Monday, July 30, 2007

Vocaulary Hell

This year we're getting in-service credit for collaboration time with other teachers.

Mrs. Eagle and I find this to be extremely amusing because we collaborate all the time anyway and now we're getting credit for it. It's like getting paid to eat chocolate.

Which isn't a bad idea, come to think of it.

Anyhow. A few years ago we made laminated vocabulary cards, with one card with the word and another card with the definition. The idea is the kids would get a plastic baggie with these cards in them, lay them out on their desks, and sort and match them. We called this activity word splash, but I'm others out there have a different name for it. In any case, it took forever to make these cards; we copied them onto colored paper, laminated them, cut them out, and sorted them into the baggies.

And our students promptly made a huge mess of them.

Our idea was to spend some time on these cards this summer and get them put back into some semblance of organization. However, what with Mr. Eagle's accident, and Mrs. Eagle spending most of her summer with him at the hospital, this was the first chance we'd really had to work on them.

So today we took my plastic shoeboxes for of baggies and cards, Mrs. Eagle's plastic bags and baggies with cards, and the latest, greatest copy of our Scope and Sequence for the year and attempted to get these all organized.

Oh good gracious.

It would help if our scope and sequence unit numbers didn't change every year. It would also help if it didn't skip and hop around the book like a deranged hamster. For example, we have a unit that includes material from "chapter 3, section 1, chapter 3, section 3, and chapter 11, section 1". ARGH. Some units include information from 4 different chapters. It's maddening.

We did finally get them somewhat organized. Sort of. At least the boxes I keep them in are labeled, and we put aside in a "not tested" box all the words we aren't going to use this year because they aren't necessary. Every year we learn a bit more what's expected and every year we change and tweak. Of course rumors are abounding that they're going to be "reviewing" our standards at the state level so things will probably change yet again.

In the meantime, we're trying to come up with ways to help our kids on vocabulary, keeping in mind that we're losing ten minutes a period with our new schedule this year. A lot of the vocabulary techniques that many teachers in language arts and reading use with great success are a bit unwieldy and not as effective with science vocabulary which tends to be a bit technical. Try doing a Frayer model for "endoplasmic reticulum". So, we're leaning towards more vocab crosswords, word searches and word splashes. We'll just have to find the time.

In the meantime, if any of you fellow science teachers have any great ideas, let me know!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Prayers Needed for Daniel

Since ya'll are so good at this prayers thing - I honestly think all your prayers helped Mr. Eagle through his recovery. He is, after all, going to be able to get his first day pass and leave the rehab facility this weekend!

Anyhow, one of my dearest friends' son, Daniel, was hit in the head with a softball during a game and developed a blood clot and bleeding on the brain. He's in a drug-induced coma right now and they're trying to relieve the pressure on his brain. He could use your prayers. This is a wonderful young man, who was supposed to be starting at Purdue this fall. Use your power of prayer to help pull him and his family through this.

Many thanks, as always, from the bottom of my heart. Bloggers and readers are some of the greatest people on Earth.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gearing up, or, "where the hell did I pack that?"

I went in to The Building and worked on my classroom today.

It amazes me how much time it takes every year for me to get my room together. I'm sure this is one of those things that non-teachers never think about - the time we spend just getting ready for school to open. It doesn't seem like it should take that long, but it does. At least this year I didn't have to change rooms, which is a complete pain in the rear. During my first 3 years at The School, I had 4 different classrooms.

However, I still had to pack and box stuff up because they finally tore out the ratty, older than dirt and not much cleaner carpeting that was in the original rooms and replaced it with bright white (with specks of aqua and orange) tile. (My room is in the original part of the 42-year-old building.) The carpeting in our rooms was so bad that some of us were going through rolls of duct tape just trying to hold the seams together, and the local paper featured photos of it on the front page accompanying an article about school maintenance and upgrades. No one could remember how old it was. It could be original to the building for all we knew.

Now I have a floor that's so bright I think I'll need sunglasses. We're talking seriously bright. The last time I saw something this bright I was on a mountain covered with snow with skis on my feet. It certainly makes the room seem cleaner and bigger.

