Tuesday, November 28, 2006

At least it's not Monday

This holiday weekend was all about life, and not about teaching. I slept in, I went to the library, hung out with good people, and felt like a normal person for four whole days! It was pretty great.

Naturally, then, the Monday morning alarm was quite the upsetting wake-up call. I'm sure you all can commiserate. Returning to work after time off is always sad and depressing for me. Though I probably would have soon gotten bored with more time off, I always prefer sleeping in than getting up before full daybreak.

The week seems to be going fine so far. We're wrapping up the persuasive stuff quickly. I'm constantly frustrated at the lack of work done by my students at home. My high-level class consistently performs well, with at least a 97% homework rate each night. But the other two classes, especially on a night like this, the homework completion rate drops to around 50%. And yesterday each class had at least twenty minutes to write in class. All they had to do was finish!

Today I taught them some good opening strategies, with my handy music lesson (see my wiki for details), and also the structure of a good introduction: hook, background info, and thesis statement. Most of the classes had time to write their own introduction to see how it went. Unfortunately, that was about it.

I made some different choices with each class today, and it was interesting to see how those choices affected class. The first class is my best-performing, so they were able to guess most of the strategies after they heard each song. Good job! The second class, after hearing a little too much noise AND such a low draft completion rate, did not get to listen to the songs. Instead of listening to each song and then writing down the strategy I had written on the chart, they just wrote down the chart all at once. Then I reviewed the introduction structure. And then, in order to help them be good writers, I took the time to model writing an introduction myself. I chose a topic at random, one that no students were using. Out loud I explained my steps, and then when it was complete, I went back and labeled each of the three parts. I thought it went well.

Until! I began walking around to see how they were doing with their own intros. They ALL used the same opening strategy I did, and more than a handful copied the beginning of my second sentence as well. That really irritated me, and I let them know. I told them that copying me is *really* not going to help them, and it's not okay to not think for themselves.

So for my third class, though they have more trouble with writing, I did not model my own intro. I showed them the structure, and discussed orally things I might include with my pretend topic, but I purposely did not write or say a 'hook.' A few minutes later, while circulating, I saw the handful of kids not really doing anything, and a good number who were starting with a thesis (which is fantastic! they can write a thesis! but now they need to put it in the right place), AND a good number who created interesting opening sentences!

At the end of the last two classes, I reminded them that every day, they have an opportunity to succeed. Even if they didn't do homework the day before, they can still do their job tonight. I asked the class, so how many people are planning to complete this second draft tonight? And so they all raised their hands, and goggled at the students whose hands didn't go up fast enough. Heh.

Wish us all luck, man.

Tomorrow is peer review and final drafts will be due Thursday. Then it will be time for the test crunch! Woohoo!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I have a problem...

Hi, my name is Julie, and I am a compulsive linker.

Every time I find something fairy interesting on these interwebs, I think, ooh, let's put it in the favorites! Especially with regard to teacher blogs, I show no remorse when clicking the "Add To" button.

But then! I cruelly neglect the new additions, instead seeking out the thrill and joy of finding another new site to pretend that I will love and cherish. Indiscriminately, I add blogs to my bulging favorites. Telling myself, this one will be different! This one I will faithfully return to and read! But no.

It is so bad that I have created THIRTEEN folders in my favorites. More than several are so crammed with links that I have to scroll down to see them all. Not to mention that several folders have subfolders!

At least half of these folders I rarely even open. Mostly I use links from 'bills', 'blogs' and 'teacher blogs.' The folders named 'links', 'shopping', 'service', 'music', 'fun reading', 'new york', and another 'blog things' seem to be just for show, for feeding my habit of being an online pack rat. It's like a virtual bookshelf: one wants to show diversity of thought and intelligence, so things are up there even though one never touches it.

Stop the insanity! My mouse and my spare time demand it!

So today, I have taken the first step in battling this affliction. Well, two, actually. First, I have admitted it. And second, I have begun cleaning out these full-to-bursting folders. I tackled 'blogs' and 'teacher blogs'.

Phew! It feels so wonderful. I eliminated all the links that I never read. There are still far too many sites listed in these two categories, but at least these are ones I frequently visit. It really is cathartic to clean!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What I've Been Missing Most During This Crazy Month

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Dedicated Reader

You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Literate Good Citizen
Book Snob
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz

This is SO true of me!

Lovely Holiday

Thanksgiving in Brooklyn with new friends was fantastic! I can't believe how much fun it was. The other folks were also young, some were teachers, and everyone was really friendly. Oh, and there was a guest cat who was also very friendly.

There was a big spread of food, including different stuffings, a layered Jell-O dish, green bean stuff, rolls, and a big salad. And lots of wine. My wonderful host friend also had some corn for me, so I felt nearly as full as everyone else!

Later, after dinner, we had a couple games of Cranium, which is always a good time. It was funny how this group only wanted to do the trivia and word questions, whereas with other (nonteacher) friends, they hate those categories. Regardless, it was a ton of fun.

We stayed out late and drove home, arriving at 2am. That's the latest I've been up in....so long I can't remember.

