Thursday, December 8, 2011

[Student Story] I Loves Me My Kiddos

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that I haven't been posting, but I feel the need to say... I haven't been posting.

Some caped-crusader-kryptonite found its way around the cape, and I've been trying to get my senses back. With that in mind, I must say that my little poo-muffins are the best healers in the world. What truly incredible power-houses of perseverance, resilience, and character these kiddos are. I have sticky notes (read here for previous discussion of my penchant for the sticky note) all over my desk with quotes and stories that I must share with you one day.  I will.

Some future posts that I will tell myself you are looking forward to....

--The Guy at the Coffee Shop (again)
--Dead Word Walking
--Book Review: Graceling
--The Maury Quote
--Why Boys Aren't Allowed the Crochet
--How You Know There is a Yeti Around
--More Hope is the Thing With Feathers poems

Peace Out!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

[Quote of the Week] Quote of the Week #20

B:  We should come up with a nickname for Boss.
Me:  Like what?  Boss is pretty short.
B:  How about Boss with one S?

Friday, October 28, 2011

[NBPTS] Can I Get a Fist Pump?

As of this morning, I officially renewed my National Board Certification.  I am now a Nationally Certified Teacher through 11/22/2022.  In case you are wondering, I will also use this as proof that I am, indeed, a Super Teacher. 

Congratulations to all of you 2011 NBPTS Renewals!

For more information about National Certification and NBPTS, go here and here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Friday Free Day] NPR--rrific

It is no secret, I am a public radio nerd.  I listen to my local NPR station to and from work most days, and on road trips.  I learn something new on a weekly basis--probably more, but I try not to exaggerate other than for means of literary hyperbole.  I often leave myself short voice notes or typed notes (illegally) to remember what I've heard (examples here and here and here and here).

This week I heard about two things that struck my fancy.

Cool Thing #1 Foldit--Solve Puzzles for Science

I heard about it once before, and forgot to leave myself a note.  The other day I remembered.  I am no scientist, but here is my version of what this "game" does:

Some muckety-muck scientists at the University of Washington created a game out of unfolding proteins.  My understanding is that proteins are folded up in some grand scientific way, and unfolding them leads to breakthroughs for curing illness and solving problems.  How that works is a mystery to me and will remain so.  A less simple, perhaps better explanation of that can be found here.  Either way, the smarty-pants scientists made a game out of unfolding proteins and all the gaming geeks in the world are solving protein problems galore.  Here's a video:

If you are like me in any small way, this video little other than show what the game is about.  What I understand is that unfolding these proteins leads to cures for things like Parkinson and Alzheimer and stuff.  Simplistic explanation, I know, but cool. For more info, try this.

Cool Thing #2    Super Better

This isn't completely up and running for the public yet, but here is a blog that describes one users experience.  It sounds like it is a game structured like a social media site.  You use the site to achieve personal goals. The description was intriguing, but not altogether clear.  I requested access to the "sneak preview" so we'll see what happens!

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

[Teaching Art] Describing Chi

Yesterday I tried to start an art study on Chinese Calligraphy. As the turkey-butts would say, it was an epic fail. Middle school turkey butts are so very very literal, that they just weren't getting the... the... zen of the whole thing (maybe because "zen" is Japanese in origin?).  I knew that if I set them to work on calligraphy today, they would struggle, and shoot for perfection, and come up with passable pieces. I got into my tiny little head though, that I wanted them understand the concept of calligraphy as art. I wanted them to feel the chi, tap into the tao, think like Confucius. 
I heard about water calligraphy, but did not have any handy water calligraphy sets or access to a place to do water calligraphy (as we are not allowed outside of the fence until the neighboring school has gone home--more on that when I'm not pissy about it).  I also wanted to add a sensory element to the experience.  Enter... my super power of coming up with strange ideas at the drop of a hat....
I created four stations.  Each station had a large tray with a different substance on it.  The turkey-butts went around to each station (while I played interesting music), and... well... played in it.  

Dish Soap

Shaving Cream



After they tried each station, I gave them trays of their favorite medium and asked them to create a piece of art.

Then, I put five minutes on the clock, gave them white board markers, and had them write about it.  The little chi-brains went right to it.

Tomorrow I'll see how it goes with some actual calligraphy. We shall see if this goofy idea translates into some learning.

*NOTE--Yes, I teach art.  No, I am not an "art teacher."  I send my sincerest apologies to the art teachers in the world for attempting to teach it.  BUT, my turtle-doves NEED art in their lives, and there isn't anyone else to do it. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

[Vocabulary] A Distinguished Set of Explicit Words Guaranteed to Make You Guffaw

A very smart, very talented lady gave me this idea this Summer (Thank You to Mrs. R!) as a way to develop vocabulary skills. She is a word-lover from way back, and was able to cultivate this same passion in her kiddos by using something as simple as vocabulary cards. "Vocabulary cards?!?" you say?  Yes, vocabulary cards.  I would then say "not just any vocabulary cards," but I would be lying.  They kind of were any vocabulary cards.  The key is in how she incorporated them into her classroom.

I, of course, copied her. I didn't have any vocabulary cards, nor did my librarian, nor did my favorite used teacher-supply website. I did, however, have a binder full of magazine photos I had been gathering for...  hm... say 15 years?  Viola!  Vocabulary cards!

