Thursday, February 27, 2014

Down Like the Temperature

Hey, Y'all. It's Spring Conferences today for my lovely students. SPRING CONFERENCES.

What a big fat joke.

But, still, I'm excited to meet with my advisees and their families. They're a great bunch of kids. I really feel that way. I'm a total geek for my job lately, which is a good thing given the miserable conditions I'm living in here.

Minnesota, I hate you so much.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Giver

Kids were looking forward to spending time with their favorite babysitter on Friday night.

"YES!" fist-pumped Shef when I reminded him that Cam was coming. And then he immediately started lobbying for more guy-time with the rough and tumble senior. "Can I stay up a little later?" he queried. "Hashtag 9:30?"

It's hard to argue with that kind of cuteness. Or the cuteness at the top. That scene repeats every morning around here. A boy and his dog. Hashtag Pals.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Olympics: Ladies Short Program

In the last few weeks, I've been trying to find a dietary trigger for my horrible psoriasis. Do you know how you determine whether you have any dietary triggers? You eliminate tons of stuff from your diet. Then, you put things back in one by one and see what happens. I suspect the trigger for my psoriasis is living in this miserably cold and dry state. Just in case, however, I tried the elimination diet.

So far, I haven't seen any significant improvement in my skin, but I have seen significant improvement in how good I feel and how much energy I have.

Although giving up dairy, gluten, sugar, and alcohol has been a pain; I was most worried about kicking my 15-year Diet Coke habit. I know DC is toxic and terrible for me, but I have just loved it for so long despite the risks.

But now, I have given it up completely. I feel healthy and lively. While I plan to occasionally consume cheese, bread, dessert, and wine; I have no plans to to go back to DC. DC is dead to me.

Kids should know that kicking addiction is possible. You can do it, kids. Just keep trying.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Part 7

Had an excellent professional development opportunity yesterday, during which I pondered the connections between cultural competency and global competency. Here's the story, and these are not my own ideas: cultural competency is the will and the ability to forge authentic and effective relationships across difference.

Global competency, then, is the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes, and behaviors that people need to take action on issues of global significance and to thrive as global citizens.

Kids need both of these competencies, obviously. I'm doing my best to instill them. Super tough work. I suggested to my students that we should stay in school all summer long to continue to make progress. Only one student agreed with me. She said she would give me four weeks.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Golfing Competition

We're having a fab weekend here in Nashville with bosom pals Adam and Tracy. We saw a fascinating songwriter session at the Country Music Hall of Fame yesterday featuring Jonathan Singleton. He's a successful songwriter, and told us lots of interesting things about his work, interspersed with some singing and playing of the guitar. Since Dan is a country music fan, he knew the songs by Singleton. It was exciting to hear them performed by the writer. One highlight of the Singleton session was his description of co-writing. He only writes with people, never alone. He says he's more creative and more focused when he has a collaborator. Isn't that neat? I took from it this message: We don't have to do it alone.

Now, we're going to try to catch a show at the famed Bluebird Cafe. We have to get there 1.5 hours early and hope to get in. The Bluebird is extra hip now since being featured on the hit show Nashville, which I now feel compelled to watch.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Olympics: Russia vs. USA Men's Hockey

Kids should know that teachers are teachers for many reasons. One could be that they enjoy acting like kids. In an effort to revitalize my student Clara's commitment to Book Bingo, I challenged her to a contest. We each have six or seven books to go until we attain "Black Out" status on our Bingo cards.

"I'll race you," I said, as teaching partner KK listened in from her table across the room.

"Okay," she said.

"But," I said, "I'm totally going to win. I'm already reading this category [here I pointed at the Poetry Anthology space], and the book is short."

"I think I can win," Clara said, studying her card. It's true she's a smart and speedy reader, but she probably underestimates my will to achieve.

"I don't think so," I said, smiling. "I love to win, and I'm totally going to take you down."

"Real mature, Ms. W.," KK piped up. Maybe not mature, but definitely motivating. Clara already turned in another book talk form, and now I'm behind.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Olympics: Women's Slopestype Skiing

Listen up, Kids. This is important: You shouldn't irritate your teachers in February. Sadly, it's impossible not to irritate your teachers in February. Teachers are irritated in February. I was sure this was a documented fact, but a cursory internet search yields nothing definitive. Still, I'm pretty sure it's documented.

In fact, Robin says we can pinpoint the misery to the week including February 15th. This very week. She says October 15th is similarly miserable, but I don't think that's similarly (un)doucmented. If you can't understand that last sentence, then I'm crabby with you.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Games of the 22nd Olympiad: Slopestyle

Today, Jordan and I went to see the Oscar-nominated documentary shorts. This was a great thing to do. I liked all the films, but two were especially compelling and moving, in my opinion.

