Thursday, January 31, 2008

Love in two parts

Part 1 - Time and space

It's week 2 of the science fiction/fantasy unit, reading and studying A Wrinkle in Time.  Some students have zipped through reading the chapters on their own, but some are struggling with the text for various reasons - such as difficult vocabulary, unfamiliar genre (in book form, because goodness knows they all enjoy sci-fi media such as film and video games), lazy brain, slower pace than Harry Potter, etc.  So along the way, I am showing scenes from the Disney 2004 made-for-TV movie version just so they can visualize the setting, mood, fantasy elements, etc. despite the distressing (to me) differences between book and movie.

I'm incorporating some slogging (journaling), such as "Space travel - would you do it and why/why not?", "Time travel - when/where to and why?"  Our discussions about these topics have been fun and spirited, except for an unexpected, heartbreaking personal story today, shared by a student who wanted to use time travel to understand a painful family event.

Love as the pure antidote for evil is one of the themes in this classic novel.

Part 2 - Mac love on a windy day

My "wind snow day" off school yesterday was lovely and quiet, punctuated in late afternoon with hectic, last-minute Apple tech support - via 30 minute telephone call and then local retail store appointment - to replace my Airport Express base station and the optical drive of my MacBook.  Zero charge, thanks to kind Mac Genius and the extended warranty I bought for the MacBook in July 2006.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

snow day!

... my FIRST of this school year.  (In October 2006, our area had a freak snowstorm, causing extensive power outages and school closings for 6 days!  That was our wildest dream come true, but then everyone worried about "running out of snow days" (which we did) for the rest of the year.)

It's not really snow today but high winds, projected to reach 60 mph!  This is my first grade daughter's third snow day of the year.  I'll report back later on our snow day festivities, I mean, activities.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

winter sunshine

I am craving it. Today, it obliged. While I snapped up evidence of this treat, geese flew over (are they just migrating south NOW?). (BTW - The last picture is sideways.)

Winter, winter - what can I say that's not cliche? Around 10 years ago I read Alice Hoffman's Here on Earth and finally understood this northern winter. It builds character. It makes us stronger, should we survive. And I am surviving.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the good, bad, and ugly

Kiddie dentists are a lot fancier now than when I was a kid... So here's my cute kid, right before the tooth extraction.

Next, see the baby molar - isn't it gruesome? So large, rotted, roots and all. Reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors.  (You should see the space left behind in the gums - ew!)

Then, some of the papers I graded yesterday. I finished them all (about 300) in 2 days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


... today is the middle portion of a 3-day weekend. The scene outside our kitchen window appears bright and sunshine-y, with animal (deer, squirrels, others?) tracks in the snow, especially under the bird feeders right behind the house.

Inside the kitchen, I sit with student papers. I am grading 3 written assignments for 97 students this weekend; this afternoon I graded about 120 in 3 hours or so, leaving about 180 for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I am reading Ghettonation by Cora Daniels. Inside book jacket - "thoughtful critique of America's embrace of a ghetto persona that demeans women, devalues education, celebrates the worst African American stereotypes, and contributes to the destruction of civil peace." After reading 3 chapters so far, I can't stop thinking and categorizing what's "ghetto" and what's not "ghetto" about my daily life, the lives of my family, neighbors, friends, students, colleagues, acquaintances, strangers, celebrities, ... None of us are immune to this social phenomenon.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I'm home sick today. I really should have taken yesterday off, but that was day 2 of the ELA state assessment, which probably requires hospitalization to justify a sick day. I made the decision and arrangements yesterday early afternoon - typed up the lesson plan, adjusted for the substitute teacher, made copies, etc.

The title of this post - energy - is what I lacked yesterday that prompted me to call in sick. Just like good health in general, I don't even think about the energy I need to be the teacher I am until I don't have it.

