Saturday, November 22, 2008

Mrs. T goes techno- she wishes!

I teach in a building that turned 100 4 years ago. It's been beautifully renovated. There is a Civil War monument in the center of the street in front of it. Though not part of the main building, we also have another, smaller building that was the original school- a boarding school built in 1868. It's amazing- there are still fireplaces in the hallway and the lockers are wooden. In fact, a lot of the lockers in the main building were wooden, too, until a few years ago. We have gorgeous terrazo floors. Most of the original woodwork and doors were done away with, they basically gutted the place to bring it up to speed. We love it, the custodial staff takes excellent care of it, the kids seem to respect it as well.


Just because I teach in an old building shouldn't mean that I am stuck in the past, technology-wise. I just found out that my department was denied a technology grant to purchase a media cart for the 4th time. The media cart would be shared between 7 people. It would have the ability to project from a computer onto a screen. It would have an ELMO kind of device. We would have a classroom set of "clickers". We would also receive training on how to use said equipment. We are constantly being told to incorporate technology into our classrooms. We have 1 computer lab available to us- not just to the foreign language department, but one that has to be shared with English, Science and Social Studies. Our school has 1600 students. That computer lab looks like Bagdad most days. The chairs are all stretched out of shape, the mice have no balls, there are usually 5 -8 computers that don't work at all. My other option is to use the computers in the library, which are not all clustered together, making the experience a bit hard to manage if the class is at all wiley.
Business Ed. has their own computers,Art has their own and we have an APEX room that has some as well.
So, I ask you, how am I supposed to incorporate technology into my classroom? I have one computer. I have a television, DVD player and VCR, since our out-dated textbook series has videos to accompany the chapters. Unfortunately, one of my videos got stuck in the VCR, rendering it completely useless. Lucky for me, one of my students said he had a spare at home and would sell it to me for 10 bucks. I took him up on it- VCRs are not so easy to find these days. I also have a CD player, but had to fight tooth and nail to get it. I have an overhead projector whose bulb will no doubt crap out on me at some crucial point in time. I have one white board that has the top 12 inches blank because I am not tall enough to write that high. I have no smart board. I have no Blackboard. I have no laptop, no projector to hook up to the absent laptop.
I realize I have more than many, I truly do. However, others in my building have received media carts through local monies. I feel like Sally ~Charlie Brown's little sister~ "All I want is what I have coming! All I want is my fair share!"
Me too.
PS: Anyone have any advice on scouting out a technology grant? Obviously the local people don't want to give this to us, but there must be someone out there willing to fund our measly $2000 request.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

And now a break from our regular programming...

This is one of the sweetest things I've seen in a long time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Herding Cats- Now With "Intentionality"

What would go through your mind if you read the following statement?
"All literacy strategies are to be done with intentionality."
WTF? Itentionality? Are you freaking kidding me? Is that even a word?
Ok, I just looked it up at "AskOxford". It says that it is a derivative of intentional, which means "deliberate". Intentionality is the noun derivative. So, the statement "All literacy strategies are to be done with intentionality," would then mean that we are to do them deliberately? As opposed to accidentally?
Would anyone care to guess the origin of this ridiculous statement?
What? Did I hear someone suggest that it came from an inservice? Well, you'd be partially correct. You see, in an effort to make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress, for those who didn't drink the Kool-Aid not in the know, we have these committees, of course, one of them being the Literacy Strategies Committee. They have this whole cache of "strategies" for us ALL (yes, even the PE teacher) to implement and we must document our having implemented all o' these strategies, because God Forbid they trust us to do our jobs. We must document that we've used 4 strategies in 2 weeks. The old logs used to be insanely complicated. The newer ones are much more streamlined, but have that inane, poorly written statement emblazoned across the top.
It annoys me for several reasons, not the least of which is the mere fact that it IS a ridiculous statement, but also the tone is a tad condescending. If I am going to be condescended upon, ("upon"? is that right? or is it "to"?), I at least want to be deserving of said condescension. And really, what's going to happen if I do a literacy strategy WITHOUT "intentionality"? Is it like making a promise with my fingers crossed behind my back? Is it like taking communion and not believing in the Real Presence of Christ? (well, that's a whole different post...) Is it like telling a lie? Does it make me a bad teacher? Will my students suffer? Huh? Huh? Huh?

In other ridiculousness, I told one of my extra boisterous classes today that trying to teach them was like herding cats. They thought it was funny. I was serious.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This One Voted for...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Another Blogthing for you...

You Are Boggle

You are an incredibly creative and resourceful person.

You're able to dig deep and think outside the box to get things done.

