Archive for December, 2009

Corrupting the Children

I work in a district where budgeting has been severely slashed in the last year.  Please do not take this as a complaint- I feel I am adequately compensated for my work, I work in a beautiful new building, and the majority of the staff is happy, idealistic, and collaborative.  It has meant, however, a reduction in after school activities and field trips.  We have a dedicated staff who have gone above and beyond to find ways to give kids opportunities after school.  I’m constantly stunned by staff who volunteer their time to coach intramurals, to run clubs, and to direct drama when they get very little, if anything, in return.

Lately I’ve been thinking of ways that I, to, can find ways around the budget issues.  I am a HUGE fan of cross curricular learning and I think that English lends itself particularly well to this.  While I would love to take my students on field trips that relate to novels we’re reading, it’s just not possible.  We are about to read The Rats of NIMH. I’m not wild about this book.  I tend to think it’s too easy for a lot of our kids.  Still, my husband swears he adored this book (in 4th grade, mind you.  I teach 6th).  I am determined to make it interesting and exciting.

For those not familiar with the book, it centers around a group of rats who escaped from a lab where they were given drugs to enhance their intelligence.  Immediately I thought of my friend K, who is getting her doctorate at a local university.  A large portion of her work revolves around research she does in a lab with mice.  So, I’ve invited her to come talk to the kids about her work and answer questions they might have about her work environment and what she does.

I mention this to the principal as I get the CORI form from him and his response, as he leans in cautiously for fear he might be overheard, is “she won’t be talking about stem cells, will she?”  After assuring him that we will steer clear of any touchy subjects, he asks for an outline of what she’ll be talking about.  I walk away, mind fuming, because you know, it would have been cool for him to say “hey, what a great idea!” And yes, I’m an attention whore.  I like my principal a lot for many various reasons.  I do not like how cautious and uptight he is sometimes.  I realize he probably needs to be, but holy baby Jebus!  Also, now we have to scrap our plans on teaching the kids about how ABORTION IS FUN AND WE SHOULD ALL HAVE ONE AND GIVE OUR BABIES TO SCIENCE!!  YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!  And now I’m going to hell.

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Tidying Up

“Mrs. Darling was married in white, and at first she kept the books perfectly, almost gleefully, as if it were a game, not so much as a Brussel sprout was missing; but by and by whole cauliflowers dropped out…” The Adventures of Peter Pan
When Mr. Cookie and I first moved into this apartment, we were so organized!  Things had designated spots!  I spent hours scouring and organizing our tiny basement.  Then, two years passed and as life sped up, things like organization took a back seat (especially in parts of the house that were rarely seen by non-Cookies).  As of two weekends ago, our basement:

Something had to be done.  It was horrendous. And, being as sensitive as I am to disorder, my mind was starting to resemble the basement.  Mr. Cookie, feeling similarly, purchased several large plastic containers.  We tackled the basement as a team, head on, with the understanding that a large amount of the accrual would be donated before the end of the year.  We also went through the upstairs at the same time looking for more stuff to get rid of. It got a lot worse before it got better.  It took days (weeks, even) to get the upstairs back in order once everything had been taken in for donation.  It was exhausting.  I think I might still be sneezing dust colored snot.  But, here is the glorious after shot:

I love working as a team with my beloved husband.  Together, we move mountains.

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Busy

I apologize to my two readers for my silence.  Life has been busy.  I know there are some people who are interested in what happens in my classroom, so I thought I’d give you a little peek at what it is like to be a student for Mrs. Cookie.  We recently finished reading Bridge to Terabithia, a book that I and the kids really enjoy.  I used it as a launching point to teach literary devices like metaphor, simile, onomatopoeia, foreshadowing, and hyperbole since Katherine Paterson employed all of those things frequently in the book.  I also had them look in depth at the characters, considering things like what they looked like, what their motivations where, and what they were feeling at different points (using inference).  Overall, I think the unit was well received and the kids did exceptionally well on the challenging test they were given.

One of the things I had them do was occasionally, I would issue challenges to kids for prizes.  One such challenge was the “Monster Mouth Myers” challenge.  Students were tasked with drawing the best picture they could of Jesse and Leslie’s teacher, who is said to “shoot flames” and is, in general, that teacher.  You know the one I’m talking about.  It yielded several great drawings, but these took the cake:

I just love how the one on the left is actually shooting flames and has horns.  Also, notice the miniature student at Monster Mouth’s feet.  The student featured on the right drew a more literal translation.  I think my favorite thing about this one is the book- 101 Ways to Discipline Children.  Is that even a real book?  It probably is.

For a final project, I had my students create a Facebook profile page for Jesse Aarons, the main character.  They had to take into account what the book said he looked like for the profile picture, where he went to school, what his relationship status would be, who his friends would be (and what they would look like), where he was from, and what sorts of messages his friends would leave on his wall.  They LOVED it and it really helped them in their exploration of Jesse’s character.  After each chapter during reading, students wrote down 2 to 3 wall posts or status updates in their journals so that at the end of the book when they were in groups doing their posters they could look through them and pick the best ones.  Here are just a couple examples of great work.

