October 30,2017

Report Cards! Need I say more. Every teacher can tell you these take a huge amount of time. Especially when they are not formatted correctly and take 1 night of making them into quarter system report cards, several nights of entering grades. The report cards here are based on Common Core Standards so there isn’t just 1 grade for each subject but a grade for each standard under each subject (multiply that by 25 children). Many standards we have not begun working with so there was no grade. I only gave grades for standards I had 3 data points for. Still, it was a huge amount of work. Since I do not have access to computer system here for attendance, I then had to with for a report to be generated for that portion of the cards. This took a major portion my time. I did not get a post off for 2 weeks. I apologize, it just wasn’t the priority my report cards were!

I got the report cards out just in time to hand out to parents. I then raced out the door for a trip home for the 25th anniversary of the partnership with Girls Inc. called Operation Smart. It is a program done each semester at CSM by our sophomore level students. Young women come to CSM from Girls Inc. each Tuesday and Thursday after school for enrichment activities in math, science and relevant technology. Home this weekend was a race to see how much could be squeezed into one 4-day weekend. I must say I got to see quite a few people and spent little time resting. I did not get everything done on my list, so I will have to keep plugging away tasks. Once again, my friends Scott and Keri housed me on Wednesday night so I could cut time off my Thursday drive. Keri and I compared notes on report card generation. I also got to see my girls and have dinner with them on Friday night. Jeff and I got to spend some quality time together doing wonderful things like unloading and loading my car, and watching the Huskers pull out a victory over Purdue. (Oh, the luxury of getting my nails done, a haircut and a real grocery store!!)

Health fairI have not reported on the Nursing faculty and student trip. Students and 2 faculty members from CSM were here 2 weeks ago as an alternative fall break trip. They conducted a health fair for the elementary students at Crazy Horse, made a healthy snack with my 5th graders and did a group meeting with college-bound high schoolers on what it takes to go to college. We had a community dinner at Bob and Mary’s building since there was a group here from Minnesota as well that week. The school provided the nurses a house just down the street from my apartment. It was so good to have someone here from home again. I also laughed like I have not laughed in a long time. The students were so good for my soul. Driving in the Black Hills in a large white van was interesting, and I was glad I was not driving.

Jen and Tracey

I will only have to say Needles Highway to Jen and Tracey, my professor friends and I know we will all dissolve into a fit of giggles. Thank you to all who come up to Wanblee for the time you spent on this trip. I hope it has inspired a spring break trip as well. We did a bit of touring and had some wonderful discussions on the poverty so present here. The students were shocked at their trip to Wanblee Mart. We discovered a wonderful hamburger joint just outside of Rapid City and I will return there with Jeff the next time he is here.

Bunk bedsThe group from Minnesota got the water line into the building. All the bunk beds are assembled. Mary is one happy camper. She has a flushing toilet and while I was home this weekend cabinets and a real kitchen appeared. Bob is faithfully working on a full bathroom complete with shower. They are now progressing towards getting the dormitory ready for guests. I hear we may have a group here from Messiah Lutheran again in November. Maybe we can get some of the clothing and pantry assembled upstairs. If anyone out there has clothing racks or strong shelving units we could use both for upstairs.

Jeff is coming up the weekend of Veterans Day. He is hoping to finish clearing out our guest room and the church storage area. We will see how much he can pack into that trip. I will love having him here, less pulls on my time than when I am home in Omaha. Contact him if you have something to send. He is becoming quite the gatherer of materials.

I raced to get back on Sunday for a 3:00 meeting at the school only to arrive in Wanblee to a phone text telling me there would be no school on Monday. There was a funeral and the school is the only place big enough. We unloaded my car at the building and then I came home and collapsed. I spent today stitching and baking.

Tomorrow is Halloween. My students will be performing a reader’s theatre of The Hallo-Weiner by Dav Pilkey. Thank you to Jeff for scanning book illustrations for me this weekend while I raced around like a mad woman. It will be fun to see them perform this. I hope our Dogs and Cat chorus pull off their parts. They tend to not ham it up as much as I would like! We will also have a caramel apple feast and watch Goonies in the afternoon for our party. After school will be a trunk or treat in the school parking lot and a carnival at the college. So, kids here should have a Happy Halloween. I need to get off to bed so I can handle those live wires tomorrow.

It is cold here and feels like it could snow. The wind is really blowing and the clouds are heavy. I hope it holds off until after tomorrow. I am dressing in a witch costume tomorrow for school. I know some of the children will be in costume as well. Many do not have costumes, I am told it is not a big deal here. They trick or treat as they are.

