Thursday, June 30, 2011

And After All the Violence and Double Talk

Hey, everybody. With the passing of Mrs. Apolzon last week, there's something I had every intention of teaching you guys on the very day, but never got around to, and that's Juneteenth. Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated by many African Americans all over the United States, normally on June 19th of every year.

Juneteenth really began in Texas, where it has been an official state holiday since 1980. Back when Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves after the Civil War, Texas, being a Southern State, at the time was pretty much reticent to acknowledge the new rule that owning slaves was no longer legal. So Lincoln sent about 2,000 federal troops into Texas to take over Texas and make sure that the slaves were freed.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that this holiday hasn't reached nationwide status. And it's not like I would be getting another day off, being a teacher, so don't go looking for that motivation from me. I think it's the kind of holiday that really needs to be commemorated in our country. Just something about that whole "...all men are created equal" thing that seems to smack of an assumed national pride, but maybe that's just me.

All I know is that if I was either born a slave, sold into slavery against my will (and really, is anyone sold into slavery as a part of their free will?), or was captured and forced into slavery, there is no way on earth that I wouldn't have wanted to celebrate being free after over a hundred years.

Until it does reach the national conscience, I hope everyone will celebrate in their own way. Maybe this July 4th, we call all just be thankful that we are all free.

That maybe the Constitution we enacted after the year 1776 was meant for everyone.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Watch Out, the Sizzlers Are Coming to Town

I loved this news story! It made me smile out loud. Hopefully it will do the same for you.

Friday, June 24, 2011


The calling will be on Friday from 4-8pm. The memorial service will be held on Saturday at 10am. Both will be held at Flanner and Buchanan Funeral Center on Carmel Drive.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rhyme Without Reason

I know I told many of you that I would let you know as soon as I've heard about Mrs. Apolzon's arrangements, but they are still unknown. Her husband is still working things out, but they're guessing that it will be sometime between Friday and Sunday, but at this point, that is just a guess.

Thanks for your thoughtful e-mails and texts. What I've been finding is that everyone seems to have a special place in their heart for her.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Midsummer Tragedy

I am at a loss for words today. As I'm sure you all know by this point, Mrs. Patti Apolzon, longtime first grade teacher at Woodbrook, died early this morning (technically yesterday morning at this point). I found out about this about twelve hours ago, and I'm still in shock. It's not really real to me quite yet.

Mrs. Apolzon was major part of the Old School Woodbrook. I can't tell you how happy I am to have come in on the ending years of those days. They showed us just how great a school could be. Most of you remember those times, and if you do, I don't even have to tell you what made them so special. It struck me early on that the school was very much like a family. It's a large part of what inspired me to run my classrooms like a family. It was simply a microcosm of the school as a whole. Patti quickly took me in, showed me her classroom management methods, taught me when I was a student teacher what I would need to know, and also during my first year of teaching. She was a big component of the heart of Woodbrook.

She taught fourth grade when I first arrived at Woodbrook, but it wasn't long after that when she switched to the first grade.

It was this time that she asked me if I could bring my "campfire skills" to her spring reading celebration for her reading class. We would have a little campfire, and the little first graders would hold up their hands and tell me that I taught their older brother or sister. I still remember sitting in that rocking chair.

All day today I've held conversations--pretty callously, admittedly, due to my shock--about this with people. It's amazing her impact on people. There is one parent I talked to today whose children never had her in class, but were still in a state of shock. They loved her because of how she made them feel, even if it was just in the hallway.

Thinking back, I can still hear her shrill laugh. I can hear her asking me how my mom is doing. I can hear her asking me how I've been doing and telling me about how her kids are. I can hear her asking about how her former students are doing in my class. We would tell stories about so-and-so's parents, and how much trouble they gave us. Or what a great kid another child is, and how she's not surprised that they turned out so well.

And now, she's up there in heaven with Mr. Akin, and I can picture them just like I saw them here, their arms around each other and laughing.

Everyone who knew her loved her. Everyone she knew, she loved.

That's the kind of example we all need in this world.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Good While He Lasted

Sadly, this is the last time the purple crane was seen. I went back in there shortly after school was out and he was gone. Gone, I tell you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What So Proudly We Hailed

Today is Flag Day. I thought I'd share with you some proper ways for displaying a flag, according to the Boy Scout Handbook.
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
Hopefully everyone flew a flag today--unless you didn't know today was Flag Day, in which case, now you know! Go get one and fly it proudly!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Exhuming the Absent Past

Life in Jamestown would not have been easy. Watch and learn!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

When Heaven Scrapes the Pavement

NOTE: This is an expanded version of the post I did yesterday. I didn't think the addendum warranted another post.

