Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little More Waist Removal


This past week has NOT been a good week for me in terms of eating healthy.  In fact, it's been down right terrible!  Last Friday I took the kids to eat lunch at Red Robin, Friday night we grabbed a couple of pizzas from Dominos for dinner, Saturday Peanut and I ate Wendy's during her debate competition, Wednesday I ate at Burger Time with my team during our plan day, and that afternoon I ate chips and a cupcake at the baby shower.  Bad, huh?  Embarrassing as well.

I never usually go out to eat that much in one week.  It's just been such a crazy, busy week that it's required for us to grab food on the go.  And I still haven't been able to do away with the urges of ordering the wrong food.  

So, I figured I better just accept the fact that I was going to see a gain on the scale yesterday during our weigh-in.  It was inevitable.  I mean, there's just no way I can eat that much junk food and still lose weight, right?


Somehow, some way, I still managed to get on that scale yesterday and lose 1.2lbs.  OK, so it's just 1.2lbs, but it was a loss!  

At first I was ecstatic, then I started to think about how much weight I would have lost had I eaten better all week.  That's never a nice feeling.  It felt similar to receiving a back-handed compliment.  I lost a little over a pound after eating like a total pig all week.  Nice.

But, one thing I had to remind myself is that a loss is a loss, and I've still managed to go through these past five weeks showing a loss each and every week.  In fact, I'm the only person on my team that can say that.  Last week, I was the only one on my team to lose any weight so I kinda chalked myself up to the fact that it would be OK if I saw a small gain on the scale this week.  I know that sounds bad, and it is.  I shouldn't think that way.  So, I am very thankful that I didn't break that cycle and I'm still seeing losses each week.

Now, my total weight loss in the past five weeks is 10.2lbs.  That averages out to be about 2lbs a week, which is a good weight loss pace.  However, I had set the goal to lose 20lbs during this challenge and I only have three weeks left.  If I have any chance of losing the other 9.8lbs, I really need to buckle down over these next couple of weeks.  

I have taken this week as a good learning week.  Like I said earlier, if I can lose 1.2lbs after eating terribly all week, then I can lose a lot more if I go back to eating healthy.  I need to lose 3lbs a week for the next three weeks if I have any chance of meeting my goal, and that's a pretty tough order.  I haven't lost that much in a week since my first week when I lost 4lbs.  All the other losses since then have been pretty minimal.  I need to really buckle down, eat clean, drink more water, and move a lot more if I have any chance of losing 9lbs in three weeks.  But, with the results I've been seeing with the minimal effort I've been putting in, I know I can do it.  

I am still soda free, after five weeks.  That's a huge non-scale victory.  I don't think I've ever gone this long without touching a drop of soda.  In fact, the only drinks I've consumed in the past five weeks are coffee, water, and flavored water.  A part from one flavored water that Hubby accidentally bought for me that was NOT zero calories, I haven't had anything else.  I have been buying the naturally sweetened Fruit 2O waters from Sam's and keeping a case in my classroom.  There are no artificial sweeteners, no sugar, and no calories.  Plus they taste great.  That's always a bonus.  It's really hard for me to drink regular water for some reason.  But, I can down a couple of fruit flavored waters in no time.  

I attended Butter's wrestling meeting last night for the parents.  One thing I was glad to hear was the coach explain how important healthy eating habits are going to be for Butter while he's wrestling.  I won't be able to go to his competitions and take the kids to eat fast food anymore.  Butter will require a much more healthy diet in order to keep his weight stable.  That will be beneficial for all of us.  Rather than eating Chinese or burgers, we'll need to either pack food to eat or eat at Subway.  I think we'll do a mixture of both.  And the best thing is, he's not just doing this for a couple of months.  Wrestling will now last for the rest of the school year, so I'll be able to partner up with Butter to make sure that we're both eating better while he's wrestling.  

Of course, the logistics of him wrestling for the rest of the school year is an entirely different story, but that's for another blog post.  

Right now, I need to think about getting ready for work.

It's HALLOWEEN!!  A day full of candy! YAY!! Ugh.  

This morning, we're taking all the kids on a parade through downtown.  The kids will gather candy as they go.  This afternoon is our school parties.  There will be plenty of sweets for that.  Tonight, I'm taking Butter and Jelly Trick or Treating around the neighborhood to collect more candy.  Kinda negates everything I just said, huh?  But I'm going to be good.  I can get through this, I know I can.  

Have a fantastic Halloween, everyone!! And stay safe!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Living in a 21st Century World, And I am a 21st Century Girl

This week's focus for my online class was 21st century learning.  Looking at how far education has come and changed over the years.  Classrooms today are, or should be, much different to those of a few decades ago.  The neat rows of desks, the chalk board, and the teacher standing in front of her students lecturing for seven hours a day are long gone... or are supposed to be.  And, are now supposed to be hubs of self-directed learning, critical thinking, creating, and the teacher being a facilitator to it all.

When I think back to my elementary school days, a mere two decades ago, I think of sitting on a carpet listening to my teacher quite a bit.  I think of sitting at my desk listening to my teacher quite a bit.  I think of working on an assignment, by myself, while the teacher walked around the room.  I remember hearing the words "Open your book to page..." and listening as the teacher gave some information about what I was going to read, and then reading what I was directed to read.  I remember then hearing the words "Answer the questions at the end of the reading" quite a bit.

I'm not talking about high school, either.  I'm talking elementary.  3rd, 4th, 5th grades.  High school was a little different, but not too much.  Neatly lined rows of desks, giant text books, lectures, assigned reading and questions.  

Do you know what I don't remember?  What I learned when directed to do all of those things.  I couldn't tell you right now when I learned to read or how I did it.  I can't tell you when I learned to add and subtract or how I did it.  I couldn't tell you when I first learned what a period was, or how to use it.  No idea when I learned what a complete sentence was, how to write one, or how sentences worked together to form a paragraph.  Don't have a clue.  I know that I did learn that stuff, obviously, but what I learned and how I learned it isn't stored in my brain anywhere I can access it.

Do you know what I do remember about elementary school?  I distinctly remember listening to my teacher read us Charlotte's Web.  I remember learning about farm animals and spiders, their habitats, what they eat, and their purposes in the world.  I distinctively remember learning that pigs are unable to cool themselves, so they wallow in mud in order to cool down.  I remember learning how spiders used their webs to catch their pray, and how beneficial spiders are in keeping the bug population down.  I remember learning about friendship, and how my teacher would make us play silly games in order to depend on each other.  I remember making connections to Fern, and how some of boys identified with Avery.  I remember thinking about what life was like living on a farm, in the country, and comparing how different life would be to living in the city.  I remember writing about my thoughts on the book, my history of friendships, and writing my own little stories about farm animals.  I still, to this day, remember the story I wrote about Baa-Baa the black sheep, and how he would make so much wool that all of the other sheep on the farm made fun of him.  Think Rudolf Red Nosed Reindeer meets the nursery rhyme "Baa Baa Black Sheep".  Baa-Baa ended up becoming the hero by saving the farm with how much wool he made so that the farmer could sell it in order to have money to feed the other animals.  

Know what else I remember?  How I learned my multiplication facts.  How my teacher would make us do little competitions in order to recite our multiplication facts.  How he would dress up like a coach, have his whistle and stop-watch ready, and time us as we each said our multiplication facts in less than a minute.  We had the Multiplication Olympics, and would represent different countries as we tried to earn our gold stars on our olympic chart.  We also earned bronze and silver stars for making good progress, but not quite getting there.  

I remember doing a unit study on Australia.  Learning about the people, the wildlife, the culture, and the geography of the continent.  I remember how my teacher dressed up like a tourist each day, would bring things like a didgeridoo and a boomerang, and spoke with an Australian accent all week.   I also remember the unit we did on France, and how she spoke with a french accent and let us try stuff like croissants  and hot chocolate (a popular french breakfast), and how we learned about the Eiffel Tower by building one and the Louvre by doing our own art pieces and creating our own art museum.     

I remember learning the order of operations in Algebra class because my teacher, in a very funny accent would constantly say "Pleeease excuse my dear, Aunt Sally", and I remember learning the angles by singing a little song and using hand gestures.  

