Friday, November 28, 2014

Junior Cotillion

The 8th grader grumbled and groused when I signed her up for junior cotillion.  I already know which fork to use. I don't wanna learn how to dance. This will be boring. 

Lo and behold, mom was right and she is really enjoying the experience. The refresher course on dining etiquette was helpful and now she knows the proper procedure for buttering a roll. She can waltz and foxtrot with the best of them. Sure, some of the boys are still shorter than her, but they'll eventually catch up.

The best part was the semi-formal a couple weeks ago. I curled her hair into big fat ringlets at her request, while sitting on the floor with her in front of the full length mirror. She's starting to look more like her sister, the college co-ed. Both girls are all about the pretty eye makeup. They obviously inherited this from their grandmothers since I don't give a hoot about that sorta stuff most of the time.

Here she is in all of her party dress glory with part of my Santa collection as her backdrop.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Veteran, veterinarian, whatever...

A tail tale from the teaching trenches! Every year, students make Veteran's Day cards for the ceremony held on campus. These are distributed to the parents and grandparents that attend the ceremony, men and women who served in the armed forces.

Mrs. G, the 5th gr language arts and social studies teacher that I co-teach with, was talking to the kids about making cards for the vets in honor of the upcoming celebration. She led the class in a discussion about the history of the holiday and gave them some guidance on what might be appropriate wording for the card, typical American symbols for the exterior, coloring it a patriotic red-white-blue, etc. 

A couple days later, Mrs. G pulled me aside in class to share a Veteran's Day card that one of my special ed students had created. It seems this student latched onto the VET part of the lesson, but didn't fully grasp the meaning of the holiday. She had decorated the front of her card with a flag and several dogs. I'm thinking to myself, that's good, flags are appropriate, dogs do serve in the military and it was nicely drawn/colored. Then Mrs. G opened up the card to show me the note inside. My sweet little confused special ed student kindly thanked the VET for taking care of her dogs. She even elaborated a bit, mentioning giving them shots and treats when they're good.

It was so wrong, and yet so terribly sweet and heartfelt. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the family vet for keeping our own Ollie healthy. And sure, my husband, brother-in-law, father-in-law, father and grandfather for their service in the army and air force. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

North, north to Alaska

Today, when the high finally stayed below 80, I was reminiscing about our summer cruise to Alaska. With the start of school and insanity that ensued, I never got around to documenting it.

Here is a taste of the majesty that is our northernmost state.

The scenery was truly breathtaking. Witnessing the salmon swimming upriver was great. Seeing eagles soar and then perch to pose for a pic was magical. The freshly steamed crab pulled out of the crab pots earlier in the day was delicious. It was a memorable family trip and I've got the photos to prove it… just no time to post more than this little blurb.

School is going well for the 8th grader, with fabulous grades and fun things like pep squad as well as junior cotillion. The college coed recently made the decision to move back to an excellent in-state university from the one she attends 1200 miles from home. I honestly don't care where she gets her first college degree, so long as it's done in a timely manner rather than on the decade plan. 

Finally, random observations from the teaching trenches: 5th and 6th grade students these days just aren't familiar with the cool idioms we heard from our parents and grandparents when we were their age. Kick the bucket, an arm and a leg, blessing in disguise, piece of cake, once in a blue moon, sitting on the fence. It makes me a tad sad to realize they're missing out on all of this fun figurative language.

Sunday, October 5, 2014


I'm back in the world of reading and writing instruction and I'm loving it. Bring on the spelling and grammar and figurative language - can't get enough of it. However, it all takes a bit of a twist when you're dealing with students who read at least two grades below their current grade. Or sometimes three and four grades below their current placement. Throw in some attention deficits, dyslexics, a few in foster care, ED, OD and a partridge in a pear tree along with their learning disabilities. That's what I'm working with this year. Some days I feel just as challenged with modifications, accommodations and paperwork as the kids I teach. We're all struggling, for a variety of reasons, within a federally dictated framework that must also have us jump through state mandates which sometimes seem to NOT be in the best interests of our kids. Hopping off my soapbox now before I really get on a roll.