The other day, I posted about John Wooden. He is truly one of the most remarkable people of both high character and high fame ever to live.

This being the heart of baseball season, I wanted to post something about baseball tonight, but I don't see that happening right now. Searching high and low, I'm finding nothing that serves me right at this instance. But what I'm never short of is quotes by Fred Rogers. Mister Rogers was also one of the best human beings ever to walk this planet.

Just the other day, I was writing back and forth with a friend of mine from Camp Tecumseh. He had written to tell me what an impact I'd had on his life, which is ironic, because I told him the same thing. We counseled together for a few years, and I asked him if he had ever watched a YouTube video of one of Mr. Rogers' commencement speeches. He said no, but I noticed the next day, he had posted a link on Facebook to a speech of Mr. Rogers' from a college graduation.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Mangesh Hattikudur in the magazine Mental Floss, from May 2007:

According to a TV Guide profile, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town. Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

Today is the first day of summer camp at Camp Tecumseh. Here is one of my favorite quotes from Mr. Fred Rogers. I used to share this with my campers during the last night of their Camp T experience during the nightly devotion. I hope you learn something from this, because I certainly did:

"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."
Fred Rogers

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Note the Domino Effect

Here's a very cool Math practice for you guys this summer.

And you know how much I love Free Rice too. I'm a vocabulary guy, what can I say?

Keep your brains sharp! Don't turn into slugs!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Where Could I Find Such Splendid Company?

About a year ago, John Wooden died. It's no secret to any of my students that he is one of my personal favorite people of all time, as a teacher, a coach, and as a Boilermaker, in that very order. Reading his books has profoundly affected how I teach and how I coach. I wish nothing more than to be one tenth as good a teacher and human being as he was. I highly suggest watching this speech.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Crossing Worlds

Here's the continuation of my summer reading list...

6. The Million Dollar Shot by Dan Gutman. This is not to be confused with The Million Dollar Throw by Mike Lupica, which is just okay in my opinion. Dan Gutman is the writer of the Qwerty Stevens books (which are all too few), The Kid Who Ran for President, and a whole plethora of sports books. I really think Dan Gutman is a much better writer than the other writers known for sports books. The aforementioned Mike Lupica, John Feinstein, Jake Mattox, and Tim Green are all decent writers, but Gutman has a style, sense of humor, and you can really feel the players hearts instead of having the writer just tell you that they have heart. And unlike those others, Gutman involves more than just sports in his books--this one in particular involves not only basketball, but also a love of poetry shines through in this book. The suspense comes not only in whether Eddie will be able to sink the shot needed to get his mother a new home, but also in whether he and his neighbor Annie will win the poetry contest. If you like Dan Gutman (and I hope you do after this school year), I would highly recommend not only his Million Dollar series (including also Kick, Putt, Strike, and Goal), but also The Kid Who Ran for President and also his Baseball Card series. I just found out there's one of those called Roberto and Me, about Roberto Clemente, and I haven't read it. That seems wrong and must be remedied.

7. The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois. This book is a classic, and fans of the movie Up and the book James and the Giant Peach should definitely read this. It's a predecessor to both of those stories. It's about a crotchety old professor who seeks solitude by taking a year's leave and flying over the Pacific Ocean, and ends up taking the adventure of a lifetime. While I was reading this the other day, I was reminded of reading The Adventures of Marco Polo in preparation for my black belt test a few years ago. He ends up taking a world tour full of factual stuff that is mixed in with crazy fiction ideas. This one really has an appreciation for science mixed with geographical social studies presented in a very fun and entertaining way. This one is for a lover of literature, so if you're one of those people who would beg me for more reading time, you may want to look at this one.

8. Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles. I love this book in the same way that I love books by Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion) and Stuart McLean (The Vinyl Cafe), which have both inspired my DOL writing about the Fergusons and the small town of Morganville, Indiana. It's what a former student of mine (Nina Lou, I hope you're doing well!) once called "books about nothing". While it's not about nothing, really, what makes this book interesting isn't the big outside forces that make this book interesting, it's the inside narrative of main character Comfort Snowberger and her life growing up in a small-town funeral parlor with her dog, Dismay, who ironically is great at cheering people up. I started to write this entry about another book by Wiles, The Aurora County All-Stars, but realized quickly that I think I actually preferred this book. Don't get me wrong, All-Stars is also a great book which also bucks the sports book genre by having a lot of heart to it, but Each Little Bird does a great job also of making one appreciate or yearn for life in a simple small town. If you liked Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, this is another one that will make you happy.

