This blog was originally created to showcase my photography. That kinda stopped happening. Shooting (guns and images) is still my passion, but I'm a writer at heart, so that seems to dominate, regardless of what I try to do.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Blowing the Whistle - 3 Years Late

After reading a recent NPR article about a high school in Washington DC, I felt like I finally needed to clear my conscience of some similar things that happened inside the district where I taught for 10 years. Maybe it didn't happen throughout the entire district, but it was definitely part of our school's daily operations. These are the reasons why my morals and ethics dictate I step out of the classroom for good, and these are the facts as I know them.

  • It was all about money.
As a Title I school, our district received money for each child who had their butt in a seat. Our "period of record" was 3rd period, so we essentially received funds for each child who was present during 3rd period. Therefore, it was important for funding reasons that we had children present. That's a simplistic way of putting it, but there you have it.
  • Even the worst behavior was overlooked.
Referencing the above, behavior that should have been regarded as reason for suspension was ignored. Often it was the worst offenders who were given the most leniency, too. If students got in a fight - knock down, drag out, fighting the campus officer, and so forth - they were given a citation, put in ISS for the rest of the day, and came right back to regular classes the next. At one meeting, we were told that students would no longer be arrested for drug possession on campus; they would be issued a citation. "Why put a black mark on a kid's record when they're so young and have time to turn around?" More than once, students had hit teachers, knocked them down on purpose, or other forms of assault. Teachers were basically bullied into not pressing charges and led to believe that they would suffer some form of retaliation if they did. 
  • Policies and disciplinary actions were unfair and biased
As I mentioned above, "frequent flyers" were often coddled, while students with no disciplinary record whatsoever would be punished to the fullest extent allowed in the district handbook. Certain students were allowed to wear hats in class while others were not. District policy said it wasn't allowed. Some students were allowed to have hair dyed in vibrant colors while others were disciplined for it. District policy had nothing against dying of hair in non-natural colors. I'm not going to say that it was a racial issue, but it was. Girls with bright red braided extensions were never spoken to about it, but Caucasian girls who sported blue locks would end up in the office.

That discrepancy wasn't just for students. Teachers were treated with the same favoritism as students. Say a teacher who signs in every day, first thing, without fail forgets one day, they would be called in by the principal. Yet, there were some teachers who flat-out refused to do it and nary a word was ever said. The same thing goes for teachers who were habitually late versus one who might be late one time and calls it in prior to school starting. Basically, it was the same way with anything. Morning duty, hall duty, departmental meetings, you name it. Certain teachers could get away with anything, even to the extreme, while others were disciplined for doing the same thing only on the very rarest of occasions.
  • Some administrators had a power trip and walked the fine line between what was legal and what was not
Without getting too deep into it (and, trust me...I could go in REALLY DEEP on this one), there would be an occasional administrator who believed they were God of the School. They would target a few individuals for reasons unknown. They would harass them, bully them, condescend to them, speak rudely, and basically be as unprofessional as one could be. They would impose rules for them that didn't apply to others. They would micromanage and monitor, using threats of discipline, poor evaluations, or dismissal. They would basically order teachers to do things that were borderline unethical or, in some cases, completely unethical. They would write them up for any little thing they did (see the comments above about signing in or being late) even thought it was clearly an isolated incident. They would chastise them about something they were accused of doing - true or not - in front of coworkers and sometimes students.

These administrators might be @$$holes, but they aren't stupid. They knew exactly what could be done without breaking the law. However, there were times in private when they would do just that. Good luck proving it.

Many times teachers would get the teacher association involved. Texas doesn't have teachers' unions. Sometimes it went beyond even the district representative and the teacher would have to pull in the attorney provided by the association at the state level. Sometimes that made the harassment even worse, even though the teachers still had hope that they would be able to catch the admin doing something that would warrant their dismissal.

