Monday, September 1, 2014

Back to School

I haven't posted here in a while, so I decided tonight would be the night to play a bit of catch up. While we have only been in school for 3 days, things have been very busy and very crazy. This year I teach 5-- yes 5-- preps. I have English 11, AP English 11, English 9, English 9 Honors, and Freshman Seminar. So far, I think I am really going to enjoy my classes. The 9th graders seem engaged and excited to be back (or to be starting!). My 11th graders are a bit of a handful, but I think I can channel that energy into some productive class time. I think my biggest challenge with the 11th graders will be getting them into the correct learning groups and keeping them on their toes.

My AP class presents a new AP challenge-- the class is big at 32 students (my biggest class)-- and that presents a new set of problems in the AP setting. My first problem is that I am basically out of room in my classroom. I have abnormally large desks, plus high school sized humans, and that means not much room. Additionally, about half the class are students who I moved from honors. I always try to pull up students from honors into AP because I believe that every student needs to take at least one AP class in high school. A large class size makes providing support for students who need extra help  bit harder. It's definitely not impossible, and there are ways to work around it, but it is harder. Finally, because the class is only offered during one period, there were students who were slated to be in AP (they did the extensive summer reading and everything), and then were bumped from the class because it conflicted with another class they were supposed to take. If another section of the class had been offered I think more students would have been able to take the course. I know I will make the class work, but it is a bit daunting thinking of how I will need to accommodate the class size while working to support each student in the way that they need.

I would recount my opening day activities, but my friend Sarah already did this over on her blog. If you follow this link here you can read all about the ice breakers that we did in our classes. They were a huge success, and the students made some awesome class connections. I too have pictures for a classroom tour, but I haven't uploaded them yet, so that will be saved for a new post.

All-in-all, I am looking forward to this week upcoming. We have back to school night and my volleyball team plays its first game. It is going to be a busy week, so my posting may be quiet. Between school, coaching, and the kids at home my free time is minimal!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jack is 18 months!

At 18 months Jack loves...

1. ...playing ball (any ball game).
2. ...mashes potatoes.
3. ...pretending he can go to MDOW with Lily.
4. ...holding hands with mama or Lily while in the car. 
5. ...reading books.
6. ...blowing bubbles.
7. ...saying new words.
8. ...blowing raspberries.
9. ...dancing like a crazy man!
10. ...and, of course, mama and dada!


Friday, August 22, 2014

School Year 2014-2015

I have been trying to write a back-to-school post for days now. I am very excited for the year. A big part of that excitement stems from the 9th grade team. This year, I get to work with Sarah and Becky on the 9th grade team. Sarah and Becky are my best friends and working with them is natural. Nothing is forced, we have great conversations, and we work through things well. I am looking forward to seeing how the year unfolds. I have never taught ninth grade, so I am looking forward to this new adventure!

Back to the happenings this week. Our principal started her second year and rolled out a ton of new initiatives. I knew most of these changes were in the pipeline, so nothing was a total surprise. We are working on school climate, so our biggest changes involve improving school climate. SGA has been working on this by doing school beautification projects. We swapped out posters with random students for posters with our own students. We adopted the "We are..." motto (borrowed from Penn State) and printed it on the posters and on tee shirts. We already unveiled our homecoming theme- The Wizard of Oz- using the quote, "There's no place like home" as the unifying idea. Things are coming together slowly but surely.

I can't say this week hasn't been without stress. When a bunch of new initiatives are rolled out, it can be stressful. There are new things to remember, new ideas to adapt, and new rules to implement. The amount of data and documentation is unbelievable, and, honestly, is a bit intimidating. I will say, the new changes have forced me to rethink how I run my classroom and that has been refreshing. I want to cut back on the number of assignments and really focus on quality of work and grades, rather than quantity. I want students to have a really authentic experience that enables them to get their hands dirty. I want them to dig into, and play with, really rich texts. I am a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of all of this change, but I think that, ultimately, it will make me a better teacher. That is always my goal: to be a better teacher. 

