Archive | August, 2011

Day 62 – Happy New Year

28 Aug

This is really the beginning of the year for all of us in school-land. So, I’m making resolutions. Not to lose weight, get fit or pay down my debt; although those don’t sound like bad ideas, my resolutions are more professional than personal. I have to set professional goals at school, and while some of my resolutions might double as my goals, these are purely things that involve maintaining balance and sanity in my life.

  1. Mark Less: This one is tricky. There is the school of thought that says that students value only what ‘counts’. Then, there is the idea that students should be allowed lots of practice, and it should only be the test that counts. I lean toward the first of these, although my gut tells me the second one is right. I’m going to have to find a practical way to implement this practice stuff so that students do the work, even if I’m not going to ‘count’ it all.
  2. Plan Ahead: I usually start the year by planning ahead, and I’ve always got a year-plan. But, somewhere long before the end of the year the planning becomes more day-to-day. I go into survival mode. If I can successfully learn to mark less, I should have more time to plan. After I have my year plan complete, I’d like to do some more detailed planning one month at a time.
  3. Participate in online PLNs: Over the last few months I’ve discovered the wonders of twitter. I have colleagues across the world to learn from. I want to learn from this wealth of knowledge and experience without getting lost in it all.
  4. Organize: If you’ve ever seen my classroom between mid-September to June, you’d know I’m Miss Messy. I’d like this to be the year I finally win the paper battle.
  5. Delete Email: Today I spent three or four hours deleting email from the last year. There were close to 2000 emails in my inbox. I got it down to 72. I have to do this mass deleting at least three times a year and it’s a time consuming pain in the butt. I’d like to do the deleting every day so I don’t have to waste this precious personal time again. I think these last two go together. I’d like to have this organized filing system so I could keep everything, but I don’t and it just piles up.

This is the kind of post that’s more for me than anyone else. I’ll return to it in a couple of weeks and remind myself to delete email and straighten up my desk before it gets too out of control.

This is the last post of the summer. Sixty-two days went by quickly while I was having fun. I’m going to continue to blog occasionally, hopefully once or twice a week. Happy new year my friends!

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Day 61 – A Taste of Freedom

27 Aug

My daughter has been away at Caton’s Island all summer and I miss her terribly. I haven’t seen her in almost a month now. I’ve been trying to reach her all evening and she hasn’t answered my texts or calls and that’s not helping my state of mind. I’m not worried, but I’d still like to hear from her.

This summer, she’s had her first real taste of freedom. She’s been living in a dorm with a group of other girls her age. She has mostly been responsible for herself, except when she has also been responsible for a group of younger girls. She’s been counseling camp, and having a fantastic summer. The first week was rough, not because she was homesick, but I think there was a tough adjustment period to having very little privacy.

She was supposed to be home tomorrow, but is having such a good summer she’s postponed coming home until Tuesday. She has volunteered to stay behind to help clean up the island. I’m proud of her for choosing to volunteer her entire summer by working at a kid’s camp, and I’m sure she has learned some of the responsibility that comes along with freedom. However, I must say that I’m a wee bit concerned that she’s also learned to be independent and self-reliant to the point where it might be a challenge for her to be happy at home, at least initially. Hopefully, it will only take that first week back home for her to adjust to family life and the responsibilities of home.

Three more sleeps until I get to see my girl!

Day 60 – Political Revival

26 Aug

Tonight we were just about to sit down in the family room to relax and I said to Glenn, “You know, I think social media will be responsible for reviving society’s interest in politics.”

He laughed. “That was random.”

It was a random thing for me to suddenly say, but I’ve been thinking about this all day. It amuses me how the entire country is grieving for Jack Layton. I understand how people who support the NDP party feel a sense of loss, even though many have never met Jack in person. I’m not talking about party supporters; I mean, if everyone who expressed grief on facebook and twitter over Jack Layton’s death had voted for him we’d have just lost our Prime Minister. However, if it were not for facebook and twitter, I would never have read his final letter.

When I was in my twenties, I voted only because it was my civic duty. But, I probably did more harm than good. I had no idea what I was doing. I let other people sway my opinions and I voted without researching or checking myself for what I thought and believed. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve taken more interest in things political, and I still have a lot to learn.

I get most of my news from following news organizations on twitter. I think this is they way of the future. There are important conversations happening on twitter, in 140 characters or less. I think that young people (voters) will be influenced to become interested and get involved in social and political issues as a result of their participation in social media.