But there are definitely moments of levity. Instead of bashing my head against the wall in frustration, I often find myself amused on any given day. For example, one of my 5th grade girls asked to go to the restroom right before I returned to class from my lunch break, and stayed gone for quite a while. The regular ed teacher in the classroom asked me to go check on her since this student has been known to roam the halls instead of going directly from point A to B.

I trekked from the computer lab down to the bathroom, knocked on the door and inquired if she was OK. The child promptly responded in her best impression of a well educated person speaking to a dullard that she was pooping and would be in there a while. Bahahaha! I need to start writing this stuff down, publish my little memoir of life as a special ed teacher and retire early.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Killing trees right and left

Lord have mercy, I've gotta pick a teaching gig and stick with it! Last year I took a 6th gr science assignment just to get my foot back into the district when we moved home from living abroad. I enjoyed the grade, but not the content. Sooo, I moved over to a special ed co-teach position for 5th/6th grade reading and language arts this year. Those are my subjects!

Alas, the special ed paperwork is enough to make even the most seasoned federal bureaucrat weep in frustration. I enjoy my time in the classroom, teaching the ELAR content and working with the students. I do NOT enjoy filling out forms, sending out forms to teachers, calling up parents to let them know I'm sending home forms, quantifying educational goals and objectives on forms… you get the drift. I guess I should just be glad it's not in triplicate.

I have no doubt I'll finally make the jump to wearing readers over the course of the school year, necessitated by the fact that I'll spend a lot of time staring at a computer program with a zillion different screens in order to prepare for everyone's annual ARD meeting. The special ed lead teacher that is serving as my unofficial mentor has been great and doesn't seem to mind my daily questions and SOS calls for help with this, that and the other. No doubt I'll owe her a big bottle case of fine adult beverages by Christmas as payment for her expertise. 

On the home front, everything is fine. The 8th grader grumbled at the all PreAP class workload the first few weeks of classes, but has settled down into the rhythm of things and is making all As. The coed is up to her eyeballs in sorority happenings, including her new little sis reveal this weekend. She did have to make a trip to the university health center since she was running a fever, but got a good scrip and is about back to 100%. And, as far as we know, she's only put a couple scratches into the paint job of her car since she took it to college. It seems the parking garage at her high rise apartment and the business school are not her fave things to tackle with so little driving experience under her belt.

It's a mere 45 school days until Thanksgiving break. I'm gonna tie a knot in the end of my rope and hang on for dear life. And enjoy one of my favorite songs of all time about my absolute favorite season of all.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's baaack to school time

Summer is a memory. And it's a lovely one since it involved several trips - the East Coast, a Texas beach, Seattle and Alaska. School inservice officially starts for me tomorrow, though I've already completed 30 workshops hours in the past two weeks. The college coed is safely ensconced in her new high rise apartment near campus since rush preparation began on August 4. And the 8th grader has attended orientation to receive her class schedule. We've hit the big box store for binders, dividers, notebook paper and writing utensils. Now it's just a waiting game until we all kick off a new school year/semester.

I'm currently unmotivated to post anything informative or meaningful from our summer travels, so I'll just babble about my thought for the day. If money were no object and my every possible care or worry was covered by a cook, maid, gardener, driver, personal assistant, you get the drift…

I would totally own a big farm with lots of these guys to pet and keep me entertained with their antics. Anything in mini form is just too danged cute for words. Admit it, they are beyond precious and you know you'd like to cuddle up with one and speak in nothing but gibberish baby talk all day.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Long time, no see

I've been busy. And maybe a bit lazy about getting over here to the blog for another riveting post. Since my last entry, school ended. Woo-hoo! Plus the coed returned home from her triumphant freshman year. An overall 3.83 GPA is nothing to sneeze at and sure as hell better than I did my first year away from home. To fulfill the requirement for a three hours fine arts elective class, she spent the May minimester in west Africa, teaching art to school children in Ghana. 

