31 October 2007

IBM Recycles!

IBM shows others exactly the type of environmentally-responsible ingenuity by large corporations that needs to happen on a global scope. We've got to get our global population thinking about consumption and waste in a new light. Half a million dollars in savings last year and another $1.5M expected as they roll out the reusing process to their other locations. Not only are they finding a new use for what used to be scrap waste but by selling it to another green industry, solar power, they are helping out in multiple ways!

Packing Heat on Campus

Iowa's three state schools will soon have their qualified campus police officers armed with guns. The Board of Regents voted to make the change this week, partially as fallout from the VT tragedy. I was against this idea, but when I learned that it the weapons would only be carried by full police officers that are qualified, not just by any campus security chump. I suppose with all the various security concerns that happen on large campuses, it probably is a justified move.

Happy Halloween

Where does a belly button go to school?

[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

Squish, Squash...

Maybe it is due to the fact that I've been eating school lunch again, but I seem to have a renewed interest and appreciation for applesauce. I bought a jar of it a few weeks ago while grocery shopping and then forgot about it until tonight. A late snack was calling my name and some cold applesauce seemed just right. I ate the entire 23 oz jar. I probably didn't need the last helping of it, especially since gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, but it was so yummy, especially with some cinnamon sprinkled on top!

"Pasionable"

Actually should've been spelled 'passionable'. And even though it is not a word, it was (unknowingly) created and used by a group of students today to describe a feeling of strong importance and significance, similar to passionate. I applauded their creativity and, other than adding another 's', I left it as it was on the board.

28 October 2007

Country Roads Take Me Home

Some gray & misty weather on Friday afternoon helped me make my decision to change my plans. I opted to skip attending our football team's final game, and instead, I made an early escape to head back home. As I was throwing (a lot) of laundry into my bag and gathering a few other odds and ends for the trips, caboose decided he didn't have anything much going on so he started running around to get his stuff ready to go too! Nothing completes a fun road trip like a last minute unexpected travel partner. We had a good time on the drive home, enjoying some hilarious people watching at the McDonald's in Stuart. We alternated music selections, each person putting together three songs from their own iPod that had a common theme and the other person had to figure out what it was. We had a lot of fun with it...songs from dead artists, songs from albums with an animal in the name, songs from movies, songs from gay artists, songs from artists with acronym'ed names, songs from Jewish artists, songs that are covers, songs with a state in the title, songs featuring a guest vocalist, etc. And, to our surprise, homebase had a majority of the painting that we were planning on helping with completed when we got there. The 'haystack' shade looked very bright and sunny. A great sprucing-up of the kitchen.
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

Heart-dropping Headline

Just reading the headline to this story on the Sun-Times was enough to make me wince and give a heartfelt shake of my head. "14-year old killed defending friend" You hear that and your heart hurts before you even read the details. It can truly be a harsh, cold world at times. I heard "In the Ghetto" by Elvis (it's set in Chicago's southside) in my head after reading this story.

24 October 2007

Ireland National Coach Gets Dropped

Steve Staunton, the manager of Ireland's national soccer team, got canned today after an embarrassing run of games during qualification for Euro 2008, which Ireland failed to qualify for. Although Stan (as he is known) is Ireland's most capped player, turning out 102 times for the Ireland side, he had no managerial experience when he was given the job. An away 5-2 loss and home 1-1 tie with lowly Cyprus sealed his fate. Hopefully the FAI will put in their due diligence this time and bring in a world-class manager who can right the ship and get the green back to where they should be.

Gelato after a long day

Even though we had an early out today, the professional development, immediately followed by a staff meeting got a little long. Some good info, but sometimes after hearing about how we need to be working on creating these challenging, relevant lesson plans that connect post-graduation tasks to our curriculum material and then about all the documentation we should be doing in regards to behavior, I leave feeling a bit in despair because I feel there is a gap between where my teaching is and where it probably could be.
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

California Fires

I haven't read much about the devastation from the raging fires in California but I did happen to hear on the news tonight that over 500,000 people have evacuated various areas, even more that during Hurricane Katrina. They stated that it represented the largest peacetime movement of people since the Civil War. Incredible! It must be bad, they've even pulled National Guard off of border patrol!

22 October 2007

U.S. Women's Soccer Coach Out

A 45-2-8 record over the last two and a half years and he's out the door. That's TWO losses in 55 games. Unfortunately, that second loss came on the World Cup semifinal and was surrounded by a fair amount of second-guessing on his move to start Briana Scurry instead of Hope Solo in goal. And, four goals later (all scored by Brazil), his future was sealed. So, the next person they get to accept that position has got to be thinking, "Am I out after my first loss, or my second one?"

21 October 2007

Quotes

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." - Theodore Roosevelt

"The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself." - Benjamin Franklin

19 October 2007

31


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

Skate Park on the Blvd

Man! This proposed skate park sounds killer and it would've been right next to my old apartment. Dang! Not that I am a skater, but I just might've had to start! Plus how fun would that've been to be able to walk by there and watch all the kids doing tricks. Some fun photo opportunities too!

