Tag Archives: SOL

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.


A break from my students? I don’t think so #SOL

As a teacher, I live for breaks just as much, if not more, than the students. When the students are squirrelly and hanging from the ceiling, they are not a lot of fun to teach, regardless of their age (I teach high schoolers). And, of course, non-educators think that teaching is so easy because we have summers off. Well, today is the start of week three of summer break–not a vacation because I don’t travel for ten weeks–and I am sitting in a college classroom. I have taken a 13-day break from work, although I did go into the building this past Sunday to begin organizing the English department bookroom (a person can only move books for a short period of time in a non-air conditioned room).

This summer, like the past couple, I am a coach at the Eastern Illinois Writing Project. I am not earning college credit like the nine teachers who are participating as fellows; rather, this coaching position is both a job and an excellent source of professional development as I learn from the fellows and the other coaches. This course meets four days per week for four weeks from 10am-3:30pm. So, yes, I am not preparing daily lessons and, yes, I am not worried about behavior management, but, no, I am not on vacation or taking a break from the expectations of my job. I am just not teaching 118 freshmen and juniors like was three weeks ago.

So, do I really have a break from my students? If I lived in a large city, I probably would. When I lived in Topeka, Kansas, I never ran into my students even though I lived in the same district that I taught in. But I live in a town, a small town. 10,000 people according to the population sign once you subtract the 10,000 college students who live here from August through May. This morning I worked in the high school weight room; I chose a Tuesday because the football team uses it on MWF. About twenty minutes into the circuit training, in walks the soccer team! Fortunately, their warmup in the west gym lasted until I was done. On the mornings that I run, I use a trail around a local university that the high school cross country team also uses for its summer morning practices. A few years ago, I only walked when I cross paths with the students because they are training to run 7-minute miles and earn a varsity letter in running, while I feel that I look like a slug on a bad day and a turtle on a good day. But I decided a year ago that I’m a role model even to these athletes so they may as well see me running in all my sweaty glory.

I also run into my students at restaurants, and they are usually in charge of making my food. I recognized one young man’s voice over the drive-thru intercom the other day, so I addressed him by name. Of course, I didn’t mention that it was me, so he was particularly curious who was in the car when I drove up to the window. I’m even taking a course at the local university and ran into a former student at the drinking fountain today. We chatted for a couple minutes about his classes and his major. And now I have plans to attend Legion baseball games this evening; my son who should be playing is, instead, working the concession stand because a torn ACl and subsequent surgery ended his entire 2014 baseball season, but I miss the parents and I miss the players, who are, of course, students.

When I first moved to this town, halfway through my teaching career, I thought it would be incredibly awkward to run into students, especially if I didn’t have nice clothes and makeup on. But during my first year, a student told me that they didn’t care what I looked like when I saw them in public. It probably took me a couple more years to embrace that concept, but I believe it now. My students like to see me as human, and I like them to know that I am just as normal as they are.

Yes, I am enjoying my break from dress clothes, high heels, makeup, grading papers, and monitoring tardies, but I am also glad that I don’t have to take a break from my students for the entire summer.