Following the structure taught to me by the fab-o Mrs. R, I present a new word by asking the schmoopies what they see in the picture. They eventually come around to an understanding of the word. Then we call on the Man on the White Horse to tell us the part of speech, keep track of antonyms and synonyms as they come up, and then each schmoopie writes a sentence to go on the back of the card. We agree on a non-verbal signal for the word (a motion or hand sign) and then we add it to our writing notebooks as a writing tool.  Once a new word has been welcomed, the kiddos are on the hunt.  They are starting to take pleasure in using the words in conversation, in their journal writing, and telling us about places they have seen or heard the words at home or on TV.  They have a smaller version of the word-lover sparkle I get when I learn something new.  I'm hoping this word-lover-sparkle grows over time.  To all of my wordie friends out there--I've got some new recruits!

Here are some of the card sets we've made this year.

As is typical for the schmoopies, they have made this their own protocol.  They are bringing in magazine pictures to use, and are offering up ideas for new words as they stumble upon them.  I'm forever delighted at their eagerness to learn and to be academic.  For many of them, prior to coming to our program they were identified by what they did not know, did not have, or could not do.  They are tickled pink to be identified by what they know or can do.  They run with it.  They teach me every day.

And another shout-out to the SDAWP SI for providing the place for me to learn this!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

[Student Work] City Things

When asked to list 5-10 things they would put into a city they created, the pumpkin-heads came up with this:

A. --The Eclectic List
1. Skyscrapers
2. Trampoline for fun and to stay in shape.
3. Mexican food
4. A gym
5. Mall
6. Boxing arena
7. Houses
8. Garden
9. grocerie store
10. Buisnesses

D.--The Don't-Forget-the-Obvious List
1. stores
2. parks
3. houses
4. clothes
5. trees
6. sky
7. stars
8. birds
9. people
10. schools
11. cars
12. superheroes

M.--The I'm-Going-to-Have-the-Best -Freakin'-City-in-the-World List
1. underwater buildings and above water houses
2. a dinosaur real ones exibit in miniture form:)
3. no superheros except me.
5.anti gravity skateboards
6.a new facebook called face space
7.a jeanie just for me 3 wishes
8. the stuff that powers iron man as bullets for the military can never die till you want to and can change your age 10 times in your life
10.only a certain amount of people in my city so it wont get to crouded

A #2.--The No-Nonsense List
1. townhall
2. police station
3. post office
4. car wash
5. grocery store
6. trash place
7. recycle center
8. apartments
9. houses
10. condos

Loves me my Punkin' Heads!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

[Quote of the Week] Leaning Pizza

The Scene: Journal-writing time.  The schmoopies are all writing.  In fact, they all started writing early--before the bell rang (!!!).  Schmoopie T. has a question.  Typically, there is no question-asking or question-answering during writing time, but since they started early I oblige...

T: Um, does the Tower of Pisa lean?
Me: Well, yes.
T: Okay... so... is it called the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
Me: Yes it is.
T:  Thanks (starts writing)

Why does this make the Quote of the Week?  Let's break it down.  I infer from the question that T. is intending to use a reference to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in his writing.  I also know that T. knows parts of things, has heard things, and is trying to put it together. He doesn't have very much mental stimulation going on at home,* and has to figure these things out himself or at school.  My guess here is that he knew there was something with a name similar to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  He wasn't positive that the word was "leaning", so he organized his questions to check his facts.  I LOVE it.

I'm not going to be sad that in his writing he spelled it Leaning Tower of Pizza, because A).  That's cute, B). I know what he meant to do, and C). He used it SO well!  The line he used is excellent!  It's posted in his journal entries here, and quoted for your perusal below.

"...I was trying to run away but he ramed me and stood over me like the Leaning Tower of Pizza, grunting like a pig, and staring deep into my soul."

Rock on T.  Keep asking questions and getting the information you need!

*Note--In the most positive way I can say it, I was blessed with a family that was intelligent and valued literacy, conversation, and thought.  Many of my lovies don't have this in their lives.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

[Student Writing] Journal Excerpts

I posted yesterday about my students and their journal writing.  I asked permission to share some of the entries.  I'll show a series for each author to show the change over the last four weeks of writing. I'll also transcribe exactly--including errors, run-ons, etc.:

Yesterday when i got home I watched my brother pay his PS3 he was playing dead Rising 2 when he was done I played and of course I played blackops I was doing goog I had 4 kills and 28 deaths and I was sniping with the L9641 I played until I had to go to bed and when I went to bed I was watching deadliest warrior It was the IRA V.S. The Taliban The IRA won. 

Yesterday When I got home I stared at my Pet scoripon I still don't know what to name him Pablo? no maybe I need to think harder about my tannish brown scorpian. moving on I also thought about making a World of Warcraft account maybe I'll be able to play with A. and A. hm sounds like fun I also went to the beach around 8 and cought sand crabs or whatever those Things are called I go thome Around 2 or 3 I was dead tired I had a bunch of sand crabs.

[Location] [Date] [School Name]
The outbreak has already begun They've taken everybody I'd ever loved The only surviving are me, myself, and I I'm rumaging through the trash tryint to find useful tools Then I see a zombie down the road I automaticly turn in the stealth mode and hide and wait for him to pass. As soon as he passes I head down the road then I find a safe house I'm not taking any chances I keep heading forward I see a waepon shop I grab a baseball bat and spike it up Then I move on Then I hear a group of zombies scream but then again they see me and sprinting towards me like a pack of ravenous dogs...

Chapter 4: RAM
Theres a zombie that is wearing a straight jacket he sounds like a horse in dispair he tries to ram me but he misses I was trying to run away but he ramed me and stood over me like the Leaning Tower of Pizza, grunting like a pig, and staring deep into my soul. he turns around and I quicly get up and kill him he falls like the Twin Towers.

