31 December 2007
Quit being apathetic, scared, nervous, shy, disillusioned, indifferent, irresponsible, lazy, or whatever your reason is for not caucusing on the 3rd if you are an Iowa resident. You live in the number one state when it comes to choosing our next presidential candidate. In what other situation can you say that our state has the first and most influential say in our entire nation about anything? You don't have to be a political wonk or a governmental policy expert to show your support. Pick a candidate on their platform, their ideals, their experience, their name or their tie.
After a brief pause, Obama talked about his childhood:
"I would say the fact that I grew up without a father in the home. What that meant was, I had to learn very early on to figure out what was important and what wasn't and exercise my own judgment, in some ways to raise myself. I mean, my mother was wonderful, and was a foundation of love for me. But as a young man growing up, I didn't have a lot of role models, and I made a lot of mistakes. But I learned to figure out that there were certain values that were important to me, that I had to be true to. Nobody was going to force me to be honest. Nobody was going to force me to work hard. Nobody was going to force me to have drive and ambition. Nobody was going to force me to have empathy for other people. But if I really thought those values were important, then I had to live them out...That's why it's so important for me now, both as a United States senator, as presidential candidate, but also as a father and a husband to wake up every morning and ask myself am I living up to those values that I say I think are important. Because if I'm not, I shouldn't be president."
As far as familiar names on the Gold, Silver or Bronze lists, Nishna Valley, South Page and Oakland all made the bronze list. The usual suspects in Chicago made the top of the list, Northside College Prep, Payton, Young and Lincoln Park all were Gold medal schools.
I haven't had a chance to read the pieces on the Boston MATCH school or the school in Texas, but they look very interesting. I like reading about the unique and varied strategies some of the top schools in disadvantaged areas use to help their students reach amazing heights.
30 December 2007
28 December 2007
1. When Courage Was Stronger Than Fear by Peter Hellman
Remarkable Stories of Christians Who Saved Jews from the Holocaust.
Five accounts of true selfless heroism.
2. Maus: My Father Bleeds History, Here My Troubles Began by Art Spielgelman
My first ever graphic novel and it was amazing. There is so much written into the illustrations. The incredible Pulitzer Prize winning story of the father relating his WWII & Auschwitz experience as well as the relationship between the father and the son.
3. To End a War by Richard Holbrooke
One of my Bosnian themed readings over the summer. A great inside look at the difficulties & dynamics of international diplomacy.
4. The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin (audiobook)
My Life in the Kitchen.
This was such a fun autobiography to listen to. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Chicago with homebase.
5. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
One of only two pieces of fiction on my list, and another Pulitzer Prize winner. This was very enjoyable. I watched it on a recommendation from Connie and after watching "The Namesake", which was based on another one of her books.
6. Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Unis
Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty.
A great documentation of how small ideas can have massive impact.
7. Augusta, Gone by Martha Tod Dudman
Whew. This is a rough one. I was riveted reading this mom's story of the endless battle with her daughter.
8. Paddy on the Hardwood by Rus Bradburd
A journey in Irish Hoops.
This was a very fun story of a coach who ends up coaching a semi-pro team in Ireland and his challenges in getting things going as well as his own exploits in learning to play the fiddle.
9. Redemption by Leon Uris
The sequel to "Trinity". It was good, but it spent a lot of time retelling the storyline from "Trinity". Still very fun.
10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time.
Pretty incredible, the devotion, determination and single-mindedness of this guy. And I was able to see him speak too!
11. Witness to Genocide by Roy Gutman
The First Inside Account of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia
Pulitzer Prize winning documenting that help break the news of the atrocities in Bosnia.
12. Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo
It's so interesting to read a young teen's account of extraordinary circumstances. Not as spellbinding as Anne Frank's Diary, but still very good.
13. Heat by Bill Buford
An Amateur's Adventure as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Lots of fun and I learned some things too! A great look at the dynamic of a kitchen and also lots of interesting stuff about Italy, Italian food, pasta-making, Mario Batali, and butchers.
14. The Freedom Writers' Diary by Erin Gruwell
How a Teacher and 150 Teens used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.