On Friday, late morning, Boyfriend and I set out for the wilds of Connecticut, on a mini road trip. We went to a mall, looking for some deals. None of the electronics stuff really worked out, but we each got some new sweaters, which are always useful. I also got a very inexpensive set of dishes! I have had a college-like (ie, random) assortment of dishes for the past three years, so I feel terribly grown up with my four matching place settings. Hurrah!
Next we drove to Wallingford to see the labyrinth. When we got there, a few kids were running around the path, having a grand old time. I was so happy to see that people actually use it! I was surprised to see a new addition: a brick walkway. That also made me happy, because that means the community cares about it and wants to keep it up. The gravel is wearing down in spots, or covering bricks in other spots, and the fence isn't there anymore, but overall, it's looking fine. It's been four long years since we built it by hand, and it lives on to make the town a better place to visit. Excellent!

So after all that fun, there are still two wonderful days to relax and unwind, and most importantly, sleep in! I think I was out for about ten hours last night, which felt incredible. Today has been a lazy day of watching tv and futzing with the iPod, and I am loving it. I hope that by Monday I will be ready for the December whirlwind. But for now, everyone, have a very relaxing weekend!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


It is Thanksgiving Day, time for tryptophan-induced food comas nationwide, in preparation for massive consumerism the next day. Fun!

All ideological rants aside, I want everyone to be happy and rested today, celebrating with loved ones and eating good food.

Unfortunately, as I've probably mentioned a lot, I've never like this holiday, for two reasons. One, I don't eat any food. You may know that I am an awfully picky eater, often subsisting on salad, bread, water, and dessert (naturally) and the like. Usually it's not a problem. But some meat smells, like fish and turkey, truly gross me out. Strangely, I like the smell of a grill or barbecue, but turkey--which invades all corners of a house, no matter how much you keep the doors closed--is a smothering, thick smell of yuck to me. Also, the bread selection is usually corn bread or something, which is too mealy for my taste, and the dessert is pumpkin pie...which, ick. What happened to the good old American apple pie, I ask you? Why ignore traditions and trademarks, for pumpkins, of all goofy gourds? Sigh.

And the other reason I don't like Thanksgiving, or any other major holiday, is the time factor. Time has always been alloted to one parent or family side or another, from a parenting plan made when I was in fourth grade. So not only did I never get to eat anything, I never got to relax, because I had to be heading off to somewhere else soon.

Which has always meant that I'm only happy when done with family obligations and the dinner, and I can rest at home alone. This is one reason it was beneficial to move across the country. Yes, I miss family and friends at home, but I don't feel the need to fly home at prescribed times of year to see them out of obligation. I go home when I can, because I want to.

Again, I am not the Thanksgiving Grinch; I am glad that so many people love Thanksgiving and all the accoutrements. Also, I am very excited to do a New York Thanksgiving this year with some new friends.

And of course I'm thankful for many things, which I should remind myself of more often. I have a job that pays well (for my young age, anyway), and I have my own lovely apartment, and I am feeling pretty settled here in NY. Which is very, very weird to me, but whatever, it's happened.

I know some really great people here, and I am so glad to know them--some at my school, some from blogging. I feel lucky to have them in my life to make me laugh and make me think.

The Boyfriend is pretty darn awesome too; I'll have to keep him around. :)

The folks at home and around the country are fantastic and I miss them. Special shout-out to Fire 4, who were last together four years ago this week. We hope to converge again this summer, depending on everyone's travel and high-school reunion plans.

I wish everyone out there in blogland, and all over the US, a very happy turkey day indeed! Additionally, I hope that everyone gets lots of rest and relaxation in, to buck up for the last push til Christmas. Wow!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We Made It! Wahoo!!

Wow, it's already Thanksgiving of 2006! Next week is December!?! I'm glad the year is going quickly.

Miraculously, I did not get a coverage today. Since I did two this week already, it was a relief. I have been tired, mentally and physically. I actually put my head on my desk for a few minutes during a prep. Annoying kids in the hallway knocked on my door and ran, to disturb me. Grr.

Today, in talking about audience, I had the students first write a note to a friend, about school. Next I had them write a note to the principal, about school. Then, they were to look at the two notes and see what was different. They wrote down the changes and shared. They noticed that their language changed, that they had to show respect to the adult, that they used a letter structure for the adult, and that they used slang and personal stuff with friends. Very interesting!

I also did a super mini Google lesson, with some old color overheads. I show them how to 'read' the page of search results, so as not to waste time clicking onto a site that won't help them. Namely, I showed them the three parts of each result: the title, the excerpt, and the address; and I told them about understanding the different kinds of suffixes (is that what you call the end of a URL? Hm. I have a feeling that I know, I just can't remember. Who cares, it's vacation now!). As in, this site looks perfect, except it ends in .nz. And I don't care about New Zealand right now, so it's useless. As always, the kids definitely seemed to pay attention, because they've all used the internet a million times and they all use Google already. Hurrah for teaching life skills to children! Even for a couple minutes!

For one of this week's homework assignments, the kids had to think about music they liked and whether the artists were a good influence. Several students wrote something like "Rap is not good because they use fowl language." Heh.