What's my point about all this?  Well, my point is, it's not about what I learned while in school it's about how I learned it.  The parts of my educational life that have always stuck with me are the moments that were delivered to me in a way that helped me remember.  The fun stuff, if you will.  

When comparing my teachers, I can tell you that I remember the most from the teachers that spoke less and did more than the ones that spoke to me all day and did nothing.  I couldn't tell you about a single biology class, or a a single world history class.  I couldn't tell you what I spent the majority of my educational life doing in school, because there really wasn't much "doing".  I vividly remember the teachers that had me and my classmates be a part of the learning, working on projects, and discovering and researching together.  Those were the memorable classes, the ones I enjoyed, and the ones that have pushed my desire to teach with that same passion.

Today's society and world of education requires a shift in the learning style and the teaching styles.  The kids of today are so different than the kids of years ago, and I often tire of hearing "It worked for us, so there's no reason it won't work for them".  Sure, we turned out OK and we learned what we needed to, but teachers have a very big competitor nowadays:  Technology.  Kids are tuned in to their electronics, and have tuned teachers out.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from teachers is the fact that the students are less able to sit and listen to a lecture like they did years ago, are completely unfocused, and just don't put in much effort.  Yet, those same kids can sit in front of a video game, chat on a social media site, or read blogs and watch online videos for hours.  If that's the case, why wouldn't teachers tap in to those resources as tools for learning?

Kids won't sit and listen to me demonstrate how to add and subtract numbers while regrouping for very long, but they'll sit at a computer and watch a video, follow directions given by a cartoon character, and play educational games.  They don't like to speak in front of a class, but they'll get on a social media site and share their thoughts and opinions on a topic with students from an entirely different state that they've never met.  They won't write pages of writing for me about a book they've read, but they'll gladly blog about it.  They bore easily with drawing diagrams, but they'll build entire nations on Minecraft.    

At the end of the day, it's not WHAT they're learning but HOW they're doing it.  Teachers are no longer able to compete with the vast technological resources that are out there, but they can absolutely incorporate those resources in to their delivery and come out so much more successful in their teaching.

The fact of the matter is, students need to be challenged, they need to be able to think critically, and they need to have the confidence and abilities to work independently, in a group, and with other kids that they normally wouldn't work with.  Why?  Because those skills are crucial in today's job market.  School has and always will be the place where kids prepare for the future.  Our workforce has made DRASTIC changes over the past few decades, so why on earth wouldn't we change the school atmosphere?  Our kids just won't cut it by just knowing how to read, write, and do math.  They need to know how to use and manipulate technology, how to hunt down resources and tools, how to use those tools, and how to connect and collaborate with people they may never meet.  

The stuff written in textbooks is important information, sure.  But, they don't learn by just reading that stuff. I have heard so many times "textbooks are crucial for preparing our kids for high school and college".  Really?  Want to know how many textbooks I've had to purchase for my college classes so far?  None.  A quick conversation with Peanut yesterday told me that her high school teachers aren't depending on the text books anymore, either.  She has assignments, occasionally, from a text book, but the majority of her learning is done electronically or collaboratively with peers.  And how many jobs require reading a textbook in order to do them?  I can't think of any.  

Technology will never replace teachers, I firmly believe that. But, I also believe that teachers that won't embrace the changes that are occurring in the educational field will be replaced with teachers who do embrace those changes.  

The needs of our students are different, so we need to provide those needs differently.  School can and should be a fun place, a place of creativity, a place of collaboration.  I want my students to go home and share about what they've learned during the day, and excited to return the next day.  I want them to have meaningful connections with activities we do, and how we learn.  I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there.  I will gladly change, adapt, and completely restructure my mindset if it's what my students need.  

And it is what they need.

It's what I need.

And I must keep working at making that happen.

Have a great Thursday, everyone!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Baby Shower Ready

After school, today, I'm going to a baby shower for one of my co-workers.  She's going to have a little girl in December, pretty close to Jelly's birthday actually.  So, for the past couple of weeks, I've been crocheting a few baby things.

Anyone that's read this blog for a while knows that crocheting is something I only do in the fall and winter.  I'm not a year-long crocheter, and I do it for the pure fun of crocheting.  I have been told by countless people that I should sell the stuff I make, but I just enjoy making stuff.  I don't want to turn it in to a job.  It's a lot more fun if I just get to make whatever I want, whenever I want and then share that stuff with people if I don't need or want it.

Anywho, since being invited to the baby shower, I've had a purpose for stuff that I wanted to make:  Baby stuff.  Momma-to-be had asked me about making her a hat for the little one, but I knew I had to go a lot further than that.  Being that I only had a set time, I wanted to focus on a set of some sort, so I decided on a blanket/hat/mittens set. I used a yarn color that is similar to the nursery color, which is yellow.  Not baby yellow, more like a bright yellow.  I got the blanket, hat, and mittens made in about a week, and wanted to make something different.  So, that's when I moved on to making a little sweater.  

I found a pattern that I liked, and made sure I didn't have to sew anything.  I can NOT sew.  It's weird, but true.  I can crochet all day long, and make a ton of stuff with a crochet hook and yarn, but if it requires sewing, I get nervous and shy away from that stuff.  I was ecstatic when I found a pattern for something like a baby sweater that didn't require any sewing.  

I started the sweater Saturday night, and finished it up last night.  I also made another hat to go with the sweater.  Both turned out pretty well.  Extremely well for being my first time making something like that.  I would share pictures, but I don't want to spoil the surprise if Momma-to-be happens to read my blog today.  I made the sweater out of a lavender purple yarn.  I picked it up while I was out shopping on Friday, along with a couple of other balls of yarn that will come in handy over the next couple of weeks.

Now, my baby shower goodies are all finished, and I even managed to dig out some other baby stuff I made last year that needed a good home.  
Even though my focus was to make a few things for the baby shower, my baby stuff making days are far from over.  I have several other items I want to make, including a dress and a pair of baby Tom's.  They won't be shower gifts, but they will be gifts for the same baby... she just won't get them for another couple of weeks.  

I am excited about having new projects to try out.  I've been crocheting for several years, now, and I've made a lot of stuff.  I can knock out hats, headbands, scarves, and blankets in no time but I like to challenge myself.  I get bored making the same ol' stuff, so I'm always looking for new things to try.  Baby stuff is always a great place to start for new ideas, because baby stuff is little and quicker to knock out.  I know that sounds funny, but I'm not a big fan, and a little too impatient for starting big projects.  I like to make stuff that only takes a few days to create, because I get bored easily and like a new challenge.  The best thing about crocheting is that I can make the same type of stuff over and over and try out new patterns, stitches, and designs.  

Last year, I got hooked on infinity scarves.  Do you know how many different ways I can make an infinity scarf?  TONS.  And people like infinity scarves.  If I ever do sell anything, it's infinity scarves.  I don't think I could ever get bored with making them, so I know that once I'm out of baby things to make I'll be moving back to those.  I'm also going to try and make a sweater for Jelly, similar to the one I made for the baby shower.  I only have a pattern for a baby size, but I think with some adjustments, I could make it a lot bigger.  If I do manage to figure that out, I'll save myself a fortune because then I'll start making a couple for me.  I wear a lot of sweaters, so it would be nice to be able to make them for myself instead of shelling out $50 a pop at a store.  I figure if it takes four balls of yarn to make an adult size, it'll still only cost me about $12 to make one.  

Anywho, the time has come for me to start getting ready for work.  I have a planning day with the county 4th grade teachers today, so I won't actually be at work.  I'm looking forward to getting with all the other 4th grade teachers from the county to share ideas and make some units.  It'll be a very productive day, I can guarantee that.

Have an awesome Wednesday, everyone!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Silence is Golden

Twenty four hours ago, I sat in this very spot writing my blog, healthy as a horse.  Most of the day, yesterday, everything was just fine and dandy.  Then, around 1PM, I started to feel a little tickle in my throat.  When I say tickle, I mean it felt like I had something tiny caught in my throat that no amount of water or swallowing would get rid of it.  By 2PM, I noticed that my voice was getting a little hoarse.  I would equate it to what my voice sounds like after I've spent a couple of hours screaming at a ball game or concert.  And, by the time I got home last night, that little tickle and hoarseness had progressed and my voice was basically non-existent.  There was noise coming out of my mouth when I spoke, but it sounded more like a woman that smokes 8 packs a day.  It resembled more of a husky growl than a voice.

