Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Links...with lesson suggestions

Came across this on Mental Floss, and have listened to it many times in the past few days. It's gorgeous. This kind of music would be perfect for the background of a classroom, if you used the songs that aren't in English or you can't really hear the religious aspect.


What a fascinating program--a Human Library! Leave it to the Canadians to think outside the box and try something completely different and totally awesome. Who would you want to check out and why? This could be an awesome homework assignment/essay topic for students of all grade levels!


A map of the world, if the largest countries had the biggest populations. Could be a fun geography tool. As a do-now, label three countries that don't move. Or look up the total populations of the top countries least populous countries. Would make for a great intro lesson about population density.


Have you seen the Japanese multiplication??
If you master this method, it might be a neat way to show kids who don't understand how to do 'standard' multiplication. Though I think you'd have to be able to explain how it works...which I completely don't. So maybe a neat thing for your high-level kids to play with and quiz each other on.


Science matters! But there isn't as much money for science fairs now. I'm not sure why science fairs cost money--wouldn't a class just do one on its own? or the school holds it in the gym? I think First Middle School did a Science Fair with one of the grades, in the gym, and I can't see how or why it would need a budget, let alone a budget in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Maybe that's just because it's NYC and we're perennially broke? Anyway, it's interesting to think about. I didn't do a science fair last year; I barely had time to teach any science at all. The school didn't do a fair at all either, unless I just didn't hear about it (which is entirely possible). If you're an elementary teacher, do you do a science fair with your class? Does your school do a school science fair? Would you have time to work it in?


On This Week, Christiane Amanpour chronicled the tragic fallout of malnutrition in children in poverty--physical and mental stunting. One segment showed just how drastic the situation is in Guatemala--nine year olds in poor Guatemalan villages are up to a foot shorter than the mean, and Guatemalan children raised in the US are at or above the mean. There are learning repercussions as well. They do link to a charity-type page, which lists a number of charities that work to help people in poverty around the world. Many of them don't need a lot of money, so that would be a wonderful class project--raise as little as $14 for clean water or a month of nutritional food supplements.


Learn Me Good posted a link to Teachbad's hilarious article about replacing the entire student body. The rest of his site is brilliant too, in its brutal honesty, and I can't wait to read more. Even though I'm not a teacher anymore.


Oh, and if you have an iDevice and you need a new game, look no further than Fruit Ninja. It's so fun and satisfying and addictive! You can even play against a friend!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy Snowpocalypse!

We ventured out a bit this morning, and then again in the afternoon to unearth my car. I don't have to move it, thank goodness, but it will be more difficult to shovel it once the snow hardens and gets icy. With the two of us, it took two full hours to dig the car out!

Yep, there's a car under there, see the antenna and the teeny bit of red?
The drifts on the side were as tall as the car; I climbed up there!



Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are you having a good vacation?

I sure hope so!

We've been lazy and are having a great time. Yesterday we finally did our gingerbread house--it was so much fun!

We also went into the city to Rockefeller Center to check out the lights.

We've also been playing a ton of Rock Band lately--I am loving the keyboards! The husband recently bought a bunch of Billy Joel songs, which of course have some great piano parts. Too much fun!

Of course, we've also watched a few classic Christmas movies--Love Actually and Home Alone, as well as a Netflix movie or two.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, December 23, 2010


My friends, you've made it! It's vacation!

Please accept a hug, a refreshing and possibly alcoholic beverage, and a good book or tv show from Giant Creepy Santa up there. Good job on making it through a really tough time of year! You should be very proud, and you should not hesitate to RELAX and REST for the next week--you deserve every second of it (and more)!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I witnessed something amazing

Full moon lunar eclipse on the winter solstice!

I took photos from my rooftop. This is cropped considerably.

All because I'm not teaching. I could stay up as late as I wanted, because I didn't have to get up before dawn to go to school. In fact, I'm not really working this week at all, so I didn't have to go anywhere at all!

I slept until noon and haven't left the apartment once today--and it's a Tuesday! That's also pretty amazing, I'd say.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

i found some holiday spirit in my cold dead soul

Y'all, Christmas trees are just heavenly. If it weren't so damn freezing outside, I'd happily spend the entire day sitting in the middle of the tree "lot" on the sidewalk across the street. They smell so good!

We used four entire strings of lights on this puppy (compared to two for our paltry fake tree that we also put up this past weekend), and have put a few ornaments on it. Our collection is pretty small so far, but I've gotten photo ornaments made the last three years, and we each have some ornaments from home (see my Nutcracker set below). My aunt gave us a lovely set of jeweled egg-type ornaments this year too.

I'm looking forward to slowly building our own story of ornaments over the years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

drill baby drill

Yes, I have completed my round of dentist visits! After the cleaning, I had to get one filling re-filled, and today, I had a small new cavity filled. I went to a dentist that's a five minute walk from home, and I was out in less than an hour each time. Nice!

