Saturday, November 10, 2018

A Couple of Things

I've been reading Vikki Reich's daily November blog posts, and I've been thinking: how hard could it really be to just write something here once a week?

Vikki is a humor writer I admire, and her blog is really good. So, it's not as if I'm thinking: it'd be so easy to write something like Vikki every week. No, it's just that when I read her stuff I realize blogging has a lot of value, at least to me. I love reading about other people's lives, and I like going back through the archives here and reading about my own life.

Wouldn't it be nice to chronicle a little longer? Just keep track of the mundane?

In any case, here are a couple of things:

  • We've been working on volume this week in third grade. As in, noise level. Previously, we've worked on stamina and coping skills. Those things are still high on our list of priorities, but this week I felt like a lot of people were yelling all the time. We've now worked on self-awareness around yelling. I come around and gently remind people about our goals. I say, "It sounds like you're yelling." We've achieved sporadic and marginal success in lessening the frequency of yelling.
  • Mac has me obsessed with this podcast called Six Minutes. It's a story about a girl mysteriously lost at sea and the family who takes her in. Also, it's about helicopters and bad guys and hoverboards. It's transformed our commute. Each episode is--shocker--six minutes long. If I can't listen to my new Spotify playlist that includes "St. Elmo's Fire (Man in Motion)" and has my family engaged in a whole new round of mom-mocking, then I choose Six Minutes.
  • The kids and I are headed to Sioux Falls, South Dakota today for the Nike Heartland Regional race. It's a cross country fantasia with many 5k events spread over Sunday. Tonight, we'll eat tepid pasta in a Sioux Falls convention center ballroom where we'll hear from an elite athlete about running. I invited Dan to this getaway. I said, "You could come with us to Sioux Falls and watch hours of cross country races in which you'll know no one, OR you could stay home and enjoy some alone time." I think you know which way he went, even after hearing about the pool at the Sioux Falls airport hotel I've chosen.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Is This Thing On?

Remember about my blog? It's here!

I'm paying attention to it today because I finished my book again. I think I've finished my book 6 or 7 times now. That's all the way to THE END. I'm wondering how many more finishings it's going to take before people can actually read this thing in traditional book form. Whatever the answer, at this point, I'm not really interested in quitting.

I'm also not interested in quitting my day job teaching third grade. It's pretty fun. We have crayfish right now. I'll be honest and tell you that I was not very excited about hosting crayfish. After all, they're gross. But having crayfish turns out to be a pretty good experience. We're doing some cool observing and experimenting. Today, we're making crayfish identification cards. It's going to be some of our best work. We're going to weigh and measure those suckers in addition to describing their structures and doing some scientific drawings.

One day during our crayfish time, three kids got pinched by their lab animals at once. I'm sorry to  report that there was a fair bit of screaming. But as long as we slow down and follow the protocols, everything will be totally fine. There's no need for any more bloodshed.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Our New Bed

Let me tell you a story about a mattress. This story begins eight years ago, but I'll keep it short. Way back then, Dan and I moved into his parents' house. They were moving out, and they left several pieces of furniture, including their bed. This was really convenient, and we were grateful.

As the years went by, the second-hand mattress became less functional. It's an old Sleep Number job, and it started deflating at odd times. In general, it wasn't ideal. Lucky for us, Dan's parents offered us a like-new organic cotton mattress from a guest bed they weren't using in their condo. They've become our mattress suppliers. Plus: "It's organic!" my mother-in-law said. I guess non-organic mattresses are basically environmental and health disasters. So, that's something to consider.

In any case, we emptied the miniature van and went over to Dan's parents' place to get the mattress. We lugged it to the car and then up the stairs to our room. I made the new bed, and then I lay down on it, ready to bask in its luxury environmental-friendliness.

You guys.

It's rock hard. I'm talking ROCK. HARD. It's like camping in our bedroom. There's no way my wonderful in-laws have ever tested that bed. Or, they have tested it and found themselves high-fiving as we removed it from their home. Dan has had to take Advil to deal with the effects of the mattress. While I used to look forward to retiring to my bed, I'm now happy to stay on the couch longer, as I can sink into it. Mac ran into our room the other day, ready for a story. He leapt on the bed, only to find himself the victim of a dull thud. "Whoa!" he said.

Whoa is right. I googled the benefits of a very firm mattress, and it's true there may be some. But, this weekend, I'm buying a memory foam topper. It probably negates the environmental health benefits of the organic mattress, but I fear my hips and shoulders are becoming bruised. There's only so much I can take.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Back to School Status Report

We're in Week 3 now, so I'm quite experienced in third grade. At the very least, I now know how to get the students to lunch and back again. Their quietness in the hallway is another matter, but I'm taking my wins incrementally.

Lesson Planning: The trickiest part is not actually designing the instruction. That transfers well from one division to another. The hardest part is figuring out how long things are going to take. "This'll be a solid 20 minutes," I think to myself; and then it's either 10 or 40. It might be a good 10 or 40, but it wasn't what I was expecting.

Vocabulary: Sometimes I use words the students don't know, and they look at me like, "What?" These moments surprise me, but I just find a synonym and move on with life. Recent examples: insightful, problematic, and expedient. No worries here: studies show that using big words with little kids is a solid vocabulary-building technique.

