Category Archives: School

Fighting the Plague…

by Cyndi Faircloth

On Monday, my classroom was the source of a “symphony of sickness”. Hacking, coughing, sniffing, wheezing…you name it, we heard it.

I think all but one student was sick. And I might have been the worst off. (Of course, I’m also a whiner when I’m sick so it might have been in my head)

On Tuesday, I went to Quick Care to check in for the 2nd time this round of sickness. There were lots of other coughing, sneezing victims in the waiting room. The doctor took pity on me and listened to my complaints, and gave me another prescription to fight the plague. After one of my hacking sessions, I asked the nice doctor if he took Airborne when there were this many people coming in with these kinds of symptoms. He said he doesn’t take supplements.

He just washes his hands…a lot.

Seriously? That’s his preventative measure when he works with people coughing a sneezing in his face every day?



The CDC says that “Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.”

I thought I washed my hands pretty regularly at school, but I realize it is something I have to consciously think about doing because there isn’t a sink in my room. Other than the regular bathroom trip, or before and after eating, I’m just not near a sink during the day.

Yet students are in my room all day long…touching things. Sneezing on the desks. Coughing into the air. Blowing their nose and throwing dirty tissues into the garbage (…or at least aiming for the garbage. Sometimes they miss and have to pick them up off the floor).

If you really think about the possible sharing of germs that can happen in a classroom, a germophobe might go into convulsions.

So it was kind of a reality check for me that the doctor (into whose face I had nearly coughed while he examined my nasal passages a few minutes ago) believed that handwashing was the best way for him to avoid getting sick.

I need to up my game during flu season. Maybe all year long.

So here’s my pledge: I will start washing my hands during every class break that I can.

This creeping crud is finally losing its hold on me (thanks to the doctor’s prescription, I think). And I don’t want it back again. Ever.

I will wash my hands whenever I pass the sink in our school kitchen. Or whenever I go in the Science classroom. And whenever I’m standing at the copier waiting for a job to finish (there’s a sink right around the corner). I may buy stock in SoftSoap at this rate.

‘Course I probably also need to invest in some good hand lotion because all this handwashing is going to dry my skin out. But that’s a story for another day…


Spring Broken

Spring broken

One of the students titled one of his blog posts “Spring Broken” when we got back from spring Break a couple of weeks ago. In his post, he wrote about being disappointed in his break, because he spent much of the week sick. Several other students commented that they were sick too. Our schedule was so rushed when we came back that I didn’t have much time to reflect on any of that.

But that was part of the problem.

Not taking enough time for self-care can make people sick. For the week or two before break, we were all focused on making it to Spring Break. It may be our busiest time of year. For some reason, our third quarter often includes some of the most difficult classes we offer in a year. On top of that, Senior Projects and SP Presentations are due. Despite Spring Break, the quarter feels like it moves really quickly.

“I just need to finish this paper and it will be break.”

“I’ll get these presentation slides ready and then I’ll be ready for break.”

“I’m almost done with my project-just in time for break.”

“I need to finish my book for English before break.”

Teachers assign things to be done just before break. Students work hard on those things with the thought that they can ‘relax’ over break. But when they slow down, and finally take time for themselves, I think that when their bodies finally relax, their immune systems relax too.

And then the germs take over…

kleenexThe weeks after break, we saw lots of absences (sometimes up to 40% of the students) because of illness. Those of us in the building heard sniffling, snuffling, coughing, hacking, and hocking (gross!) while we were here. It sure made the end of the quarter even more stressful for everyone.

So I made a note to myself after reading that student blog post.

My goal is to do a better job of including some moments to help students “de-stress” in the weeks leading up to Spring Break next year. Periodically, I want to plan a few moments to stretch, take some deep breaths, reflect on what they need to do. Somehow, I will help students learn some coping strategies so that their stress doesn’t build up and lead to illness over the break from school.

I remember an NPR story about how childhood stress can contribute to chronic illness as an adult. Maybe the story referred to stresses outside of school, but I can’t imagine that a lot of stress is good for anyone, no matter what the source is.

