Class Notes for November 24-28, 2014

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November has always been a chopped-up month for school, with or without conferences. Last week seemed like the first time we have had five days in a row in a long time. Teachers appreciate the continuity of having longer stretches of time so we can work on projects with the kids without interruptions. November has always made that a challenge.

The high point of last week had to be what we did last Friday afternoon during bike safety. The neighborhood ride to Woodstock Park via some of the muddy alleys between 46th and 40th Streets was either “awesome” or “epic,” depending on who you talked to. Another word that would describe the ride was “wet,” as in soaking wet. It poured down the whole way, but that didn’t stop very many kids from totally enjoying the ride. Smiles and laughter were the order of the day.

There was plenty of practice at four-way stops and uncontrolled intersections, where the kids worked on their principles of right-of-way. There were also mud puddles galore, which I avoided with my skinny-tire bike and many of the students plowed through. The saving grace, weather-wise, was the fact that the temperature soared into the mid-50s by the time we were into the ride. The kids came back to school wet, happy, and a little bit tired. Shoes and socks were off in a flash, coats were hung over chairs, helmets were put away, and goodbyes and thanks were said to Emily and Laurie, our bike safety instructors.

We are starting on our study of Native Americans of North America. There will be a home project coming home this week that involves making a model of a habitat for a specific Native American group. At school, students will be working on a research project about their group.

We have a walking field trip to Reed College next Friday, Dec. 5. We’ll leave Lewis at 9:00 and return by noon for lunch. Our destination is Cooley Gallery, where Education Outreach Coordinator Gregory MacNaughton will guide us through the new exhibit. Let me know if you are interested in walking down with us.

Homework is due Dec. 5. The spelling test will be the same day. We are getting close to the end of Unit Two in Math and will take the post assessment shortly after we return from Thanksgiving weekend.

I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with family, friends, and gratitude, not to mention good food. I know that I am thankful to be working with each and every one of your children this year.

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Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots

Students of Rooms 23 and 24 put on an entertaining evening performance of “Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots” tonight. Each class acted in two scenes of this humorous production involving a new teacher from Romania who has what the kids in her class think is a Transylvanian accent and several mischievous students who want to find out if she is a vampire.

Both classes worked closely with artist-in-residence Michael Wehrli of New Moon Productions for six weeks to get things just right for tonight’s performance.

I was proud of the job every one of my students did and I know Ms. Sarah was, too. Lines were spoken clearly, students were focused, and everybody did their best to have fun up on the stage.

Here are a few pictures I took of both classes performing.

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Class Notes for November 17-21, 2014

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To say that last week was hectic would be an understatement, even though we only had two days of school. We packed in a lot of activities and projects into a short amount of time. There was Drama with a capital “D” when the snow (or no-snow) day happened on Thursday. We had to quickly reschedule the in-school performance of “Vampires Don’t Wear Polka Dots,” the play the kids have been working on for six weeks with Michael Wehrli. Friday morning’s performance went well and I expect as I write this on Sunday night, that Monday evening’s performance will go even better.

We started bike safety with instructor Emily. The class is learning more about being a safe and responsible cyclist. We continue this week and build up to a ride over to Woodstock Park on Friday at 12:50. Parents are welcome to ride along with us if you have time and a bike. Just let me know.

Be sure to check out the salmon art in the hallway down by Rooms 16 and 17. We’ve gotten some nice comments from passers by and teachers.

We start up our unit on Native Americans this week. The unit will culminate in a home project that will involve building a shelter representative of the group that your child is focusing on. More information will be coming home late in the week. The project will be due on Tuesday, Dec. 9, giving students three weekends to work on it.

I am still missing a few OMSI field trip forms. The trip is coming up this coming Tuesday the 25th of November, so please get them in as soon as possible.

Homework has been coming home on Friday and that seems to be working well for everybody. A half hour of daily reading is part of your child’s homework in addition to the regular math and spelling work.

