Monday, December 28, 2009

Lemony Snicket and A Series of Unfortunate Events

I enjoy the mystery surrounding Mr. Lemony Snicket: the fact that the pictures of the author are always blurry or that they hide his face in some way. One always glimpses him from a distance or in part, but the whole is never to be revealed. We all enjoy a little mystery. It keeps us guessing.

His 13 well-loved and admired books chronicling the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans: Violet, Klaus and baby sister Sunny, lead readers on an imaginative and unfortunate journey that one is often tempted to put down for fear of arriving at a morose and regretful ending.  The author encourages the reader to put the book down various times, and to not even to continue to read it, if one will be disappointed or put out by unhappy endings, for each story is about all the bad things that happen to these children, beginning with the untimely death of their wealthy parents.

There are consistent themes that I have found to appear in his books. One is that grown-ups do not listen to what children have to say and are easily duped by the bad guy. Another is that families stick together through it all and that despite the awfulness of life, we should never give up on fighting the good fight.

He is vaguely described at the back of each book, in the description of the author:
"Lemony Snicket was born in a mall town where the inhabitants were suspicious and prone to riot. He now lives in the city. During his spare time he gathers evidence and is considered something of an expert by leading authorities."
His books are dedicated in beloved ways to "Beatrice." I've only read two of his books and have yet to begin the third, but I just know that Beatrice was a special woman and that Lemony must miss her and mourns her still. By way of example,

Book the First: The Bad Beginning
"To Beatrice--- darling, dearest, dead.

Book the Second: The Reptile Room
"For Beatrice--- My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not."

Book the Third: The Wide Window
"For Beatrice--- I would much prefer if you were alive and well."

His books introduce children to different popular phrases, cliches and vocabulary, which are then defined and used in the author's writings to enhance the vocabulary of the reader, in an entertaining and interesting fashion. The man, is quite witty.

Mr. Snicket's website holds many treasures including video clips, games, book excerpts, and information on the author and illustrator.

If I could pick a handful of people, with whom I could enjoy a cup of tea and an intimate chat, this author would make the list. This entry is dedicated to you Lemony. Wherever and whomever you are. Thanks for putting pen to paper. Enjoy your time on Bela's yacht and keep gazing at your faded photograph of Beatrice. I'm sure you miss her still, like I miss my loved one.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A How-to "Thank You" Note

Before your presents can be thoroughly enjoyed, thanks should be given to the giver. And I'm not just talking about the initial, vocal "thank you!" that one exclaims upon opening one's gifts. I'm talking about the snail mail labor of love that you thoughfully write, stamp and post after the festivities are over.

I am so thankful that I was taught to write thank you cards to people when they give me gifts. Sure, when you were little, it wasn't always FUN to write the notes when you'd rather be playing with the gifts, but a little delayed gratification didn't hurt.

Check out this link on how to write a good thank you note that will be appreciated by whoever receives it!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prize-Winning Fruit

Why do I feel slightly more wise this morning? Is it because I'm drinking coffee from my Houghton Class of '99 coffee mug? Nope. I think it's because I'm spending some time in the Word this morning.

Do you ever think about what it takes to raise prize winning fruit? You must start with good seed, fertile soil, and take extra special care of your plants so that they can produce that blue ribbon fruit. But how does the Gardner do it?

In my Bible this afternoon, I read about Jesus teaching his disciples about the Vine and the Branches and it led me to understand more about how God shapes us as we remain in Jesus and allow him to nourish us.

Jesus Teaches about the Vine and the Branches
John 15:1-17 NIV

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cutsoff every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful."
Jesus is our vine and we grow as part of him, as his branches. Father God is our gardener. Gardners care for plants. God sees us as an extension of his Son Jesus and he's not only watching to see that we bear fruit he's working to see that we do.

God wants us to draw our nourishment and our strength from Jesus. The Bible says we can't bear fruit unless we remain in the vine (v.4). But, even if we are bearing fruit we still get cut back. He is still going to take his shears to us. And the shears he uses are sharp. Have you ever tried to cut something with a dull knife? If you had, you'd discover that you usually don't get a clean cut. Dull tools make your work harder and if you use them, what you're cutting gets crushed, torn or damaged. Praise the Lord that his tools are sharp! The Bible says God prunes us. Now, Father God the Gardener prunes his branches to direct their growth.

I did some research to find out the reasons why gardeners prune. Here's what one internet site told me:

Any overgrown, or struggling plant will benefit from a little pruning. Even a healthy plant benefits by a trimming from time to time. It doesn't matter whether it's a tree or a shrub, a bush, flowers, or your vegetable plants. They all benefit by pruning and trimming.

With few exceptions, plants can be pruned anytime during the year. Pruning makes your plant look better and feel better too! It allows the plants "support system" to send vital energy and nutrients a smaller area and to newer, more vigorous growth. The result.......a lusher, healthier, and better looking plant!

There are several reasons to prune plants:

To remove dead , weak, or unsightly branches.
To re-invigorate plant leaves and branches grow faster.
To reshape the plant into a more desirable shape.
To produce denser, bushier appearance.
To thin out growth, providing more air circulation and light.
To limit plant size.
Let's examine these reasons to prune.

"To remove dead, weak, or unsightly branches." If you don't have a pulse, you're nigh on to getting there, or you are spiritually an ugly person, look out! God is coming to garden in your heart.

"To re-invigorate plant growth." If you've been spiritually stagnate and you haven't experienced growth in your life, you better take a good long look in the mirror and think about why that might be. Are you in the Word? Are you praying? Are you in fellowship with other believers? Do you even remember what the vine looks like?

"To reshape the plant into a more desirable shape." You might be growing yourself ugly. You might be shooting out a branch here and another over here and then looking up at God and saying, "How 'bout this Lord?" And God picks up his shears and says, "How about you let me take over and shape you into the image of my Son?"

"To produce denser, bushier appearance." Some people are just throwing shoots off in all directions instead of concentrating on growing strong in a couple of areas. They're spreading themselves too thin. God wants his branches strong so that they can withstand all kinds of weather, so he picks up his shears, and trims us back so that we can grow strong and sturdy in him.

"To thin out growth, providing more circulation and light." Sometimes we're just too darn thick. We are so thick, we're choking ourselves to death. We have too much going on and we're literally killing ourselves. We don't have room to breath, and one thing is pressing on another and nothing is healthy in our lives. God steps in and makes room for that his life-giving light and air to circulate and give us what we need.

"To limit plant size." Finally, God doesn't want us getting to big for our pots or for our flower bed. If we start getting too big for our britches, God prunes us back not just for our own good, but for the good of our neighbors. He doesn't want us to overcrowd, or become malnourished or over-reach our boundaries he has put there for the health of the plant. Wild, untamed plants seem more like weeds than objects of beauty and fruitfulness. God trims us back to limit our size. He knows how big we should be.

If we eventually fail to bear fruit, we get cut off, we are left to wither and then we are thrown into the fire (v.6). I don't know about you, but I think I would rather be cut back than cut off. I'm going to start looking to the vine for nourishment and welcome the Gardner's shears, trusting that what he does in my life is for my growth and benefit. I want to remain in Jesus and trust that the food he provides me with, will help me to bear much fruit, so that one day, the Gardner will see my prize-winning fruit and be proud of me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas

The longer you live, the more opportunities you have to encounter bad things and dark valleys. Things like infertitlity, poverty, joblessness and the deaths of friends and loved ones. On November 27th I lost my Grammy, and yesterday, December 11th an old classmate and team mate from HFL, Brooke and her fiance Tristan were killed in a traffic accident that killed two others and left a third in critical condition. Additionally yesterday, my Dad's best friend from high school took his own life in front of his daughter in the midst of an argument.

I'm working on cold number two in as many weeks, and we're short on money. This year, no Christmas tree, no presents and our computer died taking my entire I-Tunes and most of my photography library with it (back your shizzle up on CD people).

I mentioned that my Grammy passed away. Last night, before I got the news of the traffic fatalities and the suicide, I was trying to listen to a cassette tape recording of my Grammy preaching at a womens' bible study at Penn Yan Bible Church. I really wanted to hear her voice and hear her testimony. One minute into her oration, the tape was eaten by the machine. My husband managed to extract the tape, with minor damage and I called the church and they're trying to locate the master tape to make me a CD copy. I left them my number so that they could call me to let me know if they have any luck finding the tape.

