Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Cats in Culeyville

 
A lot has happened in two weeks, most of it traumatic for me and the cats living in my backyard.  I managed to trap one of the kittens in a carrier, but her mom went insane on me the moment it happened.  

Up to that point, the mama cat has been incredibly friendly, a beautiful gray kitty who lets me pet her and purrs for me.  Her kittens, on the other hand, were wild as wild could be, and would not let me touch them.  Hence I had to resort to a live kitten trap to catch them.  

While Mama was too friendly to be a feral cat, when her kittens were threatened, she turned into a fierce lion.  The minute the trap closed and the kitten began to cry hysterically, Mama attacked me, yowling and scratching, claws fully extended.  She literally ripped to shreds the pants I had on and scoured long bloody scratches up my legs.  I knew immediately that I would call her Drusilla in honor of those wicked claws.  When I picked up the trap and limped away, Mama Dru stopped attacking and followed me into the house, eyes on the kitten in the trap the entire way. 

Mama Dru and Pebbles have been living in my study ever since while I have repeatedly attempted to trap Pebbles' brother, whom I named Skittles due to his extremely skittish behaviors.  I continue to allow Mama Dru to go outside to tend Skittles, but I'm not sure it's working.  I never see them together and I rarely see Skittles at all.  I worry about not being able to trap him.  I worry because he's still very young and his mama isn't caring for him the way she used to.  

I tried to kick Mama Dru out, to force her to stay outside until I caught Skittles, but she doesn't want to stay outside and yowls to come back in.  This is the worst thing ever.  I feel horrible because I just divided a litter in half.  

My contacts at The Animal Rescue Alliance tell me this happens all the time and that I just have to keep trying to trap the other kitten.  They tell me you rescue who you can when you can because you can't save them all and if you wait until you're able to rescue all of them at the same time, chances are you won't rescue any of them.

Still I struggle with my conscience.  What gives me the right to decide that this mama cat and her two kittens, who were perfectly happy playing together just two weeks ago, need to be rescued at all?  I know logically their lives in this neighborhood would be short and harsh.  Still, I'm devastated that I'm still one kitten short.  What if my rescue efforts completely fail? 

Despite my fear for Skittles, I take true delight in playing with Pebbles and Mama Dru.  Though Mama's full-grown, she's as playful as her daughter.  Unfortunately, none of the shelters have space for a mama cat and her two kittens which makes the expansion of my household a very real possibility.  Boo Kitty Boo and Jake will not be pleased.

My students are always delighted to hear about my cats and of course, I shared with them the story of the two sleeping kittens on my front steps.  I've been keeping them updated on the rescue efforts and they've been asking to see pictures.  I made a short video for them instead.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kittens!

Eeek!  I was hosting a get-together this afternoon at my house and when I went out onto my front porch about 20 minutes before people were supposed to arrive, who should be hanging out on the top step of my stairs right outside the porch door?  Two ADORABLE little kittens.  I have never seen anything so cute.  And of course, they ran the moment I appeared on the porch.  Didn’t have time to rescue them (people coming soon), but they’re so CUTE!!!!  I foresee … issues.  I wonder if T.A.R.A. has space.  Sigh…

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Digital World

Wow.  So, I’ve always considered myself to be fairly technologically savvy.  I’ve pretty much self-taught myself on any number of computer programs and until this last spring, the proof of my abilities lay in the fact that I was able to create newsletters and PowerPoint presentations with all the bells and whistles.  Co-workers and friends often asked for help in producing their own presentations and brochures.

Then iPod Touches arrived in the classroom, I received a MacBook as part of my duties as a middle school teacher, struggled endlessly to make the transition to the world of Macs, and ultimately learned that I knew nothing.  It’s true.  In the Mac world, I knew nothing!  And considering I had worked on a Mac doing desktop publishing back in the mid-90s, I was absolutely certain I would jump right back into the game, no problems.  Right… Frustrated and overwhelmed, I decided the best way to make my way across this terrifying bridge between Windows and the weirdness that was Mac was to immerse myself in a huge end-of-the-year project.  And when I say huge, I mean I-must-be-insane, breakdown-inducing MONUMENTAL.