When administrators come in, they want to change up every blessed thing into something they want to increase their control. That means things like squashing employee morale. They'll move all teachers around, scattering them around to all corners of the building to separate coworkers who had built an effective team for years. Isolate them and pull them out of their comfort zones, even if it means messing up effective collaboration. Remove all employee celebrations. Those after school Thanksgiving, New Year's, Black History Month, or birthday celebrations? Forget it. No need for that. Who gives a shit if there's a sense of unity?
  • Being a good teacher was a Catch 22
If you had a problem, either with teaching difficult content where the kids just wouldn't "get it," or if it was a classroom management issue, no matter what you did you ultimately got screwed for it. Ask for help and you're labeled an ineffective teacher and it would be reflected in your evaluation. Try to handle it yourself and you're labeled as stubborn and unwilling to get help which, again, is reflected in your evaluation. Being a teacher involves collaboration to make things best for the students. This type of attitude and retaliation isn't doing a thing for the kids; it's making teachers scared to do anything at all. It's not supposed to be about hammering a teacher for not being perfect. It's a dynamic craft that changes with each child, each class, each year. Every situation is different and while, yes, some level of adaptation and management should be expected of a teacher, they cannot be expected to have the perfect solution to a problem every time. Hell, that's why they go to professional development.
  • Grades were manipulated
Students were basically immune to receiving the grade they earned. Sure, there were always lots of students who tried their best and their efforts paid off, but there were always those students that did nothing but were expected to be passed. And it wasn't just the athletes. There was ridiculous pressure from administration to change grades to "give kids a chance" and whatnot. It didn't matter if a student had failed every single assignment they'd been given due to not trying, not finishing, or flat-out not doing it. Teachers were urged to give "effort points" but, since they're all teaching to a test, that isn't authentic grading as it would be done on the test. If a teacher had too many failing grades, they'd be called into the office and labeled as an ineffective teacher and often have to go on a "teacher growth plan." This was reflected in their evaluations as well. The problem is that, when you keep all the paperwork on a failing student as evidence as to why they're failing, and have comparative data from all the other students in the class, it's bullshit to label a teacher as ineffective. Some teachers refused to change grades and took the hit on the chin as necessary, because it was authentic grading and they felt like it was the right thing to do. They didn't stick around long. Others just learned to play the game and would wait until progress reports or report cards to go in and continue to up a kid's grade, assignment by assignment, until they got to an overall passing score. God forbid if you speak up against the practice. You'd be royally screwed, then. Sometimes a coach would call and literally demand you change the grade on a student who was an exceptional athlete. If a teacher refused to do so, it's a guaranteed call into the principal.
  • They're all snowflakes
This is kind of a whiny complaint, but students were treated as fragile little creatures. Teachers were told not to give homework because it was too much of a strain on the students. It was suggested that teachers use a color other than red to grade, since red was such a confrontational color and it would hurt the student's self esteem. This also kind of ties in to what I already said about dealing with students in an unfair and biased way. When they try really hard on an assignment, even if it is supposed to mimic the state assessment, grade them based on effort, not actual performance, so they don't lose hope.
  • Truancy was accepted as just a thing that happened
Students missing weeks upon weeks of school at a time was nothing out of the ordinary. Letters threatening legal action were sent home but nothing would ever come of it. Even students skipping half days, every day, were never reprimanded for it. Many times I wondered if anything could ever be done about it, and I had no real answer. Nobody else tried to problem-solve it, either, though.
  • Paperwork was out of control
Grading isn't anything to complain about. If you complain about it, you shouldn't have been a teacher to begin with. What was ridiculous, however, was the sheer amount of record keeping and paperwork. Teachers would have to keep a contact log every time they contacted a parent, for any reason. Emails for the same purpose would have to be printed out and kept in a folder along with the logs. For students who weren't doing well, we had to keep all of their work (or blank papers) in their own personal file to serve as evidence. We also had to make them fill out a "why I didn't do my work" paper which, 99% of the time, we had to mark as "refused" because the kids literally refused to fill them out. We were required to keep an Excel spreadsheet for every assignment, with every grade for every student. It was supposed to be used as data but was rarely ever presented in meetings or asked for by instructional specialists. Each marking period, we had to submit an Excel spreadsheet for all grades for all students and include "reasons" for why students made below a 70 in the class. It may not sound like much, but try doing it along with all the other duties of a teacher. And I know for a fact I'm missing some.
  • Every student was forced to follow the academic track
Many students were passionate about pursuing a trade. Usually it was because a family member was involved and they knew they could get an apprenticeship or something but, more often than not, it was because they really wanted to go after it. While there was a track for vocations, students were often denied entry because the district philosophy was to have all students "college ready." I guess they weren't counting vocational school as a type of higher education, though. Do you know how many students begged for the district to offer cosmetology classes? Never was considered, even though other parts of the vocational programs allowed for students to graduate with a certificate of some type. But they often denied entry. It was a huge disservice to the students for a number of reasons. 1) they were discouraging a student to follow their passion, 2) they were trying to convince them that college was right for each student, 3) some of the students who were truly less academically-inclined could excel in vocational classes and - quite possibly - come out making more money than those with college degrees, 4) it implied that people going into vocations were "less than," 5) even though the classes were available to some, others were denied entry to the program, thus killing their interest in being in school, resulting in behavior issues, lack of performance, or truancy. I'm not sure what it would take for a kid to actually get approved for the vocational programs, but even when I was in school at that district, I wanted to take auto shop. I was told that I was "too smart" for that and was denied entry, but also because I was "a girl. Now, deep in my heart I know why they did all of this. It was because the school/district wanted to keep up a high percentage of students accepted into colleges. I'm sure that's all tied into money somehow, although I never really tried to figure it out. The whole thing proved to me, once again, that the schools aren't really in it for the good of the kids. 
  • Vertical alignment? What's that?
Most people - especially teachers - are in agreement that state assessment testing is a joke. However, the reality is that it is here to stay and teachers must adapt to make sure their kids have the necessary skills to be able to pass the tests. The trouble with that is that there's no connection between the grade levels. There's supposed to be, but there isn't. If a student has to pass a test in 9th grade that tests mostly on analytical skills, then the 8th grade teachers should be working on establishing those same skills, and so forth, down the line. Hell, they should be teaching it anyway. If a student has never had to use higher-level thinking skills to draw conclusions based on something they read, how are they expected to just *bam* learn how to do it in a few months before the test is administered? It's not as easy as you may think and I've never met a teacher who has the answer to that question. There are so many facets to the test that you can't spend all your time focusing on learning how to read beyond the text and dig deeper using their own thoughts, because you also have to teach how to write, how to "work the test" so they can do their best on multiple choice questions, how to budget time and figure out how to "triage" the test, and so on. These skills should start at a very low level and be taught all the way up, along with other things, of course. But that never happens. One day-long meeting before school starts and one day-long meeting halfway through the school year doesn't make it happen.