Another assignment had the kids tweaking a fairy tale. Most were not done right and just rewritten normally or whatever. One girl wrote about "Pizzarella," and it was awesome. Instead of going to a ball, she worked hard to go to a big pizza tasting party. There was more, but I forget. Basically, it was very clever and I enjoyed it muchly.

Back to the point....it's vacation time now!! Double hurrah!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Go Pahk that Cah?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: Boston

You definitely have a Boston accent, even if you think you don't. Of course, that doesn't mean you are from the Boston area, you may also be from New Hampshire or Maine.

The West
The Midland
North Central
The Northeast
The Inland North
The South
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Somebody's doing wonky math here if the results for Boston and the West can be anywhere near similar. I totally have a West Coast accent, except when I have a Midwestern accent, or except when I'm around New Yorkers and I adopt a little of the local ways of "tawking."

In other news: phew!

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yep Yep, Monday

Okay, someone involved in How I Met Your Mother is from Washington. Not only was there a mention of Seattle today, but the phallic building was for Spokane. Who would know about Spokane outside of the PNW? It's on the little-known eastern side of the state.

ANTM was in Barcelona--I've been there! The park they filmed the commercial in is the one with the life-size (?) woolly mammoth.

So that was fun. And now back to the boring stuff. Ha!

I covered a very small class of 8th graders today, and I had them first make a pro/con chart, and then we set up a debate. It was fun! They totally got into it; I had to keep shushing them until it was their turn to rebut.

During after-school, we reviewed commas. When we finished reviewing a lengthy worksheet, I got all excited because I remembered that I have the kids' book version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. (I got it for free with book order points!) So I said, "Gather 'round!" and they did. I read them each page spread: it has the same sentence, punctuated differently on each page, and with a picture to illustrate the difference. For example, I cracked up giggling like an 8th grader at the page: Eat here, and get gas, versus Eat here and get gas. Hee. The second one has a picture of somebody rocketing through the air, fueled by flatulence. Double hee!

The rest of the day was ho-hum. Gave a quiz, did drafts of essays, etc. Tomorrow handfuls of kids will be gone, but I'm going to continue with our persuasive stuff anyway. It's not terribly critical and I can't waste any of the NINE teaching days we have this month. ...And besides, I was planning to review parts of speech and play Mad Libs on Wednesday. Ahem. After the real learning is done, naturally. :)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ooh, ooh, look! Pictures!

You know all those macro pictures I've been taking of flowers? Recently I ordered prints of all of them, and finally today put them up. They are filling up the large empty wallspace in my kitchen, and I really like it! I hope to add a display of postcards soon as well. As time goes on, I will add to both collections. Yay!

Here are some new ones I took this weekend:

Some other neat photos from this weekend:
At Bleecker Street and Houston: I love the light movement!

At the Cinema Cafe for dinner, these drinks...

...and dessert!

Hello Again, Hello.

Is it ironic that during the Blogging Month of November, which I did not 'sign up for,' I have stopped posting as often as I used to?

Anyway. Lots of busy stuff going on, and as usual some is good and some is...not so good.

Last Thursday was our evening conference session. I went home and came back, dressed in professional clothes to help me feel and act the part. And I am pleased to report that the conferences went very well! There was a waiting period for awhile, but I did a pretty good job of keeping the discussions short and to the point. I took the advice of a colleague, I'm not sure which one, and I stayed standing for the whole time. That way, even if the parents did sit, they knew not to get too comfortable. Or something.

As always, I saw a number of parents whose students do well, and I got to say good things. The kids got to smile shyly and the parents got to feel pride and relief. For the students who haven't done as well, either I'd already been in touch with the parents, or I quickly and calmly reviewed my information. I never hesitate to show parents my gradebooks, especially when they ask how many homeworks have been missed. The parents then really have no choice but to understand the situation. I also try to make sure I stay as positive and proactive as I can, outlining solutions for improvement. Also, I also had them sign in with a good phone number and their email address, if they have one, and I gave every parent my email address and homework website. A few were surprised and very pleased to receive that information.

So at the end of the night, I felt relieved and happy. I saw nearly forty parents and many of them had the students with them, meaning the kids knew we were serious about them doing their job. The only thing that put a damper on the evening was seeing the Crazy Parent from last year, waiting for a teacher across the hall. By then the alloted time was up, so I put my things away. It looked like most other teachers were hanging around to quickly chat with the remaining parents. So unfortunately, as I was getting ready to go, and I *do* think it was on purpose, that horrid woman took one of my chairs to sit her insane behind on. And I was not about to talk to her and get an earful of nastiness, so I had to leave with everything away except a chair. And if you've been in a classroom, you know how possessive and territorial teachers can be about desks and chairs, namely because usually no one has enough or matching numbers. Grr!

But overall, a good night; I was pleased. I do really hope to see improvement in all my students. And I have repledged to keep in better touch with parents, especially now that I have some of their email addresses.

Then came Friday. We gave practice tests to the whole school in the morning, and the afternoon was set aside for grading. Teams were assigned to grade the writing and to record the multiple choice. Well, it was rather a disaster, but not for the reasons you'd hope.

