The 58th Year comes to an end, as all good things must.

Tomorrow marks one year since I started two projects. One was this blog and the other was my Photo-of-the-Day. I knew that posting a new photo every day was an ambitious goal, but I’d been thinking about it for a while and thought I had a good chance to keep it going for a year.

As for the blog, I was less confident that: A) I had very much worthwhile to say and B) I would stick with it and post on a regular basis for a year. A year ago, I’d been reading a few blogs occasionally, but it was really the writing of my daughters Lauren and Emily that inspired me to start doing it. Since then, Lauren has kept up with her “Bows and Arrows” and is very good at it. I hope Emily picks hers up again because she’s an excellent writer as well. My trepidation about the self-absorbed nature of this sort of thing faded as they showed me that a person can actually write about things (and show photos) that are of interest to others without going on and on about trivial and personal crap that people don’t care about.

Looking back through the 67 posts I’ve done since my birthday a year ago, I see that I failed in the personal crap category a few times (like right now) but I’ve tried to write only when I have something semi-interesting to say. These 68 posts spread out over a random year in my life will stand as some sort of record of what caught my attention, what I was thinking and what I wanted others to know about. As a reader, you can take it or leave it, but it’s nice to know that occasionally a few people got something out of something I’ve posted.

Having said that, let’s be honest, it IS mostly self-serving. I think I continue to do these posts for much the same reason I like taking photographs or making videos — they help me notice, remember and analyze things, people, and events. Mrs. D. and I just returned a few days ago from a spring break trip to Europe (more about that in future posts). As I was telling someone at work about the trip today, I realized what a small percentage of it I actually remember clearly even after such a short time. Places get mixed up, names of restaurants, stores, hotels, streets are a jumble that’s difficult to sort out even a week later. Without my photos (and blog reflections) I fear that many of those memories will fade quickly. I don’t want them to.

I never been a diary or journal-type guy, but I have always been attracted to telling people about stuff that interests me. When I was a kid, my cousin Bruce and I used to publish a “newspaper” whenever we’d get together at my grandmother’s house. We’d go around and interview various family members and write little news articles about them and then make handwritten copies of the paper to try to sell it to the adults. I remember some of the headlines, like “Bruce has Pointed Teeth”, “Timmy Broke his Leg” and “Our Dads both Wear Glasses”. Imagine how cool it would have been for us to have had cameras and computers — but how even more cool it would be to have those old papers now.

Looking through my posts reminds me how short a year is. I’m a believer that as you get older, time goes by faster. It seems like a couple of months ago that my dad died, the Ramgren family left an Easter basket with potatoes in it on my doorstep and Emily and Kyle found and made an offer on their house in Rochester.

The blink of an eye.

So tonight, my 58th year comes to a close. I’ve decided to continue the photo project, but in a little different form. One photo every day was a good exercise and I’ll probably do it again sometime, but it is difficult to keep up. Some days it’s just hard to take a good photo. Other days I might come up with 3 or 4 that I like. So instead of posting a sometimes-crappy picture just because it’s another day, I’m going to try a weekly posting of “Photos of the Week” — 5 to 10-ish pictures shot during each week. I’m hoping this will result in higher over-all quality and fewer days of running around before the sun goes down to try to grab something.

As for “The 58th Year” — well, the name obviously has to go. I’ve been thinking about a new name, but haven’t decided on anything yet. The only thing I know for sure is that it won’t be “The 59th Year”. Suggestions are welcome.

It’s been a great year in so many ways and I’m grateful for that. I don’t know what the next year will bring, but let’s just think about it a day at a time. Works best that way.

So turn the page. Happy new year.

Wolf Ridge trip coming soon — help us if you can.

My class and five other 5th-grade classrooms from Andersen School in Minneapolis are headed for Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota in two months. It’s going to be a great learning experience for our students, not to mention a lot of fun. (Read my post about last year’s trip here)

Lisa Hartmann's band of "voyageurs" prepares to paddle the big canoe.

97% of the students of our school come from families below the poverty line. Two-thirds speak English as a second language. Virtually all are students of color. They also blow just about every stereotype of kids from these kinds of backgrounds out of the water. They are, for the most part, bright, well-behaved, good students, good kids. Most of them come from strong families, good parents and have hard-working role models in their lives.

So what’s the problem? A couple of things.

Can you touch the mountain goat at the top of the climbing wall?