It was hard to return this time. I found it felt really good to be back at CSM and I am looking forward to teaching next semester. I miss home! I miss my family and friends. Keep me in your prayers as I go forward. I know that what I am doing here is worthwhile, I know it is where I am supposed to be, yet I am tiring. I am praying they will hire a teacher. We need to do a transition with these children before I leave in December. I would like to know my kids are settled in before I leave. They keep asking if I am going to stay. I tell them honestly that I will not. I need to return home to my life in Omaha. I worry that they will have a string of subs next semester, and lose the learning we have gained. It weighs heavy on my heart.

October 13, 2017

LICE!!! I only have to say that word and it puts an itch to the head of every elementary teacher (some of you are itching now). We had our first head check in our room, and 6 children had lice! I know that lice are a part of life here and that they are easily transmitted. I have itched all week - even though I made the nurse check my head as well. Thank you to the tea tree oil I administer each night, NO lice. Still, my head itches just saying the word. My para educator laughs each time she sees me itch my head, she keeps telling me my imaginary lice are moving. As I said, just the word makes me itch.

My classroom door decorated for Halloween. My children come in each day to tell me how many days until Halloween. They are so excited about the day. I am unsure what to expect here. The teachers are talking about organizing a trunk or treat in the parking lot of the school. It will be safer than children trick or treating in housing. Guess who has been put in charge! The photo this week is of our door. The spiders are constructed from chenille stems, which I called pipe cleaners. Pipes up here have a whole different connotation than what I think about! The children asked why I called the chenille stems pipe cleaners while trying to explain – they point blank told me Crack pipes don’t have something to clean. I had to goggle on my phone a tobacco pipe for them to understand. I will never use the word pipe cleaner for this craft item again. Oh, what different lives many of them live, then I did growing up.

We are beginning to plan our Halloween Party for our room. I think we are going to dip caramel apples and then have a bar of toppings to add to your caramel; kind of our own Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. The kids have requested a scary movie. I am beginning to explore what I can show them that is not R rated. Hope to find an old flick they may not have seen. I thought maybe Goonies, so if any of you have suggestions, send them to my email. Horror flicks are not my thing - so I have a limited view of this genre. I will have to be able to get it on DVD because BIE blocks so many sites I will not be able to show a downloaded copy.

photo of the Halloweiner book cover I have downloaded the script for a readers’ theatre of Halloweener by Pikney, a children’s story about a dachshund, whose mother dresses him as a hot dog for Halloween. We will be performing it for the lower grades on Halloween. Everyone will have a part. I hope to film it – I’ll update you on the progress. It is a cute story, and I know the fifth graders will enjoy the humor.

We seem to have turned a corner now that it is October. I find myself redirecting behavior less and really being able to do some fun teaching. It was impossible before to do some things because the children just got so out of hand. We completed a science experiment with water this week; freezing different solutions. The children learned how to read a Celsius thermometer and did a full experiment with the hypothesis method, data collection, and conclusions drawn from this data. It was exciting to see them work together as a group and have science conversations about what they thought. Last week, while I was in Omaha there was a presentation on reptiles from Reptile Garden, the learning journals from the presentation also showed progress in writing as well as science learning. YEAH!!!!!

We have been editing each morning since the beginning of the year. We now can tell why we think the corrections need to be made and are beginning to edit our own writing as well as our peers! (Yes, I know this is something most 5th graders can do – however this was not a skill present in August.) It was a rude awakening, last week when I was visiting a student teacher in second grade at Omaha Westside, and saw the teacher present the same lesson I had just done with my fifth graders. One that my students had struggled with – adverbs; seeing these second graders master this and compete by tables to write the best sentence containing adverbs with self-assured confidence brought the deficits up here to light. My students’ lack of vocabulary and exposure to standard English, really hinders them in this area. The second graders’ sentences were more complex than anything I have seen from my fifth graders. When asked to write, the first thing my students ask is, “How many sentences do we have to write?” This statement is followed by the simplest sentences that can be constructed, so the new challenge will now be to increase the clarity and expand our writing. I am thinking we may set up some pen pals so that they are writing for a purpose. We have been doing apology and thank you notes, I believe this will be our next step. Anyone have a class that needs a pen pal out there??