Since clusters of teachers teach the same students, those people were roughly grouped into teams to grade those classes' work. So I worked with math, social studies, and science teachers from my grade. I've talked to and worked with them before, and so soon enough we got into a rhythm of chatting amiably and grading. Naturally, as before, I graded twice as fast as the others. I suppose I'm more accustomed to quickly reading and gauging written responses. At least they were there to help me, so I wouldn't have to read over a hundred sets of four responses, on my own time.

Well. When another teacher finished his pile, I handed him a couple from my stack. He graded them and then I took a look so I could record the grades. Well. The grades he'd given were all...wrong.

Now, surely this kind of work is subjective. There is a certain amount of guesswork, but it's educated guessing, not random. There are rubrics and sample high-level answers given to us. Plus, the student has to answer the question and follow the directions. For example, if the question asks about a character's feelings at a certain point in the story, and the students gives an accurate feeling, but from another point in the story, that answer is completely incorrect. If they are asked to choose one of two things and discuss it, and they make up their own? Completely irrelevant. ZERO! There's no way around it.

So this teacher had basically graded all of them randomly. He protested mildly that he was just interpreting what the student was trying to say, from their point of view. Flabbergasted, I sputtered that you just can't do that. I said to him flatly, so all your work is wrong, and I have to do it all again. I choked up with tears of shock and frustration, stating that this was a complete waste of my time--I'm now going to have to redo everything.

I had to leave the room to let my supervisors know what was happening. When I returned, the teacher was like, oh, I get here early in the morning, I'll look at them and do them over. I didn't really respond, because if he didn't do his job the first time, why the hell would I trust him to suddenly care about doing it correctly a second time? No way.

Here's the thing. This teacher is an amazing person, been around for thirty years, but is showing the stubbornness of the old-school generation. On that day and before, he's groaned and complained about having to do this, since he doesn't teach it, and he doesn't understand it, blah blah blah. And this charade of work on Friday, I actually believe he did it on purpose, to protest having to do something he didn't want to do.

Well, I'm not okay with that attitude and that behavior. I don't know what to do about it, except not trust him anymore. The fact that grown people, adults in charge of educating future generations, can be not only bad team members, but actually knowingly sabotage the team? Truly disgusts me.
The whining and complaining and lack of work ethic was sadly not limited to our group; it infects the entire staff. Meaning that there are a good number of honest and hard-working adults in the building, but also far too many selfish and unempathetic grown-ups.

I know that I have high standards for people. I expect people to be mature and have a sense of personal accountability. It's very silly of me, because I'm always seeing evidence to the contrary--on the news, on reality television, from parents, and now from colleagues. It never ceases to bother me, and it often makes me feel defeated and sad. So I try to focus on doing MY job, and helping the other positive people if they need it, and making sure that I do what I can to instill that responsibility in my students and my peers, by my positive influence.


Okay, so it was on Friday and now it's passed, and I have to suck it up and keep doing my job, regardless of what others want to do.

Moving on...breathe...

On Saturday morning, I helped interview students for the Australia group. It went very well! I enjoyed meeting the kids and hearing their answers and responses to the interview questions. For example, the other teacher asked them to name their favorite song, and a couple named really old-school rock songs, stuff by Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, and Ozzy Osbourne. Funny! I was, I suppose, pleasantly surprised that they were aware of music so far before their time. That gives me hope, because in my experience, children think that events and culture from the 80s or even the early 90s is old!

Speaking of the 80s, I am continuously shocked at the lack of cultural knowledge that Boyfriend has. Never seen The Goonies, or Saved by the Bell, never even heard of Weird Science, and bunches of other things. I think he was too busy absorbing political information, news, and other smart stuff. :) So now I get to introduce him to all that he missed while growing up, and of course he loves it. Probably not as much as he'd experienced it all as a kid, but still.

This morning I made him watch my all-time favorite movie, The Worst Witch. It was made in 1986 and seems to be the epitome of cheesy 80s special effects. But I must have watched it easily a hundred times in my youth, and it's got some big names, and it's also got a nice moral--to believe in yourself and persevere through the tough times growing up. And I like the songs (yes, it's a sort-of musical, too). There are so many great quotes and inflections in this movie, and I can totally talk along with the whole thing. Love it! Sometimes the Disney channel still shows it around Halloween, so have a look if you never have.

Err, anyway, back to the point. The interviews were really interesting, the kids were sweet and full of personality, and it made me even more excited for the trip. I love traveling myself, but I am so psyched to help kids start seeing the world and loving travel on their own.

Let's see. This is a short week, and for that I am so grateful. I'm totally behind on our current unit, and I feel like I'm constantly scrambling to get things accomplished...but oh well.

I think I've hit that autumn wall. I'm tired, I'm irritable sometimes, I'm behind in the curriculum, but I don't care. It's exhausting being Miss during the day and Julie in the evenings and weekends, and making that switch all the time. Does that make sense? Hm. Whatever, I need a vacation to clear my head.

