Monday, December 28, 2009

Winding Down 2009

Emotionally and professionally, this has been the most difficult year I have ever had. I was considering the coming year when I remembered how the current year began. I acknowledge it was going to be a year of work, but did not realize how overwhelming the "work" would be. I don't mind hard work as long as I have something to show for it when all is said and done.

So, what do I have to show for 2009?

1. My administrator's heartfelt appreciation for the effort and professionalism I put into my work (as far as I'm concerned the bottle of Gerwurzterminer I received for Christmas was a sincere gesture).

2. The unconditional love of the most energetic Jack Chi puppy (Max) on the planet. Yes, a low energy person can learn to love a high energy dog; however, I must admit there are times when I wonder what on I Earth I was thinking when I brought home this bundle of love, energy, and WORK.

3. Friends and family that are always there for me.

4. A house that has become a home in spite of the changing neighborhood in which I reside.

The new year is coming into view as a year of love and acceptance. On many levels, that may be more daunting than any of the challenges I have faced in '09. I believe this journey begins with acknowledging, accepting, and embracing the many qualities and passions that make me uniquely me. The remainder of the journey is in living the life that is uniquely mine and focusing on the good I can do and experience along the way.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

New Knowledge or Revisiting the Basics

Having a puppy for one week has taught me a few things:

1) Having an indoor and an outdoor potty plan may prolong house training, but it's my most realistic option. I'm gone too long during the day to expect Max to only "do his business" outside, but when I'm home I would prefer he go outside. So far this is resulting in poop outside (except twice) and when outside is not an option pee inside on the house training pads (except three time). All of his accidents were results of me relaxing a little and veering away from training procedures.

2) Standing in the backyard, at 4:00am, saying "get busy" in your bathrobe while your dog poops is not embarrasing. I repeat, "Standing...."

3) At the end of the day, (come to think of it, at the beginning, in the middle, and all through the night too) he is a puppy.

This new knowledge is useful in the classroom too.

1) Always have an alternate strategy or plan (just in case) and every moment is a teachable moment (don't get caught up in the moment and loose sight of the bigger picture)

2) It's not about me, it's about my students. Do whatever it takes to teach.

3) Throughout the school day and all the hours before and after, they are children (middle school does not mean they have adult reasoning or thought processes).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Meet Max!

Apparently, work, household repairs/remodeling, and life in general weren't keeping me busy. I don't know what came over me, but I decided the to go for it. On Friday, I brought home a puppy!
Meet Max, he's seven weeks old and an expert at being a puppy. As an owner, I am a clueless novice. I was able to get a quiet night sleep last night (thanks to the "Sock Mommy" I made for him and the crate I purchased) The same cannot be said for our first night together.
Max! (He's supposed to be a chihuahua/dachshund mix, but I think there's something else in there too. I hope it's small!)

Kobi is indifferent towards him. He has had to hiss at him a couple of times, but he hasn't tried to do any serious physical damage.
Kobi loves to look into the backyard in hope of getting to go out.

You move you lose! (Kobi went to get a drink and...)This mix-up in the order of the universe was corrected with one hiss and a rather rapid walk/hop in reverse.

Kobi got his wish! While Max was sleeping, Kobi and I spent some time outside. I spent my time drinking coffee, Kobi spent his time relaxing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Making My Peace

photo from

For years, I've done battle with the word cute. It seems like a polite thing people say when you are not attractive, or they don't take you seriously. It is often based on size and not personality or style. Try as I may, cute describes my appearance and most of what I say, do, or own. I've been told my house is cute (I guess the lavender and light green interior paint contribute to this problem). My clothes are cute. (I still attribute this to size.) My mannerisms are cute.(That pinky thing when I eat or drink is an involuntary action...REALLY!) You get the picture.

For the past two years, I have tried to reinvent myself. I have discovered my version of glamorous is clownish. (Eyeshadow is tricky.)My powerful is stressful and far too angry. (No more committee or boards. The politics suck.) And, my sexy is absolutely disasterous! It was a lot of work and only made me tired and frazzeled. (Can I blame the lousy cooking on the time I spent trying to be sexy? Sorry if I scared you D. ;)

A little over a month into being 46 years old, I look in the mirror and guess what I see accept realize...I'M CUTE!!!

cute  /kyut/ –adjective
1. attractive, esp. in a dainty way; pleasingly pretty: a cute child; a cute little apartment.
2. affectedly or mincingly pretty or clever; precious
3. mentally keen; clever; shrewd.

I've learned that people like cute. It's non-threatening. People who get close to cute people are there because of who we are not what they can get. YEA CUTE!!!

(Thanks TravlinOma for inspiring me to write about this recent discovery.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

So Many Depend Upon...

The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams


so much depends
a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

I remember when I first ended my love affair with poetry. I was in a literature class, and we were analyzing The Red Wheelbarrow by William Carlos Williams. I actually enjoyed the poem until the professor insisted that this was a poem about the importance of the proletariat (the wheelbarrow) and the false importance place on the bourgeoisie (the white chicken).