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Dramatic Changes

Oh, we had great plans for today! The weather, or more accurately, an overreaction to the weather, caused the two-hour delay and finally the closure of school.
Mr. Lauer and Michael Wehrli have rescheduled the Drama events as follows:
If we have school on Friday (tomorrow!), kids will perform for the school at 10:00 a.mNo evening performance on Friday.
If we don’t have school or it’s a two-hour late opening on Friday, this in-school performance will be moved to Monday.
Monday, Nov 17 at 6:30 p.m. is the evening performance. We hope you can make it to that performance. Kids should be at school at 6:00 p.m. to meet Michael in the cafeteria on Monday.
Students will need to bring their costume on Friday. If it’s a costume that is not “weather friendly,” please send along a change.
To recap:
School performance on Friday.
Evening performance on Monday.
I appreciate your flexibility with this schedule change.
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Salmon Art on Display

Room 24′s exhibit of Salmon is on display in the hallway between Rooms 16 and 17. Stop by sometime and take a look.

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Kids’ Questions for a WWII Veteran

Last week I showed the students of Room 24 some of the letters my dad, Edsel Colvin, wrote to his dad during World War II. The kids had questions for Dad after they looked at the letters. The questions ranged from the specific (“What was your sergeant’s name?” and “Were you in Operation Market Basket?”) to the general (“What was the process the letters had to go through?”).

This weekend I went over to Madras to visit my parents and had the chance to interview Dad, 91, while I was there. Here are the edited transcripts of the interview the student’s name in parentheses:

(Alexander) What was your sergeant’s name?

Francis Hudak. He was from Joliet, Illinois. He was just very, very fair and a great guy.

(Sevyn) Did you enjoy fighting in the war or would you have chosen something else if you had the chance?

I would have chosen something else if I’d had the chance. I don’t think anybody enjoys fighting in a war.

(Sandra) What was the name of your general?

My general was Anthony McAuliffe.

(Sandra) What was the process the letters had to go through?

Well, we wrote a letter, the letter was given to your platoon lieutenant who read it and anything he saw in there that might divulge where you were or any information that might help the enemy he would censor it out by using a black marker or maybe even cut it out with a razor blade. Then that would be sent on. The letters were called V-Mail. You would write a letter on regular stationery and then it was sent in to be photographed and reduced and sent so it didn’t take up so much space.

(Claire) How old were you when the war was over?

I was 22 when the war was over in 1945.

(Isaac) What was the name of your squad?

We didn’t actually have a name; we had numbers. We were in the second squad of the second platoon in Company L of the 410th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division.

(Sean) Were you in Operation Market Basket?

No, that happened before I was in Europe.

(Isaac) What kind of gun did you use?

It was an M1 semi-automatic.

(Fred) Have you ever driven or been on a Sherman tank?

No, but it was a common tank. They didn’t let us ride in or on them.

(Miles) Did you ever ride on a jet during the war?

No, actually the Americans didn’t have jets during the war. The Germans had jets right near the end of the war.

(Mr. Colvin) How did you get over to Europe at the beginning of the war?

We went from Camp Howze in Texas by train to Boston, then took a ship to Marseilles, France. It took about 12 days and a bunch of guys got seasick on the way over. I was one of the few that didn’t.

(June) What was it like for you when you first got in to the army?

First I went to basic training at Camp Roberts in California. After that I was fortunate enough to pass the test and get into the Army Specialized Training Program at the University of Oklahoma.

(Joe) Did you read books at your campsite?

We actually didn’t have a campsite when we were over in Europe in France and Germany, no, we didn’t have time to read and if we did, the books were in French or German.

(Elliott) What kind of shelters did you and your team build?

You had a buddy; mine was Sergeant George Prohaska and the shelter we would build, we’d dig a hole about three feet deep called a foxhole. Then we’d line that hole with branches of trees, then we’d cover it over with branches so you couldn’t see it from above.

(Melanie) What convinced you to write a book about your letters?

My son. Your teacher. (We’ll listen to the recorded version of this answer in class.)

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It Was 70 Years Ago Today (Nov. 11,1944)


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Talk about irony.