So, here's to school year 2014-2015...to being a better teacher...to new possibilities...and to big changes! Here we go!

Friday, August 15, 2014

My thoughts on #icebucketchallenge

As one of my mid-week confessions I wrote this:

3. I wish every horrible disease and illness got as much attention as ALS is getting right now (and without the gimmick!).

I am sure that this was taken the wrong way by some people, but I have some fairly strong thoughts about the #icebucketchallenge. Let me begin by saying I think it is amazing that so much money has been raised for such a devastating illness. For people to donate millions of dollars in a time period that typically only sees thousands is nothing short of awesome. ALS is a truly horrible illness that needs to be properly researched and funded in order to find a cure. 

However...

I think of many social media "causes" that began as hashtags-- #kony2012 and #bringbackourgirls are two that jump immediately to mind. At their height, these two causes were viral. They were all over FB and Twitter. Celebrities were tweeting their solidarity, teenagers were updating their statuses and attention was heightened about these two causes.

And then there was silence. 

Where are these two causes today? I can't really tell you.

This is why #icebucketchallenge isn't philanthropy. This is what concerns me. This year, millions was raised for ALS research, but what about next year? Or the year after? Certainly, people will tire of filling buckets with ice water and pouring it over their heads in the name of solidarity. Certainly people will forget that this hashtag phenomenon even happened. 

So, is there a solution? Well, I think so. Rather than dumping a bucket of ice water over your head or donating $100 and calling it a day, why not take $10 every month and donate it to a cause (or, a % of your income). Maybe it's ALS research. Maybe it's a cancer fund. Maybe it's a soup kitchen. Or, if donating money isn't your thing, why not donate time? Feed the hungry. Serve the community.

I know the inspiration behind the challenge. I understand the significance. But we can't pat ourselves on the back for supporting a cause and then forget it a week, a month, a year later. Charity should be ongoing. It should sustain. 

Social media is amazing. It spreads the word faster than any other outlet, and makes causes go viral overnight. But it's also a snapshot--an instant--and then it's over. We need to be a society that looks beyond the confines of our FB feeds and twitter updates. We need to see the long term picture. Sure, something is better than nothing, but it's not enough and it never should be.

So, certainly, take up the cause, but don't forget the cause when social media goes silent. Donate, volunteer, and give back as part of a life routine. Don't let the phenomenon fade away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Confessions

Decided I need to indulge in a few mid-week confessions this week. Here it goes...

1. I cannot stand it when people think their hobby should be their profession. No. No it should not be. I blame this on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets (two people tell someone what they did is pretty and suddenly the person thinks they have a new calling). Just because you can sew doesn't mean you should be selling clothing. Just because you have a nice camera does not mean you are a photographer. Just because you can use wire and ribbon does not mean you were magically meant to have an Etsy shop. Now, I know some very talented people who do awesome things, but, please, not every hobby is meant to be a job. There is a lot more work behind the scenes than just executing your craft or your picture. Keep your hobby just what it is-- a hobby. (unless it's cake pops...)

2. When people who clearly aren't listening then proceed to ask 6,000,000 questions that were already answered (when they weren't listening).

3. I wish every horrible disease and illness got as much attention as ALS is getting right now (and without the gimmick!).

I have other things I would love to confess here, but it's not the appropriate place for those confessions. My next post will be the big back-to-school post!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back from vacation!

We are back from vacation, and, quite abruptly, thrust into back-to-school mode. I will write about going back in a separate post. Right now, I want to focus on the week away with my family.

This year we went back to Myrtle Beach. It was Lily's second trip and Jack's first trip. The ride both ways was long and rainy, but the kids did wonderfully. We watched a lot of Disney movies, a lot of Max and Ruby, and a lot of The Land Before Time. Jack was a champ on his longest car ride to date (the trip down took 12 hours!). We decided that North Carolina has a lot of rain, Virginia has a lot of traffic, and next year the car ride needs to be shorter. I sat between the kids in the backseat (thank you, mom and dad, for letting us borrow your Pilot!), so that was just an adventure in itself.