My summer was Hot I was in mexicali

Me and my firends say a abandon house so we turn it to our club house. At nigh we heard a scream. we ran in to cheek but no body was their but a doll. My friend picked it up and someone is pulling a prank, we looke for a stereo, but nothing was theer but that doll...

Tic tock
Pit Pat
tic tock tick tock
I am bored so I will play with my dog pit pat pit pat
The rains starts, in my mind I think is time slow
the clock is still 8:15 am tic tock tic tock its still 8:15 am

I have a game called Star wars Knights of the Old republic its the same game as star wars the old republic just the first game in the saga so I sujest you play that game

This morning was crazy first I almost over sleep lucky my mom woke me up. Than i go to take a shower and theres a spider in there and I'm afaird of spiders so I half to use my mom's shower. Than I went to make hot choclate and It was the kind where you use milk instead of water. Yuck I used water instead. Than i went to make it with milk and i end up not putting enough choclate into my milk so i end up putting 6 teaspoons into my milk for it to be good.  Than I come to school and find out no badges or computers.

I am the spider in A.'s bathtub moohaha! He shall never take a shower and wills tink for eternity.  If he tries to walk in I will bite him and he will die. If he tries to step on me I will bite him and he will die. If he trys to shoot me with a bb gun I will dodge it. If he gets a family or friend to try to kill me I will get my spider friends outside to bite them.

I think you can see some of the growth.  There is some loosening up, some more advanced vocabulary.  Slightly fewer run-ons (we'll be working on that), and some imaginative thinking.  I'm loving reading these, and they're enjoying writing!

Yeay for the turkey-butts!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

[Teaching Tips] What I Used to Know

I re-learned something I think I knew once. Journal-writing is good. Systematic sustained writing on a daily basis improves writing.  It just does.  I'm not going to look up the proof for this, * I'm just going to state it as a fact--in order to improve your writing you must write.

Over the last five years or so, I've let go of journal writing in my classroom. I became tired of fighting my kiddo's aversion to writing, tired of coming up with creative and thoughtful writing prompts, and, I'm sad to say, tired of reading the garbage that came out of  the writing I was assigning. It's a shame, to be sure, but I'm willing to admit it because I'm fairly certain I'm not the only one. My unnecessary and trite writing prompts were instigating unnecessary and trite writing responses.  They didn't want to write it, and I didn't want to read it. We were all miserable, and I let it slowly fall away.

This summer, at the SDAWP Summer Institute (that I have and will mention multitudinous times), we were required to write for 15 minutes at the beginning of each day. At 8:00 A.M. exactly ( I know this because I was spoken to about being late on a couple of occasions), the music was switched on and writing time commenced.  If someone talked, they were shushed, if someone was late to arrive they were expected to jump in and begin writing post-haste. EVERYONE wrote--leaders and students alike. And you know what?  My writing improved.  Yup.  It totally did.

Fast forward to the Super School Year of 2011. I've established the same procedure for my homeroom class.  They come in at 8:45 A.M., the music is on, and we all begin to write. We write for 10 or so minutes (I have a sneaky plan to increase this) and then one or two lovies share their writing. If the phone rings, or someone comes in, I ask them to wait--it's writing time. No matter how much I need to get done before class begins, I take out my journal and we all write. 

We've now been writing for four weeks. Here is my anecdotal evidence that it's working:
  • Last Tuesday, after a long weekend, I couldn't get them to stop writing at the end of the 10 minutes. They felt like they had too much to "say" to stop writing after only 10  minutes.
  • Their writing has gone from short narrative paragraphs to 1-2 page explorations of writing (for the most part).
  • The lovies are using our new vocabulary words and writing tricks in their journals (more on those topics to come).
  • A. came in on Monday morning and said "I had such a  great weekend, but I'm going to write about it today so I won't spoil it for you."
  • Last week one of the lovies that is writing an on-going story (about a zombie apocalypse, mind you), didn't have time to share before they had to go get their breakfast.  When they got back with their breakfast pastries and juice he said "do you want me to share now?"  There was a chorus of yeahs and of-courses and they all sat quietly, eating their muffins, listening to him read. 
  •  My students came in early for class today and started writing FIVE MINUTES BEFORE the bell.  
I'm tickled pink with their willingness, their growth, and their potential.  Who knew it was just a matter of writing every day? Oh... wait... I did.  But then I forgot.  Thank goodness for remembering!

*NOTE--Those of you that know me know that I DID try to look it up. I couldn't find what I wanted, so I am trying to let it be.  If you find anything, help a sister out and let me know!

Friday, August 26, 2011

[Friday Free Day] The Man at the Coffee Shop

There is a man that goes to my neighborhood coffee shop. He is quite elderly. He is either bilingual or has a difficult time speaking. I think it might be both--a mix of a stroke and stilted English.  He is there nearly every weekday morning that I am. Lately, he has been at the counter at about the same time. The manager, who is often working at that time, knows him by name (as she does many of us), and knows what he orders. He still orders it though. And then shoves his money at her.

He shoves it because she won't take it. He waves it at her. He yells something that sounds like he wants her to take it. Today he said what pretty clearly sounded like "you come here right now."  And she said "nope." I think he stomped his feet after that. From what I can understand by this daily ritual/argument is that this gentleman has been buying his latte and breakfast pastry every morning for so long that he has racked up a truck-load of buy-10-get-one-free coffees.  I think I heard her say 200 at last count.  No joke. She told someone that he refuses to take the free ones. 

As I drove away today I was wondering if he really-truly wants to pay, or if it is the interaction he wants. The manager is good with people. She is great at her job. She seems to know what he needs. I was just wondering if paying for his coffee is something he needs to do. Either from a sense of ritual, or from a sense of responsibility, or maybe he likes to help the small business out. Or maybe he likes the game. Sometimes he tricks her into taking it.  Sometimes he gets another employee to take it.  I wonder if he has ever put it in the tip jar or just left it on the counter.