A good motivator and 'feel-good' teaching story. Some very exciting, original, powerful lesson/teaching ideas. We read it in our advisory/home room when I was student teaching.
15. Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
Another one read aloud to homeroom. The movie is very good, but there is SO much more in the book!
I also had a couple fun re-reads of some of my favorites, Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and Leon Uris' Trinity.
I only got halfway through The Worldly Philosophers, but I'd like to get back to it at some point. And I've started four different books right now and they all are great!
26 December 2007
25 December 2007
My thoughts are...I don't have problems with students doing a quick check of messages or even sending one quick message. Texting is simply part of that generation's socializing and communication. The students that actually want to do well in the class or that might contribute to discussion are the ones that also know to keep their cell usage to a manageable minimum. The ones that don't are usually the same ones that wouldn't be participating much anyways.
My favorite part of the article is the part where it, rightly, states that part of the problem might be unengaging, boring lessons. Notice that the professor's reply talks about the 'subject matter' being relatively boring, not his lessons or his teaching. :)
"Naturally, there will be many students and no small number of high-tech and progressive-ed apologists ready to lay the blame on boring lessons. One of the great condemnations in education jargon these days, after all, is the “teacher-centered lesson.”
"I’m so tired of that excuse. The idea that subject matter is boring is truly relative. Boring as opposed to what? Buying shoes on eBay? The fact is, we’re not here to entertain. We’re here to stimulate the life of the mind. Education requires contemplation. It requires critical thinking.""
I read this post on the Fischbowl blog and thought she did a good job of touching on a lot of the same concerns & feelings regarding this issue that I have. It's a good blog that I check periodically.
I say, "Way to go, Chicago!" and the suburb communities should follow suit. Better grab your Nalgene!
24 December 2007
22 December 2007
So, here's what I would call my top CD's of the year:
- M.I.A. - Kala
- I love this CD. There's only one track I don't care for. The sounds are so global, the lyrics so worldly, economic, political and socially aware. The artist is gorgeous. I didn't think it would be possible to match how much I loved her first CD, "Arular", but she did it!
- Favorite tracks: Paper Planes, $20, Jimmy, Boyz, Come Around, The Turn
- Again, I wasn't sure if, after all the anticipation, that this CD could live up to how much I love their last CD, "So Jealous." I don't think this one has the two or three songs that really stand out like "So Jealous" did, but this one might actually be a better body of work.
- Favorite tracks: The Con, Like O Like H, Back in Your Head, Hop a Plane
- I actually like this one better than "Chutes Too Narrow". I can put it on and not have a bad moment of listening until it starts to repeat. So mellow & lush and great lyrics too.
- Favorite tracks: Phantom Limb, Red Rabbits, Turn On Me, Sea Legs
- Yes, I was drawn to her by 'Rehab' but after listening to the rest of this album, I'm not sure that is even the best track! This girl has had her share of personal challenges this year too, but you've got to enjoy this CD as great work, regardless.
- Favorite tracks: Tears Dry On Their Own, You Know I'm No Good, Rehab
- Another young Brit female chanteuse that I got introduced to this year. A good counter to Winehouse's bluesy, soulful songs, Lily Allen is bright, fun and upbeat. I love her style too, couture dresses matched with Nike trainers. Very nice.
- Favorite tracks: LDN, Smile, Knock 'Em Out
- Here's one that didn't quite fill the big shoes of its previous CD's success. I listened to "Songs About Jane" pretty much non-stop when I was in Chicago. There are some very good ones on this new CD, but overall the album didn't connect with me like the last one.
- Favorite tracks: Wake-up Call, Not Falling Apart, Nothing Lasts Forever
- There was no way this one could match "Get Behind Me Satan". I voted that one as my top CD two years ago. This one just didn't have the non-stop quality like 'Satan'.