Wednesday night, I gave a message to the Pioneer Girls about God making good things out of bad things. I can't wait to see what he does with the last several months. Bring it on Abba Father!

Friday, December 11, 2009

"Christ" is a Dirty Word in School

The more I look around and the older I get, the more I notice how Christmas is dissipating, dissolving into commercial nothingness, its historical roots passing into history.  Kids don't go to Sunday school anymore so they don't know their Bibles or about Christ's birth or the reason he came to Earth. And we aren't allowed to mention him in schools. "Christ" is a dirty word at school.

We can't have Christmas trees anymore, we have mitten trees and holiday trees, but no mention of Christmas. We can't risk showing favoritism and neglecting other holidays, be they newly made up or traditional. Now we have winter break instead of Christmas vacation. How sad that Christ isn't BEING erased from our schools, he HAS been erased.

And another thing. It's not cool to be "moral" anymore, (tolerant yes, but moral no) because having a sense of morality is akin to being judgemental. The world says, "Anything Goes" as long as we aren't hurting anybody or telling anybody else what to do. You turn a blind eye to me and I probably won't sue you. Because if I do something nasty, and raunchy it's my choice to parade it in front of you (Adam Lambert) and your choice not to watch (it's your fault you weren't expecting it). Don't judge me because of my personal expression and political statement or I'll accuse you of discrimination. No thanks, Adam. I decidedly DON'T like your kind of entertainment.

Having a sense of right and wrong, what some call a moral compass, is frowned upon. Political correctness is a democracy...the mainstream acceptance/tolerance of all things morally abhorant will mean our undoing. The old expression "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything," holds true. 'Nough said. Seasons Greetings? I think not. Merry Christmas!

P.S. Thanks for being tolerant of my post. I appreciate it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chain of Frustrations


I am so very frustrated right now. (My single friends...I sympathize with you now).

My car needs work.
I can't work or go anywhere important without a car (work, church, grocery store, clothes shopping).
To get work done on your car, you need to have your registration card, which I have lost (first time ever).
To request a duplicate registration card, you need to fill out a paper application and mail it in with a check to the DMV. You'd think they would make this an online transaction, but NO.

I don't have a working printer to print said application because we haven't hooked the new one up yet.
My appt. is Monday at 8 a.m. at the car place. A paper application will take awhile to be processed and returned. In the meantime, no card, no work on your car, no go to work, no grocery shopping, no food.

It couldn't be as simple as requesting a duplicate online!!!! They don't even let you do that! I wouldn't care so much if Jeff were home to hook up the new printer, and I could have his car to get places.
I'm feeling very passionate right now. Can you tell?

I'm thinking of that country song, "Sounds Like Life to Me" by Darryl Worely

I'll just share the choruses with you.


Sounds like life to me it ain’t no fantasy
It’s just a common case of everyday reality
Man I know it’s tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
It sounds like life to me


Sounds like life to me plain old destiny
Yeah the only thing for certain is uncertainty
You gotta hold on tight just enjoy the ride
Get used to all this unpredictability
Sounds like life
Man I know its tough but you gotta suck it up
To hear you talk you’re caught up in some tragedy
Sounds like life to me
Sounds like life."
It's life and in the meantime, you gotta suck it up and deal. But how do you "deal" when you can't pay your bills unless you're working. Why must we be chained to our cars?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Going to Seed...

When two people join together in holy matrimony, inevitably some parts of their personalities learn to ride back seat to others as they try and live in harmony with eachother. These parts are a piece of their individual egos. Those sunken personality traits tend to resurface for air when the couple is apart for extended periods of time. If one partner passes away, the change becomes more permanent.

I've seen it happen to grandparents in the later situation and to myself in the former, whenever hubby is away from home. I become like my old self; a spark of who I used to be when I was single. Sometimes I miss those parts of my personality and it's good to remember what it felt like to live the single life and to not have to care about how your actions affect the life of your spouse. It feels good to be able to be selfish every once in awhile.

On weekends when my husband and I are apart, It's like a slow awakening to a reunion with an old friend. I feel like I miss the old me; the one that felt more alive, was more vivacious and spontaneous. I also cared more about how I looked, the clothes I wore, and my overall appearance.

We don't all go to seed when we get married, but some of us do, and I kinda feel like I've let myself go, physically, emotionally, confidence-wise. Hear that? It's the world's smallest violin...playing a sad song for me. OK, it's over now. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Faces, New Places

It's pretty nice to be liked by your students; to see their faces light up with recognition and loudly whisper to one another..."Mrs. Schoonover's here!" like you were a celebrity or Santa Claus.

This afternoon I had the opportunity to sub a half-day in my old stomping grounds; the building where I did my substitute teaching. In fact, I was in the classroom across the hall from where I taught the 4th grade. Today, my students were fifth graders and I have to say, fifth grade was enjoyable.

Not only was I pumped to sub in a classroom where I knew I would run into some of my old students, but I was also subbing for a teacher whom I admire and aspire to emulate; someone who has attained a level of teaching greatness I endeavor to achieve. Mrs. "M" is one, savvy lady.

This woman knows her shizzle and she had an awesome group of students. As a sub, walking into a well-managed classroom is like a soothing balm to the soul. You know within the first five minutes in a classroom what your day will be like and this woman's classroom was balmalicious. Organized materials, left a nice, clear lesson plan, helpful kids, and established routines. Fabuloso!

To say I had a great afternoon would be an understatement. These kids were wonderful to teach. It just ROCKS to have a good day!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Barren Grief

Whatdoyasay when people innocently inquire, "When are you going to have kids?"
And you want to, but you can't?

Maybe someday.

Whatdoyoudo when you're still waiting to be able to tell people you're the one who is pregnant,
And every other woman you are close to has already said it,
at least once
And they're younger than you?

It's just not our turn, again.

How much longer do you try and wait before you give up hope and admit your own barrenness?

This is never going to happen for us.

How can you look your husband in the eye,
Knowing you can never give him children?

What's wrong with me?

What's it like to feel like you're excluded from the Mommy club, or that you can't participate in a conversation about your kids when it's the dominant topic of conversation at most social gatherings for women your age?

I sit there silently, trying to smile and contribute something. Anything!

I crawl inside myself and hide there behind a smile. Don't ask me how I'm doing because I'll tell you what you want to hear, not what I'm dying to scream at you. Waves of grief wash over me and recede.

I wish I didn't want this so badly, then disappointment couldn't cut my heart so deeply.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

6th vs. 8th Grade Language Arts

I had a half day in a sixth grade language arts class yesterday (Wed.) and enjoyed it. Today I had a half day of 8th grade language arts and it was a different experience. I have discovered that 8th graders can't be allowed to work in groups, at least until you know them better and know who they can and can't work with and still stay quiet and productive. Individual work time is best!

I got the call around 9:30 a.m. at that I was needed at 11:20 a.m. I got to the school early and they seemed excited to see me in the office, I soon learned it was because my class started at 11:05 a.m. and they wouldn't have to get coverage for me.I was literally walking up to the classroom, many of the kids were already inside and there was an adult there with them that kept them occupied while I scrambled (in a calm authoritative manner) to find and read the lesson plans.

After the first class I knew what to do, and more important, what not to do. The second class went more smoothly than the last and then we had the third class with quite a few challenging students in it. Most of them stayed for a study hall period called "Trail" which got rowdy. It would have been good to know in advance that they weren't supposed to work in groups for Trail, only in pairs. I didn't know this until the end of the day, when I finally had time to read the rest of the instructions to the sub. It was a "wing it" kind of day.

PM homeroom followed and the students were at the end of their ropes as I was at the end of mine. Is it OK to crawl into a little ball and chant, "there's no place like home" repeatedly, when you're the adult?

There were no bells to signal the beginning or end of class. THAT was annoying.

Tomorrow is another day, this one will last all day instead of a "half" day. I'll be teaching science, which should be fun, but I don't know the grade level or anything else for that matter. It's the "not knowing" part that is so difficult. I almost think I could handle teaching middle school students if I had my own class where I could set up my own rules and procedures.

