Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Final Countdown...

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou

Full day Thursday, half day Friday, and then another group of kids moves on. In the short, short time we have in the classroom, we can't reasonably expect that our lessons will dramatically change the students we teach. Change comes from within. It's also true that you can't make someone learn. Someone has to want to learn.

Reflecting on my first year back in the classroom after 8 years of talking about it, I conclude that there is so much we want to do, and even our greatest efforts feel inadequate. But a belief that I have long held has also re-proven itself. While my students may not recall the lesson I did on metaphor and simile, they may well forget the plural possessive pronoun warm-up we did, and it is doubtful they'll recall the word map strategy we used for vocabulary, there is a memory that endures. Even if we do not remember the content we learned, we will remember how we felt. So regardless of aptitude, I try to work on the attitude. To advance their literacy we need to include some levity. And I hope they do remember how I made them feel, because those are the memories that last.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


We left the house at 8:15 AM this morning. That is REALLY late to go out for a run in June. Hey, it's Florida! Even though it was a mere 80 degrees, the sun and humidity were intense. At first our pace suffered a little. We're a long way from the gains we were making on our minutes per mile before the surgery and brain events of last year. Somehow, though, once we were totally soaked in our own yuck, it didn't seem to matter anymore. Coming off the trail and back into the neighborhood we ran some intervals, but our per mile time shaved a minute off what we did yesterday, when it was earlier and milder. There's something to earning your sweat, imagining the ill feelings and the toxins departing through the cotton t-shirt and running shorts. What was even better was finishing with a splash. Hosing down by a couple of laps across the backyard pool is a great incentive to pick up the pace on the way home.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We'll go down together...


The girl and I went to a Weight Watchers meeting, and though I found it hokey, filled with cliched sayings, redundancy, and "breaking news" information that I knew 20 years ago, it may be just what this household needs. The public scale may force honesty in new ways. We already max out our good "Activity Points" but clearly the input is too close to the output. It's a good lesson for both teen and mom, to be healthy and clean.

And thanks to some fabulous apps for our Droid smartphones, Dad is totally into it too. The apps calculate and maintains the food/points/activity diary electronically. Mr. Naysayer, refusing to attend a meeting, is the biggest cheerleader for the plan.

The trick will be to manage this in our fabulously over-scheduled lives. Meals are too often "on wheels" as we fly across town between activities. It will be harder to be clean with a bowl of warm bread and real butter in front of us as we await a carefully calculated salad in a restaurant. But three strong, we have a much better chance than trying to go it alone.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Thy Love and Thy Enemy

What a delicate dance it is, being the mother of a teenage daughter. We need our BFF moments. After all, I adore my girl, and I want our closeness to make her feel comfortable coming to me with anything she needs. I want her to feel like any questions, concerns, school issues, boy issues, and social issues are okay to discuss with me, that I won't yell, judge, or take any dramatic action. Being "cool" mom allows me to approach the inner sanctum, to be let in on the secrets that only her girlfriends might otherwise know. So this means sometimes checking my reaction at the door, maintaining a poker face, and being overly-meticulous and calculated in my responses.

Then there is the mother/daughter adversarial relationship. Mom draws the line. Daughter tries to cross it. Again and again. After all, the BFF wouldn't insist that the assignment be done before the texting, or that the laundry be picked up off the floor this minute or else. Sometimes being the mom means doing the opposite of the BFF, being a whistle-blowing drill Sergeant demanding she Be All She Can Be.

Either way, Mom of a teen is a 24/7/365 job. My waking hours and my short, troubled dreams are full of hopes and worries. I'd like to think that this will all change when she's grown, that adult-to-adult we can do just the BFF thing, that I will be able to quit the tough as nails, and I'll sleep without worry. Time and experience tell me that this is unlikely. We may have more laughs and fewer battles as the lines are redrawn over the next 10-15 years. Standing back and watching her suffer the consequences of her own decisions may require that I be tougher than any drill Sergeant.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another Workers Comp Claim

This time it's my turn. In my triumphant return to the classroom I've taken on the full range of student-teacher germ transfer. Winter offered upper-respiratory and stomach bugs. My newest delight is the battle against the conjunctivitis that has invaded both of my eyes. Trying to slip in a quick trip to the doc-in-the-box during my planning period, I stopped in the front office to just let the powers that be know I'd be off campus for a bit. They told me to save my co-payment, that pinkeye was a covered workers compensation claim for teachers. Several forms in triplicate later, and I was on my way to Solantic, no cost to me. Sure enough, the yuck is what I thought it was. It was confirmed by a culture. I didn't know they cultured eyeballs these days! Last time I had pinkeye I think I called it in to the doc. The Solantic tech came at me with this little plastic scraper and I experienced an ocular pap smear. Note to self: washing hands, refraining from touching eyes...better than peeper peel. Ugh!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

There is no Question Mark about It

So I'm back in the trenches, teaching 6th grade Language Arts. This week we are giving our classroom final, and it is different than all the "High Stakes" testing they have dragged these kids through this year (PMA, FCAT, EOC and other combinations of alphabet soup). On our final we ask them to read, think, and write a response in a complete sentence. "How do we bubble that, Mrs. G?" a student asked me. You don't.

This generation is growing up in a "bubble"mindset. Twelve years old and they turn in sentences without capital letters or punctuation. In my book that's not a complete sentence. Period.