It amazes me that in a matter of a few hours I can develop a case of laryngitis.  I'm assuming that's what it is.  I don't feel sick, my throat doesn't really hurt, and I don't have a cough.  I still have the feeling like there's something small stuck in my throat that's causing me a little discomfort, but I definitely wouldn't consider it a "sore throat".  

I can only assume that someone's prayers have been answered.  Someone apparently asked the Lord for me to stop talking, even for a little while, and BAM... no voice for me.  Sure, I can explain this quick onset of laryngitis as a mere fluke associated with seasonal allergies, but deep down I think a higher power may be at the reigns.  I've only had my voice disappear once in my entire life, that wasn't associated with some illness like the flu or a cold, so I can't really believe this is just a normal, allergy type situation that I'm dealing with.  Of course, there's always the possibility that my loss of voice is an early sign that I'm coming down with some type of illness, but being that I'm presenting no other symptoms, I'm just going to call it as I see it:  Someone wanted me to stop talking for a while, and they got their wish.  HA!

I have the best job for laryngitis, don't I?  I mean, do you know how hard it is to teach 4th graders without a voice?  It's hard enough, sometimes, trying to maintain order with the booming voice that I normally have.  Taking that away basically cripples me from having any form of control.  The only thing I can do, now, is play the pity card.  I need to lay the guilt trip down, and explain how important it is for them to stay quiet so that I don't strain my voice any more than I have to.  Kids are easy targets for stuff like this, and they're usually very good about taking care of their teacher if she's feeling under the weather or develops a supernatural phenomenon such as the onset of no voice.

Thankfully, today is Pajama Day, so at least I can go to work nice and comfy.  Just in case my voice situation does turn in to something a little more than laryngitis.  There's nothing better than getting to walk around all day in fleece jammies.  I may even take my slippers so that I can really feel like I'm at home.  

Voice or no voice, the show has to go on.  I'm thinking that today may be a great opportunity to do some self-directed learning.  By that, I mean having the kids do some of the teaching, and having them problem solve and work together.  That's how the learning should be, and I need to get better about having my students be more independent and facilitating the learning rather than force-feeding it to them.

That was the focus of my class work, this week:  The shift in 21st century learning.  My assignment consisted of watching a bunch of videos and reading a bunch of articles comparing and contrasting education and the shifts that have been made over the course of the past 100 years.  And, despite the assignment being very time consuming, it was interesting to see the technology shifts and what classroom learning should look like compared to what it used to look like back in the day of rows of desks, memorization, and stuffing content knowledge in to the students' brains.  

Education has definitely come along way, and it was extremely interesting to see some of the statistics that revolve around how the purpose of education has shifted.  For example, did you know that 10 of the top 12 jobs in the highest demand of 2010 didn't even exist in 2004?  And that thousands of new jobs are being created every two years, that never existed up until that point.  That means that teachers are no longer preparing students for a job force requiring a set amount of skills, but now need to be preparing students with skills that are adaptable and applicable to jobs that aren't even out there yet.  The days of learning reading, writing, and arithmetic are long gone.  Content is no longer the focus of education, but rather a small part in the process.  In order for our kids to be able to show any competition in the "real world", they need to be able to, collaborate, problem solve, and think critically.  There is no more room for black and white instruction, instead education needs to be more focused on the gray area.  And technology is the front runner in today's education.  Without technology, our students will be left in the dust when it comes to college preparation and career readiness. 

Interesting stuff.  And as a possible future administrator, I have to think about how to get teachers to make the shift, embrace, and rely on technology as not just a tool, but as a foundation for student learning.

The only way I can really do that is to practice that right now.  With my students.  In my classroom.  And what better way to do that than when I have no voice?

See how I made that complete circle, there?  And you thought I was going off on some tangent, didn't you?

Anywho, right now, I need to think about getting ready for work.  Changing from one set of pajamas in to another.  

Have a fantastic Tuesday, everyone!


Monday, October 27, 2014

A Bit of This and a Touch of That

Fall break is already over, and it went by so quickly.  It really didn't feel like any other normal weekend, really.  I definitely don't feel rested and recharged, being that I kept myself so busy.  Thursday I cleaned all day, Friday I shopped all day, Saturday I watched debate all day, and yesterday I worked on homework, laundry, and went grocery shopping.  There was hardly any time to relax.

The one thing I did get almost accomplished over break was trying out a new crochet project.  I am currently making a sweater dress, and I just have to finish up the sleeves and I'll be all done with it.  Usually, when I try out something new, I have to take it apart and start over a couple of times because it doesn't turn out right the first time.  This project, however, I nailed from the get-go and I can't believe how easy and cute the dress has turned out.  It's a sweater that's the length of a dress, has a dress like body, but buttons up in the front.  I'm so excited to be finished with it, and I better get a move on because it needs to be finished by Wednesday.  That's when the baby shower is, and I want to give it to the Momma on that day.

Speaking of, I have quite a few things going on this week.  It's Drug Free week at school, which means lots of dressing up and spirit days.  Wednesday I'll be gone from school all day for a grade level meeting, Thursday we have our Terrific Tiger assembly, and Friday is Halloween.  That's a lot of stuff cutting in to class time that I have to work around.  Thankfully, I don't have a college class to worry about for the next eight weeks thanks to my class now being an online, but that doesn't mean I'll be any less busy with homework.

In fact, my homework is due tonight.  I managed to get one of my assignments finished yesterday, but after spending over 3 hours working on that, I didn't manage to get to the other assignment.  I'm hoping that I can knock it out after school, while I'm waiting for Butter to go to wrestling practice.  

I was very stupid in thinking that my online class would be easier or less time consuming.  It most definitely won't be.  As I flipped through the syllabus again yesterday, I noticed the part that gave the homework time expectations.  Basically that's a break down of how much time we should be spending on homework each week.  For the majority of the weeks, it states we should be spending 6-10 hours a week on homework, and a couple of weeks it's more like 12-14 hours.  Thats's a lot of hours for a 3 credit hour class.  It's not necessarily hard work, but all of the assignments are very time consuming.  They require watching several videos and reading several articles and then writing up summaries, opinions, and assessments of the material we've covered.  If you read my blog on Friday, you'll understand that 6-10 hours a week is a lot to fit in, with the type of schedule I'm already keeping.

I have to also really buckle down on my field experience hours.  I have a deadline coming up in December, and it's amazing how quickly that deadline will come.  We're only a week away from November and with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming very quickly, the amount of time I have to get in my internship hours is quickly dwindling away.  

I won't lie, I'm feeling a little stressed by the whole school thing.  Not unbearably stressed, more like extremely pressured.  I knew that getting my Master's degree wouldn't be a walk in the park, but I severely underestimated how much time I would have to put in.  And I'm only just getting started.  I still have 16 months to get through, and I can only see the expectations getting more demanding with every class that is completed.  If I wasn't working full time, then it really wouldn't be all that hard.  But, I am, and it's a job that is already very time consuming.  Throwing in the extra work comes with a nice level of stress, but I know that I'll get through it.

One thing I'm trying very carefully to watch is how the stress relates to my eating patterns.  Usually, when the pressure starts to rise, so does the amount of food I consume.  With the success I'm having with my weight loss, I'm being very cautious about not letting the stress get to me enough to cause me to start mindlessly eating.  Over the break I wasn't exactly perfect in that area, and I'm really hoping it doesn't come back and bite me in the rear come weigh-in day.  On Friday, I took the kids out to eat lunch while we were shopping, and on Saturday, Peanut and I ate lunch out due to being at the debate contest.  Yesterday, we picked up a quick dinner to cook because we were out so long grocery shopping.  It wasn't fast food, but it wasn't exactly the most healthy option, either.  I just hope that being back at school this week will calm me down, and limit my food intake.  I can go back to eating my regular three meals a day, and avoiding the temptation to eat from stress.  The scale hasn't risen since my last weigh-in, but it hasn't gone down all that much either.  I'm just praying that it goes down over the next three days.

