When you keep getting thrown curve balls, you need to keep hitting! Over the past month, I have had numerous curve balls thrown at me personally as well as professionally. I have thrown some of my own curve balls at my new students as well. I think while curve balls are difficult at times, it teaches you to problem solve, persevere, and practice the skills that you may have been taught through out the years.
Curve Ball #1: In August, I decided to get away for a few days and head to the ocean in Gloucester. Driving on the highway is not my cup of tea, so I was stepping out side of my comfort zone. During this past year, I bought myself a Mini Cooper convertible, who I called “Gigi”. Since the weather was glorious, Gigi also went to Gloucester. After a few days of sand, beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and some beautiful walks along the rocky coastline, I was headed back to Concord. I was about 25 minutes into my ride down Route 128, at the spot where Route 95 merges into Route 128 and Route 1 exits the highway. I was in the right lane of Route 128, and there was the passing lane to my left. There were also two lanes entering and exiting the highway to my right. I noticed a truck with a tarp over its flat bed. “Look at that jalopy,” I thought to myself as I started to come up on it. Right then, a piece of plywood flew out of the back of the truck. I knew it was heading right towards me and that there was no way for me to avoid it. If I stopped in my lane, I would be rear-ended and probably killed. I couldn’t go to the left as it was heavily traveled. I thought to myself, “What would Mr. Raeke do?” Mr. Raeke was my Driver’s Ed teacher in high school. During driving lessons, he would often put a notebook in front of our face and say “Your hood just opened up, what would you do?” What could I do to minimize the impact to the car? In a split second, I decided to hit it on the right side of my car, swerve as much as I could in my lane, and hope it worked. I hit the plywood, swerved to the left and waited to see if I blew out a tire. Gigi handled beautifully. My tires were fine. I started shaking uncontrollably and knew I couldn’t pull over as I probably wouldn’t be able to ever keep driving. So, I pulled the lessons that I had heard Kathy Bowen teach to many of my classes during Open Circle — positive self talk. “You can do this, you can do this…” I kept repeating to myself as I kept on driving down Route 128. A bit of problem solving along with practice helped me hit that curve ball instead of being hit by the ball. And Gigi only suffered minimal damage to her front spoiler.
Curve Ball 2: As mentioned in previous blogs, I am training to walk a marathon, which will happen on October 6th. On the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend, I set out for a 20 miler, which would really give me a good idea of my fitness level. The weather was a little iffy, but I set off around 6:40 a.m. with hopes that the Weather Channel would be correct and that the sun would come out before long. At around the four mile mark, which was almost to Monument Street on the Reformatory Trail, I felt a sharp pain in my thigh. Looking at my thigh, I saw a welt forming and I knew I had been stung by something. I still had 16 miles to go. While I have never had an adverse reaction to a sting, I was a little nervous as it hurt a lot and it was in a spot where my shorts ended, so it was getting irritated. I didn’t have an allergy pill on me, so I decided to “phone a friend” and ask her to go to the house, pick up an allergy pill, and find me on the road. So, Johanna showed up around mile 6, gave me the allergy pill, put some anti-biotic cream, and set me back on the road. At around the 7.5 mile mark, I heard thunder rumbling in the distance. It was dark to the south, and if you know me at all, you know I am not a fan of thunderstorms. I was wondering if I should just call this a day and not keep going. I was by the track, so I thought I would walk around that for a while. While on the track, my friend called me to report a severe thunderstorm warning. I assured her, I would stay on the track until it passed. Seven miles later on the track, the sky looked a little better, so I headed off back onto the road. At around the Old North Bridge (or mile 16), it started raining gently. Two miles later on Lexington Road, the skies opened up. There was no thunder, but it was torrential rain. By the time I got to the Battle Road trail at mile 18.5, it seemed to be even raining harder. I kept on going. Teams of cross country runners sploshed past me. The path had turned into a river. It was exhilarating. I felt like the runner of my past and felt really strong despite all the difficulties I had encountered during this particular walk. This curve ball required me to problem solve and persevere through some incredible trying experiences.