- Favorite tracks: Rag & Bone, Icky Thump, Conquest
Instead of compiling a whole list of top singles, I'll just add these to the ones listed above:
- Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphy's
- Low - Flo Rida
- Music is My Hot, Hot Sex - CSS
- Snape vs. Snape - Ministry of Magic
- Umbrella - Rihianna & Jay Z
- Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
- Stronger - Kanye West
- Cupid's Chokehold - Gym Class Heros
- Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
- Crank That - Soulja Boy
- Gunpowder & Lead - Miranda Lambert
21 December 2007
20 December 2007
I sat there and enjoyed the glow of relief and happiness yesterday after school got out. There were a few points in there when I wasn't sure if I'd make it to break or not, but here I am! It was a fun and productive day yesterday. It was a day to work on making up missing assignments and the kids did a good job with it. I had one girl, who I've been pestering about her missing work (she hadn't turned much in at all) walk in to class and hand me eleven chapters worth of work. I was shocked and thrilled. I told her that was a great present for me. I know many teachers don't allow late work and would have given up on that girl by this point, but whatever...it's my first year. I'm learning what works for me. And we're encourage to 'not let them fail', and to continually dog them and fight for them, so I figure that's what I'm doing. Oh, and I got a plate of homemade cookies, some homemade jam and a little bag of chocolates. I love the holidays!
18 December 2007
I'll have to look into this one more when I get a minute.
They mention that they don't have a big drug problem and I'm left wondering, if your drug problem isn't pervasive and very harmful, isn't there a better use of those thousands of dollars? I agree that it is important for us to guide our students (as much as we can) to make good choices about drugs and alcohol, but when I thought about my school doing this, I know that we could spend the necessary $65,000 in more productive ways.
My favorite line, "A student who fails two tests in a school year would be asked to withdraw from the school..." and enroll in public school. :)
16 December 2007
Mr. Krugman delivered a good talk lasting just under an hour (thank goodness, since I had told my students that he wouldn't talk more than an hour). He talked a lot about some negative trends he sees in our country and government, focusing a lot on the need for universal health care and the growing inequality of wealth. I was happy that he mentioned a lot of the topics we've covered this semester in my classroom, hopefully the students caught some of that. I also said I would give additional extra credit if they asked a question during the Q&A session. I had three students get called on to ask their questions and I was happy to see that all three stood up, spoke up and delivered their question well. While they weren't deep economic questions ("Are you going to write another book?" "What was your motivation to write your book?" and "Among the Democratic candidates, who do you think has the best health care plan?") I think they were just fine and I was proud of them. There were enough people asking about the housing crisis, Bernanke's actions and the value of the dollar. I think he probably enjoyed a little variety in the questions. Each of them, after asking their question, turned and made eye contact with me & I flashed them each a thumbs-up.
Another teacher from my school down there, one that I really admire and respect and she came up to me afterwards and very excitedly asked how many students I had down there. After I told her, she said, "Aren't you just so thrilled?" I couldn't keep the smile off my face and I replied, "Yep! It's probably the best moment of my first semester."
15 December 2007
Round three of middleson vs the mice has begun. I began aware of an added presence in our apartment a week or so ago and, as usual, I did not harbor any ill-will until last night. I saw that one of my bags of granola had been compromised and I was not pleased. I am a firm believer in everyone pulling their own weight. I've been able to put together a pretty firm idea of their traffic pattern since I often see them as I'm sitting and doing work. My stationary pose must fool them. So, this morning I picked up a set of traps and they are now locked loaded, two with peanut butter and two with cheese. I went exclusively with the standard trap, after the debacle we had last year. Maybe I should've used scotcheroo's since they were so successful two years ago. Now we wait, and listen for the crack...
14 December 2007
That is one way to view it. And that's how we usually process this type of news story. This type of things seems to just keep coming...Virginia Tech in April, Las Vegas on Tuesday, LSU yesterday. But there's so much more to it, as I'm sure there is to the previous seven homicides here. What if the victim is the same age as all your students? What about if some of your students had known the victim since childhood (What's that even mean? They don't seem that far from childhood right now!) What do you say to that? They don't teach grief/tragedy counseling in education classes. I need to work on handling these situations better, doing more, helping more.
