Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eighth Graders are Exhausting!

But I am having a great time so far.  I have been back at school for almost a week now--with students since Thursday, and I have never been so tired!  I suppose that means I am working hard, and that's a good thing.  Over the summer I attended two conferences:  Second Chance Reading and 6+1 Traits of Writing.  I am excited to implement both of these philosophies/techniques into my classroom, in hopes of helping the students be more successful in reading and writing.  So far so good!

A question for my teacher friends:  How do you help a class to be less chatty and more focused?  Right now I have a class that takes about twice as long to get settled down as my other two classes.  Any suggestions/techniques that have worked for you?  I should mention that this is my last class of the day, and they come in right after lunch.  I am willing to try new things!

On a personal/travel note, I was able to go to Kansas City, MO this weekend to visit with some friends from college and to meet Jodi's friend Erin.  We stayed at the Embassy Suites near the Country Club Plaza, and had a great time.  Saturday we went shopping and I found a lot of cute school clothes at Ann Taylor Loft and Gap.  Gap was having a 50% off all women's clothing sale Saturday--how lucky! 

We also tried a lot of new foods and restaurants, one of my favorite things to do while traveling.  For lunch Saturday we went to Blanc Burgers+Bottles, and I tried the Spicy Lentil Burger and the Strawberry Lavendar locally brewed soda.  The soda was excellent!  We all shared truffle fries and Boulevard Pale Ale onion rings.  Later on we visited Cupcake Ala Mode, where they had twenty-two different varieties of cupcakes.  I tried the Puppy Chow Cupcake, and it was as good as it sounds!  We went to Thai Place for dinner where we tried Smoked Salmon Rolls, which were like crab rangoon, but with smoked salmon and in a spring roll wrapper.  I had the spicy basil fried rice for my entree--yum!  For lunch on Sunday we went to The Melting Pot, a fondue restaurant.  We shared a cheese course, which was Wisconsin Trio and Queso Fundido, then all had salads, followed up with a chocolate course.  The chocolate was a dark chocolate with sea salt.  If you have never tried sea salt with sweet flavors, I strongly recommend it.  The two times I have had it, it really made the dish!  (Salted Caramel Gelato in Seattle and the fondue in KC.)

Saturday night we went to Ernie Biggs, a dueling piano bar, and the piano players played all of my favorites--Hall and Oates, Rebecca Black, Black Eyed Peas, etc.  Super fun!  I think there were 5 different bachelorette/bachelor parties there that night!

All in all it's been a busy, fun, crazy couple of weeks!  I am really looking forward to next weekend when Cyclones Football kicks off in Ames against the UNI Panthers, and the rest of the fall!  Thanks for reading and Go Cyclones!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Reading

I have begun to compose a summer reading list, mostly consisting of books in my new curriculum.  I love reading and am always open to new suggestions.  Here's my list so far, feel free to add to it!

Such Nice Kids - Eve Bunting
Legend of Sleepy Hollow - Washington Irving
Cover Up - Jay Bennett
They Cage the Animals at Night - Jennings Burch
Night Hoops - Carl Deuker
Painting the Black - Carl Deuker
Thief of Always - Clive Barker
Night of the Twisters - Ivy Ruckman
Freak the Mighty - Rodman Philbrick
Blackwater - Eve Bunting
Breathing Underwater - Alex Flinn
Breaking Point - Alex Flinn
Forgotten Fire - Adam Bagdasarian

Hello Summer!


Well, another year has come and gone, and we are all in store for some changes!  I apologize for not posting since March, but there are only three of you that may or may not read, so I guess it's probably okay!

I believe I posted earlier that I will be making a job change this year, and I am extremely excited.  I am moving to 8th Grade Reading/Language Arts, completing my two-year grant funded position at the elementary level.  I have really enjoyed my time at the elementary level, my co-workers and my kiddos, but I am excited for something different.  This is my third position in 5 years, and historically I have changed jobs every two years--hopefully this one will stick around for awhile!