Monday, May 31, 2010


Childbirth hurt a lot, but I really don't remember that pain. The events that occurred one year ago today hurt a lot more. Watching the clock this evening, remembering where I was and what I was thinking, exactly one year ago tonight, I can feel it again. The dread, the regret, the anger, the disbelief. This wasn't supposed to happen yet. And somehow it didn't.

And a year passed. Somehow, we got back into the normalcy of living. Worrying about the everyday, bringing the trash to the curb on Thursday night, it's your turn to change the cat litter, time to sit down and pay the bills. A whole year we have had that we shouldn't have had, and sometimes we have to remind ourselves about that thing that happened last year. We look back like rubber-neckers at the scene of a crash. But it was our crash, and it very nearly destroyed our entire world.

I don't need to feel that pain, but I can't ever forget it entirely. Remembering what could've been forces me to celebrate what is.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Musings from Under the Umbrellas

Even with two umbrellas over me, I managed a sunburn today. I barely moved from the chair. Feet in the sand, earbuds in, and recline position locked down, I had the loveliest of naps today. In an intermittent web browse (thank you Droid phone) I learned that the hateful anti-teacher legislation most definitely originated from Jeb Bush, and that there has been a decent amount of funding from Publix and Office Depot. I will have to investigate further, because I really may need to find a new place to shop.

A relaxing day was in order. I have no idea what the future may possibly hold, hateful anti-teacher legislation or not, my job or not, more consulting or not, but I'm much better at turning off the worry switch. For now I'll be savoring every moment of this vacation with my family.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

April 3- Swim Date

Now it feels like break: a trip to the nursery, 3 hours of power-washing and the official opening of the pool season in our backyard. The water temperature is 74, the air temperature is 84 and I am sporting my first homeowner's sunburn of the year. Ev planted about 76 zinnias and a couple of roses too. We had grilled steak and chicken, and a salad so big it took two people to spin it. Tomorrow, beach date.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Lesson De-Planned

Teaching vocabulary has been fun. In our class we are working on fabulous adjectives, replacements for the "baby words" of elementary school. Not happy or sad anymore, my sixth grade charges are elated or melancholy, thank you. The kids seem to take joy in tossing in these words into conversation and into their writing, often sharing the same sentences with street, slang, or southernisms. We play vocabulary games, use graphic organizers, make vocabulary cartoons, and our pre-holiday celebration was a rousing game of vocabulary Jeopardy!

I feel confident that these kids will know these words forever, and maybe some of them will even be bitten by the wordie bug and become interested in other intriguing words.

But with the proposed new plan for educational evaluation, I might find little use in these activities, for these words would be of no value unless they happen to be among the specifically tested material on the high-stakes assessment. Too bad. They actually seem to be enjoying both the process and the product of their learning.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

We're gonna' make it after all...oh, no we're not...

Education reform, bold in its intentions, purportedly designed to close achievement gaps and to guarantee that every child at every grade level has achieved a standard gain in skills as determined by uniform assessments. The same assessments are given to every child at the same time in a particular grade. One-size-fits-all accountability, but the legislation also mandates the best practice of differentiation, perhaps creating 25 or more simultaneous individualized lessons while managing the physical, emotional and medical needs of the delightful, squirrely, and unpredictable children in our care.

I'm all in favor of making education the best it can be. As a teacher I constantly strive to innovate and to seek out the latest and best-proven strategies for helping each student to succeed. I work hard to craft lessons that engage, activate prior knowledge, encourage students to make connections, work with some level of autonomy, and have room for expressing their responses with a nod to their different learning styles and multiple intelligences. I do my best to stretch the rigid standards to allow for different levels of "readiness" to achieve success in our everyday activities. I make my decisions based on my knowledge of the students in my classes as acquired by data, observation, and my study of the content. It is my sincere goal that every student grows, no thrives while in my charge.The evaluation of my performance should be based on the work that I do, my lessons, my contact and cooperation with parents, my interactions with students, my professional knowledge in action on a day-to-day basis.

I would never write off a child, but those of us who have been around education know that there are some that may just not be ready to blossom during the fraction of time they are in our classes. Standardized education and its timetables, curriculum maps and learning calendars are misguided attempts to move kids down the assembly line. The truth is there can be a Teaching Calendar, but learning happens at different paces. Our students begin with many different starting lines, some way ahead, some further back, and the overwhelming majority of teachers I have met in both my teaching and educational consulting careers want every child to finish the marathon successfully.

And there are unspoken truths. Truth: The most powerful factors that affect a child's education are often outside the classroom. Truth: I differentiate instruction and design effective lessons, yet there are always students who don't bother to complete them.

Another unspoken truth: kids are different. I am the parent of a child who should be genetically designed for academic achievement. There are more teachers in her family than any other profession, both parents included. Our house is text-rich, we provide her cultural experiences, and this only child was raised in an environment of inclusive conversation, not by the Nickelodeon Network. Yet she's an educational minimalist, unmotivated by grades, taking a dispassionate view of most academic subjects. Because of her under performance on these standardized assessments our neighborhood high school would exclude her from the areas where she soars, the "extras." Thank goodness she's in an Arts School, a place where she can thrive in her passions while still being prodded along to maintain her studies.

So these bold reforms are for the children, right? Don't pay the teachers unless their students succeed on the tests. Restrict the curriculum so kids have a double or triple schedule of the subjects in which they fall behind. Eliminate the extras, and focus on the basics. That would be the plan for disaster for my child.