Besides all that, I'm looking forward to sleeping in (well, at least til 7:30 or 8), seeing family, cooking, enjoying wonderful food and treats, shopping, taking pictures, listening to music, checking out some movies on Christmas Day, seeing high school friends, going to Christmas mass.
11 December 2007
Some of you may remember the difficulties, and ensuing enjoyment I got out of the amaryllis homebase got me last year. This year, I received a white one and it was making great progress. There was one area of concern, though, and that was that the plant, despite having grown a good foot and a half or so, had not put out a main shoot. It was only leaves. So that was a bit curious. And then I came into the kitchen this morning and saw that the leaves had just flopped over. They just kinda gave up. So I had to resort to taping up my plant for the second year in a row. It turns out that the amaryllis that homebase was growing was pulling the same sort of tricks and she has exchanged it for a new one. Hopefully mine will step up, otherwise it might be getting exchanged over Christmas as well!
I've never been one to let a snow day or early out restrict my travel plans; in high school when we got out early due to snow or ice, we always took that to mean we should head to Shen and get movies and food. So, in keeping with that tradition, I'm off to seek out some food and some groceries.
10 December 2007
He has some other interesting posts if you care to check out his other blogs or his photography website.
09 December 2007
07 December 2007
04 December 2007
02 December 2007
As forecasted, we got hit by a bit of an ice storm on Saturday. Since it was Educator Discount day at Barnes & Noble, I was not to be deterred, so I thawed and scraped the sheet of ice off my car, and slowly made my way to the mall. I was very glad I did because once I got there, the place was practically empty, which never happens on a weekend. I browsed around and collected a stack of books and then took a seat in the cafe, accompanied by a cinnamon scone and a chai. One of the books I picked up was "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" by Art Spiegelman. I had seen this book before and thought it looked very interesting. It is a graphic novel that tells the story of the author's father, the build up to WWII, the Nazi occupation of Poland, and surviving Auschwitz. A substory that gets told is the relationship between the father & the son, as the son is having the story retold to him. I don't read graphic novels, but this one was very good. It won a Pulitizer Prize in 1992. The black & white drawings are interesting and provide an added richness & depth to the storyline. The Jews are drawn as mice, the Nazis are cats, Poles as pigs, and Americans as dogs. I read the entire first volume (My Father Bleeds History) in about an hour and now I can't wait to go get the other volume (And Here My Troubles Began) from the library. And if you are a teacher you can check out this site for teaching tips and discussion questions.
28 November 2007
27 November 2007
I was working out and watching basketball practice in between my sets and I was sort of watching a student of mine who is not on the team but hung out at the practice the whole time. Helping put away balls, talking, walking around the gym, just sitting. It got me thinking. What if this idea of "home" that is so important to me, was not a place you looked forward to going? What if you preferred to not be there? What if anywhere was better than going home? What if there was no one there? What if you had to do everything to make it a home? What if the people who were there acted like they wish you weren't? It is a depressing chain of thoughts. Especially when I consider this particular student, who I see lots of potential in, but, as anyone could see, is in need of guidance, care, stability and discipline. And that's where I ended up. Maybe that is why she stays around the school so much. Maybe (hopefully) it is where she gets those needs met the most.
25 November 2007
A somewhat related interesting article about the rise of small college football in Nebraska and possible causes.
20 November 2007
This picture is from awhile ago, but I just ran across it again and wanted to share it. This is from one of my advanced classes. I divided up the sections of the chapter and put the students into small groups. They had to use their portion of the chalkboard to provide a summary of their respective pages. While most of the groups put up an outline or bullet points, this picture shows what one of the groups with an artist gift came up with. I love the merging of creative thinking while still providing strong examples of the economic ideas. This was to show the role of households in the circular flow of our economy. My favorite is the "I <3 utility" shirt. The goal of the household is to maximize their utility. :) So I had to snap a picture of this before I erased the board for the day.
Sidenote: Less than 50 days til the Iowa caucus. It's fun to see Iowa in the headlines more and more often. And it's a dead heat among the top three Democrats, with Obama holding a narrow lead!