So, note to self:

“Help students manage stress before Spring Break next year.”

And (bonus!) maybe there will fewer gross, sickness-related sounds in the building in the weeks after break.


Fickle? Or Just Working for the Weekend?

By Cyndi Faircloth – English/Social Studies/Art/Journalism teacher

Ahhh…students. Sometimes they’re so fickle.

Last week, I went home in a great mood and told my husband how great my History class is. The kids were excited about class that day. One student said, “I love learning History this way!” Another commented that they’d learned “so much” in my class.

Students said this as I was passing out a set of documents for them to analyze, in order to answer an essential question. My little teacher’s heart was glad that they were enjoying the class and it was nice to hear students say that they were actually learning something from me! (Wow! My work was worth it!)


Today, we were finishing up a set of documents from yesterday. Then, we were starting another set of documents on a different topic.  Apparently, kids can only handle one topic per day and learn “so much” from me.

As I was handing out the second set of documents, I heard complaints:

“So many documents!”

“So much to read!”


Fickle I tell you. Fickle.

I tell myself its because today is the last day of the school week before a long weekend. They just don’t have the stamina today because they are focused on the next couple of days off. [Point of clarification – “off” for the students does not mean “off” for me. I have two days of professional development classes and discussion ahead. I sure hope no one hears me say anything like “So much to read!” or “More?!”] Or maybe its because they weren’t done talking about the first topic and they wanted to spend more time on it. Or maybe I didn’t do a good job introducing the topic and how it connects to today.

Who knows? But we’ll finish those documents on Monday and start some new ones. Keep on swimming…


Just a little line that came outta my mind  

by Caleb Martin  [Read more at:]

Looking closely at the future, tryna figure what is best,
as I’m analyzing features, heading farther farther west,
hoping I could find a balance, get this shit up off my chest,
like I’m runnin round in circles, ima trash you like the rest.
Feel like I’m drifting far away into the blackness of space,
find the answer to the question, cover up with blankets in,


By Cyndi Faircloth – English/Social Studies/Art/Journalism teacher

It’s that time of year.

The kids who are close to graduation start running of out steam and find it hard to focus all day. Teachers spend more time practicing amateur psychology and trying to head off emotional meltdowns, than we do celebrating the success of various assignments.

Student smarts off in class? We have to ask ourselves if it was intended as a rude comment for the teacher (or another student) or if it was a fight-flight reaction to being afraid that he/she didn’t know the answer. And we have to do that mental processing in the second or two it takes for us to respond so that we can respond appropriately. Make a joke out of it? Suggest a time out, like getting a glass of water? Or impose a more serious consequence?

Making the wrong choice may mean the situation escalates and takes the class off-track.


One of our past lead teachers had this theory that seniors go through a mini-phase where the terrible twos reemerge. He believed that senioritis, and the resulting condition of “jerk-headedness” that sometimes comes with it, are actually part of the student’s process of saying goodbye to both parents and school. That period, where neither side is really enjoying each others’ company on a regular basis, is key to being able to let go when the student moves on after graduation.


Sorta makes sense.

And, that theory is part of what gets us through the end of the year. We work at not taking things personally when students act up. “Senioritis,” we tell ourselves when the basketball breaks the backyard light fixture at lunch.

“Senioritis,” we say when a student stares at the blank computer screen and says, “My head will explode!” when we make them work.

“Senioritis,” is the mantra when a student can’t stop talking during 4th period, dominating class discussion.

Whatever helps us sleep at night, right?

Just in case it isn’t obvious, teachers look forward to graduation as much as students do. It is the cure for “senioritis”. Both students and teachers can relax and go back to the usual merriment and general delight in each other’s company.

We’ll be really glad when “this time of year” ends on June 4th!


by Jon Kammeyer

One day I was going to go down to Old Country Buffet and I thought that it was going to be amazing. I was anticipating it to be the best thing I’ve ever tasted, and besides that it was all you can eat. We were on the way to Lewiston and I was so hungry that I probably could have eaten a horse. The ride down to Lewiston was long, hot, and miserable. When we were coming into Lewiston the famous smell of the paper mill hit my nose. Its so gross that it really makes me not want to go down there, but I do anyways because I love going places. Also, along with the horrible smell, my ears were so clogged form the rapid elevation drop that I couldn’t hear a 357 going off next to my head. Anyways I was still excited to go to the buffet.

