Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Thanks Parents!

Yesterday was extremely looooong. On top of our typical school day we held conferences at the high school. It was so nice to visit with several of my students and their parents. Conferences aren't always bad you know. Many of our parents are so supportive of their student and me as a teacher. Our school is one of the lucky ones. We are truly blessed with wonderful parents.

However, there are those that I called numerous times to schedule conferences, speaking with the parent or leaving a voice mail, and they either did not return my call or completely ignored me. For instance, with one phone call I placed it was connected and rang twice, but then I received a message on my phone that said the call was ended. Just like that. I thought I had done something wrong so I dialed again. I was connected, the phone rang twice, and the call was ended. No one ever picked it up. The line just went dead. Is that what happens when I hit ignore on my cell phone? Wouldn't the call at least go to voicemail? I hope I haven't been hanging up on people when I hit my ignore button. How awful if I have.

This year being on the freshmen team we decided to have team conferences where the parents can meet with all four core teachers at one time rather than schedule separate appointments for each. I believe this is much more effective than one on one. As a teacher it's good to hear that my concerns for a student are similar to the other teachers on my team.

The parents seem to like it as well. If their child is struggling in classes they do not have to hear it over and over for an hour. Instead it's like a shot in the arm, all at once. But once we get the concerns out of the way, we can work with the parent, and sometimes the child too when they come along, to devise a plan of attack to help the child to do better in the classroom.

Thanks parents for taking time out of your evening to attend conferences last night.  It means so much to me as a teacher.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

How do teachers get their students to do the required reading?

Getting students to complete the assigned reading is becoming more and more of a problem for teachers these days. Teachers spend hours creating a fantastic lesson around the assigned reading only to find out that over half of the class didn't read it. This has happened to me to often to count. How am I supposed to complete a lesson with my students when they don't even read the assigned chapters in the novel?

For example, during the second nine weeks I taught To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee to both my ninth grade regular and honors classes. The majority of my former students have loved the story about Scout, Atticus, Jem, Boo, and Tom Robinson. I tried to create some interesting activities to go along with the story in hopes to get them to read.

  • At times, students met in small groups to discuss their reading, other times we discussed the story as a whole class. 
  • We mapped out the town of Maycomb using clues we found as we read and learned how to properly cite the information. This was one way that helped curb the urge to copy the map from the internet. If they did not have the clues to back up the placement of a particular location then they did not get the point for that location. 
  • Students researched information from that time period, Jim Crow Laws, the Scotsboro boys, the Great Depression, the Dustbowl, to name a few. 
  • Students created their own questions to try and stump their classmates and me. 
  • Finally, students participated in a Socratic Seminar, which they loved and want to do again. YEAH! 

The honors class spent about three weeks on the novel, reading, writing and discussing the story. For the most part the majority of my honors students spent time both in the classroom and outside the classroom completing the required reading assignments. They had much more to read each night than did my regular classes, and they came to class prepared. This didn't surprise me out of honors students who care about their grade. Not to say that my regular students don't care about their grade. Some of them actually do care.

My regular class spent roughly seven weeks reading, writing, and discussing the novel. Well, not much discussion took place because my students did. not. read. I began the novel by reading out loud in my best southern accent while they followed along in their own books. At first there were some giggles, but my twang southern charm got their attention and they listened. I would stop periodically and ask questions to make sure they were paying attention and understanding. No problem.

When they began reading independently, I assigned questions for them to answer while they read, thinking this might help them continue reading. I'm not crazy about using study guide questions because anymore anybody with half a brain can find the answers online. When I give study guide questions as an assignment, I only give completion points for the grade because I also believe the little darlings love to share their answers with each other. During discussion my students were fantastic at answering the questions I gave them, but when it came to extending their answers or discussing something that wasn't on their study guide most of them did. not. have. a. clue. Gee. I wonder why.

I then resorted to pop quizzes, which after awhile were no longer "pop" quizzes because they knew they were coming after each reading assignment. These quizzes were pretty easy if one read the assignment. Many of the little darlings' grades sunk to extremely low levels. Even then, they. did. not. read. Instead they asked if I was going to offer extra credit. ARGH! Pirate speak for frustration.

These kids are on the internet 24/7 reading Facebook, Twitter, email, and on their phones reading their text messages. Why won't they read a BOOK?

The next novel I'm teaching is The Count of Monte Cristo.  Holy Cow! If they didn't read To Kill a Mockingbird which according to them was a "fat" book. How am I going to get them to read about the count, which is in FATTER? And how can I teach the lesson if they do not come prepared? What do I do with those kids who did not read?

