Saturday, November 10, 2007

Erik has a new teacher in Spanish, again

Frick Middle School is a language school. The teaching there in foreign languages has been poor.

Erik has a new teacher this year. He had four or more teachers in Spanish last year. The new teacher asked the parents to write a million words or less about their scholars. Here is what Catherine wrote about Erik.


It was nice to get your request regarding my thoughts about Erik Rauterkus (my son). I've copied my husband into this email so he will know what I wrote and so that he can add his two cents if he'd like.

First, I would like to say that Erik is thrilled that there has been a chance in instruction in Spanish. Before I give my thoughts on Erik, I would like to give you my thoughts on Spanish instruction at Frick. I am not only fairly certain that Erik has not learned any new Spanish since arriving at Frick, I am fairly certain that he has lost some of what he had leaving elementary school. Erik is a fairly serious student and I know that Spanish class has been a distressing part of his day primarily because he feels that the students are out of control and show no respect toward this subject/instructor. I hope we will see a dramatic change with your arrival.

If you need any help at all I hope you will call on us. My husband stays home with our children and certainly could be available if you need parent support in your classroom.

So, on to my thoughts about Erik. Erik is our oldest child (we have a nine year old son as well). Erik just turned 13 and continues to be a kind, thoughtful young man (most of the time) which is a pleasure as everyone warns us what a "teenager" can be like.

He loves Frick - pretty much everything about it other than the past atmosphere in Spanish class. He has really enjoyed being involved in whatever he can sign up for which has included running for student council president (he lost but clearly enjoyed the process). Most recently he announced that he will be trying out for the school musical. He has a delightful group of friends who he met on the swim team last year. Again, this seems to be a kind, fun, thoughtful group of kids who engage in interesting conversations with adults and other kids.

Erik is a competitive, year round swimmer (he competed in the junior olympics this summer in two events). Erik's Dad is a swim coach so I guess he comes by this naturally. Erik swims for approximately 2-3 hours every night but Thursday (with one practice at 6:30am on Sundays). Erik also plays violin which he enjoys some of the time (he really enjoys playing blues, jazz, etc.; doesn't enjoy classical music as much).

Erik is a very focussed child (perhaps a typical first child). He spent the summer googling college programs and seems to have decided that he will be going to college at George Washington University for political science/economics and then on to either Harvard or Georgetown for law school and then on to a career in politics. Erik loves to follow and talk about politics. Mark (Erik's Dad) is a political activist in the city so perhaps he comes by this naturally as well.

Erik seems to have aptitude for science and math (he currently is involved in the science group that will be submitting projects regionally). I'm a scientist at Pitt so maybe he comes by this naturally, too. He seems to have less of an aptitude for languages, but certainly puts good effort into all of his classes.

I find Erik's humor to be very engaging and I truly enjoying talking to him about a variety of topics. Erik loves to read non-fiction so he tends to have interesting (if not very strong) opinions on a variety of topics.

Our boys are very lucky because with their Dad home, we have a very relaxed household. There isn't stress about work hours, picking kids up, etc. We've also been very lucky to live abroad for about two months every year for the past four years (2 trips to mainland China, one trip to Hong Kong, and one trip to New Zealand). This has given Erik a fairly large world view.

Welcome to Frick. I hope the rest of the school year goes well. Again, please let us know if we can assist you in any way.

Catherine Palmer (Rauterkus)

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wild deer jumps into polar bear tank at Pittsburgh Zoo

Wild deer jumps into polar bear tank at Pittsburgh Zoo: "Wild deer jumps into polar bear tank at Pittsburgh Zoo"