A New Toy


Sometime things don’t turn out the way you expected they would when you got up in the morning.  Yesterday was one of those days.

To get to what happened I need to go back two weeks.  At that time I needed to take my car into the dealership for its routine service.  While there I naturally had to look at the new cars in the showroom.  I saw a blue and white RAV 4 and I thought of Kathy.  She likes blue cars.  She wasn’t with me that day.

My car was done.  They told me I needed to replace the front brakes so I made an appointment for last Thursday.  This time Kathy came with me.  Of course I showed her the car I had seen the previous week.  As we were looking at it a salesman came over to talk to us.  Of course, it is his job.

Anyway, we talked for quite a bit.  We asked questions and he gave answers.  We weren’t really thinking about buying a new car at that point, but when we got home we did discuss it.  Kathy’s car is 10 years old – still young.  It only has 19,000 miles on it – still being broken in.

Does she need a new car?  Do we want to take on a car payment?  How long would parts still be available for her car?  We finally decided to contact the salesperson we spoke with and make arrangements to go back to the dealership and seriously talk new car.

Yesterday we did that.  One of the reason we decided on something new for her was that since she has had leg surgery getting into and out of a car can be tricky.  Her Corolla sits low so we thought the RAV 4 would be easier for her.  Here is what we were looking at.


Kathy got into in and found it did not work for her.  Getting in and out she had to put too much pressure on the leg that had the surgery.  Getting into my RAV 4 didn’t bother her because she was able to use the other leg.  Even after adjusting the seat different ways it still did not work.  She did not feel comfortable behind the wheel.  It was too big for her.

What to do.  As the salesperson was getting a battery pack to start the car we noticed      C-HR behind us.  It is a smaller SUV.  We decided to check it out while we waited.  Kathy got in.  The seat enveloped her comfortably.  It sat lower so it was easier for her to get into and out of it.  It was red – not her choice of car color.

Anyway, this is what we took for a test drive.  It rode nicely.  It was comfortable.  It fir her.  Ye, we bought it.




Yes, that is ice on it – we had snow last night.  We now have two red cars sitting in our driveway.


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This year’s PCTELA (Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts) Conference is in the books, but what a great conference it was.  Featured speakers ranged from NCTE notables Ken Lindblom and Leila Christenbury to noted authors Paul Griffin, Jared Reck, Jonathan Auxier and also 2015 National Teacher of the Year, Shanna Peeples.

Today I would like to focus on Leila Christenbury.  She annd Ken were not only Featured speakers, they each hosted a breakout session as well.  I got to sit in on Leila’s.

Her topic was Five Principles for Making it New: Challenges to the Veteran Teacher.  


As Leila put it, “Making it new has great potential and great peril”.  Someone just starting their teaching career can find themselves inundated with so much new material and methods that they can feel exhausted.  Middle career teachers can find themselves relieved not having to deal with the new.  Veteran teachers can crave the new.

She posed a question to us.  “Think about your current school context:

To what extent do you see

Great Peril?

Great Potential?”

Her first principle is Rethink your Role.  Many times teachers feel that they must have all the answers.  I guess this was more true when I began teaching than now.  It is OK to wait for students to figure out a response to a question.  We don’t have to give an answer if none is forthcoming in the first five seconds after asking.

Her second principle is Intensify student engagement.  Give students time to talk to a partner to formulate ideas and answers.

Principle #3:  Complicate the level of your materials and differentiate accordingly.  Students can handle more than we sometimes think.

Principle #4:  Resist total coverage.  One pitfall of teaching the same book year after year is that we become self-proclaimed experts on the material and feel that our students need to know every single thing that the author is saying in the book.  One of the best things to do is to pick an unfamiliar book and learn it along with our students.

The last principle is Remember the joy.  So often we forger why we entered the teaching profession.  Remember the joy we have for what we do and what we teach.


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It Is Good to be Home


Did you ever have one of those weeks where you don’t know what your house looks like?  I am just coming off one of those weeks.  Let me explain.

It started last Sunday, October 6.  The Pennsylvania Association of School Retirees held their House of Delegates meeting at the Valley Forge Hotel and Casino in King of Prussia which is near Philadelphia.  As co-presidents of our local chapter, Kathy and had to attend.

The conference ran until noon on Tuesday.  After a two hour drive home we had to stop at the “Spa” to pick up our furbabies.  They were glad to see us and we were glad to see them.  As always, they were taken good care of at the spa.  I will say that Dustin does get preferential treatment from Dr. Thorton since she is his breeder.  Ge gets to see “grandma” on these stays.

Wednesday we were home but not home.  One of my jobs as co-president of DCPASR is to handle the educational grant we award each year.  This year Steelton/Highspire is the recipient.  Wednesday afternoon I had set up a meeting with the district’s superintendent to explain the award and enlist his help in getting the word out to his faculty and staff.  He was very willing to do that.