This morning, as I raced against the rapidly arming burglar alarm, I considered how much depends on the job I do. My students depend on it, the community I teach in depends on it, society as a whole depends on it, and so does my mortgage.

so much depends
a diligent

drenched by

beneath a
mountain of standards.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Six Word Saturday

Shakespeare never fails to lift my spirits!

At Peace With Myself

Last night I attending a community theatre performance of Shakespeare's A Comedy of Errors. It was part of a Shakespeare festival and as usual did not disappoint. The event is held in the vineyard of a small winery which was a positive addition to the "break from my life" atmosphere that surrounds any Shakespearean play. The winery also makes some of the best Sangria I have ever had.

I went alone because friends were either unable or unwilling to go. I had a great time. While I don't relish the fact that their are times when it boils down to going alone. I revel in the fact that it doesn't bother me to do so. I know many people who don't do or see things they want to do or see because no one will go with them.

As for my life, grading is done (this week was our third week of school), listening to Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman (audiobook), reading The Language of Bees by Laurie King, Shakespeare, and Sangria. Life is good!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Laughing with friends makes me happy.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Making Progress

I got up at 6:00am and purchased the necessary paint! Things are coming along very well, and I can't wait to see this room transformed. I should finish two of the walls next weekend.

The handyman also caulked and painted the molding downstairs, and fixed the toilet. I could learn to like hiring other people to do the difficult parts of projects.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Are We There Yet?"

Usually, I revisit my New year's Resolutions in June. How far have I come? What do I need to do in the next six months? I missed doing this in June, so here goes nothing.

This Year's Resolutions:

1. Keep my house cleaner This one is on the list every year. I've got 5five and a half months to improve in this area. Hope springs eternal!

2. Put more consistent effort into my appearance I'm doing a very good job on this one. It is taking effort and time, but the way it makes me feel (and the response from others) is definitely worth it!In my journal, this resolution included pampering, makeup, exercise, and diet. I recently joined a walking group and, while I am always bringing up the rear, I hang in there from start to finish. Regarding makeup, Sephoras has become my new best friend. The staff is so knowledgeable and helpful. I planted a vegetable garden and will start buying certified organic food from the local farmer's market. (It's cheaper than the local health food store and my local grocery store.) The cost of healthy food has impeded my ability to pamper myself the way I used to. During the 2008-2009 school year, I did not get a single massage or pedicure. It had a negative impact on many parts of my life, so I am going to work finding a better balance of these things.

3. Write daily (journal, blog, or letters) I am writing more frequently (about three to four days a week), but I still have work to do on this.

4. Give quicker feedback on student's written work I am currently researching strategies that will make this easier next year. I added improving classroom management to this back in March. Last year, I had such a draining learning environment that it was difficult to stay on top of things. I was always playing catch-up. I am going to continue using Rick Morris' strategies; I just need to refine and customize them a bit more before school starts.

5. Get to church on time. I haven't been successful in this area. I need to put more effort into this.

My big goal is to notice more of the "rainbow and butterfly" moments in my life. They are always there, I just need to open my eyes to see them. I am learning to get out more and I am placing boundaries in place to keep work, and its accompanying stresses, from taking over my life. This is easy during the break. The true test starts when the new school year begins. I have already put a few colleagues on notice, and my administrator is aware of one of the lines I have drawn. "Things are lookin' up!"

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Farmer Jane: The Midnight Gardner

After seeing and tasting the harvest from a friends garden, I have decided to give vegetable gardening a try. I have chosen to stick with a container garden for now because I can experiment more with finding the right spot for each plant. I can't wait to see and taste the results (granted I don't kill everything with my chronic brown thumb).

Because I love gardening at night, I didn't start planting until the sun was starting to set. When I finished it was a moment worthy of a photo and a smile.

These photos were taken the next day.

Monday, June 29, 2009


I've been avoiding the frenzy surrounding Michael Jackson's life, death, and legacy. I've weighed my thoughts and feelings and now know what I want to say. I can't comment on his life or death because I was not an actual part of either. Those fans who act like they actually knew him well frighten me. Despite what people may think or Michael Jackson as a person or music as an industry, the reach of his talent is undeniable. Not only did he connect races and ethnicities, he also connected generations. His legacy will be different things to different people. Yes, when I was about six or seven, I had a crush on him...thankfully, his legacy is bigger than that!

I was bussed to a predominantly white high school, occasionally date men who are not African-American, live in a predominantly white community, and most of my friends belong to other races or ethnic groups. When conversations turn to music we listened to as teenagers, most of my friends have never heard of the artists or songs that trigger memories for my childhood friends and me. Outside of jazz and classical music, and the occasional rock song (thank you Elton and Bon Jovi) our common ground is Michael Jackson. Regardless of ethnicity, we can all name at least one of his songs that we enjoyed.
My mother's favorite M.J. song is Man in the Mirror. My favorites are Stand, Some Day at Christmas, and Thriller. What's your favorite?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Back to Reality

I love cruising! It is so removed from the reality of my life that it's a vacation on many levels. It is a physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual place of stress free existence. For example, I can eat endlessly without worrying about purchasing all of the ingredients, spending the time and energy cooking, and cleaning up after the meal. Yes, I have to deal with the three pounds I gained, but considering that my mother gained ten pounds, it could have been worse.

