Wednesday, December 31, 2008

best and brightest


This 7 year old girl represents my best and brightest.  So my 2009 intention is simply my best and brightest.  May all your wishes come true, and may you live your best and brightest in 2009.

(Above pics taken at the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

thinking about a new year

I took this sunrise pic on my camera phone while driving to work on the New York State Thruway (don't ask how fast I was driving) one morning about a month ago.  The clouds above, snow on ground, sun pushing through the cold air... just breathtaking.  (The clouds had the most bizarre cottage cheese quality.)

Change is exciting to me.  I love the idea of a new year - so many possibilities!  A year ago I greeted 2008 by blogging and watching the Times Square ball drop on TV with no sound while my family slept and snored.  (This year I'm more likely to greet the new year on Facebook, sorry.)

Right now, I'm enjoying my winter break.  Today was Day 4 of 12.  Being at home is challenging (living with someone who has Alzheimer's), but Santa brought us the Wii, which is a stellar consolation.  And yes I've done more than my fair share of stimulating the economy :p

So back to my original point about a new year ... I'm not ready to make resolutions, but I'm thinking about it...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

snow day sing-along

We're on YouTube!  I had Thursday off as a personal day, then the eagerly anticipated Snow Day materialized Friday, so I hope I still remember how to teach on Monday.

My daughter had been practicing this song by herself and would ask us random questions like "what does sentimental mean?" in preparation for Friday's school holiday sing-along assembly.  We tried to explain "boughs" not "bows" of holly, and as you can hear, she sorta tried...

So her hard work paid off, even if the assembly never happened, because now she's sharing it with "the world".  Happy Holidays, everyone!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

tale of life, light, love

Please read Kate DiCamillo's Tale of Despereaux!  It's the most incredible story about life, love, light, and storytelling itself.  What's amazing is how deep the story hits my personal life, how the metaphor of an unlikely hero (engaged in a hopeless quest and does not quit) fits, and how the story reaches any age and stage of life.  Mixed in the story (and thus the metaphor) are darkness, pain, and the complexities within our hearts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm it

I'm still in a blog funk, as in I have too much to tell and no umph in me to do it.  Here's another slice of our Thanksgiving NYC trip, me in front of the Museum of Natural History on Central Park West after the Macy's parade, during our walk back up to 86th Street to take cross-town bus back to our friend's upper east side apartment.  I call Manhattan "Fantasy Island" now because our time there was just that, pure fantasy, from the massive parade balloons to fancy shopping and eating.  I think I have post-fantasy depression.  Like, this here is my real life?

I do thank frumteacher and untenured for shaking me loose enough to honor my "tag" duties -   So here are my random 7 facts ...

1. I'm a fair weather sports fan.  Right now, I'm hot for the University at Buffalo Bulls football team that won the MAC (Mid-American Conference) Championship, and I'm going to see them play the International Bowl against UCONN in Toronto on January 3.  (Is that more than one random fact?)  GO BULLS!

2. I'm very allergic to drinking alcohol.  As in, I break out in hives all over my upper body and face, and after a few days, the hives recede and the skin on my hands and feet peel off.  I didn't learn this about myself until law school, because prior to consorting with lawyer types, I only had sips here and there of beer or wine coolers, and I didn't connect the alcohol to the prickly itchiness on my back the next few days.  Lawyer types aren't shy about alcohol as a general statement of reality, so a bit of liquor was quite the wake-up call for me.

3. All of my clothes and shoes and bags fit into a walk-in closet, about 7 feet by 6 feet.  We sold our house a year ago and downsized a LOT to fit our 3 persons and belongings into 2 bedrooms inside my in-laws' home.

4. I think one of the best decisions I ever made was to be an English major at Barnard College, even if I had to convince my parents and myself that the English major would be "useful" for law school.  I learned it's okay to use lame reasons (law school) to justify doing something terrific (English major).

5. My mom announced during our NYC Thanksgiving visit that she's going to retire from her job next year and move to Taiwan to live with my dad.

6. I knew mom's retirement and move to China or Taiwan was imminent, but I was caught by surprise regardless, and it prompted me to think about going to Taiwan with my husband and daughter next summer as our 10 year wedding anniversary vacation.