The last six weeks of school, my students and I struggled with (and were sometimes buried beneath) the challenge of transforming the writings and artwork they had produced over the past year, all of it detailing their lives and experiences both here and in their home countries, into a digital format. Today, I am the proud [neurotic] owner of a single DVD.  Upon that DVD lie 35 of the most incredible stories ever produced in any of my classrooms.  It is not that the writing of my former students was any less powerful or inspiring.  It is simply that the writing of my current students can now be heard first-hand, read in their own voices and accompanied by breathtaking images of my students, their families and their artwork.

It has been an incredible journey and in the process, I have learned 3 things:

1.  I am not as technologically savvy as I once thought.

2.  My students are even more amazing than I ever knew.  And I thought they were pretty darn amazing before we ever began this process.  In fact, they are truly brilliant.  It was pretty humbling to realize that 13-year olds who had never moved a mouse before arriving in this country five months to two years ago are more technologically savvy than me.  Wow.  Like I said. Amazing and brilliant.

3.  I am truly blessed.  I love teaching ESL and I love working at the middle school level.
I am so incredibly proud of my students in this moment.  Every time I watch their stories, I learn something new or notice something I missed.  Their stories truly bring tears to my eyes. Sometimes because the stories themselves are just that moving.  And sometimes simply because I watch their stories and I remember where they were at the beginning of the year (or whenever they arrived in my classroom for the first time) and I am literally blown away at the growth that each and every single student has shown.  I suppose I have grown too (after all, I produced a movie with my students!), but at the end of the day, it’s never about me.  In the end, I simply benefit from the amazing presence of the students in my life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

40 iPods

Who knew that iPods were for more than music???  Well, apparently a lot of people knew, but none of them ever told me, at least not until this past September.  The thing is, I’ve never much been into music.  I mean, I love listening to my niece, AJ, and my nephew, CS, play the cello and I love listening to my nieces and nephew singing, but really, other than that, music is a non-entity in my life.  If music is playing in the background, I find it distracting.  I just can’t think with the music going, and as a writer, I’m always thinking, plotting, creating scenes and scenarios in my head, so music is like my kryptonite.

Anyway, I entered a new classroom this year and found waiting for me, forty iPod Touches.  “iPods,” I thought.  “What on earth am I going to do with these?  How am I going to use music to teach my students English?  Well, actually, I do use music in the classroom to teach both English and skill concepts, but still.  Forty iPods?  How often does my district think that I use music??”

As it turns out, there are these nifty little things called apps that you can download to your iPod and those apps teach all kinds of amazing things!  WHO KNEW?  Well, like I said, apparently an awful lot of people, but not me!

In any case, I’ve been using the iPods for PWIMs.  That’s teacher-speak for Picture Word Inductive Model.  In other words, I upload photos of vocabulary we’re focused on in the classroom, children pull up the photo in Comic Touch and label the photos with target vocabulary words.  From there, we write paragraphs describing our work.  It’s really amazing, the work the kids have created.  I have some amazingly talented artists in my classroom as well.  In lieu of using the photos I provide, many students draw their own pictures in Doodle Buddy, then import those pictures into Comic Touch and label them.



Body Parts by Phul Maya

Two other apps my students love are Stack the States and Stack the Countries.  I don’t know why, but as a country, we don’t seem to put much emphasis on geography anymore — how many people in this country really know where Djibouti or Myanmar can be found?  My students are no exception — they really struggle with geography.  Many of them don’t even understand that Kansas is a state and the United States is a country.  They have no idea where Mexico is in relation to Kansas or where in the world Australia can be found.  These two apps have helped them to really develop their understanding of the world and our place within it.

In the end, I’m simply amazed.  iPods are so much more than just carriers of music.  They have become purveyors of knowledge and tools for teaching.  WHO KNEW??