What are your thoughts? Does anyone have ideas that have worked for you? Please leave a comment and share how you get kids to read their assigned reading.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Nothing's Ever Easy

Our friend Don, who's a retired certified mechanic, told my husband Matt that it would be easy to fix a rear wheel cylinder on our Ford Focus. If you read my earlier post on Midweek Confessions, this would be the reason that I've been driving with only two brakes working. Anyway, Matt's pretty handy so he decided to give it a try rather than pay someone to do it.

The first road block was getting the lug nuts off of the tire. They were rusted. Matt had to use liquid wrench and a sledge hammer to finally get the lugs off. Now what would we have done if we had a flat tire on the side of the road? I guess I better stock up on liquid wrench and be sure the sledge hammer is in the trunk. 

The next road block: the wheel was rusted to the drum. (My apologies if I call something by the wrong name. I'm no expert on cars or their various parts and mechanisms.) Once he pried the wheel off he had to take the drum off of the car.

The next road block: Matt didn't have the correct size socket to fit the bolt attaching the drum to the car. Luckily the Grand Prix started (It's also not working right. Read the post called Give me the Choice.) and ran so that Matt and Michael could go to Advanced Auto Parts to buy the correct size socket for the wrench. After roughly ten trips there and back and leaving the Grand Prix running in the driveway or parking lot for fear it wouldn't start again, Matt found the correct size socket for our 2004 Ford Focus.

Now I must say that usually Matt would be blowing a gasket by now and spewing what Michael and I call Daddy speak. However, he remained rather calm throughout this challenge with the Focus.

As daylight was diminishing, Matt was trying to pry the drum from the car. Yes. It's rusted too. Either that or there is something besides rust holding it in place. Either way Matt can't get inside to replace the part so that I can drive the car tomorrow. He's going to do some research online tonight to see what he needs to do.

So much for this being an easy fix. I suppose if one had the right tools to begin with it would have been easier. It's never easy. I'll keep you posted.


Mid Week Confessions

Well my first confession would be that I'm confessing on Saturday rather than on Wednesday which is the mid week point.

I broke down and purchased a Kindel and I absolutely LOVE it so far! I can't wait to get home each day to read my Kindel. I'm looking for a carrier that I can put it in to protect it from the craziness of my purse. Then I can bring it with me. Have Kindel - will read.

I baked a pumpkin pie today for my family along with four dozen chocolate chip cookies. The chocolate chip cookies are for church. So far I've eaten five. YIKES! And we haven't even cut into the pie yet.

I had a Big Mac attack today. What is it with me and food today?

Instead of writing on my blog, I went walking with my son in downtown Vermilion today. We popped into several of the shops along the way.

I got my hair cut and my husband couldn't even tell. Is that good or bad? Hmmm.

I've been driving to school with only two breaks working. Yesterday's snow on the morning drive was frightful. If you see a silver Ford Focus with a white knuckled woman driving get out of the way!


ABC's All About Me

This morning while I was waiting for my pumpkin pie to bake, I was reading through the blogs I follow. I totally stole this idea for today's blog from Lisa at her blog Stop and Smell the Chocolates

Here are my ABC's:

Age: 44 - Not to bad so far.

Bed size: Queen - We said good bye to the king because it just didn't fit in our tiny house. More snuggling.

Chore you dislike: Am I allowed to say all of them? The only chore I don't mind is washing dishes. It reminds me of girl time with my MomMom and Aunt Danna.

Dogs: Isabella Rose my Yorkie, Sophia Mae my Chaweenie, and Jack Straw my Black Lab who is laying at my feet with his head under the chair. Sophia is in my lap making it difficult to type, and Isabella is laying on the kitchen floor wishing she were brave enough to jump down the one step to our back porch so she could join us. We also have a cat named Sebastian who sometimes thinks he's a dog. He would be irritated if I didn't include him somewhere.

Essential start to your day: A cup of tea.

Favorite color: Blue

Gold or silver: It dependes on my mood. Today - silver.

Height: 5'7"...ish That also seems to depend on the day.

Instruments you play(ed): Piano, clarinet, saxophone

Job title: Teacher

Kids: 1 joy of a boy

Live: Ohio - Go BUCKS!

Mom’s name: Sherry and Tish (I will probably share this story in the near future.)

Nicknames: Hopie, Inkie, Brown-eyed Doll, Hopeless, Hoppo, Boone - Some of these I have no idea where they came from.