Into the unknown once again, on the morrow!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Full Day, 1st Grade

I took an assignment last night at a new elementary school, an older building, but closer to home. It was my first time in first grade and I met the teacher who was finishing up her lesson prep. as I arrived. She was obviously not feeling well, but she was very nice and showed me where everything was. That was nice!

She gave me a heads up about two students in my class. One of them was known by many other teachers. We'll call him Tishon. He was diagnosed with "Oppositional Defiant Disorder"

Tishon was actually absent the first part of the day, but arrived before lunch. This boy needs love, structure and discipline. He missed the first part of the day, and was out of routine, which put him off schedule and into a bad temper. He had trouble with everything, and every little thing set him off. He needs behavior therapy to learn how to deal with disappointment. Don't we all? To top it all off, his aide was not there today.

I don't know whether it was a coincidence that the two boys that had the hardest time behaving in class today, also went to after school Kids Care at the end of the school day.

My second little guy who had a hard time was Liam. I made him my helper today. He and Tishon did NOT get along and were at eachother during carpet time, and in the line. I learned to separate them quickly. Liam was very concerned with fairness, as was Tishon. They were tit for tat, those two. Two volatile commodities that I needed to keep apart or there would be inevitable fireworks. But I loved them both. I cannot tell you the amount of compassion that overflows out of me for these boys.

Lessons learned:

Ask the right kids for help

Make the attention seekers your helpers and teach them patience, discipline and self-control.

First graders love fairness and are continuing to learn about personal space and self-control.

First graders NEED routine.

"I'm standing up straight,
I'm standing up tall,
My lips are zipped and
I'm ready for the hall!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Day and a Half in a Multi-Handicapped Class

Half day 10/1, Full day 10/2/2009

Every sub assignment brings new incites and learning experiences. I have to tell you I had the best time subbing in a multi-handicapped class for a day and a half. When you're helping kids to move around, to communicate, and to eat their lunches, it's a truly humbling experience. You really learn to be thankful and to count your blessings and you learn what it is to truly serve another human being.

These kids are dependent on their teachers and their aides for many things. It was a blessing to be in that classroom, with students who needed you,and who had the biggest smiles, even if they couldn't physically tell you "good morning" without electronic aide. They continue to focus on learning cause and effect, and that pushing a button or hitting a switch is necessary to communicate the need for help, attention, or a thought to another person.

I fed a student her lunch, I "danced" with students in their wheelchairs, I read stories, and I watched "All About Me" Power Point presentations to get to know the students. We even got to watch part of Mamma Mia. It was great! The head teacher and classroom nurse change diapers.

On my first half-day there, I was called away to sub for a half-hour in an 11th grade, honors Spanish class. The difference between the general education and honors environment is almost like night and day.

Lessons learned:

I will gladly sub in a multi-handicapped classroom.

It makes all the difference in the world if a student wants to be in school or not and if there is something in it for them.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Hot Librarian Was Me

Sept. 25, 2009

Today was my first half-day in a new elementary school and as a librarian. It was a really nice school, gorgeous library...and when I walked in, I had no idea what to do. I also had bus duty. I may have had a bun, but I wasn't wearing any glasses and no one asked me to take my hair down and to seductively ask them what the penalty for an overdue book is. This was an elementary school.

With the help of the principal, an aide and other teachers, I was able to figure out that the librarian (who had been out several days taking care of a sick parent) had a system. She had bins with books, for different grade levels that contained lesson materials for each grade level for the entire week. We were recycling lessons for the entire week as each class had this special about one time a week.

I had to do some digging to figure out where some things were (we never did figure out how to lower the projection screen)how to check out/in books, where the kindergarten name tags were for the afternoon class, and how to figure out which class on the lesson plan corresponded to actual classes coming to the library (turns out you could do this with the phone list).

After all that initial anxiety, I only had to teach a 4th grade class and a multi-handnicapped class of two students who were accompanied by aides. I was even able to set some things up for the afternoon sub before I had to leave. They asked me if I could stay for the afternoon, but I had a prior house-sitting commitment. No dice. It was a real bummer, because I could have used the money.

Lessons Learned:

Find a place to lay down your lesson plans and remember where you put it (bring a neon clip board and clip them to it for visability).

Sometimes, you can have more than one CD with a song on it with the same title, but it turns out they are different songs and the one you thought was the right one is actually, quite wrong. Don't worry, the kids will tell you if you're wrong.

Find out crucial responsibilities and make sure you have the tools you need to get them done properly.

Sometimes you will have to improvise if technology is not available to help you with whole group instruction. You will end up having to repeat yourself a lot.

See if the sub has left a list of reliable students that you can pump for info as needed. If not, single them out quickly.

Be prepared to split a large group between an activity and computers. Give directions before "off you go." LOL

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Language Arts Bystander, A Tale of Two Teachers

Sept. 24, 2009

After my first bad high school experience in the gen. ed. math class, I knew I had to go back the next day as a special ed. teaching sub and possibly face some of the kids from the day before that had made my life so very difficult. I had processed what I could do better next time and I was ready for the next day.

I arrived, (trying not to sweat) and I was asked to first cover a homeroom/beginning of a 9th grade science class during a teacher's IEP meeting, prior to starting my day as a special ed. teacher. I got to talk to the science teacher before she left for her meeting. She had a lesson plan (if not written down) and a seating chart. Good times!

Before the kids got there, I bounced back down to the first floor (from the third floor) to find my classroom. The teacher I am subbing for doesn't have a classroom. She floats. It turns out, I'm team teaching an English class with a regular ed. English teacher in her classroom. (Yay) and she has the plans and is teaching for the day (Woohoo) so I get to observe her and how she handles the kids (Yahoo!).

The kids really didn't seem to respect their female English teacher (talking back, eye rolling) etc. It's general education again! 10th grade this time? They were starting A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. It was fun to be able to sit back and observe rather than having to teach. I got to see how another English teacher introduced a new book, and thought about how I would do it differently. I also got to observe more telling behavior of general education students. They definitely need to be involved/engaged right away and they really whine about taking notes.

Today was my reprieve from yesterday.

Lessons learned:

Teachers in neighboring classrooms can be valuable resources
Kids will do things when your back is turned
Don't allow them to write questionable answers on the board
Don't put paperclips or other things within arms reach where they can steal them
Don't put up with disrespect (students speaking after you've told them not to do something)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sometimes You Gotta Be Self-Taught

Sept. 23, 2009

Sometimes you show up for work as a sub, and you might not even really be needed. I showed up to teach a half-day of HS Social Studies, signed in at the office, got my sub packet, met the teacher and discovered he didn't need a sub. There must be a mistake. He'll call the office. "Sorry, I don't need a sub." Alrighty then. Back to the office I go.

I stay, I file, then I am asked to go to cover a math class, I survive nearly getting eaten alive by three general education math students who don't want to be there. No written lesson plan, no class list and three boys that want to play "Let's be Disobedient." A true recipe for disaster.

I have come to realize that neither of the school districts with which I am employed have any intention of teaching me, a substitute teacher how to use student "write-up forms," how to send special-ed. students to a "resolve room" or how to send general education students to in-school suspension (I.S.S.). I learned most of these terms from a conversation with another teacher.

NONE of these procedures were covered at either of my substitute orientations for either district. It's like they want the kids to eat you alive. Experience is my teacher, and she's one cold, hard (fill in the blank).

I have come to the educated conclusion that I think districts specifically don't want to have a written policy on these things because it could potentially lead to a lawsuit. That's the only logical explanation I can muster. What do you think?

Do you think it would be helpul to train teachers on the appropriate use and availability of such methods of remediation and discipline?