7. I'm a snob.  But I'm super nice and friendly and smiley, so very few people know this fact.

I know I'm supposed to tag others, but...  I'm really lazy...  So any of you reading this blog, please feel free to consider yourself tagged if you want to share random facts about yourself!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

happy december?

This was our view of the Sponge Bob Square Pants balloon during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, from a packed crowd standing on 73rd Street, facing Central Park West.  I have so much to tell about a terrific NYC trip plus so much going on in school, but I'm just tired of blogging right now.  I think I can write more later this week.  It's going to be a busy month of social holiday activities, but I'll do the best I can.  Many thanks to you folks who read and comment - you really motivate me to continue blogging!

Monday, November 24, 2008

thanksgiving

Early wishes for a peaceful, joyful Thanksgiving to you all.  This was the scene near my home last week.  We're driving to New York City Wednesday after work and will be back Sunday evening.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Day of Listening


Remember my post about participating in StoryCorps last August?  Check out the first annual National Day of Listening on November 28, 2008!  (Thanks for reminding me and for visiting this blog, Kathleen McCarthy from StoryCorps :)

The power of oral history is immense.  Try it with your family members!

I'm planning to participate by talking and listening to my mother who lives in Queens, NY.  We'll drive to New York City the day before Thanksgiving, visit with our friend Angela who lives in Manhattan, maybe find the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade action, and visit with my mom in Queens.  I'll probably use my small microphone recorder device that plugs into the iPod to create a podcast.

Built into my Family History project for students is interviewing and listening to a family member tell a story about an important event or person.

Monday, November 17, 2008

the arrival

I started teaching The Arrival today, and true to the nature of a wordless novel, I lack the works to fully describe how satisfying it is to offer students such a work of art and beauty and meaning. Please visit artist and author Shaun Tan's web site.

How to teach a wordless graphic novel...  I did NOT use the animated movie "An American Tail" as I had originally planned, a decision made after previewing the movie.  (Note: once upon a time, a wise teacher told me to ALWAYS preview video before using in class.  I learned the hard way, of course.)  (The movie story was just not on point.)  Instead, I gave them a "slog" (journal) writing topic, "Moving Away", as an anticipation guide.  That prompted some good discussions on reasons for moving, feelings associated with moving, challenges, etc.  This topic is the closest most of my students have experienced with moving.  (Amazingly, 2 of my students are immigrants from Bosnia!  And a handful of students have lived in the same home their entire lives.)

Chapter 1 is short and fairly straightforward in narrative, so my 8th graders read the chapter silently, and the 6th and 7th graders read it with partners.  Then, we discussed plot, potential (created) dialogue, setting, and mood.  Since 6th and 8th grade classes are small, I led a whole group discussion in those classes.  In the 7th grade classes, I gave each pair of students an index card with a unique literary element (plot, setting, etc.) and instructed them to identify the element in chapter 1 after reading, then the pairs presented their "elements".

Well, I hope that sort of made sense!  The art of storytelling through pictures and no written words is ... masterful!  Some pages contain a collage of drawings; some collages are pieces of a snapshot, while other collages depict sequence of action.  Other pages are panoramic views.  I can't explain it any more - you have to find a copy somewhere and READ IT!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

I say I wanna a revolution


This book is revolutionizing me!  An art teacher at my school (with whom I've been working on the graphic novel unit) suggested and let me borrow it.  I speed-read through the book earlier this week, and now I'm slowly re-reading and annotating my own copy.  Here's my one sentence summary:

We are leaving the Information Age and entering the Conceptual Age, when knowledge workers must make way for the creators and empathizers.

That may sound cryptic, but please read the book!

I most certainly see myself as a teacher who both creates and empathizes.  I won't just follow a script, and I won't just skill and drill.  I want students to understand the meaning and beauty of language in their lives, and I teach based on our individual and collective past and current and new experiences.

