Bursting the Bubble

I’ve been living inside a glorious bubble for the last several days, one in which all I need do is indulge my penchant for Shirley and her trivia.  It has been heavenly.


But I’m about to burst the bubble. Have got some errands to run, have a lunch date with Mr. T., and plan to pop into school (yes, school, my OTHER bubble!) tomorrow to get a few things done.

I’m not abandoning you, dear Shirley.  Just attending to the rest of my life.

I will be back.  But definitely!


Ya Never Know

Alternate title: Don’t Count Us Out.   Or: It Pays to Be Weird. Well, it may not pay financially.  But in emotional rewards – hundredfold.

Let’s go with the latter.  I was a weird kid.  Weird looking and weird acting.  This is not me being self-depreciating.  There is photographic evidence – which I will not share here – that depicts a scrawny, buck-toothed, squinty-eyed, unibrowed child.  In other words, a kid only a mother could love.  Mix that with some weird interests and you’ve got a recipe for an outsider.  Oh, I had friends, did well in school and wasn’t lurking in some dark corner. But my friends had to put up with, or at the very least ignore, my interests.  Because even at a very young age, they were obsessions.

You know how fairy tales often have three as the “magic” number?  Bears, pigs, wishes, goats, etc.?  My main obsessions numbered three.  Judy/Wizard of Oz, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Shirley Temple.   Who dressed up as Laura in her SEVENTH GRADE class photo, while the other girls were wearing platform shoes and mini skirts? Who hung a Littlest Rebel poster on her college dorm wall, while others hung Journey?  Whose love for all things Wizard inspired a truth-or-dare style Secret Santa freshman year of college, where in order to get a gift you had to parade around in ruby slippers and sweatpants all day?  This moi.

Dear lord.  It’s a wonder I survived.

Fast forward about a million years.  I’m certainly no longer scrawny (as in, AT ALL), had much dental work, use eyeliner to combat the squint, and go nowhere without a sharp pair of tweezers.  So I’m somewhat presentable on a good day.

But, as anyone who has ever met me knows, the weird interests are still there.  And once in a while, can be put to good use.  I mean, didn’t I run a very successful pioneer camp last summer, and have a high enrollment for this July?  But nothing, I mean NOTHING, tops the experience my Shirley obsession afforded me yesterday.


A summary:  Shirley’s costumes, dolls and personal artifacts have been touring the country, culminating in an auction in July.  I spent three glorious days at the exhibit when it was in NJ, bonding (it may have been one-sided) with the auction house president and many other Shirley fans.  Subsequently, I decided to attend the auction in Kansas City, MO.   Excitement factor – off the charts.

Yesterday, the digital version of the over 300 page auction catalog became available.  Obsession kicked into high gear.  I spent hours, literally HOURS, glued to the computer, poring over the photos and descriptions.  The auction house, with Florence Theriault at its helm, did a remarkable, thorough and well-researched job.  I learned more about soutache than I thought was possible.

But there were a few inconsistencies and errors.  And because a) I’m a freak and b) can’t mind my own business (so says Mr. T.), I messaged my thoughts to the auction house president (remember, we’ve bonded).  And he responded, taking them very seriously.  As in, created an addendum to the catalog, which was shipping out at that very moment!!  He even called me for further information on a few points!  Can you say THRILLING?  I couldn’t, because I was almost speechless.  A feat in and of itself.

I covered the floors of two room with Shirley books and and ephemera.  I had a million computer tabs open and my phone was blowing up, as I engaged in real-time research for the auction house.  I checked Shirley film scenes to verify if costumes were worn where they were said to have been worn (note to self: replace those dvds that are now all over the place). I snapped photos and sent them to the president, and spent several HOURS after the phone call sharing thoughts, insights and trivia with him. IT. WAS. HEAVEN.  I’m still reeling from it all.