I have always talked to my students about hungry children not learning well. This week, I had an aha with one of my boys. I have been tracking his behavior. I suspect we may have diabetes happening or in the least low blood sugars. (He is as obstinate as my dad was when his sugars were low! Any of you who saw dad like that will know it is not a pretty sight!!) This young man has days when he comes into school so obstinate refusing to do anything. Finally, it occurred to me to ask if he had breakfast. When I learned he was hungry and got some food into him - he was a different kid. When the commercials talk about hangry well, this was him! I am now stocking my room with easy breakfast items such as juice boxes and granola bars, graham crackers etc… (Ups my food budget a bit) I will be bringing the small refrigerator up so I can store milk and cereal here as well. I had not done so because we do have a breakfast program here. However, if the children are late they cannot get breakfast through the program. We need to get the food backpack program up and running. That was one of my goals - however, with teaching fifth grade, I have not been able to get this accomplished. I know I have children leaving school each day and not eating again until school the next day. The Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest places in this hemisphere - poorer than Haiti! Please know that the average income here for a year is less than many in Omaha make in a month. This is an epicenter of poverty and very little hope for escaping it. My training through Aha Process and reading Ruby Payne’s materials has taught me that to escape poverty you must have resources beyond just money. These recourses include financial, emotional, mental (Including mental health and education), spiritual, physical, support systems and knowledge of hidden rules, and role models. I encourage any of you who are interested in learning more about leaving poverty or assisting those who desire to do so to explore Aha Process training and materials. I use what I have learned daily in my work here.

Fall is in full swing here. Report cards go out in 2 weeks. While there was a very dry summer, we have had a wet fall. It is raining again here. Fall leaves are beautiful and the colors really pop against the horizons. It has cooled off here and we are awaiting the winter coats promised by a group from North Carolina. I know we will be needing them soon, you can feel the chill in the air in the mornings. God’s Blessings to you all. I am looking forward to a group of Nursing faculty and students from CSM arriving next week. They will be doing a health fair for the elementary, a college workshop for the high school girls and exploring the history and culture of Pine Ridge area.

I can use for my room:

  • Breakfast bars (No peanuts)
  • Individual packets of cheese and crackers
  • Graham cracker bears or fish crackers (individually packaged)
  • Juice boxes
  • Individual cans of fruit
  • Plastic spoons
  • Individual cereals

There is a box at Lutheran Church of the Master (114th and Center) or you can drop them off to Jeff. I will be going home to Omaha at the end of October, to celebrate 25 years of the SMART program at CSM. God's blessing to you all. Thank you for the cards, emails, phone calls of encouragement, they mean so much. Thank you again to all of you have donated so many different items for me to bring up here each trip. The children see me as rich. I tell them it is all of you. It is important for every child to feel cared for these items are beginning to help my children here feel like someone cares for them.

October 9, 2017

My car is loaded for Wanblee.

I am back in Wanblee after a four-day weekend in Omaha. Thank you to so many of you who sent back materials, greeted me with hugs and smiles and made my homecoming so special. Thank you to my friends the McClellans, for once again feeding my body and soul and providing me refuge for the night on Wednesday. The photo is my car as I left this morning, the car was loaded to the top and I have more to bring back later in October when I go home for the SMART reception at CSM. The materials that were sent make such a difference here.

It was amazing to be home in Omaha and see my family, friends, CSM students and PEO sisters. I didn’t realize just how homesick I really was; until I headed back today. Oh, the things we take for granted:

  • A Hot bath
  • Showers with real hot water and water pressure
  • Heat in our homes (I came home to a very cold apartment and no heat)
  • Dishwashers
  • Wonderful stores and groceries right in our neighborhood.
  • Radio stations!!!
  • A plethora of TV stations
  • Wifi and high-speed internet
  • My full closet of warm clothes
  • A glass of good wine
  • Eating out
  • Laundry right at home
  • BTN network with my Huskers (Even if they did lose)
  • A haircut and my nails done!

Thank you for the pants for the boys. We now have met that need. We will still need candy, small prize items, and gift cards for the celebrations for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas here with the High Horses. The teachers are sponsoring a trunk or treat at the school on Halloween, so the children will have a safe place to trick or treat. There is a bin at Lutheran Church of the Master for donations. Jeff will continue to check this for me.

Ongoing needs:

  • New underwear (all sizes)
  • Socks (all sizes)
  • Gloves and Mittens
  • Snow boots
  • Hygiene products (deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash or soap)
  • Leap Pads (someone donated a whole box of Leap pad programs – but no Leap pads)

I arrived back in Wanblee this afternoon, to a full food give away with Pastor Dennis, from Colorado. He is going to begin reaching out to the school as well. It was wonderful to walk into the Kennedy Center and be greeted, many welcomed me home to Wanblee, I am beginning to build a family here as well.