I noticed today that it was only $2 he was waving around. That's probably less than half the cost of what he ordered.  This could mean a few things.  Maybe he is broke and only has $2 and that's why the manager refuses him? Maybe he realizes he's racked up a treasure trove of free coffees and was only paying for his pastry? Maybe he doesn't realize it costs more these days?

Either way, I thought about it all the way to work today.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

[Tech Tip] The Storybirds Are Flying

Earlier this week I told you about something I was going to try in my classroom--Storybirds.

Well my caped friends, the birds they are a-flyin'. As the lovies finish their stories I'll add them to the Student Story Bird page on this blog. In the meantime, here are two that made me smile or laugh out loud--both from the author's humor and with joy at their learning. The writing mechanics are a little dicey, but remember that this is one week into the school year, and these are EXTREMELY reluctant writers. I am tickled lime green and purple that my lovies showed voice, used ideas from our mentor texts, and played around with text forms. They took pride in editing (although they had trouble staying focused on the task for ALL of their pages), and were even more excited to share their work with the class. Their classmates (remember--kids kicked out of other schools) clapped and cheered and pointed out the text devices the authors used.

"Hey that's a hyphenated whatchamacallit like we saw yesterday!"
"Did you see that figurative language?"
"I like the word nemesis!"
"He used an ellipse!"

To put it simply, I am sparkling proud of my little dumpling heads for their work.

Presenting... The Animals of the Forest by T.

Presenting...Hide and Seek by A. 

Wanta try it?  Go here!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

[Teacher Prep] Super-rific

Earlier this summer I was struck by a piece of brilliance. No jokes please....

I was watching the new Green Lantern movie and learning, for the first time, about the story of the Green Lanterns. Have you heard it?  I will 'splain. No. There is too much. I will sum up...

There are tons of Green Lanterns in the universe. Maybe not tons, but the movie showed a lot of them. They each have a "power ring" that is feed by strength of will. In fact, in the place where the green lanterns hang out there was a big swirling pot of "will" to feed the rings.* The lanterns have something to do with it, too. The point is, the true power of the Green Lanterns is their own strength and will. Cool huh?

Now, in the movie, their greatest enemy is Parallax. This turns out to be extra cool because it is a math term that I barely understand. The villain Parallax, according to Wikipedia, is the 92nd Greatest Villain of All Time. A dubious distinction to say the least. Or the most. Parallax has a variety of stories to his name, but the movie focused on the fact that his power comes from fear--the mortal enemy of strength of will. Fear limits our strength. We have to fight it by understanding not only our strength, but the fear as well. Deep stuff.

Where's the brilliance, you ask? I realized during the movie that my little lovies need to be Green Lanterns, and that Parallax is their greatest enemy (not their 92nd). I realized how damn cool superheroes are, and I decided to go hog-wild with them this school year.  Different superheroes have been assigned as mascot to different areas of my classroom.  

Green Lantern--Writing
Rogue from X-Men--Reading (more on that later)
Superman--Super Tricks for writing
Wonder Woman--Wonder Words for vocabulary
Wolverine from X-Men--the time away area or the  I-need-a-break-because-I'm-pissy area.
Thor--Thor's Hammer of Grammar
Captain America--I'm not sure yet, but he may be riding along with The Man on the White Horse.
Ironman--I don't know yet, but he's cool.  

As I write this, it sounds like it's too young for my students, but it is actually manifesting quite nicely. On the first day of school we used the superhero emblems as our mentor texts.*  We created a list of what kinds of things we learned from the similarities and differences of the symbols. We talked about color, symbology (yes, a word), origins--lots of stuff.  Then we each made our own superhero symbols. Next we are going to use the characters themselves as our mentor "texts" and create superheroes. This will lead into a study of graphic novels and the writing of graphic novels.  See where this is going?  We also have a world of villains to learn about!

I needed a little boost of energy this year, and the superhero theme has done it. It goes quite nicely with my whole teachers-as-cape-wearing-superheroes thing, and the kiddos are totally buying into it.  I can just feel it.   This year is going to be... super.  Yeah, I went there.

*Note--I read up on it and it's called the Central Battery on the Planet Oa watched over by the Guardians of the Universe.  Link here if you'd like to get similarly geeky.

*Note--A mentor text is a text that is used as an example of quality writing.  I am using the term "text" loosely here.  For more information about mentor texts either click here or keep following this blog since I'll be bending your ear about it all year.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

[Tech Tip] Storybird

I discovered this link today while on a teacher networking site called Edmodo (more on that later).  I'm still playing around with it, but will absolutely be using it this week.  I'm going to use it in art class though, and sneak the writing in.  Bwahahahaha.

From what I can tell so far, the site uses art collections by various artists.  I don't recognize the names, but there are short bios for each.  You use the collection of art to create a story--kind of a mix between a photo book and a postcard collection.

One issue  I see is that to print--either in a book or even as a PDF--there is a charge.  While I appreciate the site's need to sustain itself, $2 (a PDF is $1.99)  is a lot these days.  I'm hoping they send me some "free printing" deals.  I'm certain there are ways around the paid printing, but I'd like to respect the site and the legal issues of printing, ya know?  On the plus side, printing just wastes trees.  We can just have virtual books, right?

I'll share more as the stories get created! I started a story about a kid who flies. I think I can embed it below, but it looks like it might be slow to load.  Warning, I wrote this in five minutes. It's... how shall I say... lame-ish.