Today is our last day of in-service before summer, and because I didn't have an actual classroom, I am entirely packed up and done for the day--at 9 am!  I suppose I will have to keep myself busy for the next three and a half hours!  I will manage, I am sure! ;-)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites

Yesterday, I attended a district wide inservice, and the speaker was Dr. Marcia L. Tate, also known as "The Dendrite Lady."  Now, if you are a teacher, you know that inservices are not always helpful.  A lot of times, inservice training will focus on reading or math achievement, and not all of the employees will be able to use the information presented.  Dr. Tate, however, gave everybody useful information, and was excellent in teaching and presenting.  She actually taught us in the way we should be teaching, not read off of a powerpoint presentation.  Depending on my teaching assignment for next year, I may even buy some of her books!  It was fun, informative, effective, and very useful--in fact, I came back today and used a lesson that I created using her "Brain Compatible Lesson Plan" format.  If you are an educator or parent, and have the opportunity to attend one of Dr. Tate's workshops, don't pass it up!  Here is a link to more information:  Dr. Marcia Tate, Corwin Press Speakers

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Over-medicated Kids!

For those of us who are parents or teachers, we know that there are a lot of kids out there who are over-medicated.  Yes, there are children who genuinely need to be treated for ADD or ADHD, because without medication they can not conduct a normal life, but I would guess that about half of the children that are on medication for these 'conditions' does not need to be.  I just perused an article that was in my RSS Feed from NPR about diet and the connection to ADHD, and I really like where research is headed.  I am a big proponent of how much diet and exercise can effect your life, and here is a strong correlation between the two!  Read the article, Diet and ADHD, and comment!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cool things from this week

The number one cool thing:  my husband's students got another first place, and two individual awards at yesterday's competition!  They work so hard and are really doing a great job, and they are a great group of kids.
Next cool thing:  Yesterday, while traveling to said competition, we listened to Rick Steve's radio program, and he featured a travel writer named Rolf Potts who traveled for six weeks, through twelve countries, with little more than the clothes on his back.  He didn't have any kind of baggage, just a travel coat with a lot of pockets.  He even mentioned that he got rid of things along the way, like his deodorant(!), and laundry detergent.  Don't worry, he found some rock deodorant and used shampoo to wash his clothes.  Here is a link to an article about his travels: "Around the world in just his clothes", and one to Rick Steve's interview:Rick Steves Radio Archive and a link to Rolf Potts's blog: No Bag Challenge.  Another addition to my "dream job" file!

Final cool thing:  While watching CBS Sunday Morning, they featured a story about apps and the rise of smart phones, and included a story about an eleven-year-old who taught himself programming while recovering from surgery.  This boy then created the popular app "iSketch" and subsequently made a good amount of money from selling it on the Apple store.  Instead of keeping all of the money--which no one would have blamed him for--he turned around and donated half of the proceeds ($20,000) to a children's hospital in California!  Very unselfish.  Here's a link to an article from the Huffington Post: iSketch.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Now that's a diet

I just came across this article:  Marathoner on 'McDonald's Diet'.  Now that's what I call a diet!  And really, he is not eating that badly, for McDonald's.  Now, if he were on the Big Macs and Supersized Fries for every meal diet, he would be in trouble!

Times have changed

With yesterday's passage of Wisconsin's end to collective bargaining rights for public employee unions, it is easy to say that yes, in fact, times have changed.  But, this isn't anything new for veteran, experienced teachers:  with every passing year, they can tell you how things have changed, for better or for worse.  Yes, our country and most of the states in our nation are in a budget crisis, and yes, something needs to be done.  Regardless of your political opinion, however, it is not fair to vilify any one group of people.  The following opinion piece was written by a college student at UI (not sure if that is University of Iowa, or University of Illinois, but a student from the midwest, regardless.)  I think she sums up nicely how I have been feeling the past few weeks!  Please comment; I like to read them, even if you don't agree with me! 