15 November 2007
14 November 2007
13 November 2007
Also, there is a new website available to those interested to researching what type of pork is being added to those bills and who is responsible for doing it. I'd love to poke around on that for a while. So of that earmarking just makes me sick.
Side story: In the rarely newsworthy world of bridge, the U.S. women's team has caused a publicity stir with an impromptu political display.
11 November 2007
First up, we made the Extreme Cocoa. We used Ghiradelli cocoa and it is a simple recipe but the end product was well received by the tasters. It was rich, velvety and intensely chocolate, but still very drinkable. The recipe made a nice amount; the six servings stated were probably right on, perfect to warm up a few friends or family after any outdoor winter activities. We were glad that we made the whipping cream, as we thought it really balanced things out nicely, plus it just looks so nice especially with the chocolate shavings we added.
Next, we worked on the Gourmet Chocolate Crust. Nestle's 60% dark chocolate is what we ended up using for this one. That, paired with butter was all that was called for, so again, the simplicity factor was very high which is nice when you want to try several recipes in a night. We had picked up some Breyer's Natural Vanilla ice cream earlier so we got out our small bowls and began applying the crust to the ice cream. Now, the old adage that too many cooks spoil the soup is just a wives' tale, isn't it?!? After the first sample was served, neither of us were perfectly content with it so we kept working at it, except with one of us scooping the ice cream and the other spooning the topping, neither of us thought the other person was doing their job exactly right so we had considerable 'sharing of advice' going on and someone may have considered rubbing someone's nose in the ice cream at one point. :) In the end we were laughing our heads off and we had a half dozen dishes of ice cream & topping on the counter, out of which I got maybe one decent picture. My opinion on this one (not sure if this feeling was shared by homebase) is that, to really be a 'crust' it would need to be just slightly thinner so it could pour easier and cover more of the ice cream before chilling into its shell. The flavor was great and it had no problem setting up just like it should, I just wanted it to spread a bit more before setting.
Lastly, we attempted the Strawberry & Sage ice cream. I would chalk this one up as a flop. The strawberries & sage are supposed to be cooked into a coulis, which I never felt got thick enough. It was very watery and when we folded it into the ice cream base, the watery coulis was too heavy so it just get separating. I did get a chance to sample it and it had good flavor and I think if it is sort of recombined when served it is still a nice dessert. The sage, even though there were only two leaves, definitely was tastable and I liked the combination of it with the strawberries. One last suggestion was noted by homebase, that it would be helpful to include an easy conversion for the metric measurements for those of us on the other side of the pond. More pictures can be found in my flickr.
Regardless, it was a very fun night spent in the kitchen, with some jazz on the stereo and caboose showing up towards the end to provide a third and unbiased opinion. I know for sure that these three will not be the end of our attempts at mimicking some of Ice Cream Ireland's wonderful treats.
[co-authored with homebase]
10 November 2007
When I arrived in Chicago and had made my way to my old neighborhood, I parked & then headed back downtown with Amy to check out an exhibit called Sympathy for the Devil: Art & Rock & Roll since 1967, at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibit was pretty out there and it reminded me why I usually prefer to go to the Art Institute. I didn't really know many of the bands that were involved. There were a lot from the emerging punk scenes and it was pretty out there. (There is one cool thing that I wish I would've seen before hand. They have put together a playlist for you to download to your iPod to listen to as you go through the exhibit from some of the bands that are covered.) Amy and I were undaunted, though, and stuck through all three floors of the exhibit and I'm glad we did because the fourth floor housed the highlights of the museum's permanent collection. There was a Warhol, a Basquiat, a Chuck Close, and then, to top off the mind-expanding visit, there was a room with two performance artists on the floor in a slow-motion make out session. It was pretty steamy stuff, but done in a smooth, fluid, ballet-like motion. I was almost embarrassed to be watching, but it was so crazy I couldn't stop! After all that culture, the materialism of Michigan Avenue's shops was calling our names so we grabbed a bite at Jake Melnick's and then hit up a few stores. For our evening outing, we were joined by Adriana & Dave and we hit up one of my most favorite Chicago eateries, Flat Top Grill. After a very fun meal, we went home with full bellies to relax, read magazines and just take it easy. The next morning we got our gameday supplies and apparel ready for the Iowa vs Northwestern game. We rode up to Evanston with some friends, one of whom happened to have grown up in Sidney, which is just a hilarious case of 'it's a small world'. Once we got there, parked and set up camp, I was able to appreciate our scenic viewpoint. You can check out my picture of it in flickr, but it probably doesn't do it justice. It was by far the best tailgating spot I've ever had. We were probably forty yards from the beach and the lake. And it was really pleasant weather so it made for very enjoyable tailgating, including some intense games of Bags. Cap it off with a come from behind Hawkeye victory and the day was one to be remembered. I made the drive home in time to stop by a going-away party back in Des Moines for a friend who is heading off for his second tour in Iraq, so it all worked out great. I packed in as much as I could and it was a stellar weekend.