I am very excited to have a New York Thanksgiving with friends! A blog friend has invited us to her celebration, and I'm honored. Holidays have never been a fun time for me, with constant family melodrama (meaning traveling between different houses and relatives, making sure each person "got" their requisite time). It's been such a relief to be on my own during the holiday season. I certainly miss my family, but I don't need to deal with holiday time nonsense with them. So to have people here in New York to hang out with, it makes me feel grown-up and welcome, and it's all good.

After the big turkey day (bread for me!), Boyfriend and I are hoping to do a little roadtrip. I may have mentioned, or you may remember, last Thanksgiving I drove myself to Connecticut to see our labyrinth. So we might do that again, and keep exploring other parts of New England. If I don't get too tired from driving. Or if we find an outlet mall, because apparently I always need to go shopping. I kind of need some sweaters, because most of the ones I have are either awfully thick and heavy, or are thin but kind of baggyish. And baggy is not cool.

Ho hum. Must work on persuasive stuff, during a short vacation week. I'll do my best. Always behind. But I think I'm doing a good job of taking things step by step, so things make sense and build on each other, and so the students will 'get it.' Ack, wish us all luck.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Belated Woo-Hoo, of sorts

Sometime about a week and a half ago, my little blog counter turned 50,000! Thank you one and all, teachers, friends, family, and miscellaneous Google searchers, for your patronage this past two and a half years. Stick around, maybe I won't bore you to tears.

I wish I felt more upbeat, but somehow I got even less rest last night than bfeore. I went to sleep a little early, but tossed around for at least an hour. Partway through the night, I semi-awoke because I was dreaming about teaching adjectives! Argh!

Also, my legs both still ache. So off to bed with me!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


I am really tired so far this week, as I often am after the weekend. See, on Fridays and Saturdays, I allow my nightowl tendencies to come out. And even if I'm tired, I'll end up staying awake til 11 or later, watching tv or reading or hanging out with boyfriend.
So the early wake-ups on Monday and even Tuesday are very rude awakenings indeed.

As predicted, I was quite sore on Monday, all over my arms and back, and hamstrings as well. This evening I tried to do some regular yoga from tv, but I was too impatient and I didn't like it as much as the musical bodyflow. So I did that instead. During the relaxation track, I think I actually fell asleep.

Then I scrubbed the tub and took a shower. At last, it was dinner time: a juicy pear, edamame, and a baked potato. Plus some chocolate I received as a birthday present from some student (the kids know me well!). Very filling and satisfying.

Today, as I indicated, has been a little meh. Or at least bookended that way.

I woke up not only exhausted but also with an achy left leg. That made me grumpy, because I longed to be laying in bed instead of at school.

I had an exchange coverage of 7th grade, and it was a little unruly, but I covered grammar with them and had the attention of around half the class, while the rest weren't too disruptive. Not bad for a coverage! Then it was time for one of my own classes, which was a relief for me. They know me and my rules and expectations, which means that I don't have to always be on guard, holding my breath waiting for discipline. We did a reading lesson to catch up with the other classes, and they did a great job of listening to me model a reading comprehens!on strategy. Didn't have time to check their own attempts, but I appreciated their cooperation and motivation, especially on a half day! I guess I don't hate my classes. :)

So yes, this afternoon was the first conference session of the year. It went fine, kind of slowly, as they are wont to be.

During the hour 'lunch break,' I, like many colleagues, had work to do. Because of after school stuff, I rarely get a chance to actually work on my room. So I put up a couple charts, took a few down, moved a couple, laminated my excellence sign. And removed some old contact paper, which when I got the room, covered too many surfaces in the room. Yuck. All gone now!

After that, and getting chairs and desk ready, I did something I haven't done for months: sat at my desk, with some snacks, and read a book. My *own* book, a grown-up book, for fun (I almost wrote "adult book," but realized that would sound inappropriate. Heh.). No homework or lesson stuff, just something for me! Of course, all too soon it was time to put on the teacher face again. Yep yep.

For like two minutes, I saw and chatted with my team math teacher across the hall. I have hardly been out of my room for two weeks, so it felt like a treat to say hi to a friendly face.

So it's Tuesday night. We only have two more regular teaching days, and another two regular days next week. Ack, this month is so stupid.

There was a l!teracy workshop on Friday night; I was an hour late because of after-school. But we got a great, well-known book, When Kids Can't Read, and reviewed the seven habits. Of course I already know them, have a chart up with them, in fact. Do you think I've had time to actually teach them? Ha ha, silly goose. You think I actually get to teach what I'm supposed to, every day? Funny!

Ahem, my point. My point is that while I already knew the information, we got some good definitions and clarifications for each skill, and I was inspired to actually teach them. That's what I started with on Monday and finished today. I think it went well. I have actually covered a couple on my own, but not calling it a 'habit.' So we'll do some review and continue practicing, both with independent books and with nonfiction passages.

That is, if there's time. And aren't we supposed to be doing persuasive writing? Yeah, we'll get to it someday.