Friday, December 10, 2010


You might have read the news about a riot in a high school:


The story seems to be that after a fight, the principal announced all bathrooms would be closed. In reaction, "hundreds of students began running through the fourth floor hallways at top speed, screaming and shouting."

First, of course the decision to close all the bathrooms is not at all an appropriate one. I don't think anyone will argue with that. The principal will need to think about how to step up consequences for the student body in a logical manner.

Second, I can't see ANY logical reason to 'riot' or join hundreds of your peers running screaming through the halls. That's just mob mentality and it's dangerous.

Third, I experienced something like this quite often at my school last year. Not hundreds, but an entire class (or two) of middle school students consistently ran screaming through our hallway. Like, on an everyday basis. Was anything EVER done about this? No. Occasionally I would attempt to go out there and blow a whistle (sometimes loud noises will stop a group of kids from doing something crazy.)(Several times at lunch, the middle school would start a food fight, and teachers either weren't there or wouldn't do much, so I'd run over and blow my whistle like crazy. It was usually enough to at least get the kids to stop throwing and screaming.), but they would either ignore me, make a rude comment, or nearly run me over.

I hated that my younger kids had to hear that all the time. Whenever it happened, I would try to show my exasperation at that and tell the kids, this is the WRONG way to be--you better not do that! You know better! I had some crazy ass moments with my class, but it was NEVER like that.

Fourth, there are over two hundred comments on the site, mostly from students or teachers in the school. It is ALARMING to read them.

The second comment (not from a student) says, "Another managing fiasco with Leadership Academy fingerprints all over it. Bloomberg’s New York."

STOP IT. That's just ridiculous and I'm tired of people doing this. Anything goes wrong with one person at one school and they just say it's the chancellor's or mayor's fault. It's LAZY. The mayor made sure to hire principals who wanted kids to riot? The chancellor visited the school and encouraged the students to fight for their rights by actually fighting? COME ON.

I'm neither for or against the chancellor or mayor, but I do have the critical thinking skills to assign responsibility to the appropriate person or people. In this case, the school's principal, safety officers, and the students.

Anyway, back to the comments: the majority of them are by kids. For one, some students were just saying that the principal was wrong, but many of them eemed delighted with the disruptance, saying the principal deserved it, and crowed about 'wildin' and promising more riots tomorrow. Just one example: "Lml this skool is live….teachers nd da damn principal is wildin for shutting da bathroom I hope therez a riot every day -_-"

Additionally, there are actual threats: "Yup dam sure we rioted, she has the nerve to say no bathroom because of one fight, she should be dam sure we ain’t kick down her door & throw a bottle at her head"

Also, many of the comments said things like, "you don't know what you're talking about because you weren't there; shut the fuck up." Except spelled worse and more disrespectful.

For two, the spelling (I'd say at least 95% spelled 'principal' wrong, but it went oh so much further than that), grammar, and frequent lack of punctuation is just beyond atrocious. Quite scary, actually.

Look, I taught ten/eleven year olds. They wrote like that. One might say they don't know any better at their age. I did everything I could to help them write coherently, use proper punctuation, and not use abbreviations. But also, they're still kids. They're still learning and I always told them that now is the time to learn those silly mistakes, so that you don't have to make them when you're older.

But high school students still writing like that? I have a problem with that. You really don't know how to spell 'principal'? You really think it's okay to replace all letter Gs with Qs? (By the way what the hell is that about?? This seems to be a new thing--I see it on Facebook too with former students [who are still younger than high school]) You really think you can just omit punctuation altogether, or even worse, just separate all your phrases with ellipses?

This is far beyond being a "grammar nazi" or whatever. I know they're kids and they're not writing in a formal setting, blahblahblah. They're posting in a PUBLIC forum and they show ZERO notice of what they're writing. Completely careless. I can't believe that at their age they don't know any better, or that they're incapable of writing appropriately. They should know better!

Speaking of appropriate, maybe I sound like a cranky old lady, but when CHILDREN are THREATENING their school leaders and promising future violence ON THE INTERNET, there is a PROBLEM somewhere.

It's kind of making my eyes cross, there is so much wrong with it. I can't even articulate everything in my head right now.

I don't know how something like this gets resolved; it sounds like the school was a zoo that day, and after reading the article and knowing how things can escalate with angry kids, I imagine it wasn't much better today. I hope I'm wrong.

I can't help thinking of the future of these kids. How on earth will they fare if they get to college?

