Halley Knigge (Griffin)

Write. Share. Communicate.

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Why I do what I do

When I was in third grade, I loved math. I’d race through logic puzzles and math worksheets because it was a matter of pride to beat the boys. That kind of blatant, in-your-face, “I’m smart and it’s okay” attitude is not so common these days. In fact, it’s pretty rare – especially in girls.

What I had that other third-grade girls didn’t, was a place where I could be smart without the pressure to fit in. Where it was cool to raise your hand in class, or win every round of Brainquest (remember those?).

I had Seabury, a non-profit independent school for gifted children in Tacoma, Wash. I graduated from Seabury School in eighth grade, and went on to public high school, the University of Washington and a stint as a journalist in Moscow, Idaho. But last fall I decided to throw my life plans to the wind and move back to Tacoma to work at my old elementary school.

Why? Because I love this place. I am passionate about what we do here – providing a safe place for academically gifted students to learn and explore without having to fear being misunderstood, under whelmed or left out. I’m in charge of new and traditional media relations, and I love what I do. As a journalist, I always said I could only become a flak if it was for an organization or a cause that I was truly passionate about. Well this is it.

I run our school’s Twitter and Facebook pages, along with a personal Twitter I use for networking in Tacoma and the South Sound. I am our resident blog guru and help teachers design, tweak and update classroom blogs. I have several personal blogs as well, but everything I do comes back to wanting to spread the word far and wide so we can find every kid who needs us.

It’s not so cheap to run a school – teachers are paid for through tuition, but tuition also pays for a huge amount of financial aid. Need and aid are increasing every year, and lately it’s hard to find an extra dime to spend. That’s why social media has been so valuable for us. Suddenly there’s a way to network with other gifted educators and advocates for free every Friday (through #gtchat), sharing resources and tricks of the trade. There’s definitely not money in our budget for another conference this year, but I can’t stop thinking about all the new tools and tricks that’ll be ripe for the learning.

Send me Tungle, you’re my only hope. And really, who else can promise you an envelope of adorable thank-you letters from a school of adorable gifted children?

(This post was written in the hopes of securing a Gnomedex pass via Tungle.me)

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dot dot dot

A re-post from the Seabury School French blog — sometimes my life is made up of scanning, erasing and scrambling numbers for Dot-to-dots.

By now, we all know that French is fun.

(Hopefully) your students come home each week with stories of the new games we play in class. Raise your hand if you’ve heard about “the candy game?” Or le jeu des bonbons?

Students may think the most memorable aspect of the ever-popular Jelly Belly taste-test game is the fact that they’re eating Jelly Bellys in class — but you can bet the next time Mme. O or Mlle. H says la fraise, it’s the taste of that strawberry bonbon that the students are thinking of.

As Mme. O says, that’s the difference between learning something, and picking it up or absorbing it.

On the surface a game is a game with French sprinkled in — in reality, it is so much more than that.

Today Les Etoiles Super will have fun with a “Dot-to-dot.” But there are a few things that need to be done before we can enjoy this simplest of number games.

First, the original Dot-to-dots have to be scanned to a computer.

Then each number is carefully erased.

The numbers (1 to 20) are scrambled and typed back in.

And the Dot-to-dots are finally ready.

We begin after careful instructions that this is a different kind of Dot-to-dot. You can not simply trace from 1 to 2 to 3 — you must wait for Madame or Mademoiselle’s instructions to trace from cinq to vingt to dix-huit, to onze.

The Dot-to-dotting is just as fun as before, but we’ve added constant repetition of les nombres en français.

It’s the Dot-to-dot (and beautiful finished picture) that is consciously remembered — but those numbers have a way of sticking in a brain, especially if they work their way in during something FUN!

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Don’t be such a hobbledehoy

Learned a new word today, courtesy of a circa 1962 French-English dictionary I found lurking around in the elementary school French room.

Hobbledehoy, n. Grand dadais, m.

I asked around, but no one else seemed to have any inkling. I’d also never heard the French word dadais, but quickly found out why: it’s just as out of fashion as hobbledehoy in English. Blogger certainly doesn’t recognize either word, evident by the angry red line hovering under each.

Dadais, n.m. Booby, clown, ninny.

Oh. Alright then. Ya big booby!

Can we please bring this one back?

A quick Google Images search of “hobbledehoy” brought me to this:

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The Usual Suspects

Despite what you may think, upon moving to Tacoma after a year in a 20,000-person Idaho town, this city really ain’t so big.

Tacoma is nearly 10 times the size of Moscow, Idaho (yes, home of the GIANT PALOUSE EARTHWORM) but has been slowly shrinking every day of the eight months I’ve been back.

(Image courtesy of UIdaho News)

First I started to recognize people around T-Town. Downtown especially there’s a certain cast of characters who all seem to have a hand in everything (I secretly want to be one). This happened in the ‘Scow too, but it was more immediate. With the city councilmen doubling as firefighters and “downtown” (downtown is made up of about three 6-block stretches of parallel streets) business owners, they were kind of hard to miss.

Then I stopped getting carded at my regular haunts. I’d like to believe this is due more to my frequent visits, rather than some kind of rapid-aging potion in our most delicious of tap waters. I also got to recognizing the “usual suspects” from my favorite spots.

Then I started recognizing THESE people out and about in Tacoma, and being able to predict when and where they might appear. For example, frequenters of 1022 South also seemed likely to check out the book arts fair Wayzgoose this past weekend at King’s Books, or the Hotel Murano sponsored “Tweetup” last week.

