Category Archives: School

Rain and chuckles

It rained. Officially, over two thirds of an inch. I’m pretty sure we got more on the north side of town, where no one takes an official measure. It only counts if it rains at the airport.

The wind and rain brought down more leaves from our trees. Terry and I have been raking almost every day, knowing the rain is coming and we will have bushels of leaves. I move lots of them to the undersides of the bushes, out near the fences, for mulching. Lots more go into our green recycle bin and the city will use them to make mulch. Leaves are very valuable.

Wednesday at Columbia was a bit disappointing. I only saw one first grade class as all of the first grade teachers were out. One class had been “deployed” as there wasn’t enough substitutes to fill in for all the absent teachers. Another had a substitute who didn’t seem very happy or receptive to see me so I said I’d be back next week. While waiting in the office to see if I would be able to see another class, I encountered paramedics with a gurney, there to pick up a boy who had a seizure during lunch. I decided I needed to move on.

However, one bright spot that day was the first grade class I DID get to see. After reading King of the Playground, one little girl at the back raised her hand and asked, “Mrs. Zody, how did you learn to read books so good?”

“Lots of practice,” was my reply. “First graders for the past nine years have helped me learn how to read books they like. But before I came here to read to first graders, I taught high school students and I didn’t get to read books to them.”

Another little girl raises her hand, “Mr. R (the principal) hired you?” she asked.

“No, another principal before Mr. R said it was okay for me to come here. But, every year Mr. R has to say it’s okay for me to come to read to you.”

“Mr. R is very smart,” she said with a big smile.

On Thursday I relayed the story to Mr. R…he laughed out loud, so pleased to know that the first graders gave him high marks. This is a man who, like me, had only worked in high school until this assignment at Columbia. It’s been good for both of us.


Oh, what a Thursday!

Thursdays are the days I read to three second grade classrooms. Because of the timing, number of classes, and the willingness of the second grade teachers, I am able to do this even though my original, and main, responsibility is to first graders. The second graders are great because they know me from last year. The teachers also know me and how I work with the students and my expectations and that I will show up every week.

When I signed in at the main office today, the staff, as usual greeted me by name as did a little first grader waiting to see the nurse. A mother was standing behind me, waiting for her child to come to the office to go to a dentist appointment.

“You’re Mrs. Zody,” the parent asked, “the lady who reads books to the students?”

I turn around to see the woman, and answer, “yes, I am.”

“My son, Julian, talks about you all the time! He comes home and tells us the book you read and what you brought the class. He gets so excited on the days you come.”

I ask her whose class Julian is in and find out it’s the class I had to leave mid-story last week due to poor behavior. “I’m sorry I didn’t get to finish last week’s story.”

“He told me that the girls wouldn’t be quiet and you left. He was very disappointed.”

“Yeah, me too,” was my reply. Then I said I would say hi to him today, but she told me he was absent, at home not feeling too great.

“He says lots of kids in the class are getting sick.”

Yes, it’s that time of the year, and sure enough, each of the three classes had sick kids who were IN class. Coughing, sneezing, one boy fell asleep. Of course, they all want to hug me, get right in my face to tell me things, and just like it was when I was teaching, I get coughed and sneezed on. All the classes behaved well so they all heard every bit of today’s book, Evelyn del Rey is Moving Away.” I handed out butterfly stickers as that was a trademark of Evelyn del Rey. I left more for the students who were absent so I hope Julian will get one.

By the time I walked to my car, I didn’t feel well. A little dizzy, stomach hurt, tired. “I CANNOT GET SICK” my internal voice screamed. I drove home, and as is always the case when I’ve been out, put all my clothes in the clothes hamper, washed my glasses and hands, but went one step further–got in the shower, and washed my hair, too. Sent all the cooties down the drain.

Now, as I type this, I am drinking a cup of hot tea and eating 365 brand pumpkin cookies. It’s the start of my Thanksgiving holiday time. I already feel better, and have plans to be back in two weeks. I just hope all the students and their teachers are well.

Don’t be gone

Yes, Friday was a bit of a mixed-up day from what was planned to what really happened, but it was okay. I did laundry, worked in the backyard, and then sat on the couch reading my latest Marcia Muller book. The sitting on the couch thing had been in the works due to the covid vaccine. I figured resting afterwards would be a good idea. Resting after my busy week was also a good idea.

Two of the six classes at Columbia had substitutes this past week. The first graders are still getting to know me, and figuring out just how far they can push my buttons. With a sub, one class figured they would attempt another push.