Creating our Class Promises
Curve Ball #3: This curve ball was administered by me to my new students. When I was teaching my old 5th graders last year about colonies, I decided it would be a good idea to try to have the students experience what it must have been like setting up a new colony. So, this year, I did not set up my classroom at all. In fact, I had Mario push all the furniture into one corner of the room. I put into my welcome letter that they would be setting up the Erickson Learning Colony, but didn’t put any specifics. I told the parents the room would be set up a little differently than what they probably expected. So, on the day of the Open House, I heard many different reactions. “Whoa…” “Boy you have some work to do,” and “Interesting” were a few of the comments. On the first day of school, the students started the day off by sitting on the rug on the floor drawing their idea of an ideal classroom. We brainstormed different ideas about what the room needed. And then we separated into groups and set off to work. I was pleased to see how well they were handling this rather large challenge for the first day of school. By the end of the day, the class was set up, and coincidentally much like I would have set it up. But the difference was that the students took the curve ball and hit it, and owned the learning on this one.
Curve Ball 4/5: At the beginning of our first full week of school, I knew we would have a fire drill, mandated by the State. And sure enough, at about 11:12 a.m. on Monday morning, on our way from gym to our classroom, the alarm went off. What made this was a curve ball for both me and the students was that I had never experienced a fire drill when I wasn’t in a classroom. With 24 students, our line is quite long, and I am never at the beginning, but usually towards the end. So, I was just in the hallway near the stairs when the alarm sounded. I called to my class to come to me so that we could go out a different exit. When we got outside, I noticed that my usual long line did not look so long. Six students were missing. However, Mrs. Swain, quickly brought them over to me and we stood quietly until it was time to go back inside. This little curve ball gave me a good teaching opportunity to discuss this scenario, which was new to us all. If you look at curveballs as a learning experience, it is certainly good to get one every once in awhile. But in this case, awhile didn’t last very long.
On the next day, I was excited to take my class out to the river for their first trip. Trips to the river are always very calming for both me and the students, and I was looking forward to our trip. Before heading out, I quickly checked the weather radar and it appeared that a line of rain was heading our way. What made this unusual for me was that for the first time in years, I had no other adult with me on this trip. So, we headed outside and just as we got outside the side door, I felt rain drops. I asked the students to turn around and go back in. They wanted to still go, claiming they wanted an adventure. I was pleased by their sense of adventure and figured out why not, if we get a little wet, it is no big deal.
The river before things got ugly!
When we got down to the banks, I asked the students to spread out and find their “place”. I quickly scampered down the bank to the water to do the temperature before it really started pouring. I had time to snap a picture before one of my students came yelling up the path that another student had been stung. So equally quickly, I called all the students to come to me again and then assessed my student. She had certainly been stung and was being very composed considering how much it must have hurt. We quickly got to the school, when another student felt like they had also been stung. I sent these students with another one up to the nurse, and I went and found Mrs. Richards, who was in the middle of her lunch. I told her about the situation. Two more students came up to me, feeling they had also been stung, and I sent them up to the nurse. Just then, one boy started swatting at a hornet that had hitchhiked its way up with us. The hornet flew from his hair, to my jacket, to a girl’s hair. I took a field journal, swatted it out, and it flew up to a light. I took this opportunity to lead the class up another stairwell, away from the hornet.
We arrived back down and I asked them to write a small moment about the situation. It took a little while to settle them back down. Things were quiet when all of the sudden, several students jumped up and declared there was a bee on another student in the room. Three-quarters of the class ran out screaming into the hallway. I quickly asked for one of the remaining students to get an adult from the next room. I grabbed the boy who had the hornet on him, unzipped his sweatshirt, threw it to the floor and stomped on the hornet. I put the body into a baggie and went out to find my class. They were still all in a dither and myself and Ms. Hobbie-Welch, tried to quiet them down. We decided to check out their hair and shake out their clothing to make sure there were no more surprise attackers.
By after lunch, all was much calmer. In seven years of taking students to the river, I had never experienced anyone getting stung. One child had been stung 10 times, and three others were also stung. This was quite a curve ball and on Wednesday, we talked about what went well about this scenario and what could we have done better. Many of the students realized that they should not have gone into total panic. This curve ball provided another great learning experience about how to better handle an unexpected situation. I know that once the exterminator comes, I will have to get them back outside once again. But I’m hopeful that we won’t have another curve ball thrown at us and if we do, that we are better able to swing at it.
Curve balls: a great opportunity to practice, problem solve, and persevere. May next week be calmer!