I will say one thing about state testing and how it plays into this. When a state changes the test in a year's time, and makes it considerably more difficult, the "downstream" teachers never had a chance at teaching to the test, either. They sent their kids off into the summer with the skills they thought they'd need (I hope they did, anyway) for the next year and then all of a sudden the test became way more difficult. My comeback to that is: teach the kids what they need to know as grade-level appropriate, and passing a test won't be a problem. However, teaching to a test is what it's all about, and that kinda leads me into my next point.
  • Low income, low standards
As the years wore on, I saw the standards for expected knowledge get more and more watered down. Even the AP classes became the same as regular academic level. I'm really not saying that this happened all because these students were low income. It's just a theory I have, based on what teachers from other districts all over the country have told me about how they do things. Again, I have no scientific data to prove this; it's merely a plausible theory. Teachers are told over and over about how all children can learn the same and they can all be held to the same high standards. I truly believe that to be true. However, in practice, it wasn't that way. When material appeared to be too much of higher order thinking for the students, the rigor was taken down a few notches. The teach and reteach thing is perfectly normal and is to be expected, but this went beyond that. This goes hand in hand with the rest of what I've been saying, though, about the grade manipulation and the college track thing. Make it easy enough so that the students can pass, and everything's just fine. They'll deal with the test when the time comes. All of this ties in together, at this point. Give them "feel good" grades on practice state assessments so as to not hurt their feelings, let the inmates run the asylum, let them get away with ridiculous things (not just behavior) because they have a "difficult life." I do agree that concessions should be made for kids with difficult circumstances, but that should not be affecting their education as much as they let it. For instance, if a student is pregnant and they need to see a counselor during a class, fine. If they need to see a counselor during EVERY class, that's not fine. If a kid's having trouble with a teacher at that moment (most often misplaced anger due to a personal issue), and they want to leave the classroom to see the AP, sure. Let them. It's a good thing to diffuse a situation and maybe find a mutual agreement. Having that situation every day, however, is an excuse. But they let them get away with missing out on important instructional time because "they don't have it as easy as other people." Again, I truly believe that any student can achieve great things if you believe in them as well, but when you're undermined by admins and supervisors, what can you do?
Okay. So I blasted public education in Texas. My situation may be an isolated incident but, based on what teachers in other districts have told me, I seriously doubt it. 

