Monthly Archives: July 2015

Sights, Sounds, & Smells around EIU’s Woody Panther Trail #SOL #NOWM #EIU


The perfectly blue sky after a midnight thunderstorm.

The sound of a gentle rain–not from clouds but rather from the two fountains in the pond.

A small tanker truck pumping maybe water out of the baseball dugout–EW! Nope, it’s pumping out the porta-potties behind the dugout.

The standing water on the low sides of the trail trying to escape into the already swampy grass; the footprints that I am following sunken into muddy middle.

The whistle blowing to start the football players on their down and back runs.

The metronome clucking the beat for the hundred drum majors learning a new cadence.

The encouraging high five from a friend and fellow jogger; the smile and “Good morning!” From a fellow walker who I only see during summer laps around the trail.

The pin pricks of pain on my calves from the sunny dry gravel that I kick up after walking through the shady wet gravel.

The buzzing chirps of the summer locusts, and my relief that it isn’t the din of the thirteen-year cicadas.

The startled caws of the crows as the grounds crew attempts to mow the swampy grass.

The drum majors practicing high steps and precise 90 degree turns.

The friendly wave from another groundskeeper making me feel welcomed and safe.

The gentle rain of the fountains framed by the perfectly blue sky.

How humid is it? Let me tell you! #NOWM


Last week, I wore jeans. Twice. Early July in the Midwest, and I wore jeans TWICE. Those of you in the Midwest and the Mississippi River valley understand how astounding this was. And, tongue-in-cheek, we’ve had 100% humidity most of June and the first weeks of July because it has rained most days. But yesterday, summer arrived. Mother Nature whipped her head 180 degrees to switch off the Seattle-like weather and body slam us with a stereotypical Midwest summer. Honestly, you open the door and walk into a curtain of thick heat. One does not do a ladylike glow; one does a very manly dripping sweat within moments.

So how humid is it? The picture of my kitchen window is not of dirt streaks. That’s condensation between the fifty-year-old storm window and untempered-glass window. My entire back wall, kitchen to family room (my fifty-year-old house was built as an open concept long before it was trendy), is nearly floor-to-ceiling windows that face into the woods behind my house. It’s a wonderful view that’s easy to take for granted until we see a deer, or a fox, or a turkey, or our cat hunting voles. Or until I walk downstairs on a very humid day and cannot see clearly out the window. That window is my barometer to the humidity.

Here’s hoping to clear views very soon!

The Halfway Mark, or 2015-16 is Lurking

Maybe I subconsciously realized the today was the halfway mark for the summer 2015 break. Five weeks have passed; five weeks remain. I know it’s the downward slope because my older son returns from Europe in four days (and this helicopter mom is excited!), but the unexpected happen today. My younger son wanted to know how to find a copy of his freshman college fall schedule so that he could put his classes into his calendar app. And I didn’t even have to prod! (Well, I have prodded many other days.) he may have been inspired because I was entering my teaching calendar, my grad school calendar, his college calendar, and his brother’s college calendar into both my Google calendar (love that it syncs with the calendar app) and my 15-16 planner. Now that I’m looking towards the school year, what else can I or you do to ease the return?

Revisit last year

Remember those notes you made in last year’s planner about what worked? What text to try instead? What writing prompt absolutely flopped? Now may be the time to look back over the first few weeks of school. I have the English 3 curriculum maps with me in preparation for an exciting opportunity next weekend; I was reading through first semester’s and discovered that we had included “A Rose for Emily” in the individualism unit! Really?!?! How did I not remember that? I love teaching “Emily”! I really enjoy listening to the students entering class the next day as they “ew” over her lying next to a dead body. Just that realization on my part–that we had not dropped “Emily”– has given me a reason to look forward to teaching second quarter. And I know that if I feel reinvigorated, it will show in my teaching. I also know that no matter how much I swore last school year that I would NEVER forget the change I wanted to make, I have buried it in my long-term memory or possibly even dumped it into my forgotten abyss (yes, I saw “Inside Out” with a group of teachers).

Try something new

I am fortunate that I spend every summer coaching a National Writing Project site–Eastern Illinois Writing Project. I don’t have to scroll through numerous Googke searches looking for a new idea; the twelve or so teachers involved each share a demonstration, plus we quickly bond and share more than any of us ever thought we would learn in a four-week course. For me, this year I shared my Literary 3×3 (that I wrote about back in April), and I learned about Six Word Memoirs. Okay, I already knew about them. I bought the book years ago (I think at Walmart), and I follow their Twitter. I’ve even posted a few of my own. But I never thought about using it in my teaching. Not just an icebreaker; not just for a personal narrative. I could use teach this to students to use for characters and character development; its also a great ideas for creating chapter titles. A new tool in my teaching arsenal.

Do you have to scroll through endless Google searches? You could if you wanted to, but you could try a few of these suggestions. Web English Teacher ( is always updating the links on their website. You could follow a Twitter chat. I am devoted to #aplitchat even thought I don’t teach AP English; they have become a very supportive community even though I’ve never meant them in person. I have so many new ideas from their weekly chats. If you need a different chat, look at Cybrary Man’s list of educational hashtags;mo had no Ida that there were hundreds of them. And then a shameless plug–I have a PowerPoint on my presentations page titled “Resources for Primary Sources and Informational Texts, which I update when I find new resources. The presentation us intended to promote literacy but across the curriculum; there are resources for most subjects, including electives.


I’m not very good at this. I worry, and I plan, and I change. And sometimes it’s an unhealthy cycle. I have not read this summer like I usually do. I haven’t even read thirty minutes before going to sleep like I tried to do every night during the school year. And I have not gotten back into a running routine. It happens. But it’s the halfway mark–I will read and run and sleep. I have “Go Set a Watchman” ordered, plus a lot of books in my literal to-be-read piles (yes, plural). I will be a better teacher when I am relaxed.

I know some of you are starting school now (for my friends in Arizona–I still think July 13th is early for a balanced cakendar), but it’s not too late to look for something new and rejuvenating should never be saved for just summer. For those of us who still have a few weeks, I’d love to hear what you are planning to do that’s new. And for everyone, what are you reading? I’m always looking for recommendations!