We have finished reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and will read the wordless graphic novel The Arrival next week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day


The idea of voting before school occurred to me around 6am.  Conditions were ideal - I was driving myself, not carpooling, and I had about a 15 minute window of opportunity to wait in line. I admit that showing off a "I Voted" sticker all day at school was a great incentive!  When I arrived at the polling place, the sky was brightening (thanks to daylight savings), the parking lot was filling up, and there was a nice community feeling in line since my brother-in-law and 2 next door neighbors kept me company for the ten minutes that I waited.  I was disappointed to find NO sticker, so the pic above shows my homemade version.

At school, many students saw my sticker and asked, "Who'd you vote for?"  I didn't plan on this - DUH me - so the best idea I could muster in a few seconds was to deliver a mini-lecture about respect and civility and tolerance to the student and then answer directly.  It's consistent with my philosophy of teaching middle school students - provide authentic learning experiences and offer examples, including my own.

Several colleagues have told me in the past and today that they keep their voting decisions private, and I fully respect their choice.  One Social Studies teacher told me today that to express his own political views outright to students would invite parents to complain that his teachings were politically biased.  I most certainly do not want that problem.

After school, I picked up a free tall brew (decaf) from the Starbucks drive-thru, on my drive home.

Friday, October 31, 2008

get graphic

Happy Halloween!  This was a cake that a student made for our class - how sweet!  My costume was the Velveteen Rabbit :)


"Get Graphic" is the name of our public library system's promotional campaign to use graphic novels to reach struggling readers.  I started teaching Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and my students (grades 6, 7, and yes even 8) LOVE it.  Greg Heffley is the protagonist in Kinney's series - funny, annoying, exasperating, honest.  I highly recommend the Do-it-Yourself book - such an accessible, easy way for students who "hate" to read/write to start their own journal and, in my opinion, claim their human right to use language to assert their humanity.  OK, I just mean students NEED to grow confidence as readers and writers.

Next, we'll read The Arrival by Shaun Tan - a wordless graphic novel mixing fantasy and symbolism into an immigration story. The art is stunning, breathtaking.  You MUST read it.  My students don't have much background knowledge about immigration, so I'll probably use an easy connection like the movie "An American Tail" to introduce immigration themes.

Ultimately, my goal is a graphic family history project, in which students will interview a family member about an important event or person and then write a graphic narrative.  I'm going to build in some easy drawing lessons with help from the art teachers.  Well, that's the plan!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

a cold, bright day


At UB's homecoming game against Army today, I was cold, officially.  (No other reason to wear a random hat found in my husband's car.)  Truly "COOL" factors of this game - military planes "fly by" during national anthem, the Bronze Star awarded to UB student and ROTC cadet who served as medic in Iraq and helped save lives during enemy attack in March 2007 (picture shows the uniformed cadet on the jumbotron with wife and stepdaughter WHO IS MY STUDENT!), and oh yeah UB's overtime win ;)

Monday, October 13, 2008

farm



This is Blackman Homestead Farm in Cambria, NY.  My friend Julie's parents own and operate the farm, which has apple orchards, turkeys, pheasants, pies, apple butter, cider, etc. , with the very hands-on help of Julie and her siblings.  We have been visiting annually since my daughter was a baby, even before I met Julie through a mutual friend.  We were there today and had fun picking crispin apples from the trees and selecting pumpkins.

We saw Julie as soon as we arrived at the farm today, right before she went to do something that relates to grape pie fillings (that she tried to explain and I couldn't grasp much).  The weather was warm and mild, and I began to think of family farm life in a romantic way, as in "Oh to work the land with loved ones, instead of in a packed institutional building with hormonal teenagers and harried colleagues".  I wondered what Julie would say if I ran to her and begged for a farm job.  So the downside of this otherwise perfectly lovely holiday weekend is too much time to think too much.

PS - Today's family farm visit is the opposite of our Great Pumpkin Farm visit yesterday.  The Great Pumpkin Farm is perfect for the urban and suburban folks to check out "the country" and spend a lot of money for rides and food and time in traffic.  Blackman Homestead Farm is a working farm that sells what it makes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

fall holiday weekend

At the Great Pumpkin Farm, the girls climbed huge pumpkins (above).  Old jalopies accompanied mums, and the kids enjoyed rides and fed goats (below).



