Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking On Air

Got a call from the Assistant to the Head of School at home tonight. And guess what? It's my day to be observed by the Head of School tomorrow. She'll be watching a lesson primarily about run-on sentences.

On Halloween.

With seventh graders.

Immediately after lunch.

I texted some colleagues about this situation. One suggested I wear an inappropriate costume to accentuate the experience. Maybe a spandex Wonder Woman number. Another suggested I dress as Captain Behavior Management.

Here's my plan: I'm going to remind Shef not to pop into my class on his way to lunch. He likes to do that. Sometimes he does a little Gangnam style.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Report

I did a 10-mile race yesterday. It's part of the work-life balance plan I mentioned earlier. I take violin lessons and I exercise 4 days per week. Technically, I'm also writing my NCTE talk. Naturally, at this moment, I'm blogging instead.

Anyway, I didn't really have any intention of signing up for the Monster Dash, except that my friend Sheila convinced me. "It's all downhill," she said.

"How is that possible?" I asked.

She explained the course.

As you can see, it actually is almost entirely downhill. So okay.

My longest run in advance was 7 miles, so I decided to be conservative. Except then my friend Molly told me I wasn't giving enough credence to the downhills, and I should really go out faster.

Hmmm. I decided to try to go with the pace group that was running 8-minute miles. As it turned out, that felt fine, even though the pacers were actually shaving 2-5 seconds off the pace per mile. "We're just building a little cushion," they explained sensibly.

At 8 miles, I decided to "put the hammer down," as I say to myself during races (isn't that ridiculous?!), and I picked up the pace for the final downhill 2. I finished in 1:18:20,gave my cool skull-and-bat medal to Mac when I got home, and folded laundry for the rest of the day.

Did I work on my talk? No, I did not. NCTE: today's the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Put Your Troubles Down

We read Of Mice and Men in 7th grade. It's a tough and heavy book for the sevies, what with the murder, the racism, the sexism, and the intellectual disabilities.

I read the first chapter aloud yesterday, and they thought it was really funny to hear me utter the words, "goddamn," "hell," "bastard," "son-of-a-bitch," and "Jesus Christ" over and over again.

Today I had to prep them for the even more troubling language - the n-word - which first appears on page 16. So, what I did was I had us list the "bad" words from yesterday, and I wrote them on the board. Then, we were going to discuss what was different about the "r-word" and the "n-word" and the other swears.

When I was in the middle of this, my boss came in for a walk-through.


What to do? I just kept teaching, obviously. He seemed really interested in our discussion of bastards. The kids looked at him nervously. He said don't worry, he was just writing the words down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work-Life Balance

It's been a good school year, so far. I have a new work plan wherein I stay at work until 5pm in the evening. This used to be impossible because I had to run all around town picking up the children. Now, as previously mentioned, we all go to the same school. When 5:00 rolls around, I just walk over to extended day, which is free for kids of teachers.

Then, what I try to do is work hardly at all at home after working frenetically from 7:45-5:00.

It pretty much works. I work at LOT less at home. Basically, I still have to put in a couple of hours on the weekends; but otherwise, I keep it to the work site. Of course, it helps that I taught the same classes last year, and I at least have a draft to work from.

Here's what it doesn't work for: writing my NCTE talk. Blah. I'm going to have to do that at home.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kids Are So Awesome

Last year, I had a Friday Ten Initiative. I gave $10 to a different organization each Friday. It was cool, and I liked it a lot.

I recently found out that a gal in my neighborhood had a very similar idea, but made it about a million times more awesome. Emily is the 17 year-old sister of our babysitter, Anneleise. Her website, Emily's Faves, donates money each month to one of 10 organizations. She selected the organizations using well-articulated criteria you can see on her website.

Then, each month, she puts 4 organizations up for voting. You donate as much as you want - one vote equals one dollar. Then, at the end of the month, all the money goes to the non-profit with the most votes.

So, basically it's like Friday Ten, but your Friday Ten becomes like a Monthly Five Hundred. That's about how much she donates each time.

Cool, right?

Also, she has a website made with Wix, which I haven't heard of, but I enjoyed navigating. Maybe good for student projects? Check it out!

Guard Your Dreams and Visions

I have been listening to an audio book on the treadmill these last weeks called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

It's by Christopher McDougall, and I can only say that it's enthralling. Maybe I think that because I've been running on and off for 23 years, but other people might like it, too. It's about lots of things - the birth of Nike, evolutionary biology, native people in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, plantar fascitis, vegetarianism, and ultramarathons, and some other stuff.

I have run some marathons, but I have never thought it would be fun (or even cool) to do an ultra. This book made me think about it a little bit. It's not like I'm signed up for one or anything. I still think it's pretty crazy.

But, when Liz texted me and offered me the last spot on her ultra Ragnar team, I thought it was something like fate.

"Do you want to run an ultra Ragnar?" she wrote.

"Absolutely not. That's insane." I texted back.

But then about 40 texts later, I wrote, "Let's be real: I'm in for Ragnar 2013."

Let's be real again: this is probably not fate and just a colossal mistake.

Oh well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Never Thought I Would Feel So Free

Here's where we're at:

We have conferences tomorrow. We teachers spent the day getting ready by swapping information with each other, so we can now comment on the whole middle schoolers.

I went to my own kids' conferences today. The biggest surprise was that despite crying and clinging to me every morning at drop off, Mac is actually having a super year. The teacher even showed me a slideshow of him looking happy on multiple days and in multiple activities.

His goals are to spend a little less time with his bestie, Gabi. Otherwise, he's doing fine.

I'm sort of shocked.

