19 July 2010

My new favorite afternoon snack

A happy accident when I was hungry this afternoon. I knew I wanted the Kashi cereal and the strawberries. I wasn't feeling the milk in the fridge (it's probably fine, but I have a "thing" about drinking milk that is more than a couple of days past its sell-by date). My next move was going to be vanilla yogurt. No such luck. Lemon yogurt seemed like it might work okay with the strawberries and the cereal, so I gave it a shot.

My new favorite afternoon snack was born! It was so summery-tasting, and it will hold me over until dinner. And for very few calories!

I've thought of all the things I'd like to say...

I've been tossing around some ideas for organizing my blog. Some of the blogs that I most enjoy reading have a weekly post schedule. Certain topics are posted about on Mondays, another topic is posted about on Tuesday, and so on throughout the week. I don't know why I feel the need to schedule posts for my blog like this, but these bloggers never seem to run out of things to say. It might challenge me to write about something other than teaching, too, since I did revamp this blog and state in my first post that I didn't want it to be all about teaching.   At the same time, I feel like it might limit me. If I'm supposed to post about--I don't know, the book I'm currently reading--on Thursday, I would feel like I would have to. Even if I didn't want to.

Plus, I suppose the whole weekly schedule of posts really works best for lifestyle blogs, and this is not a lifestyle blog. At least, it's not a blog about an interesting or worthwhile lifestyle. I'm not being self-deprecating in that statement. I just lead a rather boring life, and I've come to terms with that.  There's not much to it right now. Maybe there will be later, but at this point, scheduling my blog around all of the interesting things I do on a daily basis seems a touch inappropriate.

In other news, I want to see this.

This may be my shortest blog post yet.

PS- The title of this post is a line from the song "Can't Finish What You Started" by Motion City Soundtrack. Need to give credit where credit is due. 

16 July 2010

How's this for optimism?

I continue to browse the internet for things that I want for my future classroom. Because I will have a future classroom, soon.  And I will have money, soon. That's a promise I've made to myself in the past couple of days.

And that classroom will be the best darn looking classroom anyone has ever crossed the threshold of.

And so, the list from yesterday continues:

1. I found this poster on teachersdiscovery.com. However, I don't think I would ever pay for it. It was created with wordle.net, which is free to use and very cool, and I've been using it for a couple of years now.  You can create these word clouds for absolutely anything, and you are in (almost) complete control of the content. It can be time-consuming, especially if you have a preconceived notion of what you want. From my experience,  a rough idea of what you'd like to see represented is good, but really only in terms of the words you want included and maybe some general size relationships between those words. With Wordle, you have to allow it to randomly generate word placement, but you can pick the general shape and color scheme of your Wordle. I've had a much more rewarding and exciting experience when I've just let things happen. You can  regenerate the same word cloud all day long until you reach something that you are satisfied with, and it's surprising how your own understanding of the content of your word cloud can be illuminated in new and interesting ways by what Wordle generates for you. Although I won't buy this poster, I will say that I had never thought of using Wordle in this way. I always saw its possibilities for a student assignment, but I think this medium could make a really interesting discussion prompt for the end (or maybe even the beginning?) of a unit.

 2. I really like this series of lit elements posters from teachersdiscovery.com, because they seem to be a little more visually interesting for older students (or more cool? Not so cutesy as some that I've seen). It also looks like they do a really nice job of illustrating the concept. I don't know why I seem to be gravitating so much towards this idea of being able to talk about visual representation and non-text messages, but I'm thinking these posters lend themselves towards that nicely.

I seem to be finding a lot of stuff to decorate a classroom and create those visual elements that can get kids thinking. That's all well and good, but I'm also trying to find practical things for my classroom, especially to help establish management procedures. So far, I've only come across callowayhouse.com as a good resource. What else is out there?

On a personal side note, I've become hooked on Toddlers & Tiaras on TLC. I think its entertainment value, for me, comes from its astounding capacity to dumbfound me.   Also, it is giving me some good Halloween costume ideas. For your entertainment (and mine), a Youtube! video of my favorite T & T moment, with commentary from the host of The Dish.