On the plus side, though, on Saturday I put on a pair of pants that I haven't worn since last year and are two sizes smaller than what I've been wearing.  They fit.  Quite nicely, too.  That was a nice little reminder to keep doing what I'm doing, and that my hard work is paying off.

It's hard to think that we're only a week away from November.  We're moving in to my favorite time of the year, and I am excited about what's in store for the next couple of months.  I can't believe I need to start thinking about Christmas shopping.  Not right now, though.  Right now, I need to think about getting off here and getting ready for work.  

It's going to be a busy, but fun week.  I'm ready to get it started.  

Have a great Monday, everyone!!


Sunday, October 26, 2014

We Share a Debatable Gene

I didn't get to post, yesterday.  You want to know why?  Because my crazy behind was up at 4AM in order to take Peanut to a debate contest.  Not only did I take her to the school, but I had also agreed to go and chaperone the debate event.  

Now, you all know that I love a good debate, but I'll admit I wasn't exactly thrilled about giving up an entire Saturday to listen to 9th and 10th graders debate.  I could actually think of a million different ways I could have spent my Saturday.  I envisioned a day of sitting in a chair listening to kids drone on and on about selected topics that I had absolutely no interest in whatsoever, and basically do everything in my power to stay awake.

To make matters worse, I'd hardly slept the night before.  Jelly's kitten, Shadow, had decided to sleep with me and he's not exactly the easiest cat to sleep with.  He's a snuggler, but wants to snuggle under my neck or on my face.  I just knew if I feel asleep, he was going to smoother me.  So, I was planning a day at a debate contest after receiving about an hour's worth of sleep. Awesome!

So, back to the debate contest.  

We arrived at the school that was hosting the event, and sat around for a while as the kids prepared for their first "battle".  Peanut and her partner sat and studied their cases and made sure they had all their ducks in a row.  I have become quite knowledgeable about the topic because Peanut has been using me to practice for the past couple of weeks.

Even though I wasn't in debate as a high schooler, I consider myself to be quite the debater.  I have an opinion about just about any topic you can think of, and if need be, will research the pants of my opinion in order to support it.  I also have the ability to see the opposing side, and could debate that side if I needed to, as well.  

Peanut and her partner were debating the topic of whether or not their was a benefit to a community when using public subsidies to build athletic stadiums.  When I first heard the topic a few weeks ago, I thought it was going to be a dry as dirt topic.  What I quickly found out, however, is that it's a great topic to debate because there's a fair amount of proof either side of the story.  Peanut's job was to argue the con case, meaning she had to prove that there were no benefits to communities.  Her partner prepared the pro case.  That means I got to play the pro case when I was helping Peanut prepare.  Both of them also had to be prepared to argue the opposing side that they'd studied, because they could find themselves debating either side of the topic once they got in to the debate rooms.

I feel like I had fully prepared Peanut for either side of the case.  While she felt very strongly about the evidence she had collected about athletic stadiums being more of a detriment to the local communities, I was also able to enlighten her with my own evidence that I found proving the contrary.  Which is what her partner had researched, in-depth, and so they were ready for whatever side they had to debate.

They received their first match-up a little after 8AM, and we made our way to the room where the first battle would ensue.  When we got there, their opposing partners were already waiting.  Peanut and her partner decided to "feel them out" by sparking up a friendly conversation.  As we sat and waited, the four of them had a very friendly conversation about everything except debate.  The only information they shared about debate was how long they'd been doing it.  The girl from the other team told Peanut and her partner that she'd never debated before, it was her first time and the boy shared that he'd debated a couple of times before but with a different partner each time.  It was his first time debating with the girl he was with.  I saw Peanut's face light up with that information, and I knew it would come back to bite them in the rear once the debate got started.  They, then, discussed their schools, where they were from, their interests, etc.  It was nice to see them all talking like they'd known each other for years, and I know that it definitely helped Peanut's nerves.  She does much better debating when she knows who she's up against.  After having to sit there for about 45 minutes, the time finally came for them to get started.

We went in to the room, and I sat in the back.  Apart from the judge, I was the only other person in the room.  The kids took their sides, and unloaded the mountain of binders and folders that they needed for their case.  I tell you what, it was like being in a court room and watching opposing council getting ready for a trial.  There's no little speech and a few pieces of documented sources for these kids, they were all professional.  They had MOUNTAINS of evidence and information to use to support their cases, and it was quite eye opening to realize how much work these kids had put in to prepare.

Peanut and her partner lost the coin toss, so the opposing side got to pick whether they wanted pro or con or decide if they wanted to speak first or second.  They decided to go with choosing the con side, so the girls got to decide that they wanted to speak second.  I could see that Peanut was a little nervous about debating the pro side, but I gave her a supportive smile and crossed my fingers under the desk I was sitting in.  

The first girl got started, and it was obvious that she was EXTREMELY nervous.  She stumbled over her first speech and did everything in her power to keep it together.  Then it was Peanut's partner's turn to speak.  She delivered a powerful intro speech, and I was blown away with how much more prepared they seemed.  Then it was time for the other side to argue what Peanut's partner had said, and he did a pretty good job attacking some of her points, but I saw a look in Peanut's eyes that told me he probably shouldn't get too confident, because she was about to rip him apart.  And she did.  She stood up and attacked his contentions, and when it was time to go in to "crossfire" (the individual opponents from each side get to ask questions of each other), it took everything he had to hold himself together.  In fact, Peanut was able to push about every button the boy had, and he even lost his temper a little.  Once he did, I knew that the victory was going to Peanut's side, because apparently rule #1 in a debate is keeping your cool.  In the last crossfire, Peanut and her partner tore the opposing team to shreds with their argument and evidence, and the other team didn't know what to do.  When it was all said and done, the poor girl on the other side was almost in tears, and the boy shook Peanut's hand and said "Well, you just kicked our butts".  I was stunned and extremely proud at what I just witnessed.  And there I was thinking I'd spend my day trying hard to stay awake because I'd be so bored.  HA!

The second debate was much better, and both sides were worthy opponents.  The debate stayed calm and collected, and both sides did an amazing job at defending their sides.  The girls had to argue the exact same side as the first debate.  The two boys that they were up against didn't lose their cool, and kept the whole thing very professional and interesting.  In fact, when it was over I had no idea who had won.  It could have gone either way.  Luckily, the girls came out victorious. 

The third debate was way worse than the first.  Peanut and her partner got their first opportunity to defend the con case.  This time around, the girls hadn't been able to speak to the opposing team before starting, so they had no idea what they were up against.  But, it became quite apparent once the team got started that they were extremely new to debating, and they weren't prepared to defend the pro side of the case.  The girls baited their opponents in to rookie mistakes, like getting the opposing team to agree with the evidence they had, proving that their evidence was outdated and irrelevant, and even managed to get the other team so riled up that they ended up fighting during the debate.  As the boy stood up to defend their side of the debate, and attack Peanut's side, the boy's partner told him (loud enough for me and the judge to hear) to shut-up.  Once that happened, I knew victory belonged to Peanut and her partner.  

The last three debates were extremely intense.  They were up against seasoned debaters that weren't new to debating.  The girls had their work cut out for them, and they were tough debates.  The end results were extremely close, but the girls ended up losing by a small margin.  So, they ended out their day with a 3-3 score.  For it being only the second time either of them had debated in a contest, I don't think that's too bad.  The last three debates had paired them off with kids that had a year's worth of practice, so I think they did a dang good job.

It was after 5PM once the final debate ended, and I was absolutely exhausted.  We had to wait around for a while to find out the scores, and then Peanut and I were able to head home around 6PM.  

One thing I learned from the whole day is that my daughter definitely has my blood coursing through her veins.  Apparently, the ability to debate is in our genes.  I couldn't have been more proud watching her deliver her speeches and evidence, and I envisioned her years from now, standing in a court room, doing what she does best.  No wonder Peanut's interested in being a lawyer when she's older, she's born to do it.  I couldn't help but feel that sentimental spark that flashed before my eyes of me wanting to be a teacher when I was 5, and then picturing Peanut feeling the same way about being a lawyer.  My daughter has a very strong career ahead of her, and I wouldn't be surprised a bit to see politics in her future, even though she denies having any desire to think about that.