As soon as I officially logged in my sick day request (online, aren't we fancy!), I felt at peace, simultaneously giving in and letting go. Physically, I was tired, congested, drippy, icky, all night long. But I didn't mind so much because a day off gave me time and space to sleep and recover. As I lay in bed, propped up by 2 pillows, quarantined in the bedroom, waiting for the antihistamine to kick in, Elizabeth Gilbert read to me her experiences in Italy from Eat, Pray, Love. (My favorite part so far is her rendition of the Italian soccer fan's cheers and curses during a game she attended in Rome - I don't have the book yet, but I doubt I would EVER be able to properly interpret the fan's sentiments on paper in either language.)

I started my morning slowly, with TV, tea, blogging, emails, Facebook. I contemplated for a while the pile of essays I brought home to grade, counted and realized there were only 11, so I graded them. Then I ventured outside to the public library.

Today, I feel much better. I'm still sniffly and s
neezy, but I am content. The first picture is a library copy of Eat, Pray, Love on audio CD, a library copy of Artist to Artist - 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art (to benefit the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art), tea, and tissue box. The Artist book is fantastic - each letter is accompanied by a foldout with illustrations, and just wait till you see what accompanies Robert Sabuda's letter. The picture below is what I also found in the library to enjoy on my day off.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

gotta have it

the MacBook Air, because ...

1. it weighs 3 lbs
2. so thin (under an inch at its thickest), it fits into a large department manila envelope (ok, that's what the promo ad showed)
3. multi-touch trackpad (kinda like the iPhone)
4. 13.3 inch backlit LED display
5. full size, backlit keyboard
6. I love mac.  I think non-mac users are crazy.

Only drawback for me - no optical drive, but the demo guy says you can insert a disk into a computer with optical drive, then the MacBook Air wirelessly connects to that computer and downloads/installs from the optical drive.  (Does that make sense?  It sort of makes sense to me Sorry if I explained it weird.) This just assumes you live wirelessly through and through - rent movies from iTunes, for example.

Sticker price: $1,799.

PS - I didn't mean to omit the VERY important eco-consciousness of this product.  (Plus, Green Base comments more coherently than I did on the lack of CD drive.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

cute kid, a pure antidote

She lost tooth #3 yesterday. Due to a comedy/tragedy (fine line) of errors, she had to leave this note under her pillow last night: "Daer tooth fary / my tooth came out today / it got thron in to the garbage / srry."

Here, she squints at her toothless reflection in the butter knife. Then, she really hams it up for the camera.

No matter what fear or worry dwells in my heart, my cute kid is my pure antidote.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

best teacher advice

... from the teacher who was department chair when I was hired, and who retired at the end of my first year of teaching, to the audience of her retirement dinner speech:

"When you leave school each day, think of ONE good thing that you did as a teacher that day."

Countless days in the years after that speech, I drove away from school, frazzled, struggling for air, then thinking of ONE good thing I did that day, and breathing...

Melting snow on the brick patio in our back yard - that's the weather story of our winter - snow, snow melts, snow...

Friday, January 11, 2008

week of review

... for the NYS ELA grade 7 assessment on January 15 & 16. Hurray. I'd much rather show off, I mean, tell you about the timely use of black Baggu, current favorite read In Defense of Food (just started part 2, "the Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization", and I just know blogging is going to be one of those diseases), and cute red tote/work bag (yes, I can squeeze what I need for work in it, if I include the folded up Baggu).

Update on I Feel Bad About My Neck audio book on CD, read by author Nora Ephron - I admit you have to enjoy hearing her droll, sarcastic voice and endless stories about how much she loves New York City, which I do. On the other hand, I tried to listen to Home to Big Stone Gap on CD read by author Adriana Trigiani and did NOT enjoy the listening experience. Sorry, Ms. Trigiani, your voice, sometimes loud and sometimes soft, with varied (supposed) Blue Ridge Mountain accents for different characters, was distracting and confusing. I plan to read the book in paper form, as I enjoyed the previous Big Stone Gap novels and this one showed promise.

I'm thankful it's Friday.

