The wisteria on the back verandah is blooming

...with apologies to Paul Kelly.

This is the view from inside the house. There's not really a verandah, just stairs. The stairs are pretty creaky, which adds an element of excitement/fear to descending them, especially when they are wet and it's dark outside, as there is no light to turn on from in the house.

The other picture was taken from the landing where the stairs make a turn about halfway down.

Great day

Tuesday's field day was great. We had it all planned out and everything went really smoothly and on schedule! We went to a beautiful building, the YWCA designed by Julia Morgan, where we gathered around an unlit fireplace and discussed the novel we're reading (Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower). I moved between the groups and they were all really actively connecting the issues in the book to their own lives. I was so happy! Next, my colleague organized a series of activities to get the students to think about what they themselves believe and also what they think about the role of religion and faith in other people's lives. It all worked really well and the students stayed engaged, asking lots of questions and opining, as they are wont to do. Finally, after lunch, another colleague prepared them for the next place we would visit.

We walked to BART in the rain, and nobody melted. I didn't even hear anyone complaining about getting wet. We caught our train, got off at the right stop and walked together the several blocks to the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery. A monk talked to the the students about a monk's life, the 5 precepts of Buddhism, his own story, and demonstrated various bells, bowing and a brief 5-breath meditation. The students were sometimes completely rapt. When they were not, they were generally talking about things he'd said. The monk showed great patience, as I don't think he ever got a chance to finish answering a single question before there were more questions. After about 90 minutes, he left us alone and we had a final closing circle, put our shoes back on and headed back to BART. Again, everything went smoothly.

Overall, it was a really good day. I felt energized at the end of the day, the way I have rarely felt all year with the independent studies program. I remembered that that was how I'd feel back when I had a good teaching day with a whole class. To see a bunch of kids engaged with ideas--that's what it's all about. The good energy carried me home, through several games of backgammon and into a good night's sleep! Well, actually I woke several times with work-related dreams, but I still felt refreshed and energized this morning.

Today was also good, although there are still some knotty problems we're dealing with. Still, I am now quite hopeful about the possibility of success for this type of program. Tomorrow we go up to the hills and do some fun math and logic problems, and work with maps and instruments! I'm looking forward to all of it.

New program has launched!

On Tuesday, we took BART to a park where we played games, made and ate lunch, developed group expectations and students got their novels and binders. Our goals were for students to know each other's names by the end of the day, to find something they had in common with someone else, and to have an idea and (perhaps foggy) picture of what the trimester has in store (oh, and to have fun). I think those missions were basically accomplished, though some students were somewhat resistent to some of them. Basically, though, the students were patient and good humored considering that things did not go as smoothly as I had hoped.

Today, we walked the students to a nearby park and then sent them out walking around observing the neighborhood. We regathered, discussed what they saw, and generated questions from their observations. Then we walked to the Oakland Museum of California where we tried to have another conversation in the gardens but were wildly outshouted by a million little kids also on fieldtrips today. After a break for lunch (in the museum gardens), students regathered for the intro to the science lesson. A scavenger hunt in the natural sciences gallery was finished quickly and students were given a chance to explore the other galleries. The day was over at 3:00.

What I'm learning from this program: team-teaching (co-teaching) is much more challenging for me than collaborating on ideas and curriculum. I am comfortable being in charge and not being in charge, but being in co-charge is weird, especially when all the teachers have different styles, somewhat different teaching philosophies, etc. Lots for me to process.

I generally think of myself as a positive person, but I am realizing that I am less easily satisfied than many others. I think my co teachers all felt pleased with the outcomes and I was a little disappointed. I reckon my expectations & hopes were higher, and therefore less likely to be fulfilled. Are people with lower expectations generally happier? I think maybe they are, but it seems slightly unethical--like cosmetic surgery or something--to purposely alter something so fundamental about oneself as one's instinct for high hopes.