Best Teaching Tip – The Back Pocket Plan

Le_Chat_30April12_025_copyAfter teaching for years, I know to be prepared for the unexpected, so I always carry a spiral notebook in my back pocket. On it, I have a list activities for those times when the lesson does not go as planned due to faulty technology, essay eating hobgoblins and the never fail, « I can’t present today my group member is sick. »

Kids today are so clever. They must toss a virtual coin on Facebook the night before a group oral presentations are due to decide which member of the team should be absent the next day.

Teachers become adept at thinking off the top of their head, seat of their pants and back of their eyeballs. Since my students weren’t ready, I resorted to the pack pocket plan. I led a discussion about how the weather echoes human emotions in the text we were studying. Then I opened the blinds and told them to stare out the window and write for 10 minutes about this typical dreary fall day. Write about whatever comes to mind regarding weather, how you feel when looking out the window today, how the rainy autumn affects your mood, how you dream of escaping this dreary classroom.

Educational studies show that students learn best when they see the teacher looking at a book during reading time or writing along with them during a writing assignment. I pulled out my pocket notebook and began scribbling.

At the end of 10 minutes, a few brave souls timidly read their pieces of work. Then I think as a ploy to save unwilling classmates, they insisted I read mine. So I began…

« This weather stinks. Rainy. Cloudy. Cold. Old man winter is coming round cloaking us in a death vice. I am sick of the foggy gloom that is November. I am tired of seeing the faded, grey view from my dark tinted glasses. I am weary from too much work and too little time. I want to crawl under my soft, lumpy duvet and hibernate until spring, but I can’t. My students are waiting with eager, smiling faces, fidgety and restless, full of life. So I put on a happy face and greet my class with a grin. They bring me enough light and laughter to endure the autumn blues. »

Bless their generous little hearts, when I finished reading, the class burst into applause. Right on time one ginger-headed boy, deadpanned, « You must have been writing about your other class. »

We burst out laughing just as the dismissal bell rang ending the school day.Le_Chat_30April12_022_copy

And that is why I love teaching.

What is your best back pocket plan?

Kizzie « Tales » – Story of an Adopted Dog

KizzieThe first year I moved to France, I dreamed my dog, Skippy, died. I knew she passed away before my folks even told me. Ever since I have pined for a puppy. So nobody was happier when my sister, Karen’s family, adopted Kizzie, a 9-month-old black lab.

Kizzie showed her true puppy colors from the get go. The Carlsons stopped counting the times they caught her chewing on forbidden objects: pillows, hats, glue bottles, photo albums, TV remotes. When Kizzie discovered the basement, Marie’s old baby gate came down from the attic to limit the curious pup’s explorations.

“Everyday we learn something new about each other!” Karen said. “Kizzie goes to school for dog obedience training, but I’m afraid she will never pass kindergarten.”

But our Kizzie is one smart pup. She locked Marie out of the house. Another time the “Houdini” dog slipped out of her locked kennel and met Marie at the door wagging her tail with pride.

In the evening, she not only dragged Dick’s boots to the door when she wanted to walk, but she also retrieved his orange reflector jacket for night strolls.

On her first trip to the lake, she found hidden mouse poison and made a precautionary trip to the vet for intervention. But she won over the entire family especially the grandparents who go ga ga whenever Kizzie is in the room. No wonder pet therapy is so beneficial in retirement homes. Don’t let her charm fool you. As soon as your back is turned, she will snatch up your favorite pillow, hat or slipper and chew, chew, chew.

But keep this in mind when that darn pup gnaws up another favorite shoe, dogs may be good for your health.  http://www.fmnetnews.com/latest-news/pet-therapy-reduces-fibromyalgia-pain When I was sick, my arm dangled off the bed to pet our adopted puppy, soothing my sore throat.

With a dog in the house, you never know what will happen next.

“One night, Kizzie whined all night, stopped eating and cringed when we got near her tail. She had eaten a dead fish at the lake, so we thought she had some intestinal infection,” Karen said. “Turns out that retriever dogs are especially susceptible to “swimmer’s tail” an injury to the base of the tail from using the tail as a rudder.”