Math: Of all the disciplines I now teach, math is the one I've never taught before. One of my students told me he's especially excited to be in my class because I'm a middle school teacher and certainly capable of challenging him in math. He thinks it might be his best year ever in math. I think positive expectations are key to success.

Sitting upright: While I've had to remind students of all ages to maintain posture during lessons (it was a always a rule, for instance, that you couldn't put your head down on your desk in my classroom), it's especially a thing in third grade. While we're having instruction time on the rug, I prefer that you're not rolling around. I also prefer that you're not dancing on the sidelines of the instructional space. It doesn't matter how cute you look while you're dancing; it's just not time for that right now.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Similarities and Differences

I've completed my first week of teaching third grade. I'm a little giddy because of the fun factor. The children are adorable and tell me amusing anecdotes. Plus, they won't be writing multi-thousand word essays I'll need to grade on weekends and holidays.

This is not to say I won't have other things to do on weekends and holidays: the lesson planning and the scheduling and the understanding of students' needs and capabilities in many a discipline will take up that same time. But those tasks seem more interesting to me at this point in my career.

The whole switch has been exhilarating.

Here are some critical differences between teaching elementary and secondary that I've noticed in my first days in the former:
  • One needs a slightly different wardrobe with swishier, more versatile clothing. Many of my outfits no longer suit because of the constant up-and-down of elementary teaching. A skirt needs to have a certain give and a certain length to make it work for sitting on the rug in a circle.
  • The job is more physical, and I get sweatier. It's not that secondary teaching is sedentary by any means. But third-grade teaching with the necessary vertical flexibility I previously mentioned, plus the bending over at the waist, plus the line walking--I don't know. Something about it makes showering more imperative. This is not to say I didn't value cleanliness in my former capacities.
  • The children all have something to tell me. It's charming, and I laugh and smile a lot. To be fair, I laughed and smiled a lot in my old jobs, as well. Teaching is teaching, and it's all pretty fun.
  • But here's an excellent bonus: I've forced kids of all ages sing songs with me and repeat affirmations. However, I've never experienced total compliance and freedom from eye-rolling in grades six and up, no matter how catchy or helpful the song or affirmation. In third grade, though, they look at me earnestly and try their best in these activities. It's that simple.
Third grade! I like it here, and I'm feeling fine.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Back to School

My school is starting a week earlier than normal this year, which means summer was a week shorter. This seems like a hardship for many, including the people who like to get their work done without teachers in their faces all the time. I keep hearing, "As you know, we lost a week this year."

It might feel like we gain a week on the front side of next summer when we finish up in May. However, this fact doesn't help the people who are working their tails off to have things ready for next Tuesday when the children show up.

To kick things off, I bought a book called The Growth Mindset Coach, and we're going to focus on our first month's theme: Everyone can learn! I think we'll do a little writing about when we learned how to do something. I have an idea to write a little sample about learning how to teach. I'm learning all over again now, and I have to say it's pretty fun so far. I feel slightly sorry for my new teaching partner on whom I have to rely rather heavily. I'm trying to make up for that burden by exhibiting my sunny personality. I'm sure she appreciates it.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Summer Fail

Before I get into my fail, let's just put one major WIN on the table: I sent my massively revised novel back to my agent by my self-imposed deadline of today. There's hardly a scene that we haven't overhauled. I cut several characters and added one. I changed the sequence of events that leads to the ending. I gave one of the protagonists a family secret. I changed the genesis and substance of the conflict.

It's just a totally different book. I also think it's a better book. I really hope all of the stakeholders agree with this assessment.

So here's my funniest fail:

I arranged to meet a new friend at a coffee shop. It was my first time having coffee with this friend, and of course, I wanted her to find me charming and impressive. The coffee place was fancy, and I ordered a drink I'd never tried called "Golden Milk," which is high in turmeric and made with an oat-based dairy substitute.

Only someone evolved and sophisticated would order such a beverage.

When the barista called my name, I zipped right up to the counter and grabbed the nearest cup. I sipped it enthusiastically, certain the Golden Milk would be fantastic. But right away, I noticed the drink was an iced latte, not a Golden Milk. "No," I said, turning around. It was at that point I spotted a very sour-looking woman whose latte I'd just sampled.

"That was mine," she said, angry.

"I'm so sorry!" I said. "They called my name, and the drinks look the same!" She scowled at me as if I'd transgressed on purpose. I swear I did not! I babbled on about the mistake. The barista pointed out the drink that was actually mine and told the other woman she'd replace hers.

That latte lady was REALLY mad. Like, really. This coffee situation was a major setback for her.

At our table, my friend and I giggled. What else was there to do? We made jokes about how perhaps I thought the counter offered free samples, or that the Golden Milk came as part of a flight. The more we laughed, the angrier that latte lady became. I felt bad for her and definitely sorry, but my discomfort just made me laugh harder.

When she finally left with her non-contaminated drink, I waved and mouthed "I'm sorry," apologizing again. She did not reply. She rolled her eyes and scoffed. This made my friend and me laugh harder, which I'm sure annoyed her to no end.

I'm sorry, latte lady! I don't know what else to say.