There were good things about it, though. Don't let me sway you into thinking *everything* was terrible. 
  • We had teachers on staff who were excellent grantwriters and managed to get many thousands of dollars awarded to our school
  • Our para-professionals were some of the most dedicated, overworked, enthusiastic support staff anyone could ever ask for
  • Our custodians worked their asses off and did a bang-up job
  • We had great hall monitors/bodyguards
  • We used a greater percentage of district money on technology and teaching materials than any neighboring district, while that meant a pay cut to our superintendent.
  • While I still had to provide my students with supplies, my yearly investment was rarely over $200 because our district was so accommodating in resources
  • We had a wide variety of teacher trainings and professional development both throughout the school year and over the summers, all of which were paid for by the district and, if during the school year, we were always ensured classroom coverage
  • The majority of our kids were pretty awesome. Sure, there was a large percentage of jerks, but the kids who had the mindset of scholars were some of the sweetest, hard-working, most genuine teens I've encountered and, while I'd rather die than go back into a classroom, I do indeed miss those kids.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Some Thoughts on Texas A&M - More of a Rant

As my time here at A&M is winding down, I've been thinking a lot about what's been the most important to me, besides the degree. A&M is all about tradition, and that was one of my biggest draws. My grandfather (c/o 1941) loved his school and instilled that same pride in me at a very young age, despite my decision to attend a different university the first time around.

That being said, it leads me into a few things that have made me immensely unhappy.

1) The seemingly-constant "tear down, rebuild" mentality. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little bit, but ever since I've been a student here, old buildings have been demolished in favor of new construction. Cain Hall, for example, had a pretty interesting history in its usage. The university decided to take it down - for reasons I'll get to in another bullet - and maybe it wasn't a terrible thing, but it seemed as if there were other options available to keep it intact. But, no...there was a greater motivation behind it. At any rate, a remodel would have sufficed, in my opinion. Perhaps it was too choppy inside to accommodate the Student Services that had moved in, but it was easily accessible to all who needed it. Next, Bizzell Hall. Built in 1918, it had fantastic architecture. Absolutely beautiful. In fact, Student Services had been moved to Bizzell after Cain was taken out. But now it's gone. Instead, they're going to erect a $43M monstrosity that is to serve as the Student Services building - in 2020. They've been relocated for a second time, to be discussed in a minute.

2) Whether it's due to a lack of maintenance, disease (due to lack of maintenance) or making way for more construction, they're chopping down trees left and right on Main Campus. The remaining empty planters and flowerbeds are barren and look terrible now. I know they used to have all the trees tagged for surveying and data collection, but I've been told by forestry students that the whole program has fallen to the wayside.

3) Student Services was moved to the White Creek area of West Campus. In temporary buildings. With no parking whatsoever and impossibly-complicated change-over bus rides get to it. The specific office you're looking for is hard to find (mostly because they all look alike) and they're not listed on the online campus map. The actual assistance available from Student Services is a joke to begin with, but that's a different rant. You know what? I'll deal with that now.

4) Student Services is useless. They triage students into "Crisis, Urgent, and Routine" categories. While I agree that crisis intervention should be immediate - and it is - trying to get a student with issues to decide whether they're urgent or routine is just cruel. Pretty much everything is urgent when it comes to mental health care, in my opinion, and especially when you're dealing with college kids. The website states that, for routine care, a waiting period of 10 - 15 days to even get scheduled is normal. However, when I visited their site to see if I could schedule an appointment, I was met with this disclaimer: "We are in a time of the semester when we are at or above capacity for the number of students we are able to see in a given week. Our wait time to be seen for an initial appointment may be 4 or more weeks away." Basically, if you're not already in the system, you're screwed. A&M is constantly trying to prove (to themselves?) that they're on top of things in the way of student care, and it's bullshit. And posting a ton of links for self-help isn't helping.

5) Cain was removed in order to build a full-service hotel and conference center, a new parking garage, and an elevated walkway over to Kyle Field. Like many things going on with A&M these days, it's all about the money. And Old Ags obsessed with our football = money. According to The Eagle newspaper, "The 250,000-square-foot project is planned to include a full-service restaurant and bar, 1,000 square feet of retail space, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, an outdoor event area, a 650-seat ballroom and more than 28,000 square feet of conference and meeting space. The eight-floor hotel will have 250 rooms -- 237 standard rooms, eight standard suites, three hospitality suites and two deluxe suites. Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Phillip Ray said room costs still are being determined." Opinions on this development vary, but it seems as if most students are against it. But They don't care what students want. They want what's going to bring in the big bucks. Some will say this has everything to do with our SEC status.