 Above - I'm sitting next to my father-in-law's grave.  We visited to say hi and water the flowers.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Jonathan Kozol made me cry



... during his keynote speech "Arts and the Aesthetics in the Age of Tests and Terror in our Nation's Public Schools" at the 21st Century Arts in Learning conference at the University at Buffalo Friday, October 3.  Kozol shared stories that inspired his newest book, Letters to a Young Teacher, and explained that the "young teacher" Francesca whose first grade, inner city Boston classroom he visited, loved her students, and he looked in No Child Left Behind and didn't find the word "love" in it.  That's when I cried.  Not surprisingly, he ranted and railed against NCLB robbing love and joy and beauty from urban schools.  His speech probably reflects how he thinks - in poetry, in tangents, with passion.

The top picture shows him wearing Keds sneakers just like Mr. Rogers!  Middle pic is me at his book signing.  Bottom pic shows what he wrote/drew in my book.  Love the halo!  (Why long hair?  He was talking to the woman in line before me when he signed MY book, and SHE had long hair.)

I attended the conference with fellow English teacher H from my school - so fun!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

chugging along

We collected enough snacks and non-food items to send 2 soldier care packages, one of which was sent to the cousin of a student.

I just haven't felt like writing - sorry!  Definitely busy, in many good ways, and definitely still the best job ever.  We started a unit that connects informational text reading with writing fan letters to Olympic athletes.

Oh, today I was missing for 10 minutes.  We have a 2-day schedule, and as a lab teacher, I live by "Day 1 or Day 2" because I see students every other day.  Well, for 7 minutes, I lost track of which day, showed up to lunch duty, said hi to a few students whom I knew, then realized they're not in my lunch duty, jogged 3 minutes back to my classroom, where a teacher was calling the office looking for me and my 10 students were waiting.  The first student who saw me huffing and puffing up the stairs said, "There she is!"  A boy said, "Darn!"  A girl said, "I thought you were dead!"  Another girl said, "I thought you fell down the stairs!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

going home


We live in the town where my husband D grew up and in the house where he lived from age 3 until adulthood.  A few minutes away from the house in which we live is the cute little ranch house pictured above, where D lived from birth till age 3.  The family moved because D's 2 year old brother liked to be in the front yard and watch cars pass by on the busy main road, causing much anxiety and consternation for his parents.  We drive by this ranch house often, and last week we noticed a "For Sale" sign in the front yard.  This morning, D's sister saw the "Open House" sign, and none of us could resist the chance to go "home" again.  The owners are a friendly, gracious couple who have lived there for 30 years (but moving to Florida) and welcomed us in (after we readily confessed our true intentions). It was fun for us to see the changes and think about the young family living there in the 1960's.

I missed my 20 year high school reunion yesterday.  The reunion was held at a restaurant in Manhattan, not the Bronx where my school was (and still is) located, either a nine-hour train ride or one-hour plane ride away from here.  I really REALLY wanted to go, but I couldn't figure out the logistics of going out of town the third week of the school year to attend my reunion without my husband who was coaching my daughter's last soccer game of the season that same day.  Instead, I found and friended a handful of classmates on Facebook and followed with envy their updates and posted pictures about the reunion.  That's my version of going home and staying home at the same time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

marching to the beat

This is pic of the terrific marching band "Thunder of the East" of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, performing at half-time of the UB Bulls vs. Temple Owls game this afternoon.  My husband is a UB Bulls fan and season ticket holder, but we (daughter and I) join him at games only once, maybe twice, a season.  We sure picked a good one today!  Despite the clouds and late-game drizzle, we witnessed the probably history-making, astounding, end-of-game play, 35-yard Hail Mary touchdown by UB to win the game, 30 - 28.

Further evidence of best job ever - my biggest teaching dilemma is my two sixth grade classes.  One class has 1 boy and 4 girls, and Thursday I had to declare a "Jonas Brothers-FREE zone" for the sanity of the teacher and the male student.  The other class has 3 girls who are super super super quiet, and I think their happiest moment in my class so far is when I made up a homework assignment on the spot, and they dutifully copied the directions with visible relief, as in, "Finally, something we understand."  Honestly, I'm getting used to teaching 6th graders.  I have packed 7th grade classes, in which I use seating charts and maintain "raise your hand for permission to speak" order with ease.  And the small 8th grade classes are just very relaxed and conversational.  So easy!!!

