Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marley & Me

We finished watching Marley & Me this past weekend. I enjoyed the movie, but I didn't connect with it as much as Jen did. She had dogs growing up and I did not. However, I still realized how important Marley was to the family. He was a family member just like anyone else in the house and they didn't want to just get rid of him because he was a pain.

At the end of the movie John Grogan said this:

"A dog has no use for fancy cars or big homes or designer clothes. A waterlogged stick will do just fine. A dog doesn't care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he'll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare and pure and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?"

It is so true. How often I forget how God can use me to bless other people. How often I forget that God can use me to make others feel special and extraordinary. That is something I need to remember and I need to make sure my selfishness doesn't get in the way of God's desire to use me to help others who are in need.

Riedlblog label: Movies

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I really enjoy baking! Last weekend I made pinwheel cookies (picture). I think it's kind of like art to me--I don't enjoy making art in ways you would normally think of, like painting or drawing, but I LOVE to cook and bake. There is nothing better to me than being in the kitchen on a rainy day (even in July). My baking is also like art because it tends to come out as an expression of myself. For example, I felt like making something fun and unique this past weekend because I was in a fun, happy mood. On a day that feels cozy to me (like a crisp, sunny fall day) then I would make something cozy with cinnamon and nutmeg in it. Or at Christmastime I feel festive and I go overboard with baking and decorating! I guess in a way, I am an artist!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Four Weeks Down

I have already finished two courses! After just four weeks! They flew by and it is nice to know that I worked my hardest. Here is an essay I wrote (don't worry, it's entertaining!) for one of my final exams. If you're wondering why on earth I would post one of my essay assignments...well I'm not really sure myself. I guess I just had fun writing it and wanted to share it with the world. :-)

The directions were to imagine that my classroom is the epitome for everything that is right in educating children, and because of that, a group of international educators are coming for a tour of my special community. So, using what I've learned in this class, imagine what these visitors might see as they observe my classroom in action. Enjoy!

My name is Sarah Collins, an international "education scout," and I am currently in the most highly recommended elementary school in the United States. Concordia Elementary School, known for its passionate staff, hard-working students, and incredibly high test scores, is a premier example of everything that is right in educating children. I have come here to observe a classroom in action. The warm-hearted administrators have set me up with a 5th grade classroom, taught by Mr. Aaron Riedl. From what I have heard, his top-notch teaching techniques have made him a favorite among students. Join me as I explore his unique teaching styles and bring back observations from his class.

The classroom’s first sign of life appears before I even enter the room. The joy of learning spills into the hallway and fills the nearby walls—from floor to ceiling. Artwork and projects are spread around the entrance as evidence of the hard work going on inside. After entering the doorway, it is no surprise to see the layout fashioned similar to the neatly organized art in the hall. Colorful maps, charts, and words fill the walls with discovery. Books line the walls and art supplies fill the shelves. The students’ desks are personalized and unique to each individual. The homey quality of the room calms anyone who enters.

Moving the attention away from the furniture, my attention focuses on what is happening with the group in the far corner of the room. As Mr. Riedl talks to his students, he does so in a manner worth listening to. His enthusiasm and positive attitude for the topic that he is teaching encourages the students to have fun learning. While talking with eyes open wide and arms moving from left to right, it is impossible to look away because everyone in the room is fascinated with his passion for the life that is in the curriculum. Pointing to the white board, Mr. Riedl discusses the schedule for the day and the learning goals that will coincide with each bulleted item. The students understand that the classroom is an open, inviting environment, so they freely ask their teacher any questions that come to their minds. "Mr. Riedl, my older brother is in 7th grade and he says that long division is the most boring thing on the planet," comments a female student. As the students laugh and some agree with her comment, Mr. Riedl pauses for a moment to think of how to respond. He eventually begins a story about how one time he himself actually used long division in a real-life situation. After the story, he clearly instructs the students to go back to their desks and get out their math journals. Satisfied with the teacher’s story, the students comply and begin chatting as they get up to transition into the long division lesson.

As the students sit down and get their materials out, Mr. Riedl makes his way over to me, introduces himself, and thanks me for coming in for a visit. I very much appreciated his hospitality, welcoming me into such a warm, comfortable community. He turned around, faced the kids, and while raising his hand asked, "Who wants cake!?" Nearly every child raised their hand as the volume of the room gradually elevated with excitement. "Well, so do I," states the teacher as he slaps a picture of cake onto the overhead projector. "Too bad this is made out of plastic!" he finishes jokingly. Mixes of laughs and groans can be heard throughout the classroom as Mr. Riedl begins his lesson of long division, using the cake as an example of something in real-life that can be divided up. After he shows the students examples of how to do long division, he shifts responsibility to them. Breaking them into small groups, he clearly and quickly instructs them to practice long division by writing a real-life situation beside each math problem they complete. He mentions to them that this is why long division can be so fun—because it can help us with predicaments that happen in our lives. Understanding the purpose of the exercise, the students begin to work creatively and diligently.