6) New agriculture department offices were built behind AGLS on West Campus. A set of twins. New, shiny, modern...with offices of the exact same size as where the staff and faculty came from. I'm all for modern, efficient buildings, but I refuse to believe there wasn't some way an architect could have designed something that fits in with the traditional culture A&M has possessed since its inception. That goes for AGLS as well. Access to HFSB and other adjacent buildings has been blocked off by construction for yet another modern monstrosity to the tune of $49M, to be completed in 2019. It will hold plant pathology and microbiology labs. While I see the value in expanding the square footage of the teaching/lab/research facility, it's just another building that looks like it should be in downtown Houston. Is my rant solely focused on aesthetics? Not entirely. During this construction, they have removed about 1/4 of the parking spaces from Lot 74, which was already hard to park in and, in the process, removed half of the handicapped spots, pushing them back a considerable distance from the buildings. The chain link fence also blocks off a few sidewalks with easy handicapped access. It's also taken out several rows of the adjacent Lot 97, which happens to be my lot, and it's much harder to find a parking space. The email I got notifying me of this inconvenience informed me that I should plan ahead and arrive early in case I need to park in Lot 100 - the giant catch-all lot surrounding Reed Arena. I didn't pay for a Lot 97 pass to be parking in Lot 100 which is typically full anyway. 

7) West Campus is the side of A&M that's left behind. If you want to know about any events going on around campus, you'd better plan on going to the MSC every week, or you'll miss out. Signage of upcoming events are plentiful there, but nothing current is set up anywhere on West Campus, except for a few A-frame signs outside of the West Campus Library advertising ongoing programs. Wanna get involved in a charitable event? You'll never know it's happening unless you end up at the MSC. Traditional events, such as the annual Elephant Walk, were only promoted on Main Campus. I missed the one designated for my class year, and I missed the one for the new seniors although I graduate in December. Campus-wide emails are sent out for every possible cultural inclusion seminar you can think of, but for Aggie traditions such as Elephant Walk or Ring Dance, you're on your own, apparently, unless you happen upon a sign - again - only around the general area of the MSC. Wanna buy a t-shirt for an organization or event that you somehow managed to find out about? Gotta go to Main Campus - multiple locations. But never anywhere on West Campus.

8) Student organization meetings and campus events are never announced in time to actually plan to attend. It's a regular occurrence for me to get an email for something I'm interested in going to, only to find out that it's scheduled for the very next day or, in many cases, the same day. For students who are encouraged to form study groups and meetings with professors and trying to stick to a schedule for studying or whatever, that's annoying. I can't just tell the members of my group project that I won't be showing up in two hours because there's a Salary Negotiation Workshop I really need to attend. Tell me a week ahead of time and, yeah, we can work something out. And, before you ask, no, there is no online calendar anywhere that tells you about these upcoming events. If there were, I wouldn't be complaining.

9) West Campus is left behind in many other ways as well. Innovative water bottle refill stations have even been installed in some of the oldest buildings on Main Campus, but nothing on our side. This is rather ironic to me, considering that West Campus is home to the environmental, ecological, agricultural, and sustainability programs at our school.

10) The Student Writing Center, Success Center, and Career Services are jokes as well. None have been helpful to me whatsoever and, in two cases, I have even been denied assistance. The writing center is staffed with students enrolled in liberal arts classes - go figure - and cannot assist with scientific or technical writing at all. The Career Center staff was less than helpful and just wanted me to take advantage of their online services rather than actually help in person. They literally told me that all the resume assistance I needed was online, if by "assistance" you mean templates for three generic resumes and one cover letter. When I was looking for a summer job, they told me to use an online resource and basically hung up, leaving me to try to wade through all the confusing links that led to nothing more than yet another information page by myself.

With all of that out of the way, I would still say that there is no other school I would rather have attended. I love Texas A&M, its traditions, its culture, its history...even if the administration is trying to make it into a much bigger university than it should be. Our traditions and background are slowly fading away with each passing year as a record number of freshmen arrive. It's a hard phenomenon to explain, and I wish I had the words, but it's just a matter of too many people who aren't embracing everything A&M stands for. They're just going to school to be a student, not necessarily an Aggie, if that makes any sense. Not a majority, but the Aggie Spirit is slowly getting watered down.