What really motivates this plan? In this Time Magazine opinion, Bloomberg and Klein tout reforms in NY City, proclaiming that "Sure, experience matters," but that the system that offers protection to veteran professionals is flawed and that the hope for the future is the "Energetic, new teacher." Experience matters? It's essential. So is the plan designed to help students, or to cycle in the energetic (less expensive) teacher and cycle out those protected by seniority(more expensive)? Teachers are to blame when the safety nets of society fail to catch the children. Clearly, the problem in education is the high teaching salary.

The salary was never high, it was barely a living wage. And now my two teaching income family is in real jeopardy. I cannot build a stable future for my family based on the work ethic and environmental factors that affect the performance of the children in my classroom. I cannot budget pay my bills and fund my child's college, my retirement, and my obligations to pay taxes and contribute to society. If you want to evaluate me, I say fine. Scrutinize my data and lesson books, observe me, put a camera in my classroom if you need to. But evaluate my performance. And for this household, with its two former teachers-of-the-year, willing to forgo the earning power of other professions to pursue the passion of the less lucrative teaching career, we find ourselves wondering what is our plan B?

Monday, March 15, 2010

A little post

I wish I had the energy to blog daily, but I've truly just returned home after leaving the house at 6:30 AM. And this isn't a complaint. I am blessed to be so busy. Busy with a good job and plenty of extra-curriculars. This weekend we celebrated health and the good life with our 4th Gate River Run, slower than the last, quicker than the first, but most importantly together for always. My post today, brief, tired, and grateful. And now, before bed, I must book the travel to bring my daughter to a Senior High School Prom, the likely topic of many a future post.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Listing 3:41 AM

Maybe it's the fact that I miss the therapy of the blog, or maybe it's the music running through my head, from Schubert to Sondheim, my brain perpetually practicing. Maybe it's the silence caused by my ear infection, or the 1/2 glass of Merlot at dinner, in combination with the decongestant and antibiotic. It could be the frustration over my viral school computer loaded with the next several weeks' lesson plans. Whatever it is, I am sitting at our home computer in the wee hours, two sleepy-eyed and confused cats at my feet. Without the daily routine, my head bursts with blog possibilities: the latest teen daughter developments, a new set of personal physical failings, the upcoming Gate River Run (our fourth), the one-year anniversary of the husband's lifting incident, and not least of all the anxiety and excitement found in my reunion with music and performing. Too many topics whirl around for me to dig into just one. I'll settle for this list, my self-indulgent little piece of writing about sitting and writing, and then return to the bed with the sleeping husband, confused cats, and warm compress to my infected ear.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Street Cred

With this week of consulting I've been considering how my schtick may have changed now that I'm a "real" teacher again. I really don't think that it has. I never thought that participants in my seminars would take all I say as The Word and The Truth. As an attendee in such trainings myself, I always thought that getting one good idea would make my time worthwhile. With this knowledge I have always worked hard to try to find an idea that may work for each teacher in attendance. In my nearly 8 years of consulting I never lived under the delusion that teachers were working under the best of conditions. The truth is, most of them work under conditions that are far worse than mine! I am in a school with wonderful kids, a supportive administrator, and really thoughtful and intelligent colleagues. Next year, maybe I'll be a full time consultant, a full time teacher, or a hybrid like this year. Either way, I think I've seen enough of the front line of education to be credible, street or not.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I am excited/horrified at the number of commitments I have made for my extra-curricular activities. Thrilled to be singing, learning repertoire, and getting ready to perform as I may be, I mourn the long-ago days of college when waking up to practice was about all I had to do. Back then there were no worries of ESOL, grading papers, or mortgage payments. Oh well, at least with the end of The Oliver Adventure I have a little more time to wiggle. I really wish I could be a 50% person, but I find that I throw myself into everything and expect the most , not satisfied when my performance doesn't reach the 100% of my expectations. I feel that way about my teaching too, though age and exhaustion (and maybe a little wisdom) have granted me the permission to exhale and assess the situation before I berate myself too badly. I can only do the most I can do with the conditions dealt to me. Anything more than that would require superpowers, and my cape never came in the mail. Funny... another teacher I know (like maybe, the BEST teacher I ever knew) must not have realized that they give us books, not capes. Yet somehow she can fly, and take the kids along with her, and still not miss a beat as a supermom back at home. Like me, I guess, feeling that 100% sometimes isn't enough.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Little Boxes

Technically, I am in a state of mourning, but today I found a lot to smile about. I guess I'm getting better at compartmentalizing my feelings. Usually I feel them all at once, which gives the bad endless opportunities to trump the good. I've been working on postponing my worrying to a designated worry time, and allowing happy to flow freely. There are certainly worries and bad things to fear: death, financial ruin, employment uncertainty, and the perils of raising a teenage daughter, to name a few. Today, though, the weather is warmer, I enjoyed a week of teaching some awesome kids, I have new music to learn, and I have a whole weekend full of family, music, theater, walking/running and friendship ahead of me. The apocalypse can wait.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And then there were none