Ghana was greener than I expected. The coed had a good time. Sure, there was an active ebola outbreak in the neighboring country to the east. School-aged girls were being kidnapped in droves in the neighboring country to the west. And everywhere she looked there was great poverty as well as the ever present threat of disease carrying mosquitoes. It's one of those trips that changes your perspective and I believe that's a good thing for anyone at any age.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

All the cool kids are doing it

In an effort to shake up my elliptical rat workout routine and shed the last bit of my England weight, I signed up for private Crossfit sessions at our local box. I wasn't an initial fan, especially when I realized there is no AC in the place. Plus they do these torture moves like burpees and push ups. And they use a lot of weights, too. All of this is sooooo outta my comfort zone.

But a month in, I'm starting to see some results. I've grown comfortable with the initial wimp weights and my CF trainer upped them this past week. After hobbling around the first couple weeks with pretty much sore everything, wobbling out to my car on legs limp as wet noodles, I'm starting to feel stronger. And less like throwing up or passing out once the workout ends.

I've still got a long way to go, but it's a start. Once school ends, I'll have to switch over to classes since I'll be gone too much this summer to keep working with a trainer one-on-one. I'll modify and do the best I can and hope to see continued improvement with the upper body strength, muscle tone and endurance. Most days my tongue practically drags the ground and my eyes sting from sweat rolling into them. Remember - no AC, just fans… which is kinda cruel for the middle aged lady crowd in the Texas heat. I never look forward to the workouts, but always feel better afterwards. The humiliation of crying uncle keeps me chugging along rather than falling onto the mats in a heap and refusing to jump up onto the box one more time.

I hope I'll be successful with this, long term, because I'm not trying to regain the body I had at 25 or even 35. For me, it's all about committing to a healthier lifestyle. Now I just need to tackle that little matter of my coconut cupcake addiction. It's all about baby steps, like pretending the yummy local bake shop that I adore has burned to the ground and no longer sells their sinfully sweet creations.

Seven more days and I'll be through

At least I'll be through until August when the whole process begins anew with professional development and teacher inservice. 

There are seven remaining days in the current school year. And really just 6.5 because the last day is early dismissal. Since those days are punctuated with fun stuff like a swim party, talent show, dance and graduation for our 6th graders, there are only about three more actual days of regular science classes for me to teach. 

Honestly, my year felt complete on Friday once I had taught our sex ed abstinence based program to the girls. I have been dreading this lesson for weeks and was so glad to get it done. The girls giggled just as I had anticipated when I was going over slides in the Powerpoint with words like erection, wet dream and penis. There were no pics or graphics to accompany these terms, praise the Lord. Thankfully, the students are still separated by gender at this age. Both boys and girls hear the same information, but in separate classrooms. Another teacher on my team volunteered to deal with the boys for their lesson. I just don't think I could have looked those young men in the face after mentioning anal sex. This is why I shouldn't be teaching 6th gr science.

Our local big box store was running a special on boxed wine, so I stocked up to make it through the final days of school. Let's be honest - it's all about crowd control, keeping them from hurting each other or tearing up my classroom once they get the bit of summer vacation in their teeth and charge full steam ahead with it. Overall, I've had a great year at this new-to-me campus and look forward to the possibility of another great adventure next year once I see how things play out with a possible shift in faculty. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dear Karma- I've started this list...

It's teacher appreciation week in the US. And I usually do feel appreciated. I believe my students, parents, teaching team and administrators think I put forth my best effort for them. I don't hit every lesson outta the ballpark, but I certainly put in the before school, after school, nights and weekend time to be sure things go off without a hitch.

Be warned - I'm taking a big ol' step up onto my soapbox now, so get ready for a humdinger of a rant. Every year I have one. I'm talking about the parent who takes his/her frustration, anger, regrets and parental shortcomings out on the teacher. This parent gleefully blames the teacher for all of the child's and parent's failures. This parent wants to tell me how to do it all "right" even though said parent doesn't have a college degree, let alone any classroom experience.

Let's be clear about this. I didn't give birth to your child. I wasn't there to provide your child with developmentally appropriate activities before entering kindergarten. I don't go home with your child to make sure assignments are included in backpacks, that they put forth a solid effort, that they seek clarification as needed, that they come in for tutoring with me if they require assistance, whether they get a good night's sleep or nutritious meals, if they listen to the class directions, write the posted assignments with deadlines in their daily planners and have a positive attitude about learning. That's the part you and your child are supposed to step up and do.