"An educator, Denise Pope, a lecturer at Stanford, says that the University of California requires remedial courses of half its students, even though their high school grades were stellar." That's referring to high-achieving students really motivated to get into college. What the hell happens to urban kids who aren't so privileged, whose schools are filled with this kind of ignorance and violence? "Recently released data from ACT shows that only 24 percent of high school seniors knew enough in four subjects — math, reading, science and English — to do college-level work." If that's an average, I'm scared to know how little some kids have to know to pull it down that far. Based on the existing achievement gap, we know that the kids who perform at a low level are much more likely to be kids in a high-needs school or population. It's just sickening that this is still happening. Do kids in privileged suburbs have riots in the hallways and promise to beat up their principal? Do rich kids know how or when to write any better? I don't know.

Kids these days. What are we going to do?

Monday, December 06, 2010

my business trip, in photos

I left on a nasty day and waited out several hours of delay with lots of knitting--I made major progress on a gift project!

Of course, it was a brilliant blue sky above the clouds. Funny how that works. :)

And the weather where I was was perfectly pleasant!

Here's my adorable rental car! The yellow made me happy.

I met up with some flickr friends for dinner. We had fried oreo sundaes at the end!

I did some hotel jumping, as you do.

I was just kinda getting the hang of things and it was time to go home. :) But since it seemed to go pretty well, maybe I'll get to go on a few more in the future!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

did you miss me?

No, me either. This blog, I mean, not you--I always miss you guys!

I'm glad I did this NaNoBloPoMoNoNo, but it's pretty clear that a)November is too fucking busy to do much of anything and b)I don't really have much to say about anything.

But because I can't take a hint, I'm not quitting the blog or anything. I certainly won't punish all of us by posting every day, but I do hope to pop in here and there and share some thoughts. I actually still have a couple teaching posts rattling around in my head, and some life list stuff too. I'll try to get to it this month.

I'm not sure how, but December is turning out to be even busier than November! This week I went on my first business trip, and had a great time. I got to visit a school and see again what a non-NYC school can feel like. They definitely feel the same pressures of testingtestingtesting, but the atmosphere, both physical and spiritual, was pretty different. It was kind of mind-boggling, actually, even just to see a completely different kind of space.

Yesterday I volunteered with Help Portrait as a photographer. They're a new non-profit (after their first event last December) that takes family portraits of people that wouldn't normally be able to afford it.

It's an all-day event, but I was only there for two hours, because of the Saturday teaching. And truthfully, I was really wary and weary before I got there, because it had just been such a long, busy week and I was cranky about yet another 'obligation.'

Shame on me, because I had a GREAT time. Mainly because I love photographing people, and making them comfortable so they look natural and real, like their best selves. I was assigned to shoot in a room where two guys were already set up, and I have to say, it was interesting seeing them shoot; they were almost silent!

When I starting shooting, I was talking to them a lot, being a little silly, and directing them in a confident manner. And then when kids was there, even for the other photographer, I jumped in and played with the kid to make them smile and have fun. I made noises and faces and again, said stupid stuff. Because if you have a shy or uncomfortable kid in front of a camera, and you're stiff and silent, you're gonna get either a big fat nothing or, even worse, a fake CHEESE smile.

[Ugh, I hate cheese. Parents, don't tell your kids to say cheese for the camera--it's never flattering or real! Those aren't the photos you want of your kids--you want them laughing and smiling their actual smile, so they actually look like your kids, the way you love them!]

I shot one little boy on his own, and it was really tough to get him to focus on me and ignoring his mother who was telling him to smile. He would do this nervous little fake smile and I didn't like it at all. At the end I had him jump for me, and got some fantastic shots of him in the air with a huge grin on his face. Love it! It may not be a 'standard' shot, but I feel like that's the kind of photo that will make his mom smile even years from now.

Many of the adults were also uncomfortable and a little shy, with closed-mouth fake smiles, so I had no problem making a fool of myself to get them to smile for real. I also made noises and faces for them--and it worked! Court jesters got nothing on me. :)

Anyway, I had a blast! I felt so happy and energized wielding my camera; I love getting good shots of people, especially people that may not have had them before, or who don't feel comfortable getting photos taken. I wish I'd been able to shoot more families.

It was the first time I've volunteered in many months...probably in over a year. Perhaps in the new year, my schedule will open up a bit and I'll make a better effort to get out there and give back. (Is it wrong that I felt like teaching was giving back enough that I didn't 'need' to volunteer much?)

I can't wait to take more photos!

Last weekend, I set up two photoshoots with local models. I was a little nervous, but again, I had a great time. I love taking pictures! I was really pleased with the results--we got some beautiful photos.

I need to figure out how to get around this blasted cold weather so I can shoot more.

Unfortunately, next week is also going to be pretty busy anyway. I'm hoping to find time to make another batch of those delicious brownies for our book club meeting on Thursday. Mmm.

Saturday, December 04, 2010


I am neither a cartoon character nor a supporter of child abuse. Because a) those are things that don't or shouldn't exist in real life and b) they have nothing to do with each other! Come on people!