Overnight hospital stays: Pneumonia when I was a child. When I gave birth to my son.

Pet Peeves: Poor customer service, people who only pretend to listen, automated telephones - you know, if you would like to speak to a live human being press any number you like because there aren't any here, and people who interrupt.

Quote from a movie: The first thing that popped into my mind was "Hakuna Matata!" 

Righty or Lefty: Righty

Siblings: This is also part of another story I might write about later. One older brother, two younger sisters, and six younger brothers.

Time you wake up: School - 5:30 am; Weekends and Summer - 8 ish.

Underwear: Yeah, I wear it!

Vegetables you don’t like: Brussel sprouts and Lima Beans!

What makes you run late: ME.  Poor time management.

X-Rays you’ve had: Chest (lungs), dental, and the one for ladies over 40.  :)

Yummy food you make: These are my husband and son's favorite things that I bake. Cheese cake, pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and homemade macaroni and cheese.

Zoo animal favorite: Elephant

Now I've shared my ABC's. Please won't you share your ABC's with me? Use the linky below share your ABC's.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rest in Peace Coach Paterno

My heart broke when I heard the news that Coach Joe Paterno lost his battle with lung cancer this morning. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Paterno family, the coaches, players and fans. Joe Pa you will be sorely missed.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give Me the Choice

I hate to be negative on my blog, but something has really ticked me off.

We just had our car fixed here in town by a garage that we've done business with for years. I feel that we've built up a relationship with this place from tires, tire pressure monitors, oil changes, brakes,...This time it was the throttle body. Let me back up to Christmas night so you can get the full effect.

We left my mom and dad's around 11p.m. Christmas evening after spending a wonderful holiday with my family. My parents live about an hour and a half away. As we were pulling out of the driveway, the car packed to the ceiling with Michael's gifts, the engine light came on and a message read reduced engine power. The car crawled down the driveway toward the road. My husband stopped the car, turned off the engine, and restarted it. No engine light and no message. Good. We headed for home. Thank you God and what ever angels helped us make it safely home without a hitch.

On the Tuesday following Christmas day, I had some errands to run. I started the car and the engine light came on with the same message, reduced engine power. I turned off the car and restarted it. No engine light and no message. I went on my merry way. I went by McDonald's for a much needed peppermint mocha, stopped at the bank to make a deposit of Christmas cash, and went by the Dollar General for some paper towels, dish soap, and toilet paper. Everything was fine until my last stop. When I got back in the car and turned on the ignition the engine light came on and the message read reduced engine power. I turned the engine off and back on only to see the engine light and message. Five tries later nothing had changed.

I decided to try and make it to the garage since it was located in the same parking lot as the Dollar General. The car crept toward the garage. What normally takes five minutes took fifteen. I pulled up to the door and turned off the car. When I went inside I was thrilled to see my friend working. He's one of the managers. And he's really my friend. His wife and I taught together. Anyway, I just wanted to know if I would make it home. He was kind enough to pull it in and hook it up to that handy dandy machine that tells what's wrong with the car. You know the one; it spits out codes that only mechanics can decipher. My friend told me that it was the throttle body. The part would cost $270, but the labor wouldn't be bad because it wouldn't take much to fix. And yes, I would make it home, but I really shouldn't drive it once I got there.

We couldn't get the car fixed right at that moment since we just celebrated Christmas. You know how it is with gifts, food, driving all over God's green acre. We pretty much live from pay check to pay check. About a week of hitching rides later, (I live 30 minutes from school in a whole other town) we took the car in to get it fixed. My husband said while they had it they might as well change the oil and clean the fuel system. "No problem," the new manager said. In that week my friend quit for a newer, better job. Maybe that should have been a warning.

The next day, we picked up the car, paying $270. That's it? Wow! I thought the part alone would be that. They said everything was running good, and we shouldn't have anymore problems. The throttle body just needed a cleaning. The car ran great for four days until last Tuesday morning when I was ready to drive to work. You guessed it...engine light and message. UGH!!!!! Frantically I called my best friend to see if she had left town yet. She was already on her way and would have to turn around to come and get me, which she was willing to do, but it would make us late to school. I decided to call my other friend who lived on the way to school and see if I made it to her house if she'd take me the rest of the way to school. I drove the second car, our Ford Focus, which by the way is only running on two brakes at the moment. Yes, when we needed the second car the most the brakes went out on it. When it rains it pours.