When we got home it was time for me to pack.  This was the weekend of the annual PTELA (Pennsylvania Teachers of English and Language Arts) Conference.  As a Board member, and because I enjoy the conference, I needed to go.

Thursday, after lunch, I packed the car again and headed off to State College.  This year we held the conference at the Penn Stater, one of my favorite places for a conference.  I wanted to get there Thursday so that I could help the conference chairs get things ready for Friday morning.  My job each year is to help man the registration desk.

It is always great to see and spend time with my PCTELA family.  We really had a great conference this year.  More about that in a future post.

The conference runs Friday and Saturday.  I could have left at the end of the conference on Saturday, but I decided to just relax and head home Sunday.

I was really glad to get home Sunday afternoon.  Now, no more running around.  Oh, but I do have a DCPASR Board meeting tomorrow and lunch with friends on Thursday.  At least these don’t involve being gone overnight.


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Mystery Tour – Final Stop


After lunch at the Brookside Restaurant we had one more stop to make on our mystery tour.  If our previous stop at the car museum didn’t bring out the  little kid in me this one surely did.

As a kid when you went to an amusement park what was your favorite ride?  Was it the scooters?  the roller coaster?  the carousel (flying horses)?  I liked them all but I would head for the coaster first.  I liked the thrill you get riding a coaster.

When I wanted to relax I would head for the carousel.  Staying in Pottstown, this was our last stop.


To say my eyes lit up would not be an understatement.  I didn’t know this place existed.

We walked into the building.






The carousel here is the second oldest operating Philadelphia Toboggan Company wooden carousel in the United States. It was built in 1905.  It took 20 years to renovate it.  The work was done by volunteers.

This carousel traveled around the country.  I was surprised that in 1935 it found a home in Twin Grove Park in Pine Grove.  This campsite is about 25 minutes from our home.  We have friends who camp there during the summer and we usually visit them there.

The guide told us that each of the animals on the carousel was carved by a man who works for Disney and each animal was sponsored by a local resident.  The animals were carved and shipped to Pottstown.  When they arrived they needed to be sanded before they could be painted.  All work was done by locals.

You may have noticed the pictures around the center post.  Each of these is a person who donated to have their picture painted and placed there. One picture is especially interesting.


This is the man who sanded all of the animals when they arrived from California.  It was his job to get them ready for painting.  By the way, he is blind.

Here is the latest addition to the menagerie.


Since I am a Leo I had to get a lion picture.


Kathy wanted a picture with the giraffes.


Some interesting facts about the organ.



How about this tasty tidbit?



This brought our Mystery Tour to a close.  We left here and headed back to Harrisburg where the bus picked us up that morning. It was a fun filled day.  Would I sign up for another Mystery Trip with the school retirees?  You bet.


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Continuing Our Mystery Trip


After our visit to the Pagoda we boarded the bus for part two of our mystery trip.  Where would our next stop be?  Only the driver and tour coordinators knew.  The rest of us were left to guess as we observed the route the bus took.

Coming down the hill from the Pagoda we turned onto a road that led to Boyertown.  Hmm.  I know where Boyertown is but I have never been there.  I had no idea what point of interest cold be there.

After a 20 minute ride we arrived.  I was surprised to see where we stopped.


Both Kathy and I like vintage vehicles so our interest was piqued.  On entering we were greeted with an RV.  How would you like to own one of these?

A bit different from the ones we see today.

Before entering the museum one of the volunteers spoke to us.  She told us that every vehicle in the museum has some connection to Pennsylvania.  It was made at one of Pennsylvania’s many auto plants of parts of it were made in Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately I don’t remember how plants she said were in PA or in the Reading area at one time.  Hope you enjoy this look at history through its vehicles.

The Hill car was one of the first cars built.  Its inventor, James Hill, conceived of it when he was 13 years old.



If you drove around in 1910 you might have had a Sears car.



If you wanted something a bit flashier how about a Roadster?



If you were out and about taking in some sights you might want a touring car.

For letting the wind blow through your hair there was the convertible.


If you had a family you might want something a bid bigger and roomier – maybe a Town and Country or a Station Wagon.

The building housing this collection was at one time a carriage shop.  On the second floor were examples of carriages.

Imagine waiting for the doctor while he hitched his horse to his buggy.


We have all seen westerns where someone is riding in a stagecoach.  The movie ones don’t exactly look like this one.


If you and your family were out for a pleasure ride chances are you rode in one of these.


If you saw one of these you would certainly feel somber.




Back to the cars.  Before we left one of the volunteers started up one of the cars.  Yes, he had to crank it to get it going.  If you looked inside you could actually see the sparks.  Didn’t get a picture of that.