Even though I think some of the discussion and expressions of grief over Jack Layton’s death is a result of social media hype and tweeters jumping on a bandwagon, I think there is an equal amount of Canadians who feel grief for a good man who had a heart for Canada regardless of their political affiliations. I see Canadians who understand this disease called cancer all too well, and how it takes many of our own far too young. More than at any other time in history, social media allows us to express those thoughts and feelings and feel a sense of unity as a people.

I believe social media will bring both a revival in social and political awareness, as well as a renewed and strengthened sense of national pride.

Day 59 – Way to go Trader Joe!

25 Aug

When we were in NJ we went to Trader Joe’s. It’s a small chain of grocery stores that specializes in organic and natural foods. We got all kinds of interesting and different things. Most of their products are their own brand. The ethnic foods even have a variation of the Trader Joe brand name. The Italian food was labeled Trader Giotto’s and the Chinese food was Trader Ming’s. One of my favourite finds is Trader Joe’s Cheese Sticks. They are sharp cheddar crunchy sourdough twists. I’d like these even if they weren’t only one weight watcher point.

Another product was called Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend. It’s mostly couscous but has quinoa, split baby garbanzo beans and red and green orzo in it too. I sautéed celery and onions in olive oil then added organic chicken broth according to the package directions and cooked the blend in the liquid. Then, I sautéed boneless skinless chicken breasts and added chunks of chicken and cooked frozen peas to the grain blend once everything was cooked. What a yummy, one-pot meal. Now I’m wishing we had bought more than one bag.

We also bought goat cheese, organic popcorn, organic blueberry preserves, roasted red pepper & artichoke tapenade, and organic chicken sausages. Even though we haven’t tried any of these other products yet, I expect they’ll be fantastic. Way to go Trader Joe!

Day 58 – My summer has been GREAT!

24 Aug

Last night I went out again with my good friend Marueen. We went for dinner at The Lunar Rogue, then went to Officer’s Square for the outdoor concert, Ross Neilsen & the Sufferin Bastards. Glenn and ZuZu met us at the concert. When I got there, I was looking all through the crowd to find him and I saw a colleague pointing and assumed he was pointing me toward my husband. I looked to find Glenn and when I turned back to wave at my colleague, he had already turned his head in conversation.

We sat down and were enjoying the concert and conversation. But, I thought I better go say hello to my colleague and thank him for pointing me in the right direction. I haven’t seen him since June, so naturally he asked, “How has your summer been?”

To which I replied, “Great!”

“Great!? Most people who have had good summers say good, or nice, but ‘great’; that’s fantastic!”

I found myself saying, “It really has been.”

I could look back over my summer and dwell on all of the things that I didn’t accomplish or lament about the times I should have taken to rest instead of doing something else, but I’m going to choose to look back through my blog and see everything I have done this summer. At least that’s what I’m going to do tonight. Maybe on Sunday, when I know I have to get up and go to work the next day, I’ll feel differently, but I won’t let myself live in the state of self-pity for too long. I HAVE had a great summer. I got to spend ten days at the cottage with my family and a whole week with my niece, brother and sister-in-law. Glenn and I made two trips to New Jersey where we shopped a lot, did a few touristy things that included a day in NYC. I really got into my groove at the gym trying a bunch of new classes including, accidently of course, body combat. I was lucky enough to go to the best workshop I’ve attended in my whole career. And, I’ve read some great books. I’ve spent quality time with friends and family, and blogged all along the way. With my last two summers cut short by course work for my masters, this one has been a fabulous, university course free, summer.

Of course it would be nice to have another week or two, but after having nearly nine weeks off, I’m willing to admit that I’m ready (and need) to go back to work/school. I never know what to call it; it’s both work and school. The laissez faire days of summer are nearly over, and they’ll only really last to relieve my work related stress until the late January snow becomes unbearable. But, I can live with that, because then it’s the hope of another beautiful summer like this one that keeps me sane. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I really love what I do.

I’m not going to promise not to complain over the next few days about what I didn’t do. Remember that list that I wrote on Saturday about the stuff I didn’t do this summer that I’d like to try to squeeze into this week? Pfft, yeah, pfft, right! But, I’m okay with that too. I might grumble a little, most at myself, but my prevailing attitude is one of joy and gratefulness. I’m glad that I can say I’ve had a great summer and have the blog to prove it.

Day 57 – Why Tweet?

