Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rattle My Brain

Mac has taken to yelling, "Hot Mamas of Fire!"

I'm not sure where he got this, but it's entertaining.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Speak Any English?!

Shef has now seen one of our all-time favorite movies, Ferris Bueller's Day Off.  He's seen it twice. We spent this evening's dog walk quoting our favorite lines.  Shef dies of laughter when he thinks of Ferris' sister, Jeannie, saying, "That's it!  I want out of this family!"  It's true that Jeannie has some of the funniest lines in the whole thing.  Like, "Do you know where she is?  Do you know when she'll be back?  Do you know ANYthing."  Cracks me up every darn time.  In addition to making me laugh, I owe some of my success in Econ 101 to this film.

Because of Ben Stein, I answered correctly on questions about the Hawley-Smoot Terriff Act, as well as the Laffer Curve.

Good Bless Ferris.  I mean, Save him.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I learned yesterday that although you used to be able to use a Boston Marathon qualifying time for two years, you can now only use it for one year.  This means that I can try to register for the Boston Marathon this year, but not next year, unless I run another qualifying time.  I ran a qualifying time on June 2nd of this year in the best race of my entire life.  There's no guarantee that I'll ever have another race like that again.

So, as it's been my lifelong goal (since 7th grade) to run the Boston Marathon, I better try to register in September of 2013 for the 2014 race.  I have a little bit of a better chance of getting in because my time is more than 5 minutes faster than the qualifying standard, but I still think my chances are slim.  Every runner in the universe is going to want to run the 2014 Boston Marathon, and a lot of those runners are faster than I am.

Runners of all speeds like to stand up for what's good and right. That's one of the reason I love the sport.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This is Kind of Weird, But...

The learning challenge is the hardest challenge I've ever participated in.  For some reason, I find it very hard to blog about learning.  I've loved reading the other learning blogs, but I'm having such a hard time.  I learn stuff every day, but none of it, like, fits my style of blogging for some reason.

That said, the learning I've done today is about my back.  I've learned that if I play some golf... like 9 holes plus a couple of times at the driving range... in one week, I hurt my back.  I think it's sore muscles, but it's very painful at the moment.  I was kind of embarrassed when I went golfing with some gal pals in a foursome, and then I had to stop because my back was spasming on contact with the ball.  L.A.M.E.

Had a glass of wine and two Aleve, and pretty soon things will be better, I'm pretty sure.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book Finding

I've been relearning something I've known for many years: it's very difficult to find THE PERFECT BOOK to read with a class of kids.  Our sixth grade teaching team is looking for something we can use at the start of the year to open our readers' workshop, teach elements of fiction, and hook our reluctant readers.  After several conversations, we've discovered that we would like a fast read with a male protagonist and perhaps a male author.  We'd like it to fit with our first humanities unit, which is about the groups to which we belong.  I've sampled a number of books and had a hard time finding one that's GREAT.  Here's some we've tried:
  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.  This book has a girl protagonist and a woman author.  Also, several members of the team were bothered that the story seemed really unrealistic in certain places.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  Well, this book is awesome, but we found out that at least a quarter of our incoming 6th graders have already read it.  Too bad because I loved it, and so did Dan and Shef when we listened to it during a drive to the cabin.
  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos.  I like this book, but I fear it's too long for our purposes and maybe not immediately as gripping as need be.
  • Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson.  I've read half of this book, and I'm worried that the message about rule-breaking is too negative, as is the portrayal of middle school students and teachers.  The teachers are actually drawn as lizards.  The English teacher, especially.  Maybe I should just get over myself?
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass.  Girl-Woman again.  Plus, I guess people who have the condition that's described in the book take offense at its portrayal here.  The condition is called Synesthesia.
  • The Misfits by James Howe. This one is too dated and reinforces stereotypes rather than challenging them, IMO.
There are also several I haven't started yet, like Okay for Now, which seems long.  Also something about Milo, which is on the Maud Hart Lovelace list for this year.  Something about Milo and Sticky Notes.  I'm also reading Liar & Spy just to see.

At this point, it seems like finding the PERFECT BOOK is a tall order. But, we're trying. I'm learning a ton while trying about various writers and characters.  Bonus for me.