I may be weird, but I’ve said it before – I’m not delusional.  I know that I didn’t cure cancer, or homelessness or world hunger.  I know my obsession’s pay-off was in the smallest, most inconsequential of ways.  But for one glorious day, I was a player in the Shirley world.  Minor leagues, of course, but I was on the team.

The point of all this?  Don’t count us weirdos out.  As a teacher, I’ve come across all types of kids – those that fit in and those that march to a completely different tune.  To all of those marchers, I say there is a place for you.  It may be a small niche, or it may be at the top of an important heap, but it’s there.  And you’ll find it.  I did.  Not just during yesterday’s thrill-fest, but every day that I teach.  Because as I’m putting on the Mrs. Tonnessen Show, I’m doing me.  I can incorporate all of my weirdness and turn it into inspiration and passion.  And that isn’t inconsequential.  Not by a long, long shot.


The last day of school always is.  Even if the year has been extra tough (mine wasn’t but it’s been known to happen), saying goodbye and letting go is a mixed bag of emotions.  I actually taught my class the word bittersweet yesterday.  I also taught them penultimate the day before!  Teaching right to the end.

The end includes a clap off – the entire second grade, wearing their class t-shirts, parades through the halls of the school, which are lined with students, faculty and parents clapping them off to their new school.


And later, we all assemble again to autograph beach balls.


Notice the emotions expressed by the teachers on the left!

So, goodbye to second grade (them, not me!) and hello summer.

The summer of Shirley.  The July auction of her collection.  And I’ll be there.  So in that spirit, here’s a photo gallery of summer Shirley.


Photos courtesy of C. Gardiner of ST photos and videos!


EOY, my favorite acronym (End of the Year, of course!)  So much more inspiring than SGO, PLP, MLP and CCSS.

The last days of second grade are filled with events and theme days.  Here’s a photo-driven peek:




Poetry Cafe is our EOY presentation for families.  The mood is set with black draped everywhere, candles and a spotlight.  The adorable berets that the poets wore aren’t pictured – it’s too hard to run a show and photograph it at the same time. #directorproblems




You Be the Teacher Day.  I’m pretty sure I invented it, and I understand that it’s taking off!  Students who chose to participate could teach the class a short lesson.  We learned about the “nine” trick for multiplication, fishing and hula-hooping, just to name a few.




Beach Day.  I most certainly did not invent this one!  A little Beach Boys music did make it extra cool, though.  We also used Beach Day to blow up our beach balls (not pictured) that we’ll use for the LAST DAY’s grade-wide autograph signing session.  #iwillnotblowup18beachballsmyself

And we’re down to one.  My feelings at the moment are full of antonyms – happy/sad, excited/exhausted, satisfied/worried (as in, “Did I do enough?  Did they absorb it all?”)  Those are questions I ask every year, and I never really have an answer.


Shirley, however, has the answer to another age-old question – Is the Loch Ness Monster real?  Apparently so!  #whatisthatthing?

For the Smile File

I should be in the shower.  It’s way past my get-ready-for-school time, but some things come first.

For our penultimate homework assignment (yes, I did teach my class of second graders that word!!), the students completed a memory sheet, which I then copied for everyone to take home in a booklet as a memento.  I snapped a few photos of responses that made me smile:


Straight up!



I guess I drove those points home!



He liked Laura Ingalls Wilder AND my decorated room.

My job is done.

Well, on Friday, my job will have been done.

The Final Countdown

Sometimes it’s showtunes, sometimes it’s 80s hits.  The titles, I mean.


Five more days.  Two full, three half – but still full.  Of things to do, autographs to sign, special days to celebrate.  And report cards to finish, end of year assessments to be filed, and rooms packed away.  So, because the week ahead will be quite full, I’ll let these ecards speak for themselves. Disclaimer: Not all apply to me individually, but there’s something for everyone!

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Summer….see you soon.


Ok.  This one definitely applies to me.

On My Own

The title really should read “On THEIR Own,” but that’s not a Broadway song title (as far as I know).