Monday, January 7, 2008


... new finds today:

#1 - Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck on audio CD, public library copy, read by the
author - I laughed my head off driving to and from work today. Friends had recommended books on audio CD when my daily work commute grew to 90 minutes round trip this past fall. Radio talk news and music finally lost their appeal after 4 months, and I found this copy at my local public library on Saturday. Chapter 1 ("I feel bad about my neck") is somewhat timely - I was checking out the back view of my new short haircut this morning, and noticed a prominent fold on the back of my neck that I never noticed before. Hmm. I'm still on this side of 40, just peeking over ...

#2 - Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food - An Eater's Manifesto - I heard the NPR interview with author on Friday. I'm showing my age and immigrant background here, but the first time I heard of Craig Claiborne was this afternoon, listening to Ephron's chapter "Serial Monogamy" about her relationships with cookbooks since the 1970s, then second was a few hours later, reading the introduction of Pollan's book.

#3 - Baggu, the cute reusable nylon shopping bag (my choices are red, fuchsia, and black) arrived today in the mail! Thanks to post on blog Green Base.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

worth every snowflake

The Ice Bowl in all its glory on New Year's Day 2008 - the National Hockey League Winter Classic in the middle of an open air football stadium transformed into hockey arena! The nice man behind our seats took our photo above so you can see the ice behind us. Then, pyrotechnics to welcome players into the stadium. Here's a quick recap of the day's events:

Best quote: "We have to stand the whole ride?" said husband, when we piled onto the metro game day express bus, standing room only. The ride was only 30 minutes, but the bus took another 30 minutes to find its parking spot and let us out.

Best fan equipment: self-heating hand warmers. According to our experience and overhead conversations on the bus ride home, the warmers don't work as well in shoes/boots.

Best concession treat: cheese and pepperoni pizza that husband bought in the middle of the third period, when teams switched sides (due to weather, fairness, blah, blah). He even had time to go to the bathroom and didn't miss a minute of play. There were many long delays to due ice conditions.

Worst concession treat: hot chocolates purchased by the guy next to us. He missed the entire second period to buy the drinks, got back to his seat, and said to his wife, "that was a disaster".

Best commercial on jumbo-tron while we waited for long intervals to fix the ice: TIE between Ryan Miller wins "yo mama" contest in Chinese and "You're the Best Baby in the World!!!" new dad/crazy hockey fan.

Most surreal play action: watching players whack at the puck to try to ice it, only to see the puck shuffle through the snow in slow motion. I remember that it snowed almost the entire game. We also stood in our seats (22nd row from field, behind Pittsburgh players bench) during the entire play time because people in front stood...

Best game moment: walking into the stadium and taking it all in, this historic NHL event, and realizing that WE'RE PART OF IT!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

back to school #2

Now that I've surfed through some other teacher blogs, I am indignant that so many of you teachers are still lazying about at home!  Don't you know the young, impressionable minds of your students are melting into lazy puddles as you type your posts???  I'm speaking from pure envy, of course.

I have a cold, so my first day back was ... sleepy.  I had enough foresight weeks ago to make today's lesson "make a small poster day".  Yesterday was Ice Bowl - NHL Winter Classic day - more on that later, after I get over this cold, upload pictures, figure out how to properly chronicle the day's historic events - in short, it was exhilarating and exhausting, and I was asleep by 9pm. Lesson goal aside, my true goal today was to be at school.  Just get there.  The rest was icing on the cake.

The good - greeting students and coworkers, trading stories about vacation and the horrors of getting up this morning, slogging (journaling) about "back to school", overhearing one student tell another "I almost died waking up this morning" and then using that example to review hyperbole, thanks much.

The bad - probably 10 students who confessed or otherwise revealed that they don't even have a nonfiction book for independent reading, despite my repeated notices and lessons and warnings for the past month.

The ugly - my nose that dripped like a leaky faucet, tissues that burned my skin, germs, germs, everywhere.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

happy new year!

Greet the new year this way - channel surf the countdown shows with NO sound, blog surf links on known blogs to new blogs, listen to snores of loved ones, watch confetti rain in silence on Times Square and other public countdown worthy places...

I'm alone, alive, and thankful.