The week started rainy, but quickly cleared to sunny and, generally, mild (for SC in the summer). We had a string of beautiful beach and pool days, which made our munchkins very happy. The resort had a playground this year, which they didn't have the last time we were there. This was great for evening walks and play time. Overall, we had a very nice week and were able to enjoy some fun time with the kids. It was nice being on the beach with the kids, but the pool was really the shining star for both Lily and Jack. Lily loved everything about the kids area this year: the slides, the misters, and, eventually, the mushroom thing that pours water all over you. Lily even did the big slide (that is for older kids and adults), which was a big step for her (especially since, not so long ago, she was scared of water)! Jack also loved everything--even the slides! He rode with adults because he wasn't super sure how everything worked (and he would have sunk like a brick).

Here are a few pictures from our trip-- the castle building, swimming, shell collecting, fun!

Jack selfie at the aquarium.

Lily loved the aquarium! It was a great distraction on a rainy day.

Let's go, guys!


Brave enough to take on the water this year!






Vacation 2014. Love this one!

She's crazy. Asked her to smile. Got this.


Common for Lily. Played hard, slept harder.




Friday, August 1, 2014

An uncharacteristically religious and political post...oops.

This morning, I was reading a thread about the two American health care workers who are being transported via isolation plane back to America for treatment in Georgia (near the CDC). These workers contracted the ebola virus while helping patients suffering from the virus in West Africa. For those who might be living under a rock, or refusing to watch the news/read Twitter/check Facebook, the virus is rampantly spreading across West African nations, and is being touted as the worst outbreak in years. That being said, fast-forward to this morning.

The thread was via WBAL and the post mentioned the two Americans and how they are coming back to America even though they have this deadly virus. It asked readers to respond to the question, "Should people who are ill with a virus that is known as being highly fatal come back to the US?" (Ok, it was something like that, but you get it.)

The responses ranged from, "yes, we can give them better medical care" to "no they shouldn't, it's too much of a risk." Then there were these responses:

"Yea great idea, just send the presidents Air Force one plane over to pick them up."


"Take them to the White House."

Wait? What?


A lot of people posted about how this happens in movies and everyone dies, so I kind of threw out those 
posts because movies are sensationalized and, oh yeah, we live in real life.

The reason these posts really bothered me is because (I am generalizing here, so please bear with me) the people who posted these responses are probably conservative, and therefore, probably Christian (again making assumptions, but I have a point, so hang on). These posts are part of a greater problem about conservative Christianity in America (oh, and I am Christian (Catholic, so some Christians probably say I am not Christian)). The problem being the lack of compassion, of living a life of Christ, that these people display.

People can disagree with the President, but to wish him ill? To wish him dead? That sounds Christian to me. The man is a husband and a father, and people wish him dead. Christians wish him dead. 

I guess I missed that sermon in the Bible, "love one another unless a person isn't a race you like, a gender you like, a socio-economic status you like, etc..." 

My biggest issue with this form of Christianity is that it isn't Christian at all. Christianity says love another. But only if you check the right boxes. Only if you fit a certain type. And Christ just didn't preach that.

The Christ in my Bible said to embrace the weakest and poorest of these. He healed the sick (and even hung around lepers!), he loved the poor, he embraced the outcasts. He didn't reject or judge or hate. He rejected the "eye for an eye" and said "turn the other cheek." (He even said that divorcing your wife makes her a victim of adultery, so maybe we need to look at that divorce rate a little more closely...)

My point is: how Christian are you being when you hate blacks, homosexuals, poor people, immigrants, and any person who fits in a category that you aren't in? You can't be.

Until you extend the mercy and compassion that you give to an embryo at conception to every single person regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, circumstance, or creed, you cannot rightly say that you are acting like Christ. Because Christ loved all. Christ accepted all.

"He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5: 45-48)