Saturday, February 12, 2011

Modern Dolls Guarding the Compound

Here is an example of genetics continuing through the generations.  Although these heads are not on wooden stakes, the hope is, combined with the US flag, Tartars or extremists would have second thoughts before entering the deck.  So far, like in olden days, it has serve as a much needed deterrent...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Just another family story...

So, here is one story of many regarding the Smerkanich family.  When growing up, the Smerkanich grandparents, living in a small village called Kelaryes had woods and a stripping/dump about 1/4 mile away. Zedo (Grandfather in Russian, sort of, really the Americanized version of the word for him, which sounds more like Zhe-doh according to my late father.  Why he taught his kids to call him by a different name is another story) would go to the "strippings" to get the leftover pieces of coal to heat his house/stove and while passing the dump, would peruse others' trash. As you might guess, he started to take dolls heads (who wouldn't?), and for some unknown reason, attach each one to a stick and poke them in the ground, just beneath the grape vine, which was between the house and the backyard/garden. We never thought anything odd since we were genetically attached to him and the dolls' heads were there since we were kids. Only later did it dawn on us how strange it was. Some of the heads turned black as the years went by, others got mildewed, but no one was ever taken away! Creepy now, ordinary then.

Uncle Matt's theory is that the heads kept Groundhogs away, which he made up. The real reason for the heads on sticks is the same as medieval times: as a deterrent for those invaders who might have considered attacking the Smerkanich compound (Look what we do you if try to take inhabit our family grapevine!). Warped, but apparently Zedo's strategy was brilliant in retrospect! No dolls or doll like tribes/armies ever attacked. Welcome to the Twilight Zone of my youth.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Big Plans-NOT!

I had some spent a considerable amount of time preparing my application for an Einstein Fellowship that would have afforted the opportunity to spend a school year in one of departments like NOAA or NSTA as an educator with real world experience; bringing a teacher's perspective to the department's education section.  In the application I needed to list all my educational experiences, whether is be teacher or student based, 6 essays, and 3 letters of recommendation.  It was a rigorous exercise and was submitted electronically on January 1 of this year.  Found out yesterday that I did not make the cut, meaning I will not be invited to DC to interview with the different departments. 

I was hoping to be accepted but after a few too many beers last night it dawned on me that I am one of those persons who don't translate well on paper.  I have strong credentials and teaching experiences and demonstrated I can plan and complete educational workshops for both students and teachers.  But I think I'm one of those people that need to be met to really get a grasp of what I could bring to a program or department.

This has the same feel of 15 years ago when MISE was choosing Leader Teachers to plan and present Peer Teacher Workshops.  At first they choose those stereotype science/math know it all nerdy types of teachers.  The type who had much content knowledge but had little process (read: people) skills.  I remember I had spoken to main person choosing these teachers (she was much the same:  very bright but lacking people skills and a sense of humor) and I think she was taken by my questioning on how and when would other Leader Teachers would have opportunities to develop PTWs.  It was the year or two after that other leader teachers were asked to join the cadre and I was asked.  Since that time I have co-taught or lead about a dozen PTWs including designing a partnership grade 4 assessment based on the results of the TIMSS test. 

So maybe the move to DC, working for the government, and being away from home was meant to be.  I do think I'll need to be somewhere other than home next September.  And it will be strange to see those school buses.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Five Months from Retirement...

I'm in the process, that is, actually thinking about actually being retired.  With a pension (thank God) and with no further plans is very scary to me. 

I've worked since about the age of 8.  First delivering food (pierogi) that my mother made and cooked and sold to neighbors; working at an Uncle's pharmacy as a delivery and stock boy, and on and on until I was cleaning offices (and toilets) to help my way through college.  Luckily I have been employed as a public school teacher since 1975 (fresh out of Temple University) ever since.  Through the early years I was a salesman and construction worker during summers to make ends meet.  Once I accumulated enough graduate credits and was fortunate enough to be involved with an educational initiative (Merck Institute for Science Education or MISE) I worked with teachers inservice.  An exhilarating opportunity and experience.  Somehow 36 years have passed (with a wonderful wife of 30 years and 2 lovely girls: 23 and 21 years of age) and now I'm facing retirement out of choice.  I always told myself that I would leave teaching when I felt that I wasn't effective.  And the time has come.  I want to pass the torch to another generation of educators.

So I'm asking myself: what's next?   Anyone with insights/thoughts/ideas, please weigh in!

February 2 Ice Storm!