Being that I spent the whole Saturday watching kids debate, I am now back in that usual slump of needing to catch up on a day's worth of work.  I have laundry to do, grocery shopping, homework, grading, and lesson plans to write.  I could have done those things on Thursday or Friday, but I was also pretty busy on those days.  It's not like I've sat around for the past three days doing nothing.  But, I've grown quite accustomed to having busy, jam packed Sundays, and this Sunday is no exception.

So, I better get off here and get going on all that stuff if I plan on getting it all finished today.

Have a great Sunday, everyone!


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Wonders of Weight Loss

I totally forgot to share the results of this week's weigh-in with you all, and that's probably because I was trying to forget about the results of this week's weigh-in.  But, I need to hold myself accountable, so I'm going to post my results today.

This week, I lost a whooping 0.2lbs.  So, my total weight loss for the challenge is 9.2lbs.  I really wanted to see a better number this week, but it is what it is.  I am just thankful I was still able to lose, because many of the participants gained this week.  My team, for example, ended up gaining 5lbs collectively.  So, even though I lost, it didn't do much for us. What did feel good, though, (as bad as this sounds) is the fact that I was the one that was able to lose something despite all of the issues that arose this week.  Unfortunately, the team's gains bumped us down to third place again.  So, we have some work to do in the next couple of weeks if we have any chance of winning.  

Many of the participants blamed parent-teacher conferences for their gains.  And the conferences probably were a big factor in a lot of people gaining.  We had a pot-luck at work, and most people were grazing all evening or trying to cram in food whenever they had a free second to do so.  My biggest accomplishment came from the fact that I was sensible with my food choices, opting for soup and salad on Monday night and a sandwich on Tuesday night.  I ate no sweets, no chips and dip, and no junk.  In fact, I'm 100% positive that my measly weight loss came from the fact that I retained water because I didn't drink near as much water as I should have.  I know this because when I got home each night, my ankles were swollen.  It's easy to forget to stay hydrated when you're working that late, I suppose.

Another clue that I retained water is the fact that I've lost a couple of pounds since Wednesday.  Now that I'm hydrated and all of the swelling is gone, I've seen a difference on my scale at home.  That will hopefully mean a good loss for me on Thursday.  

I am very surprised by how different I already feel with only losing about 10lbs (actually that number is closer to 12lbs according to my scale this morning).  There are some obvious effects to the weight loss that I'm starting to recognize.  The first being my boost in energy, and feeling less tired all of the time.  

After a long week at work (or even long, short week), I usually go to bed extremely early and spend the first day sleeping in until 10-11AM.  In fact, thinking back, I don't remember the last Friday night where I stayed up past 10PM and was up before 10AM.  I was just exhausted.  This week, however?  Wednesday night I was up until almost midnight and then was up at 9AM yesterday morning.  Last night, I was up past midnight and was up at 8:30 this morning.  Not only that, but I didn't sit on my rear all day like I usually spend my first day of a weekend (or break). 

I will be honest and admit that I'm pretty lazy when I'm at home.  Normally.  On the weekends, I like to relax on the couch or sit at my computer and work.  Yesterday, I found that I couldn't sit down.  I started out by cleaning the living room, vacuuming, and straightening up.  Then I moved in to the den and cleaned my desk that has been piling up junk for months.  Then I swept all of the floors in the house.  Once the cleaning was all done, I did sit on the couch and crocheted for a while.  Then, I decided I was going to cook dinner.  While I was cooking, I cleaned dishes.  After dinner, I spent some more time crocheting until Hubby left for work around 10PM.  Then, I got another burst of energy and spent the next two hours cleaning my bedroom.  I sorted out my closet, packed up my summer clothes, got out my fall wardrobe, and cleaned all the junk that had piled up in my room.  Definitely not something I would normally do that late at night.  

This morning, I'm full of energy again and plan on going out and doing some shopping.  When I get home, I'm going to clean out Jelly's closet and room and get rid of all the clothes that she's outgrown. Do you know how many weekends I've said I'm going to do that?  Too many.  But, you know what?  I know that I will get it done today, because I feel energized to do so.  

It's amazing how different I feel with just losing a little bit of weight.  I still have a long way to go, but I don't want to lose the feeling that I have right now.  I need to hold on to it, and remember how awesome it feels.  

Another accomplishment has been with how much better my clothes are fitting.  On Tuesday, I put on a pair of pants that were extremely too tight the last time I tried to put them on.  On Tuesday, they went on with ease and I even had a little wiggle room.  I also noticed that my jeans fit much better on Wednesday.  I also received the new shirt that I ordered on Tuesday, and was very worried if it would fit.  Being that sizes above XL cost an additional $2, I decided when I ordered the shirt that I was going to order the XL.  I normally need a 2XL, but I'm tired of paying more just because I'm too big to fit in to an XL.  So, I decided to order the smaller size and have it be motivation for losing weight.  Well, I don't need much more motivation, because the XL fit perfectly.  In fact, I think a 2XL would have been too big.  That was an awesome feeling.  Now the next step is to get my dress size back down to where I don't have to shop in the plus sized section of stores.  

I have been so shocked at how easy it's been to lose the weight.  My normal routine is to eat minimally for a couple of weeks, force myself to give up eating the stuff I want to eat, drop a couple of pounds, and then realize that I'm hungry, I'm missing the stuff I've been avoiding, and just want to eat.  Then, I lose my motivation to continue trying to lose weight and just give up.

This time around, I can really tell how much I want it because I feel so fantastic about doing it.  I don't feel deprived in the slightest.  I'm eating everything I want to eat, looking for healthy alternatives rather than not eating, and I've noticed that my cravings for sweets and junk food have become non-existent.  And the times I have given in to temptation and eaten something loaded with grease or sugar, I feel gross and bloated after.

I've gone over a month without touching a drop of soda, I'm choosing foods that I normally wouldn't eat, I'm eating a lot more regularly, and I'm finding that I'm craving stuff that's better for me like fruit and veggies.  

Wednesday, for example, I had my "free day" because that was weigh-in day.  I bought some brownies for a couple of kids in my class that were eating lunch with me that day.  I also got a tray from the cafeteria instead of eating lunch that I brought from home.  I ate some of the food on my tray, and I ate a brownie, but I didn't enjoy it.  In fact, I would have been much happier eating a pile of steamed veggies than the small helping of mashed potatoes and gravy that I ate.  The brownie actually made me feel nauseous.  A small little brownie, and it was enough for my body to say "NOPE, you don't need or want that".  

Yesterday, I cooked dinner, and all I could think about was what I wanted to cook that was healthy and delicious.  I moseyed around the kitchen looking for some ideas.  I picked out some chicken breast, sliced it up, seared it in a little olive oil, and then baked it in the oven.  While the chicken was baking, I made a sauce out of salsa style tomatoes and some seasonings.  I then cooked up some garden rotini (squash, spinach, and tomato pasta).  I served the chicken on a small bed of pasta and topped it with the sauce.  The kids and Hubby all loved it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Healthy and delicious? Check! I was also full and satisfied after I ate.  That's another thing I've noticed about eating better.  I no longer get the desire to eat in the evenings.  I'm eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and there's no desire to snack in between meals or before I go to bed.  

Overall, I think I've finally found the motivation I've been looking for.  I'm actually enjoying this process of losing weight, instead of looking at it as a chore or necessity.  I think my problem has always been thinking about the fact that I have to lose weight, instead of wanting to.  Now, I want it. Really want it.  My clothes are fitting better, my energy level has increased, I feel good, so why on earth would I give that all up?

I'm so thankful to the friends that talked me in to doing this weight loss challenge (Sheila, Nicki, and Suzanne), and I really owe all of this success to them.  I was so skeptical about doing it, and I really thought I would end up letting my team down.  What I realized, however, is that I needed a team to cheer me on, and for me to cheer on.  And at the end of it all, win or lose, I know I've already won.  I've found that spark of motivation I had so many years ago, that desire to succeed, the desire to lose the weight.  This time, though, I've found that I'm not struggling, I'm not fighting urges every single day, and there's absolutely no reason whatsoever that I can't continue seeing this thing through and keeping the weight off.  