16 October 2007

Got Your Back

About halfway through my day today, I was in the middle of delivering my lesson. The class is my smallest one and is a pretty fun mix of kids. So I'm walking around and talking, discussing when I hear a little bit of a ruckus in the hallway. Some either very loud talking or yelling was going on and the tone wasn't very friendly. Thinking that this might be my chance to be the first teacher on the scene and get to break an altercation up, I did a quick walk/trot to the door and stepped into the hall to survey the situation. It turned out to be just a few girls being ridiculously loud as they vented about something or someone who had wronged them. So I turned and stepped back into the room, and met into two guys in my class who we hustling towards the door. "Sit down, what are you guys doing?" Neither hesitated in their reply, "Getting your back!" "I'd be like..that's my teacher! Blam!" The good (and reassuring) thing is that I think they were only half-joking.

15 October 2007

Iowa Caucus-goer Poll

I saw this poll in the Des Moines Register today and a couple of the numbers from the demographic breakdown caught my eye. 74% are over 45 years old. 71% make more than $50,000. 95% are white. 80% are Protestant. Yikes, those is a pretty skewed representation. Just out of curiousity I did a quick check to see how far off from the entire population those numbers are. ~39% make more than $50,000 according to the 1999 census. And I was surprised to learn that 93% of the state is actually white!

Pick Your Candidate

You can follow this link to USA Today's Candidate Match Game, answer a few questions about main issues and weight how important each of those issues is to you and it will tell you who most closely aligns with your views. No surprise that Obama was my number one. He was followed by Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. So get over there and see who you should be supporting! Don't delay, the caucus it coming quick!

iPods in Education

I thought this NY Times articles on the use of iPods in education (a favorite topic of mine) was interesting. A nice addition was the district splurging to add the recording capabilities so the students can record themselves and listen to their pronunciation.

14 October 2007

Conferences

Knowing the level of parental involvement and the attitude of certain parts of our demographic, there was a very small bit of nervousness mixed in with the excitement as I prepared for parent-teacher conferences last week. It actually turned out to be a very good experience. I had over 70 conferences, which is just over half of my students. Not a bad turnout, I didn't think. And none of them went badly or were uncomfortable. Plus, sometimes meeting the parents/guardians of a student can help fill in some answers for you. Best of all, it wasn't just the parents of the top students that came in, there were quite a few parents that came in that I was very happy to get a chance to talk the first six weeks over with them and share what I'm seeing with what they are hearing at home. Every single person I talked to was supportive, cooperative and wanted to help improve those situations that needed improving. As a bonus, there were multiple, "Thanks for doing what you do" or "Thanks for your efforts" and even a couple "You're doing a good job" comments. Combine that with a fun post-conference teacher decompression outing and a day off, it was a pretty good week.
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

Nobel Prize winner in medicine

Incredible story of hardship, struggle and hitting rock bottom before having fate finally start to send some good things your way. From some serious lows to an incredible high. I'm not going to tell it all, so you have to check out the Washington Post article about this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for medicine.

08 October 2007

Pat McGee Band & Friends

Good friends in town from Chicago over the weekend led to a highly enjoyable night out taking in some baseball (on TV) and checking out some new music. We started the evening off sampling different beers and watching the Cubbies play very poorly and eventually losing, completing their sweeping exit. Luckily we could chase those blues away with some very fun musical entertainment. A triumvirate of listening fun; The Kin (a couple of brothers from Australia), Josh Kelly, and finally the Pat McGee Band. It's not often that I sit through two openers without wishing one of them would stop playing. All three were good and each band was better than the last. Good times, good friends, and good music! Thanks for making the drive, ladies!

Success

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.)

Awkard times at security gate

I heard this on TV so I had to find the story online to share. I'm imagining there was one pretty embarrassed individual when the carry-on starts leaking herbacide as its being passed through the X-ray machines. Then, having to fess up to carrying it in plastic bags. Oops. Well, at least it will be a great story to share back at the coffee shop once he gets back to the farm.

05 October 2007

Outside the classroom...

When adults look back at their high school days, they see carefree days with few responsibilities. Either they have forgotten all the other things that were going on or today's students are being stretched a lot thinner than those of past generations.
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

Sears' Wish Book

I obviously wasn't alone in my love of Sears' Wish Book. When that thick tome showed up in the mail, it meant many hours of page turning, circling of rock-tumblers, air hockey tables, chemistry sets, football helmets, remote control cars, costumes and endless other items that I didn't need but still enjoyed looking at and expressing my admiration of. It's an interesting move by Sears to bring it back, especially in our ever more increasingly online world. Hopefully kids will still get some enjoyment from it.

And It's Only Tuesday

It's been an exciting start to the week at school.
  • 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!

Kinkajou


Just wanted to provide a little info to those people who didn't believe me that there is an animal called the kinkajou. You may not have heard of him due to his strict noctural habits, or so says the Wiki article.