, a fact for which we've been grateful every day when we've checked on them. The leaf blanket has been a new addition to the scene.
This morning, our walking landscape looked entirely different and the flowers have yet another layer over them, this time white and puffy.
About seven inches (18cm) of snow lie everywhere. You can't tell we got that much snow from the street view, because it's a wet, heavy storm and the snow is melting quickly where it's warmed by the combined heat of the sun and of the dark roadway. The fact that our crew is walking in the street is a giveaway, though, of how much snow there is elsewhere. We're sidewalk folks. The sidewalks were either not cleared yet or were covered with backed-up, cold, wet, boot-invading slush. My daughter and our two dogs are turning a corner toward the house with the new mural.
Just behind her is another house that enlivens our walks, although we'll enjoy less of its pleasures for the winter. It has a spinet piano in the garage (in the GARAGE?) and the young man who plays it never seems to miss a note. When he learns a new piece, all the notes are in the right places but they don't come in as quick succession as they do when he's got the composition down. When he masters a work, it's hard to listen as fast as he plays, so we don't try. We just let the music swirl around us. It's such a nice experience and lasts for about a half-block in each direction (just past where the mural now is).
We're grateful for all the moisture of this snow, although it comes at a cost.
We've seen other trees that have experienced this sort of snow-induced split go back to growing just fine. I hope this one will. It was obviously pruned to take off some extra branches not long ago, so it was less vulnerable than it could have been.
Our neighbors, who just had the pruners out last week, lost part of their remaining big tree.
And another piece fell on their fresh paint job and new roof, although I don't think it did structural damage. I hope not.
So yes, I was out front at our house in my pajamas this morning, first thing, poking a shovel at the branches of the crabapple and bouncing them to get off as much snow as I could (and trying no to get it all over me). I think that tree is basically okay. The lilacs are also spreadeagled, but they tend to be resilient.
Lots and lots of neighborhood trees were less fortunate. Some people's lawns and porches were covered with broken limbs, and in other places drivers had to drag parts of trees out of the road to get to work.
Yet the storm also left some lovely sights in its wake:
It's supposed to clear up late this evening, and tomorrow's low is predicted to be 11°F (-11°C). I'm glad I located my winter coat and my boots today. I think before I get back to work in a few minutes I'll block the sweater I finished knitting on Monday night (photos to come).