I'm a winner by being a loser.  

And that's something I plan on continuing. 

Have an awesome Friday, everyone!


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ahhhhhh....Fall Break, You Come at Last

If you're one of those people that think that teachers get WAY too much time off work, then you might want to skip this post today.  Or maybe you shouldn't because there's a slim possibility I might sway your misconceived perceptions.  Then again, I may completely reiterate your thoughts and have you walking away even more sure that teachers are off work too much.  Let's roll the dice and see how it goes, shall we?

Today is the first day of my fall break.  By break, I mean we get today and tomorrow off work, and then we have the weekend, and then we go back on Monday.  So, a fall break is really code for a four day weekend.  But, am I complaining?  Heck no!  Four days off is complete paradise, and I'll most definitely take it.

It's been seven weeks since the last long weekend, and that was Labor Day weekend.  So, for seven weeks, we've been in school every day Monday-Friday, working our tails off.  

And, I know what some of you are thinking: Seven whole weeks?  Whoopdy doo.  I know there are some people out there that have been working for something like 30 days straight with no time off, not even weekends, or someone else's last "long weekend" was Christmas last year.  To those people, I understand and I'm sorry for making it sound like my mere seven weeks of working Monday through Friday warrants a break.  But, really?  It does.

To those people on the outside of teaching, you probably think that teachers have it pretty cushy.  Working 8 hours a day, Monday-Friday, with a nice, long, hour break each day, and then all the holidays off, and then extra days for stuff like fall break.  I mean, teachers are only contracted to work 180 days, so that's A LOT of time off.  Of course we don't make as much money as we think we should, we hardly work at all!  180 days, that's only 36 weeks out of the year, we should be thankful for what we get, am I right?  People that work "normal jobs" tend to work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks out of the year.  They might be lucky enough to get a day off here and there for a major holiday, and some are even lucky enough to get weekends off, but for the most part, people working those long 40 hour  work weeks are working 2080 hours a year!  That's 40 hours times 52 weeks.  Teachers, they only work half that and get off 16 weeks out of every year.  That's the equivalent to four months that teachers don't work.  Teachers should be ashamed of themselves for rejoicing their breaks!! Who wouldn't want a job that has you working 180 days out of the year and gives you four months off, paid?

But, just for fun, let's take a look at those 180 days we do work, and the 185 days we get off each year shall we?

I work from 7:45AM - 3:45PM Monday through Friday.  At least, according to my contract.  I actually get to school at 7AM each morning, and don't leave school until 5:00PM most days.  So, by my calculations, that's ten hours and a day that I put in.  So, I work, at school, 50 hours a week.  On normal weeks.  My plan time is 45 minutes per day, and that time is not "break time", but is spent meeting with my team to plan for the next week, go over student data, and have all the meetings that we need to have.  So, no, it's not "break time", we are actually working during that time, we just have 45 minutes to work without students in the classroom.  Our lunch time is 20 minutes.  So, let's minus the 1 hour and 40 minutes of lunch we get a, I'm back down to 48 hours and 20 minutes of work time per week.  Then, there's Family Nights, and parent teacher conferences.  Family nights go until about 8PM, and they happen about three times a year.  So, on those three days, we actually put in 13 hours. Parent-Teacher conferences also go to 8PM two nights, so that's another two 13 hour days.  This week, for example, I worked 34 hours in three days.  Only six hours shy of the normal "40 hour work week" most people work.  In three days.

So, by my calculations and putting the family nights and conference nights together, there's a week worth of days that we work 13 hour days.  Thirteen times five is sixty-five, so one week out of our contract is spent working 65 hours.  

Let's catch up:  175 days working ten hours is 1750 hours.  Add in the five days of thirteen hour days and that gives us another 65 hours, so right now, we're up to 1815 hours.  

Now, let's talk about how much time I spend working OUTSIDE of my 180 day contract.  Many weekends, I spend AT LEAST six hours on lesson plans, grading, looking for new ideas, and making stuff for my kids.  Not every weekend, but the majority of them.  To be fair, and averaging everything out, let's say I work about 4 hours every weekend.  So, that adds another 4 hours in to my week.  That puts my week's work hours up to 54 hours a week.  Fifty-four times the thirty-five "normal" weeks, is 1890, plus in the sixty-five hours from the "non-normal" week gives us a total of 1955 hours of work.

Now, let's talk about those glorious three months off in the summer that teachers get each year, shall we?  Kids get out mid-May and don't return until mid-August.  That's three months that teachers get to sit around and do absolutely nothing.  Such a hard life.  Who wouldn't want three months off each year?  

Here's what I do with my three months off:

For the first four weeks of the summer, I work at summer school.  Another seven hours a day, for four weeks.  This year, I got paid extra two of those weeks and volunteered the other two weeks.  So, I'll be fair and only count the two weeks that I volunteered.  So, for two weeks, I worked another 70 hours.  Did I have to?  No.  I just enjoy doing something with all that free time I have, cause let's face it.. teachers have to get pretty bored sitting around all that time doing nothing.  

That took me up until the middle of June.  I then, sat around for the rest of June enjoying time with my kids, going on little outings, and having somewhat of vacation time.  And I didn't think about school at all during that time.  That was about two weeks worth. The beginning of July, I started thinking about building some unit plans for the new school year.  I spent about 6-8 hours a week on my computer writing up plans, looking for new ideas, and building those plans to use.  So, over the course of those four weeks in July, I put in another 30 hours or so.  The rest of the time was spent doing nothing but spending time with my family.  So, again, a lot of free time there.  Then, the last week of July, I figured I better start going up to the school and working on my classroom.  I only did a couple of hours here and there, say 4 hours the last week of July.  So, for the month of July, I worked a whole 34 hours.  Big whoop, right?  Who wouldn't love only working 34 hours in an entire month.  Then, the first of August came, and it was in my classroom each day for about four hours up until the first day of school.  So, over the course of the first two weeks of August, I only worked 40 hours.  Again, part-time hours.. nothing to brag about.

So, over the course of my 180 day contract I work 1955 hours.  The extra I work over the non contracted days is about 144 hours.  Unpaid.  1955 hours of paid time plus 144 hours of non-paid time comes out to be 2099 hours.

Wait, that can't be right, can it?

A person who works 40 hours a week for 52 weeks out of the year works 2080 hours, and a teacher that ONLY works 180 days out of the year putting in 2099 hours?? How can that be?

I'll tell ya how.  We work our BEHINDS OFF.  

The average teacher works MORE hours in a year than the 40 hour a week person.  Just because they're contracted to work 180 days makes most people think that the average teacher only works 180 days out of the year.  That's absolute malarkey.   

Now, I know that there are thousands of people out there that work WAY more than 40 hours a week.  They go weeks at a time without a day off, and are often working during holidays and weekends.  A lot of those people dream about only having to work 2080 hours a year.  I'm just trying to make a point here about the "average" work week, and the perceptions people have about how much teachers actually work.

Sure, teachers get off weekends, they get off several days for major holidays, they even get all these extra days off for stuff like fall and spring breaks.  But, I hope you get where I've been going with all this.  Teachers don't actually get off as much time as most people think they do.  They work A LOT.  Many of those hours are spent working on their own time, outside the perimeters of their contracts.  

I'm not saying that all teachers work close to 2100 hours a year, but the majority of teachers will tell you that they spend a lot of their "free time" working.  It's what we do.  Am I complaining about it?  No.  I knew what I was getting myself in for.  I was warned about the extra time I'd be expected to work.  I'm just pointing out that when a teacher rejoices something like fall break, we're not doing it to rub it in the faces of those people that have to work five days a week, fifty-two weeks out of the year.  We're just rejoicing a break.  Some time to collect ourselves and recharge.  Teachers work just as hard as everybody else on the planet.  It's not a cushy, easy, job.  It's hard.  It's time consuming.  It's both mentally and physically draining.  

But you know what?  It's still the best job on the entire planet.  In my opinion.  

I gladly work those 2099 hours a year.  I will gladly work more when I need to.  I do it because it's what I was born to do, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing with all of my "free time".  