9. Walk the Wild Road by Nigel Hinton. This is high adventure at its most interesting and compelling. This book came out in January of this year, and I think it will be one of those books like The Life of Pi and I Am the Messenger, which is equal parts young reader book and compelling adult book. This one is about an 11-year-old named Leo who runs away from his home and ends up embarking on an adventure of a lifetime, which, without spoiling anything, leads him into a strong sense of what it means to be a friend to someone. This book has short chapters, which make it fly right by, and by the time you're done reading it, you feel a true sense of not only accomplishment, but like you've come out the other side a better person than when you started. Seriously, this book is either going to receive high high praise very soon, or it will be criminally overlooked. This one is really good.

10. As Simple As It Seems by Sarah Weeks. I admit I didn't read anything by Sarah Weeks until long after her visit to Woodbrook this spring. Listening to her give her presentation about how she gets her ideas and her method of writing made me want to read her works, but I had to put it off for a little while. This book really takes hold of your attention with a saddening beginning (a girl named Verbena finds out her father is in prison for murder, she has learning disabilities because her mom drank when she was pregnant) and uses humor to take you through her discoveries which lead to a very hopeful future for the girl. Her optimism by the end is enough to get anyone through almost anything. I would also highly recommend her book called Jumping the Scratch, which I admittedly haven't finished yet, but by tomorrow, I should have!

11. The Secret Journeys of Jack London by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon. I'm not a fan of Jack London. Honestly, there are only so many books you can read about wolves in the snow before you get bored. For me, that number of books is less than one. This book, though, which just came out this year, was handed to me by another teacher with high recommendations. I told him that I don't like Jack London, and he said that didn't matter, that I would like this one. He was right. This is an incredibly original book. It takes a real writer--with all of his nuances and factual characteristics, and mixes them with supernatural beasts such as the Wendigo. I love the way this book assumes that things like fantasy and legend are real, and tells the story like that. It takes a young teenaged Jack London and sends him on an adventure to the Yukon Gold Rush, in which he not only battles the elements and actual wild beasts, but a (presumed fictional) reason is given for his writing about wolves so much. The illustrations in this book are by Greg Ruth, and they are beautiful, but hey, I'm a bit of an artist myself, so I look for those kinds of things. This book is far more interesting than Jack London's writing, but I have to imagine that even if you are a fan of Jack London (Brock), you would love this book. Luckily, it is the first book in a forthcoming series, so yeah, there you go, adventurers.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. There are some more books I could write about, but those will have to wait until another day. So don't let your brain rot this summer, get out there and improve your mind. Happy reading!

Except for the People You Meet in Books

Gary sent me a request last week for my summer reading list. I told him it would take me a few days to comprise one (sorry!), but it's so hard to choose from all the books I've read that are different from last year's list. (See June of last summer...)

Anyway, here we go.

1. Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman. Harry Houdini (not his real name) was a famous escape artist back at the turn of the century (no, not that century, the one before--you know, the 1900's). The one thing about this book which sets it apart from other biographies is that it does a great, and funny, job of showing Houdini's brash, smiling, and cocky personality. You can't help but dislike him for it, but he's the guy you love to hate.

2. Time Bike by Jane Langton. When I first saw this book, I assumed it was dumb. A bike that you can hop on and ride around through time. How "unique". But what I got instead was a really good book with a lot of heart. Yes, it is about a bicycle that you can ride through time, but it's about so much more than that. It's got a nice family feel to it without getting hokey, and I found out later that this book is actually a continuation (but not a sequel, per se) to the story of the family in the book The Yearling. I had never read that book, but I know a lot of other people have. This book is self-contained enough to think that it's just about the same family. A lot like how you can read most of the DOLs from this year and they're a story by themselves, while remaining tied to the rest of them. Anyway, great book! Seriously.

3. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. This one has similar themes to Hatchet, which of course the boys read this year. This book is a little older (but not too much) and I would say a bit more optimistic from the get-go instead of having to achieve it through the character's hardship. Sam Gribley is a scrappy little guy who just wants to get out of the city, and so that's what he does. I've been told a few times before, including Brock this year, that this book is actually better than Hatchet, and can see why people would say that.

4. The Tent by Gary Paulsen. This is one of my favorite books of the late 90's. A boy and his con-artist father go around preaching in tent revivals in small towns all across America. As the people are encouraged to give more and more, the man and his son enjoy a better and better lifestyle. The son and eventually his dad, who in his way is trying to give his son a better life, have to deal with their consciences and eventually make a decision. This book does delve into some religious issues, much more than other Paulsen books, so be warned. But it comes out on the positive side.

