Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Not only that....

The new Harry Potter comes out on my birthday, too! This has been two straight years of good birthdays to look forward to. Last year it was the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean that came out on my birthday. The original Pirates is my favorite movie of all-time, so I was disappointed in the sequel, but oh well.

I didn't get into Harry Potter until book #4 was already out. I went to visit a friend of mine in Colorado and walked into his fraternity house to find he and some "brothers" hotly debating Harry Potter. I decided at that point to give it a try.

Friday, January 26, 2007

No More Disappointment

I have always been disappointed that I don't share a birthday with more interesting people- I've got Michelle Kwan and that's it. I read in the newspaper yesterday that I share a birthday with Hershey's Kisses! The Kisses will be 100 years old on my birthday this summer.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Difference Involved Parents Make

Amie asked a good question- I found my comment getting long, and decided just to post it since I didn't have a better idea tonight anyway. Her question was something along the lines of- Teaching a majority of Mormons, did you have less behavior problems?

There were less issues. I attribute some of that to faith, but in 5th/6th grade a lot of the kids didn't "own" their faith yet and their ability to practice it in their daily life was only developing.

More of the good behavior resulted from involved parents. Most kids had moms who stayed home and were available to volunteer, were there when they got home, and made sure their homework got done. On top of that, the kids had two parents around, period. These kids were read to at an early age, exposed to good language, and taught to count when they were small. They came to school ready to learn, and they know their parents are right there to help support them (or get on their case, if need be).

Now I have a lot of kids who are in single-parent homes and/or their parents have to work long hours in order to support the family. That isn't to say that the parents of my kids now aren't good parents. Most of them are working really hard to try to keep their family afloat and are doing everything in their power to help out. Unfortunately, their level of involvement just can't be as great.

Of course, there are still the parents who make you wish there were a "parenting test" people had to pass before having kids.


Sunday, January 21, 2007


I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for three years. I enjoyed everything about the recreation, beauty, and pretty much everything else about living there. It was pretty much my first experience being a minority- as I am Caucasian with blond hair. (I haven't really believed that being female makes me a minority- probably just because I haven't had many experiences that made me feel that way.)

I worked at a school that was just a few miles from BYU (Brigham Young University, a university operated by the Mormon church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). Mormons get a very bad reputation because very few people know much about their religion. The main fact people know of is polygamy, which has been outlawed by the official LDS (Latter-Day Saint) church and is only practiced by "rebels" in rural parts of Utah. Their religion is definitely a way of life, and there is definite pressure to conform. I was one of only three teachers at the school who was not Mormon, and 95% of my students were Mormon as well. That fact made me very nervous- and I was very sure that teachers and students had good first impressions of me before they found out I was not Mormon.

People in Utah automatically assumed that I was Mormon, mainly just because I have a "wholesome" appearance. I always appreciated the fact that I blended in, and it made me wonder what life must be like for any minority whose "minority-ness" sticks out immediately. People treated me well, but I was consistently told I would make a good Mormon, and I left Utah having received six copies of their sacred scripture, the Book of Mormon. All in all, I wouldn't have traded my time in Utah for anything. It was a great learning experience, and I made a lot of friends. I try to keep my experiences in mind at school where I deal with a majority of minority students (makes sense, right?).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Snow Day

One cool thing about being a teacher is that you do not have to wait to watch T.V. to hear if school is canceled. There is a phone chain that informs the teachers as soon as the decision is made- it can be as early as 3:30 in the morning, and a few times it has even happened the night before.

This morning, there was a glitch in the system. Nobody called me! I was up, showered and dressed when I turned on the T.V. and saw that our district was being closed. I had to call a friend to confirm. It definitely takes a little out of the snow day when you can't just roll over and go back to sleep.

In general, I think schools close way too easily. Yesterday, there was a gigantic ice storm here in the area. Last night? A little snow that slickened the roads some more. Washtenaw county was entirely shut down, but our district was the only one in Wayne county that was closed. I was shocked not to go to work today. It used to take a blizzard to shut Ann Arbor down- I guess the superintendents felt bad that we hadn't had any snow yet this year.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

I Love School!

When I was in first grade, I refused to skip school to go shopping with my mother. I have always loved school. Tonight was the first night of class in a while- I took last semester off to focus on coaching and teaching. I came home after class got out ten minutes late very happy- and, of course, exhausted.