I was handed a curriculum I had to supplement on my own time, with my own money. And I do it happily because I love teaching and trying to make a positive difference in the lives of my students, preparing them for the demands of middle school next year. I spend substantial time away from my own family to make sure your child gets a lovely experience in 6th grade, a year of my own child's life I'll never get back. And all you can do is be an ungrateful little s#*! to me? 

The upside - you're the only turd floating in my otherwise happy little punch bowl of learners and their families. I have the pleasure of teaching a whole lotta students who make it a joy to roll out of bed every morning and come to school with a smile on my face. I get to go home to my own children who are (mostly) well adjusted, whereas you are gonna be stuck with your helicoptered, enabled, eternal excuse making child for decades. Seems fair to me.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Incriminating Evidence

Hmmm… what's that? Maybe lime green Kool-Aid? Or a can of diet soda? 

I often think the college coed forgets we have access to her pictures on a very popular social networking site. Yesterday she posted pics of herself and her friends, with alcoholic beverages in their hands, out in front of the bars/nightclubs in her college town. It's not the first time she has done it and I know it won't be the last, either.

If I started rambling about how terrible this is, then I would be a total hypocrite. I did some of the same stuff back in my college days, though thankfully that was before the advent of cell phones and websites that are able to provide all sorts of graphic proof about your underage drinking and bar hopping. No evidence I ever had to be rolled home in a shopping cart after taking shots on an empty stomach. Nope - never happened. 

After I chuckled a bit about their duck faces and goofy poses, I found myself reflecting on how all of this is part of the process of growing up and testing the waters. After living in Europe for 2.5 yrs, it's not as if our almost 19-yr-old was an alcohol virgin. The gift of choice for most birthday celebrations of her acquaintances was a bottle of alcohol. Now she's back in a country which won't allow her to drink legally until 2016. So they buy fake IDs, get all dolled up and bat their big eyes at the bouncers of the local watering holes to get past the rope because they're pretty young things. 

So you pray a lot and hope that one of the many talking-tos we gave her about the dangers of alcohol poisoning, getting taken advantage of when you're drunk and the arrest record that will follow you now that you're an adult are still there lurking in the back of our daughter's conscience as she makes decisions which are outside our parental realm of control. Smart or stupid. Sober or drunk. It's worrisome, but you just have to trust there will be no Piggly Wiggly shopping cart rides in her future. Or that her friends will at least roll her all the way back to her dorm and see her in safely. And that she'll suffer the devil of a hangover the next morning which will have her rethinking her drinking habits in the future.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

How Convenient

My internal monologue (teacher voice inside my head): Wow, Chile had an 8.2 magnitude earthquake earlier this evening. That's great. What about a tsunami? Yesss - what a lucky break for me. Eh, it was only a six foot wave that struck. Dang, that's not gonna impress the students. But a higher reading of 8.2 on the Richter scale sure beats that crappy little quake California had last week. A couple folks died from heart attacks while three were crushed to death. That pales in comparison to the Indonesian quake of 2004. Danged quake proof buildings.

You know you're a hard core educator (and maybe hard hearted, too) when you read about Chile suffering a major earthquake and then gleefully begin figuring out how to include it in 6th gr science class the next day. In a meaningful way, of course, since we're currently studying plate tectonics. There were only three folks crushed to death, so probably no gory body pics to show. That would certainly make an impression. Probably enough to have an official reprimand placed in my personnel file after some angry calls to the principal once parents heard the graphic details over supper that evening. But honestly… heckuva learning opportunity to include current events in the curriculum. Beats the hell outta boring old worksheets.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Trim

It seems spring weather has finally arrived and plans to stay. Which is a good thing since it's almost April. It was time for Ollie to get a trim since we had been letting his coat grow out since the fall to keep him warm through winter. 

And boy howdy did the groomer go to town on him with the clippers. He looks so different without his longer shaggy coat, more a shorn sheep than a Cairn. But he'll appreciate the shorter hair as the temps continue to climb 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Break 2014

We had a BLAST for spring break. The traveling to and fro was a nuisance, but the resort experience made the commute well worth it.

In search of a Caribbean location with no drunken college kids or hordes of cruise ship passengers, our travel agent recommended the Turks and Caicos Islands. Settling on Providenciales, we stayed at a resort right on Grace Bay. 

