October All Over

It has been a while since my last post, and I’m not sure that one even counted as such.  The end of summer felt transitional in every way.  The summer was ending.  My 2+ year relationship had just fizzled to the point of me questioning whether it had ever happened. A new school year was beginning.  This is my first year as a full-time contracted teacher and this school year has been incredible so far.  I’m here at West Seattle Academy full-time and can focus all of my energy at becoming a better teacher.  I have planning time now.  I have communications with parents that are fulfilling and helpful.  I can implement classroom management strategies that work and that are part of my student’s entire school day.  My responsibilities have grown to make me feel complete as an educator and as a contributor to a wonderful community of teachers, students, and their families.

In addition to teaching science and social studies, I am also teaching PE and a leadership class which has me helping our students become great leaders within their capacities as 11-13 year old adolescents.  My goal is to push them towards becoming leaders within the school, their families, and their community as a whole. One of our agenda items for leadership class is to become involved in community service projects and our first such endeavor took place on October 20th, 2011.  We spent that particular Thursday cleaning up two local parks.  We went to my favorite Seattle park, Lincoln Park, in the morning before heading to Alki Beach where we had lunch, swept the beach for trash, and then had a quick game of football in the sand.

My students are surprisingly on board with anything remotely resembling environmentalism.  Before heading out for the day I gave a quick speech about how to safely pick up trash (no needles, glass, toilet paper, diapers, or things that look “sketchy”) and how to behave appropriately in public places en masse (don’t blow the rubber gloves I give you into balloons). The crew that went to the Lincoln Park beach did find a needle and a 12″ long filet knife likely left by a careless salmon fisherman during the late summer pink salmon run.  I can’t tell you how badly that 7th grade boy wanted to keep that knife.  We picked up a depressingly huge amount of trash at Lincoln Park.  However the setting kept our spirits up and we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.

WSA Students Sweeping Lincoln Park

The Monday after the park clean-up the entire middle school headed out-of-town for an overnight trip to Waskowitz Outdoor School.  Last year I took our then 6th grade class to Waskowitz for a rainy week spent immersed in all things environmental science.  This latest trip was more about all of us bonding as a group in a natural setting.  The property is very expansive and when we arrived at 10am we unloaded into our cabins before heading into the forest for a hike and lunch cookout at the base of the forest fire lookout Waskowitz has on property.  The fire lookout was originally on Stampede Pass and when it became obsolete was sold to the Highline School District (who run Waskowitz) for $1.  The only catch was that the district had to pay for a helicopter to move the lookout thirty-plus miles west to where it currently stands.  Despite the rain, we started a small fire and warmed our hot dogs on whittled, soggy branches.  Our Spanish exchange student was initially horrified that we were cooking in such a manner but he has grown to love our American hot dogs, and quickly forgot about any possibility of tree-to-human disease transfer.  He also had never eaten/seen a marshmallow and to say s’mores around the evening campfire blew his mind is an understatement.

Earning their merit badges in lighting campfires and smiles

The rest of the day was spent on more hiking, a rousing game of kickball in a beautiful field covered in elk dung, and a delicious pizza dinner at a North Bend pizzeria.  We left early the next day to get back to school by lunch and for the student’s play auditions with their drama teacher in the afternoon.  I feel very sorry for that drama teacher because we all smelled toxic and I’m sure the small confines of the multi-purpose room incubated that stank something ferocious.

This year has been jam-packed and as exhausting as it can be, I still love getting up and going to work everyday.  I am really lucky to work where I work and be able to teach such a small group of students.  The activities we take part in, the adventures we have, and most of the lessons we learn benefit greatly from our small size and from the freedom I have to take them out of the classroom and interacting with the amazing natural resources we have quick access to here in Seattle.  With November starting next week and the inevitable increasing rains I have no plans to slow down.  Middle schoolers are hardy and mine are slow-ish to complain…which I’m also grateful for.  Next up on the agenda is to take my 6th and 7th graders to Carkeek Park in the Broadview neighborhood of Seattle where they have an annual, urban salmon run of Coho and Chum salmon that we can view.  I ordered a set of water ecology kits this past summer and we will use those to test the quality of the stream water these salmon will be returning to.  I went last year and saw a lot of dead salmon and am hoping to head out earlier in the run to try to see some nearly dead salmon.  Thanks for reading all and be sure to check out my Flickr account for more photographs.

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