Shef? Well, he's having a fab year. He wrote in his pre-conference reflection that he feels calm and happy at school. I love that. Way to go, Shef.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Everybody, Yeah

I don't give that many tests because, to be honest, I think tests are sort of lame. I did, however, give a test of sorts on the first unit of 7th grade English. We were reviewing literary terms and using them to analyze some short stories.


Anyway, I gave a test to see if anyone had learned anything.

One of the reasons I am annoyed with tests is that I have to give them back. And then when I do that, the kids ask really idiotic questions about how they can get more points on the test. Also, I hate points.

So, one kid felt like he needed some more so-called "points." "Here," he said gesturing to number 3 or something, "I wrote external, but I meant internal. So, could I have another point?"


"But you wrote the wrong answer," I said.

"But," he persisted, "I miswrote."

"No," I said. "You cannot have another point."

"Also, here," he said, "I wrote Jim, but I meant Ben."

"Again," I said, trying to maintain an appropriate neutral tone, "that's wrong."

"But I MEANT Ben," he said.


I'm going to try to never give a test again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Soreness

I pushed it pretty hard in the race yesterday. It was my first race since May of 2010. There were a lot of hills. I ran faster than I planned to.

All of that means, all of the muscles in my entire body - legs, of course, but also obliques, back, somehow even my FOREARMS are sore from the effort.

I am so sore that I awoke in the night from the soreness. I'm probably going to have to walk a bit today to get things moving, or tomorrow I'll be completely immobilized.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Autumn Jog

Today's the day for the 10k. I tried to talk to my pal Paula about a time goal, but she reminded me it was wicked hilly and we should try to just finish.

Good advice, Paula. Way to keep me grounded.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You're the Million Reasons Why

Here's the news: The eighth graders have started acting like eighth graders. Couple of kids skipped a couple of things. Couple of kids weren't where they were supposed to be. Couple of teachers start stopping me in the hall, asking, "Hey is So-and-So in your advisory?" It's not usually good if people start stopping you asking you that.

There are conferences next week. Couple of parents might be sort of annoyed about the situations. Let's hope the parents direct their annoyance at the proper peeps.

That would be the kids.

Not the well-meaning and super vigilant and responsive advisor.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Swag, Swag, Swag

One of my favorite things about fall every year is the new television shows. I mean, let's be real. School is fine, and all, but the TELEVISION.

Dan and I are watching some new stuff. Shows like Revolution and Elementary. I'm also looking forward to the DVDs of last year's seasons of my faves like Modern Family and Big Bang Theory. I'm also into some Netflix stuff like Parenthood.

Television. I just love it. I always have. It's what keeps me going.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Don't Need No Credit Card

Mac's doing all kind of cool stuff in his Reggio Emilia-inspired Pre-K. Basically, they do stuff that the kids want to do, and from my perspective, the teachers do a super job of, like, enhancing and encouraging them to expand on their inclinations.

One such inclination was "discovering" and sketching a dead bird that flapped into their window and dropped dead outside.

"It was a nice object to draw," their teacher explained, "because it wasn't moving." Later the class buried it, which I guess was preferable to the teacher flicking it into the woods or something like that.

Last weekend, when Mac and I saw another dead bird on the boulevard, he said, "Wait a minute! Let me discover it!" Then, he crouched down and stared at it for awhile, pointing out the feathers and such. "Okay," he said, and we walked on.

The same thing happened with a little dead baby mouse he and the neighbor kid located. In that case, however, the neighbor dad flicked the rodent into the street after their kids rode their bikes down the block. I was really glad he flicked it. I mean, there's no way I'm going to spend my days burying road kill, no matter what Reggio says.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cause They Hear We Got Swagger

Just another miserable night of not going to bed around here. I feel like I'm a pretty passable parent all-around, but I am absolutely completely awful at bedtime and nighttime. Also mornings. Let's throw those in there, too.

I thought things might be different this autumn because Mac turned four. When Shef turned four, he started sleeping. He was motivated by the money we started paying him for doing so. Turns out, Mac isn't motivated by money. He loses it and throws it around. Then he decides he doesn't want to buy anything. WHY?! What about the STUFF?!

Still, I thought things might be different also because he started school. But guess what? They let him nap there. His teacher said he is "the hardest kid they've ever had to wake up." You're telling me. "Really!" she remarked. "We pick him up out of his cot and plop him down, and he falls over and stays asleep." His friends tell me at extended day that they just run all around him with the lights on and stuff while he lies there.

So, I'm pretty sure the napping isn't helping the bedtime. Also not helping the bedtime is the natural night owl rhythm. Also not helping is the ridiculous amount of stubbornness and manipulation.

Next on the solution list: melatonin. Can you give that to four year-olds? I'm totally asking the pediatrician. If not melatonin, how about some kind of legal kiddy sedative? Nutritional healing? I'm totally looking this up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Imagine Me and You

Another beautiful fall day here. Taught a lesson about Express Lane Editing, a brilliant idea I read about in a book by Jeff Anderson. You put a box on your page with a list of items to check out - 10 items or less. My items were about using apostrophes correctly. Then, you put your fixes on your "Receipt." Receipt makes you feel hella accomplished.

"What happens if you don't have any items on your receipt?" a kid asked.


Bottom line is, we can all find errors in our work. Let's just be honest with ourselves.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spring is Here

On a most beautiful Autumn weekend (it was this last weekend), my brother Devin got married! We went to tons of super fun family events, beginning with the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I don't know who took this great photo of Mac and my sister, Mary. Probably Mac.

We were having a rocking good time. Then, we got all gussied up and went to the wedding. Just before we left, Mac took this great photo of me and Shef:

At the ceremony the boys excelled as ring bearers. They went up the aisle and back down again. Mac persevered on the return trip even when one of the flower girls shoved him back because she felt he was encroaching on her space. She's a rule-follower, obviously. Mac was just muscling through the job.