23 Aug

Today a friend posted on facebook: I’m wondering what the point of twitter is??? I think I am missing something. Almost two years ago when I first joined twitter, this is exactly how I felt too. In fact, in my first year on twitter I tweeted exactly six times. Although I’ve been on twitter for twenty-two months now, I actually ‘discovered’ it four months ago when I first participated in #storyfriday, and discovered just what hashtags are and what they could do for me.

At this point, I feel I need to ask forgiveness if you’re a techie reading this, as I’m sure you don’t need an explanation. So, please bear with me as I’m betting there are some people reading this who don’t know what a hashtag is. And, even if they do know that the # symbol before a group of words all strung together is a hashtag, they still might not know its function. The ‘tweet’ in twitter is the equivalent of a status update in facebook. A hashtag in a tweet allows you to categorize that tweet so other tweeters can find your comment on the subject given in the hashtag. So, if I was to add a hashtag to this blog, it might be #howtotweet.

“Big deal, why would I want to do that?” you might ask.

Well, it allows you to participate in a global conversation. For instance, if you search in twitter for #earthquake, you would find oodles of tweets about the earthquakes that happened along the eastern seaboard today. You’d see many from people experiencing the quake, people checking on loved ones, some from news agencies and lots of links to stories and photos.

When my friend asked about the point of twitter, this is what I told her: I follow several teacher/authors and other teachers of my subject area. I follow news organizations that post links to stories that my students might find interesting. I follow other bloggers and writers. The stuff that people post, mostly people I don’t even know, is invaluable to me professionally and personally. Although I follow a few friends on twitter, facebook is better for staying connected to friends and family.

You can follow conversations by using hashtags. I sometimes participate in #storyfriday. Every Friday, Writer’s Digest hosts a collaborative short story writing party. It’s similar to what we used to do in junior high language arts class. The teacher starts with one sentence and it gets passed around the class for each student to add a sentence and the story builds. Except, we use the hashtag #storyfriday to connect all the sentences so we can see them in one place.

I also save articles, links, poems, etc. that I find to use later with my classes or retweet something my colleagues might find interesting. In order to really understand it, you really have to play with it. Try following a few celebrities or politicians you find interesting and it’ll help expand your use. Over time, I’ve learned to unfollow people if I find they’re just posting garbage. Twitter is fabulous, but if you’re trying to use it like you use facebook, to connect with family and friends, you will likely find it more frustrating than anything else. Facebook and twitter are two very different social media platforms, and I use them for two completely different reasons. If you decide that twitter is for you, or you already use twitter, you can find me @wildmudturtle. Follow me, and if you decide you don’t like what I post, unfollow me, I won’t be offended.

Day 56 – My summer reading list

22 Aug

Fifty-six days ago I began blogging with the intent of writing every day. I’ve missed two (more on that later). My first blog was my summer reading list. Here it is again:

  1. Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
  2. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  3. Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka
  4. Ophelia by Lisa Klein
  5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
  7. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  8. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  9. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen

I’ve read four of these, numbers 1, 2, 3 and 7, and I am almost finished another that wasn’t on the list. I’m three quarters of the way through Still Alice by Lisa Genova. It wasn’t on the original list because it’s for book club and we didn’t choose it until the end of July. I’m absolutely loving Still Alice and recommend it to any of my female friends 30 years-old or older. Or, if you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you need to read this book.

Pleasure reading usually slows down for me throughout the school year. I’m hoping that I can change that this year, or at least read more than the two novels I read last school year. I’m going to ask my students to keep their own reading lists and I’m going to keep one of my own. Many of my students will put me to shame with the sheer number of books they read. But, if I’m going to ask them to challenge what they think is possible, I need to do the same. So, I’m going to add to my list. Here is the updated version:

  1. Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom
  2. The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
  3. Sister Wife by Shelley Hrdlitschka
  4. Ophelia by Lisa Klein
  5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
  6. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
  7. The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
  8. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
  9. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  10. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  11. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  12. Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  13. Sold by Patricia McCormick
  14. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  15. Anglea’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
  16. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
  17. My next book club selection 😉

There is too much to read, and too little time. I’ll have to obtain copies of the rest of the books on my list and take a new photo. There’s something satisfying about a photo of a stack of books I intend to read. I wonder how I’ll do that when some of them exist on my kindle. Maybe I’ll borrow from the library long enough to snap a pic. Maybe I’ll even get my students to photograph their stack of ‘to read next’ books. Do you think that would go over well? Sometimes my idea of fun doesn’t resonate with teenagers.

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