While in Victoria,BC Canada, we stopped at a wine bar and tasted some of the local wines. I did not take the opportunity to taste the local Icewines, but I did taste the Mission Hill Winery's Oculus. It was delicious. I knew I could not bring it back in my carry on luggage (due to the current liquid restrictions) and did not want to risk putting it in my checked luggage. I'm glad it did not try that because my suitcase got pretty banged up on the return trip, and I'm too cheap to have paid an additional $25 to ship it separately. Current customs laws prevent the bar or winery from shipping it outside of Canada, so for now it is on my list of reasons to go back to B.C., Canada.

I didn't get a chance to go kayaking in Ketchikan (the kayaking partner was having back problems), but I did go on a five mile hike in Juneau. It was listed as a moderate hike, but felt far more grueling. When the guide repeatedly tells the group to "Embrace your inner mountain goat.", as you cling to the wall of a rocky ledge, it's a sign.

(The people on the left are fellow hiker's - I was pulling up the rear :-)

I had a wonderful time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ahhh Alaska

Finally, I am on the vacation I have been looking forward to all year long. The cruise is fantastic. I will post pictures and share more a little later.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catching Up

It is so nice to be off for summer break! It's almost a week and I already miss the planning and the deadlines; however, that is easily solved since part of my summer plan involves preparing for next year. It also includes giving my home and car, two things I let slip during the school year, a deep cleaning. I started some of that today but have a long way to go. In addition, I have a lot of reinvention/personal maintenance work to do. Don't worry, there will be lots of rest, relaxation, romantic interludes (it's about time ;p ),and fun mixed in with the other activities!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Most Important Thing

I recently heard an administrator (not mine) refer to our state's standardized test as "the most important thing in a students life". I disagree with this opinion. There are students who have parents who are incarcerated, who have been homeless or in foster care at some point, and who have a parent who is, or parents who are, recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction. I know of at least one who has seen someone die a violent death. I am sure these students would also disagree with this administrator's take on testing.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Good Teaching Conference

During the weekend of March 14th, I had the pleasure of attending CTA's Good Teaching Conference. This was the best conference I have been to in the past nine years. There was something there for every area of concern (content areas, retirement planning, union activism, stress management, classroom management, etc...) The source of my stress this year has become classroom management (yes, CTG it is true). I attended sessions by Rick Morris and others that shared common philosophies. Returning to work with a new plan gave me a renewed energy and sense of purpose. I was somewhat concerned about changing course at this juncture in the school year; however, the old way was not working. There have been a few bumps in the road, but this new management system is definitely the one I will be using from the start of next year.

Spring Break!

The first day of Spring Break, there's nothing like it! I'll spend part of the break working on the classroom website and adjusting my map for the rest of the school year. Household maintenance and short getaway are on my To-Do List as well.

Students turned in Social Studies projects yesterday, and I stayed at work until I was finished grading them. Nothing hanging over my head! I also downloaded my first podcast to our classroom website. Add to that the fact that my students and I are getting used to the new discipline program (Thanks Rick Morris), and you have what turned out to be a great week.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Sweet Taste (and Smell) of Success

Family Time turned out to be a great success. We had a blast! The food turned out great! We watched a basketball game (UConn) and then the adults watched a movie. It was pretty good. My nephew (4 yrs. old) and my cat (somewhat overweight and extremely lazy) made their peace and became friends; however, they continued to proceed cautiously around one another when they weren't playing. My house was filled with good food and laughter. That's what I call being successful and wealthy!

On another note, I had the send student Z to the Assistant Principal's office on Friday. I have been at this long enough to know that I can't win over every student, but it still bothers me. The new classroom management approach is working with everyone else. After getting a warning note on his desk, a note home, and having a timeout conference K continued his off-task behavior. After class, I had him call his father and discuss his behavior. This was the last straw for K. "Why do I have to fill out the reminder note, fill out the note home, and call my father? Why don't you do it?", he demanded. I calmly responded, "I am teaching and I am responsible for doing the things that are required for students to learn the standard we are working on. When you misbehave you are responsible for your actions and have to do the things that are required to learn from your mistake." During a paired activity, I heard his partner tell him that if he stopped playing around he wouldn't have to fill out anything or make any phone calls. His father, who showed up after school, sternly gave him the same advice. I give K a great deal of leeway because he has difficulty sitting still, but even he has boundaries. He told me he is just joking around with his classmates when he tries to engage them in conversation or draws things and shows it to them (he also thinks it is unfair that I am usually giving directions while he is doing this).

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Today our classroom environment was filled with laughter and learning. All students, including Student Z and his cohort in crime, were on task. I hate to sound like a pessimist, but....should I be on high alert? Something about calm and the storm comes to mind. Forget that. We all had a good day and that is definitely on my list of Things I Love.