Above is the husband relaxing on the lounger of our lanai, enjoying the mild temps and ocean sounds. It was really expensive, but really beautiful. 

They did indeed have cheeseburgers on the menu in our little bit of Caribbean paradise, but we opted to sample the local conch fritters. 

One of our favorite activities was a full day excursion on a catamaran for some snorkeling, shelling and just general chillaxin'.

We also visited Iguana Island. The college coed leaned in for the National Geographic shots…

…while the 7th grader practically climbed her daddy when one of the resident iguanas cast his eye her way.

Here are two videos of the girls, the younger one snorkeling and the older one cutting a rug with the locals running our tour.

And a few final pictures of paradise. We had such a great time that we're thinking we need to give another Caribbean location a try for spring break next year. I think we could all grow accustomed to an annual dose of island time.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A History of History Certification

Twenty-five years ago, mother told me multiple times that I should get my teacher certification. I was majoring in history and minoring in English at the time, working multiple jobs to pay my way through a BA. The thing is, I just couldn't figure out how I could student teach, work a job, get sufficient sleep and keep my sanity all at the same time. Plus, I knew I didn't want to teach my beloved history to a bunch of ingrate public school varmints who wouldn't appreciate the subject matter as much as I always did.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I received a passing score on my state certification test for history - yippee! At this stage in my teaching career, I know I could give the kids a run for their money in class and no doubt have them thinking history is not a total snooze. And maybe I'll get the chance to prove that in the near future as our district transitions 6th graders from elementary to middle school. I'm now certified to teach reading, English, ESL, special ed and, finally, my precious history. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Everything they say about Texas weather is true

Winter is doing its usual psycho trip on Texas. Bipolar, multiple personalities or something along those lines. Last weekend we were hunkered down after an icy, school cancellation Friday, with highs in the 30s. Today the temp hovered around 80 and I was running around in a pair of flip flops outside by the pool. It's something of a joke in Texas when certain school districts cancel classes for a few patches of ice. Other than a slick driveway and pool area, this was about the only other sign of winter I noticed in the backyard - some icicles on this one shrub outside my kitchen window.

Compared to our back yard in England last year, this was a bit of a let down. It makes for pretty pictures, but is a pain in the patootie to drive in when the Brits are no better prepared to clear roads than their Texas counterparts.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snow Day, Slow Day

We don't get them very often here in Texas. And it's not really snow, but rather icy road day. Whatever - I'll stay at home from school and be a slug. I got the call a bit after 5:00 am that I didn't need to get up and come to school because it's cancelled for the day. Ironic, eh? I get a call that wakes me up and tells me I don't need to wake up for work.

I'm still puttering around in my robe. It dawned on me I probably needed to download pics from my phone to the computer since I hadn't done that since the fall. I just added a post to my school blog and figured my old personal blog could use an update, too.

So what's new? Teaching still consumes the bulk of my time, trying to stay one step ahead of the students as I figure out the curriculum. The content is fine - it's the labs that are a pain in the tookus. Every new unit kicks my search into high gear. It's all about finding an appropriate germ of a lab idea, expanding it to create a workable lesson for 11-12 yr olds, purchasing the things required for the lab, doing any necessary prep work and then giving it a go with the kids. Sometimes they're fabulous… and sometimes I wish I had just shot myself in the foot for all the learning that occurred. Oh well, it's all about my education this year, too.

In the fall, I got desperate one Sunday afternoon and enlisted the assistance of my husband and 7th grader with the lab prep of sorting beads into baggies. My students enjoyed creating basic 2 and 3D atomic model structures, so that makes all of the work worth it for me.

In other miscellaneous and completely unrelated news, we went to the local bowl game over the Christmas break. Our team didn't win, but I always enjoy the spectacle of a major sporting event. Like most Texans, we believe football reigns supreme. At least the college teams. I don't give a fig about the pros. Here are a few of my pics from the best parts of the whole rigamarole - the pre game stuff and half time show.

Admit it - dontcha love it when the band spells out stuff on the field, even when it's upside down to all of us fans on the other side. And throw in some flags, too. God bless America and Texas!