Opinion piece about teachers

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Wishin' for Cruisin'

Ahhh winter.  Will you never end?  Lately, I have been wishing for warmer weather (haven't we all?) and looking forward to summer.  The past two years, my husband and I have been lucky enough to get to travel--in December of 2009 we went on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean, and in June of 2010, we got to travel with a good friend out to Washington state to see Seattle and stay with another friend in Spokane.  We had planned a cruise over Christmas break again this past year, but because of family health circumstances, we canceled.

We are hoping to travel again this summer, and are looking at cruising again.  We hope to go with my husband's family, and would really like to do the same itinerary we did last time--Southern Caribbean out of San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We loved our experience last time.  The food was great, the shows were fun, and the weather, of course, was phenomenal.  My favorite thing we did while on the cruise was snorkeling.  The water was so clear, and we got to see a lot of different, amazing fish and reptiles.  The sea turtles were my favorite!  To tide me over, though, I like to visit Cruise Critic.  This site is a collection of message boards, cruise reviews, pictures, etc.  Check it out if you are like me and wishing for warmer weather!
Panorama of a beach in Barbados
Two cruise ships at port
San Juan from aboard the Carnival Victory, at night before departing

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Busy (good!) Day

Today was an extremely long, tiring day, but a fun one!  I got to spend time with my husband and his students at a competition, at which they placed first, saw the movie Rango, which was a lot better than I anticipated, and did a little bit of shopping!  I am looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow, though, that is for sure! 
These little guys were my favorite in Rango--an owl mariachi band!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Minding your p's and q's

We as teachers have to abide by what some people may think of as a double standard.  As educators, we have to maintain a professional demeanor in the public eye, and be careful of how we are presenting ourselves on personal time, even if all laws are abided--for example, being over the age of 21 and attending a wine-tasting where the general public may see you.  I have wanted to have my own blog for some time, but was having a hard time determining the topic(s) I would write about, because I would ultimately be writing about my career.  I know that I have to be cautious and diplomatic in what I post--so don't expect any detailed stories about where I work or the students I work with!  I do like my job, and don't want to have a foot-in-mouth moment that I will come to regret.  Here are several examples of other teachers who have been in the news due to blogs and/or commentary they have made on their own time:

Teacher fired over bumper sticker

School Lunch Blog

Teacher suspended over blog comments

Now, I should clarify, the teacher who blogs about school lunch has not been reprimanded, suspended or fired, but she does mention throughout the blog that she is nervous she will be.  What are your opinions?  Did these teachers deserve the reprimand they received or were worried about, or were they justified in their opinions and their schools overreacted?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Dream Job

I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in sixth grade.  At the end of the school year, my teacher assigned the sixth grade Minnesota History project (since I grew up in Minnesota!) and I hated doing that project.  I told myself then that I would become a teacher, so I could assign my own projects, and they would be so much better than the project we had been given.  Looking back, he was a very talented, veteran teacher, and did everything he was supposed to do for that project--give us choices, allow us to be creative, hit all of the learning styles, etc; I was just an ornery, lazy 12-year-old who thought she knew everything!

With our uncertain economical times, I know that my job will never be safe.  So it has got me thinking:  what would I be if I could have any job at this moment, without having to worry about education level, talent level, location etc.?  I have thought back to before sixth-grade, when I set upon my current path, for ideas:  mermaid princess is pretty unrealistic, I am too shy to be an actress, the professional trumpet player ship has sailed, and lifeguarding doesn't offer insurance.  Something I have wanted to do for a long time, though, could become reality if I worked hard enough at it:  If I had to choose another career path, I would like to be an author of young adult books.  I know that reading for me growing up was a favorite activity, and a great escape, and I would love to provide that for others.  And if it garners me enough money to go cruising a couple of times a year, that would be okay, too!

So, if you had to pick a dream job, what would you pick, and why?  Feel free to throw reality out the window!  I would love to read your comments.
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