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Showing posts from January, 2013

Go for the Epic Win!

Sometimes in my life I feel a bit bipolar. This week has represented one of these weeks. Last Friday I was feeling as if I was the worst teacher ever and less than one week later, my spirits are high.
When confronted in our lives with difficult times, we really only have two choices, forge on or quit. That's it...
There is a quote from Steve Jobs that I think really sums up my week (my life): "If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you." 
My vision is broad. I have found a great herd that I feel nurtures and protects me. I am motivated to improve my workplace, help my students find their path, move forward. My son is healthy and is getting healthier. I am blessed.
I have a friend who told me about this great website called "SuperBetter." This website talks of making anything in your life a game and identifying how to get the EPIC WIN!!! You should really check it out!!
Today, I talk…

Two Giraffes and a Microwave...

My youngest son's feet get so cold that they feel like little ice cubes at the end of his legs. This has been getting increasingly worse as he has gotten older and taller. When you are in a wheelchair and cannot move your legs much, you just don't have the same circulation in your feet that others have.

One of the things that he loves is a set of giraffes. They are actually warm compress packs that smell like lavender, but he loves to sleep with them. Well, he is especially fond of his sleeping buddy Razzberry. One of our nurses discovered that if you microwave the giraffes and put them on his feet, his feet get very toasty and, frankly, he loves the warmth and smell. I joke that "Two Giraffes and a Microwave" will be the name of my new rock band.

Giraffes are really amazing creatures, if you think about it. Everything about them seems like it shouldn't work. Their neck is disproportionate from their bodies, their legs long and awkward. My youngest absolutely lov…

It's a party...

As a teacher, you occasionally have to pull a "magic trick" to get your students excited about school. As you know, I have been experiencing some serious lows in the "feeling like I am making a difference" arena, but today, as promised, I moved forward.

I entered the classroom with spring in my step, pronouncing that this was a day to move forward. "You can't go back and change the mistakes of your past, you can only make better mistakes in your future." Wanting to find a way to reward my students for their excellent work (that I am SURE they are going to exhibit), I told them that they would get to earn "Party Buxx." They seemed intrigued (and frankly so was I since I was making it up as I went along). "What are Party Buxx?" They asked...(yes, do tell).."Well," I said, "It is a way for you to buy parties." "Cool!" As I turned around I thought, "Well, now I need to figure this out since they seeme…

The Power of One...

Last summer I had the opportunity to go to the Model Schools Conference in Orlando, FL. I had heard about this conference from colleagues who attended, but had never been. It was, by far, the most inspiring conference I had ever attended in my teaching life. I felt inspired to make changes and help move our school into the next dimension. It's hard to believe that was just over six months ago.

I think that it's easy when you are in education to feel defeated, if you are a teacher who takes personal pride in your work. I am not going to lie, there are some that see teaching as a job, arrive at 7, leave at 3, don't take any work home...Others think of it as a calling, are inspired by their students to push them, make them strive to do better. I have worked with both. Yesterday I felt like I was becoming one of the former, tonight I am going back to the later. My step-father wrote to me regarding yesterday's post and reminded me that truly I need to change the trajectory …

Get a clue...

Tonight I finished my second quarter grades. Usually I go through the process, leave my comments, and be done. Don't get me wrong, hours of grading occurs before grades are actually entered, but on the actual night, I can make pretty quick work of it. Tonight, as I was going through this process, I was struck by the sheer number of students who are not passing my math class. I figured out the percentage and it is horrifying, 46.6% are not passing. These, my friends, are our future.

I wanted to look deeper into these numbers, the math nerd in me, and really get to the root of the issue. First I am looking at how many absences each student has (thanks to my colleague), then I will be looking into whether they receive any services, and finally, look at their grade from last quarter...where are they trending. This may be the worst my students have ever done and even worse they don't seem to care.

This year has caused me reflect a lot on my teaching practice, my effectiveness as a …

That's totally unexpected..

Ever have times in your life when things that are completely unexpected happen? In my life, there have been so many times when I reflect back and say, "Wow..that was totally unexpected." Today, it was a little thing. My youngest, who was admitted to the hospital yesterday for a MRI to rule out a bone infection was sent home today, as planned. This was, to my memory, the first time that we ever came home at the expected time. Every other time, we came for a few days and stayed for a few months. As we were packing up, I had that thought, "This is totally unexpected."

I think over many events in my life and look at those that seemed to come out of thin air. When I was married to my ex-husband, I applied for my first job at the middle school where our good friend (who was living with us at the time) had attended. I got the job and we soon were adopted by his family. Totally unexpected.