By now it was 11:30 and time for lunch.  I admit I was ready.  A 30 minute ride brought us here.


Never ate here before but I would definitely go back.  This is in Pottstown.  We had our choice of a turkey platter, roast beef platter, or crab cake platter.  I chose turkey and Kathy took the roast beef.  They were delicious.

After our lunch break we headed to our third and final stop on the trip.  I will write about that next week.



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No Longer a Mystery


Last week we went on a trip.  We had no idea where we were going.  We had a really enjoyable day.

The day started early.



I am retired.  I don’t get up at this hour.  It is still dark outside.  However, to get myself ready and organize foo dishes for the beasties I had to get moving.  We had to be in Harrisburg by 7:30 so that meant leaving the house at



We pulled into the parking lot at c3.  The bus was already there as were some people.  We still had no idea where we were going.  The only ones who knew that were our two planners and the bus driver and they weren’t telling.

7:30 On the dot the driver closed the door and we were off.  As soon as we left the lot speculation began.  We were headed toward I-83.  Would we go north of south?  North would take us toward Harrisburg and beyond.  South would take us to the turnpike.  South it was.

Now, would we head west toward Pittsburgh or east toward Philadelphia?  East.  We got as far as Reading and then got off on 222.  Hmm.  We were going toward Ephrata.  Could we be going to the Cloisters?  I have passed it many times but never stopped.  We passed the exit and kept going.

I knew that Reading was coming up next.  Could we be going there?  Yes.  Kathy and looked at each other and laughed.  We go to Reading several times a year.  My brother lives there.  Where could we possibly be going.  We made a turn and started climbing a hill, a steep hill, one you would not want to travel in bad weather.

Suddenly a thought popped into my head.  There was only one place I could think of that was located high above the city.  Were we going there?  If what I was thinking was our destination I was excited.  This is a place that can be seen from almost any location in Reading.  Kathy and I have talked about going there but never went.  Maybe today.  Yes!  I was right.  We were at the Pagoda.



It was still hazy as the mist had not yet burned off.  The view was still something.



A volunteer spoke to us and filled us in on the history.  The Pagoda is built on top of a quarry.  The owner, William Whitman, of the quarry decided to build a hotel on top of the stone so that there would be a more interesting sight for the people of Reading to see than just stone jutting out of the mountain.  The architect he hired had just come back from Japan so he suggested the Pagoda shape.  The owner agreed and the Pagoda was built.  However because he couldn’t get a liquor licence the hotel never opened.  The bank foreclosed and sold the building to the city of Reading for $1.00.  It is now a tourist site funded through a foundation.

Interesting Pagoda facts …

  • It is 7 stories high, 28 feet wide, 50 feet long – standing 620 feet above the City of Reading and 866 feet above sea level
  • Walls are 5 feet thick at the base tapering to 2 feet thick at the top of the second floor, from there to the top, they are frame-covered with terra-cotta shingles – there are 60 tons of tiles on the Pagoda
  • Anchored to the mountainside the 16 tons of bolts
  • Inside walls are concrete plaster, all the trim and stairways are solid oak
  • There are a total of 87 steps to the top
  • Only Pagoda in the world with a fireplace and chimney
  • Before the days of radio broadcasting, lights flashed as signals to the people of Reading.  Morse Code was used to direct fireman, promote fundraising campaigns and give the public results of sporting events.  The Code was based on the lights – a white light was a dash, while a red light was a dot
  • The bell on the 7th floor was cast in Japan in 1739.  It was purchased by Witman in 1906 and shipped via the Suez Canal to New York Harbor, and arrived in Reading on May 5, 1907 by rail
  • c7
  • The fish sculptures on the roof are to protect the Pagoda from fire
  • Every year at 9pm on Christmas Eve the Pagoda lights flash to let the children know that Santa is on his way

One final fact that I found interesting was that during the war the city wanted to tear it down due to its Japanese influence.  However, people convinced them that it was Korean influence not Japanese so it was left to stand.

From the Pagoda we went to our second stop.  More about that next week.



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We’re Going On A Trip


I probably won’t be here next Tuesday.  Why? Well. Kathy and I are going on a trip.  I am looking forward to it.

So, what can I tell you about our trip?  Well, we are leaving Harrisburg at 7:30 A.M. and we will be returning there at around 4:30 P.M.  I guess that gives me enough time to get home and post but I will have to see what kind of shape I will be in.

Let’s see…what else.  Oh, we will be stopping for lunch but I don’e know where.  I do know that I ordered the turkey platter so that should be quite good.  Kathy ordered the beef platter.

I should mention that the trip was organized by the Dauphin County School Retirees Recreo chair, Sandy Novotni.  Sandy did tell us that there is some walking and step climbing involved.

Oh, I didn’t tell you where we are going.  We are going to … I don’t know.  It is a Mystery Trip.


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