Last week, our lessons focused on their learning strengths (Multiple Intelligence inventory, perfect for 7th and 8th graders, IMO, except the 6th graders seemed confounded) and learning interests.  Next week, we start a Soldier Care Package project, and they all write letters or create drawings or origami or songs, depending on their learning strengths and interests.

As for my high-stakes testing problem... according to a colleague and my husband, the correct metaphor is "hurricane", and I think we're weathering it the best we can.  (No offense or disrespect intended for Hurricane Ike victims.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

short-lived euphoria

The job itself is still the best ever, but right now dread sits in the pit of my stomach, and its name is high-stakes testing scores.  That's all I have to share about it for now.  In place of information, I offer this morning fog pic taken today on my way to work and also the following classroom conversation yesterday:

Student A - So, we pay money to go to school, and we have to work.

Me - First of all, you don't pay money.  Your parents pay taxes.

A - Yeah, we pay taxes.

Me - And get used to work.  Everyone works, or they do nothing and have nothing.

Student B - You can get scholarships!

Me - You have to work to get scholarships.

B - This one guy just had one fall from the sky!

Me - Oh.  You mean you want to get lucky.  You can sit around and do nothing and wait to get lucky.  Most people who do nothing and wait for lucky just get nothing.  And you think I should work for free, teach you for free, and not pay my bills or take care of my family.

And that was the end of that class.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

best job ever


I think I won the teacher lottery.  I don't know how long I will feel this way, and I just hope I can keep the job for as long as I do.

"ELA Lab" is our term for the remedial reading and writing course that is a "booster" class in which I can teach and strengthen fundamental reading and writing skills as well as support classroom curriculum.  I have 60 students so far (the number may increase next quarter), and I see them over the course of 2 days.

Case in point: I have one former student (from last year) who was smart and cooperative during class activities last year but typically handed in poor quality work and performed poorly on the state assessment.  As of last Thursday, he had not done any of the summer independent reading assignment (due tomorrow) and showed no concern whatsoever.  In his words (last week and all last year), reading and writing is hard and boring.  Guess what I'm going to be doing this year?!?! First, help him find interesting reading and writing content, then push him to try harder and not give up on something that takes work.  As his regular ELA classroom teacher last year, I knew what he needed to do, but I was too busy with 20 other students in his class, most of whom had serious cognitive and behavioral problems.  This year, in my ELA lab class, he is one of TWO students.  And the never-ending overwhelming flood of papers to grade?  POOF!  Gone!  ELA Lab does not give homework or grades, but oh students will WORK.

In summary, I think I can improve the quality of my teaching and have more fun doing what I love about being a teacher!  Please don't wake me up if I'm dreaming.

The top picture was taken outside our home by my husband on our daughter's first day of second grade.  That really is our kid boarding her bus, with new massive polka dot messenger bag slung across her person.  The fuzziness is an authentic mistake but oh-so-convenient for blog anonymity.  The bottom picture shows a part of my classroom on Friday - ball toss (popular), tangram sets (interesting but not as popular), real plant (green) and fake flowers (orange).  Most popular carnival activity was ping pong.  That was the best dollar I ever spent in the dollar store.

Monday, September 1, 2008

last day of summer vacation 2008


Nothing earth shattering, just some organizing of home stuff and shopping at Target and Barnes & Noble.  This is what I picked up at BN:

... tangram set (with magnetic pieces) to use in classroom, especially for carnival (either instead of or in addition to origami)
... scenic calendar (of beautiful beaches) that I cut apart and use as posters in my classroom
... The One Hundred by Nina Garcia, eye candy reading about clothing and accessories (FYI - I have 46)

And that's that!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

inspiration

carnival

I worked out some more details for the ELA Lab Carnival (this is for you, jenamoured!)...

The carnival will have 4 booths - each booth is a game and language arts review.  Students are divided into 4 groups and given about 5 minutes at each booth to play and review.  For example, at the coin toss booth, students will play the game and review the parts of speech during the 5 minute rotation, then move on to the next booth, and so on.  When all the groups have moved through all the booths, I will ask questions about parts of speech, literary elements, etc. and students who answer correctly win prizes (bookmarks, candy, etc.).