Regarding Family Time, the menu is set and I have begun the prep work for the meal. I'll be worn out, but I thoroughly enjoy it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Student Z was not in my classroom today (I'll be meeting with the SRO (sheriff) tomorrow morning to share notes and come up with a more individualized discipline program for this student). His cohort in crime was in class, and I was ready for him. Withiut his buddy to egg him on, he remained on task the entire time. He actually partnered with a special needs student and their project is off to a good start. He initially tried to get out of the classroom by pretending he was told to come to the office during fifth period. "If they need you they will send for you.", I told him, and that ended that. He not have to be redirected or warned during the entire time he was in my room. I spoke with his parents today (regarding somethings stemming from choices he made on Tuesday. We all feel that with a concerted effort we can get him headed in the right direction.

Today is only one day, but I can see some payoff and other strategies I can use with this child. One almost down and one to go!

On another note, I attended a wonderful lecture on the spread of Buddhism from India to China. Even though it was over an hour drive each way (after work), it was worth it. The National History Project is just as meaningful as the National Writing Project. They both offer teachers great resources and opportunities. Seize the opportunity if you get a chance to get involved with either of these programs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Family Time

I invited the family over for an early dinner on Saturday. Looks like I'm going to have a party of eight dropping by. It will be fun to see everyone, but the work that happens between the invitation and the event I'm sure we'll have a great time, I just hope I'll have the energy left to enjoy it :-)
Today a student really tried to rain on my parade. I've been energized by a new classroom management program I am implementing, but student Z really put a damper on my mood. He went into a loud outburst after being given a pink warning slip to fill out. This result in a white "note home" slip. The disturbance escalated, and I sent him out of the room for a time out. This was not taken seriously, so he was sent to the office. He was sent back to get his backpack and was in the room just long enough to tear both notices, throw them in the trash, and laugh as he left. Upon follow up, I was told by an administrator that they don't know what to do with this student either. I called home to advise his guardian of the situation and, to my surprise, was informed that any problems with his behavior at home or school are being handled by the SRO (sheriff). The SRO will not be in until Thursday. Meanwhile, the child and this situation are both out of control. I have requested an in school suspension for tomorrow and hope to team with the SRO to get this kid on the right track. Forget the zinfandel, just pass me my pillow because I am exhausted!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Getting a Handle on Things

Door Handle, Parish Church, Whalton, Northumberland. Photo provided by

I miss blogging, and things are clearly out of balance in my life, so here's an attempt to get a handle on things and be consistent.

1. I like participating in reading challenges because they give my reading a sense of direction. I know what's coming next. My TBR list is always exciting, and I get to hear about so many interesting books. On the other hand, there is no way I can create a post about every book. From now on, I'll let my heart be my guide when it comes to posting about books.(The Dewey Challenge is one that's close to my heart, so I will post reviews for that.) I will to update the challenge lists in the side bar of this blog.

2.I plan to continue with the Blog Improvement Challenge when I can. No pressure. Afterall, blogging should be fun.

3. I will also need to alter my blogging goals a bit. Posting three times a week would be nice, but two times is more realistic (anything more than that is a bonus). Reality also dictates that if I post more than one per week there is a good chance they will be done on the same day and within the same hour.

4. The dietary changes I made this year have been a plus and every doctor I have seen insists the changes are helping me and not causing any of the problems I am experiencing.

5. My social life is seriously flat. That must change. Early dinner with the girls tomorrow is a good start.

6. Prayer, study, and meditation time are a must. The morning really is the best time (even if I'm not a morning person).

7. Excercise (enjoyable and in a non-work setting) is a must.

8. I need to de-clutter my environment. Believe it or not, this (and not #7) is the hardest thing for me to do.


With RIF notices looming, our school has been a whirlwind of activity. I would have never thought this possible, but we have actually been busier than usual. Yesterday, we had a site visit from the Distinguised Schools panel (From what I hear, the panel was pleased with what they saw. We'll find out if we get this illustrious honor some time in April.) We work very hard to get the results we get, and that is the point of this post.

For a little over a month, I have had swollen glands popping up here and there, and an allergic reaction to something on my right leg. My doctor said the glands might be due to a dental problem and the allergic reaction could be from a number of things. During the past week and a half, dental pain became a problem. My dentist put me on antibiotics and sent me to an endodontist for a consultation. The antibiotics and warm compresses are reducing the glandular swelling. I had been trying to get an appointment after work hours to see the endodontist, but lately there is always something that requires I stay later. While rescheduling my appointment for the second time, I decided to take today off. I saw the endodontist (No root canal needed!!! The consensus is that the pain is possibly due to grinding my teeth while I'm sleeping.), missed a fundraiser assembly, and got some rest. FYI, this won't keep me from having my grades entered, by Thursday, in a program that can only be accessed using district computers during a designated three day window (Does that sound like a complaint?).

One of my colleagues recently pointed out that no one would ever know I wasn't feeling well because I only look tired or stressed when I let my guard down. (Complement?) I may never know the source the swollen glands or the rash (which cortisone cream is taking care of), but I think that stress and a lack of meaningful rest are playing a part in all of this.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


We live in a very different world than the one we lived in a year ago. My colleagues insist that they are professionals, and the anxiety over RIF notices is not affecting their classrooms. On the other hand, they are not buying the supplies they would normally purchase out of pocket, they are emotionally drained from crying and complaining during their breaks, and their inboxes are filled with emails containing rumors and worst case scenarios. They can't help bringing this tension into their classrooms. I am holding on to the fact that these notices are for the coming school year. This year, at my best or worst, I am the only teacher my students have for my subject area. They deserve my best.