Fighting Dragons on Storybird

Saturday, August 20, 2011

[Book Review] Not Really...

I will tell you up front that this is, in part, a smoke screen.  I have been staring at the "new post" page for more than two days* and don't know where to start. This happened last year too.  So, I am posting this to entertain you while I come up with a clear thought. I think it's cool, and will use it, but I understand it doesn't count as a pithy post. Forgiveness, please.

*Note--Full disclosure... I haven't been staring at the actual screen for two days. I have looked at the screen periodically a few times over the course of the last few days. I have, in fact, been teaching my arse off. It's been good, I just have no words yet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Re-Post] First Day Thoughts

I am quite certain I will have a new set of first day thoughts to share, but in the meantime I will shamelessly re-post from last year.  I feel like this captures the first day for me.

Originally posted August 17, 2010...

Amid the hurley-burley of the new school year each little Lovie shakes out their feathers, stands up on their wobbly legs and knobby knees, and begins to explore their newest nest.   We watch them.  Let them try out their squawks and their chirps.  Let them tear through the day or tiptoe.  Let them push away our attempts to connect or to teach, or both.  Let them stand closer, move further away, and stand closer again.

All of the Lovies have come despite the fact that our school buses were cut from the budget.  Many are walking, some are on public transportation, and many parents have moved their schedules around to get them here.  We've tracked down bus passes for the poverty-stricken families, and researched bus routes for the less able.  They are here though, and hoping to stay.

We assess them, ask questions, try to learn about what they need, what they bring to us, and what they hope to take with them when they go.  Some are bigger versions of themselves these first few days.  Louder, more forceful, more likely to be the smart ass or to argue.  Some are smaller versions of themselves.  Quiet, taking up less space, unwilling to take a step out.  Both are finding the balance between who they are and who they will be in this classroom this year.

Some have come back from last year.  They came in with confidence and smiles, pointing out how they have changed over the Summer.  Some are taller, leaner, more serious.  Some are still goofy, silly, ready to have fun.  They look around the room and point out what has changed or stayed the same.  They dutifully report to the new ones that "this shelf used to be there" or "that is where the collection of blue things always is".    They ask for familiar performances of hiccup cures, magically changing white folders to "yellow," and the swiftness with which a caped teacher might don her cape.

The visitors start to arrive.  First two boys from the previous two years who were kicked out of their high school summer school, but plan to "get it together real soon." Then two more who were successful in summer school, but are nervous about high school starting.  The next day, a boy that has been in juvenile hall and came to say hello.  He leaves with a quiet "thank you."  They are all tall, and confident, and proud.  Eager to use our first names in conversation, but slipping immediately back to Ms. right afterwards.  Quiet, looking for familiarity, checking to see if the nest they built in previous years is still there.  It is, it just looks a little different.

All of this... it is an amazing way to earn a living.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

[Random] Glabrous

I am not making this up.  The word of the day on my word-of-the-day app is, indeed, glabrous*. Not only do I love-love-love new words, but check out this word map...

I am just fascinated by this.  So fascianted, in fact, that I just may pull all of my hair out and become glabrous. Won't that be glamorous?  I'll be a glamorous glabrous gal.  I crack myself up...

*Note--Glabrous does not appear to be in the spell-check dictionary.  I worried briefly that someone is fooling me into thinking this is a word, so I checked.  I'm a little sad that it is pronounced GLAY-brous*.  This does not rhyme with glamorous.  Aw well.

*Note-Within-a-Note--I had the same disappointment when I found out the word "wizened" is not pronounced WIZ-end.  My pronunciation just seems to fit the definition so much better.  I'n still recovering from the disappointment.

  • glabrous
  • audio pronunciation
  • \GLAY-brus\
: smooth; especially : having a surface without hairs or projections
Unlike the fuzzy peach, the nectarine has a glabrous skin.

"Wounds that involve the glabrous surface of the hand ideally are replaced with skin that possesses the same characteristics as the adjacent skin." -- From Thomas R. Hunt's 2010 book
(Operative Techniques in Hand, Wrist, and Forearm Surgery)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

[Teacher Prep] Gearing Up

Well my caped friends, it's nigh time to prepare for the return of my dear little poodle-heads. I have a fizzy energy about what this year might hold, but seem to be avoiding the classroom-preparation tasks ahead of me. My goal today?  I actually stop by my room. That's enough for a day, yes?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

[Techie Tech] Wee Hours

It is the wee hours of the night (only 2 hours before I'm supposed to be awake), and I've settled on some formatting changes.  I typically go for the black backgrounds, so other than asking me to change that, if you have feedback, please leave a comment!  I have lost all sense of reality and sense at this point.

Friday, July 22, 2011

[CCW] Times Twenty-One

I haven't posted a Caped Crusader of the Week in...  oh...  a gabillion weeks .  But that's okay because I just spent a month with twenty-one of the most amazing teachers ever to sit in one room at the San Diego Writing Project Summer Institute.  I've met amazing teachers before (Lincoln Middle School--you rock for having so many in one place!), but I have not had the opportunity to sit in a room and talk, learn, read, write, and truly see a group of educators that are this amazing.  The passion, hope, dedication, intelligence, heart and humor of this group struck me silent today.  Today was the last day of our four weeks together. We will continue working together throughout the year, to be sure, but this event--this four weeks--had to end today.

I had no words today to tell them how much it meant.  I cracked a couple of jokes, and even called them cheesy at one point.  What I was trying to say to them though, is this:

You all wear capes.  Every single one of you is a Super Teacher.  You are on a journey for kids and learning and writing, and you put it all out there this Summer.  You truly humble me with your hearts and your minds.  There is no way to thank you for what you have given me.  I am renewed, maybe not refreshed yet since I'm still reeling from the last month, but I can feel it.  I'm ready to square my shoulders and try this thing called teaching for another year.  Not only am I ready to try it, but I am ready to kick it right square in the behind. Thank you for that.  Truly Truly Truly.

