Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring Break

Twenty-seven down. Nine to go. Nine. Where has the year gone? The past week has been a case of "just hanging on", but suddenly it was 12:30, the "early release" day was over, the students were gone and the teachers were out the door about 20 minutes behind them. This is a stange but wonderful profession, that which gives me a week-and-a-day-and-a-half break just when it seems to be needed most.

Sometimes I feel like I'm being pretty effective in the classroom. Then there are the other times. Times like this week when I graded an essay on "Newton's Laws of Emotion" and read through a test answer about Millikan's "Oil Spill Experiment" (it's supposed to be an oil drop...). Despite what I thought were fairly clear lecture notes, I still have at least one student who believes that the standard unit of capacitance is the "ferret". OK, then. Maybe not so effective sometimes, after all.

The sweater has been in progress for the past week; a super-quick knit from bulky alpaca yarn. I found the yarn on clearance, and naturally couldn't resist the U-Texas burnt orange. The pattern is from charity knitter Marguerite and there are a lot of things to like about it. It's quick, with minimal finishing. The pattern is predictable; once it's started, it just keeps on going. Twenty to thirty minutes here and there and the fast progress encourages one to keep on knitting. Hopefully some child will be a little warmer next winter.

Enough about the sweater. Now, check out the daffodil.

No one warned me how much I'd become involved in the lives of 140 new people.

Last fall, one of my students asked me if I'd like to buy some flower bulbs as a fund raiser. Now, I have about 5 chances per day to buy something to support something, and for the most part, I decline. There's no way I can support every softball player with a t-shirt and every choir member with a dinner ticket and every sophomore class member with a candy bar. Mostly, I politely refuse, but for some reason, the bulbs caught my attention, partly because of who was doing the selling.

"Sara" is a junior this year, taking standard junior Physics. She's a tiny person, maybe 80 pounds, and appears much shorter than her actual height because of various skeletal and muscular deformities. She's dealt with more health issues in her 16 years than most of us will deal with in a lifetime, but she's positive, pleasant and has a wicked sense of humor. By some quirk of fate, one of her best friends and usual lab partner is the Amazonian star of the women's track and basketball programs. The unlikely pair works very, very hard for their mid-B physics grades. Students like these make teaching rewarding.

And Sara was offering me bulbs to plant.

Would they even grow in central Texas? I love bulb plants, but I'd always associated them with other climates where there is a long, cold winter. I hadn't even thought about them here where we MIGHT hit freezing for a couple of days in February, but Sara assured me that these bulbs were guaranteed. Well, sure, then. I'd take some.

A few weeks later, my mesh bags of rather unlikely looking bulbs were dutifully delivered to school, I took them home, moved them around the garage entry for a month or so, and just before Christmas, in a fit of holiday housecleaning, I took them outside, dug a few quick holes in a particularly bleak section of dirt in the front garden, stuffed in the bulbs and promptly forgot about them.

Last week, Sara came to talk to me before school. She needed to plan out most of the rest of the semester. It seems that her spinal curvature has progressed to the point where her ribs are jabbing her heart and lungs. She needs a medical consultation in another part of the state. She'll be having surgery soon and will be studying from home for some time.

Sara, guess what? Your bulbs not only grew despite my skepticism - just today they started blooming.


Becky W. in Michigan said...

It's beautiful!!!

It's an inspiration to me to try the pattern. I was just saying last night, that there had to be more to the sweaters and vests than plain stockinette. I'll be trying this one soon!!!!

Lynn said...

What a beautiful sweater. and what a beautiful story. I applaud you teachers, its not a job I would want. I feel between both the parent and the teacher, we can raise some amazing kids. Its the parents that don't care that really bug me. It's MY child. Why should I expect their teacher to do everything???
Keep up the good work and know that you are touching the lives of many.