When we moved to California because my ex-husband was in the military, I ended up ge…

Word...

These last few days have been a lesson in communication. My youngest, Javad, was to be admitted to the hospital for some tests to rule out a bone infection. The plan was to admit him on Thursday, have the tests done on Friday and, hopefully, go home on Saturday. All seemed to be on track until noon on Thursday. It seems that our primary care doctor didn't call the hospital to tell them that we were coming. After three or four phone calls, it was decided that he would come on Friday morning instead. I was frustrated, but knew that we could make it work. So this morning came and we arrived, as scheduled, only to be told that, according to their records, we were supposed to be here Thursday. I looked at her dumbfounded. Really, we didn't come on Thursday because they told us NOT to. So very frustrating. We waited for about an hour in the waiting room and finally were taken to our room.

As I have been thinking over these events, I was thinking how important communication is. We in…

A case for faces...

So I have just jumped on the Downton Abbey bandwagon, as of yesterday, and completed Season 1 today. It is a fascinating show set in the early 1900's. If you haven't started watching it, I highly recommend it. As I am watching I am struck by the behavior of both the Crawley family as well as their servants. What I am struck by is how important it is to be viewed as proper, even if it is totally untrue.

It makes me think about the facade that many put up for others to see. Sure, we all may feel that we are showing a true selves, but really, I believe, that there are many of us who hide a part of themselves for fear of what people would really think about them. I know for myself this is absolutely true. There is a portion of myself that I try to keep hidden or, at least, shielded from others.

My mother was always the life of the party. She was beautiful, but loud. She had a great laugh and told you what she thought, whether or not it was appropriate or what you wanted to hear. I…

Village people...

Got Math? I think the answer for most the answer is a definite, "No..." "I don't get math," is what so many would say. Sometimes being a math teacher is a really strange job. If you ask most adults the subject they didn't like the most or the one that they struggled with the most, almost everyone says, "Math."

I have to be honest...math was not one of my favorite subjects in high school. I think the main reason was the teachers. I had a great Algebra teacher, Mr. Bethke, who opened the world of math for me, but then the following teachers were a bit horrifying. One of my teachers had a reputation for looking down girls shirts, so everyone wore zip up jackets to class. That was the year that I did not ask any questions in math. Luckily, my good friend and I had math together (we actually had all but one class together) and he would help me every day so I could achieve success.

What determines our success? What determines our passion?

These are ques…

Casting a wider net...

Today was one of those days, as a teacher, that I am reminded the impact one can have on the life of another. Two years ago, I had a very special group of 8th graders. I had looped with many of them so a deeper bond was formed with them. During their 8th grade year, there were many who were struggling. We formed a special group, College Bound Math Club. They signed up to stay at school until 7 pm. It wasn't homework time, but rather extra instruction and opportunities to retake tests. Most of all it was about building community.

This community has lasted over two years. I still have high school students come down the my school once a week for math help. Today we studied for their math final. We joked around and talked about the things they are learning (and how I already taught them these things when they were in the 8th grade). I felt like I was being pulled back two years and my heart was swelling. I love these students. Watching them talk and teaching each other is everything t…

Where we stand...

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." ~Martin Luther King, Jr.

This, my friends, is a quote that really resonates with me today. I am at a wall, one unlike any I have seen before. I know I have talked about my job and my love for it. I truly feel called to work with my students and yet I feel flat. I love my life, have a great family and wonderful friends and yet I feel flat. Why? I don't know...

When you have a child with a chronic disease you live a life on a roller coaster. Some days you are laughing and having fun and others you are screaming. Some days this life wears on you. I think that's where I am, worn. I am not the shabby chic kind of worn, but rather worn down to the nub kind of worn.

Javad has been sick for many weeks. I have been standing in a place for him to get better. I feel a bit like Atlas pushing the rock up the hill. I am tired, wea…

A table is not just a table...

Today my husband and I took our "old" dining table over to our daughter's house. This table was given to me almost 20 years ago and has always been one of my favorites. It has large claw feet and is made of very solid oak. As we were taking it out to our van, I commented that things were just not made to last anymore like this table had been. This table was built at a time when it was intended to be handed down from one family member to the next. It is now on it's third generation.

When I think about it, not much is really made like this table anymore. As the years have gone by, we have moved more and more into the disposable. Some of this is out of necessity, but others are not. Furniture, household items, electrical items are all made to last a relatively short time. A computer can be obsolete in as few as five years. Technology is changing and so are the items that are available to us.

Sadly, many relationships aren't built to last either. In the times of old,…

Wuv, Twu Wuv...