First, most of them have not had the experiences in their lives that children from wealthier backgrounds have. Summer camps, music lessons, sports teams, seeing other places, doing new things, being away from home — all that stuff that many of us want for our children — are lacking for many of these students.

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The other thing they lack is money. When you are “working poor”, you live paycheck to paycheck. You often work more than one job and worry constantly about making ends meet. You don’t have savings to dip into for things like expensive field trips.

The total bill for our 5th grade team is in the neighborhood of $22,000 for this 3-day trip (and that’s after a break on the bus price and the Wolf Ridge fee). That breaks down to nearly $200 per student. At other schools, they do some fundraising, but many families can afford to pay the money — maybe even kick in a little extra for a scholarship.

Ojibwe heritage class teaches students about the life of the native people of the north woods of Minnesota

At Andersen, several teachers have worked very hard writing grants and soliciting individual donations from friends. Every year it’s stressful and every year it seems to come down to the wire. We estimate our grant and donation money based on past experience and then ask our families to either pay or fundraise a certain amount. This year we’re asking for each student to pay $45 — a reasonable, but still significant amount.

Last year, four of the girls in my class took to rock climbing like spiders. They were fearless. (The boys were another story.)

We’ve got 60 days to go and it’s tight again this year. We’re unsure about getting one of the grants and we’re getting a little nervous.

I generally don’t like to ask for money, but I have no problem putting this out there in blogland for anyone who might be interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to our school, in any amount — small or large. In fact, I’m proud to be a teacher of these kids and I believe that this trip is such an important experience for them (and one that most of them will never have if we don’t take them) that I’m asking anyone who might be interested to help us out a bit.

We’re not asking you to feel sorry for our kids — just for a few bucks to send a deserving kid to camp.

Thank you very much. By the way, the kids are well-aware that most of the money to pay for the trip comes from generous donors, and they’re very grateful for it.

Email me at Steven.Date@yahoo.com for more info.

If you’d like to send a donation by check, make it out to “Andersen United Community School”.

Mail it to me at:

Steve Date / See to Sea Productions
P.O. Box 19416
Minneapolis, MN 55419

Thanks VERY much!

The ropes course challenges kids to overcome their fears. Whether they complete the whole course or not, we celebrate the success of trying.

Pardon my intolerance

A one act play this afternoon in my after-school group.

(12 year-old male student interrupting another student who is doing a video interview about an environmental learning center she visited last year.)

Student: That place is gay!

Teacher: Please don’t interrupt. She’s doing a video. And how can a place be gay?

Student: I just meant it’s happy and stuff – you know.

Teacher: Is that really what you meant? Because it’s not OK to use “gay” as a put down in my room.

Student: It’s gay. It’s happy. Not the other kind. That’s sick, man.

Teacher: What do you mean it’s sick? Being gay is sick?

S: Yeah, of course it is.

T: Would you say that if I was gay?

S: You’re gay?

T: How do you know I’m not?

S: Are you saying you’re gay?

T: Maybe I am. How would you know? Would you still say it’s sick if I was?

S: You’re gay?

T: What if my daughter is gay? What if my friends are gay? What if the parents of one of these other students are gay? What if another student is gay?

(other students becoming very uncomfortable at this point)

S: That’s sick man. Ain’t no gay kids here.
(pause)
Gays are gonna burn in hell.

T: You know, when I was your age, I might have said the something like that. Then I got to know a lot of gay people. My next door neighbors are gay. I have a lot of really good friends who are gay. They’re very good people and it hurts me when people say they’re sick or going to Hell.

S: But gay is a sin. My mom says they’re sick and my preacher say they’re gonna burn in hell.

T: OK that’s enough. You’re free to believe what you want, but I can’t let you talk like that in my classroom. I WON’T let you talk like that.

S: So I can’t say what I want? Are you saying my preacher’s wrong? It’s in the bible.

T: ?

ZING! — He had me there. It IS in the Bible.

We can’t both be right.

(post script – as we were walking down the hall a minute later, I overheard one of the other students say to her friend, “It is in the bible, you know, and I believe the bible”.)

Talk amongst yourselves . . . . .

(p.p.s – I hadn’t heard about the Supreme Court ruling at the time I posted this. They discussed amongst themselves and decided that it IS OK to talk like that — and use even stronger language — at funerals of veterans. I guess it applies to schools as well.)