So, I tackled most of the boxes, put all the books back on the bookshelves, moved some furniture around, (I'm messing with my table arrangement), and took Comet and water to my tables so they'll be clean at least at the beginning of the year. Amazing the ick that you can get off a school table.

I still need to go through all my cabinets and my desk and get them organized, but after that I should be good to go. Mrs. Eagle and I are going to meet on Monday and work on some curriculum stuff so we'll get that out of the way.

I did meet four of our new teachers (I think we have 12 or more starting this year) and helped another teacher give them a tour. This always freaks people out because our building is sort of on a hub and spoke design, with 4 different additions added on throughout the years. It is very easy to get lost. The four newbies seem to be fired up and ready to go. Interestingly enough, our entire 8th grade science department is all male, which think is a wonderful thing. We need more male teachers in middle school.

Looks like summer is pretty much over for me.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Carnival Time!

Hey ya'll, it's Carnival Time! Head on over to Mike in Texas and check it out!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Final Harry Potter Read Until You Drop-A-Thon

I finished my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last night at 11:06. Loved it, hated it, loved it. There's things I was definitely unhappy with (don't worry, I'm not going to spoil it for you) and things I loved about it. Overall, definitely worth ignoring housework for a few days while I plowed through it.

However, I hate the fact that it's over with. The anticipation of the next chapter in the saga of Harry and his friends was almost as good as finally getting the book in your hands and reading it. Now it's over and I'm kind of left a bit deflated. I honestly loved the world that J. K. Rowling created and truly will miss visiting there every book. Now what do we look forward to?


Sunday, July 22, 2007

I'm Baaaaack!

I made it back from summer camp around 1:00 in the morning yesterday. So now I'm back, doing laundry, cleaning house, and generally getting back to normal before I have to worry about going back to school in a few weeks.

Camp was fun. The first week's group of kids seemed to be a bit more mature and seemed to "get it" a bit more, but overall they were a good group of kids. I did have one little guy who had already made a name for himself within the first two hours - this is rare in a camp for gifted kids. He was a terror. He did pretty good in my class until the last two days when he decided he wanted to play in the bathrooms (not a good thing to do at a University) and run in the halls. The last day he didn't want to go outside to fly the kites they'd made that week because he wanted his parents to bring a purchased kite from home. When they didn't, he got MAD. So, after I told him that he was coming with us regardless, he sat and screamed and threw rocks and generally pitched a fit because his "dad ruins everything" and "I don't want to fly a stupid homemade kite." The other kids gave him "what the hell is wrong with you" looks and proceeded to have a blast running around flying their kites and ignoring him. His folks showed up to pick him up and apologized up and down for his behavior, went on about how he has attitude problems, doesn't deal with disappointments well (really, you think?) and so forth and so on. Truth be told, after seeing how his dad got mad and lost patience with him I can see where the anger management issues come from. He was the first kid in eight years of camp that ever pitched a fit in my room, so that's saying something.

My favorite comment from him during the crying and rock throwing episode was, "I don't want to come stand by you because the other kids will think I'm a baby!". Well, hon, they already think that.

Mrs. Cardinal, who I stayed with, and I had a blast. We took her oldest daughter to Dayton, along with one of her teen friends, to see the Harry Potter movie and just loved it. Really dark, but a good film. I'm ready to see it again so perhaps Mrs. Eagle and I will do that before school starts. We did lots of walks with the baby Cardinal (going on 2) and just had a fun time. The baby is adorable, although she's getting into the terrible two's and can have her moments. One thing that staying with the Cardinals and the four kids does is make me appreciate how quiet my own home is. Let's just say the two oldest kids, 15 1/2 and 13, are masters at driving each other crazy and do it at every opportunity.

I did get to see a lot of my old college friends, and despite our 2001 graduations, at least three of them still can't find teaching jobs in Ohio. They just aren't there. People aren't retiring and when they do, they aren't replaced. This community is very family oriented, with large families, and many of these gals just can't bring themselves to leave and move somewhere to get a teaching job (like I did), especially if they have husbands who have decent jobs in the area. I can understand that, and am thankful that we didn't have the family ties and were able to leave like we did. My one friend's daughter ended up getting hired in Dodge City, Kansas, along with her fiance, so many of the best and brightest are leaving the state. It's sad, really.