My new Caped Friends, you are all Super Heroes...

N.B.--You impressed me the moment you walked up to give the first demo.  You nailed it!  It was so clear that your understanding of your work, and your willingness to go beyond the curriculum we are given makes a powerful impact on your students each year.

C.B.--Thank you for helping me find the words to talk about our kids. You inspire me to be more and do more for my little Turkey Butts. Your heart and soul are jaw-droppingly golden.

H.C.--Thank you for your perseverance in sending a message of peace and unity.  We all need to be reminded of that.

J.C.--Bless your friendly, open smile.  You are straight-up, but positive.  You are sharp as a whip, and funny to boot.  So glad you were in my WRG.

C.C.--You are beautiful inside and out.  Your heart and soul are wondrous and you have, without a doubt, changed the hearts and souls of those around you.

R.C.--Your gentle demeanor and underlying red-shoe-wearing-sassy-pants were a joy to get to know. You have so much depth and so much to share.  Please keep writing.  You touched my funny bone and my soul when you read.

K.D.--Thank you for leading us, listening to us, and sharing with us.  I so appreciate your ability to lead while also taking part in such a powerful experience.

C.F.--I love the way your brain works!  Your flexibility with your demo made me smile--our students need that flexibility and differentiation.  I loved seeing it.

H.F.--Your decision to enter education was courageous and SO the right thing to do.  You belong in the classroom, and students are lucky to learn from you. I can't wait to learn from you in our middle school study group!

K.F.--You were energetic and positive EVERY SINGLE DAY.  I'm in awe of that.  Your energy added to the energy of the room each day, and I am quite certain that energy has changed lives in your classroom.

J.J.--Today, when you talked about your family, I felt hope for my students.  Thank you for the full-on dedication you show in your teaching and for your family.  That is such a gift.

M.J.--You made a joke the other day that your "voice" is the same no matter what you write.  That voice is a voice of depth and intelligence.  Keep it, nurture it, and share it with your students.  I learned from it every single day.

C.K.--Where do you get your energy?  I think I should very much like to bottle it up and sell it.  You are changing the world.  I am so glad to be learning from you.

C.L.--Aw...  I loves ya.  I do.  You are a force of nature, my dear.  Keep fighting the good fight.  You'll win! And... let those reins loose a bit this year.  You'll love it!

S.M.--I thoroughly enjoyed your writer's brain and your flair.  I appreciate your honesty and your incredible intelligence.  What a gift you have been.

A.M.--I always wanted to hear from you in discussions.  Your thoughtful responses struck me each time.  I so enjoyed learning from you.

Z.M.--Z! My walking-to-the-car partner.  From the first day I knew you were a kindred spirit.  I looked forward to checking in with you each day.  Sixth grade is lucky to have you. Welcome to the middle school club. :)

A.R.--I think you are simply amazing.  I am quite certain your classroom rocks like crazy, and I hope to keep playing Scrabble with you for a good long time.  Your love of words makes me happy.

J.R.--There is no way you won't be with students next year.  The cosmos won't allow that to happen.  I am in awe of your teaching and your heart.  Truly in awe.  I'm so looking forward to our middle school study group.

D.S.--Keep rockin', baby.  Your willingness to share your own journey with us was inspiring. You have impacted my learning and my teaching.  So glad to have met you! 

This year holds so much promise.  I haven't had this feeling in a good long time.  Bless each one of you for your cape-wearing.  You have changed my life, my teaching, and my heart.

And, in case you were wondering, I did get that nap.  Love to you all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[Writing] Where I've been

I made many promises (here and here) that I would be posting in full force this Spring and Summer.  I was wrong.  Flat out wrong.  This doesn’t happen very often in my super-hero imagination, so take note.  While I have been conspicuously absent from Wear the Cape, and similarly absent from social outings and planned events, I do have something to show for it. 

I, my caped friends, have been writing up a storm.

You see, I finally had a chance to take part in a National Writing Project Summer Institute.  I’ve been stalking the NWP sites in each state and city I’ve lived in for the past 10 years.  The Northwest Inland Writing Project, the Oregon Writing Project at EOU, and now, the San Diego Area Writing Project.  This Summer,  at last, I put aside my Summer-School-Principal hat, ignored pleas to take that Summer vacation I always promise, and grabbed the opportunity to take part in the SDAWP Summer Institute. 

As you may have read in previous posts (you HAVE read them, haven’t you?), I had a long Spring.  I was “in the weeds” and kept telling myself that if I made it to the end of the school year, I could relax and enjoy the Summer Institute.  Those of you that have taken part in an NWP Summer Institute may already be laughing at me.  Enjoy?  Yes.  Relax?  Um…. No.  Not even the tiniest little bit. 

It took me a good week to get going, and by the then the SI was a quarter of the way finished, I had been spoken to twice about my participation (lateness and risk-taking were the topics), and was feeling a day late and a dollar short. 

I spent the second week moving double-time to catch up.  I was on-point in every discussion, I shared my writing and my thoughts at every opportunity.  And then… more feedback.  I had gone too far the other way.  I had burst on to the SI scene a week late with too much energy. My processing time was too quick. Other participants weren’t able to form their thoughts because mine kept popping out too quickly.  I was chagrined.  Coming from a family of socially quiet people, being told I talk too much felt like a body slam. I understood, I agreed, but I was... embarrassed. In my eagerness and wonder at learning so many new things, I had made a social faux paux.  I hate making mistakes in front of people.  BUT, I am grateful for the learning.