That brings us up to the present. We took the car back in, and they hooked it up to their fancy code machine, only to find that the throttle body needed to be replaced. Gee. Didn't we already know that? It would cost $470 to fix the car. Now this is in addition to the $270 we already paid them to fix the throttle body in the first place. When my husband asked them why they just didn't replace it the first time, they said they were trying to save us some money. Now, I can appreciate that in this economy, but why not give me the choice to make.

The Choice they could have given me:
A) We can clean the throttle body, do the oil change and fuel system for $270. But, we can't guarantee how long the throttle body will last.

B) We can replace the throttle body with a new one at a cost of $470. Pretty much guarantee there would be no problems.

Yes, $470 is more than $270, but I would have a new throttle body and the assurance of knowing that my car would get me safely to and from school without breaking down. And do you think they will work with us on this?! NO! We've been round and round with them this week. They will not give us any kind of a refund on the first fix it job, nor a discount on the second repair. We brought the car home last night.

Bottom Line: They lost our business, and we will not refer anyone to get their car fixed in that garage again.

Thanks all for letting me rant and get this off of my chest.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A New Job for a Card Organizer

If you remember, I received a free card organizer from DaySpring with two packs of cards.

Well I've found a new job for my card organizer.

Back in the fall when I was planning my classroom, I wanted something to organize my papers to grade for each class. I saw an adorable hanging file bag that Elizabeth, on E, Myself and I, used in her classroom. I found the hanging file tote here:  Jamie Raquel Tote Store at a cost of $59.

I fell in love with the filing system because it looked like a cute bag I could carry over my shoulder or even set on my desk. It was stylish as far as teaching materials went. However, I just couldn't see the NEED to spend $59 on a file system, even though I really WANTED this particular one. We're trying to get a grip on our finances around here. I began searching around at WalMart, Target, etc. to see if anything came remotely close. Nothing.

Then I received my card organizer in the mail. It's an expandable file folder that can hold all of my papers. It has enough pockets for my six classes to have an IN folder and an OUT folder. My friend Danielle used her handy dandy label maker today to create labels for each class. She is an organization goddess! On each of the monthly file folders she placed a label for each class period. For example, Period One IN or Period One OUT, etc. They look so professional!

My plan of attack is this...When I collect my students' papers, I will mark them off as each student hands the assignment to me. This might sound like it will take a ton of my time, but this year I seem to have more students who claim they turned in the assignment and blame me for losing it. Me being the absent-minded 45-year-old teacher, how can I possibly remember which of my 130 students turned in their assignment on any given day? (insert sarcastic tone) This way each student will see me actually check the box by their name in my grade book. I've done this in the past and it works!

You know, it only takes one time to misplace a student assignment, and then any time thereafter when one of the little darlings says, "I turned it in. You must have lost it," I begin to doubt myself. Isn't that silly? But I do! What if it was my fault? What if I left it on the kitchen table when I was grading? What if it blew out the window of my car? I'm not perfect. I do make mistakes. Maybe that's why I doubt myself every time this conversation with a student or parent comes up. Does this happen to other teachers out there in blog land? If so please let me know so I'm not the only one.

Anyway, back to my plan of attack. Once I have collected their assignments, I will place them in the IN section for that particular class. The nice thing about the organizer is it can sit on my desk during the day, and I can carry it home to grade papers in the evening. When the papers are graded, I will place them in the OUT section of the organizer, and pass them back to students the next day. The papers will only travel from school and home and back again in this organizer. That way I know I will not have to search the thousand and one teacher bags for the "missing assignment." If it's not checked off and not in the organizer, then it was NOT turned in.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

So here goes my first time with mid week confessions...

I brought home my school books to spend my three day weekend creating exciting lessons for my freshmen English classes...I never cracked a cover.

I have a PILE of laundry taking over my folding table downstairs. Rather than catch up the laundry, fold it, hang it up. I just truck downstairs each morning, pull something off of the pile on my table, throw it in the dryer to get the wrinkles out, and wear it to school.

I belong to three book clubs, plus as some of you know who read my blog I have a list of books that I want to read for 2012 that doesn't include any of my book club reads. The pile of books is growing beside my bed pleading with me to read them. I'm much too busy catching up on the blogs I follow.

I told myself that once the second nine week grading period was over that I would start walking every night on my treadmill. The treadmill is downstairs collecting dust and it's not even plugged in yet. I have yet to tread a step.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I have never written a review before, nor have I ever purchased anything from DaySpring. I can honestly say it was a nice surprise when I received this rather large box containing two packs of cards, one of the packs was Birthday Inspirational Cards, and the other was for All Occasion Inspirational Cards, and a beautiful monthly organizer to keep them in. DaySpring gave me the cards and organizer to review for free. As such the opinions I write are my own.