So now I'm home, sleeping in my own bed, snuggling with my cats and just enjoying being home. Mr. Bluebird is out of town on business so he'll be home late tomorrow - can't wait as I miss him tons when we're apart. My new Harry Potter book arrived yesterday so I'm going to sit and try to get it read as soon as I can although part of me doesn't want the saga to end and I certainly don't want a favorite character to die.

On the down side, I have, for the first time in at least 20 years, had a reaction to some food or something. Woke up in the middle of the night and my upper lip felt swollen and this morning it's something I ate (perhaps the new flavored decaf coffee I tried for the first time last night?) caused an allergic reaction and I look like I've been in a fight, but without the bruising. It's not painful, just hideous and uncomfortable, so I'm laying low today. Hopefully it will be down by tomorrow as I have a two-day in-service to attend and I'd rather not go looking like this.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Heading to Camp

Tomorrow I head up north to Ohio for summer camp.

This is what I call my "paid vacation"....I get to go back up to where I used to live, hang out with my friends, teach a bit, and get paid. How cool is that?

The camp itself is a ton of fun (I've taught there 8 years now) as it is a day camp for gifted children. The classes are small, and you get time to actually do all that fun, hand's on stuff that I enjoy and the kids love. This year I'm teaching math art, kites, and a new one on pioneers. I always ask to teach the last two weeks because, one, it's the younger kids (going into 3rd and 4th grade) and two, the camp directors often have a lot of leftover school supplies they don't have the space to store every year and I gladly take them off their hands. Believe me, I'm the one teacher at The School who has a nearly unending supply of markers, colored pencils, crayons and glue. I enjoy teaching the younger kids for a few weeks because it's a nice change from what I'm used to, and it also, believe it or not, makes me appreciate my seventh graders a lot more!

I'll be staying, as usual, with one of my very best friends in the World, Mrs. Cardinal, along with her husband and her four kids. We went to school together and got our teaching licenses at the same time and she was one of the few who actually got a teaching job up in Ohio. Believe it or not, we still have classmates who graduated with us in 2001 who are still not in full-time teaching positions. I had to move South to get a job and every day I'm glad I did. Still, I miss my friends, especially Mrs. Cardinal, so it's always nice to get up there to visit.

Mrs. Cardinal has already set up our annual reunion dinner with the group of us that hung out and studied together during college, plus we'll be going to see the new Harry Potter movie when it comes out. That was always one of our traditions when I still lived up there. I'm looking forward to it all, except for the homesickness I always get when I'm away from Mr. Bluebird and The Four Kitties for any length of time.

So, I'm running around making sure the bills are paid, everything I need is packed (don't forget the electric pencil sharpener!) and getting ready to go. I have a zillion things to do but hopefully it will all get done before I have to head out to Mrs. Eagle's daughter's wedding this evening. I plan to leave early tomorrow morning as it's quite a long drive.

Don't know if I'll be blogging much, but I'll guarantees however!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Carnival Time!

It's time for the Carnival of Education, hosted over at NYC Educator's place. And you know what that means? No transfats at this carnival so you can enjoy it all without harming your health!!!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Birthday America!

Today is Independence Day, truly one of my favorite holidays, not because of the food and the fireworks, but because of what it means. As a history junkie, the American Revolution has always been one of my favorite eras to study and reflect upon and it astounds me, still, at the incredible talent we had in Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and many, many more. There are times when I wonder when we'll ever see such people with such character again.

And then Hubby and I ran into Solid Boy and his mother last night at Borders and I realize that the youth of today aren't all shallow, self-centered, videogame junkies.

I had Solid Boy in my second year of teaching, before I started this blog. He was in my homeroom, and this kid had, from the start, character. He was, and still is, extremely popular with his classmates (the girls adore him), and while he could have turned into a raving egomaniac with all the attention he received, he never has. I remember how considerate he was of everyone, even the decidedly unpopular students. If someone had a jammed locker, he was there to help. If someone was getting picked on, he was there to stop it. He was a friend to everyone and that is so rare to see in a seventh grader.