The temperature difference between the top of the grade and the bottom is so drastic that it overwhelms the human body until you get climatized to the air thickness and heat. Sometimes I like to go down the old Lewiston grade because it gives you a better look at what traveling to lewiston was really like back in the day. As the day went on we shopped at Costco, Walmart, Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, and Big R (when it was still open).

After we finished our shopping we went to the park down by the snake river. It was a little too cold to go swimming but I didn’t care, I changed into my swimsuit and plunged right into the river. The murky green water was so disgusting that it probably would have turned other people away, but I wasn’t afraid, I knew what I was getting into. The way the water shined from the sunlight hitting it and reflecting it into my eyeballs was so blinding that I had to be able to watch where I was going so I could plunge into the water. I had been waiting for the day to be able to swim in a river, I was so ready to get the water all over my body and feel the the coolness of the water surrounding my body. It was so cold after about fifteen minutes that I couldn’t handle it any longer because my body was about to turn into an ice cube. If i would have stayed in any longer my core temp would have probably dropped about six to seven degrees.

The whole reason I was excited about going to the buffet was because I remember going with my grandma when I was six. We were up in Spokane visiting my uncle and she wanted to take me out to lunch. She asked me where I wanted to go and I told her I didn’t care and to just take me somewhere good. So she decided to take me to Old Country Buffet. I remember walking into the restaurant and the amazing smell of bacon and fried chicken caressing my nose and me almost faint. It was so painfully delicious that it made me almost start floating in mid air following the scent like in a cartoon. The sudden thought came to my head that this was the most amazing day of my life, out with me grandma sitting right across from her. She was wearing a bright orange and yellow shirt with the normal black pants she always wore when we went out to eat.

The conversations I have with her are always the most uplifting and kind hearted ones. She knows exactly what to say to make you feel good about yourself. We sat there for probably about twenties minutes reveling in the memories of what we used to do together. Like one time in Tekoa, Washington where she raised all of her kids, and we were going to the tavern so we could have lunch then go play bingo at the local nursing home. We always walked to where we were we were going because Tekoa is not very big at all. You could walk anywhere in just about five minutes. So her and I were walking to the tavern and she told me to be on my best behavior or I was going to go home and take a nap. Of course it’s what she said so I had to obey, because if I didn’t I’d get my mouth slapped and washed out with soap or go to bed without supper.

My grandma, besides being raised in The Depression, she was always the sweetest person you’d ever met. She and her friend Joanne would always hang out every Sunday at 1pm and drink their daily amounts of tea and watch their T.V. shows. She and I are so close and loved spending time with each other, thats why I was excited to go out to lunch with her. As her and I went to the buffet to get a plate of food, I was stuck with so many options on what to have. I could’ve had salad, multiple types of soup, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, baklava, french dipped sandwiches, and a whole buffet strictly to dessert.

The dessert buffet was so amazing. It had four different types of pie, a machine that had three types of ice cream also the buffet had the freshest brownies that were so gooey and delicious; especially with a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream on top. My mind was full of ideas as far as to do with the many options in front of me that when the opportunity came that I could get dessert I was so overwhelmed with the thoughts my young mind was giving me. Thats why I was so excited when I figured out that after shopping we were going to Old Country Buffet. Finally we were on our way to the buffet. It felt like eternity driving from Costco in Clarkston to the buffet in Lewiston. On our way up the hill I was talking my head off the whole way in anticipation of getting to the buffet.

As we were rounding the corner to the buffet my peripheral vision noticed a “Closed For Good’ sign hung in front of the window and door. My heart sank. You could hear the sound of my heart hitting my stomach from the back of the car. My body started to tremble and the disappointment soared through my body, as fast as I could think of the next thing to do I began to cry. My whole days work was for nothing. Everything I was looking forward to gone, down the drain, like a magician making something disappear. I was told that i would be going to the buffet after we went shopping, and look it was closed for good.