One of my favorite movies of all time is The Princess Bride. When I was in California, I used to teach with a teacher that used what he would call "PB Therapy" on his kids. Sometimes, The Princess Bride is just what makes sense. If you haven't seen it, it really is a great (and kind of corny) movie. The farmer's daughter falls in love with the farm boy (helper) but they can't be together. His response, "As you wish" to her every demand both infuriates her and draws her to him. He leaves to go onto a pirate ship with the Dread Pirate Roberts and eventually they find their way together again. This, of course, is not before she is almost married off to the King who has higher aspirations of killing her than loving her. There is something about this movie that really speaks to me. Is there true love? Do we have soul mates? Can we have more than one?

We have a friend who has recently met and become engaged to a woman from another country. She is sweet and he…

It's a first world problem...

Today I was home feeling a little under the weather. I think about half of my illness issue is emotional, since I have been "fighting" with Javad's doctors for six weeks to try to figure out what's going on with him, but I digress. While home under the weather, I felt the need to avoid doing anything so I frantically searched the Internet for Season 3 of The Walking Dead. This was a definite problem, since I couldn't seem to get myself organized. I finally found it on freetv, but once I got to episode 5 (I think), I couldn't get it to play the entire way through. I watched the first 15 minutes of this episode 3 times, feeling frustrated that I couldn't get it to work. I finally had to take a step back and really assess what I was obsessing over...a TV show and had to shame myself a bit. Really, a TV show? This is where I was spending my energy. Definitely a first world problem.

Yesterday I went to Starbucks during lunch to get some tea (don't even get…

One for the money...

In education (as with other things, clearly), it always comes down to money. People outside of  education think that money is not spent well (and I can't say that I disagree), while the teachers that are in the trenches are practically begging for money. I don't mean money for themselves, but rather money for things that are always needed in the classroom.

I teach a class of math students who are newcomers, which means that they are new to the country. Now, whatever you feel about people that are here from another country, I want you to put that aside while you are reading this. These students are the hardest working students I have. Their desire to learn math is immense. They are on fire for it. As a matter of fact, sometimes they make me crazy because they want so much, but don't have patience to wait.

In my school district, we have a large influx of immigrants. If you are not familiar with how this works, it is like this. You live in another country, but someone you kno…

We don't need no education...

I feel like the overrunning topic this week has been about education, but I can't apologize. After all, I am a teacher. Today, Wednesday, is the day that my "team" meets at school. Now, before you go off thinking that I am a coach of some sort, that is not true, but rather my team is a group of four teachers who share a common group of kids. We meet every Wednesday to try to solve various issues with our students, but today was a bit about reflecting on the first half of the year and thinking a bit about where we are going.

Another teacher today asked me, "How do you help a student who just doesn't care?"

My students have no idea how to study. Now, I'd like to think that it is just this particular group of students, but I suspect that it goes far beyond the walls of my school. There is something missing and we are not doing a good job of filling the gap. They ACTUALLY have no idea! They genuinely believe that getting work and completing it incorrectly (…

A created life...

Today is Martin Luther King's birthday. A man that forever changed the trajectory of our country, maybe the world. 

Every day I get the quote of the day from Values.com. If you don't, I highly recommend it. Today's quote "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be" by
Ralph Waldo Emerson, spoke to me, especially on this day, the celebration of MLK's birthday. How do  we decide who we are to be?

So many grow up believing in our "destiny" that we don't even realize that we are in charge. I wonder if young Martin Luther's parents had limited their son, what would be of our world now. Imagine if they had said the following, "Martin Luther, you need to keep your eyes down. Do not make eye contact with those white folks. Know your place, son." Instead, I imagine that there may have been a very different conversation, "Martin Luther, you are a special young man, you are going to make a difference in this w…

It's a teacher's life for me...

I have been home the last few days fighting off a cold. Yes, this is part of being a teacher. One would think that you would get germ resistant after being around 800 germy middle schoolers year after year and yet, that doesn't seem to happen. These last few years have been particularly bad. My dad seems to think I am one of the sickest people he knows.

Teaching is a career that requires some special skills. Now I realize that some people fall into teaching (and some fall out of it), but if teaching is really your calling, it means you have something special about you. I knew years ago that I wanted to be a teacher. The topic has changed, but the vision stays the same. This is my 21st year of teaching and I think I can confidently say that teaching profession has changed! My vision and goals have not, but the students definitely have.

At this time when the US is clamoring for a "change in education," I believe that we really must look at ourselves and ask, "What do …

Quality of Life or a Life of Quality?