One of the 5th grade hands immediately goes up into the air, "Mr. Riedl, I’m stuck!" I could tell by the responses of the other students in the group that this child was regularly difficult to deal with. The teacher walked over with a smile on his face and began probing the student to understand the problem. Realizing that the issue was a difficulty with visualizing the concept, he offered her small cube manipulatives to work as an aid to learning. He also encouraged the other group members to work together and help each other, telling them that he is most impressed by teamwork. Another student spoke up, trying to stump the teacher, "Mr. Riedl, how could I use long division on my baseball team?" He looked down at the child and smiled, knowing the student’s intention. However, instead of just walking away chuckling, the instructor decided to take the student up on the inquiry. Rather than just giving the student a quick answer, he sparked the student’s interest by asking how many players are on the baseball team. "Twelve," the student responded. After a few minutes and several intriguing questions later, their discussion formed into a whole-class example, and the student ended up writing the baseball long division problem onto the overhead projector in front of the entire class. The 60-minute block of time set for math had gone by so fast that even the majority of the children were shocked at how fast the time flew by. The fun, intuitive learning experience seemed enjoyable for everyone in the room.

Realizing that my observation time was up and I needed to leave, I caught Mr. Riedl and asked him a final question about why his classroom works so well. He responded, "I just try to have fun with the kids and figure out ways to get them to understand the material instead of memorizing it. The best way to learn something is to want to learn it, and that’s what I try to facilitate. Add that to my role as a responsible, respectful role-model and you have the recipe for success in your classroom." I thanked him and said good-bye to the kids, who in turn respectfully waved good-bye to me as well. What can I say about my experience at Concordia Elementary School? All I can say is that Mr. Riedl’s room flowed magically. There was no special formula, just genuine people working together as a community for a purpose—to learn. I hope to tell others about how powerful a healthy environment and a love for learning can be with a group of kids. I learned a lot from such a quick visit.

--Sarah Collins

Riedlblog Label: Teaching

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mill Ends Park

I wanted to give Mill Ends Park its own post, even though we visited it the same day as the other Willamette waterfront parks. The reason is because it is the smallest park in the world!

It is a cute little island in the middle of SW Naito Parkway at the intersection of SW Taylor Street. Just 2 feet in diameter, it was easily hidden behind the Rose Festival Entry sign.

On the information marker sign, located on the sidewalk 38 feet west of the park, it reads:
From his office on the second floor of the old Oregon Journal building, journalist Dick Fagen (1911-1969) periodically gazed down on the busy Front Avenue thoroughfare. It was his keen imagination that turned a utility pole hole, in the avenue's median strip at Taylor Street, into "Mill Ends Park". The Guiness Book of World Records lists it as the world's smallest Park. It is twenty-four inches in diameter, and contains 452.16 square inches of land. In his "Mill Ends" column in the Oregon Journal, Fagan described a variety of events occurring in the Park, which were presided over by Patrick O'Toole, head Leprechaun residing in the Park. Weddings and other celebrations have taken place at Mill Ends, and on St. Patrick's Day, 1976, the site was dedicated as an official Park of the City of Portland.
More photos here.

Related posts:
Westmoreland Park, Rocky Butte, Kelley Point Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Glendoveer Fitness Trail, Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade

Friday, July 3, 2009

Waterfront Park & Eastbank Esplanade

We visited Tom McCall Waterfront Park right after the Grand Floral Parade. Boy, was it packed! The Rose Festival was still in full swing and there were rides, fun, and foot traffic everywhere. It seems to me that it is usually a very bi-polar park: Depending on the time of year, it is either very crowded or very empty.

It's a great park that is very long. Along the west bank of the Willamette River, there are lots of wide open spaces, lots of grass, and lots of trees. It is so beautiful to walk along and there is always something to look at. Boats, river water, bridges, people, buildings, water fountains, and so much more.

We crossed the river on the Hawthorne Bridge and walked the other direction along the Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade. This was the first time I walked along the east bank of the river and I very much enjoyed it. It is a nice view of the city, as you can see in the pictures. A great bike path stretches along the east side of the river, so we'll have to try that out sometime.

We finished our journey that day under the Burnside Bridge. We wanted to check out the Burnside Skatepark and see some mad skills. We sure did, and I was completely amazed at the talent that some of those guys and girls had that day. I can barely stand on a skateboard and they are making the sport look absolutely beautiful.

More photos here.

Related posts:
Westmoreland Park, Rocky Butte, Kelley Point Park, Hoyt Arboretum, Glendoveer Fitness Trail