The Blind Trap of Last Minute Coverage


Things I learned from covering for a secondary Math teacher for 45 minutes

Don't agree to cover a high school or middle school class for a teacher for any length of time without being equipped with the following things in place:

1. Knowing what grades the kids are in (the secretary won't always be able to tell you if the school is huge and the special ed. dept. has recently been reorganized)
2. Having a seating chart (you need to know their names, because sometimes a snarky boy might not want to tell you his name)
3. Having a written lesson plan from the teacher (the kids sometimes pretend not to know what they are supposed to be doing, even though the teacher says they know what they are supposed to do with the rest of their time, and the teacher neglects to tell you so you know for sure)
4. Knowing which kids have IEPs in the class and what their accommodations are (who is allowed to stand up at their desk, go to the library, go to see their special ed teacher, do fewer problems etc. If you don't have access to that information, everybody gets frustrated fast. "I HATE subs. They suck!")
5. Knowing the names of their special ed teachers and their phone numbers (so you can call them to tell them you are sending a student to them who says he is allowed to do so. Call ahead to make sure the teacher is there to receive the student)
6. Asking the teacher who your discipline problem kids might be (so you know who to believe and who you need to watch like a hawk)
7. Knowing the name and extension of the nearest teacher to ask for help
8. Having the phone numbers of the nurse, office, and security readily available
9. Having a transfer of power from the teacher who is leaving to the teacher who is taking over and consequences for a poor report. "Class...this is Mrs. so and so. She will be teaching the class for (time period). You are to give her your respect, the same as you would give to me. If she gives me a poor report, writes your name down, you will automatically receive (2) detention(s). Is this understood? Good. Mrs. so and so, the class is yours. Have a great afternoon!"
10. Remembering to have discipline reports at your fingertips and to fill out that sub report at the end of the day (sometimes you aren't given those when you are just covering)

Try and remember that each experience will make you a better teacher for the next class you have. If you choose to learn from your experiences and to look for how you would do things differently the next go 'round, each sub job will be better than the last.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Half-Day of 4th Grade

Getting my feet wet as a teacher with a half-day of fourth grade worked out perfectly! I got to teach a science lesson from the Water unit I taught during my student teaching experience and a math lesson on parallelograms from the math curriculum I had used.

Funniest moment of the day: discussing quadrilaterals with a 4th grade boy. All squares are rhombuses, but rectangles are not rhombuses because their sides are not all the same length.

Scariest moment of the day: realizing that this school had a more complex line up procedure for lunch than I could ever have imagined. The buyers had V cards to swipe for their lunches in the cafeteria, the there were different lunch categories by which they had to be lined up and then the bringers followed them. Together we were to line up and then we had a specific place in line with the other 4th grades that we needed to be in. Fortunately, the kids knew the routine and I had a teacher down the hall to help me to understand the whole process in advance.

Most surprising moment of the day: we got a new student from TN! He showed up with his mom and the principal at our classroom door. Mrs. Boyd, the principal was great! She got him buddied up with another boy in the class who volunteerd to show him the ropes.

Lessons Learned:

Be prepared for the unexpected and be OK with it
The kids will help you with unfamiliar procedures
Other teachers will be there to support you
Make nice with the building secretary, smile big and BE FLEXIBLE

I had a great group of well-behaved kids.

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of Subbing....

I decided to check Aesoponline last night and what did I spy with my little eye, but a special ed. aide job for today. After some debate on whether I should take it (do I want to be an "aide" vs. I really need the money and the exposure) I decided to JUST DO IT.

Right after I decided to do it, Jeff hollered downstairs that some cat had pooped in our bed and covered it up. He found it by laying in it. Good thing it was normal cat poopy and not any other sort. I ran upstairs and cleaned it up and Jeff stripped the bed.

Jeff immediately went on a tirade about it being Pixie's fault (our adopted cat of one year), except he reverted to calling her "that cat!" and talked about the cost effective way of putting her down (.22 to the head) promising that he would make for her a humaine end etc. He went on to describe how he'd never wanted her etc. and how she had been forced upon him.

I decided not to emotionally retaliate and to wait until I had laid out my clothes, and packed my lunch for my first day of subbing to make my move. Wait, it's not what you think!

When we were in fresh bedding and ready to fall asleep, I let him know ever so gently how I felt about him attacking our Pixie. I explained myself in such a way that was not disrespectful to my husband but also in a way that conveyed my sadness at his choice to disown my baby girl. (slap, slap!) That's the sound of me patting myself on the back for not instigating a fight with my spouse.

Flash forward to 4:30 a.m. this morning when I woke up with Hobbes marching all over and around us (in his usual, I'm awake-let's-play manner). I continue to shoo him away in my usual patient manner and THEN...I roll over and put my hand in wetness and I instinctively know, it's cat pee. WTF. It gets better.

This particular patch of wetness is on Jeff's pillow next to his head. There is another equally luscious and stinky patch of cat pee on our comforter in the gap between us. I am now fully awake, and feeling fully justified in assuming that it is HOBBES (my beloved male kitty, and Jeff's golden boy) that has done the dirty deed. I wake Jeff up. He can't put his contacts in for another hour. He is blind and sleepy.

Flash forward again. I have discovered not only the two patches of cat pee on our bed (remember this is the second time in less than 12 hours that we have changed the bedding)but I have also discovered poop on a pile of Jeff's clothes and another scattering of scat on the couch in the livingroom.

Jeff has now stripped the bed again and is now in the basement washing and refilling the cat litter boxes with fresh litter. I'm carrying the cat pee blankets, quilts and sheets down the stairs and beginning to wash them after cleaning up the cat pee, poo AND two newly puked piles of cat bile vomit that I have found in our bedroom- the ever popular place to spew bodily excrement if you're a cat. Yay teamwork!

Long story short, Jeff was able to get the cats appointments with the vet who determined that the problem is behavioral and not due to a physical problem. Wow. Did not see that coming.

Even after the craziness of the early morning I had a great first day in the classroom. I followed a 16-year-old, eighth grade girl with MR around for the day and had a great time. It was a positive experience and I would do it again with a given opportunity.

Yay for teaching! Boo for kitties misbehaving.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

It's Back to School Time

If you're a parent, you're preparing to send your child back to school or perhaps to school for the first time. If you're a teacher, you're preparing to face a new group or groups of children. Preparation.

Getting ready for what comes next. That's what we do if we don't want to feel like the guy who finds himself naked onstage with the task of giving a speach before an unsympathetic audience.

What are you getting prepared to do?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Livin' in La La Land

Have you ever wanted to be 16 again? Have a do-over? What would you do differently? I think that as a 16 year-old I would like to have had more confidence, planned more things with friends (making a more concerted effort to socialize) and I probably would have tried out for a musical or two. Of course, my perception of my sense of self could be pretty warped, you know, hindsight and all of that.

These days, my fantasy land (or La La Land as I like to call it) involves little daydream vignettes where I am a different person, who can do anything she sets her mind to. I politely speak my mind, I have the ability to say "no" and I make household project lists and get things done. Have you met my alter-ego? She's awesome. She always has something witty to say, and knows what to say for every occasion. She's in a word...AMAZING.

Words to describe her: confident, balanced, articulate, intelligent, fun, friendly, loving, good, and oh, one last thing...employed...with a teaching contract. Yeah, that would be awesome.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Another Thing

Another thing that precipitates a change in your circle of friends is a move. This move can take the form of a geographic relocation, a promotion at work, or even a transition from independent living to assisted living in a geriatric care facility.

Soon you're hanging out with new people on a regular basis and you find yourself in a place where you just aren't around the people with whom you normally socialize anymore.

I've got a relative who recently transitioned to assisted living, and she's on a new meal plan, sitting in assigned seating in a new dining room and her social outlet has been changed for her. She can't sit and eat with her group anymore, instead she's eating her meals with another person that doesn't say much of anything at all.

Relocating from one state to another you're newly challenged to find a church family, you have to get to know your neighbors, and make new friends inside and outside of work. If you have kids, you also have to help them adjust: find new childcare, get them enrolled in new schools and they have to make new friends. Oi Vey!

I know how a plant feels when it's been transplanted, shocked out of it's little mind.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Left Behind

It's not just the name of a Christian best-seller. It also pertains to what your life looks like when you're the last one to....(fill in the blank).

When you're still:

...single. Everyone else gets a significant other, you stop getting to hang out with your friends because they're all double or triple dating and they forget you exist. You turn into that extra wheel, the spare that nobody really needs until they get that rare, flat tire.