I love grad school because the classes have, so far without fail, made me think. This class is called Intercultural Communication and I am taking it as a required course. I chose it this semester because I had hoped I'd learn something that would help me out with this tough, diverse group this year. I already had some 'Aha!' moments in class tonight when we were discussing the experiences of minorities. That moment hit me when I referred to 'minority' as solely a race/ethnicity issue as opposed to the many other instances in which people deal with being a minority. More on this issue in the future... I have a lot to say about Utah.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Pity Party

One thing I want to accomplish by writing more often (blog format) is to reflect and problem-solve about my teaching. I promise, it will not always be negative, and hopefully I will come to some insightful conclusions now and again. In fact, I'll start on a positive note today:

This morning was fabulous. I had kids engaged in what they were doing, putting thought into their work, and I was able to teach multiplication in small groups without being interrupted every 60 seconds. I sat down at one point and just watched all the kids hard at work on writing, thinking, 'Wow. Look at all of the kids I have who are here to learn and want to do the right things. They are learning so much and accomplishing a lot.'

If you feel like reading the negative, keep going.

This year has been particularly hard for me. Several reasons:

1) I was given a "split" class- I am teaching fourth and fifth grade in the same room. I definitely believe in multi-age classrooms. However, with all of the mandates about what to teach and when it has to be taught (tested) these days, it is extremely difficult to plan effective lessons for two grades without leaving something out. In my five years of teaching, this is my third split class. It is not getting any easier.

2) I taught for three years in Utah and all of those years were in 6th grade (the split year it was 5th/6th). By the third year, it was great! I had an outline for the year, I had units prepared to teach, and I wasn't running around like a chicken with my head cut off every day. This year I am teaching a new grade in a different state and I had to start all over. It's frustrating to go from being a great, effective teacher with some free time to staying up all hours of the night lesson planning for the next day.

3) I started the year with 28 kids on the roster. I knew that two of them were going to be a handful. When school opened, all of a sudden there were 33 kids in my class. The number of kids has now dropped to 29, but it is a lot to deal with to get them all the attention they need.

4) I have Jamie. (And Thomas. And Dontay. And Zana. And Johnny. And Kendrick.)
**Names changed to protect the . . . troublemakers. They definitely aren't innocent.
Here are a few quotes from Jamie this year (Yes, they have actually come from the mouth of a fourth grader, and normally they are screamed at me just before or just after he has taken off running down the hallway):
-Did you learn anything when you were becoming a teacher? You need to go back to college.
-You are a evil witch who sucks the souls from children.
-Dear Jesus, Please give the principal a brain. . . What do you mean, I can't say that? I have a right to pray!
-Dear God, Please send my big sister to come and beat up Mrs. Anderson. . . I am not threatening anyone! I am praying! Don't take my religion away from me!
-Dear Jesus, Please teach Mrs. Pawlowski to keep her mouth shut.
-Shut up, librarian, you old fart.
-Two, four, six, eight, who do we depreciate? Mrs. So-and-so...
-You make me not want to be a Christian anymore.
(We start behavior plan #3 with him tomorrow.)

Hmmm. Better go to bed. Whining is not productive.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Attempt #2

Well, I think I will give this blogging thing another try...

My last post was August 16th entitled "0 to 60" and it read like this:

In the past few days, my life has gone from 0 to 60 in terms of how busy I am. I went from a nice, relaxing week where I slept in, painted a little, read books for fun (!) and hung out with my dog to getting up at 5:45 (or 4:30 today) and working 8 or more hours again. I have started the high school season again, my classroom is clean at school and waiting to be set up, and my parents are in town from Vegas and working on the basement at their house.

I enjoy being busy and rushing around- it makes me productive. But I think that early August will be a time that I look forward to every year from now on because I am truly refreshed, recharged and content throughout that time.

I took it off of the site because someone had left a comment on it that I was not a fan of.

So it has taken another vacation from school to get me to try this again. Right now, I am enjoying the end of a two-week break. I am just enjoying coaching the middle school team and putting the house together. I have been working at cleaning out the basement so that it can be drywalled, cleaning up and organizing the office, putting away Christmas decorations, and FINALLY putting curtains up downstairs. It has only taken 11 months to get the permanent curtains up, and I'm glad to get rid of the fishbowl feeling and the paper window coverings.