A long day without a moment to think. Out of the house at 6:45 AM and home at 11 PM, I am thankful that the sun rises earlier now, and I am home for a tiny bit of daylight. Not much light shining for the family today though, with the passing today of my final grandparent. Though the grandma I knew had been gone for many years, her mind some other place and her body still here with us, her passing marks the passing of a generation. I keep thinking about the photos she shared with such pride. She and her sisters, real "lookers" in their not-at-all revealing swimsuits on the Long Island beaches between the wars. Meeting my Grandpa, a honeymoon and shipping out, and my dad, a wartime baby whose picture was carried in the pocket of my Grandpa serving in the Pacific. He was nearly 3 when they finally met face-to-face. My grandpa, a war veteran, but a man who said little of war or anything else. That's okay, because Grandma said it all for both of them. She was a woman on a mission for as long as I remember. Whether it was getting the city to cut down trees, fighting for grocery bargains, or some function at "The Center" her elder years were active. Our long trips from New York to Virginia were met with pot roasts and recycled family jokes. The house full of pictures and random family treasures, the matriarch on my father's side, and another piece of my childhood now lives only in my heart and in my memory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Doing my Duty (Thanks for the picture, MJ)

I missed a day of blogging yesterday, but that's okay. I've been busy doing my duty. Whether it's turning a 3 day weekend into a 1 day weekend to travel and pick up some consulting work, or finishing out an ill-fated theatre project, staying at school until 5:30 to grade projects, or counting the 'tweens as they head off to their bus ride home (pictured) , I've been doing my duty. A bit too much duty lately, though, and neglecting of myself. Blogging, practicing, running, that's for me, and I have a duty to myself to indulge.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Travel Buddy

For some, this is a 3 day weekend with an extra day of relaxation. For me, it's a pair of flights to Lawton, Oklahoma, a 6 hour writing workshop, and a return Monday night sometime around midnight, with a couple of hours before back-to-work. And, for kicks, my travel buddy: the FTCE Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum Exam Study Guide. Memorization of atomic mass and the dates of various Civil War battles equals Good times. Job security trumps recreation these days, and that great novel or light romantic comedy film that might've helped me outlast the miles will have to wait.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

8 down 4 to go

Tired backstage, and really ready for this run to end. 4 weekends of this production - it's starting to feel like a job. What I dread is my time onstage. Working hard to muster enthusiasm for a script that was chopped up, a production that was ill conceived. Backstage, I love chatting with some lovely people with whom I'd love to work again. Somewhere else. Doing something else.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Okay, It's not that cold in Florida

A mid-February visit to 15 degree Chicago has cured me of my why-is-it-so-darned-cold-I-thought-this-was-Florida blues. Granted, moving to Florida I had visions of winter beach swimming and year-round flip-flops. We've had more than our share of cold this winter, maybe not record-breaking lows, but endless weeks of chill. Worse yet, I don't recall a year with so many overcast days. It's been looking like the gloomy Northeast. Bring back the heat and humidity.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Long Day

Teach, Fly, Drive. Long day but a short post. I'm here in one piece, but I'm pooped! Time to put on something light and silly on the hotel room TV, to ignore the unfamiliar noises and empty spaces in the bed beside me, and to get some sleep!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Not our Wednesday Routine

Our Wednesday night tap class was cancelled so we found ourselves with an almost-free evening. After school I grabbed the girl and we met up with Daddy for a trip to Costco and a stop at Mochi. We've really come to love that place for a sweet and tart yogurty treat. We all dig the Taro flavor, which I guess is some kind of a root flavoring. Sadly, tonight they had run out of our favorite topping, the green tea mochi. Before this place opened we'd never had it, but it's become number one for us. It's some kind of a soft, sweetened rice cube, and it makes for a delicious counterpoint to the smooth and cool yogurt. We made due with some mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, and of course plenty of laughter. Being together makes everything sweet.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ready to Breathe

2009 wasn't a generous host to our lives last year. Near-fatal injuries, job losses, piles of uncertainty... just a few of the highlights of a pivotal year. Moving into '10 we're still sheltering from the fallout of a few '09 fiascoes. On the medical scene, the good doctor who handles the other half of my brain (the one that lives in my husband's skull) has determined no need for a re inspection until we flip the calendar to snake eyes. My joblessness is still job-maybeness though, and the precarious game of wait and see is exhausting. At least a little exhale happened today. With the S-Corporation of Me, Myself, and I taking such a nosedive last year, we had to stop our monthly federal estimated taxes. Instead we squirreled away this and that in anticipation of a sucker punch at year end. Somehow, miraculously, the number at the bottom of the page was in our favor. This news was greeted with the spouse's hoots and hollers. I guess I could be overjoyed if the reality wasn't the fact that we don't owe because 2009 was 75% less profitable for our household than was 2008. And 2010 could be even less, depending on the whims of school boards, legislatures, and who knows what else. Still holding our breath here.

Monday, February 8, 2010

One litte maid from school am I...