But then the circles started to overlap. People from all over Tacoma attended the Tweetup, many of whom I’d already “met” online — this new media really adds another dimension to meeting people, eh?

In addition to these new crowds I’m mixing up with, there are the people I know from growing up in Proctor, from going to Stadium High School, from working at a school — and it’s not just me. It happens to everyone who calls themselves gritty.

It’s a web slowly spreading over Puget Sound, turning Tacoma into one BIG small town.


What Tacomans* do***

* For these purposes, “Tacoman” will be defined as “a hip and savvy person in-the-know who happens to live in Tacoma.”**

** For these purposes, “
a hip and savvy person in-the-know who happens to live in Tacoma” will be defined as “myself, or someone that I associate with.”

*** Alternate post title: “What I do in Tacoma.” Thought this one sounded more authoritative, even despite all of the footnotes.

  • Know at least one person who knows someone who knew Ted Bundy. Relate the story to every out-of-towner who comes to visit.
  • Shop at Sanford and Sons.
  • Know that Sanford and Sons is more than just an old TV show.
  • Watch “10 Things I Hate About You” to catch glimpses of high school friends, but shriek in bitterness every time the cameras pan from Stadium High School or the North Tacoma home to the Seattle skyline.
  • Buy lunch at Infinite Soups. Little more than a hot soup counter next to Malarky’s, this place is frequented by pretty much every person in Tacoma.
  • Run into acquaintances or acquaintances of acquaintances every time they go out.
  • Avoid The Swiss like the plague.
  • Run the Point Defiance trails. Get lost.
  • Rent a charming Stadium district apartment with hard-wood floors and “personality.”
  • Eat biscuits and gravy at Marcia’s Silver Spoon Cafe.
  • Visit the Museum of Glass solely to walk around the outdoor fountains and pay homage to the massive gift shop.
  • Memorize the Wikipedia list of people from Tacoma and name-drop as often as possible. “You know who’s from Tacoma, right?” Keep a separate mental list of criminals from Tacoma. Share them with everyone.
  • Drink exotic cocktails at 1022 South. (Which, ahem, I will be doing this evening at 5:30).
  • Maintain exhaustive Twitter relationships with everyone in the Tacoma Twitterverse. Meet up with said people in groups like Social Media Club of Tacoma and Tacoma (Beer) Runners.
  • Sing karaoke at The Mix. Finish the evening with dancing at Silverstone, having exhausted all of Tacoma’s gay bar options. Save the Tempest Lounge for another day.
  • Fill your calendar with the dates of the Sephora and H&M openings at the Tacoma Mall.
  • Spout fun facts about Tacoma to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen to you. Who wants to hazard a guess as to where the former tallest totem pole in THE WORLD is located?
  • Hate on the haters who live in Tacoma but go on incessantly about how they can’t wait to move to A, Portland, or B, Seattle.
  • Sport an I T-Town bumper sticker or a 253 window decal. Love on the people who drive cars festooned with Tacoma love.
  • Know that 253 is the king of all area codes.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, pick up unhygienic-looking hitchhikers outside of the Pierce County Jail at 7 a.m.

List is evolving, and is open to suggestion. What do YOU do?

Love these old postcards from the Tacoma Public Library’s online database. They pretty much say all that needs to be said about Tacoma.

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Grandma Moses

I have this dog named Grandma Moses.

I picked the name before I picked the dog. I think they are a perfect match.

The day I moved back to Tacoma, I woke up at 5 a.m. to drive from Moscow, Idaho to Boise to get Grandma Moses.Then we headed West.
I don’t think she’d ever left the state before, but I think our three-state route was lost on her.
Sometimes she looks at me with such love in her eyes I am convinced I am her soulmate.

I am not so sure that she is mine, but ole GMo is a swell dog nontheless.

Grandma also is a very docile dog. She doesn’t mind being picked up, dressed up, dangled from a hip.

She has no problem being occasionally (hair)spray-painted with black spots and disguised as a dalmatian. Grandma was the dalmatian to my Cruella De Vil for about three hours this Halloween.

Please note the wagging tail.

Then she pooped in my car, fell down in it, scrabbled around in a panic, tied herself to the emergency break and managed to turn on my hazard lights.
I had barely enough time to race home and scrape the poop out of her fur before I had to race back to school and teach a French class. The dalmatian spots went down the drain with the poop.
I left her at home and carried a Beanie Baby dog for the rest of the day.
I think she was at least a little ashamed.

I’m already brainstorming our costumes for next year. Perhaps Grandma Moses can dress as me, and I can dress as Grandma Moses.

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Anecdotes from school: part one

It’s all about blankets

“Look at the book I checked out!” Cried preschooler E as she passed me leaving the library. “It’s all about blankets!”

The book? “The Princess and the Pea.”

Your extremely large and muscular thighs

“I finally figured out who you remind me of,” twelve-year-old D told me during school lunch one day. “One of those Olympic speed skaters. Because of your extremely large and muscular thighs.”
“You mean my calves?” I asked. I was wearing a knee-length dress with tights and boots – no visible thigh.

“Those too,” D replied.

We’re playing a dice game in French, chanting “Trente-cinq! Trente-cinq! Trente-cinq!” when C rolls …. (drum roll) … a thirty-five.
“Well that was auspicious,” I said as the room erupted into cheers. “Oh wait, sorry, have you guys ever heard that word before?”
“Yeah!” Answers four-year-old A. “It means good!”
I love, love, love my job. 🙂