Monthly Archives: November 2015

Taking the Long View

There’s a temptation to view learning as quick and direct.  I teach it, you learn it…as simple as that.  You don’t learn it, you must not have listened, you must not have tried…or I didn’t teach it right or well enough.

But over the years I have learned that it is not as simple as that.

Learning is complex…and complicated.  And much of what is going on in terms of learning isn’t visible on the surface.  Like an iceberg, most of the structure lies below the the waters edge–we can only see the tip.

Some days I can see evidence of my students’ learning.  And with some students learning is easy to spot.  With others, it’s not so easy to see.  You have to dig, watch closely and listen carefully, and sometimes sneak a peek when they don’t know you are paying attention.

And most of all, you have to take the long view.


Step back and wait.  Keep teaching and providing opportunities for active learning even when it doesn’t seem to be having the desired impact.  And I have to remind myself to think about my own learning processes too.  Like an onion, learning keeps layering on, building connections, drawing on what came before.  It takes time–sometimes longer than I want to learn new skills, to understand new concepts, to think in new ways.

But, I’m taking the long view.  I’m learning every day and so are my students, even if it isn’t noticeable to others.

The Trick of the Treat

For the first 20+ years of our married life we celebrated my husband’s Halloween birthday either by taking our sons out trick-or-treating or answering the door to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood (or both).  For the last decade or so, we’ve carefully avoided trick-or-treaters by planning dinner out and have learned to linger over our food and enjoy the mostly empty restaurants on Halloween evening.

This year, it seems we have been celebrating all month.  We headed off to Disneyland earlier in October (see here), spent last weekend in Alabama with his family, and yesterday set off for an adventure on Catalina Island (about 26 miles offshore from southern CA).  To make this treat less of a trick, this year Halloween fell on a Saturday.  We’d talked about exploring Catalina for a while now…and when we learned that the boat ride over is free on your birthday, it seemed like the perfect solution to our Halloween/birthday celebration dilemma–we turned the trick into a treat!

We headed out from Long Beach and were accompanied by playful dolphins as we neared Avalon.  They jumped and dove, surfing the wake of the boat.  I wasn’t able to take any decent photos, but the view was majestic…and unforgettable!  We arrived in the Avalon harbor to a beautiful, warm and sunny day making the blues brilliant and the whites crisp as you can see in this unedited photo.


After breakfast we climbed into a military hummer for a tour of the interior of the island.  We maneuvered over rocky, dusty, steep unpaved roads as we explored the history and the topography of the island.  We learned about the native plants and animals, the conservation efforts, and how they are dealing with the drought.  And the views were breathtaking!


You can see San Clemente Island in the distance, almost seeming to float on the sea.  The sky was so clear we could see for miles!  We also took in the prickly pear as well as other native plants, and learned about the Catalina fox and the bald eagle–both which faced near extinction on the island and are now recovering.  We also learned about the only non-native animal on the island, the buffalo, brought originally by a Hollywood movie maker at the turn of the century and then encouraged by the Wrigley’s who owned the island.  In its native beauty, the island is spectacular, now mostly owned by a conservancy that protects and maintains its natural state.


Hot and sweaty from our time in the back country (it was an 85 degree day!), we treated ourselves to some ice cream and spent some time exploring the city of Avalon.  The iconic building is the casino, but it isn’t a gambling hall, it is the home of a movie theater, a small museum, and we hear…a magnificent dance floor.  We hoped to go inside, but alas, it closed quite early on a Saturday.  We did explore the outside.


We spent some time watching the divers who enter and exit the water from behind the building.  While I was watching them, I noticed a couple in what seemed to be brilliantly colored wetsuits (most wetsuits are black).  As they swam up, I noticed that the Hulk and Aquaman (I think) were emerging from the sea…and was ready to snap a few shots as they headed for dry land. They were definitely diving in the Halloween spirit!


Further exploration led us to discover the local radio station, this small green building.  We also talked to a woman who has resided on the island for 45 years and was eager to close her shop and accompany her grandchildren to the Halloween parade.


As we got ready to head back to Long Beach, we came across a friendly pelican who was more than willing to pose for photos.  I took a number of shots and managed to snap this one as the pelican took flight.


As the sun began to set, we said good bye to Avalon and headed back to the mainland.


This adventure was quite a treat and a fun way to celebrate Geoff’s birthday.  By the time we returned home, the trick-or-treaters were back home sorting their haul and we enjoyed a spectacular Halloween filled with wonder and play.  Now the big question…how do we top this for next year?

In Appreciation: November’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

It’s so easy to take the beauty, the generosity, and the wonder around us for granted–or let them go unnoticed and unappreciated.  Like the service that this car carrier ship provides.  I’ve never needed my car to be shipped via a car carrier, but as I visited Catalina Island (26 miles off the southern California coast), I wondered how they managed to get cars to the island (there is no car ferry).  I did learn that they depend on barges rather than car carriers–but I noticed this car carrier in the Long Beach harbor as I headed out toward Catalina. (Notice the seagull flying overhead!)


Then there is the inexplicable connection that happens when people are playing.  This couple was in full costume for the Halloween festivities in Avalon.  They were just walking along until they saw me with my camera…and then they stopped and posed, making eye contact, so I could snap a photo of them in character!


And there is so much to appreciate about the almost invisible efforts of those who take care of our public outdoor spaces.  I arrived at the beach last week to find this tractor driver hard at work scooping up sand and creating a berm to protect the beach behind it (and maybe preserve the sand too).  The added bonus was the beautiful sky and ocean in the background!


I love this unexpected birthday “treat” from one of my students to her classmates to celebrate turning 8.  Instead of cupcakes or trinkets, she gave each of her classmates a milkweed “bomb” to plant to hopefully grow into a milkweed plant–the host for the monarch butterflies we have been learning about and working to help in our classroom.  What a delightful treat!


Sometimes I have to work on my own patience and persistence, and appreciate the outcome when my fascination with this pelican resulted in the snap of my camera shutter just as it took flight!


It takes a community to make sure our water is healthy and safe.  These often unappreciated signs on our storm drains are reminders that the water that runs down our roads and into our drains ends up in the ocean.  My students have been singing a song called Storm Drain (by the Earthworms), making me even more alert to the dangers we can impose on the ocean if we are not paying attention.


And a visit to the local water treatment plant the week before made us all aware of the work that goes into the water infrastructure we often take for granted (you can read more about it here).  We learned all about how the water is cleaned and the bio wastes are trucked out to be used as fertilizer for non-food crops.


So this month, let’s spend some time being thankful and appreciative by taking photos to document our appreciation.  And to get you started thinking, here’s some prompts to consider:

  1. Nature
  2. Gifts
  3. Energy
  4. Light
  5. Texture
  6. Sound
  7. Friendship
  8. Innovation
  9. Color
  10. Effort
  11. Service
  12. Ordinary
  13. People
  14. Connection
  15. Unexpected
  16. Music
  17. Growth
  18. Water
  19. Place
  20. Travel
  21. Wonder
  22. Home
  23. Health
  24. Kindness
  25. Warmth
  26. Family
  27. Relax
  28. Persistence
  29. Empathy
  30. Love

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you pay attention to your world and think about all that you appreciate.  You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Let November be the month to document and share your appreciation through your photos!  I can’t wait to see all that you appreciate…and to share my thankfulness with you too.