My favorite is Cave Digger. It's about an artist who is committed to his gorgeous cave making over everything else, including money. If we're talking about creativity, this film has a lot to offer the conversation.

My next favorite was unbelievably emotional. I basically wept through the entire thing, but I disagreed with a review online that called it "depressing." I thought it was hopeful and human. It's called Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.

In it, we get to see a prison-based hospice staffed by inmates who are trained to ease their friends into the next place. These guys - they just are doing the most amazing work. And the dying man and his family - how brave and generous they were to let this movie be made. See it if you can.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Celebrate TEDx Stanford

As I mentioned before, creativity is critically important. Kids need to know how to be creative in order to be successful citizens and workers of the future. KK turned me on to this TED talk by Tina Seelig about creativity. It's excellent, and educators will really like it. Including Mom. Mom, I think you're going to want to watch this video.

Part of the Creativity Engine that Tina developed is Habitat. In order to be creative, you have to work in a space that communicates creativity. Does that make sense? If not, watch the talk. Fab colleague Lynne and I recently took some students to a building that totally oozed creativity because of beautiful colors and artwork. I felt inspired and fulfilled in El Centro. It's a creative space, to be sure.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Part 5

This is very important. Kids should know that when they eat apples, they should not eat the stickers on the apples.

But, when I handed Mac an apple this afternoon (high in antioxidants and dietary fiber, as kids should know), he promptly told me he was going to eat the sticker, and then he ate it. Before I could do anything about it.

Why did he do that? He says he does it all the time. What a weird kid.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Swamp People "Gator Recon"

My friend KK told me that if went to our precinct caucus with her, she would appoint me secretary. She's the Precinct Chair, so she has the power to do this. This obviously appealed to my natural need for legitimacy and recognition. Also, I teach social studies now. I should be involved in all aspects of the democratic process. And, kids should know about this as well.

"This could be a real humdinger," KK told me yesterday. Something about a hotly contested County Commissioner race and only 2 delegates and 2 alternates allowed from our caucus. Whoooo!

As she convened the caucus, KK said, "I know some outsiders find this system a bit odd, but I think it's nice." Then, we heard resolutions. There were resolutions about an oil pipeline, a judicial merit selection system, free lunch for low income kids, and a proposal to change gendered language in the caucus rules. All passed.

Then the show down for the County Convention began. Oooohhh Lordy. KK suggested a walking sub caucus. Seconded, but the nays took it. Then, someone suggested a straw poll by candidate. Seconded. Then, someone suggested that all four delegates be in support of the winner of the straw poll. Seconded. Voted down. Let me interject here that EVERY MOTION had a lot of discussion. Finally, it was proposed that the would-be delegates line up and say whom they supported and why. Seconded. Passed. Each person would have one minute. I timed them.

This process of deciding how to do things and proposing and seconding and ayeing and naying WENT ON FOR HOURS. ALMOST THREE HOURS. Originally, KK said it would be over by 8. It was not over by 8. The gal in charge of the rec center had to tell us to get out at 9:15. "Um," she said, as I was, in my official capacity as precinct secretary, transcribing names of delegates for the County Convention, as well as the City and Senate District Conventions, "can you guys, like, pack up?"

And that, my friends, is democracy in action. I was a part of it. Our State Senator stopped by and thanked me for my service. He photographed me in action. I'm on the bottom right of this collage of caucusers.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl XLVIII

Kids need to know. This is a new challenge proposed by Mary at MM. During the month of February, we're writing about things that kids need to know.

Luckily, I heard a talk last Wednesday afternoon about this very topic. World renowned educational scholar Yong Zhao came to visit my school and give us some instruction on global education.

Basically, his message was that kids need to know how to be creative and harness an entrepreneurial spirit. He wasn't too concerned with the United States' poor performance on the PISA because we are a nation of innovators. He is more concerned with American schools resisting standardization and helping kids see themselves as real, valuable workers and creators. I'm reading his book, World Class Learners, and yeah, it's pretty good. Skimmable, but useful.

Yong Zhao as a presenter is a little edgy, and sometimes he turned us off with his employment of stereotypes and hyperbolic statements. Sometimes he made us laugh because he's quite funny. Here are some memorable quotes from the lecture:

"Lady Gaga would be useless in my village."

"Kim Kardashian is traditionally useless, except that she doesn't live in her parents' basement."


"The Common Core is horrible."