She's four. I was waiting for her to wallop someone upside the head with that pink wand thing she had in her hand. The most astounding aspect of this little girl isn't even in this video. The ridiculousness of her behavior is amplified most when she is frantically looking for her "ni-ni"--her pacifier.

I think all of our inner four-year-old selves kind of admire her a little, though. Only mine? Well, okay.

15 July 2010

All that moving and shaking is compromising the infrastructure.

I finished my last post feeling optimistic because I had a couple of things on my plate in this whole teaching job search.  Yesterday, I finally got that phone call I had been waiting for from my interview last week. Again, they chose someone with more experience. I won't use this blog entry to vent or think through this issue.  I had my meltdown last night, which was utterly unproductive, and now that the resulting headache is gone, I don't want to relive it.  I woke up this morning ready to keep pushing forward, and that's my intention.

I had an awesome meeting yesterday afternoon in East Lansing with a former teaching instructor. This is the first time we've had a lengthy conversation since I finished the teaching internship, so we talked about quite a few things--job search, the internship, and how those things are so interconnected now.  As we talked, particularly about how I'm reflecting on the internship as I talk to prospective employers about that experience as my teaching experience, I got kind of emotional.  Well, okay, I may have cried.

It became evident to me that all the "things I learned" that I've been articulating to people are not really the most important things I learned. Yes, I learned what I didn't know about classroom management (which, let's be honest, was everything). Yes, I learned what I didn't know about instructional strategies. Yes, I learned that my content knowledge is more than amply sufficient, but that doesn't always (hardly ever) matter. But as I talked to my former teacher, who is now a fellow teacher, and reflected on my internship more deeply, I found myself saying things about that experience that I didn't even realize I believed.  I realized that, above all else, I saw what it takes as an educator to deal with intensely difficult problems affecting your classroom and to still be a good teacher, to still want to be a good teacher. We're in an intensely difficult era of education in America, and difficult classroom situations aren't getting rarer, so this is something. 

I'm still trying to figure out how to get this on paper, and I'm not going to do it in this forum because it's so personal. I need to figure out how to say these things. These things answer the question that I am so afraid of--Why should we hire you? Why would you be the best choice for us? What more do you have to offer us than our other candidates? I know something right now about myself as a teacher that some teachers don't figure out for a long time, that some never figure out, and that some figure out and in light of it are pushed to leave the field.

I feel like this is getting dangerously close to me needing a soapbox to stand on, so I'm going to move on.

All right, even though I am lacking the essentials typically required for one to even be thinking about this (i.e. a teaching job and money), I've begun a list of things that I want for my classroom.

1. This paper sorter from callowayhouse.com. I'm usually a very organized person, but it became apparent during my internship that I may not be the most organized teacher. Trust me, there is a difference. I see lots of possibilities for this paper sorter, mostly centered around organizing my teaching materials for myself, so I may need more than one. Kind of expensive at 79.99 each.

2. This paper collector, also from callowayhouse.com.We had this in my classroom last school year, after some issues with students taking others' papers from the turn-in box. This solves all problems. The slots are big enough to slip even a packet of papers in, but certainly not large enough to slip a hand in. The back is closed with tabs, so it's pretty much "teacher-only" access.  Not to mention, it neatly stacks papers for you. I never knew how important this would be to me.

3. Dry-erase lapboards. Callowayhouse.com might be my new favorite website. We also had these in my classroom last year, and they were great for drills, whole class formative activities, learning games, etc. The students really enjoy them, and as long as you preface their use with an explanation of appropriateness, they're really effective.

4. From teachersdiscovery.com, I just love this poster. It's accurate, and has a ton of information on it. The Facebook-esque organization presents it all in way that students will recognize, be intrigued by, and probably spend a few extra seconds looking at.
Teachers Discovery also has them available for other authors, including Steinbeck, Hurston, Poe, and Neruda. OR! You can get them in a set of 16, which includes all of the available authors plus 8 novel characters (like Scout Finch and Odysseus)!

