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?