...childless. Everyone else is off having playdates and getting together to talk about their kids and if you ever get an invite to attend you're stuck listening to all the moms kabitz about thier kids (because "that's where they are [in life] right now."

...unemployed. You have a mortgage, other bills and responsibilities but you still can't get a job, even after spending an obnoxious amount of money on your education. You know you are capable (being the hard-working individual that you are) and you know you should be gainfully employed (student loans are a b!tch), but you just can't catch a break, and you're NOT eligible for unemployment.

Circles of friends change and it can be painful when it happens, but it's a natural part of life. You can't control much in life, unless you have money, and even then you still can't control everything.

I was watching a 60 Minutes show tonight about Los Vegas hotel mogul, Steve Wynn and the man is loaded, but he's also going blind to a childhood disease called retinitis pigmentosa. No one has it perfect, but most of us have it less perfect than others. The powers that be always find a way to crap on your parade.

We can control our behavior and our actions. We can't control circumstances that are beyond us, like never being asked out on a date, or being barren, or not being able to find a job during a recession. These are just some of the circumstances that can bend, break and reshape your circles of friends. Don't be too surprised when it happens to you and don't be mad at your friends if they don't check in on you. They're too caught up in their own drama to notice. After all, it's not all about you, (Thanks Purpose Driven Life guy!).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hard Work

It feels good to be physically tired at the end of a long day of landscaping (and I didn't even start until 11 a.m.). I don't know how professional landscapers do it! Today I helped my friend Dar clear and mulch some of her flower beds and move one wood pile and restack and build up another. It was good, hard work and I'm bushed on the couch to prove it.

Tomorrow should prove the hardest as far as muscle soreness is concerned. For now, I just feel fatigue. I'm making sure to load up on a bit of potassium and sodium as well as drinking more water to stay hydrated. I can't even begin to guess how much water I lost via perspiration throughout the day...but it was alot. TMI?

The good news is, I don't have any fight in me. I'm plumb tuckered out. Jeff could deliver bad news and I'm not sure even an adrenaline rush could oust me from this couch. Thank heaven for laptops, otherwise, I wouldn't have the gumption to share about my day, and then what would we do? ;)

I haven't been this physically tired in quite sometime. It's an amazing feeling! Usually, I'm just mentally tired, but this physical drain is something quite different.

Right now, I'm thankful for friendship, showers and soap, and a comfy couch on which to rest my weary body. Oi!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Kids, or Lack Thereof

This week I had the pleasure of having my sister and my neice come to our house for a visit. My husband and I have had trouble conceiving, so it was fun to have a kid in the house.

I learned that among the patience God gave to Job, it takes constant vigilance and discipline to properly raise a child. I guess I should really say the necessity for supervision and correction were reinforced because I already knew they were needed.

There are alot of lazy parents out there that don't provide proper, CONSISTENT supervision and guidance, but my sister is not one of them. She is among a decreasing number of parents who are perpetually striving to bring their children up the way they should be respect the authority of adults.

*You always have to make children aware that nobody has the right to molest them so that they learn boundaries to avoid being violated, but children should be raised to respect others and themselves.

Young children need to be told what to do, not given multiple choices. Who is the parent!!!? When you are older, you get choices as priviledges when you demonstrate responsibility and reason.

I'm tired of disrespectful, impatient attitudes of entitlement. Children need to learn self-control, discipline, patience, kindness, THE FRUITS OF THE SPRIIT... Virtuous behavior!

Kids Should:

1. Volunteer and learn the importance of helping others and of the concept of community.
2. Tend a vegetable garden, do the work, have patience as it grows, tend the garden, reap the harvest.

Argh. I'm off the soap box and going to bed.

Yes, I still want to be a teacher. Yes, I am prepared to deal with parents and children of parents like this.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We're Going to Casablanca

I love the nightlife. I love to boogie. On the disco.....

I don't know the rest.

What I do know is in a little less than two hours we'll be at Casablanca restaurant in Warrington eating an 8 course meal with our neighbors while watching the bellydancer do her thang.

I'm not as much into the whole belly dancing's a little sensual for my tastes, but the food is fun and so is the atmosphere. AND we have a coupon provided courtesy of our neighbor who by the way invited us to come along tonight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Wogger

Have you ever "wogged"?

Wogging is a hybrid form of walking and jogging. I like to think I made it up. Who knows? Maybe I did.

When you're too out of shape to jog, let alone run, you can wog.

You stretch, you jog, and when you can't jog another step, you walk and catch your breath. Once you can breathe and talk again, you pick up the pace and start jogging again. Hence- the wog.

You should try it sometime. You might eventually graduate to jogging and dare I say, running. Now THERE'S something to think about.


Monday, June 8, 2009

How to Fix the Economy

St. Petersburg Times Newspaper

The Business Section asked readers for ideas on "How Would You Fix the Economy?"

... Read More

"Dear Mr. President,

Please find below my suggestion for fixing America's economy.

Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan:

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. - Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.

2) They MUST buy a new American CAR. Forty mi llion cars ordered - AutoIndustry fixed.

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - HousingCrisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members in Congress and theirconstituents pay their taxes..."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back in the Game

So I went back to work an administrative assistant. It's a good job to be able to fall back on. I'm working at a temp assignment, filling in for an executive administrative assistant and I'm being paid as a receptionist. I'll have to have a little chat with the staffing agency.

"Poltergeist 2" is on the "This" station. It's pretty crazy stuff. Good ole' "Carol Anne" and the guy from "Coach"...Craig T. Nelson. They don't make them like this anymore. I wonder what it would be like to have my house disappear.

So, the cat threw up on the dining room table and on top of all my stuff that was piled there. I assume it was the cat. I only saw the aftermath, but I assume it was Pixie because there was a long black hairball in the pile. Thankfully, I had the plastic tablecloth cover in place, and the surfaces she managed to defile could be wiped clean with a damp papertowel. No harm, no foul.

"This" is advertising a 70's movie called, "Black Mama, White Mama". Ever hear of it? Me neither, but it looks entertaining in a mindless, back-in-the-day kind of way. I'm not sure I have the brain cells to burn at this point. I think I will turn my attention to Aldus Huxley and his brave new world.


Friday, May 22, 2009

So What's It Take to Get Hired in this Town?

The economy is so bad right now, that staffing agencies don't have any administrative jobs. Money is so tight, I am down to looking for a job in retail while I wait for a teaching job to surface. We cannot maintain our current lifestyle unless I work. That is the way of things. Who wants to give up their home? Not me.

Millions of people are doing what we're doing right now...working hard to survive.
To bed. I have had enough for one day.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ESL Picnic

Graduation from Eastern University

May 9, 2009 I officially graduated from Eastern University. I received my program completion letter, my references are in order and my application is in the PAReap system. I've even started applying for teaching jobs.

It is challenging to "get noticed" in this economy, but I enjoy a challenge. How does one successfully distinguish oneself from other candidates? How does one faithfully answer interview questions while showcasing one's strengths? How do you remember something distinct about each school district so that you can mention it in your interview if you are chosen for one?

The art of the interview is a skill to be practiced and perfected over time. I'll keep you posted on how things go. Feel free to share about your experiences!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Keeping Track

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching this particular class has been keeping track of which kids are out for which activities or meetings during the day, then trying to catch them up on what they missed, or hold them accountable for work they forget or neglect to turn in the next day.

You get the ESL/Language assistance group that returns when the social studies/science period is half-over. You have the band kids, the string kids, kids with lessons and kids that visit the school counselor for one-on-one sessions, kids that go out for speech therapy, others for special help.

Deciding on how to keep track of kids is one thing. A second is reminding them to remember their responsibilities, a third thing is keeping track of what you assign, a fourth whether or not they have fulfilled their responsibilities and a fifth, what you’re going to do about it when they don’t follow through!I had a conversation with my co-op today about these things.

She has been keeping track for me because I was struggling to do that and still teach at the same time. I can’t interrupt the flow of instruction to deal with the band kids who were leaving and coming back half way through one lesson and returning during another one.Then you have the kids that are going on vacation during the middle of the school year, for an entire week, and they want their work in advance. That’s my favorite. Remember when we took vacation in the summer?