Maybe I say all of this because I'm a total red-ass. While I could never afford a student sports pass, I've participated in as many traditional events as possible. I know the Yells. My phone's ringtone is the Aggie War Hymn. My wardrobe is 80% maroon. I haven't even graduated yet and I've already donated to the Century Club. I bought a brick for my grandfather that was placed outside the Corps Center. I'm one of the first people to throw my arm around the stranger next to me on the bleachers (or anywhere else, really) and saw 'em off. No, I didn't attend every Midnight Yell, Silver Taps, tailgate, Muster, or Bonfire, but I did go as often as I could. 

As I walk through Main Campus, I imagine my grandfather walking those same sidewalks between buildings, hurrying off to lecture and trying to balance his classes and Corps responsibilities. I imagine him walking the halls of some of the same buildings I've been in. I picture him out on Simpson Drill Field. I have an emotional connection to this university and perhaps I'm letting that cloud the bigger picture, but I can't help it. 

Change in all things in inevitable. Perhaps I just need to be thankful that I was an Aggie Student when A&M was still what it was meant to be (although some will argue that disappeared awhile back). I will always fondly look back on my time here with wistful memories, from before A&M morphed itself into the mega-college I have no doubt it will become in time. Either way, there's no place I'd rather be. But the important thing here is that I AM an Aggie for life, and that's what I've always wanted.

Monday, November 20, 2017

New Petrified Wood Location

It's been awhile since I've gone searching for petrified wood, but I had the opportunity to go to a different stretch of a creek I've hunted before. This part is about a mile upstream from where Joe and I have been before.

This section has a bend in it, with good examples of deposition/erosion and I'd been down there once before with a class to study that process in the field. I noticed a large bit of wood while I was there and I picked up a few pieces, but that was before I really knew what kind of special qualities to look for in a good specimen.

So when I was on the property where you gain access to that location, I figured it was a great opportunity to see what I could find. I found some great stuff, and I only walked about 50 feet downstream. There's a long section of streambed to walk, and I didn't even look in the banks to see if I could find any large pieces. Mostly because I hadn't really prepared - no bucket or tools - and it's a long walk from the creek to the parking area, although my Jeep could have made it further.

So here are a few of the pieces I picked up. I'll be going back - probably after school's out or maybe on the weekends - to see what other prizes I might find.

I like this one because of the growth rings

This one's a little bleached but I love it because you can see where a twig snapped off

The back side of the same piece. I'm not sure if the oval on the right is part of a twig scar or not, but it's still pretty cool.

This one's special because of the crystallized sap. Sometimes it's amber, sometimes it's chalcedony; I'm not entirely sure what this particular mineral is, but it's very pretty.

I think this is one of the best I found today. The rings are so vivid and beautiful.

I didn't realize how out of focus this picture is, but this has nice rings too.

I just liked this one because of the waviness of the grain. I've been told that this area was covered up with vines at the time, so I think this is probably a good specimen showing that.

I picked up this one because it looks like it has evidence of char. The other side looks like outside bark. I know there were fires; I've found other pieces that were clearly burned, and I think that's what happened with this one.

The twig scar on this one is awesome, as is the hash markings. Not sure if that's part of a unique bark, or if it's from bugs eating the wood.

Again, I didn't realize how out of focus this one was until I just uploaded it. This one is amazing because of the three types of minerals on the broken end. There's the black, that tan colored one that's a big bubble and translucent, and then the clear crystals. Again, I'm not entirely sure what minerals they are, but they're very pretty and unique compared to other specimens I've found.

When I first picked most of these up, I didn't know what special characteristics they had. I grabbed them because I noticed the color first or, in the case of the twig scarred ones, the twig scars. What a surprise I got when I came home and washed them all off! 

Now that I know there are some very special pieces at this particular location, I'll definitely be going back with boots so I can explore a little more and take a bucket with me. I expect to find some more with mineral inclusions and possibly more of outside bark. Who knows what I'll find when I actually inspect the bank to see if anything's buried in there. 

What I think is so cool is that I found these after walking only a short distance. I can only imagine what else will be down there! The best part is that I have access to this location pretty much whenever I want. 

I only have a few weeks before I graduate, so I need to get to this particular location as soon as I can. If it's fruitful, I'll go back more than once. Since I already have SO MUCH FREAKING WOOD, I think I'll actually take my time and wash everything off in the creek and take a good look at it before I decide to take it with me. I've found that I really just need to be more selective in my pickings because there's just so many boxes filled with wood found at different locations that I'm almost swimming in them. Besides, some of the really neat pieces should stay behind for others to find. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed looking at these pics and following me along on my outdoor adventures. I'll update again when I have more to post.