Getting so swept up in the day-to-day of teaching and school life, it dawned on me sometime today that I'm really going to be relying on this gig. During my morning run on October 15 when I received a chance call from a middle school principal, I had thought I had a skeletal consulting calendar to carry us through the school year. Enough work was going to be a nice departure from my previous state of too much work, and the additional time home would be welcomed. Since taking the teaching position several of the "enough" dates have disappeared and none have come to fill the gaps. This is all good and well for this school year, but beyond mid-June it could get interesting. Returning to the school? I can't count those chickens. It depends on a series of varied factors including the passage of the Federal budget and the fertility of the young teachers in the building. Right now, I'm doing all I can to do my "day job" well, and focusing a good deal of energy on my avocation. I'd rather spend my energy singing and tap dancing than worrying about things that are way beyond my control. And with that, it is off to an evening of Gilbert and Sullivan I go.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

While I was sleeping

Two kitties decided they'd take residence, snuggling in the blankets tangled about my feet. This is a rare treat, Hansel is a frequent snoozer, but Gretel is usually busy "working" in the morning. She stands vigil before the sliding doors, taking count of the birds and neighborhood cats who dare to enter our yard. Maybe it's because I slept in a bit, or maybe it's the chill in the air, but she joined the snooze party. Luckily I had my camera within arm's reach so I could capture the moment without disturbing it. Too bad the reverie had to end. The day has chores, lesson planning, and a bit of comfort food cooking in store.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Open Windows and Antibiotics

Letting the germs fly out the window, and chasing them with a good dose of amoxycillin. Thanks to my main man for scrubbing and scouring the house. I'm ready to reboot.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Actually, I'm not feeling much better.

Symptoms.... check, check, check, check.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


The delightful sensation that has made me feel like my chest is on fire, and has caused alternating internal infernos and icebergs now has a name. I have been diagnosed and medicated, but I still feel like a bus hit me, then backed over me a few times. Worse still, my girl is suffering the same malaise. Nevertheless, life must march on. I'll drag my sorry heiney into school tomorrow, even if I did get winded walking to the bathroom today. I'm sure the sixth graders will have pity on me. Tomorrow night's Oliver may or may not happen. Without me, the show still goes on (and on, and on). Saturday's vocal competition is unlikely. My reduced breathing capacity makes those delightful lines in the Donaudy aria seem insurmountable. I've had it with the kvetching and self pity. I want to work, sing, and run, but this infected bag of bones has other priorities.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Like Daughter Like Mother

2 hours in the doctor's office today. Flu was negative but they sent her for a mono test. We waited over an hour at the lab - results will be in Friday. In the meantime, my temperature reading was 101. Family discounts? Terrible timing. I'm new at my job, and taking time off before it's earned is pushing it. I already miss days for my remaining consulting days. I want desperately to sing at the NATS vocal competition on Saturday. We have 2 shows this weekend. Ah, the frail and flawed instrument that is the human body.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On the mend

My girl is still feverish, but we're chasing the number down with a steady tylen0l/advil regimen. Cough medicine, antibiotic, fluids, rest, the regular regimen is underway. Still, though, the fever lingers, and she's not a sickly kid. We're back to the doctor tomorrow, and that means I'll be taking a sick day tomorrow, my first in the new job. Daddy was home with her today, so I'm up at bat. It's weird, but I'm actually a little sad I'll miss a great lesson we've planned for tomorrow. Thank goodness for the block scheduling. I should be back for the second round of it with Thursday's kids. The real trick will be for me to spend the day with Little Miss Hack-and-Wheeze and not end up in the sick bay myself!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Happy/Sad Day

Sad Happy
My girl spiked a fever at school and her grandma had to go pick her up. She stayed there with Grandma and Grandpa until I finished my voice lesson, and we both finished a Chorale rehearsal. Happy to have Grandma and Grandpa here, and I know that they are happy to see out girl, but sad that she's feverish and blue.

Happy Sad
Teaching is hitting a rhythm and I'm managing the workload. I've even found time to practice, and I prepared three pieces for vocal juries on Saturday. My first lesson on the repertoire went pretty well. I was proud of my work, but again sad for the path not taken.

Sometimes I think I can handle only one emotion at a time, and today I had simultaneous opposite feelings. Time to lose myself in someone else's story for a few pages, and put myself to bed.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snuggly Snuggie Shelf

Up at 5:30 AM they kept me company in the kitchen while I cooked this week's dinners. Matzo ball soup, broccoli and cheddar quiche, and baked ziti are done and in the fridge. This is the only way to avoid driving through, running in, or grab n' go dinner with our schedule. I woke early to cook because we really need to log some miles today. Our next half marathon is in 3 weeks! The dishwasher was loaded, the food was wrapped, and I had the Nikes laced up. One step outside and that was it. It's too darned cold for this tired body to get going. Standing still, without the sun I was shaking. Moving down the block in our walk/jog/shuffle created uncomfortable breezes. I should've taken a cue from the cats, snuggled close on a Snuggie on a shelf. It's fleece and slippers for me, until cast call this afternoon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

More please?

No, not gruel. Oliver. More time. How is the weekend already half over?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Raise the Curtain

Strange, but I love being in a show. Tonight I'll arrive in a cold, dim rehearsal hall and transform myself from Middle School teacher to Dickens-Era villager. I'll lose the Nikes and shove my feet into tall, uncomfortable boots. Instead of jammies, I'll don form-fitting undergarments to lift and shape. I'll paste on some eyelashes, paint on a face, and pin down a wig that will make my head sweat and itch. Then I'll thunder around a dimly lit hallway and wait for my turn to stare into blinding lights. I'm crazy...for theater!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Division of Labor

At 11:13 this post is just under the wire, but the topic is too big for me to tackle in a tired post. Suffice it to say that I cannot walk past the post-cycle dishwasher, full of clean plates and cups, yearning for their places in the cabinet and that I clearly lack whatever chromosome it takes to notice that the trash can is overflowing, or that the dryer has just buzzed for the third and final time. Better to tackle this post another time, when surely I can treat it with the wit and gentle touch required for both expression of angst and preservation of marriage.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early(ish) to Bed

Well it's 8:23, and I'm in bed. We're home from tapping. Tomorrow's clothes are ready to jump into, and yesterday's are bouncing around in the dryer.Our crock pot stew has been eaten, the leftovers are packaged in lunch-size portions, ready to go in their respective lunch bags in the morning. Cats are fed, dishwasher is loaded, and I'd like to retire for the evening. Just a bit of schoolwork, a blog post, and then happy Zzzzs. The next few days offer up daunting schedules, from school to lessons, to performances, without a stop at home. I'll kiss the kitties goodbye at 6:45 tomorrow morning and not be back until they demand some treats at 11:40 P.M. Friday will be much the same. So for tonight, I'm planning to enjoy an early evening.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The more things change...