Now kids go on entire vacations during the school year, and they are somehow allowed to do this. Whatever happened to keeping your kids in school so they can learn?Pulling them out only makes things worse. They miss all that instructional time and then they have work they need to make up…work that can’t be done on the road. What’s a kid to do when they miss math for a week and one concept builds on the next? How do you make that up? You don't.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Checklist. That's a compound word, "checklist."

I just fell asleep in the bathtub and woke myself up snoring. There was no danger of drowning, I had already drained the tub. I just hesitated too long getting out of the tub and fell victim to the sleepies.

I've decided to make myself a list to get my mind on the finish line, with true focus. Make that two checklists: one for now, one for after I graduate. The first will be a list of things I need/want to accomplish over the next two and a half weeks.

1. Finish my portfolio (this is a biggie)
observation reports

2. Be observed by my school principal (ditto)

3. Finish painting the bathroom.

4. Celebrate my birthday with the girls.

5. Throw my Pampered Chef party.

6. Get my hair done.

7. Go get a massage.

8. Graduate.

9. Try and find interim employment after I graduate (hopefully teaching)

10. Get some leads on some jobs.

It's pretty crazy in a fantabulous sort of way. Fantabulous. A new and improved compound word.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Turning 32 in 2

I'll be celebrating my 32nd birthday in just under two days. Yup. The big three, two. 30 plus two.

I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What Works and What Doesn't Work

What Works
Carefully planned and executed, step-by-step instructions.

What Doesn't Work
Assuming your kids know what you're talking about and that they have the knowledge and sense to figure something out instinctively as you go along with a lesson.

What Works
Giving specific praise for specific acts of behavior you see your students doing.

What Doesn't Work
Saying "good job" or another generic compliment that will eventually sound insincere to a student.

What Works
Taking the time to notice and praise the things a student does right and give constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement.

What Doesn't Work
Nagging a child about their weaknesses. Children aren't encouraged by negative forms of criticism that embarrass or tear down.

What Works
Taking the time to give a kid extra help, even if your busy.

What Doesn't Work
Repeatedly putting off remediation and hoping the kid will pick up the skills he needs through Osmosis. Instruction and guidance must be intentional. You don't get in shape by skipping workouts and your children won't perform unless they are properly nurtured and trained.

Cresting the Hill

I'm almost at the top. Like a roller coaster cresting the top of a hill, my arms are up in the air and I'm getting ready to scream like an adrenaline junkie skydiving out of an airplane...

At the end of this experience, I'll be screaming like Mel Gibson's character William Wallace at the end of the movie Braveheart..."FREEDOM!"

I love my placement, my kids and my co-op, not to mention the other teachers at the school, but there is something quite satisfying and even liberating to know that I am reaching the pinnacle of my student teaching experience and that it will only get "easier" from here.

Easy is a relative term, in the eye of the beholder. Yes, my teaching hours will decrease, but my responsibilities haven't lessened, my focus is only shifting from one set of tasks to another. I still have my portfolio to finish, interviews to prepare for and applications to fill out. Oh! And I still have to find a job, but I've decided that I'll cross each of those bridges when I come to them.

I'll all about preparing for the future, but living in the present. If I thought only of what COULD happen, I would miss what IS.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Making a Connection

It doesn't happen everyday, in every lesson, but I figure the longer I do this, the better I'll get at it.

I'm talking about making a connection with my students. I'm talking about watching the light bulb go off in their heads and on their faces. It's an awesome sight when they really grasp a concept you're teaching them and it feels good to know that they now know what they know because of you.

Today was 2nd Picture Day. Kind of like 2nd breakfast, kinda unnecessary (unless you're a hobbit) but fun and interesting to experience none-the-less, if for nothing else than for the free comb.

We were leaving the gym after getting pictures taken and there were some volunteer moms there working the table where the kids go for last minute touch ups to their hair. It also happened to be the table where they hand out the free combs to the kids. You know the kind. Like the one that Fonzarelli carried in his back pocket.

I noticed some of my kids were in the process of going back over to get a comb before they left and didn't have an opportunity to get one before it was time to depart, so on my way out I went up to the table and asked the mom, and the general photo staff within earshot if I could have two of them. The mom told me "Well we don't really have enough" just as the photographer was telling me to "Take five!" So after an awkward moment they got on the same page I was able to leave them with my thanks and me with two combs and I was able to give them to the boys as a souvenir when we got back to the room.

Something that little, made their day. That, and having their teacher go out of her way to do something nice and unexpected, just for them. It was just as great as the "Ah hah!" light bulb face.

Lessons learned:
The hard work of student teaching pays off.
You never know unless you ask the right person.
It's worth it to go out of your way to make other people's day.

Yeah Baby!

Student teaching, prepping for interviews, getting application materials together, housework, keeping up with friends, exercising (well, I've already dropped that ball for the present time), and getting ready for another house party... Yeah BABY!

Yes, I'm tired, but I'm loving being alive and enjoying the blessings that God has given me, because I'm sick of dwelling on what I don't have (kids, wealth, new car, teaching contract, curtains, new furniture, a nice lawn, painted house, finished house projects) etc.

I've lost 20 pounds!
I have an AWESOME student teaching placement at a really great school with wonderful teachers.
I've got an ultra supportive family and fabuloso network of friends (especially girlfriends) who are rallying around me to offer encouragement, pray for me and send cards my way...just when I need them.
I'm about to graduate with my teaching certification and my MA in Education baby! Yeah!

How wonderful!!! I'm also going to be 32 years old in a week. A week from today. I have a wishlist on, I like flowers, my birthstone is a diamond, and I only do well with surprises that are over and done kidnappings...fake or otherwise. Seriously...I fight back. Do NOT consider that a personal challenge.

Thanks for sharing in my joy and for being a reader.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cooperative Learning, How to Foster a Class that Works Together

How do you get 24 children of various ethnicity, backgrounds, ability levels, and social challenges to work together? Don't ask me. I thought YOU knew. I'm in the process of digesting Harry Wong's "The First Days of School." I'm reading his take on Cooperative Learning and I'm interested in what he has to say about how I can foster a teaching environment in which children BLOSSOM and don't feel threatened.

He talks about a global community and of preparing students to live and work within it. He wants to discourage students from competing against each other and get them to focus on competing only against themselves, striving for their own personal bests.

I'm brainstorming ways for them to be able to feel more secure but also about ways to foster personal growth and confidence through self-assessment and metacognition.

Fringe, Sarah Connor Chronicles and Other Jazz

Anyone else like the TV show, "Fringe" on Fox? I'm also diggin' The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Speaking of the Terminator-esque show...the new Terminator movie with Christian Bale is coming out in May!!! Woohoo!

I love sci-fi and future-istic stuff. How 'bout you?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Lesson on Assessment

We've started investigation 2 in our unit on water. To wrap up investigation 1 I had to give an anecdotal assessment in which the kids had to write a letter to some campers who erroneously pitched their tent next to a stream at the bottom of a slope next to a creek when it rained. The kids have to tell them why that wasn't such a hot idea.

The kids didn't have access to a rubric ahead of time. It's because I didn't know that one existed. It's hard when they're getting assessed and they've never been camping and they're magically supposed to apply new concepts after only a short time of exposure to them. I felt bad for not helping them more by telling them that they need to really think about what they know about water and drop some hints. I just thought I was supposed to give it to them and let them show me what they know. Apparently, they still struggle at this age to mine their own mind mines for gold. They still need a conveyor belt to bring it to the surface for them.

Next time, I'll make sure I try and reinforce the concepts learned in the investigations and point out that they will need to make sure to list three reasons plus explanations to score a 4. Today I learned that successful outcomes don't just happen, they are orchestrated by a maestro.

To bring the gold to the surface you have to dig deeper.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Over Their Heads

My Writing Workshop lesson went over their heads this afternoon. Flew over like a jumbo jet landing at JFK. Zoom!

Vocab...even with explanation...over their heads. Concepts, over their heads. Task, over their heads. Then when they were good and numb I gave them an activity in groups that were too big, and they had forgotten the persuasive essay format so they struggled with the activity without explicit directions from me.