07 November 2007
Sidenote: It doesn't say that the $30million price tag of the F-15 was adjusted for inflation when they compare it to the $132 million cost of the new F-22. If you take inflation into account, the cost of F-15 in current dollars would be ~$103 million. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a super slick inflation calculator, among other useful tidbits.
05 November 2007
- Students are funny sometimes. I was walking out of the building last week and one of my freshmen homeroom students was hanging out on the stoop. She said to me, "Mr. _, why you got on that little backpack?" (for the record, my backpack is of normal dimensions) I wasn't sure why she was asking so I just said, "To carry my books in." There was a short pause and then, "Oh", like it all made sense then. I bid her "have a good night" and that was that.
- After the aforementioned success of the student who moved himself away from the distraction of his friends, two of those friends stopped by after school to pick up study guides, which is another step the trailblazing friend had done. On the one hand I like seeing that they recognize that these things have helped their friend do well, and they want to do well to. On the other hand, I wonder if they see the extra time and hard work that first friend did to turn around his scores. While the new seat and study guide helped, it was mainly due to focus and determination. We'll see what happens.
- In observing and talking to students, I've seen some powerful examples of what a roller coaster of emotions high school and adolescent life can be. I've got a couple students who usually are out-going, happy, joking and while not top-level students, they always have something to offer. But every so often one or the other will come in and just space off, staring straight ahead, no smiles, and not talking to friends. When I ask them what's up or if everything's ok, they just shake their head. It's easier to fall into thinking that your class is the only thing on these kid's minds, but today's students have a lot of other things going on.
- Last week I was writing on the white board when my cell phone rang. I usually switch it to vibrate during the day but had forgotten that day. The administration and teachers have been relentlessly and not always successfully fighting cell phone usage by students, so for mine to go off during class caused quite a stir. The second ring hadn't even started yet and students were sounding off and letting me have it. It definitely livened up the classroom a bit!
- Discussion about labor, wages, wage discrimination, and inequality in pay between sexes and races led to some spirited and fun classes today. After looking at a chart showing the average salary for white males, white females, black males, black females, Hispanic males, Hispanic females, I asked the students to share why the inequality displayed was still possible after the Equal Pay Act, Civil Rights Act, and EEOC. After some good sharing about that, I then asked them, "What can YOU do to help change this chart?" When several students rightly brought up education, I asked the students if they knew the song "I Can" by Nas. (video/lyrics) Most of them had and as I helped them see the connection between the lyrics and what we were talking about, they laughed about their teacher talking about Nas in economics class. I call it making the material real and relevant.
- The same material led to the most fun and inclusive in-class debate and discussion later in the day. Some comments about affirmative action got some students that aren't usually big talkers in class to share some of their thoughts. It was great to be able to let the students drive the discussion for once. And it's great for them to have to put their beliefs into a logical or persuasive statement, as well as, have to listen to their peers and then structure their response accordingly. Good life skills. I actually had several students ask if we could do a project or a formal debate on the topic!