Hope you enjoyed this and, if you are a teacher, I hope it inspires you to jazz up your curriculum in ways that still force kids to think critically but also keep them engaged.  Let me know if you would like to see any of the worksheets the students used for this project or for the book as a whole!

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Did someone mention cake?

Did I mention I like to bake?  This holiday, a co-worker who throws the holiday party at his house every year asked if I would provide the sweets.  Thinking it would be the perfect time to show off my skills and potentially get people addicted to ordering my stuff, I agreed.  Here are the finished products.

A carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting.  I had one lady ask if it contained raisins because she’s allergic.  1)  people put raisins in carrot cake?? and 2) people can be allergic to raisins?  Weird.  She was very excited to find out it had no raisins.

Butter cake with lemon curd filling (kind of like a thicker lemon meringue pie filling).  The drawing on top is a buttercream transfer from an image the art teacher drew for me.  🙂

Of course, I saved the best for last.  This was a chocolate cake with a  new peppermint cream cheese filling.  It was AMAZING.  I say was because it was demolished faster than any of the others (although, now that I think about it, they were all pretty much obliterated by the end of the night).

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Forward Progress

Something occurred to me today.

It is not about how you stack up to those around you but about how much you are improving.  This relates particularly well to two areas of my life right now.  The first, running.  I have been training for a half marathon for a few weeks now, my longest distance prior to that being a 10k.  I am nowhere near the fastest runner.  I had a pretty decent 10k time this summer (clocking in around a 10:50 min/mile- pretty good for me).  Then, in October, another 10k.  I pushed myself too hard at the beginning to keep up with more experienced runners and had little left for the end and my time was not as good.  Today, I went out on my longest run ever.  9 miles.  It was with a large group of local runners who would actually be running 10 miles.  I am not there yet, so Mr. Cookie was kind enough to shorten the distance for me.  It was exceptionally hard to let the majority of the runners pass me at the beginning, but guess what.  I finished all 9 miles and maintained an 11:06 pace.  That’s better than the October 10k, which was 3 miles shorter.  Is it fast?  Nope.  In fact, my newly purchased Garmin (nicknamed the Slow-poke Tracker) would tell you I was only jogging.  Plus, that was coming off a week of no exercising due to the plague.  BUT, the point is that I finished my longest race ever and did it in a time that is pretty good for me given my track (pardon the  pun) record.  As soon as I was able to let go of stacking myself up against the other runners and focus on just improving myself, I was able to move forward.  Oh, and by the way, my first 5k ever, run about 15 months ago, I clocked in at an 11:35 min/mile.  I tripled that distance today and shaved 30 seconds off per mile.  Hot damn!  I love improvement.

Before

After

Yep.  I was pretty beat.  But I feel good.

This brings me to the other area of my life.  While I was running today and  thinking “man, this is actually easy for some people!” it got me to thinking about some of my students and how they probably feel the same way when their classmates are catapulting ahead of them.  One thing I struggle with the most as a teacher is relating to the kids who are struggling.  I mean, okay.  I was kind of mediocre at math.  But I was still in the advanced classes and still always got As and Bs.  I want to challenge myself to encourage my students to measure themselves against themselves.  I mean, there are always going to be students who got short shrift in terms of early starts to the education.  Even in kindergarten, I’m sure there’s a divide.  Kids who have started counting and reading at home versus kids whose parents haven’t started those things or considered them important.  Ultimately, I want my kids to make forward progress.  Okay, so last year you were at a 3rd grade reading level?  By the time you finish 6th grade I want you at a 4th or 5th grade reading level!

Goals are good.

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Fail

Mr. Cookie and I have been getting in better shape lately.  Or rather, I should say that up until I came down with a bad case of the hack-until-your-head-hurts-and-blood-comes-out illness we were getting in shape.  Now it’s more like Mr. Cookie is getting in better shape and I’m scared by my shape.  I realize that when you’ve got a chesty (heh.  chesty) sickness it’s best not to run.  I also realize that this week I spent my evenings helping a local theatre group with auditions and had little time to myself for things like gym, showering, or sleeping.  But I also realize I probably could have squeezed a half hour in doing weights here and there.  And I definitely could have not eaten crap every day for a week.

Then, today I was supposed to meet up with him for a work event and forgot.  Instead I came home and passed out for six hours and now I can’t sleep and I have a headache.  So, I’m blogging.  Which is obviously the logical thing to do in this situation.  Thing is, I still don’t feel great.  I feel out of step with everything.

My training plan.  My diet.  My husband.

So, I’m putting it out there largely to say “this was not my best week.”  And to be better.  I want to have a good weekend with my husband, who I feel like I’ve barely seen all week except for when I come in late at night and crawl into bed next to his passed out figure.  I want to run.  I want to start eating healthy again.

I really want this headache to go away.

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