Each booth will have signs, directions, review information, etc.  I'm planning to run the carnival for 2 days/lessons - each day/lesson covers different language art topics and some new games. So I have more set up work to do on Tuesday.  Wednesday is Day 1 of the school year!

mamma mia


... came to town for a short visit, so Niagara Falls was on our agenda yesterday.  Our last visit to this great natural wonder was probably in 2005, and my 7 year old daughter does not remember it at all. Top pic is our Maid of the Mist boat ride, with the American Falls and Bridal Veil behind us (mom on left). Bottom pic is nighttime view of lights on the American Falls, our view from little Luna Island, on the US side.  (View of falls on Canadian side is much better, but we didn't cross the border this time.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

most excellent autumn

... knocks at the door!  Behold its excellence...
  • TV season premieres, such as Grey's Anatomy on 9/25 or (insert your personal favorite)
  • sports, such as hockey, football (college and professional), or (insert your personal favorite)
  • cooler temperatures, leading to
  • autumn foliage, and also
  • change in clothing - hurray for jeans, sweaters, ballerina flats, or (insert your personal favorite)
  • fun holidays, such as Halloween
  • (other personal favorites?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

marathon fun




Quick summary of the last 5 days, evidence of marathon fun:

Saturday - our 7 year old's soccer game in morning, then Martin's Fantasy Island (amusement park - that's my kid in the middle of the Beanstalk ride in first pic - it's her favorite ride, can you tell? - next to our friends)

Sunday - Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts - in particular, we attended the performance of the Mary Ramsey Trio, with our friend Craig as guitarist (right), Mary (center) who was the original lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, and Dr. Mark the chiropractor as guitarist (left), my first night of hives

Monday - visit to daughter's school to meet new 2nd grade teacher, shopping, pediatric dentist visit to extract infected baby tooth, another soccer game in which daughter played less than usual due to tooth extraction, my 2nd night of hives

Tuesday - the Buffalo Zoo in morning/early afternoon (lovely weather, picnic on grass, giraffe feeding, greeted former student who now works at zoo), dinner and movie (Mamma Mia!) in evening with friends, my third night of hives

Wednesday (today) - picked up school supply kit from PTA at daughter's school (pre-ordered and paid in June, eliminated store shopping, for better or worse), the Erie County Botanical Gardens in morning/early afternoon (pic of the lovely outdoor children's garden above) with picnic in outdoor shaded garden area, NO hives

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

summer vacation is not too long

I clearly recall making the contrary statement last year in this post.  So I was curious to see if I would feel the same this sumer, and the answer is really... no.  Perhaps my family circumstances are more challenging and keep me plenty busy and plenty stimulated, contrary to my sentiments in late July 2007.  I don't know the exact reason for this change of heart, but I sure LOVE these 2 months.

I think I'm stressed.  The main clue is (warning - potentially TMI - too much info - revealed in this paragraph) that I've been breaking out in serious hives the third night in a row.  It only starts from about 8pm and lasts into the early morning hours.  (Yes, note the time of this post.)  I take a Benadryl or 2, then go to sleep, and the hives are mostly gone in the morning.  I've racked my brains, thinking of potential allergens - a new shampoo or detergent or whatever? - and coming up only with the impending start of the school year.  The truth is - I'm not ready for school.  I haven't written actual lesson plans, just general lesson topics for the first 10 weeks.  I'm not finished preparing for my hopefully-spectacular Back-to-school Carnival (warning - simplification of original plans may be in order).  7 days left till the first day of school.

In case this post degenerates into another teacher back-to-school whine-fest, I happily inform you that I'm groovin' to the soundtrack of the most fabulous summer movie on the planet Earth - Mamma Mia!!  (Second exclamation point is mine.)  I just saw the movie with two friends, and we laughed so hard that I doubted if I could drive home safely.  But I did.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

that lovin' feelin'


Classroom set-up this morning!  (Not official work time, but just because I can't wait till last minute.)  2 and a half hours later, I got that lovin' feelin', that peaceful, happy, I'm-supposed-to-be-here feeling.  It's not fancy or even complete (missing some fake plants and flowers, nature posters), but in the quiet bright (sky) light, it's a dream coming true.