5. Tadpole by Ruth White. This is such a good book. The bluegrass music loving part of me cannot sing the praises of this book loudly (nor flatly) enough. A widow and her daughters are living in 1950's Kentucky when an orphan boy enters their life, having run away from his new parents. He brings spunk and fun into their house, and the story gets started there. Before this spring, I would have recommended this book to the girls. Now, after having read The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs with four boys and seeing them enjoy it, I would now recommend this book to boys and girls. This is kind of similar in theme to Maniac Magee, except more folksy. Love that book.

Okay, so this is the first half of my summer reading list. The second half will come tomorrow. Start up your neighborhood summer reading book clubs now!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Well, that was interesting! Thank you all so much who came out to Relay for Life yesterday. Unfortunately, it ended in a crazy way and while I wasn't even there. I left to go to another engagement during which the weather went all crazy to the point of cancellation--at least temporary until the morning. Luckily I had friends who grabbed up all my stuff for me while packing up their tents frantically.

Anyway, I want to thank everyone who came out and played a part in this event. Just from 5-1 (i.e. readers of this blog), I saw the Adaniyas, the Blocks (including Rachel's grandparents, all the way from Idaho!), the Conns, the Gonzalezes, the Gripps, Tess Nihill, the Smiths, and the Schipps, and I hear the Spanglers and Ally Langston showed up while I was gone. You know, I've had a lot of classes talk the talk before, but this is by far the biggest turnout I've ever seen from any one individual class of mine. I've been told that some of you are even planning on having a new team next year: Carter's Class 2010/2011. I won't hold him to that, but I love it anyway, and wish you all success, and of course, I will be a part of it too, because, you know, once a family, always a family. We had some crazy fun putting up the tents (in particular, Blake and Tina Smith's...that was a learning experience!), and experiencing the torrid weather together. And I didn't even mention all the people there from years past. Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday--in addition to my class from this year, the Christys, the Pitzes, Michael Crowley, the Alfords, the Kruegers, the Carltons, the Alexanders (I was told they were coming, anyway, not sure if the weather staved them off), Mrs. Davis (how awesome to have a principal that comes to Relay!), and my longtime Relay for Life partners and friends, the Weghorsts. Thanks again, guys!

I really wish, by the way, that I had taken video (and was able to post video) of Griffin doing his karaoke version of "Build Me Up, Butter Cup". Priceless.

Life doesn't always go the way we have it planned out, but then, if it did, it wouldn't be life. Let's look forward to another year of Relay goodness next year--and hope for a Relay without a nighttime storm, and most importantly, a future without cancer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Automatic for the People

First off: I've told everyone in class that I would delete any "anonymous" messages that didn't indicate who they were from. This was abused today, and so now I've been forced to alter the blog settings a bit so that you can't post comments unless you have an open id account. The easiest way to get an account from which you can leave comments is to sign on for a Gmail account. Sorry, guys, but that's what we have to do. I realize that the "stalker" was obviously someone from our class this year and that they were just kidding around (because of the inside joke about our stalkers who would just watch through the window into our class--both child and adult, sadly), but I made it very clear that I would get rid of any messages that were not identified. We've had problems with Creepy Creepers around here before, so I don't take that kind of thing lightly. Anyway, please sign on for Gmail accounts if you want to comment on the blog from now on. Sorry it had to come to that.

Secondly, I went to the bank this morning and took all of that change with me. You know, all of the change from the week we collected and counted all that money up. I stood there for nearly an hour and a half, breaking open those rolls and dumping them into the giant cash machine that would count them up. I want to thank the good people of Ameriana Bank, who don't charge a thing to do this. This is perfect for a fundraiser like Relay for Life. I nearly busted a gut carrying the change in, but an hour and a half later, we netted an official total of $1,009.40. I love that!

Here's the breakdown of change:
  • Pennies: 15650, or $156.50
  • Nickels: 3484, or $174.20
  • Dimes: 2277, or $227.70
  • Quarters: 1492, or $373.00
The rest all came from bills.

Well done, Team Woodbrook! It's funny, because as I was standing there feeding coins into the machine over the course of an hour and a half, I got to talking with the bank manager. It turns out he also teaches karate, ironically.

Anyway, I took all that cash to Bank Night at Hot Box Pizza tonight, even if I didn't partake of their precious bread sticks (hey, I was about to go to karate class, you can't be weighed down), to little fanfare, admittedly.

Here are some photos from today while I was waiting for the money-counting-robot to work its magic.

Here are the coins that were rejected. I guess I was wrong when I told the kids just to roll the Canadian money with the rest of the coins.

Here is the robotic money-counter. We got to know each other pretty well today.