Out the door before 7 AM, home for a bit from 4:30 to 6:00 and then back home after eleven. That's been the routine lately. Between rehearsals, school, piano, tap dance, voice, and preparing for the next half marathon, we're visitors in our own house. The permanent residents are not impressed by our busy lives. They expect the delivery of treats on schedule... that is, any time they want them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ready, Willing, and Delicious

Chicken and rice today, chili tomorrow, beef stew for later in the week. I prep them at 6 AM and they are smoking hot when I get home, providing dinner for 3 and leftovers enough for lunch the following day. Thank you, crock pot.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ess, Bublelah. Ess!

Faint are my memories of my actual Bubbes. I did know three of them, technically. My great-grandmothers all passed when I was young. I do have faint memories of sitting at the table in the upstairs kitchen at a Bubbe's house in Brooklyn, potato latke in hand. Grandpa (actually he was my great-grandfather, but everyone called him grandpa) sat at the head of the table, hot tea in one glass, teeth in the other, and a pocket full of Hopjes coffee candies for the kids. Bubbe showered (pelted) us with rich, delicious foods and wouldn't take no for an answer.

I like to make the occasional spin through the kitchen myself, but the schedule we've had lately has kept me away from cooking anything more interesting than a pack of ramen noodles or a fried egg. But tonight we were treated to a feast that would make a Bubbe proud. Matzo ball soup, brisket with gravy, fried kugel, a week's worth of calories. Each dish so rich and wonderful. My mother-in-law is a great cook, and she was obviously a great mother (I did marry her son, after all). What's even better is that she's become a great friend as we've gotten older. Delish.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buzz, buzz, buzz

I do like being busy, and today was a good example. We started with a 6.25 mile run/walk. Our pace isn't what it used to be, but it's not exactly walking either. We like to call it the shuffle. Then we were off to a piano lesson, costume store, Target for our dressing room make-up supplies, and then about an hour of practicing our tap steps. Enough time for a shower and spruce-up before heading out to meet a good friend for dinner and a show at Theatre Jacksonville. Back home at the end of the busy day, and my book waits on the nightstand. Doubt I'll get through more than 3 pages before my eyes give out, but I wouldn't change a thing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Teacher Workday

The grades are entered, the next couple of weeks plans are made. The classroom was tidied up and I am raring to go. Half a school year left. Today we had the time to collaborate as a grade level within the Language Arts department, and it was wonderful. We each contributed with our strengths and helped to build truly solid plans for all of our students. Having the time to collaborate with other teachers is essential and it is simply criminal that we are only allotted 1/40th of our working days to do that. The system is designed to be punitive rather than preventative, allowing teachers to sink or swim alone in that isolated box called their classroom. Usually the life raft exists in the form of their peers. What we can do together!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Han - sel Musical

Post-practicing, and at the end of a long day of school, the teen is channel/sofa surfing. Hansel can't stand us watching anything but him. I have to agree. He is much more amusing than anything on the 100+ cable channels.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's a life-long game

I love our busy days, though sometimes juggling is exhausting. It's 8:30, and I'm ready to retire for the evening, ignoring the laundry in the dryer, the ungraded late work students turned in today, the notes I should be learning in the Gilbert and Sullivan selections for chorale, and the repertoire I should be reviewing for an upcoming NATS vocal competition. Sometimes the body speaks louder than the mind, and I just can't will it to do any more. I am looking forward to another productive day tomorrow, but I think the clock beat me today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not Sleeping Yet

Awake to run and out the door by 4:40. 5 miles, school, rehearsal. Home at 10:40. Why am I wide awake????

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ready, set, tap!

We were fitted for tap shoes tonight, the husband and I. Before we went to Chorale rehearsal we stopped in the dance store. Tomorrow night is a play practice, Wednesday night all three of us will tap, Thursday two voice lessons, and Friday another play rehearsal. In between we're jumping into a bunch of Gilbert and Sullivan. I love this crazy family!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In appreciation of appliances

With all of us here at the house, residents and visiting family, I am most definitely in appreciation of modern appliances. The dishwasher is getting a 2 - 3 times daily running. The washer, dryer, coffee pot, stove, toaster, microwave, and fridge are all serving us well. It's beyond my imagination, the life of the homemaker before these conveniences. If I had to scrub your clothing on a washboard you wouldn't be wearing something for 5 minutes and tossing it into the basket, teenage daughter. The dishes would be done on a rotating schedule, sharing the burden, though I imagine I'd be the one with my hands in the dishwater every day. I have a hard time getting help in emptying out the machine that does the washing and drying for us!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Better Together