Apparently, Kizzie suffered from a sprained tail known as  “Limber Tail Syndrome”. http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/issues/8_1/features/15685-1.html

“It was sad to see our happy-go-lucky pup look so downcast with her tail tucked between her legs.”

But not for long, her tail wagged double time during her first summer camp at the McKinzie’s cabin, a Club Med for dogs. Kizzie sat under the swing in yard, rode in the kayak, chased chipmunks, swam after ducks, and ate hotdogs over an open fire. Kizzie was always underfoot, especially at mealtimes when she would stick her nose in the frig or under your arm when you lifted your fork.

Yet despite her antics, when the Carlson’s drove home, we were sad to see her go. While we waved goodbye, the mischievous princess sprawled across three seats in the back of the van and preened like a celebrity. Apparently Kizzie’s kennel days are long gone. The dog, her dad swore would sleep in the garage now has her own bed on the porch, plate at the table, and special puppy toys.

Kizzie is an extraordinary dog – but don’t tell her that – she thinks she just another one of the Carlson girls!

Granny’s Got Game

The real reward in speaking at the National Senior Games in Cleveland on behalf of the National Senior Basketball Association was not the chance to tell my tale, but to hear everyone else’s story.

One of the other speakers also was Angela Gorsica Alford, who played for the top-ranked women’s basketball team at Vanderbilt (1994-1997) and represented USA Basketball in international tournaments. She began her career as a software engineer for Motorola & Sony-Ericsson, and re invented herself after her children’s births by starting her own video production company in 2007.  A year ago, she launched Granny’s Got Game an inspiring documentary about the Fabulous 70s, a competitive senior women’s basketball team in North Carolina that battles physical limitations and social stigma to keep doing what they love. Who says girls can’t play ball? These grandmas defy age and gender stereotypes by dishing and driving into their seventies all the while racking up medals every step of the way. Liz still has an unstoppable, quick first step and Mary’s mastered a deadly left-handed hook.

“Just like so many younger sports teams, this one includes a bossy captain, a guard who never runs the plays correctly, a tentative post-player, and a bench warmer who wants to play more than anyone. As teammates and friends, they support each other off the court through the difficulties that accompany aging, such as breast cancer and widowhood.”

100_1965

Rose Boyd, Marilyn Asay, Bev Beck,Mary Ellen Philen, Brenda Taylor, Linda Burke

But the ladies I found most enchanting were the North Carolina women in the 65-69 category whose claim to fame was that they served as practice dummies for the fabulous 70s team featured in Granny’s Got Game.

« We helped them get good, » forward/center Marilyn Asay said.

In the gym, I watched the Scrappy Swishers from Raleigh fight. They had to be scrappy; they had no height.

The Swishers battled it out with the best of them even though one player (also the Fabulous 70s team coach) missed part of the basketball competition because she was off placing 3rd, the bronze medal in 65+ golf this year at the national games.

Members of the Swishers attended high school from 1958-62 (pre Title IX) and played 6-aside, 3 on each end of half court and were limited to only had 2 dribbles before they had to pass or shoot. A player was designated either a guard (defense) or forward (offense.)

« We resumed our basketball career after retirement at age 65 years. We hadn’t played for approximately 40 years, » Marilyn explained. «We are geographically ecumenical- Swishers recruited 2 players from North Carolina’s Outer Banks, who play with the team at local and state competitions. »

And get this.

« Two teammates host the team’s BBC (Beach Basketball Camp) twice each year, » Marilyn says with the enthusiasm of a teenager at a rock concert. « Our motto is fun, food, fellowship. Oh, and also practice, sun, sand, and surf.

During one of the Swishers games against the powerful Maine team, I watched Bev Beck all of 5-foot-2, 100 lbs. set a pick on a center twice her size for 72-year-old Marilyn who cut backdoor to the basket. The ladies huddled around Coach Angela at the time out and the referee gave also offered pointers. Every action reflected the spirit of the games. Fun, fitness, friendship, competition, comraderie, community.

While our present day sport stars are making the front page for domestic disputes, betting scandals and alleged homicides, our real heroes are playing ball in the shadows after having contributed to society as mothers, educators, hard workers, and beloved community members.

Like the filmy subtitle claims, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

Give me five, Granny. You may be wearing support hose, knee braces and platinum hips, but you still got game!