While checking my email, I received a very heartfelt plea from a past student, Sister Rosemary Arrah. Rosemary is from Cameroon Africa and is in the middle of a very stressful political situation. It is not something we are hearing about on our news channels but is very dangerous and people are being killed, schools have been closed and Sister Rose is in charge of a school she started there. She is doing what she can for her community, students, and sisters who depend on her.

Please keep her in your prayers. She needs so much right now including help to keep her community afloat.

The sun is setting and I must finish plans for tomorrow as well as some grading I did not take home to Omaha this weekend. God bless each of you that have been supportive of this adventure of mine. I look forward to seeing my fifth graders tomorrow and to hear how things went with the sub. Continue to pray for a fifth-grade teacher to take this position. I will be leaving at Christmas time and as of today, there are no candidates in the pool to take my place. Future teachers out there, here is a job where you are really needed. These children need good teachers!!

October 3, 2017

5th grade parade float

It has taken me a couple of days to recover from last week! At school, we had a full week of Homecoming activities. The children made signs complete with glitter. I am still finding glitter in my hair and clothing!! Their float was definitely a piece of 5th-grade art. They were proud of it and I must say that the future class of 2025 flew their colors well. They loved throwing candy as we passed the parade route. The parade took a full hour. I must say I did not think it possible for that to be true - Wanblee just isn’t all that big. The kids spent the parade route shouting Chief’s Power and of course the future class of 2025; complete with who’s going to graduate? We're going to graduate! 

5th grade parade float

Thank you to all of you who furnished candy, it was a huge hit!! We have enough treats to have a Halloween party as well. Thank you to my friends Elizabeth and Kitty for helping to divide up the candy and bagging it so the kiddos had candy right at hand. Thank you to Jerome for the use of the flatbed and to Jaybird for driving. Finally, thank you to Holly, one of the student’s moms, for braving the float with us. One of my students acted as resident photographer and took over 600 pictures on my phone, I created a slide show and would be happy to share it with anyone who would like to see it.

Dee covered in hats

Last weekend also brought several visitors from Omaha. My friends Elizabeth, Kitty and Lori were here. Kitty and Elizabeth spent Friday afternoon cleaning and fixing sewing machines that were donated to the school for sewing dance costumes. They were able to get 7 out of 8 machines working. The two women spent over four hours cleaning and troubleshooting issues on the machines. Boy, it is nice to have smart women as friends!! Friday afternoon found an additional seven Omaha folks here from Messiah Lutheran. They got to have time with Jerome and Theresa. The group brought my students' new balls and ball pumps, hygiene products, pants, candy and school supplies. Thank you Thank you!!!! On Saturday while the Messiah folks took part in a giveaway with the High Horses, Kitty, Elizabeth and I headed out for a tour of the Badlands. While I have driven through the Badlands on several occasions, I have never done so with a resident geologist, Kitty in the car. I now have a much different respect and understanding of what I previously just saw as pretty. Saturday ended with our friend, Lori returning to Wanblee after several days of business meetings in the Black Hills. We were able to go into Kadolka for wonderful steaks and my first glass of wine since August! My house was filled with laughter, knitting, and inflatable beds. Thank you to my friends from the Wooly Mammoth for all the hand-knitted hats. The photo is me covered in hats! It is cooling off up here and my students will be excited to receive these in the upcoming days. It was sure quiet Sunday after everyone left. It made me realize just how homesick I really am!

Last week also was our MAPs testing. My students worked hard on these tests I was proud to see the initial results and look forward to having the full reports. I have several students finishing tests tomorrow. We will be celebrating completed tests with Root Beer Floats prior to my leaving for home. I am looking forward to being home for a few days. While I have a full list of things to do once I grace the borders of Omaha, I am really looking forward to being home for a bit. I miss my family, friends, and activities. Jeff teases me that I have filled every minute I am home. I know that I will be pushing it to get in everything I want to do, but I don’t want to waste one minute while I’m there. I’m also looking forward to getting my hair cut, this also hasn’t happened since August!

Finally, I will close with a bit of Fifth-grade humor. Joke of the day, as per one of my boys who has a new joke for me most days.

  1. Why did the chicken join the band? He already had his drumsticks.
  2. The children tell me that if you google a picture of Donald Duck and turn it upside down you will see Donald Trump. They swear Donald’s beak looks just like President Trump’s hair. (Fifth Grade perspective on politics)

I look forward to seeing many of you while in Omaha. I appreciate all the support I receive from you in prayers, materials, and notes. The cards and emails I receive from you help to keep me going.