Maybe only one or two times a year are we all gathered in the same place at the same time. Funny, though, it's like we haven't missed a day. The old familiar inside jokes are still funny, and we're right back to the sisterly antics. In a perfect world, they'd be my neighbors to the left and right. The world's not perfect, but my sisters are.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Big Mouth

I can't help it. When I feel strongly about something, and I have an opinion to express, I have to say it. So maybe I was a bit overzealous in front of a district muckety-muck at today's Professional Learning Community meeting. I believe strongly in teaching to mastery, even if I was told, "Why bother, they won't all master it." I believe strongly in workshopping a skill, providing a minilesson and then conferring with individual students to differentiate instruction, even if I was asked, "You mean you spend an entire 90 minute block period teaching one concept?" I guess it was easy for me to open the yap because I had no idea who I was talking to, but I don't regret a single word. Nice to know my co-teacher and colleagues weren't ducking and running. I could get used to this place.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lunch box

10:oo PM and I just arrived from the airport. First unpack, then hurry up and relax. Tomorrow's lunch is in my bag. They're overpriced and full of preservatives, but they're always in the freezer. If purchasing a lunch from the school cafe is the alternative... I'll take my plastic-coated cuisine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Professional Development Center in Chester, PA has all the high tech tools. Wow, these would really be helpful for classroom use. Whiteboards, flat-panel screens and projected images of a presentation, wifi, surround sound, cushy chairs. I like when teachers are respected and given nice digs for their professional development days, but it would be nice for kids to have some amenities too. How many classrooms have this set up? I've seen too many crumbling classrooms, worn and weary, inadequately heated in winter and overheated in summer. I've seen situations where kids were expected to ignore rodents or holes in the wall, sitting in the hard plastic chairs their parents might've found colorful and new, but now are cracked and sun-bleached. I remember teaching second grade in my "portable" classroom, wary of the one spot on the floor where the only thing between indoors and out was the threadbare carpet. A classroom without a phone for emergencies, without a shelf or a closet. Interesting, the priorities...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The voices in my head...

I remember the days before the "Navigatrix." Clutching my highlighted MapQuest printout, squinting to see it by the light of the dashboard, driving into the night in unfamiliar turf. Ending up on a detour, closed road, or the wrong side of the tracks. My days of traipsing about pre-GPS were not pretty. How I love my in-phone GPS. No extra gadget to carry, no wires or accessories needed. The Navigatrix not only helps me to arrive at airport, hotel, and school safely, she allows me to search for the nearest Starbucks, Hospital, or movie listings. She has been my guide from Maine to Honolulu, and I can't imagine ever traveling without her.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Snuggie Bunny

Enough of this weather, I say. I'm not able to shake the chill, wearing several layers of sweaters and sweatpants under several layers of blankets when going to bed at night. The master bedroom in our house is the coldest in the winter and the warmest in the summer, being at the end of the ventilation, so lately I've been chattering and complaining. Usually the first to bed, I complain until the crew joins me. My girl doesn't usually start her night in our bed, but when it's this cold, she understands the mathematics involved in 2 times body heat under the blankets. Even with her and my husband-the-radiator I couldn't shake the chill last night, so I finally caved. We stopped and bought Snuggies this morning. It is a great invention to wrap up my cold teen during a chilly car ride to school, but when I put mine on in the afternoon I found I was tripping and dragging. It's only meant for sitting still, and that's something I rarely do when home. It's practice, laundry, fuss in the kitchen, run here and there. I'm glad we have no steps in the house. If I tried a staircase in that thing I'd likely be found at the bottom in a crumpled but warm pile. So it occurred to me. The freaking thing is less practical than a bathrobe. A simple, fleece bathrobe would "snug" and it would allow me to move too. I'm such a sucker for advertising.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Home (for a little while), Sweet Home

Every time I return to Jax I am impressed by the view. From a couple of thousand feet up the winding waterways look like crazy Hot Wheels tracks, tripping over one another in a race to the ocean. The vast green welcome mat of the longleaf pine, blending to a sandy white to an endless indigo. The sky is bluer here, and more vast. Okay, it's no utopia. I am a realist. But I've visited most every corner of the continental 48, and few places compare. Of course, the people outshine the landscape, from those waiting for me at home, to the friends we've met through teaching, chorale, and our growing theater family.
Sometimes, when we travel, people will ask where I'm from, unable to place the accent. If' I'm traveling with the family, the husband will say Jacksonville, but quickly follows it with the native New Yorker title he is so proud to wear. I'm proud of that too, but I usually just say Jacksonville. It's my home.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bayou v. Brooklyn

They laugh loudly and they grieve losses with brass instruments. Now that the Christmas eating is over, they're headway into the seasonal king cake. Year-round there's the etouffe, crawfish, gumbo, and boudin, and the chicory Community coffee. New York Jews and Cajun folk may come from very different places, but we live our lives similarly, savoring every last drop. One workshop participant today spelled it out for me. See, if we don't feel like walking somewhere in New York we can jump on the subway for a quick trip. Back home, she said, if they didn't feel like walking they jumped into their boat and zipped up the bayou. A culture that believes flavorful, full-volume living, that believes that their way of life is the best there is. I can relate to that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Neither here nor there