Tonight I was talking to some good friends and the conversation of "Quality of Life" came up. When you think about the quality of your life, what do you think about? The time you spend with your family? The quality and income level of your job? The clubs and organizations you belong to? When those words come to your mind, what do you think of? These are important conversations and thoughts to consider. How would you decide if you don't have a good quality of life?

I like to think that rather than worrying about the quality of my life, I would rather think of having a life of quality. This life of quality certainly depends on family and friends. Family can be so much more than those who are bound to you by blood, but those who are bound to you by heart. I have three branches to my family, the family whose blood courses through my veins, while another branch of my family are friends who deeply understand our family and the intricacies of it, and the third branch is those I…

It's a bug life...

Javad, our youngest son, has a very rare muscle disease called Myotubular Myopathy. This disease affect every major muscle group in his body, including his lungs. He is a strong boy, in the fighter sense, although weak in every others when you compare him to others. Looking back (you know how hindsight is always 20-20), I realize that there are many times in his young life that he should not have survived. Perhaps having a mother who was unwilling to even entertain that her son might die helped, although I also believe there were some guardian angels by his side (my uncle R'Dean and his grandfather, Babajun). I may talk about faith another time, but let's just say that I wholeheartedly believe that these two strong men, along with an amazing medical team and a stubborn mother, are the reason that he is here today.

Every winter is like a roller coaster of bugs at our house. For Javad, a simple cold can turn into a multi-week battle. It's like a miniature war happens in his …

Affairs of the heart...

I have been in love three times in my life, not the "you make my heart flutter" love, but the real kind, the kind you want to make long term plans with. My first true love was when I was 19 and I met my ex-husband. I was in college, I was his orientation leader, and the rest is history. Ours was a tumultuous relationship, two strong willed people thinking that they knew how to negotiate marriage. When my parents suggested that we wait awhile to get married, I actually moved the wedding up. I laugh at my stubbornness  now, but that's who I was (and sometimes still am.) We were friends and we grew up together in those years of marriage. We have a beautiful daughter together. When we split it was not in a time of fighting or anger. As a matter of fact, there was a calm kind of rhythm that had fallen over our lives. The one thing that was clear is that we were not growing in the same direction. In order for our life together to survive, one of us was going to have to give up…

Resilience is the word...

Teaching middle school is a little like being in the middle of a hurricane. There are moments of silence and calm before the storm comes through with raging forces. You never really know when you are going to be hit and what direction it may come from. The school I teach in has a high poverty rate, with over 80% of our families living below the poverty line. We have a large group of second language speakers and more and more students coming to us from refugee camps, our school being their first US school experience. It is both humbling and inspiring.

Resilience is something that can't be taught, but many of my students are resilient. Their lives are in constant motion, from literally moving on a regular basis to the movement within their household, people coming and going. At lunch today, one of my sweetest (and favorite) students, an immigrant from Ethiopia, came to me (and my teaching partner in crime, Rosemarie) and said, "My favorite teachers!! I am your daughter," p…

Vegas and Text Speak

My Algebra students crack me up. This group (who I have, at times, felt that I was dragging through the mud) has found some new life in Probability. Now don't get me wrong, I understand that Probability is waaayyyy more fun than solving systems of equations, but still, their responses to things are almost making me Laugh Out Loud (I almost wrote LOL, but that's another story from today!)

Yesterday we were doing an activity "What's in the bag?" I had taken Skittles (100 purple, 25 red, 5 yellow) and placed them in a fabulous Bath and Body Works Bag. First the kids had to comment on that, but mostly they were excited about what was in the bag. "I think there's like 30 skittles in there...sounds like a lot when you shake it!" And we began pulling. The first 5 pulls resulted in 3 reds and 2 purple. The kids were content with that with the idea of half and half (since we had done another experiment with only two colors) until a YELLOW was pulled. One stu…

Today is the first day...

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I suppose we can say that every day, but some days, I wonder...really? This is it? Now, don't get me wrong, I love my life, but every day, dealing with uninterested 8th graders can be exhausting. Not the, "wow! I feel inspired" exhausted, but rather the "I am weary to my bones" exhausted. This exhaustion makes me think about where I am going and what I am doing...I love my job, but I wish on days, like today, I felt like I was doing better at it.

Every day I get the quote of the day from Values.com (which I recommend highly) and today's quote is "To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream, not only plan, but also believe. ~ Anatole France"

I believe...I believe that I have the power to influence my students. I believe that math is a life skill, although I will acknowledge that no one is going to ask you to graph while walking down the street. I believe that the students of today …