Ack, the time. I'm old and cranky. My leg hurts. Leave me alone in my rocker, you crazy kids.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Weekend Challenges: Cameras and Cardio

Time has, of course, been speeding by, although this was the first weekend in a long time that I didn't need to go run lots of errands. I got laundry done, and my eyebrows. I went to the info meeting for the Austra!ia trip. The itinerary is brand new, and sounds awesome. It includes the Sydney, the Outback, and the Great Barrier Reef. All the big Aussie attractions. I hope I get to go! (I'm the most junior teacher, so I could get bumped if there aren't enough students.)

Today was a quiet day, watching tv and trying to book a hostel for Amsterdam. I totally haven't been thinking that the Christmas-New Year week is a very popular time to travel, and thus it is already tough to book a place for the entire time. I booked a hostel bed for the first three nights, in the hopes of one of two things happening: A) I go visit another city, since I get antsy staying in one place for more than four days; or B) I beg the same hostel for cancellation spots. The prices bump way up for those last three nights, too.


Boyfriend has a three-year-old digital camera, aka a dinosaur. It is really large, taking a huge memory card, and it even has a lens cap! Serious old school. Anyway, so in theory he's been looking for a new, updated camera. Every time we are in a store that carries them, we go play around and see what's out there. Recently he found a great one while at Target, a Canon Powershot SD600. He's probably going to get it around Christmas.

My own digital camera just turned two, and it's definitely showing its age. Spots are wearing off, and since I've dropped it a couple times on very hard pavement, the lens makes a grinding noise every time it turns on and off. It makes me nervous when I think about it, though now I don't think about it. At least until I see a regular one that silently whirres on. Recently, on occasion when I zoom in, the screen goes white, claiming "Lens Error." I have to turn it off and back on again, holding my breath that it still works. Ack.

So all the talk and looking makes me try to rationalize buying a new camera myself. On the one hand, it's getting old, as I just described. And it can't take night pictures to save its life. I'm going on two big trips soon, and I would be even more excited to take pictures with a shiny new gadget.

On the other hand, a new camera still runs around $200, give or take fifty bucks. And that's really not a lot of money, but I'm still not quite pulling ahead in my finances (though I should very soon). Especially since I have another plane ticket to pay for. My camera, rickety though it may be, runs on AA batteries, which are available anywhere in the world. And except for night-time, the pictures are pretty damn great. Especially since I discovered macro, which is awesome. And it's always fun to play with black and white. New cameras have all those features as well, but mine still works fairly well.

I have tried to compromise with myself and say that I can buy one after Christmas sometime, in time for my February trip. My Amsterdam lodging will cost at least the same as a new camera, so I really shouldn't buy anything big until things are more caught up, money-wise.


As part of my cable, I have a channel called FitTV. It's kind of cheesy, but I kind of love it. There are a bunch of daily fitness shows, of all different types--yoga, strength, cardio, etc, where every day it's a different routine. Plus there's a series called All Star Workouts, where every day is a different kind of workout. This summer I did a great episode of hip hop dance, which was a lot of fun. I record the morning episodes of Total Body Sculpt with Gilad, which is cheesy, but also fun, challenging, and best of all, short. Last week's lunge-heavy workout had me shaky for nearly three days. FitTV, along with the yoga (Bodyflow) tapes I have from a couple years ago, provides an effective and ever-changing workout rotation.

I've never been a runner, or a hardcore aerobic exercise fan, because I've never had great endurance. Whenever I do a big cardio workout, my face gets all hot and red and my head hurts. Ugh, it's awful. That was the case for awhile when I started taking kickboxing classes. I always felt weak and got a nasty headache. Eventually, though, the more I did the class, I didn't get all redfaced and achy! The moves were so fun, all the punches and kicks, and I came to love it.

Unfortunately, all the bending and jumping, combined with one tough weekend hike, my knees gave out in June 2003 and I had to give up all working out completely. Later in the summer I began walking at lunch and loving that. Since that was easily the best part of my day, and I always dreaded going back into the office after that, I knew I had to quit long before I actually did. Anyway.

So this morning, I saw a Cardio workout in the tv listings. I've been craving cardio, but have been wary to actually do anything. (Also, I'm lazy.) So I recorded this show, called Kick, Punch, and Crunch.

I turned it on around six, and saw that it was a kickboxing workout. Very quickly, the moves came back to me--the power, the footwork, the adrenaline. It was fantastic! The sweat came quickly and completely, which felt great in a gross kind of way. I got out of breath, but it still felt great. When I could, I sipped on some water, in hopes it would stave off any discomfort. Sadly, that didn't work. As soon as the workout went to the floor, the blood rushed to my head and therein arrived the nasty headache. But I made it through the rest of the workout, and then took a cool shower. I was relieved that my face wasn't nearly as red and blotchy as it could be.

The head pounding has faded a bit, and I can already feel soreness seeping in, in the chest and the back of my shoulders. Hoo boy, tomorrow I will not be wanting to lift anything! Regardless, I loved doing the kickboxing workout, and I hope that it will encourage me to keep on putting cardio in my workout routine. My muscles are getting better, but I always need to work on endurance. Wish me luck and lots of breath!


This week has two half-days of teaching, so I've convinced myself that it's okay I haven't done any work this weekend. I'll catch up on the off-time later. It would be a good idea to have some preliminary grade info for conferences this week, so we'll see if I can work on that. If not, meh, I've got my homemade gradebook.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Things are crazy. I'm glad someone else mentioned that November is useless, because it's just started and already I feel overwhelmed.