Enhanced by Zemanta

There is no place like home

The warm reception that I received from my hometown after the release of my book, Home Sweet Hardwood, was magical and filled with surprises.

My old college roommate planned to drive out from Chicago, but her  job interview ran late and she knew she would miss my talk at the library. Amy drove out anyway and came to the house after my speaking engagement. We picked up right where we left off 25 years ago.Image 2

Rocky, a Native American, was the first journalist to write about the first sanctioned girls’ basketball games in Illinois in the early 1970s, at a time when media coverage was nonexistent. He read the book and rated it right up there with his favorite book,  To Kill A Mockingbird

My friend, Phil, told me that he stayed up all night to read it. « The Willie Mayes story and the Pat McKinzie story were the only books I ever finished. » He ranked me right up there with the greatest.

Ray Torres saw the write up about me in the paper, called the house, and asked if he could bring his 12-year-old granddaughter, a talented softball player, out to meet me and sign a book. He brought the whole family. Madison told me about how she trained year round for her sport and  I got to shake hands with an AAU champion, who reminded me of me at that age.

At a lunch date at Angelos with the friends I made in gradeschool – and still keep in contact with today – my oldest, most loyal supporters cheered for the success of my book in the same way that they once applauded my efforts on the court.

the Home Team

the Home Team

My family attended every function with me. One sister drove out from Chicago, another from Minneapolis. My parents, in their 80s, beamed from the front row as I spoke. Sue ran the powerpoint, Karen sat at the back of the room and waved if my voice faded. They made cookies for the library social, carted books to events, picked out my wardrobe, listened to me stumble through my speech umpteen times and shared in the joy and celebration of my life long dream.

The members of the Rotary Club and Kiwanis Club honored me by inviting me to speak at their organizations. It tickled my funny bones to think that the very groups that had denied women access  until the 80s gave me center stage to recount my history of growing up in the 1970s and being excluded from America’s playing fields, but today’s members were welcoming and supportive.

Readers of all ages and walks of life told me how they laughed and cried as they turned the pages and felt inspired by my fighting spirit.

“You can’t know where you are going until you understand where you have been.”  I said in my speeches. “In all my wanderings I have always known that I am a McKinzie, a Sterling Golden Warrior, a product of the Land of Lincoln.

After hearing me speak, reporter Ty Reynolds wrote in the Sterling Gazette, “Meet the woman. Read her story. Tell me she wasn’t as good a storyteller as she was basketball player. I dare you.”

All these touching tributes reminded me that the real reward in writing a book is not the fleeting fame or  any financial success, it is about connecting with people one word at time.

Enhanced by Zemanta

SOS Chiropractor to the Rescue

I have been to dozens of doctors for a lifetime of injuries and ailments, but there are certain ones I never forget. Chiropractors saved me from surgery back in July 1979 during my first hospitalization for a herniated lumbar disk L4, L5. I ran from the knife and saw my first chiro, who help me rehabilitate in time to play in the first women’s professional league that fall. I have been addicted ever since. Long gone are the days that chiropractors were called quacks, now most insurance companies recognize them.

I drove hundreds of miles between different states and countries in pursuit of competent doctors because a good chiro was worth his weight in gold. When I lived in Germany, there were no chiropractors, so I would return to Paris. For a decade when living in France, I took the metro to see Dr. Tanqueray at the Trocadero. In Switzerland, my husband drives me to Geneva for the early bird special at 7 am. which means no waiting. I ride the old caged elevator up to the 3rd floor to Dr. Girod’s office on Rue Voltaire.

But my favorite chiropractor of all times is Dr. Draeger in Eagle River, my summer time muscle and bone spine caretaker in Wisconsin.

Chiro in the woods

Chiro in the woods

Tall and wiry, I have always been difficult to adjust, but Dr. D can pop me back in place every time.  I have witnessed chiros work miracles. After my son was born in Paris, I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up right. I saw my chiro and after a neck adjustment, I was back on track. I have lurched into my doc’s office, limping from low back pain, looking like the leaning tower of Pisa and walked out standing tall like the Eiffel Tower.