They wanted to stay at their desks rather than go to the carpet for the story. That was okay with me, I’ve done that over the years. They reacted well to the story, but there was some noise and it didn’t seem to disappear unless I stopped reading. I gave them a warning and also reminded them about the next-door class who had missed a story a few weeks ago due to being noisy. They took the hint and finished strong. The sub asked if I could stay a bit longer. No, I have another class waiting for me.

The next day, one second grade class had a sub and the students were very noisy when I came in but cheered when they saw me and quieted. The sub explained it had been a crazy day. I took over the class. Now mind you, these are students who know me from last year when they were first graders. With my directions, they moved to the carpet, ready for the book. I had to make a few stops and remind them of proper behavior. They actually reminded one another. The sub asked if I could stay a bit longer. No, I have another class waiting for me.

The cheers went up when I opened the door for the last class of the week. Their teacher said they had been waiting for me. You may remember that I missed the first two weeks of October. One of the little girls reminded me of my absence:

“You were gone for two weeks.”

“Yes, but I was back last week. Were you not here last week?”

She looks at me, with really big eyes, “yes, I know, I remember the book you read about Milo, but you were gone for two weeks. Don’t be gone.”

That’s how I feel about the Target and CVS employees–don’t be gone. People are counting on you.

The storytelling will resume

Our schools will open next Monday for another year of learning. I went out to Columbia on Friday morning to visit with the teachers and try to connect with the second grade teachers who I’ve not seen for two years due to the pandemic.

This year there will be three each of first and second grade rooms, total of six. Last year I was in four first grade rooms and two of the second grade classes with teachers who had hunted me down and asked me to come read to their students. This year I wanted to reconnect with the second grade teachers and see if they would like me to come back in. I didn’t know how they would respond, but they all said, YES!

They had loved what I had done when I could come even though it was only once a month back in 2019. This year I will be able to be there each week. You may remember, dear Reader, that I had decided this task would take top priority. I was so happy with their reactions.

I had made treat bags for all of the teachers, and whether they agreed to let me come back or not, I would still share the bags with them. They were all delighted and one recalled some bags I had shared in previous years. It’s nice to know they appreciate these small gestures.

The classes are big this year, 28 students in each one. These large numbers will test my class management skills. Last year was very easy, each class having only about 15 students. And, of course, the previous year was all done online so I had no discipline issues. I may be rethinking the way I do things. The second graders will know me because they saw me every week last year and understand my expectations.

This will be Year Nine of this assignment. One of my friends asked me if I planned to do this for 21 years like I did at Fresno High. Well, we’ll see…

Taking care of Mrs. Zody

Each week I email the first and second grade teachers, telling them about the book I will be reading, any special details about what we will be doing, and including PDFs of worksheets.

This week I wanted to let them know about the treat I was bringing–a plastic egg with a chocolate egg–for each student. This is the only time all year that I bring something for the students to eat. I always leave the eggs with the teachers to pass out in a method they want. I read It Wasn’t My Fault the week before spring break as there is an egg in the story, perfect for this time of the year and perfect for handing out a plastic egg with candy.

I included a note this week that I would be coming without my mask but would be happy to wear one if the teacher wanted me to. It’s been a month since California ended the mask mandate for schools and most students and teachers have stopped wearing their masks. Each week I saw fewer masks. The county’s case load has dropped and we are now rated in the low zone. I’m trusting my vaccines to take care of me. None of the teachers wrote back asking me to wear a mask, but I took one just in case.

Good thing. In the third class, when I walked in, maskless, one student who was masked, raised his hand and asked where my mask was. I asked him if he would like me to wear my mask. “Yes, we don’t want you to get sick.”

As you can guess, I put on the mask and continued with the story. All of the kids lined up and hugged me as I was leaving.

You’re special with a purpose

After reading to three first grade classes (teachers and students all masked even though the mandate has ended), I headed out through the front office. Sitting in the chairs were two girls, one with an ice pack on the her knee, the other offering consolation and company. These were big girls so I assumed sixth grade.

I stopped and asked what happened. A basketball was thrown and the girl’s knee took the brunt of the impact. I commiserated. The comforting friend said, “I remember when you would come read to us. I still have the bear you gave us.”

“Oh, let me see what I have in my bag for you,” I said, pulling out a couple of wiggly salamanders. The girls laughed and said they remembered the story, “Bootsie Barker Bites.” That’s one of the first books I read to first graders, so it’s been almost six years since they heard that story. “Yeah, the little girl who got beat up had a salamander,” one replied. “What are you reading today?”

“Three Hens and a Peacock, look I’m wearing my peacock shoes,” I said pointing to my feet. But they didn’t remember the shoes because I bought them in the last four years, after they had moved on to higher grades. They did remember the story. “You’re special with a purpose,” they recited. That’s the slogan that goes with the story. I was tickled that they remembered.