I had to make this huge list of things to do when I got to school yesterday. Several items were homework to be corrected, and a quiz to be corrected. But I also had to finish taking down last month's bulletin board, finish grading the pieces for this month's, put them up, type up the rubric, and post it. Plus I had a couple charts I'd been using that needed putting up on the walls. Plus then the book order came in, so I had to put that together. The trip money has been collected and I need to get that all sorted (with school officials, of course) so I can book the bus. I'm terrified I won't follow through or something will go wrong with what I do. Eek.

Plus, you know, teaching.

Common planning hasn't seemed to be a fun time for me lately; it makes depressed because A) I feel like I'm behind or not 'on track' because I'm trying to do too many things, unsuccessfully, and B) we rarely get anything actually done. Thus, this afternoon, like several weeks before, I left the meeting feeling rather melancholy:

--We're supposed to have finished the eight parts of speech and be into commas and semicolons and dialogue format. Pshaw, right! I've done three parts of speech and three units of vocabulary. All of which felt sloppy and undone, because I just have been cramming them in wherever I could.
--And I totally haven't covered as many of the 'test!ng sk!lls' as are on the curriculum plan. I have rarely done any reading workshops. Clearly I am a terrible teacher. To try to catch up lately, I've been using workbooks to introduce and practice skills. I have been able to connect it to other work we've done or will start, so I guess I can feel good about that; I'm not teaching to the test in a vacuum or something.
--The month's unit is persuasive writing, and they gave us a specific topic to focus on. And apparently I'm just a whiny bitch, because the topic is too huge and I don't know how to approach it. And I'm going to need to find information and research on this topic, but it's kind of vague. I know the kids won't bother doing anything, so, as someone mentioned today, we should supply that piece so the kids can focus on the actual interpretation and writing. Blah.

Big tasks like this confuse me, and it's hard for me to plan or think without knowing what the larger picture looks like. So right now I'm stalling and trying not to flail. I'm not a first-year teacher anymore, and I had some good ideas last week; my problem is that I think too much. I need to shut up and pick something to do, and then start figuring out how to do it in such a short amount of time. Honestly, it feels like November is over already, for all the stuff happening. I'm grateful for the extra time to relax on my own, because I have not been working at home much. I write out general week plans, and input grades, that's about all I am apparently willing to do. But I still feel anxious about everything at school; a lot of it can't be done at home. Like the freaking book room, which is looking pretty damn good! Pics soon.

I am in the fourth week of working out in my thrice-weekly routine--very proud!--though I missed last Thursday due to staying at school and going out to dinner. And in the past week and a half, I have eaten a lot. I felt hungry every day, all day, for weeks, and lately I eat and feel full. Getting birthday food didn't help, though I certainly enjoyed it. Like the chocolate Costco cake....mm, that is the shit. So, so good. I gave as much of it away as possible, because I was going to keep snacking on it. Sharing is good. Um, there was a point...that I need to be more active so I can keep my size-six ass, with less hunger and more muscles. Yeah.

Today I had the kids do a fun activity, or so I thought. They had to choose a food and write a paragraph of facts only. Next they had to write a paragraph of opinions only, to make the reader want to eat that food. They shared this writing with a partner, who was supposed to close their eyes and visualize the words. I asked partners to say who did a good job of describing their food. A few students then got to read their selection to the class. Apparently this made them giggly, so I didn't let it go on too long.

Tomorrow is Friday. Maybe I'll be less scatterbrained then. Or more, since I know conferences are coming next week. Ugh, dread. Saturday is a meeting for the travel group. I am definitely in a group going to Australia this summer! Wow wow. Next summer is gonna be crammed: Australia, ten-year HS reunion back in Seattle, plus a potential Fire 4 reunion. Busy and very exciting!

Oh! Thank you OODLES and oodles for those of you (readers or nonreaders; just sending thoughts out since thank-you notes are yet to be written) who sent comments, emails, or cards for my birthday. I am so grateful and appreciative of everything--thank you for helping me celebrate and expand my circle of friends and family!

Gah! Too much in my head! Might explode like cake! Mmm, chocolate cake...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I'm Back!

Wow, it feels like it's been forever!

Our school had an extra long weekend for staff development. We had workshops and time to hang out and get to know our colleagues, which was great. There were some very thought-provoking information presented, about students in crisis, differentiated instruction, gender, culture and the way it affects children. Almost all of it I'd heard before, either in women studies classes or grad school discussions, or school stuff itself. It was new for a good number of staff members, which is great. I love seeing (causing, when possible!) people's eyes opened to that kind of knowledge.

Our next hope is that we have time to discuss all of this, and find a way to use it in our actual education of students. That part--realistic implementation--is the hardest part, and least-discussed--of modern information.

So now we have a three-day teaching week, which I love. Next week will be full of things as well, further reducing instruction time. Oh well.

We are beginning persuasive writing. Not exactly sure how to begin...but I'll figure it out soon enough.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My Birthday! Whee!