Anytime I have any back or joint pain, I go to the chiro first. Chiropractic medicine emphasizes the self and advocates exercise, a healthy diet, and a balanced lifestyle.

After my sister underwent a battery of tests for a “heart” problem, Dr. D adjusted her dislocated rib with a manipulation that his brother, also a chiropractor, devised and her chest pain disappeared. Dr. D also adjusted my son’s dislocated wrists. My dad swears by him.

Dr. D has the extra special touch. He welcomes you like a long-lost friend, every time you step into his office. How many doctors do you know who give you hugs and make cabin calls? In the summer, if he drives by route 45, he will swing off the highway on the back road, winding around the lake, and ring your doorbell. He will drag his portable table out of the trunk and click-clack treat the entire family. For free!

Under chiropractic care, I recovered from athletic injuries, bike crashes, car accidents, and the trauma of giving birth. They have helped me recoup from flying soccer balls, hitting walls, and bad falls.

With the assistance of skilled chiropractors, I have healed from 3 whiplashes, 2 child births, and one too many re-locations. I recovered from herniated lumber disks, compressed dorsal vertebrae and pinched nerves and the bone crushing wear and tear incurred over hundreds of thousands of miles of road trips and air travel between states and across continents.

If I am still upright, it is because of chiros! Thanks to chiropractors for keeping me mobile, especially to my favorite magic hands, Dr. Dave.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Spring Cleaning in Tidy Switzerland – No Picnic for a Pack Rat

P7100476_copyOh great, it is that time of year again. Spring! Uh oh, spring cleaning. Since winter dragged on, I procrastinated a few extra weeks, but now the sun shining throughout my humble abode highlights my shortcomings. I may have been a couch potato all winter, but my oh my, the other creatures in the household have been busy. Spiders spun webs from each corner, fingerprints divided and multiplied on every glass surface, dust bunnies reproduced like mad under the bed, and books proliferated in quadruple stacks on the shelves.

Oh woe is me. Where to begin? Spring cleaning is an insurmountable task for someone born without the clean gene.  I would prefer things orderly, but my brain is so scrambled, picking up never comes naturally. I jump from one activity to the next and never finish any task for I am easily sidetracked. Books remain open half-finished by my bedside, fragments of articles cover my computer desktop, and shoes lay where they left my feet.

Last fall, when I found out that we had to start paying for garbage in Switzerland in 2013, I had the best intentions and looked at my old list of tidying up tips. Good intentions gone awry. Six months later, I stare at the mess and think where to begin?

My kids have grown and flown, yet their bedrooms remained untouched like shrines to the past. Every time I launch Operation Toss Out, I am immobilized by memories. I plan a Clean Sweep and open a closet ready to chuck games, toys, and dolls, but the sight of Beanie Babies, Little Ponies and Little Woodsies, leaves me immobilized lost in a reverie.P7100501

Instead, I open a box of books: I’ll Love You Forever, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Bunnies Get Well Soup spill out. Before you know it, I am in a rocking chair, reading Good Night Moon to my daughter’s Cabbage Patch doll perched on my knee. I drag junk out of the closets to discard and instead end up driving my son’s matchbox cars ‘round and round on a braided rug and snapping pieces together of his old Play Mobile cowboy fort.

The world is divided into pitchers and savers. Pitchers relentlessly toss items knowing that if it hasn’t been used for a year, it is no longer needed. I obey the law of inertia.

Apparently, the predisposition for this disorder is genetic. My daughter blames me for what she calls her apartment’s permanent state of entropy, “matter when left to its own devices will descend into chaos.” I am quoting a doctor here.

You would think I love living in disarray. Yet I prefer being at my sister’s house where everything is in order. You can open the frig without launching an attack of mystery meat morphed into extraterrestrials. You know precisely which drawer to open to find an envelope, a pen, and a notebook. Living in my house is like forever being on a scavenger hunt without a team to help hunt down the clues.

Realistically, our home is too big for the two of us. Downsize! But how? I am a sentimental old sod, clinging to memories of the past without a single organizing cell in my soul. If only we lived on the other side of the Big Pond, spring cleaning would be a breeze. I could own a five-car garage with one spot for my vehicle and four other places to park my treasures.

Enhanced by Zemanta