I entered the third week having banked the fire of participation to a dull roar.  I paid attention to the group, measured my own responses to make sure the more quiet members had a chance to speak up, and shared less.  That week I wrote more, and talked less. I presented my demo and took part in the Author's Chair.  I suppose I actually spoke as much, but more thoughtfully.   It was a better week as far as social faux pauxs (faux pauxes?) go, and  the incredible amount of learning and writing continued. 

Now I am finishing the fourth and final week.  Today I turned in a bumper-load of writing.  Fifteen pages or so of writing I actually care about.  I wrote more than that for my NBPTS renewal this Spring, but these fifteen pages are more a part of me than what I had to turn in to the National Board this Spring. Don't get me wrong, the reflection NBPTS renewal is healthy and good.  I recommend it.  But this writing, this is from ME.  From my heart and my mind sitting right out on a limb.

So, while my blog has been dismal and lonely, my brain is chock full of things--learning, thoughts, things to share. Get ready my caped friends, I think this may be a big year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

[Random] Pro-Avata-tion

Yup.  I just spent an hour making an avatar.  I am in full procrastination mode and it stops now!  Right after I...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

[Techie Tech] Tweetability

I took the plunge.  I started a Twitter account and linked it to Wear the Cape.  I thank SDAWP* and the National Writing Project for lighting a fire under my hiney and making me rethink my stance on Twittering (that it was evil and nasty and good-for-nuthin').  You can follow me by clicking to the right (somewhere--please try to figure it out.) I'm using Wear the Cape as my testing ground and researching uses for my classroom.  In fact, I'm doing that right this minute.  Right this very minute. So, peace out for now. More to come soon.  Honest to goodness.

*Note--I can also thank SDAWP for utilizing every single second of my time so far this Summer.  While I truly am thankful for everything I am learning and doing, I would like to divert all complaints regarding the lack of posting on this blog to SDAWP and their too-amazing-to-ignore Summer Institute.  Seriously.  ALL complaints go straight to them!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

[Random] Oatmeal, Part Deux

On one hand I am sad I didn't reach my goal of twenty posts by the end of the school year.  For that I apologize.  For those of you that know me, you know I have suffered an unreasonable and unnecessary amount of guilt over this.

On the other, much sweeter and exciting hand, TOMORROW IS THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!  For this reason the unreasonable and unnecessary guilt has been shrugged away* and the bittersweet excitement of summer is edging its way in.

I'll bet you're wondering two things.  Truly, you may be wondering more than two things, but let's start with the two things I want you to be wondering.  

What am I doing this Summer?  Taking a class I've been wanting to take forever.  Visiting with  a nephew I've tried to get to come visit me since before he was born. Hanging out and enjoying my favorite people.  Studying for the GRE.  Making some quilts.  Napping.  That's the plan as it stands now.  

And number two?  Why the Oatmeal?  Because I'm cooking oatmeal right now.  Duh.  We're making breakfast for the poodle-heads tomorrow morning and I'm taking slow-cooker oatmeal with peanut butter chips, sprinkles, and cranberries (those are things that jumped in my shopping basket). Oatmeal is a fitting item not only for it's breakfast-ability, but because my sisty-ugler and I use it as away to say nice things to each other.  I'm not actually using oatmeal to say nice things to my poodle-heads, but I do see the parallel.  I see parallels in a great many things.  

Peace out my friends.  

*Note--Again, if you know me, you know I've tried to shrug the guilt away and been only partially successful.  Aw well.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In an attempt to reach my goal of twenty posts by next Friday, I have resorted to sifting through my unpublished drafts.  Here's one from December-ish....

We are studying photography.  For two weeks we reviewed the various elements of design (e.g. line, texture, pattern) and vantage points (e.g. direct view, side view, worm's-eye view).  Their final assessment was to take a series of photographs around an object showing the six vantage points, and using the elements of design.   There are many great projects coming out of it, and I will post this all soon-like*.  Today though, on the Wednesday before the Friday before a Sunday with a Full Moon AND a vacation (read: it's crtazy 'round here), I will post the series that made me laugh.  


*Note--Heh.  Soon-like.  Totally didn't do that.

Goal Progress: 8/20

Thursday, June 2, 2011

[Student Story] Deceiver, Dissembler

Long ago, in the olden days of yore, in January, I posted about a liar-pants issue in my classroom (here and here).  Yesterday the same events started to unfold and ended a little differently.  I thought you might be interested as you dither on and on about if she learned her lesson or not...*

Phone-Borrower Kidlet asked to lay on the couch during break.  She curled into an awkward looking corner.  The other classroom teacher called and let me know that another student saw a Phone-Lender Kidlet (a different one than before) give his phone to Phone-Borrower. Phone-Lender was denying it.  I stood up, walked over to Phone-Borrower, held out my hand, and she put the phone in my hand.  I asked her to write down what happened, she told most of the truth, and went quietly to ISS where she served her time.

So.  Lesson learned?  Possibly.  She didn't lie this time, right?  It didn't take two days of hard-core ISS and detective work to figure it out.  AND, it was a DIFFERENT Phone-Lender this time. I'll give it a 6 out of 10 on the lesson learned scale.

*Note--In my secret super-powered brain you dither on and on about my posts.  Let me have this illusion for now.

* Note #2--BTW and FYI, while deciding on the title to this post I found the possible origin for the liar-liar-pants-on-fire rhyme.  Here 'tis.  It may not be correct, but I like the concept.  The website looks interesting too.

Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Shall they dangle in the night?
When I asked of your career
Why did you have to kick my rear
With that stinking lie of thine
Proclaiming that you owned a mine?
When you asked to borrow my stallion
To visit a nearby moored galleon
How could I ever know that you
Intended to turn him into glue?
What red devil of mendacity
Grips your soul with such tenacity?
Will one you cruelly shower with lies
Put a pistol ball between your eyes?
What internal serpent
Has lent you his forked tongue?
From what pit of foul deceit
Are all these whoppers sprung?
Deceiver, dissembler
Your trousers are alight
From what pole or gallows
Do they dangle in the night?
[William Blake]
Goal Progress: 7/20

[Classroom Management] Campfire

I've mentioned before that I use the television show NCIS for inspiration--especially my name and my classroom rules (current list here). One time I mentioned "calling a campfire," but I didn't really explain it. 

I will 'splain.  There is too much, I will sum up...

There is a character on NCIS named Dinozzo. At one point in the season he was in charge of the team because "Boss" was in trouble for being a kamikazee rogue agent.  When Dinozzo needs to talk to the team, he says "campfire" and they gather up.  This is how I get my Poodle-heads' attention when I need to talk to them about something serious.

Example?  Why sure!
One time, someone from another class came in to tell me that my homeroom was taking part in bullying another student.  I called a campfire, they sat right down, and we talked.  I don't know for sure why it works like it does, but when I say campfire, they just gather right up.  They seem to understand that it is time to be serious even though I haven't exactly said that.

Another example?  Of course!
During one campfire someone tried to make a joke after I had clearly "called campfire," and the other students shushed him and said "don't you know that means she's serious????"

The very best example?  Here it comes!
Something even better happened yesterday.  J. came up to me and said "Boss, we think we need a campfire." He was a quiet, and a little shy about it.  At first I didn't understand.  "You need a campfire?" I asked him. "Ummmm. Yeah. We think we do."

I walked over to the rest of the group and they were already sitting in a campfire (sort of a circle-ish shape formed by sitting in their desks in the right places) and waiting for me.

J: We were wondering why you seemed kind-of-maybe-unhappy-or-angry-or-something today..."
Me: [pause]
Class: [pause--wondering how I will react]
Me: I guess I'm still frustrated from the stuff that happened here on Friday.  It wasn't a very good day and I'm trying to make sure it doesn't happen again, so I guess I'm kind of serious.
Class: Hm.
Me: And, I'm tired.  It was a good weekend.  Did you all have a good weekend?
Class: [showing relief--tells stories about weekend]

What do I think happened here?  I think they showed me a few things.  First, they reminded me that they need me to be on and present and with-it.  Their world needs that. They also showed me that they understand the procedure of "campfire" more clearly than I knew.  I started using it on a whim (like many things I do). I didn't explain the procedure of how it would be used because I didn't know myself.  I didn't over use it, and viola!  It took on a life of it's own.  It became a way to say "we need to talk," and they used it as a way to talk to me yesterday.

It was a good moment.

Goal Progress: 6/20

Saturday, May 28, 2011

[Classroom Management] Offsides

Recently I had to institute the offsides rule in my classroom.  Granted, I don't fully comprehend the rule, and, as I am wont to do, I have adjusted it to meet my needs.  Life is so much easier when you can make things mean what you want them to mean.

My lamby-pie that seeks attention in every way imaginable still needs protection from the angry mob on occasion (okay, all the time), One day I was having trouble keeping one eye on him and one eye on the other fifteen schmoopies in my class.  Attention-seeking lamby-pie was practically sneaking behind my back and jumping up and down in his efforts to get punched in the face, and I didn't think I was going to be able to keep it from happening (again).

I called out to the other schmoopies that I was instituting the "offisides rule" and gave a brief explanation.  Basically, I just said they had to keep me in between them and attention-seeking lamby-pie at all times.  I kept my eyes on the lamby-pie and the schmoopies took the new rule seriously.  Whichever way I moved, they moved to keep me in front of them. 

Okay, I'll admit, it was kind of fun.  I even squeezed them into a corner at one point.  Why?  Because they let me.

Goal Progress: 5/20 (slow-going, eh?)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Quote of the Week #19

In the midst of talking to the class about something vitally important (to me), I hear a low-level ruckus.  I look up, see the cause of the ruckus, pause, ponder, and say...

"So... Kiddo A... Whatcha doin' in the trashcan, buddy?"

He looked up, shrugged, and went back to his desk.

Goal Progress: 4/20

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

[Random] Mamas

In honor of Mother's Day (today is Mother's Day in Mexico, so I am NOT late), and the birthdays of two amazing mother-figures, I would like to dedicate this post to my Mama and my Aunt J.

It's true, I may have been born sassy.  Without the proper care and role-modeling though, I would never have been able to hone my sassiness into what it is today without the love and care of my Mama and my Aunt.  Perhaps it took both of them to teach me this level of skill, perhaps they needed to trade off in order to keep from pulling their own hair out, perhaps it didn't appear to be sass at the time, but more... mule-headed-ness.

Whatever the actual details, I am certain that these two amazing women were instrumental in teaching me and showing me how to be strong as I take care of my students.  They most certainly raised me into the woman I am today.

Lately the Piggy Pies have been trying to call me "mom" While I don't let them (it's a boundary thing.  More later if you like.), it does make me realize that my "mothering" skills look an awful lot like the mothering I received from these two ladies.

So thank you.  I wouldn't want to be any other woman than I am today.

And because I daren't post pictures of them, here is a picture requested by another blog reader instead...

Keith Richards being eaten by a shark (for Dr. D)