31 October 2007
[at the naval academy]
That was the best joke I heard in my classroom today. The best costume I saw, and sadly there weren't too many to choose from, was this one ELL student who never says anything in class. He came in late to class, and he is never late, and he is wearing this big rainbow-colored rocker-style wig, two fake lip rings, a studded collar around his neck and a floor-length trench coat. It actually took me a second to realize who he was when he walked in. I applauded his enthusiasm for dressing up. It was great to see him express himself a little.
29 October 2007
28 October 2007
Saturday I was able to watch College Gameday. I love those guys! So entertaining. One of my favorite activities is cooking with family on a Saturday with a football game on in the other room. (A Hawkeye victory!) Stoppable came down with the kids and we had a very fun afternoon. We all went on a long walk out past the old house. Maybe I was still feeling the effects of sleeping in the same twin bunk beds that I grew up sleeping in but hadn't laid in for years, but the walk was a flashback of what it was like growing up...playing catch, throwing rocks at telephone poles & road signs, catching grasshoppers, walking in the fields. It was fun to see the next generation of kids get as much enjoyment from those things as we did. We saw a great blue heron and a snake (which was masterfully caught and exhibited by stoppable, check the picture in flickr). It was a sunny, perfect day for relaxing with a walk in the country and getting in touch with nature. Everyone was wore out by the time we got back. The whole weekend helped to once again remind me how calming, simple and good a weekend at home can be.
25 October 2007
24 October 2007
Anyways, I came down to the coffeeshop to get some work down and decided to splurge for a little handmade gelato. I got a two scoop dish, one of pumpkin and one of balsamic raspberry. The pumpkin was bland and blah, but the balsamic raspberry was marvelous. It had some serious bite and sweetness from the two flavors. Top notch! The flavor was so strong, I found myself taking smaller and smaller spoonfuls to stretch out the pleasure. And it gave me just the needed boost to tackle a stack of tests.
23 October 2007
22 October 2007
21 October 2007
"The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." - Benjamin Franklin
19 October 2007
What a great birthday! I started the day off thinking it would be a nice, low-key, no-big deal sort of day and it turned out being one of the best birthdays I've had in a while. I brought donuts in for my homeroom kids and it nearly caused a riot. After each student got their sugary treat, there were six left over so I tried to teach them a very simple game to see who would get a second donut. Giants, dwarfs, wizards is pretty much a full-body version of paper, rock, scissors. Even though it was crazy, loud and I had to repeat everything about 3 times, I'm marking it down as a success because I got every student on their feet, laughing, learning and taking part in a new game. Next time I mention this game, I'm sure it will go much smoother. Plus, I escaped without receiving the 'birthday beat down' I had been promised by a few of my freshmen homeroomers.
It was a fun day of classes and I repeatedly hearing, "You're 31?" I'm not sure if that means I look young or that 31 year-olds look incredibly old. When I got to the room for my last class of the day, I was surprised with a cake on the desk and the students singing for me (my second 'Happy Birthday' song of the day!). I was so surprised and touched! They also gave me one yellow Starburst. :) This is a class that has at times really tried my patience, but they are definitely a fun group of individuals and it was a very thoughtful and fun gesture by them. So, since it is a small class, we were able to cut the cake and everyone could enjoy a piece as we discussed demand-pull and cost-push inflation. I don't think the smile left my face the whole period. A very good day.
After school let out, I was getting some things around for Friday, printing off grade reports when I was paged to the office over the PA. I jogged down the stairs and around the corner and was astounded for the second time of the afternoon when I was met by both of my brothers! It was very kind and wonderful of them to drive/take time off to celebrate with me. Definitely a well-carried out 'sneak attack.' We spent the evening bowling, playing pool and enjoying a nice meal at Grand Piano Bistro. It was a great gift to be able to spend that much time, just the three of us. We were able to talk about all kinds of things and we all had a great time. They are the best! I received some amazing, insightful, and well-matched gifts, including a cookbook that I've had my eye on for months, a gift certificate that I hope to spend tomorrow to outfit the Firefly (my bike) with clipless pedals! Thank you all for a great day.