Thes Books Were Made for Walking

On the 3rd Wednesday of every month, Strumpet's Life hosts this meme which asks us to think about a topic that has to do with books and travel. Here's the topic for this month:

Is there a place that you have always dreamed of visiting specifically because of a book you read? It can be any kind of book: fiction, non-fiction, travelogue, you name it. If you have been to the place, did it live up to your expectations? If you haven't been, do you think you'll ever make it there?

This one was a little difficult for me. The locale was easy because I have longed to go to India for a little over nine years. I wasn't too sure I could attribute it to reading. Then I gave it more thought and realized it had everything to do with reading! My desire to visit India began during my first year teaching sixth grade ancient world history. The story of the Taj Mahal, the origins of Hinduism and Buddhism, and the beauty of the subcontinent drew me in. I guess you could say Houghtin Mifflin's textbook Message of Ancient Days and TCI's History Alive! unit on India sparked my interest in India.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Catching Up!

I need to catch up on work, home, and personal responsibilities. I'll get back to blogging in a few more days.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Rating: 3/5

I really enjoyed Speak (also by this author), so I thought I would enjoy this one too. It was okay. In many ways, it reminded me of Cut by Patrica McCormick because of the main character's need to run. The main Kate and Teri were also similar to a minor female character in Deadline by Chris Crutcher. The private stories were very not what you would expect. The story behind Teri's little brother is the exact same story as Crutcher's character. Also, I kept imagining the kids from The Breakfast Club as the characters. Molly Ringwald could play Kate. Emilio Estevez would be cast as Mitch, and Ally Sheedy would make the perfect Terri.

These similarities probably influenced my negative opinion of this book.It just feels like the formula storyline ha been done too many times before. It got interesting after the climax (p. 148), but there was not enough build up. Okay is the best rating I can give this one.

See Dewey's review here.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

People of the Book

Author: Geraldine Brooks
Rating: 7/5

I LOVED this book! It reminded me of The Thirteenth Tale because both are very well told stories. Encountering this book renewed my reading zeal and reminded me there are books out there that cause you to read well past your workday bedtime. All of the characters felt like flesh and blood, courageously flawed people. I even enjoyed the side story between Hanna and her mother (it reminded me of the story line between Dr. Meridith Grey and her mother on Grey's Anatomy. Mother/Daughter relationship are complex...even when they're fictional.) Hanna's side story fits given the theme of the book.
"I think you have to accept a book as your receive it from past generations, and to a certain extent damage and wear reflect that history."

As in life, the side stories in People of the Book are the story.

See Dewey's review here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

6 Things That Make Me Happy

I saw this meme at Bermudaonion's Weblog and thought it was a great thing to reflect on at the end of a long day. So, here are my six suppliers of happiness:

1. Rainy, pajama days (after the morning shower, the attire for indoor day...pajamas!)
2. Chocolate
3. The sound of the ocean
5. A baby's smile
6. My cat, Kobi

Once I got going on this, I realized that there are many things that make me happy (far more than six things). In an effort to share the love, consider yourself tagged (CTG and Notes From the Ordinary, I can't wait to see the six things on your lists.)

Thursday, February 05, 2009


One of the changes I made this year was switching to an increasingly gluten-free diet and drinking less caffeine. Yes CTG, I no longer indulge in my usual morning mugs. I now drink Teechino during the week and have ONE mug of "real" coffee or ONE green tea soy latte on Saturday mornings. Last year, I eliminated dairy products. (I've even found a pizza place that meets my dietary requirements.) My skin has cleared up significantly, and, for first time in my life I don't need to use Beconase or Flonase to avoid congestion when I bend over or lie down. I was in the doctor's office today (nothing major) and told the PA about the recent changes I'd made. He informed me he had just attended a seminar on the value of a gluten-free diet in children with upper respiratory problems. He wasn't surprised by my results and told me to continue my dietary regimen. Not that I needed it, but confirmation is always nice. I have to keep this in mind when students make choices that can change their lives for the better.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Blog Imoprovement

The last two week blog improvement challenge (posted Jan 19th) has to do with content. I really need help in this area, but time has not permitted me to put a lot of work into this part of the challenge. Time seems to be the biggest enemy for me. I have the same 24 hours as everyone else. Mine are just pulled in too many directions.

When it comes to generating ideas, I agree that they are everywhere. On other blogs, in classrooms, in the news, on the road, in the neighborhood...You get the idea. Journaling (yes, I mean the old-fashioned pen and paper kind of journaling) helps me to keep track of some the things I find noteworthy. What I have to do is work on dedicating time to writing. It takes time to prepare the grist for the mill and then to do the appropriate revision and editing a good post requires. I usually have concentrated time for writing on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons, but during the week time is just too fragmented to do anything worthwhile.

With regard to an original regular feature, I have an idea for a bi-monthly Catty Corner" which would feature my cat, Kobi, and other cats that influence me. More in the coming weeks on that. Let me get a slightly better grip on time management first.