 5. Teachersdiscovery.com, again. I don't necessarily want this poster for The Giver, but there's a large selection of similar movie-style posters available for other novels and short stories. Most of them are pretty beautiful, and again very recognizable. And this poster for The Giver is a good example of how much information about the literature is conveyed in these posters. So, we'd be reinforcing content from the novel, and it might aid in a great conversation about critical visual literacy or media literacy. Shazaam!

6. A smart board. Impossible, right? Maybe not. Apparently, you can make your own smart board with a Wiimote and a few other items, for comparative pennies (or about $75). I've seen one of these homemade smart boards in action, and it's legit. Do yourself a solid and at least watch the video below to see if this is something that you want to get to working on.

I would put "a classroom" on this wishlist, but that's a given.

14 July 2010

Things are starting to move and shake...in a good way!

Soon after I posted my first entry on this re-conceived version of my blog--and when I say soon, I mean within 24 hours--I got a phone call for my first teaching interview. Needless to say, this was an enormous relief. I at least knew that I was successfully getting my resume out there and that others thought I was as qualified as I thought I was--enough to deserve an interview.  I spent the whole weekend simultaneously eagerly and nervously anticipating my Monday interview. Monday came, and I went to the interview with my portfolio in tow, a nervous stomach, and lots of encouragement from my friends and family. The interview went really well; I know this because I thought so, and they told me so as we finished up. The next day, I got a phone call from one of the principals on my interview panel, letting me know that they had decided to move forward with a couple of candidates with at least one year of experience in the classroom.

Big. Fat. Bummer.

At first, my thoughts were, "Wait just a hot second! What was I doing from September to April, precisely?" It's not like I completed a 10-week or 16-week long teaching internship (not that I'm saying anything against any certification program that offers their internships as such). Thirty-three weeks I taught, and for those entire 33 weeks, I was solely responsible for one entire class of ninth graders, in addition to the long stretches when I was required to pick up extra preps. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth, which really only added to the nervous stomach I'd developed. Sweet.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was okay. I was going to be okay. People were looking at my resume, and I now knew that in at least one case, they were impressed enough to take time from their day to get to know me as an educator. Yes, I technically have one year of classroom experience, and that's significantly more than some others leave their Teacher Ed. programs with. I would hesitate to say that I believe that the year I just finished will be anything in comparison to my first year in my own classroom, so I can understand their decision. I have to be gracious and appreciate that interview for what it was. It was a chance, and it was one more chance that I had the week before.

I continued to pore over the (actually quite numerous) job openings across the state of Michigan. I expanded my search to include some areas that I wasn't originally going to consider. Just as I was starting to get all pukey again about my efforts, I was asked for another interview. Later that same day, I was randomly called for a phone interview at yet another school district. Granted, that phone interview did not go well because a) I was on the way to hospital to support a family member during surgery, b) I was caught completely off-guard by the administrator, who wanted to conduct the interview right then, and c) I really don't enjoy talking on the phone to very many people. I was also generally unimpressed with the other side of the conversation, which really didn't feel like a conversation as much as it did an interrogation. Ahem. I've digressed.

I went to my next interview, which went even better than the first one. I was more comfortable. I had a lot in common with my interview panel, in many different ways. We laughed a lot. It was...fun? Yes, fun. I'm waiting to hear something from that high school. At the suggestion of my very Catholic grandmother, I am also imploring St. Jude (the patron saint of hopeless cases. I don't know whether to take that as a vote of confidence, Grandma...) for his assistance. As much as I want a job, more than anything I want the right job, so that's what I'm asking for.

On the way home from that interview, I got a phone call for a pre-interview "walk-through"  at another high school. Now, I've never heard of this approach to the interview process, and I don't know how common it is. It was stressed when I was invited that this was supposed to be a really informal chance for the school to get to know me and for me to get to know the school. Literally, the principal who called told me that it was really a chance for the school to brag about how great they are. My walk-though was today, and again, it was actually pretty fun. It was just me and an assistant principal, walking around the school, chatting about what they have to offer and me asking about what I was interested in about their school system. I'll hear close to the end of the week if they'd like me to come in for a formal interview next week.