Today I am twenty-seven! It feels like a regular day, except I'm wearing a pretty dress and lots of kids wished me a happy birthday.

My morning class, the smarter and quicker ones, got to have a party, since they do their work so well. I directed the passing out of plates and cups and napkins, and then brownies, chips, candy, soda. Y'all, that takes a long time. Phew. It's annoying. Anyway, when everyone had a snackysnack in front of them, we settled in for some BrainQuest. It was fun, because many kids knew a lot of answers. I explained more about the chemistry questions, and about Roman numerals, and we took a few minutes to identify each state and label with its postal abbreviation. The kids had to correct or remind me on a couple, like Vermont/New Hampshire, and where Missouri is. Heh. All those middle ones are kind of a blur for me, but I know them better since I drove through there.

The other two classes did NOT have a party. Buggers.

The middle class had a quiz first, on all the things that we've already done. Because recently they've been slacking and not paying attention to things, and they must push themselves to succeed now, if they want anything later in life.

After the quiz, I finally did the mix and match four square activity. It was actually pretty cool. A long time ago, while trying to plan this, I wrote out all the pieces to a four square, about a vacation to Spain. Today I wrote each piece on an erasable sentence strip (go buy them if you haven't!) and put them randomly up on the inside bulletin board. Their job was to look and figure out where each piece goes in a four square, by figuring out relationships among and between the statements. They were to work in groups and try to build the correct four square out of these elements.

I think these are all of the pieces. See if you can figure it out!
--Mediterranean beaches!
--Guggenheim Bilbao Museum
--Birthplace of flamenco dancing
--My next trip will be to Spain.
--Taking a siesta every day
--There are many fascinating sights to see.
--My vacation to Spain will be fun, educational, and relaxing.
--Anton Gaudi's architecture
--Running of the bulls
--The country has some interesting history.
--I will be relaxed.
--Pre-Spaniard region of Basque
--Lots of eating out

It was actually a lot of fun to watch and listen to the students. They immediately got to work, and I heard tons of accountable talk and productive discussions. They pointed and checked and debated and it was awesome. I quite enjoyed it.

After awhile, after noticing that almost everyone had the wrong thesis--they knew to look for that first!!!--I told them to keep looking. What most of them had done was see the conclusion, which restates the thesis AND the ideas. Soon most of the class noticed the error and had begun filling in ideas and even some details. (Apparently they didn't remember that the details are not written in full sentences, while ideas are; that would have made it very easy, had they been paying closer attention to every time I drilled this!)

A couple minutes later, I asked someone to find the thesis, and they took the sentence strip off the bulletin board and put it on the chalkboard. (Whenever I can, I try to do large group activities that allows a couple students to physically move something--multiple intelligences!)

They kept working, a few minutes later I had someone find one of the idea sentences, then another, etc. Then still later they matched all the detail blurbs to the appropriate idea. Fun! The kids seemed to really like it.

It was easy for me; I just kept circling the room, supervising and checking facts. I really hope it helped the kids understand how and why we can use four squares. I think I'm going to do that activity with my other two classes tomorrow. The smart class should be able to do it faster, I think.

In my afternoon class, only half the students turned in their final essay. We've been working on a compare/contrast essay, about two Greek myths. Since the class as a whole didn't do their jobs, the class as a whole did not get to celebrate. So they read the whole period and continued identifying adjectives as they did so, although almost none of them did that second part until they saw me coming around to check. Grr.

After school was supposed to be fun, but the students were all, durr, and not paying attention or really working. So I set them up to work with the (sixth-grade level) grammar books. We started with adjectives, and about half the students had a really hard time. Eventually they caught on when I kept helping them find a noun first, and then see if it's being described. Everyone worked independently at their own pace, first with adjectives, then proper adjectives, adverbs, and then a couple kids made it to trying to diagram with adjectives and adverbs. I introduced diagramming last Friday, and they pretty much got it. Sort of. So the two that got that far were definitely challenged, and they totally loved it--doing something more difficult at their own pace. Good job.


So anyway, blah, enough teacher stuff, it's my birthday today! Whee! I got a few phone calls from friends and family, and gifts from students. I have been told that more things are on the way via post. I'm cool with extending the celebration of me! ;)

Boyfriend is on his way here to go out for dinner and drinks. Yay for the best boyfriend in the world to celebrate with me today!

Several excellent, nonpersonal things also happened:

--Copy machine has been programmed. I got my code yesterday, I tried it out today, and it works! So pretty and new. I tried the top feeder and it jammed, but I totally fixed it easily. I'm good at that kind of problem solving, though it's tougher the more knobs and levers you have to push and turn and pull. I got good at that while being a copy drone at the mortgage office a few years back. The point? Finally I can make copies!!!

--I think my raise has come through! I forgot to pick up my check this afternoon, but the online account shows an increased deposit that's far too high for even coverages. WaHOO! for more money. How long will it take for backpay to come through?

--Official ATS-W score printout arrived in the mail. I am now official and ready to be certified! I just checked TEACH online, and my certificate has been issued! It's not effective until February, but I guess that doesn't matter.

Dinner time! Ooh, and drinks time!