20 Books in 2009

I joined this challenge some time ago but never shared the rules. This is a good one because I can use the books from other challenges. The rules are as follows:

You must have a website since you have to keep an online progress page. You can get free ones from or if you need to.
You must create a progress page, which will be updated each time you complete one of your 20 books. For more information about progress pages and an example of how you can do them, click here. If you do not have a progress page and would like to post your books as regular blog updates one at a time as you finish, please create a tag or category specific to the challenge that I can look at.
You can read as many books as you want by an author or in the same series.
If the book is a re-read, it must be from a year ago.
If you begin the book in 2008 and finish it in 2009, it does count for this challenge.
The following do not count: comics, catalogs, manga, journals, audiobooks.
The following does count: paperbacks, hardbacks, advanced copies, ebooks. You can read fiction or nonfiction, the choice is up to you.
You must link back to this challenge with the button provided or one that you make for your own personal use, or even a text link.

If you intend to participate, leave a comment on the main entry stating so. You will then be added to the participants list.
Everyone who successfully completes the 20 in 2009 challenge will win a small award graphic to display on their website

Click here the join this challenge.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating 3/5

"When Coraline steps through a door to find another house stangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go."

This was the second book I've read by Neil Gaiman. Like Good Omens it is not an ordinary story. The mirror world is dark and twisted making Tim Burton the perfect person to put together the recently released movie version of this story. As I was reading it, it reminded me of many of his films.

Despite the originality, I did not really connect with these characters. I enjoyed the cat. Given the personalities of most cats, this character could have been and done so much more. The other mother caught my interest for a brief period, but when she and the other world began to take on abstact forms my interest faded and collapsed like the structures and places in the other world. Overall, this book was okay. It was able to get my attention (which is sometimes a major feat) but couldn't keep it.

I read this for Dewey's Challenge and 20 in 2009. Click here for Dewey's Review. Books completed for all challenges are shown in the sidebar under the button for the challenge.

More Random Thoughts

For the first 28 days of this year, my feet have felt firmly planted on the ground and my head above the clouds. That ended on Friday. I was clearly weighed down by all the demands and obstacles of reality. We had the writing prompt on Thursday, an assembly on Friday, and there's MAPS testing on Monday. I hope, despite the interruptions, I can get through the pacing guide standards in time for the next benchmark test.

In today's local newspaper, there was an article about recent local Chinese New Year celebrations. This is the year of the ox. Oxen represent...You guessed it...WORK. It is followed by the year of the tiger, victory. I did not know this before. It confirms my feelings about this year, and gives me hope for a reward when the work is done.


I am watching Under the Tuscan Sun and thinking about who our real BFF's are. They are not the ones that commiserate with us when relationships, businesses, or dreams die. They are the ones who who go beyond this and encourage and stand by us when we jump back in the fray. If we are reluctant to jump back in they take us by the hand and lead us there. They also accept our definition of love and opportunity without trying to impose their own.

The problem with the commiserating friends is often it is a misery loves company situation, and you can spend decades meeting with the girls (wondering where the men are). In today's busy world, people can't always get that involved in one anothers lives. After decades of commiserating, I thank God for the friends who made the time. Thanks A for helping me remember the good times with Charles. You are right, it wasn't all bad. Thanks AL, VW, and MY for giving me the strength to move on after all those years and accepting that what makes me happy is the best thing for me. Thanks DH for reminding me about the patient, loving, reasonable qualities of God. Happy is not a sin. Happy is okay, better than is good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Thoughts

Today we had our district writing prompt. My students surprised, pleased, and disappointed me in that heart-tugging way that only children are able to. Thankfully, the forced march is over. (Some of them still couldn't believe that would not be able work on this over a period of days. What happened to the writing process I'm always preaching about?)

M. really threw himself into his work. He even asked to work in an isolated area to prevent distraction. He was focused and on task during the entire time he was working on the prompt. Bear in mind, this is a child who has difficulty staying on task for more the four minutes, but he was focused and working for an hour and forty-six minutes (with only a ten minute break between periods). I complemented his on his attention to the task at hand but didn't get a chance to read his essay. I'm going in early tomorrow to grade some assignments and read some of their assessment work. I'll definitely be looking for his paper.

The social studies department had a meeting yesterday. The department chair kept the meeting brief and redundant (not a typo). We all noticed that two teachers did not show up. Come to think of it, these two usually miss half of any department meeting (language arts or social studies) or don't show up at all. Well, today, one of them felt she had some great idea. She sent out an email requesting the entire department, the principal, and the assistant principal to come to her room for a brief meeting. After school, an announcement was made for all social studies teachers to report to her room. Couldn't this have been shared yesterday? Couldn't it be put on the agenda for the next meeting. Was this a mandatory meeting? Who has the authority to call a mandatory meeting? I got a bug up my butt, found this troubling because I attended the meeting yesterday! I fumed about the fact that someone, who missed the first meeting, could ask me to attend another one! I didn't go. I wonder if anyone noticed.