The cards are printed on a thicker quality card stock and pop with color. I hate it when I purchase a card, and it feels flimsy like it's been printed on cheap paper. Some of the cards resemble photos and others have images that look like they've been artistically drawn. One of my favorite cards of the two collections is the one with the two little girls in the hammock. You can see the card in the photo above. The saying in the card reads "Good friends are the best therapy." On the inside front cover there is a Bible verse: "Just as water reflects the face, so one human heart reflects another." Proverbs 29:19 NRSV. This card will be perfect to send to one of my dearest friends who has been such a blessing to me in the past few weeks and months. On the blog (in)courage Jessica Turner writes about Writing a Card for Thanks and Encouragement. Check it out.

The expandable file organizer is a sturdy tote with an elastic band to latch it closed. Each of the twelve pockets expands to comfortably hold at least ten cards. At least that's how many cards I placed in each pocket. It's organized by month. Each month has a removable file folder.

Each file folder lists the name of the month, birthstone, and flower. I pulled September because that's when I was born.  There's also a nice quote at the top of each file. The one for September reads:
             "When days are crisp and the trees wear their latest autumn styles, 
              Opportunities abound for spreading warmth and smiles!"

Below the quote there are two columns, one for birthdays and the other for days to remember. This would be a nice system to keep even me organized. Just take the time to write in the names of people who have birthdays each month or anniversaries, etc. Then purchase the cards to fill the pockets. My Mom buys cards whenever she's sees them on sale, or when she sees a card that catches her eye, or has a good message. That way she always has cards on hand. In the lower right hand corner is a Bible verse that reads, "We know how dearly God loves us, and we feel his warm love everywhere." Romans 5:5 TLB.

I certainly hope that my little review has been helpful to someone out there in the blogging world. Please share your thoughts about writing or organizing cards. Who will you inspire with a card this month?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Books I want to Read in 2012

I started this list by browsing the books I've read in 2011 linky on the nesters blog. I'll be adding to it as I come across other interesting finds.

If you have any suggestions for me please leave a comment and let me know. Thanks! Happy Reading!

One Thousand Gifts

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Sarah Morgan The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Organized Simplicity

Welcome to the World Baby Girl

The Owl and Moon Cafe


The Winter Sea

In Cold Blood

The Tiger's Wife

Red Mist

Then Again

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My One Little Word for the New Year and the Baby Jesus Box

One of the blogs I recently stumbled upon is called Two Writing Teachers. One of the things they talk about on their blog is having One Little Word. They first spoke about this in 2007. Instead of making a new year's resolution, the two writing teachers suggest thinking of One Little Word to live by in the upcoming year. They say that living with One Little Word as your guide provides you with more clarity.

So I have been thinking all day about my One LIttle Word. On Christmas night at my mother's home, we opened the Baby Jesus Box. This has been a tradition in my family since I can remember. The box represents our gifts to Baby Jesus. Each year everyone in the family writes down what they want to give to Baby Jesus for His birthday, a new year's resolution so to speak. After we light the Christmas candle, we open the box and go around in a circle sharing what we wrote or gave to Baby Jesus the previous year. If it's too personal people may pass. We then collect the slips of paper, staple them together, write the date on the top slip, and place them back in the box. It's fun to look back through the years of gift giving to see how far we've come. Then my Mom hands out new slips of paper for us to write out our new gift for Baby Jesus. We fold them and place them back into the box until the next Christmas.

Shhh....I'm not supposed to tell anyone what my gift to Baby Jesus is, but in order for me to explain my One Little Word, I have to share my gift with you. Obviously it's no surprise to Jesus, since He knows everything. Anyway, the gift is in accomplishing what I set out on paper, not just about writing it down. This year I wrote that I wanted to be more giving like my Mom when it comes to helping people. She is always first to lend a hand be it family member, friend, or someone in her community that's in need.

Hands. My One Little Word is hands. What can I accomplish this year with my hands? I could hold someone's hand, crochet for charity, applaud my students, pray, work, clean, bake, ... The possibilities are endless. With my hands I could help others. These hands given to me by God to do His work here on earth. That's my gift to Baby Jesus. That's my One Little Word for the new year to help keep me focused, to guide me along on my journey for the next 365 days.