Monday, July 15, 2013


I took the kids to the doctor last week for their well-children check-ups. Good news: they're pretty well. One is pretty big for his age, and one is relatively small. One had to get one shot, and the other had to get two. And the recommendations from the doc for both were the same:
  • Practice fire drills
  • Keep applying sunscreen regardless of perceived futility as determined by translucent complexions
  • Assign chores
It's the third recco that I learned about for this blog entry.  Chores.  There were massive wars in my childhood home over our chores.  I remember crying, screaming, and name-calling.  I was called the names by my dad - I don't think I called anyone any names.

A google search indicates that most parenting mags and informational websites seem to think that chores are a great idea.  I found chore charts, chore whiteboards, and chore apps.  In theory, I like the idea of chores.  But, my problem is that I just want the jobs to be done as they need to be, not on some irrelevant time table for allowance.  If I need help with the laundry, I ask someone to help.  Similarly, I ask someone to take a bag of recycling out or get the mail.  Do I need a chart?  I read a famous essay that seems to be used in many a college comp course by Jane Smiley called, "The Case Against Chores".  Her deal is that the work has to be meaningful and interesting for the kids in order to be beneficial.  She says, "Good work is not the work we assign to children but the work they want to do."

She doesn't say what happens when they don't want to do any work.  So, I'm still wondering about that.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Short Bio

Today's learning was about what makes a good bio. I had to write a bio about myself to be included on a professional site. I'm going to be a blogger and discussant for an online community hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools. They call it Teachers of the Future.

So, I obviously wanted my bio to make me sound cool, smart, fun, and approachable. Read some sample bios. Read some advice. The advice was to keep it short. As one guy wrote, "Everyone wants your bio to be shorter." Good point. Some people said to include accomplishments, but some said that the accomplishments shouldn't be too old. Haven't you done anything since? I decided to skip accomplishments all together. Being in education is accomplishment enough. I teach twelve and thirteen year-olds. There aren't that many people that love to do that as much as I do.

Monday, July 8, 2013


Some colleagues introduced me to my lastest televised obsession, Scandal. It's basically the dark side of The West Wing, except this time by Shonda Rhimes and not Aaron Sorkin. Although it's not Sorkin, it's still fabulous and even features Joshua Malina, who played Will Bailey on the older show.

What happened was I watched all of the existing episodes of Scandal without pause. I loved every minute, but I'm now experiencing the familiar void that comes from not enjoying a suspenseful television show with smart, snappy dialogue on daily basis.

In a moment that spurred optimism, my new pal Robin told me about a show called The Following that we can enjoy obsessively together. I mean, together remotely via Hulu and texts. I did a little research and found that critics' reviews of this Kevin Bacon show are generally positive; however, it's scary and gory. I generally don't like gore, so this show might not be a great match.

There's nothing to do but learn the truth through the experience of watching it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Bechdel Test

Read a great book called Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. Read it because it was recommended by Lee, whom I adore. Passed it on to fave brother-in-law John, who told me about The Bechdel Test. Do you know about it? The deal is that good movies can fail it, but it's interesting to think about. Here's the test:

1. Does the movie have at least two named women characters?
2. Do the women characters talk to one another?
3. Do the women characters talk about something other than a man?

Think about some of your fave movies and whether they fail the test. Ferris Bueller fails the test. Goonies fails the test. Avengers fails the test.

John says you can take this forward with gay characters, with characters of color, etc. Hmmmmm. Right?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Slamma Jamma

I'm learning two new sports this summer: tennis and golf. I'm pretty terrible at each of them. Before I played my first 9 holes of the summer, I ran into a former student of mine who plays varsity golf. "What'd you shoot?" I asked. He said 81. For 18 holes. I ended up shooting more than that for 9. At this course, you're required to put your scores into some computer, and when I put mine in it was too high for the system to accept. Turns out I had to round down. Still, I had a great time, and I have a golf lesson on Friday with the kids. I'm predicting spectacular improvement.

I'm marginally better at tennis, in that cardiovascular fitness figures into your tennis performance. I do not have tennis skillz, but I do have endurance. Did a little online research, and found out tennis is actually a great sport to play for many reasons. One of my favorite reasons is that tennis improves problem-solving because it's based on angles, geometry and physics. I'm not particularly skilled in these mathematical and scientific domains, so I'm looking forward to positive results. Further, tennis improves agility because you have to change directions up to five times in 10 seconds. Cool!

Finally, and this is a quote from the website I linked up there, "Tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes and nonathletes, according to Dr. Joan Finn and colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University."

My conclusion is that we should all probably learn the life-time sport of tennis. Let's get on it. I'm attending (and humiliating myself) at beginners' drill tomorrow at 10am. Keep you posted.