For dinner, I bought a spicy tuna sushi pack from the grocery store and washed it down with a glass of white wine. I know made-to-order sushi is more appealing, but as usual, wasabi cleared my head and wine made everything seem better.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just for Fun

I saw this on ms_teacher's blog and couldn't resist. Settle down fellas, read the whole thing before you get excited about the title :)

This one is just for fun, but parts of it are so true. All the positive stuff sound like me (or at least the me I want to be). As far as the negative stuff goes, my dark side only comes out when I am antagonized, and I'm more passive aggressive than manipulative. Yes, I know it's still bad. Let's just say I am working on it,'s a process.

What type of Fae are you?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What's Wrong with Education?

Everyone thinks they have the answer to this question. Teacher incompetence. Lack of funding. Poorly written curriculum. I think it's something else.

Our first day back from winter break was a teacher work day. Following the district pacing guide, we should have been in the second of a five week unit on persuasion. With the first week of this unit being right before a three week holiday break I like to spend the the first day back reinforcing classroom rules and procedures (especially helpful to the four new students that were placed in my class that day) and then move into reading and analyzing another example persuasive writing before we jump head long into the deep end (process) of writing. I wanted to confirm how much time I had, so I called the language arts department chair to confirm date for the district writing assessment which is usually in early February. The department chair didn't see the writing assessment anywhere on the calendar (I hadn't found it either). When I got to work the next day, there was an email stating that the assessment would be given January 21st. With only four days for instruction, a national holiday, and the inauguration the day before the prompt, my plans had to be changed. I was able to incorporate the inaugural speech into my instruction on persuasion, but the saga continued. By Friday, the date was changed to the 29th to give everyone more instructional time. This meant more plan tweaking.

I recently found out that they were so busy adding new hoops assessments to the calendar that they forgot to include some of the old ones. It would have been nice to start the new semester on sure footing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

These Books Were Made for Walking

No, this is not what you think it is (another challenge); it's a meme. This one shouldn't be any trouble because it ties in with my goal to post about literature. The only change I will have to make it the day of the week that literature posts will be made. Lit will move from Saturdays to Wednesdays, and truthfully all that means is that nothing changes - the bottom line is I post when I can, but eventually I get my literary, educational, and personal posting done each week.

Anyway, here are the rules: Every third Wednesday of the month blog about books and travel. There will be a theme posted each month at Strumpet's Life

For this week, the theme is the beach. What book do you associate with the beach and why? The book that I associate with the beach is Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. The book itself was just okay. Nicholas Sparks is not my preferred fare, but I appreciated the unhappy ending. Love is not always kind or happy. Picking who we will love and how things will turn out are things we don't have absolute control over. I also appreciated the youthful idealism of Savannah and her firends.

The book reminds me of the beach because of the beach scenes between John and Savannah. Some of the heaviest moments in their relationship take place during these scenes. This reminds me of college trips to the beach. I remember one trip, during my freshman year, to La Jolla. Romance, dorm gossip, professor bashing, and politics. We felt we could solve all of the worlds woes armed with youth and the depth of our convictions. The rolling sound of the ocean, the salty air, and the warmth of the fire have permanently etched this memory into my memories of college.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One of Those Moments

Today was such a moment in time for me, my students, and the nation that I am still processing it. Once I've had a chance to process it all, I will post my reflections about this moment in history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No Nap Needed

Energy begets energy! As I settled in for a nap this afternoon, I realized I had not felt the need for one all week. I credit this fact to my new volunteer work, on Tuesday and Thursday, and a surprisingly drama free outing with my mother on Wednesday. After work, I used the energy I had doing things that were recharging and enjoyable. I did not spended the time continuing to work. That makes a difference. I have a mountain of papers to grade this weekend, but I have the three day weekend to get through it.

What comes next is finding a way to use my time in a balanced, effective way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Mini-Challenge

Mini-Challenge #9: Promote literacy. This is wide open - use your imagination. You could give a child a book, or read a book to someone who cannot read, or volunteer at an event which promotes literacy, or donate to your local library, or write something on your blog with a link to a group which promotes literacy, or anything in between. The only rule with this one is that you must PROMOTE literacy in some way…

Okay, here's my first post for the 2009 Mini-Challenge:

I started volunteering at one of our local libraries last Thursday. It's something I have wanted to do for years, but I just never got around to it. I told my father about considering doing this, and he suggested that it is also a great way to get first dibs on new books that come into the library. So far, I have typed labels, labeled and stamped books, shelved books, and met some wonderful people. I love it! I just do three to four hours a week and so far it is manageable. If you ever feel unneeded or unwanted, volunteer at your local library. They are desperate for the help and constantly tell you how much they appreciate you. The thrill of being able to answer a patrons questions or help them find something is beyond description!

By the way, today I was shelving a copy of For Eceryone from Beginner to Pro: Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual. I checked it out before I left. Who knows, it may help with that appearance resolution I made :P

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back to Work

This our first week of school since the holidays. It struck me, during a staff meeting, that it doesn't take long to lose the restful, optimistic attitude developed during a two or three week break. During the third week, I was looking forward to returning to the classroom. The stress and surprises begin immediately. Monday was a teacher workday. Students returned yesterday. By day three, I still feel it was time to get back to work, but I am looking forward to the weekend.