My feelings at that moment where so up and down that I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t imagine the reason that God was doing this to me. I started thinking of what I did to deserve this and I couldn’t think of any reason I was being tortured. My mind soaring through the clouds, the far out galaxies trying, wondering why. The feelings of nothingness. Why in the world this could of happened to me and not someone else. No it had to happen to me I don’t know why, but it did. The lost ambition, the devastation in my eyes, the sorrow my heart felt, the whole reason I wanted to go down there, had gone down down the drain.

I was so disappointed, but as we left Lewiston and the smell of Lewiston left my nose I knew everything would be okay because I have my family and I’m always grateful for the things that happen in my life. I knew at that moment that everything happens for a reason I was okay with the buffet being closed.

(Read more on his blog:

It’s a Little Early for Pancakes…

by George Hiatt

On Saturday January 10th, Paradise Creek Regional High School will be having their annual Pancake Feed to raise money for field trip expenses.

As a student at Paradise Creek Regional High School, and one of the only students with past pancake experience, I  feel comfortable sharing my experience and opinion on the Pancake Feed. It is a great team building event for the school and great time for students to socialize without the impression of school looming over them like a rain cloud on a summer day. I felt more personal connection with other students at last year’s pancake feed than I had any other day at school.

Although some students might not agree with me, I enjoy the pancake feed for the most part. It really shows to the community that we aren’t just an alternative high school full of slackers and delinquents but that we can actually join together as functioning members of society.

However, I do feel that the pancake feed starts too early in the morning. The crushing disappointment of having to wake up at 7:30 on a Saturday runs unparalleled in my book of terrible injustices to high school students. It is my belief and the belief of my peers that waking up at 7.30 in the morning on one of our 2 days off school during a normal school week is unjust and harmful to society. Making high school students wake up early on the weekend to do things for a school can prove to be extremely dangerous. Angering the youth and then having them all drive across town to serve food to the local people can prove to be a detrimental situation to themselves and the town. It is well known that most high school students don’t find it easy to follow standard traffic laws and speed limits. So angering them in the morning on top of their terrible driving habits could lead to drag races and the formation of early morning street races in the center of town.

I vote that next year the Pancake Feed starts at 10 am.

Are We Watching a Movie Today?

By Cyndi Faircloth

Matt and I were talking about using videos in class yesterday. The conversation went something like:

Matt: I need to show a clip in Astronomy tomorrow.

Me: Ugh. That stinks!

Matt: I know…I need to get home so I can start searching for clips.

Me: I need to do that for Thursday, but I don’t have time tonight. Guess I’m watching videos tomorrow.

Matt: Bummer.

Really? Showing video clips in class is not fun?

Actually, it’s a lot more work than people realize. I’m teaching History this quarter and he has two science classes.  All three subjects lend themselves to using video clips in class.

I don’t know about science, but kids love to watch videos in History. Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn’t ask, “Are we watching a movie today?” (Some days I wish Monty Python had done History of America, Part I (rather than History of the World) since I teach US History–but that’s a different blog topic) You’d think that I have a magic dvd player where I plug in the period in History and it magically shows images from the years and concepts we’re discussing.

I don’t know about Matt, but I’ve heard people make fun of History teachers. Something along the lines of: “I’d love to be a History teacher. They just put on a movie and read a book in the back of the room.”

I wish. I don’t know where those people took their History classes, but it wasn’t at PCRHS.

I tend to watch 3-5 hours of video for every hour I show in class. Topic: Chinese Immigration in America? I watched a 90 minute clip of Ken Burns’ The West so I could  show a clip or two. I wanted to introduce the railroads that many Chinese immigrants worked on in the 19th century, but Ken Burns weaves multiple stories together in each episode of a documentary so I had to figure out which minutes corresponded to the railroads and which covered Plains Indians. (FYI, in Episode 5, it is something like 3:00-7:54 and 11:22-16:00…) Maybe someday I’ll get smart and write down the minutes that I use in class in my lesson plan rather than on a sticky note that disappears after I show the video.