“I still have all the pencils and stickers you gave us,” the comforting girl said. Wonder if they’ll keep the salamander and star eraser I handed to them today?

But we have so much to say

Every week, at school, the children want to tell me so many things. They start raising their hands before I even ask a question. They interrupt almost every page with comments. I have to hurry on because I only have one half hour in each room, and if I’m late to the next class, that throws me off more, making me even later to the one after that. One week I was so late to the third class that the teacher must have given up on me and taken her students elsewhere. I couldn’t blame her.

Teachers have a lot to do. That’s why I only take 30 minutes in each class. Yet I feel so bad about leaving with questions unanswered, children who didn’t get to make that important comment, or even sharing silly faces and more laughs. I try to get lots of laughs in. I try to get them to pay close attention. I try to frame each question carefully so they can think about their answer. I give students time to formulate their answer and speak. But sometimes, if they don’t that the answer immediately, I have to move to the next hand waving in the air.

My wish would be for more relaxed time, more opportunities to listen to the students. Maybe when the virus numbers are better, and students are no longer required to wear masks, I can again hang out in the cafeteria and on the playground. Maybe next year things will be different. And by different, I mean better.

The last week of October was the first week at school

The last time I was here we were having a terrific rain storm. That storm broke records for rainfall on that day. Our backyard was afloat for awhile, but the rain slowed to a nice pace and the water soaked in to our very dry ground.

The rain on Monday provided a good example of a storm for my storytelling on Wednesday and Thursday at Columbia. The book this week was It’s Mine about some quarrelsome frogs and the neighboring toad, who although he didn’t like their bickering, still rescued them when they became frightened during the storm and had nowhere to go.

It was good to be back on the campus, with the children and the staff. I saw many people I had not talked to in almost two years. There are many new faces, too, so I had to make introductions and explain who I was. The staff seem to be doing well, and the children are quite happy with being back at school, even with masks attached to their faces.

There are big changes on the campus. A new building is going up. It will have 12 classrooms, restrooms, janitor room, and teacher’s work room. Because it is being built on the former site of the parking lot, a new parking lot will go in where the portable classrooms now sit. The playground equipment was temporarily moved to a site behind the cafeteria, fenced in from all the construction materials that are sitting on the large yard. Not as much room for running as there had been, but I didn’t notice the students being unhappy about that. They were still running and racing around at lunch recess before heading back into their rooms.

It looks like I will be at Columbia Wednesdays and Thursdays as I have six classes that want stories–four first grade and two second grade. There are new stories to pilot with the second graders as Columbia is not the only school that has asked the resiliency coaches to continue their work with the next grade. Since this year’s second graders pretty much missed out on a year of school, it’s probably a good idea at this time.

The second graders do know me, though, through the virtual storytelling I did last year. They are so excited to have me IN THEIR ROOM so they can talk to me and show me things and I can mingle up and down the aisles and among the students. And give them stickers and other things.

I was tired when I got home Thursday afternoon. After being at home for almost two years, I’m out of practice in the classroom and have to think more about what I am doing with the stories.Telling the story six times, I sometimes forget what I had or had not said.

A Saturday in June

It’s a gorgeous morning here in central California. Beautiful blue sky with no clouds. A cool breeze blowing through the sunshine and shadows. The air is even clean. Terry and I were both out early to work in the yards before the day’s heat will descend, later, after noon.

The first week of summer vacation has arrived with the advent of this sunny morning. Lots of warm (hot) days ahead of us. This next week promises temperatures over 100. We will need to do lots of watering, leading up to those wilting temperatures. I will run my errands and do my chores before noon each day.

School starts again August 12 for students. I’m sure teachers and staff will be there a few days in advance. Because of such an early start, I may begin my storytelling gig before Labor Day. We’ll see how the back-to-school days play out and what the teachers would like. That’s two months away with lots of time for summer relaxation.

Virtual storytelling

I’ve done two virtual sessions with the Columbia students. Monday’s class was second graders who I had as first graders last year so they knew me. It’s still weird to be reading to a screen versus live, wiggly children. All seemed to go well and I learned that I can get papers to them through the lunch pickup program. It’s held at the school whereas I thought the district had farmed out the lunch pickups to a variety of different sites rather than the child’s school. Glad to learn that information is wrong and they can get their meals at their own school site.

This week’s story was Last Stop on Market Street. CJ and his nana go cross-town, on a city bus, after church, to serve in a soup kitchen. CJ feels sorry for himself, but in the end he “bounces back” when he realizes that nana always sees the beautiful in everything and everybody and if he just looks around, he might, too. We talked about how CJ and his nana left the church building and did good work, just like we can do lots of learning outside of the school building.


Virtual storytelling