Lessons I learned:

Give explicit directions with a procedure including step by step instructions, for a simplified lesson written in language they can all understand and give them a writing prompt that will reinforce a simplistic version of the concept I would normally teach to an older audience. No more than 4 people in a group and each group member should have a role.

If you refer back to a procedure you have taught before, have students take a look at it as you are refering to an example, so they can look for it in the text.

In practicum tonight we learned a new sentence to help us remember how to keep students motivated to learn: Children Feel Really Successful in Kindergarten.

Concern, Level of (set expectations, provide them with a useful reason for the activity, homework, test)
Feeling Tone (rapport with students)
Reward (social, non-social)
Success (students are motivated by successes)
Interest (novelty, sensationalism, movement)
Knowledge of Results (giving students explicit feedback on their behavior when you are giving your praise, tell them what you liked that they did so they are more likely to do it again)


Where I'm AT

Today was a tough day of teaching, but I learned from my mistakes.

My math lesson didn't go as planned. I tried to anticipate things, but until you actually teach some lessons, you just don't know how the kids will respond. Today I learned that you have to be very explicit when giving directions to 4th graders.

Some of them don't know how to work in groups or to work cooperatively with one another, others do. The in-class assignment was to work in your group to measure one wall of the classroom and then to confer with another group that also measured that wall as well to see how close their measurements were. We would meet back together after the kids had an opportunity to measure their wall and all report what we learned before drawing a scale drawing of our corporate findings in our Math Journals.

You have to tell them that they can measure the floor length and width instead of trying to strain to reach the walls. They are very literal.

They have to be told they can use the floor tiles as an assisting measurement device because the tiles are a foot long each.

They have to be reminded that the measuring sticks are meter sticks, not yard sticks and that if they decide to measure in inches or yards they will have to convert the distance to feet because our scale is 1/4 inch on the grid paper to each actual foot that they measure.

They need to be told the exact procedure for deciding how to break up the wall they are assigned to measure, to record the length or width in feet and inches and which group to confer with when they are done to make sure their results are accurate. You may even have to break the room up into sections and assigned each group member a section to measure, or assign each group a section to measure.

Tell the groups that have the walls with the windows or the doors, they need to measure the door or windows themselves and the how to account for the distance between the windows on their grids. You should also address this with the group so when they go to make the drawing, it is accurately reflected in their scale drawing.

You should have a scale drawing of the room set up on an overhead grid so that each group can report back to you and you have a completed illustration to show the group, so that they will know what elements you expect to see on their own grids.

When each group is done measuring...get each group's estimates of their assigned walls and find the median of each set of measurements. Pick whole numbers. Decide how much of the grid paper you will actually need by asking students to compare the length and width of the room, with the actual number of squares you have in the length and width of the grid paper. Our grid paper was 25 x 30 and we only needed 20 x 30. Some students didn't note this on their grids and used the whole paper. Others didn't pay attention when I later noted that they needed to pay attention to the way the sample rough drawing and scale drawing looked in the opposite Math Journal page. They needed to make sure theirs looked like the one in the journal and needed to include similar markings as the one in the journal: i.e. measurements, drawings representing the door and windows, arrows along the side accompanying the measurements in feet.

I have to reteach this one tomorrow to get adequate results from my students. They're not going to like that very well...but live and learn!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Good News....Bad News....

Good News
I'm only 3 pounds away from being within the top of my weight bracket for my height and body composition.

Bad News
I would have accomplished this feat last week when I weighed three pounds less.

That's right, poor eating, lack of exercise, a cold and my period have prompted a record 3 lbs. weight gain in one week.

I only have one week to redeem myself before I put myself on a weight loss sabatical until I finish my student teaching and then get serious about the weight loss again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Plenty for them to Do...

When you it's time for PSSAs, have a plentiful list of things your kids can do on the board when they're done, so they don't experience any idle time.

Have them catch up on unfinished assignments, work on an activity packet, or read independently. Keep'em busy doing something educational. Something your principal would approve of. :)

I Need a Personal Timing Device or at the Very Least, a Lasso

You mean a watch?

I mean a watch or a kitchen timer or something that will alert me when I need to move on to the next thing I'm supposed to be doing. Sometimes I find that I become so engrossed in helping a student with a math problem that I forget it's time to start the day with everyone else. Ah! Time management issues!

Trying to keep the lesson moving and keeping everyone engaged is a challenge because you don't want to leave anyone behind, but you can't hold up the entire class to rope the stragglers. My Co-op has been very helpful in helping me to learn how to keep the group moving, allowing the more accelerated students to keep working, while permitting me to assist the struggling ones on the side. She's shown me how to teach the lesson, explain the work the class should continue to do, and allow the rabbits to move on, while creating a small group to work with the tortoises. Tricks of the trade!

Mindful of my policy to "leave no student behind" I can then take the opportunity to pull some kids aside and perhaps present the material again, or in a different way to help them to understand the concept being taught that day. Most of the time, they'll get it, but sometimes they don't, and you can't expect all of them to get everything that day. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

And some of them STILL just might not get it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Interesting Stat for Teachers

Tonight in practicum class my teacher told me that statistically speaking:

25% of your students will automatically love you
25% of your students will like you but could be persuaded to not like you
25% of your students won't like you but could be persuaded to like you
25% of your students just won't like you...and you can't do anything to change it. That's the way of things.

It makes me wonder, "statistically speaking" of course, which students are in each category. I have my suspicions.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Evidence Surrounds Me

One day, in the very near past I was having a little pitty party stressing out about the future, and I was doing housework because I couldn't sleep. Too much on my mind! So I cleaned out the litter box, did laundry and unloaded the dishwasher. There were a few dishes in the sink, so I decided to wash them by hand. As I'm drying them I notice several dishes that don't belong to me, they belong to my girlfriends.

There's the little ceramic dish that held the stuffed shells from Jynell, "because I know you like them." There's the cake container from Kallie who heard me admire the recipe and decided to bring me a piece.

There are other items around the friends have let me borrow...there's the audio CD set of "Love and Respect" my girl Rachel lent to me so that I could benefit from it's wisdom.

Another time, I received an encouraging card with a handwritten note from Kallie.

Just tonight I got an instant message on FB from my neighbor Michelle who had some dessert tea for me she thought I would like to try!

Michelle W. and I feed the ducks together and talk about what's new with our lives and family. She has me over for coffee and we chat.

My friend Dorothy knows I'm a poor, unemployed grad student and she often picks up the tab at Assous! Then she helps me run it off later.

I'm surrounded by angels and I have much for which I can be thankful:

Kallie, thanks for getting my butt off the couch, the awesome pedicure, the laughter, the encouragement and the godly FB wisdom you share!

Rach, thanks for getting my butt of the couch and for being a weightloss inspiration and example of tenacity in action.

Dor R. thanks for getting my butt of the couch, for caring enough to ask, and for the good times running, meals at Assou's and your listening ears and good advice.

Neighbor Michelle, thanks for your delish dishes and our chats! You really are a sweetie!

I have many girls to thank for the many blessings they give to me. If I didn't mention you in this post, know that I love you and I consider you another jewel of Heaven! I hope I get an opportunity to be a blessing to you as you have been to me. Tis better to give than to receive!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Half-Way There

I've reached THAT milestone. I'm half-way through my student teaching experience. I haven't been this tired since the end of a semester back in undergrad. I feel like I'm falling asleep at the keyboard. If you think of me, say a prayer for me...that I'll "finish strong," drive safely, and meet and even exceed the requirements of my student teaching experience.

Also pray for my relationship with my husband, that I would treat him the way I should (with respect) and not the way I want to treat him out of frustration or impatience. I have to work very hard not to use the "teacher voice" on him. He feels free to tell me I'm using it on him whenever we have a confrontation. I think he just doesn't realize that I've learned to use kinder words during a confrontation...apparently that qualifies as my "teacher voice" instead of as an improved method of conflict resolution. Go figure!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lessons from a 4th Grade Field Trip

We have returned from Harrisburg! "We" meaning myself, three other teachers, various chaperones and about 75 4th graders.

Let me begin by stating that all in all it was a successful field trip. I enjoyed it thoroughly and even learned a few things along the way.