All I simply ask, is that the next time you see a teacher post on Facebook about her coveted time off, please don't jump to conclusions that teachers hardly ever work, and they are bragging about that fact.  Refrain from pointing out that it sure would be nice to get off as much as teachers do, and how you wish you could only work 180 days out of the year.  Please hold your comments about how nice it would be to only have to work half the year and get a full year's salary for doing so.  

Take a second to think about what I've said.  Think about how many hours those teachers have put in of their "free time" working, without pay, and doing so because it's what they love to do and will gladly do for the kiddos that they work with each and every day.

A teacher's life isn't really all that hard, because we enjoy doing what we do.  In fact, until this morning, I hadn't really thought about how much extra time I spend working, and how comparable it is to people that work five days a week, every week of the year.  I rejoice these days off here and there, I do.  But, I'll be spending some time working, I'll be grading, I'll be writing lesson plans.  Will I also be relaxing and having some fun over these next four days?  Absolutely.  I think I've earned it.

So, my teacher friends, here's to a couple of days off.  We deserve it!

Have a great Thursday, everyone!!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just Had to Go and Jinx Myself

One thing I definitely know about myself is the fact that I have a big mouth.  Not literally... figuratively speaking.  I'm a gal that speaks her mind, complains, brags, and talks A LOT.  Being that I know this about myself, you'd figure that I'd do something about it, right?  Yeah, well, just because I know about it, doesn't mean I have the power (or even the desire) to change it.

I know that my big mouth is one of my flaws and one of my strengths.  There are some people that find my brutal honesty, sarcasm, and humor kinda refreshing.  They think of it as a strength, and are totally OK with me being that way.  Then there are others that I know can't stand me or what I have to say, and think they they are hiding their eye rolling and obvious attempts to get away from me quickly, before I say something to tick them off.

It is what it is.  I fully understand.  I'm not blind enough to not notice some of the sideway glances and eye rolls that I often see when I open my mouth, but it doesn't stop me from saying what I need to say.

The people that "get me" understand that my complaining, sarcasm, and bragging isn't meant to to be solely negative or annoying.  I often do a lot of those things with the intent on being funny, so it's my poor attempt to make people laugh.  Again, there are people that completely understand that and are able to brush off anything that comes out of my mouth as me making light of all situations that come my way.  I'm not a very sensitive or emotional person.  In fact, sarcasm is about the only way I show emotion, both good and bad.  I don't throw hissy fits, I don't cry (very often), I don't go into brewed silences, nor do I keep my happiness to myself.  It's not hard to figure out what kind of mood I'm in, by simply being in a close proximity to me for a few seconds.  Although, someone that doesn't know me very well may misconstrue my emotions thinking I'm mad when I'm not, but if you don't know me very well, I'm not a very easy person to read. 

Anywho, none of that stuff is really here nor there to what I have to share today.  I guess it was just a bit of backstory to get the actual story out.  

Last night was my second night of conferences.  The first night went extremely well.  All of my parents showed up, we had great conversations about their children, and I was busy, busy until 8PM.  Last night, I only had six conferences scheduled, so I figured I'd have close to two hours free to get some work done in my classroom and even have the chance to work on my homework.  WRONG-O.

Now, in my district, there is a 100% conference participation requirement.  The parents know this.  It's not a new policy, and something they've been doing for years.  That contact is preferred to be face-to-face, but in some extenuating circumstances, will be done over the phone.  If a parent doesn't show, or can't be reached by phone, then we make a home visit to get the conference completed.  Teachers are required to make 100% contact, because it's important that all of the parents know how their children are doing and any concerns the teacher may have.  Plus, it's better they know now while there's still plenty of school year left to work on those concerns to ensure that their child has a successful school year.  I get and support the 100% requirement.

Of course, I've never had to worry about it.  For the past two years, every one of my parents have shown up with no hiccup or worries.  In fact, my only setback the past two years was staying on schedule so that I wouldn't make parents wait.  Being a talker has its flaws on conference night, too.  I want to brag on the kiddos, I want to share everything we're doing, I want to share all the great stuff they've accomplished, and the great stuff I have planned for them to do.  

So, yesterday, I spend the day bragging about how awesome my first night of conferences were and how sure I was that the second night will be just as great.  I brag about how excited I am to have some time to work in my classroom.  I also brag that I've never had to worry about figuring out alternate ways to contact parents, because my parents have always shown up.  You know what bragging will get ya?  A big, cold slap of JINXING.  Yep.  I totally jinxed myself, yesterday, by being too cocky and sure that all would be fine and dandy and there'd be no home visits for me.

Last night, my first conference shows with no worries.  Conference is great.  When that conference is over, the next parent isn't waiting so I took the opportunity to check my email.  What do I discover?  An email telling me that my second parent won't be making it to her conference.  UGH!! I quickly respond in an attempt to reschedule, because that would at least get cleared on the contact requirement.  I then go about seeing the next few parents, and all of those go smoothly.  Once the last conference is over (about 5:30), I check my email and no response.  I go down to the office to report that I have one parent that didn't show.  And of course, I end up standing down there talking for a while.   

After I'm done pottering around in the office and visiting with some of the other teachers, it's about 6:30PM.  I still have an hour and a half left, but I really didn't want to jump in to making a home visit without giving the parent plenty of time to email me back.  Stuff happens, people get busy, unforeseen situations come up that causes plans to be changed.  I totally get that, and want to give the parents as many opportunities as possible to make it to the school before I head to their house.  Being that I hadn't had any luck with an email response, I try calling: Phone disconnected.  Now a home visit looks inevitable.  E decides to do some investigating, first, and discovers that there's an alternate phone number.  I try calling:  no answer.  I leave a message and hope that she calls me back.  By this time it's 7PM.  I wanted to give her some time to call me back, so the decision is made that if I haven't heard back by 7:30, I'm making the home visit.  

7:30 comes, no phone call has been received, so I'm making my first home visit.  I was lucky enough to recruit some help from a friend to go with me.  We get that taken care of, and we're back at the school a little after 8PM.

So, not only did I end up not finishing on time, I end up with no work in my classroom done nor do I have any homework done. 

See, totally jinxed myself.

Now, did I utilize all of my free time wisely?  Of course not,  I spent way too much time visiting and talking to people.  That's my bad.  But, I now know to be careful about bragging... because I'll end up in a car driving to someone's house quickly.

Lesson learned.

Today, conferences are over, we have one more day of school left before a well needed break, and I am ready for that break.  I have class tonight, which means another late night, but at least I can sleep in tomorrow.  Kinda.  I have a phone call scheduled with one of my professors at 9:30 in the morning, but hey.. I can take a nap later in the day if I need to.

Everyone have a wonderful Wednesday.  I have weigh-in this morning, so I'm really hoping that conferences haven't completed shattered my progress for the week.  Conference eating isn't exactly mindful, we eat when and what we can.  HA!

Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

That Made My Night

My first night of conferences was a BIG success.  Everyone showed up that was supposed to, and I even managed to fit in an extra conference that wasn't scheduled until tomorrow, which means I now have one less conference to do tonight.

The kiddos and I had spent the day organizing the classroom, cleaning, and doing some activities for conferences.  One of the activities was writing letters to their parents, explaining what they wanted their parents to know.  I'm a firm believer in the kids being a part of the conferences, so I discussed with the kids what I was going to talk about with their parents.  

The room was pretty spotless by the time conferences started, and I was excited to get the chance to talk with everyone that came.  I was so glad that I'd spent so much time preparing a conference binder to use, rather than relying on student folders (which had been my method the past two years).  The binder kept me on track, and I was able to make sure I hit every subject that I wanted to discuss.  

Thankfully, I didn't have to deliver too much bad news last night.  I got to tell all the parents how much improvement I've seen from every student.  I don't have a single student that hasn't made some significant gains in the first two months of school, and that's always my favorite part to share.  When I was able to tell parents that their child started out the year reading on a second grade level, but is now reading on a mid to upper 3rd grade level in a matter of two months, it brought a lot of smiles to their faces.  The same can be said for the growth in math.  I showed the parents some work samples, and let them see for themselves the growth that I've been able to see with my very own eyes.