He wasn't the best of students, although he was certainly capable. That, thankfully, has changed, as he informed me last night. He's now a solid A student, is in the AVID program, is playing football, in ROTC, and looking at either West Point, VMI or the Citadel for college. Like his father, he wants to make the military his career, because, as he says, "this country has done so much for me and my family and I feel the need to serve."

Solid Boy is, as he puts it, "Half Korean and Half Hillbilly". His father was a special forces soldier, killed in Afghanistan, and his mother, now an American citizen, was a girl he met in Korea. I got to know his mom really well during football (we always sat together) and I was always impressed at what a great job she did with her two kids and how she held it all together after her husband was killed. The special forces community saw that she had whatever she needed. She had an internal strength that helped.

So last night, when I saw these two again, it made me realize how much I'm glad that we have Americans like them in our world.

Happy Birthday America!

And you go, Solid Boy!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Just some weird random things

Just some random musings and thoughts as I try to get a lot done before I leave for summer camp...

  • I've added some new links based on blogs I've recently discovered. Please take a moment and check them out. Some blogs of note include Crazy Aunt Purl, Ms. M's Apples, Bump on the Blog, Ms Teacher, and Teaching in the Inner City. Wonderful writing and wonderful reading for us.
  • Why is it that all the appliances in my house are starting to show their age all at the same time? Is there some kind of law that says things can only last 15 years and then they die? Our house is 15 years old (we bought it 4 years ago) and with original appliances. The hot water heater is on its last legs (we're planning on replacing it in the fall) and we had to put a new heating element in it. We both dream of a tankless water heater but there's no way on earth we can afford one. The refrigerator is also leaking and the ice maker quit. We were considering taking advantage of the 20% off Kenmore products sale this week to get a new one, but guess what? Both my Saturn and hubby's van need work. Sigh. Can't budget it all in on one month.
  • My husband, bless his brilliant mind and warm heart, is not a handy man. I am the handy one in our household. This is skill I picked up from my father who is never too far from a tool or gadget. This is why I was discovered yesterday under the bathroom sink, working at unclogging a really icky clog. Hubby looks at me and says, "Beauty, brains and she can fix a sink." I'm pretty good at toilets too.
  • I have had it up to here with petunias this summer. I usually love the goofy things because they're so easy to grow. However, out of the four plants I've purchased this year, three are succumbing to what I suspect (from my research on line) is a virus. Of course, can I find the receipts from Home Depot so I can get my money back? No. I can't tell you how it annoys me that I'm being defeated by a couple of petunias.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

And Update on Mr. Eagle

Since so many of you have been keeping Mr. Eagle in your thoughts and prayers since his accident, I thought I'd give you an update - and it's a good one!

After spending the rest of May and most of June in the severe burn unit, undergoing 5 skin graft surgeries, a bout of pneumonia, and a broken nose (we suspect from trying to remove his glasses which ended up melting in the fire), he is now in a rehabilitation facility. He spent about three weeks pretty much in a drug-induced coma, but is now awake, walking, sitting up, and talking, and starting in on some extensive therapy. It's a very, very slow process - for example, just to be able to get out and walk, both of his legs have to be wrapped from the ankles to the thighs with ace bandages (to reduce swelling), which then have to be removed when he's finished. He is eating solid food, although it's a slow process as even the fingers on his mainly uninjured hand are stiff from inactivity.

He and Mrs. Eagle's daughter is getting married next week and they are hoping that he can get a day pass so he can attend the wedding, although they know it might not happen. There was some talk of postponing the wedding, but Mrs. Eagle and her daughter made the decision not to. For one thing, no one knew when he'd be able to get out and attend, and secondly, he'd probably be pretty irate if they put it off because of him. He's like that. So the wedding will happen, and hopefully he'll be there.

Mrs. Eagle, who basically has lived in the hospital for the past six weeks, is now at home most of the time as the rehab facility does not let family members stay overnight. So she goes down to visit in the afternoons, after his therapy, and comes back in the evenings. With the wedding happening next week, she's got alot on her plate, but her children (there's four, and they're all grown) are a huge help. The Eagles have some great kids.

Thanks to all of you who've kept Mr. Eagle in your thoughts and prayers. He's a fantastic person who's always put other people first, especially kids. We couldn't have come this far in his recovery without your support and prayers.