I rarely show any clips longer than 30 minutes…because I’d rather that kids looked at primary sources to analyze. My hope is that videos make them curious about the topic, or give a little background so that they can better understand the documents. No magic dvd player could help the kids understand how historians research and write about history as much as working with primary documents will.

If anyone wants to watch History documentaries and make a time log of what the movie covers and in which minutes, I’m happy to share titles with you and you can give me your time maps when you finish.  That might cut my movie previewing time down.  Then my conversation with Matt would be something like:

Matt: I need to show a clip in Astronomy tomorrow.

Me: Awesome. Do you have your time maps so you can figure out what to show?

Matt: Yep. I only need another 10 minutes to finish this lesson plan and then I can go home to play with my kids.

Me: I finished my Thursday lesson yesterday! I’m going home to walk my dogs.

Matt: Nice. See you tomorrow!

Technology…friend or foe?

Cyndi’s Thoughts:

As an educator, I have been pushed to adapt in many ways over the past 10 years.  The challenge helps to “recharge my batteries” and find new things to be excited about.

When I started teaching, the internet was just an early idea for Tim Berners-Lee and the rest of the net inventors. Now, it’s a daily tool in the classroom. We have You Tube, TEDTalks, email, Blogs, wikis, and classroom websites available as tools. These are exciting but can be pretty overwhelming! Knowing I want to share a link for all of the students is one thing. Deciding which platform to use is another. I’ve experimented with a number of sites, some work smoothly, some less so.

Some of these sites the kids enjoyed and found intuitive, others not so much. Few things are more frustrating to me than having six or seven students in the lab asking for my help at the same time with some technical issue they encounter.  Its kind of amazing how many different ways my name can be called out…especially when they all sound plaintive. “Cyndi…I don’t get it!” “Cyyyynnnnddiiiii! This sucks!” “Cyndi…this isn’t working!” (Maybe I should have just written the address on the whiteboard, instead of having the kids join a new website or creating a classroom wiki…but then they struggle with typing it out or misspelling some key word in the address…)

Many times it made me think of that old bath bubbles commercial where the woman’s hair is standing on end and she starts pulling it, yelling, “Calgon! Take me away!” Clearly, some of the website appearances in class were short-lived.

Students often ask if we can watch a video, expressing disappointment if we are reading or doing something without technology instead. Their eagerness to put themselves in front of a screen (whether their phone, the computer, television, or projector screen) makes me cringe. One of my personal goals is to help them become as active a “watcher-of-screens” as possible.

Technology image

Sometimes technology is a distraction, and sometimes it can be a tool, adding enjoyment or a special way to share information. Using it effectively is a constant challenge for me.

Right now we’re experimenting with Google in my English class – encountering ups and downs, successes and failures. It has been helpful to have the kids turn their writing in via GoogleDocs. We can look at parts of student work and discuss what is going well, make suggestions, and help those who need more examples of what a successful assignment might look like. It has reduced paper usage in our building, since I’m able to read drafts and give feedback on-line. In fact, at times it is tough to get the kids to actually print something when I have an activity for them to try.  I like to have them colorcode their writing, highlighting different parts of a paragraph to ensure that they have a claim, evidence, and reasoning all together. Funny that they’ve embraced the paperless world, and often don’t want to bother walking to the printer and back to their desk to do that task.

I’m working on a Google Classroom site to try with the 2nd Quarter History class. I often have kids read and do activities with primary source documents from the Library of Congress or National Archives. Hopefully the GoogleClassroom will let me share hyperlinks with them more effectively. Or…it may generate some more Calgon moments. Wish me luck…

All of this is in anticipation of using Chromebooks in our building.  We are hopeful of having a set that we can use with the kids in class – sometime before the semester is over. I’m sure some of our posts will address that development if it does come to pass.  Both staff and students are excited about the possibility.

All of this to say, I have mixed feelings about technology.  I appreciate the tool that it can be but worry that sometimes we’re all too dependent on it and lose some portion of creativity because we can’t see past what the technology can do.