September 24, 2017

I hate the cold!! I hate to be cold! It is cold and wet here. The high today was 51°. (Yes, I know it is going to get colder!!) I have no heat in my apartment! Thank God! I have a small space heater, I was able to get my living room up to 70° this afternoon, last night it was 62° in the apartment and 41° outside. Thank you, my friend, Mary Kay, for the electric mattress liner and flannel sheets. It has made sleeping possible. I plan to plead on Monday, for the heat to be turned on, The good thing about this weather, is the beginning of fall colors. 

I am reminded daily that I am on foreign territory! The mental health issues here affect so many things. Children who threaten suicide have to be taken seriously, and even in fifth grade, this is an issue. It breaks my heart and I spent time this week in tears and on my knees. The manner in which these threats are handled is so difficult, children led away in handcuffs by police, because closest social service is far away, police do the transport. It was so difficult!!! To see more about the issues of suicide on the reservation go to www.AdornedCampaign.com This is an ongoing campaign done here on the Pine Ridge. It is headed by Amanda Hadden, from Camp Chunku Waste.

Bullying is such an issue here. I spend time daily with my students discussing what bullying is. They are so physical with each other. They play rough! It may seem fun-but when you are the kid at the bottom being pounded on, it is no longer fun! Teasing is a part of the culture up here. It is a fine line, between teasing and hurting feelings. Fifth graders can be cruel, and I now have a list of words not allowed being used at school including stupid, fat, dummy and my least favorite R word retarded. NIcknames are used a lot here and they also seem cruel to me, names like fat boy or old man. When I call kiddos on this, they always roll their eyes, sigh heavily and say, “I was just teasing!” I remind them words hurt!

Hats made by Dr. Dee.

I am knitting, like a mad woman, it helps me to center myself and feel like I am being productive. There are days I feel like what I am doing here is good, and other days I struggle with why I am here at all.  I still strongly believe this is what I am supposed to be doing with my sabbatical; it’s just not easy! Between yoga, daily devotions and prayer, and my sewing; I am staying sane. The photo is the hats I have completed.

I will be getting a chance to head home for a few days in October. I have not been home since August. I am looking forward to seeing my girls, soaking in a hot tub and exchanging all my summer clothes for something warm, seeing family and friends and sleeping in my own bed. As I was making my list of what I want to bring back it occurred to me that other than a grocery list; I have not made a daily list of what needs to be done since my first week here. For those of you who know me, I am the queen of lists and this simple action caused me to realize just how much slower and different my life is here.

Last Sunday, we did a giveaway of all the clothing, boots, shoes, and blankets Jeff delivered from Lutheran Church of the Master. In just over 3 hours the tables were empty. The tables were mounded well above my head when we started. The ladies that were helping were impressed with the quality of the clothing and coats. Thank you again my church friends for your support! We are still in need of boys jeans or warm-up pants, size 10-20. I have children wearing shorts to school because they have outgrown all their long pants. Children’s shoes and boots are also needed.

This Sunday, I spent the afternoon at a sew-in for dance costumes for the dance group. Someone had donated 8 Elan sewing machines, none of them worked, all needed bobbins. My friend Kitty, will be here soon. She and I are going to try to tackle them. They have probably not been cleaned in 10 years and I hope we can get a few of the machines sewing. I don’t understand why anyone would donate something in that condition and not include basics like bobbins and a manual. I will be sewing a few of the dresses that were cut out, this week with moms and young girls on my machine. 

From my experience today, I learned there are 3 types of dresses and based on your dress you dance differently. There is traditional, fancy, and jingle. I will be going through my stash of fancy fabrics at home in October; to bring up some shiny materials, ribbons, and beads to make appliques for the fancy dresses Each dress takes about 3-5 yards of fabric. Anyone having fabrics they want to donate let me know,  I would be happy to deliver them. They like bright colors and patterns. Usually poly cotton and of course anything with glitz. They also need poly cotton threads. If you have Dual Duty thread you have been wondering what you will do with it, I’d love to take it off your hands. Sewing machines in working order also are needed. I know Jeff will be happy to see some items going out of my studio space instead of just additions being made.

I close tonight moving into a new week. We have homecoming and state MAPS testing this week. Keep us in your prayers. I promise photos of our float next week and I pray I can keep 26 live wires on the float. Thank you to those of you who have donated candy. The kids are most excited about throwing candy off the float. I have no idea, what our float will end up looking like, they are in charge of the design. Signs will be made this week complete with maroon paint and gold glitter! They figured in Math class they are the future class of 2025. They made me promise I would be here to see them graduate!

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