You are a non linear thinker. You don't like following directions

You draw your inspiration from the strangest places sometimes. You're constantly inspired.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Here's a Teacher Tip For You

To all you teacher types out there: Did you know that you can peruse all kinds of syllabi and class outlines from other teachers that are available online? It's been amazingly helpful to me- if nothing more than for the validation. One teacher has almost the same expectations and policies that I do- it was like I'd found my cyber-twin. I love it- it's like hanging out with other parents and hearing them say the same things to their children that I do.
I highly recommend it- just google whatever subject you teach and "syllabus" and see what you come up with. Lots are on high school and college websites. It's nice for idea-getting, also.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Stream and Spaniel

Last term I had a horrible experience with a psycho student. She was surly. She was bitchy. She was uncooperative. She was irrational. She was hostile. She was volatile. I actually had her last year and she was pretty good for me, then deteriorated towards the end of the year. I got her back this year for Spanish 2. Yay! She walked in the door with an attitude. Her mother must have anticipated that her lovely daughters were going to be trouble, because she emailed all their teachers before school even started to let them all know we could call her if the girls caused them any problems at all. I called her the first day to let her know what was going on, then followed up the next week with an update on her behavior. This is how the conversation went:

Me: "I'm having some trouble with Stream. She's not participating, she's not bringing her book, she's putting her head down and disengaging herself from what's happening in class. When her behavior is corrected, she becomes extremely angry and rude and disrespectful."

Mom: "Oh, I know. I'm having the same problem with her at home. Just ignore her when she acts like that. (at this point, I can actually hear the girl screaming in the background..) Can you hear her? I know it doesn't excuse her behavior, but she is on meds for her ADHD. Sometimes she don't take them."

Me: "Well, I don't think I'll be able to ignore her behavior, but thank you for sharing that with me. It's helpful to know about my students."

Ok, so the girl was completely dysfunctional in the classroom, so ended up spending the class period elsewhere. Eventually, she got placed in an alternative setting.

Fast forward to this term.

I've got the sister, Spaniel, on my roster.

And she is hell on wheels. I've never seen a kid soooo angry from the get go. In 9 class periods, she's gotten an office referral 4 times. 3 of those times, she has walked out. Here are some reasons for her tantrums:

1. I calmly and politely- actually almost apologetically told her that students weren't allowed to eat in my classroom as she was eating a pkg. of Smarties. "WHAT?!!" I repeated what I had just said, at which point she told me I didn't need to get an attitude with her and walked out.

2. After waltzing in 5 minutes late (um, we have an 8 minute passing time and her previous class is on the same floor) with no pass, I asked her for one. She didn't have one and just expected to be allowed to come in late.

3. I didn't allow her to sit and not participate.

4. I took her phone and had one of the hall monitors take it upstairs to the Dean's office. "ARE YOU SERIOUS??!!" she asked me. "Uh, yes." "WELL, THEN I'M GOING UP THERE, TOO!" "Really?", I asked. "YES!". I shrugged. "Okay. See ya."

What the hell am I supposed to do with this girl? I don't even get angry with her. I'm actually quite fascinated by how much of a psycho freak she is. Like, what makes her fly off the handle at nothing? And why should anyone have to put up with her mouth? I shouldn't say I don't get angry, because I do get angry with the fact that I even entertain the thought that it's just easier to let her sleep and not participate, and walk in late, and eat candy, and use her damn phone and act like a royal bitch than it is to insist that she follow the rules and straighten up and act like a civilized human being. I also get angry with the fact that while she's being an asshole, there are 28 other students in the room (29 students in a Spanish class- very effective.) who are worth my time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thirteen Movies I'd Watch Again and Again.... (not counting Christmas movies)

1.Home for the Holidays: I have mentioned before how watching this every Thanksgiving is a tradition for the Mr.and Mrs. T. It is hilarious, and touching and most of us will recognize a family member or 2 in the movie. I love Robert Downey Jr., pain in the ass that I'm sure he was to work with, I still have a soft spot in my heart for him. It's that Bad Boy thing I've got.

2. Moonstruck: I think I always secretly wanted to be an Italian girl from New York, so this movie spoke to me when it first came out. I love the cast, I love the soundtrack- even all the opera from La Boheme, which was the original Rent. So many funny lines from this- Olympia Dukakis says to her father as he is busily shoveling food from the table to the pack of crazy mongrel dogs he's always walking, "Old Man! You keep giving my food to those dogs, I'm gonna kick you til you're dead!" Yeah, we say that a lot at our house.

3. Raising Arizona: I don't think this movie could possibly be funnier. I don't think a day goes by that we don't make SOME reference from this movie. I love it when their swinger friends come over and Buford, the real smart one who knows his abc's is shown spray painting "F-A-R-T" on the side of the trailer.