Plus, my dream school just posted an English job opening on Friday.

Things are starting to happen. For me, that's a good feeling.

A few personal notes from this week: 

1.  I saw the trailer for Charlie St. Cloud, Zac Efron's new movie, and I thought, "Hm, haven't really seen much from him in a while." 17 Again happened to be On Demand for free, and so I re-watched it. I have to say, I truly enjoy that movie. I don't know exactly why, although it probably has something to do with the massive crush I've had on Matthew Perry since I was 8 years old.  While I was watching, I was reminded of a couple of songs on the soundtrack that I meant to download a long time ago--The Kooks' "Naive" and Spoon's "The Underdog." I like The Kooks song because it's incredibly catchy, and I find myself listening to it repeatedly and singing along. I know I like a song if I can get in the car karaoke zone with it. You know, that place where you can imagine the drivers of passing cars looking over at you wielding your air mic and thinking, "Day-um, she's awesome!" No? Only me? Okay. The Spoon song I like mostly because I'm a sucker for those brass horns and the lines, " You got no time for the messenger/ Got no regard for the thing that you don't understand/ You got no fear of the underdog/ That's why you will not survive." I mean, take that, you!

I can't resist posting the videos.

2. My mom loves Deadliest Catch (like wants-to-move-to-Alaska-and-marry-a-crab-fisherman love), and so we watch it pretty religiously. Tonight's episode was the final farewell to Phil Harris, one of the fisherman on the show, and it was pretty heart-wrenching.

3. Check out my cute cartoon version of me on the right side of the blog! I don't know if it really looks that much like me, but goodness, I wish my hair looked like that every day!

This post has grown far too long and probably far too boring. For your sake, I'll resist the urge to keep typing.

05 July 2010


I'm a sucker for anything that reminds me of my childhood, especially if it allows me to relive it. I get super excited about these sorts of things, and I can't help but feel this way about Ramona and Beezus, the movie adaptation of Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby books.

The Ramona Quimby books were the first real chapter books I read as a kid.  I was probably about seven years old when I started reading them. I can't recall which characters in the book I felt more of a connection to then. Probably Ramona, because I was always that "busy-body" kid running around, getting dirty, getting into mischief, and getting yelled at by adults.  But maybe it was Beezus, because right around the time I was reading those books, I had a "busy-body" little sister, too. (Yeah, we were both "busy-bodies." That's what our grandmother called us, and apparently, it ran in the family).

I don't remember very much about the books, but I remember loving them. I do remember feeling badly when Ramona's cat died, and I remember that his name was Picky-Picky. I thought of Picky-Picky when my own cat, Dusty, died when I was nine or ten.  I remember feeling badly again when Ramona's dad lost his job, and I was reminded of her again when my own dad lost his job. Come to think of it, there were a lot of sad moments in those books--moments that I could relate to and see happening in my own life, sometimes--but I recall that there were quite a few happy ones, as well. I do know that I was always glad at the end of the books, when whatever particular conflict Ramona and Beezus were having in that book was finally resolved. 

I think I moved on to what I thought were bigger and better books (Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley Twins) before I could read all of the Ramona Quimby books.  I went hunting through my house just today for my old copies of them, with no luck (although I did locate a very tattered copy of Roald Dahl's Matilda, so score!). They probably got sold in a garage sale or given away to a library sometime long ago. I'm a little saddened that I didn't miss them before now, and that I didn't think to keep them. I do hope, though, that another kid had the chance to enjoy them. I'd even be okay with it if they crossed my name off of the inside front cover and scrawled in their own.

So, for those of you who loved Ramona Quimby just as I did, or maybe for those of you who never got the chance to enjoy her, HarperCollins publishers has the full text of Beezus and Ramona available for you to read. And here is a trailer for Ramona and Beezus, due out July 23!