My favorite part of sharing is always the writing samples.  I make the kids write a journal entry on their very first day of school, and then I made them write a piece of writing last week for me to compare it to.  It's always fun, and often quite amusing, to see the look on parents' faces when I show their child's first piece of writing for the year.  Then there's always that look of shock and pride when I show them how much different the writing looks just a couple of months later.  I honestly had a couple of kids whose first piece of writing was comparable to something Jelly may have written.  It's not because the kids don't know how to write, it's just that I catch them in that moment where they really haven't written anything in three months due to being out for summer, so the first writing sample is never wonderful.  Which only makes my reveal of the recent writing that much more dramatic, because the handwriting, spelling, grammar, and how much sense the writing makes has gone through amazing changes.  

The toughest part of conferences is always discussing homework.  The most common concern I've always had to share with parents is missing assignments or low grades that are related to incomplete homework.  I often hear the parent explaining that their child tells them there is no homework, and then they get to find out from me that there's homework missing.  Conferences are a great time for me to explain to parents my homework policy, and the homework they should see coming home on a regular basis.  That always helps the parents out, because now they know what they should be seeing their child bring home each week.  I go over the spelling contract in depth with the parents, so they are aware of the expectations and purpose for the contract, and I even get to show the payoff that the contract has in spelling test scores.  I didn't have a single parent who thought the amount of homework was unreasonable, and even received a few compliments on how they liked the contract because it was the same expectations each week.  I even had a couple of parents ask about sending home more homework, which is actually something I've heard each year, and then I have to explain that I'm not a fan of sending homework home for the sake of giving it.  I always make sure that I offer up some explanations on how they can help their child improve, though, if they think their child needs more practice.

Last night, I did receive one of the nicest compliments I think I've ever received.  It didn't come from one of my students or even a parent.  It came from a student that is now in 6th grade and was in the first class I had two years ago.  She had come along with her dad and was with one of my current students.  As I was standing in the hallway, making my introductions and greetings, she turned to her dad and said, "Dad, if it wasn't for this teacher, I wouldn't have made it to 6th grade".  How flippin' sweet and awesome is that?  Nobody has ever said anything like that to me before, and it felt amazing to think that she bases the success she's had since leaving my classroom on being in my class.  

It wasn't the only compliment I received last night, but it was hands down the most meaningful compliment I think I've ever received.  And it really reinforced why I do what I do.  It's not just about how successful they are with me, but how they continue on their educational journey.  I want to know that being in my class is something my kiddos remember, and somehow impacts them to continue being successful and trying hard.  That was the perfect time for some encouragement, and it meant so much to me.

Another pretty special moment came when I was meeting with a parent, and was discussing some concerns I had with her child.  They weren't really bad, and more about wanting her to child to put in more effort and really apply himself more to what we're doing in class.  I think the student quickly felt the pressure rise, and he didn't waste anytime on trying to tell his mom how mean I am and how I make them miss recess time if they don't do their work.  I think he thought that his mom would take his side and demand for me to explain why her child is missing recess for not completing work.  Without skipping a beat, she looked straight at him and said "You know what? This woman isn't mean.  She obviously cares about you, or she wouldn't make you miss recess.  It sounds to me that she just wants you to do something with your life, so instead of whining about it, why don't you just do the work?"  The look on his face was priceless.  I really don't think he was expecting that at all.  I then took that opportunity to explain to him exactly what his mom meant, and my reasoning behind taking away some privileges if he's not doing what he's supposed to.  I felt relieved and pretty good that I had her support.  It always means a lot to me when I have a parent backing me up.  

I also wish I could have captured some of the expressions from parents when I handed them the graduation photo I had taken of their child a few weeks earlier.  I even had a parent who got tears in her eyes when she saw her daughter's photo.  I explained The Future is NOW project, and told them about my high expectations and wanting them to have solid goals and a purpose for learning.  Almost every parent thanked me for doing it, and told me how important it was to them that their child does well in school and has a focus for the future.  Once again, music to my ears.  

All in all, a very successful night and I'm now pumped and excited to finish up the last four conferences I have this evening.  I expect tonight's conferences to be just as successful.  

Conference days may be long, they may be tiring, but when they're all said and done I'm so glad that we get to do them.  It's so great to be able to share and discuss my students with their parents.  

And I'll do it all over again, today.

Have a great Tuesday, everyone!!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Let the Long, Short Week Begin!!

What a great weekend.  It was the first weekend in a while that I didn't have to go anywhere, other than grocery shopping, and all I had to do was finish up some work for PT conferences.  The rest of the time I was able to mentally prepare myself for this week ahead of me.

Saturday, I sat at my kitchen table and worked for a few hours.  I got my conference binder organized and completed, and even managed to get all of the new reading goal folders filled out.  That was an extra project that I brought home, but wasn't mandatory to finish by today.  I got my lesson plans written for the week, and made all sure all of my grades were in.  

Then, I spent the rest of the day on the couch crocheting the baby blanket I have been working on.  The original plan was to make a baby blanket, matching hat, mittens and booties.  However, I was getting low on yarn and planned on buying more when I went grocery shopping, yesterday.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the color I was using when I went grocery shopping, so I had to change my plans and just go with a baby afghan/hat set.  

Anywho, I worked on the baby blanket until about 11PM Saturday night, and then I called it a night.  Yesterday morning I was up at 8:30.  After writing my blog, I worked on updating my iPad and backing up the gazillion photos I've taken over the past year and haven't gotten around to backing up yet.  That's a very timely chore when it's been so long.  I keep telling myself that I have to back stuff up more often, but I never do.  

After a couple of hours of messing with that, we decided to go and do our weekly grocery shopping.  It was a surprisingly quick trip.  Usually, grocery shopping takes a couple of hours, at least.  But, we were in and out of the store in no time and I was back home to continue my crocheting project.  After realizing that I couldn't buy the yarn I needed, I had to make a few adjustments to the baby blanket in order to have enough yarn left for a hat.  I really didn't want to have to wait until I could get to Hobby Lobby to see if I could find the yarn there, so I dug out an off-white yarn to use for the border of the blanket, and managed to finish the blanket up.  After that was all finished, I got the hat mostly done, but realized at 11PM that I had better call it a night because I had a long week ahead of me.

Being that I spent the majority of my weekend sitting at my table, working, or on the couch, crocheting, I didn't get in very many steps on my pedometer.  I really have to do a better job at working some exercise in to my schedule.  I mean, it's not like I was up to my neck in activities that prevented me from going out for a walk.  I have my eating down to where I really don't even have to think much before I eat something.  I know what I can and can't eat, what I should and shouldn't eat, yet I just can't seem to get the motivation to do something about exercising.  That will come and bite me in the butt, soon, if I don't start.  I can only go so long depending on my better eating habit to drop the weight off of me before I'm going to have to start upping the intensity.  

Today, I get to work a thirteen hour day.  The same goes for tomorrow.  Conferences run until 8PM both tonight and tomorrow, which means extremely long days for us.  Thankfully, we get to put in a normal day on Wednesday and then we have Thursday and Friday off work to rest and recuperate from the long, short week.  

Tonight, I'm pretty much booked all the way up until 8PM, but tomorrow I only have conferences scheduled until 6PM.  That doesn't mean I get to leave early, I still have to stay until 8... it just means I get to do some work in my classroom after all of my conferences are finished.  That's actually a rare treat, and I'm quite looking forward to having a couple of hours getting some stuff organized.  I always have plenty to keep me busy in my classroom.  

Being that we're working so late, the staff is doing a pot luck both tonight and tomorrow night.  Pot lucks always make me extremely nervous when I'm trying to lose weight.  We are not going an extra week until weigh-in, like I had originally thought, and will be weighing in on Wednesday.  That means I'm going to have to really watch myself today and tomorrow if I want to continue my progress.  I picked up a few things to donate to the pot luck, but I went ahead and planned my meals out for tonight and tomorrow so that I can stay clear of the pot luck room.  I'm perfectly content with eating a sandwich for dinner tonight, and a bowl of soup tomorrow night.  I don't need to tempt myself with a plethora of baked goods and sweets.  

Well, I'm keeping it kinda short and sweet today.  Got to get myself ready and get the kids up.  

It's going to be a great week.  I'm ready.

Have a great Monday, everyone!