4. The Breakfast Club: I don't get tired of this movie. I watch it whenever it's on tv- it's been interesting to have seen it as a teenager, the target audience, and then again as an adult. I love how they all bond, but when faced with what Monday will bring, several of them very honestly admit that come Monday, they will all slip back into their different groups to play their different roles. I think we've all had this happen/seen this happen, not necessarily in detention, but I know I see it when I've taken kids on trips. The kids connect and have a good time, but once the trip is over, they rarely maintain those friendships.

5. Auntie Mame: I posted about this movie last year. I love it- it's fun and quirky and Rosalind Russell is delightful.

6. Garden State: A brilliant movie with a fabulous soundtrack. Zac Braff plays a troubled young man who has spent a great deal of time being heavily medicated. He's trying to get in touch with who he is and what his place on the earth is. I love the Natalie Portman line about doing one thing that no one has ever done before. The shirt that matches the wall is too funny.

7. The Sound of Music: This movie is such a part of my childhood- back in the days when you had to wait for things to be shown on television. I even got to see it in the theater - they were doing some kind of a retro showing of it when I was like 7. I can sing all the songs. I thought Greta was sooo cute and wanted so much to be like Liesel.

8. Harry Potter: I know, there are 5, soon to be 6 and eventually 7 of them, but I like them all. They are intelligent and magical and for the life of me, I want to go live in England and be a teacher at Hogwarts. I suppose teachers in the wizarding world get just as exasperated with their students as I do, but I'd get to wave a magic wand and have cool stuff happen.

9. Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Such a funny, classic and classically delivered line, too bad I now think "Over-the-top Right-Winger" when I hear the name Ben Stein. I'd love to be able to do ALL those things on a hooky day. I love how he eventually wins over his crabby sister, played by the lovely Miss Jennifer Gray.

10. Steel Magnolias: So funny, so sad. I want to live in this funny little Southern town and hang out with those funny women. I like to watch this when I need a good cry.

11. My Big Fat Greek Wedding: "He's a vegetarian? Is ok. I make lamb." Whenever I don't know how to fix something, I always think of Mr. Portokalos and his Windex.

12. To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus Finch is such an amazing character. When Scout brings Walter Cunningham home and he pours syrup all over his roast beef, he doesn't bat an eye. What beautiful lesson he taught Scout that day.

13. The Trouble With Angels: I don't know if many of you have even heard of this movie, let alone seen it, but it is a perennial favorite of mine. I watched it as a kid, and as a teenager and then recently saw it on cable. It's wacky, but it really gets to me at the end. I won't spoil it for you, but if you've seen it, you might see what I'm sayin.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


How can Victoria's Secret afford to keep sending me Free Panty coupons all the time? Seriously, I get one like every 6 weeks or so. I go in, I get my loot and leave. I never buy anything else. It's great. Wouldn't it be cool to get other coupons like that from other stores?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


Well, I woke up this morning a bundle of nerves awaiting the outcome of the election. I became emotional watching Barack and Michelle Obama vote this morning,knowing that 40 some years ago Black and White Americans couldn't eat lunch at the same counter together in Southern states. But it happened. Our country elected Barack Obama as the President of the United States. I couldn't be happier.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Book Meme for Monday

Lifted this from Mrs. Chili.
Hardback or trade paperback or mass market paperback?
I have no easy answer for this. There are some books that I choose to buy in hardback- all of the Harry Potter books, for example. Cookbooks should be in hardback. Sometimes I get incredible bargain books that are hardback as well. I prefer the trade paperbacks for most books, I guess because I like the size of them. "Beach books" can be mass market.

Bookmark or dog-ear? I am a terrible steward of the bookmark. One year a woman in my book club gave all of us these cool beaded book marks that had charms on them with the name of our book group. I think I actually lost mine between her house and my car. I would like to say that I exclusively use a bookmark, but I would be a liar. I sometimes have idiotic bookmarks like coupons or junk mail or gum wrappers if I have any at all. Truth be told, I often dog-ear, which i know is bad and wrong and not good for the book. I've always been a bit of a rebel.

Alphabetize by author or alphabetize by title or random? Neither. I group by genre first, then by author, but not necessarily alphabetical. In certain parts of the house I tend to group by size- we've got some books on top of the piano, for instance, that are grouped because that's where they fit best.

Keep, throw away or sell?
Well, definitely not sell and I would never throw a book away. I used to be of the keep, keep, keep mindset, but I'm not so incredibly sentimentally attached to books. I keep those I like a lot and would read again. Others, I either toss in my Goodwill bag, or pass on to friends. I get more enjoyment out of sharing them with friends than hoarding them on my shelves.

Keep dust jacket or toss it?
I like to use the flaps of the dust jacket to mark my place. If I am going to be carrying the book around, I tend to take off the dust jacket so that it doesn't get ripped. I would never toss it.