M. refused to do any work on Tuesday and chose to disrupt the class instead. He had a better day today. I'm sure he's also looking forward to the weekend and feeling slightly relieved to be back at school.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The "W" Word

Each year has a different tone. There are some years filled with questions, some reveal many answers, and some contain a plethora of possibilities. 2008 began as a year of action, but quickly proved to be a year of possibilities. I discovered there are many wonderful parts of my life and vocation that I am overlooking. This year is going to be a year of W***. That is not a bad thing. I have found that to bring the possibilities and potential in my life into fruition requires more w*** than I sometimes put forth. When you think about it, I guess this is the year of sustained purposeful action. That sounds much better than the W-O-R-K.

Okay, this is the last challenge I am joined during the first week of this year. I couldn't resist because it included many things that I was planning to do. It's hosted by caribousmom. Click here to see her post regarding this challenge.

Here's how it goes:

Complete all 12 mini-challenges between January 1st and December 31st, 2009.
Challenges can be completed in any order.
Overlaps are allowed.
IF you are a member of the Yahoo group, you do not need a blog to participate. IF you are NOT a member of the Yahoo group, you will need a blog.

Here are the 12 challenges:

1. Read a collection of short stories and either blog about it, OR tell the group about what you read.

2. Read a play. Blog about it, OR tell the group about your experience.

3. Read a nonfiction book; write a review on your blog or post it to the group.

4. Read 2 essays from the same collection; write a review on your blog or tell the group about what you read.

5. Go to a book event; blog about it or tell the group about it.

6. Borrow a library book, read it and review it on your blog (or tell the group about it).

7. Read a book by a new to you author. Do a little research on the author…do they have a blog? How many books have they written? Have they won any prizes? Where do they live? etc… Blog about the book you read and the author OR tell the group about them.

8. Make a donation. You can either donate to an organization that supports reading OR make a physical donation of a book (or books) to ANYONE. Blog about it or tell the group what you did.

9. Promote literacy. This is wide open - use your imagination. You could give a child a book, or read a book to someone who cannot read, or volunteer at an event which promotes literacy, or donate to your local library, or write something on your blog with a link to a group which promotes literacy, or anything in between. The only rule with this one is that you must PROMOTE literacy in some way…

10. Participate in a buddy read or Group discussion. This can be a face to face group, an on-line group or a one on one discussion with a friend who read the same book. Either way, blog about your experience or share with the group. Did the discussion give you greater appreciation or insight into what you read?

11. Read a book outside your comfort level or from a genre you don’t normally read. Blog about it, or tell the group about it.

12. Read a classic (defined as anything published before 1970). Tell us why it fits the category of being a classic. Write a review or tell the group about the book.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Developing as a Writer and a Person

As promised, today’s post is about my life as an educator. School resumes on Monday, but there is one student who has been on my mind quite a bit during the break. M has had a rough time, especially this year, but he’s a fighter…literally. When he transferred into my class, his previous teacher apologized every time she saw me in passing…for two weeks. His math/science has demanded he be removed from his classes, but I fought to keep M in my classroom. I kept him because he has potential. He has only turned in a few assignments, is frequently disruptive, and has little respect for authority. Yet, I look at him and see potential. During the last writing assignment the class completed, he took a leadership role and helped other students format their papers on the computer. His paper is one of the few in which I see a writer who is getting better at putting ideas, organization, AND voice in his written work.

Before we left for break, M was sent to my room by another teacher. That gave us an opportunity to talk. Once you get past the bravado, M knows that people expect him to make better choices and rise above the circumstances in his life. He feels he has to fight and be disruptive to get be heard. Yes, he is still has lot to work on, but I see potential in M and his writing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Blog Improvement Project

This is week one of the Blog Improvement Project. This weeks project is goal setting and one of the things that we were asked to look at was the purpose of our blogs. I have stated that the purpose of this blog is to record the things (good or bad) that make up my life. In other words this blog is not just about being an educator, but that is part of it. It is not solely about relationship, adventures, or books, but they are also pieces of the puzzle. I still feel that we all have interesting stories to tell; however I realize it is not an easy thing to tell them with the same emotion with which we experience them.

This year I intend to work on the content and niche of my blog. The purpose of this blog is general and broad which means that without structure the content is all over the place. To get on track I am setting the following goals:

1. Post three time a week (these can be done in advance and scheduled to post on a future date)

2. Schedule a reflective educational post for Wednesdays and post about books every Saturday

3. Interact with other bloggers by participating in challenges, joining groups and forums, and posting comments more often

Friday, January 02, 2009

Welcome 2009!

2008 is in the past along with all the events that were part of it. 2009 has the potential to be much better. These are the things I want to do in order to help myself and this new year live up to our potential:

1. Keep my house cleaner
2. Put more consistent effort into my appearance
3. Write daily (journal, blog, or letters)
4. Give quicker feedback on student's written work
5. Get to church on time

My big goal is to notice more of the "rainbow and butterfly" moments in my life. They are always there, I just need to open my eyes to see them.