#1. Some parents that said they are coming may send their spouse as a substitute chaperone.

#2. Some students who weren't coming before will change their minds and come.

#3. Vomit splatters down Italian marble steps just like regular steps, only fancier.

#4. Always have your own plastic barf bags on hand, just in case the school nurse sends you on your way without an adequate supply.

#5. Parents sometimes need to be chaperoned. They like to ask you if they have enough time to do this or that just like your kids do. It's kinda funny.

#6. Reminding your kids about their manners allows the message to eventually sink in and it rubs off on them. They learn to behave well in public. People even compliment you on your kids from time to time. It's a good feeling.

#7. Children can be generous too. On the bus, several of the girls came up the aisle after we were on the way home from Chocolate World and presented their pregnant teacher with a onesie from the gift shop that said something to the effect of "I drool for chocolate" with a Hershey bar on it. Super cute.

#8. Drink caffeine on the way home so you're not the teacher who falls asleep and gets his picture taken on the bus with his mouth hanging open.

#9. There will inevitably be a kid in your group who told his parents the wrong time to pick him up, so have your permission slips and emergency numbers ready to go with your cell phone in hand.

#10. The best laid plans of mice and men...sometimes fall apart, so be ready to be flexible!

Supplemental Notes:

Prescreen movies before you show them on a bus trip. Only pick rated G movies.

Arrange your kids and chaperones using a seating chart so there is no question of where they are to be seated or who might be missing at the end of the day or between stops.

Have an itineary to hand to each parent chaperone as well as a map for each place you are going (when you get to each place, hand them a map and remind them of the place and time to meet)

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Week 7 of 15 Starts Monday

Week 7 of 15 starts on Monday, March 2, 2009. Good times. I'm teaching Math, Spelling, Writing Workshop, Read Aloud, and Writing Workshop. In about three weeks, I'll add Science/Social Studies.

I'm working on: my Unit lesson plans for my portfolio, my resume and reference list, and my PA Reap application.

Our fieldtrip to Harrisburg and Chocolate World is this Thursday!

I'll be done with student teaching on May 1~ That's my big day!!! Woohoo!

I threw a dinner party tonight and I'm dog sitting this weekend in addition to writing lesson plans.

I'm still trying to lose weight. I want to be down to around 160 lbs. by graduation in May. I think I can do it. We'll see!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Glancing at the Long Road Ahead...and Feeling Tired Already...

I'm beginning Week Four of student teaching. By Friday, I will have completed over 25% of my student teaching experience. Anybody that says teaching is easy hasn't ever taught, not really. Between lesson planning, classroom management and parent correspondence, not to mention grading, meetings, and journaling about your experiences, teaching is a lot of work.

If you successfully complete your student teaching experience and earn a glowing recommendation from your cooperating teacher and supervising professor, then your job hunting experience begins.

Unless you're departing for the city to teach in Philly, your first goal will probably be to prepare for interviewing and to land a substitute teaching position. If you are lucky enough to land a long term sub position in a good district, then you'll hope to be picked for the first available teaching job that comes available.

The universities that accept you into their certificate programs won't tell you this. I will. That's because I'm living it right now!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Trapped by a Snuggly Cat

I'm enjoying my first Snow Day as a student teacher, and I'm holed up in my house, in my jammies and bathrobe on the couch. I'm stretching out Jeff's new knit Eagles cap on my "huge" head (see the movie, "So I Married an Axe Murderer") and I'm under the most buttery fleecey blanket I own (thanks Ru or was it Beak who gave it to me?). I'm enjoying catching up with friends on Facebook, and contemplating getting dressed and going to shovel my car out of the garage and salting the sidewalks etc.

I say "contemplating" because I'm trapped by a snuggly cat on the couch. He's weasled his way onto my chest and into the folds of my teal colored, terry cloth bathrobe and he's made a nesty-noodle of himself. That's schoon-speak for "nestled into my bathrobe and curled up into a furry ball of relaxed, purring, fur." He's even managed to ooze his paws out onto my wrist. I'll be trapped hear on the couch until I get up the gumption to move, until I have to go to the bathroom, or until the battery on my laptop dies...whichever happens first.

Eventually, I get to shoveling and baking something warm and delicious. Call me if you want to come over and help. I may need an extrication from the couch.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Working Hard

I start teaching Math tomorrow! Yay! Who thought I could get this excited over DIVISION? Ahhh!!!!! We might have a delay tomorrow because of the weather, but I seriously doubt we'll get a snow day.

Life has changed for me. Now I get up between 6:00 and 6:30 a.m. and I'm working until 3:30-4:00 pm at school. Then I come home and write lesson plans! I really enjoy teaching and I love the kids. They are so sweet. I am pretty tired nowadays and I REALLY have to plan ahead of time with my food and exercise.

I'm finally below 185 pounds. I haven't been below 185 for awhile. 25 pounds to go! I'd like to get down to 160-165 lbs. I'm fitting back into my 12s and I'd like to be back into my 10s.

I'm watching The Biggest Loser on TV. That's pretty darn inspirational. It's weigh-in time! I LOVE this part. Gotta go!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Splenda with Fiber

I was watching the tele this morning and Splenda brand no calorie sweetner has introduced a new version of Splenda that includes a gram of fiber in it. Interesting gimmick. If anybody buys this, please let me know how it tastes.

I bought a box of Truvia packets to give it a try because it's supposed to be "all natural." It doesn't taste as good as Splenda. I'm willing to give it away to anyone who wants it (and is willing to pick it up).

That's all I have this morning. Yup. That's about it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Gains and Losses

I only lost about four ounces over the weekend from not eating well and not exercising. Who'd have thought that hummus and one night of chinese food could turn me into a bit of a blimp? Chicken and broccoli bloat my belly. I had to workout extra hard at the gym tonight and now I can't lift my arms.

The good news is, I got measured today and I've lost almost 4 inches! I'm decidedly losing weight from the top down... 1.5 inches alone off my bust. Heh, heh. My waist didn't change. I'm still 31 inches there, but I've lost weight off my arms, legs and hips. Good times.

I have to get ready for bed. I have a cold, and I have to meet Zilla at the gym at 8:15 a.m. Brutal. Tomorrow...tomorrow...I love yah! Tomorrow! You're only a day away!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New Year's Humor

Ole and Sven had really 'packed on the pounds' by over-eating during Christmas and the New Year's Holidays, so their doctor put them on the same diet.

'I want you to eat regularly for 2 days, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for 2 weeks. The next time I see you, you should have lost at least 5 pounds.'

When the Nordski's returned, they shocked their doctor by having lost nearly 25 POUNDS... each!

'Why, that's positively amazing!' the doctor said. 'Did you follow my instructions?'

Then Ole and Sven nodded and said. . . . . . . 'We vant to tell you though, we taut we was gonna drop dead dat 3rd day.'

'From hunger, you mean?'. . . . . . . . . . . . .

'No, yust from all dat durn skippin!'

Monday, January 5, 2009

Wisdom in a Forture Cookie

"Whatever you want to do, do it. There are only so many tomorrows."

Wisdom visited me one time in the guise of a fortune cookie. She told me not to put off the things I've been wanting to do. It's like that Queen Latifah movie "Last Holiday" (which I really enjoy by the way. It's on my wishlist. Hint. Hint.) where the girl who has worked and saved her money her whole life never spending her money on "possibilities" erroneously discovers she has a brain tumor and has a month to live. She decides to spend her savings and do things she wanted to do, but was waiting to do someday.

It's fitting to think about these things as I ponder New Year's resolutions. I think I'll resolve to live life more fully and not put off the personal satisfaction that comes with doing things! There are always boundaries and balance to be kept in doing so, but I think it's time to freaking live a little bit.

For starters, I want to go for a hot air balloon ride. More on this later.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Mammasan Makes a Visit

Mammasan came for a visit this weekend. It was really good to have her here. My Mom is one of my favorite people. I love her so much, it made it hard to say goodbye and watch her drive away... Sniffle. Sniffle.

My Mom is one of my biggest advocates, and she is my friend. She has supported me and nurtured me my entire life and continues to do so. I would not be who I am today without her loving support and steadfast commitment to raising me. Thank you Mom. I love you.