Second grade is a hoot.  So were prek, k and first grade, all in their own ways.  But second graders are just THAT more capable, independent and self-motivated.  However, what took place in our class this past week went beyond self-motivated – into the realm of “I can’t believe they’re doing this!” and “It’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen!”

It started with a book giveaway.


Based on the cover, it would not have been my first choice.  But my class learned that judge-a-book-by-its-cover lesson well.

Almost every year, I thin out my vast collection of books.  This year, each of my 18 students left with four books, of varying lengths and certainly of varying desirabilities.  The above, I would have thought, would have fallen into the least desirable category.   But it was chosen,  presumably put into a backpack and taken home.

Except it wasn’t.


The following week I see a large group of my students working on SOMETHING during their free moments.  I overheard the word PLAY and DIRECTOR and realized they were actually putting something together.  Upon investigation, I found out that this little unwanted book was at the nucleus of all of this hubbub.  All on their own, I mean ALL on their own, they decided to perform the play from the book.   ALL ON THEIR OWN, they chose directors, assigned parts, made costumes and props, staged and rehearsed.  There were a very few quarrels about who does what, and I stepped in only once, just to confirm that the directors were the ones in charge.  Beyond that, it was ALL THEM.


This week they were ready to perform!  They asked to go into the hallway to rehearse and as I sat in the doorway moderating them (and the remainder of the class inside the room!), I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.  Did I mention it was ALL ON THEIR OWN?


After two rehearsals, they were ready to perform.  And perform they did.





The paper on the young lady’s head was colored gray – to represent her old lady’s hair.  She came complete with eyeglasses taped (ouch!) to her face and a sassy older-woman-from-the-South accent.

A colleague was passing by while they were rehearsing in the hallway and asked what was going on.  I filled her in, and my exact words were, “It’s actually the cutest thing ever!”  But so much more than cute.

Bravo, kids, bravo.  #proudteacher

Fulfilling My Obligations

The last time I wrote about my pre- and post-beach trip blogs.  Here’s the post re: the post!


We made it!  No rain – chilly and windy, but not wet – just the way I like it at the beach. Still got sunburn though.  Or windburn.


The happiest of kids.  Whether we were seining or building sand castles, they were as happy as clams.  Because clams live at the beach, naturally!


One poor soul (not pictured) had no one to go seining with, so three adults took up the other ends of the net.  We went so far out the water came in over her waders and she was drenched!  Luckily, between a few of us, we were able to give her a set of dry clothes.  Note to self: next year ask chaperones to bring clothing!


I asked my chaperones, “Orange you glad our class color is orange?”  Me too.


Shell collecting.  They spent the nearly two-hour bus ride home discussing and trading shells.  I think they were engaged.


How could we go to the beach and not get our feet just a little wet!  No swimming, no wading – just chasing waves!  Another note to self:  have students wear water shoes or sandals.  Although we all survived with wet sneakers.


No hula-ing either, but lots of smiles! Even me – especially me!!


There are a few traditions concerning our upcoming second grade field trip to the beach.  One is that we do it, and it’s been done for more than 15 years.  Back when it first started, learning about ocean life was a part of the curriculum, back in the THEME TEACHING days.  Sigh.  But now, the Common Core and her other friends, like the PARCC and SGO, have overtaken that kind of approach.  So, we no longer do a month-long unit on all things ocean.  Yet we still take a nearly two-hour bus ride to the beach.  Why? Tradition.  It also comes under the umbrella of HABITATS, which is currently in our curriculum.  But mostly,  it’s tradition.


Another newer tradition is blogging about it.  Both before and after.  Thus, this post.  My first beach-related post was dedicated to my apprehension, and the follow up post to the aftermath of that apprehension.  Short version – I survived.

And I will again.  Much less apprehension and much more anticipation surrounds this trip – but it is a big undertaking and so thoroughly exhausting that I still must blog about it.  Traditions, of course.

Bonus:  Can you name the musical that contains a song that matches this blog post’s title?