17 October 2007
16 October 2007
15 October 2007
14 October 2007
Oh, and one very positive story to relate: I had a student who was struggling a bit with the material in my advanced class and I wasn't sure they were going to be able to cut it, especially when combined with their behavior, which was more focused on having fun and messing around off-task than on really putting the nose to the grindstone. Then, last week, completely on their own, this student switched to a different seat, away from several off their friends that were major distractions to them. As I saw that student's test come up when I was correcting, I hoped that they made some improvement. I slid it through the scantron, and broke into a smile when I saw the best score in the class appear on the display.
09 October 2007
08 October 2007
To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.I came across this quote online and thought it was great, so I poked around a bit to see who wrote it and it turns out to be a commonly misappropriated writing. Most places cite it as the work of Ralph Waldo Emerson, but that doesn't seem to be true. Check out the link for further details (or, if you are too busy, just enjoy the quote and don't worry about who wrote it.)
05 October 2007
In just these first few weeks I've had a student who just became a father, a student with a sick one year old, a student who is pregnant, a student just out of correctional services, a student auditioning for prestigious acting school, students working two jobs, three students who've been in the hospital recently and two students with black eyes. We can not expect them to always be completely focused on the material and enthralled by supply & demand examples. I've found that if you ask students how their day's going, you'll get a pretty honest response and you'll also get a little glimpse into what they are dealing with and you might just improve your relationships and rapport a little.
By merely telling this one kid that I understood that students had a lot more going on in their lives than just my class & my homework, I earned some respect. He replied, "Man, that's why I like you. You understand." Which is not to say that I'm a pushover! I'm slowly trying to tackle and toughen up on some different management issues, now that I can think about other things as I'm getting into a little bit of a rhythm with my instruction.
And, one fun thing as far as 'inside the classroom' things go...an ELL student did very well on a tough test and said, as I was passing them back, "Was this (holding up his test) the best?" meaning, did he have the high score for the class. I told him, "Yep, and not only was it the best in the class, it was the best out of all my sections." The smile on his face and the happiness in his eyes helped to recharge my batteries a little and remind me what I'm doing here.
02 October 2007
- Another first-year teacher turned in their resignation today. homebase made me laugh with her reply to my text that another resignation had been submitted. she said, "It wasn't yours was it?" When my students were talking about it, I jokingly asked them if they have a pool going on how long I'm going to last. :) It was good to hear them say, "You can't leave!" "Do you like it here?", etc.
- During my prep period yesterday, as I was trying to get grades finalized and ready to post for the first grading period, there was the unwelcome sound of glass breaking not far outside my office. So I bolted out the door and around the corner to see students staring at a door with a nice fist-sized hole in the reinforced glass part. There was glass and blood on the floor and I assessed the situation and went outside to see the owner of that fist leaving the grounds. So I had to alert the proper people and explain what I saw and we pieced together the story. Crazy times.
- I used the Scantron to grade my AP tests today. It is amazing! It took ten minutes to do what would've taken me at least an hour and a half and it gives me a print out of the most missed questions, the class average, and prints the correct answers by the students errors. Beautiful. I almost started laughing when I was zipping the forms through. We need more time-saving machines like this in our schools!
- I brought my lunch for the first time in weeks today. Yummy turkey and smoked gouda sandwich paired with an apple and a banana. Definitely a welcome change from the school lunch salads.
- An early out (for the kids) and getting observed tomorrow by my mentor, should be a fun day!
30 September 2007
The next day we all had a rendez-vous planned with stoppable and the kids in the Nebraska City park. Despite high winds, we successfully got our charcoal going and had a very nice grilled lunch. The playing & games & contest & eating & relaxing & talking & throwing the football continued off and on for several hours. Some people (caboose & emily) chose to catch a little nap in the car. It was just such pleasant weather and so relaxing we just kept hanging out! Around 5 we moved the party down the road to a wonderful little privately-owned coffee shop and enjoyed some caffeine drinks, along with trivia questions/charade-type acting/humming of tunes. When finally left there, our stomachs had started to grow a little hungry so we ended our play-day with pizza at Godfathers. What a great day, spent with a great family. Check out lots of pictures from it in flickr.