I brought my 7 year old ("I wanna be a teacher when I grow up") daughter along to help.  She set up the books on the bookshelf, set up and tested the carnival games, and drew a picture for me to post next to my desk.

Yep, carnival games.  I've been warned that the first week of school is a scheduling nightmare for this course "ELA Lab".  Students come and go, partly because they convince their parents that they don't need, much less want, remediation.  I've also been told that 6th and 7th graders may sit quietly those first days, but the 8th graders ooze "don't wanna be here" attitude out of their ears from the get-go.  SO.

I'm running a "Back to School Carnival", with literacy themes, such as the Literary Genres Ball Toss, Figurative Language Cup Toss, Character Trait Ping Pong, Origami Imagery.  Students earn tickets when they play games to trade for prizes (candy, pencils, bookmarks, etc.).  And, of course, students will just LOVE coming to ELA Lab!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

the inevitable

My latest theory about why I'm writing/blogging so much in August is procrastination.  I know in my heart and soul that it's time to produce, not just consume and vegetate.  I designate Monday as the start of writing lessons. Honest.

Yesterday I received federal jury duty summons to start serving September 3, aka first day of school.  PANIC!  I'm very interested to serve jury duty, but on the first day of school?!  And federal jury duty could last weeks and even months! Then I called the information number this morning and learned I could ask for postponement, which is ideal for me.  (No, I didn't see the fine print about postponement, probably due to the panic obstructing my vision.)  So that's what I'm doing, and keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

summer writing

...makes me happy!  I've enjoyed PerJoWriMo and hope to continue.  Blogging has been the other major writing activity, and it truly has been fun and rewarding.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

summer reading update #2


I gave up reading books in July.  Sort of like Lent, except not, because I was lazy.

August brought me back, a lot, starting with Breaking Dawn (fans or foes must check out Occupation: Girl blog's biting analysis, book by book, chapter by chapter of BD), and followed by The Host (very much enjoyed, regardless of youknowwhat ending).  Amber from book club picked The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time, and I started reading it in the bookstore Tuesday, VERY engaging.

Battle of the Books reading homework begs for attention.  So far, I've read Al Capone Does My Shirts (fantastic historical fiction set in Depression-era Alcatraz) and most of Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (realistic fiction about 8th grade boy coping with family illness, hopeless girl crush, passion for music/drums, and general middle school drama from a boy's POV).

The photo shows my daughter's stone creation on the beach about 10 days ago.  I read ... fortress.

crunch time


We checked out the zoo action today with friends and caught young tiger twins Thyme and Warner (born last winter, can't even tell they're "babies", guess who's the corporate sponsor) chasing each other.  (Sorry pics are so fuzzy.  I forgot the digital camera at home.  The iPhone 2 megapixel, no-zoom camera feature is lame-O.  If you click on top image, you may see enlarged pic of tigers in action.)  Middle pic shows a pair snowy white (except for black head/neck) swans!  Last pic - speaks for itself.  A - what else? - storm ended the outing, and we walked 15 minutes in the pouring rain back to the car, completely drenched and content.

Our schedule is packed to the gills from now until school starts, as we try to squeeze in every last picnic, movie, dinner, playdate, and so on.  Exhausting and a bit manic.

Tomorrow, library picnic to wrap-up Story Time summer reading program, then visit a teacher friend, her young son, and new baby boy.

Friday, I may just take a breather.  Chill out at home, catch up with the slow cooker, washer and dryer, the Olympics, magazines, and some books.

Saturday is my daughter's first soccer game, after which we rush to catch the gifting portion of a bridal shower, then on to the cottage for the rest of the weekend.  Should I even mention next week, when I attempt to meet up with 2 groups of teachers (to work and socialize), set up my classroom...?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

award!


My very first blog award!  YAY ME!  Many thanks to Ms Teacher :)

I hereby pass along the torch to the following bloggers who brighten my blogging days, may they continue to inspire with words and pictures (and pass this award on to their favorite blogs)...