Last book you bought?
Down River, by John Hart. It's the next selection in my book club. Publisher's Weekly commented that Down River "should settle once and for all the question of whether thrillers and mysteries can also be literature." We shall see.

Last book someone bought for you? Not as an official gifty, but just to be nice, my friend tossed me some missing Janet Evanovich titles to round out my collection.

What are some of the books on your to-buy list?
I really want Mario Batali's new Spanish cookbook. Not really sure- I'm kind of an impulse-buyer in the bookstore.

Collection (short stories, same author) or anthology (short stories, different authors)? For some reason, I steer away from short stories, even though I generally enjoy them and remember them pretty well. I once described it as me wanting a full meal as opposed to just a snack. I'd have to go with the anthology, as it provides a look at so many authors and styles.

Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket, or the velvety embrace of Death? Harry Potter, hands down. I thought I could get an HP fix with the Lemony Snicket books, and I think the author seems delightful, from what I saw/heard on an interview, but the books weren't much to sink my teeth into. Speaking of which, I am gearing up to start the Twilight series and am quite looking forward to it.

Morning reading, afternoon reading, or nighttime reading?
Aint we got fun? "Of course", "yes!", and a "heck yeah!" to all of those.

The books you need to go with other books on your shelves? I don't really get the question. So, I'm going to respectfully decline to answer it.

Do you read anywhere and anytime you can or do you have a set reading time and/or place?
I read whenever I can. I bring a book along wherever I go in case I get stuck waiting.

Do you have seasonal reading habits? Yes and no. I think certain types of books are just winter or summer books. I like to read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn in the winter, Anne of Green Gables in the summer.

Do you read one book at a time or do you have two or more books going at once?
I usually have several going- my book club selection, something non-fiction, something epic and something light.

What are your pet peeves about the way people treat books? I don't know. I tend to treat my books nicely, so that they look brand new even after I'm finished reading them. I don't tend to write in my books, but know of several people who underline and write commentary all over their books and that intrigues me. As a kid, I remember wanting a favorite book of mine to have a well-worn look to it and purposely scrunching every page. I've cracked open the binding so I could read a book easily with one hand. So, I guess I'm Switzerland on this one.

Name one book you surprised yourself by liking.
The Harry Potter series- I had no interest in reading this, it wasn't my usual genre. I also had no interest in reading The DaVinci Code, but ended up loving it.

How often do you read a book and not review it on your blog? Every now and again. Is that non-specific enough for ya?
What are your reasons for not blogging about a book? I guess time, or I think no one cares, or that it will seem like a 5th grade book report.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Snapshot

Growing up in the Midwest means being prepared to wear a parka over your Halloween costume. Some years it rained and was miserable. Other years there was just a welcome crispness in the air and we could wander the neighborhood freely wearing only our costume.
I remember my Trick-or-Treat experiences pretty well. There was always a house that gave out full-sized candy bars- I always missed it. Same with the house that gave caramel apples. (back in the days when that was still semi-okay). One house always gave apples, and one always gave out individual bags of popped popcorn. Some well-meaning person gave out homemade cookies, too, but they always ended up just being crumbs by the end of the evening. It seemed as though I got a truckload of the orange and black wrapped peanut butter taffy. I HATED it and gave all of those to my mom. A couple of years it seemed like I got an enormous amount of candy. My mom and I enjoyed it after dinner as we lounged in front of the tv together. Those little Sweet-tart packages with 3 candies in them were good for tv-watching. So was Double-Bubble and Pal gum, which was always much harder than the Double-Bubble.
Chalk it up to Global Warming or maybe just good luck, but my kids have never had to wear their winter coat over their costume. In fact, for several years running, the weather has been unseasonably warm. Here they are- ready for the candy-gettin:

They are dressed as a vampiress (?) and a zombie cheerleader, which to me is much more fun than being a princess.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

C'est la vie...................

Well, I'm going to go for Year 3 of the NaBloPoMo challenge. I did pretty well last year, then kind of dropped the ball around the time I went to Spain.
So, for my first post, I've got this:

Several things to point out, the first of which is that you can hear her in the background saying "some radio station in France". These guys are from MONTREAL, which is in Quebec, which is in Canada, which is very close to Alaska. Maybe she can't see it from her house, but it is very close to Alaska.
Second, all of the politicians mentioned are NOT, in fact, politicians. They are Canadian singers and performers. She truly thought she was talking to Sarkozy- joked that they should go hunting together while getting some work done.

Ah, yes. THIS is someone who should definitely be second in command as leader of the Free World. (Or maybe I should do as John McCain likes to do and call it the "Free World")

Please vote on Tuesday.