Monday, November 28, 2011

Thankful Thoughts & Blessings

Thanksgiving was fabulous....I love counting my blessings. So, here is what I am grateful for this week:
  • texts, emails and phone calls from my kiddos
  • an awesome class of students
  • hugs from my grandbugs
  • great friends
  • shopping, talking, and planning with my daughter
  • emails from mom
  • Honeycrisp apples
  • going out to eat
  • amazingly talented, gifted kids
  • Rosa's green salsa and salad
  • my Shelli-dog - how I miss you girl!
  • my new school
  • new friendships
  • the smell of a bookstore
  • new smaller jeans
  • my siblings and their spouses
  • books in the mail
  • Diet Coke & Diet Dr. Pepper
  • Book Groups
  • my waterbed
  • in-laws
  • football season
  • Eegee's fries with a side of ranch
  • the BIG TV
  • Christmas catalogs
  • our car
  • my parents
  • a great family
  • goldfish crackers
  • old friends
  • memories...
  • family pictures
  • water
  • back scratches
  • a good night's sleep
  • days with no responsibilities
  • The Poisoned Pen & Changing Hands
  • the warmth of the sun
  • the day off - heck, DAYS off!
  • laughter
  • my books
  • Pandora One radio
  • trips with Rich - anywhere!!
and, last but not least, my partner in crime, my bff, my eternal companion and total bud--Rich!!

I love November and the feeling of gratitude.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Paper Bag Christmas
by Kevin Alan Milne

It's that time of year again...when I pull out a feel-good holiday book.
This one definitely fit that bill AND it's an upcoming Book Group read.
(Two birds with one stone - wahoo!!)
Okay, the book was a tiny bit cheesy in places but it was worth it!! It's a book you can read while cuddling up with a cup of cocoa or while waiting at school for your husband!!
I'm not upset at all...
(It was great to have this little story tucked in amongst my papers to grade.)
The story moved quickly and added a few new twists on the traditional Christmas-feel-good.

Brothers Aaron and Molar are understandably preoccupied with the material side of Christmas, until they meet Dr. Ringle, a shopping mall Santa who is also a doctor at a local children's cancer ward. Dr. Ringle encourages them to volunteer at the ward from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and especially encourages their friendship with two children: recalcitrant and angry Katrina, whose postsurgical scarring leaves her afraid to be seen without a paper bag on her head, and effusively optimistic Madhu, who does not understand the story of Christmas. The story is unexpectedly heartwarming, and Milne mostly avoids sap while delivering his warm fuzzies and dashes of Christmas hope and magic.
(Publisher's Weekly)

Try'll like it! make it through tomorrow at school and then we're off...
to spend Thanksgiving with the whole family!!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire:
The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56
by Rafe Esquith

When one of my colleagues at the district shared this book recently I headed off to the library to check it out. I thought the author stole my title, I've been telling people that I feel like I'm "running with my hair on fire" since I moved to a new school and a new grade, but this author really DOES teach WITH his hair on fire!!

Rafe Esquith teaches in Los Angeles in an inner city school where poverty affects 95% of his school and class (me too!) He teaches immigrant children in 5th grade and has them performing Shakespeare, Vivaldi, and algebra - around the world! Mr Esquith has been the recipient of numerous awards and has been awarded the President's National Medal of Arts. Wow!!

Mr. Esquith pours himself into his job with passion. School instruction starts for him at 6:30 am when students arrive for extra-curricular work and help. The day doesn't end until late afternoon - Shakespeare class, history and civics account for after-school hours. Yet it's this passion for teaching that engaged me from the start. Every moment was a teaching moment and I was able to spark new ideas for my classroom as I read about his. Rafe Esquith seemed to be hoping for such a thing to happen as he refers to his book as "a cookbook for teaching in an urban classroom." Now that's the way I like to cook - read about it, change up the ingredients and personalize it a little!

This book is highly readable, full of practical ideas and even parenting skills, because teachers know that a good portion of teaching is parenting too!! (Or at least teaching the parents!)

I really enjoyed the preface where Mr. Esquith commented on how he came up with the title for his book...

"I was fortunate to have a ridiculous moment in the classroom that literally lit my way out of the darkness. Years ago, feeling tired and frustrated, I spent a few weeks searching my soul and did something I rarely do—I questioned whether teaching was worth it anymore. A combination of the aforementioned demons had beaten me down, and I was practically down for the count.

But for some reason, when I was guilty of feeling sorry for myself, I spent a day paying extra attention to a kid in class whom I liked very much. She was one of those kids who always seem to be the last one picked for the team, a quiet girl who appeared to have accepted the idea that she could never be special. I was determined to convince her that she was wrong.

I was teaching a chemistry lesson, and the students were excited about working with alcohol lamps. But the girl couldn't get her wick to burn. The rest of the class wanted to move on with their projects, but I told everyone to wait. I was not going to leave her behind, even after she told me to continue with the others and not worry about her.

Normally I do not interfere with science projects, because failure can be part of the learning process. Yet this was simply a matter of faulty equipment; it had nothing to do with the chemical principle we were exploring that morning. I needed to step in. The girl had tears in her eyes, and I felt ashamed of myself for ever having felt like giving up. Suddenly her sadness was all that mattered.

Athletes often refer to getting "into the zone" when they forget about the crowd and the pressure and see only the ball. It can happen in other fields too. For that one moment, the only thing that mattered to me was that this girl should have a successful experiment. She was going to go home that day with a smile on her face. I bent closely over the wick of her alcohol lamp. For some reason the wick was not as long as it should have been—I could barely see it. I leaned as close as I could, and with a long kitchen match tried to reach it. I was so close to the match that I could feel the flame as I tried to ignite the lamp. I was determined to get the lamp working. And it started working! The wick caught fire, and I looked up triumphantly to see the smile I expected on the girl's face.

Instead, she took one look at me and began screaming in fear. Other kids started yelling as well. I did not understand why they were all pointing at me, until I realized that while I was lighting the lamp, the flame had touched my hair; it was now smoldering and scaring the hell out of the children. Several of them ran to me and swiped at my head. Talk about a dream come true—they got to hit their teacher on the head and say they were trying to help him.

A few minutes later, all was well and the experiment pro-ceeded. I felt (and looked) like an idiot. And yet for the first time in weeks, I felt great about being a teacher. I had been able to ignore the crap that all teachers on the front lines face. I had done everything I could to help someone. I didn't do it particularly well, but the effort was there. I thought to myself that if I could care so much about teaching that I didn't even realize my hair was burning, I was moving in the right direction. From that moment, I resolved to always teach like my hair was on fire."

Inspiration. Ideas. Encouragement. I liked it so much I went out and bought my own copy!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

New Motto .... for the weeks ahead!

I started accepting the inevitable. The fact that the holidays are just around the corner. In light of them and the upcoming chaos that is school, report cards and Christmas I've decided to adopt this motto!! It shall be my mantra....

Breathe in, breathe out,
grade a little.
Breathe in, breathe out,
shop a little.
Breathe in, breathe out,
grade a little,
Breathe in, breathe out,
shop a little.

You get the picture.
Of course I left out decorate, bake, wrap, mail, etc...

Gosh, maybe I should just adopt this motto -

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thank You!

Thank You!!!

To all those who served and serve still....
Thank you for your sacrifice and service.

We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. ~Cynthia Ozick

How true!
thank yo
thank you, Dad,
thank you, Dean,
thank you, son #2
thank you, Air
man (son #3)

I firmly believe that "s
ilent gratitude isn't much use to anyone." So I'm saying a BIG thank you!