November 11, 1918 was the day that World War I ended and is celebrated as Armistice Day in some countries and as Veterans Day in the United States. Fast forward to the first day my father saw combat, November 11, 1944, in the same Alsace-Lorraine region of France that was the scene of horrific battles in WWI.

Seventy years later to the day, at the age of 91, my father remembers quite clearly the events of that day. Part of the reason he remembers so well is that he constantly wrote letters to his dad and sisters full of as much detail as the censors would allow. The other reason is that he had (and still has) an incredible memory.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Dad and I worked together to bring his letters out of a shoe box and onto the pages of a book in 2002. We called the book Got to Go Now, based on a few lines he wrote in a letter written shortly after he started fighting in France. The book was a tribute from father to son and from son to father. I wanted to pay respect for what my father had done in the war and I’m sure Dad wanted to pay respect to his dad raising him as a single father.

I shared some of his letters with the class this week and they came up with questions for Dad. I will share the questions and answers in a later post.

For now, here’s a letter he sent after being in combat for a week:

Somewhere in France
November 19, 1944

Dear Dad,
Tomorrow will make it just exactly one month that I’ve been here in France and I have already spent a week on the front lines in combat and am now back in a rest camp. I guess that ought just about set a record of some sort as most fellows are overseas for several months before they go into combat. There is not much to tell you about what I saw up on the front except to say that it’s a plenty tough life to live up there and not a single one of us like it a bit. The least amount of time I have to put in up there the happier I’ll be.

Today I’m really enjoying life again. I got to wash and shave for the first time in thirteen days and last night I had a real night’s sleep even though it was still on the ground—at least I had a tent over my head. If only I had a clean set of clothes, I’d be happy, but that’s a minor item I guess. Last night we had hot chow for the first time in about eight or nine days and boy did it ever taste good. These canned rations this Army has are okay for a few meals, but God do they ever get tiresome.

I got a V-mail, number 8, from you and an airmail from Marge today. Also got this stationery I’m writing to you on as an Xmas present from Bonnie Ewan today. Pretty nice, huh?

The weather over here in France is very similar to that on the coast except that this is quite a little bit colder here. There has been some snow but it doesn’t last long so I don’t mind it too much. One thing we have here that you don’t have at home is mud, and boy is there ever a lot of that. I’ve been walking along and all of a sudden sink clear to my knees in the gooey stuff.

Gee, but are we ever a happy bunch of guys here today. All of us are so darned thankful to be back safely from the front after seeing some of the fellows get killed or wounded. There was one kid standing right alongside of me who got a piece of shrapnel in his leg and let me tell you it scared me plenty.

Well Dad I’m going to write a few more letters today while I have the time so I’ll close for this time.

As ever, Edsel

P.S. I’m enclosing some German money, two coins & one paper note which I took from a prisoner we captured.

And from a couple weeks later, very close to the time that the Battle of the Bulge started:

France December 7, 1944

Dear Dad and Margie,
Just a short note this eve to let you know I’m still enjoying this little rest I’m having and that I received your V-mail of November 19th & your air mail of November 17th today. I also got the Xmas package you sent me Dad. Thanks a million for everything. I can really use the cigarette lighter, toothpaste, gum, combs, etc., but don’t send anymore razor blades or shave cream. We only get to shave a couple times a month so you can see what you sent me will last a long time. While I think about it Dad whenever you write instead of sending a bunch of airmail stamps just send a couple or three envelopes & a piece of paper. That way I won’t have stamps & envelopes sticking together all the time.

Today they loosened up on censorship regulations and we are now allowed to tell you officially that we are with the Seventh Army and the mountainous country I spoke of was the Vosges Mountains you have undoubtedly heard about. If you can find a city by the name of St.-Dié on the map you can see where I have been. I can’t tell you how close I am to that city now, but at least you can see how far I’ve gone since leaving southern France.

What’s the news on the war now? When do most of the news commentators and big shots think it will be over here in Europe? We don’t hear too much about it as we have no radios and only get papers occasionally.

Well I guess that’s about all for this time. Keep the letters coming and I’ll do my best to answer.

Love, Edsel

Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served in the military! Thank you for our service.

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