Monday, August 17, 2015


My school has a bell. No, really. I mean a real, bell shaped, ringing up in the bell tower bell, and I got to ring it. We have electronic bells, too of course; we aren't that much in the country that we don't have electronic bells, or iPads, Smart boards, laptops. We now even have our own Twitter feed, and soon to be two Facebook pages one to link to our website and one put together by our estimable parents!  And we have a bell.  A real one. I got to ring it!

Children, if you are reading Dr. J's blog, always remember that sentences don't start with conjunctions like and. Just ignore Dr. J's artistic license  here in using and to emphasize that we have a bell. And I got to ring it! Sometimes authors don't even use punctuation in their writing, but that's not an excuse to take to your teachers when you forget to put periods on the ends of your sentences. Once you have sold a few 100 copies of your first book you may try that excuse.

In truth, I doubt any of my students are reading my blog, though I do hope that some of my parents are. Are what Dr. J? Reading your blog? Are you writing about juice or grammar and punctuation tonight?

Indeed, I want to write about joy, which begins with J, like juice. And Joe. And Jenna. Joy is the first day of school. I'd venture to say that even the middle school students came to school with the almost hidden joy of being back with their friends. Middle school children, we know you. You can't completely hide your excitement underneath that saunter.

 The smaller children fizzed with excitement as they greeted their new teachers and new friends. Joy was a staff member who greeted children at the front of the school with a hug and a smile. We do still hug out here in the country, though my administrator training lights gave off bleeps at this touching of students. It's clear that hugs are given, very appropriately, and hugs are received. I got two myself from little girls walking with their parents to first grade! Joy is being a part of these children's lives and of working in conjunction with eleven people who give their all every day for these children. Joy is connecting.

It's so easy to connect with smiling parents, proud of their children, especially if they speak the same language you do. More challenging, but equally important, is to connect with the parents whose language is not the same as your own. I talked with many parents on our first day of school and many children. Noticing a lone parent, standing a bit back from the recess crowd, observing her young son playing with his sister on the playground, I realized I had not made enough of an effort to connect with this Spanish speaking parent.  No parent should feel excluded from their child's school. Thus, I walked swiftly up to this parent before I could change my mind and said "hello", and asked her if she spoke English. I did this in Spanish in case the inference passed you by. I told her I didn't speak Spanish very well (still in Spanish) and then I smiled warmly and told her we were the same juice.  I'm not quite sure what she made of my juice comment as I was so earnest. "We're the same juice!" I did not know of my gaffe until driving home with my administrative secretary, and I asked her to look up the word jugo.  I burst into hysterical laughter when she said juice instead of the expected team. We both laughed with tears coming from our eyes as I relayed the story of the telling the parent that she and I were the same juice. It's very hard to drive and laugh like that. I don't recommend it.

Today, I was determined to include this quiet mother in conversation again. I tried to explain that I thought that jugo meant team or equipo." Nosotros son equipo, no jugo." She smiled patiently while I had to recite all the days of the week in Spanish to get to Friday. "Lunes, Martes, Miercoles, Juevos…. The word for Friday simply wouldn't come to me, rather like equipo. I wanted so much to say: "Last Friday I meant to say we were on the same team because you don't speak much English and I don't speak much Spanish but I said 'we are the same juice' instead. I want you to feel welcome here but I don't have the words. You are welcome here. Teach me Spanish and I'll teach you English. We'll learn together." Let's skip the juice though. I don't really care for it.


  1. I am going to take advantage of being your VERY FIRST commenter and say, "Welcome aboard, Dr. J!" I enjoy reading your thoughts about our Iddy biddy school with the bleating kids (goats) and the "zonkey" that brays (he really doesn't squeak...that is what mice do). And if you thought that "zonkey" was a typo, you really should take a trip down Cemetary Road and get a good, long look at Joe, the resident camel, and his side kick, the zonkey, which is part zebra and part donkey. You don't believe me, but it is true! Add to the menagerie, the rather large buzzards that gather on the edge of the school property. Our beloved past principal who is now deceased used to say that the buzzard was the town bird every bit as much as the eagle is our national bird. He also cautioned against standing still for too long when you are on the playground, for some reason. And on the subject of our beloved past principal, I want to just say that I see a reflection of him in you. He listened, he interacted, and he cared. You have not come in anxious to change who we are. You are listening and you are appreciating what we already have. Your interest is in the children and it shows. I am very happy we are on the same juice!

  2. Thank you Natalie! I'm glad you see in me some things of a beloved past principal. I will assume he didn't have two-toned hair color or pierced ears. I have yet to see the buzzards land on the school grounds. Maybe we're just too energetic for them these days. They'll want to try back around the end of May.

    Let's lift a glass of juice together!