Straight from the classroom to the airport, there was some prime people watching time for me with my 3 hour layover in Atlanta. I've been out of airports for about 5 weeks, probably the longest stretch this close to sea level in the last eight years. I'd forgotten to appreciate the wonder/hassle of flying. Every walk of humanity passed me in the Hartsfield airport from the well-to do families with thousand dollar strollers and kids wrapped in J. Crew head to toe, and a bleached-out sixty-something woman, clad in mismatched sweats, using a Walmart bag as her carry-on luggage. The wonder of covering a couple of hundred miles in the time it takes my sixth graders to write an essay - that isn't lost on me, even as I approach the million miler status. I'd forgotten to appreciate the hassle of unpacking a couple of thousand dollars of electronics while undressing and submitting myself to scrutiny, and I'd forgotten to appreciate the hassle of spending two hours in a seat that might barely contain one of those essay-writing sixth graders. Out of the classroom and into the air, chasing the mighty greenback and doing all I can to secure our future. Next year may or may not offer me a classroom to do my bidding, so I guess I'll restock my sealed ziptop bag of 3 or fewer ounce sized liquid and gel grooming products.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gettin' my groove back...

Eight years out of the classroom can be a long time, but didn't really step out of the loop pedagogically. In fact, some of my presentations the last few years have been on the most trendy educational topics such as Differentiated Instruction and Response to Intervention. My chops were in reasonably good shape when I unexpectedly landed back in a classroom in October, but I still felt a bit rusty. My lessons felt shallow and ineffective, rushed and meaningless to the kids. I fretted over this considerably. Was I fraudulently doling out advice to teachers, just spinning tales like a stereotypical consultant? When I reentered the classroom I promised myself not to be the martyr, the super-teacher, the rebel, or the overachiever. I swore that below the radar was exactly where I wanted to be. And I still do. But in my desire to lay low I thought I'd march to the tempo and tune of the "learning calendar." This cyclical, shallow, fragmented, one-size-fits all prescription for best practices is anything but. I'm not interested in rebel, martyr, or overachiever, but I need to do what I know is right. With the collaboration of my co-teacher and the blessings of my administrator I've been striking out with lessons I planned myself. I have been teaching them thoroughly and I taking all the time that the kids need to do it, and I've been seeing results. The kids are smiling and feeling more successes, and for feels good to think that maybe I've still got it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Like Herding Cats

It's the subject without a specific product, the content area that is critical to all others, the skill without which we could not learn from recorded history, take in bible verse, or reproduce recipes from generations ago. It's fundamental to everything we do, yet it is perhaps the most difficult to teach.

Reading happens mostly inside your head. I could ask you to write about your reading, or I could ask you to tell me about your reading, but any determination of your skill as a reader is tainted by your ability to represent that information in written or spoken form. Do I really know if you are drawing pictures in your mind? Or if you were wondering what the author was speaking? Connecting the words to your prior experiences, other texts or the world at large? Are you actively questioning while you read, and making predictions for the coming paragraphs? I can ask you to do any of these things as an exercise, an opportunity to explore some possible strategies to comprehension, but how often do we accomplished readers really do these things while we read?

I love to read, and my relationship with whatever book I'm enjoying is intimate and personal. I wouldn't have wanted to stop reading to represent my visualization or to apply sticky notes when I read Roots in three days flat (when I was 11). I didn't need to do any of those classroom strategies to comprehend the story. I was swept away by the hope and horror in that family's narrative.

So, how best to teach this subject? A question that reaches across the ages. No matter what bill of goods is sold by any textbook publisher, curriculum developer, or know-it-all-but-I've-never-even-taught consultant, this isn't something you really can easily teach once we've gotten past the B goes /b/ level. It can and should be cultivated, nurtured, encouraged, modeled, and observed, but sometimes I worry that all we try to do to teach it may have the exact opposite affect.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Y am I up this early???

Getting out of bed is the hardest part, but there are far fewer excuses available at 4:30 in the morning. At the end of the day the I'm-tired-I-have-to-cook-clean-launder-grade-plan-rehearse excuse is too easy to come by. The only other thing I would be doing is sleeping, and how much of a difference would one hour of sleep really make?

The cold weather plan is the YMCA, a ten minute drive from the house. Ten there, ten back, thirty on some torturous cardiovascular machine, and another ab-blasting ten balancing one ball under my back and another, heavier one above my head. On warmer mornings I much prefer the five mile morning trail to coffee and back.

Having endured a routine like this for three-plus years, I guess I should see some remarkable results. My dress size is still well into the two digits, and other numbers and measurements shall not be uttered, much less published electronically. This isn't part of a resolution or a gimmick. I just genuinely feel better if I get the old sack of bones moving every day. My step is lighter, my head is clearer, and my mood is better. So Y not?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brrrring back Summer

In order to go for a walk we have to wear puffy jackets, ear muffs, gloves and scarves. Yuck! My girl is adorable in this getup, looking like an authentic ski bunny, but she didn't always take to these layers. She's not really a native Floridian, but she was merely 18 months old when we made the move south. As a toddler she threw fits when we kept replacing the socks she pulled off, and at around age 4, during a winter New York visit, I remember her laughing hysterically at the notion of an undershirt. Yes, we wore these. Under our Shirts. And sometimes we wore long underwear or kept flannel pajamas on under our jeans. Living up north and attending college even further up north, I feel like I've done my time. Four or five nights with a hard freeze in Florida? We're not equipped for this. My long underwear is long discarded, and I have only a scant few sweaters in my repertoire. The jacket seems like a good idea in the 28 degree early morning, but it's just a burden in the 50 something midday sun. Frosty air and a zero percent chance of a snow day? Hardly worth the hassle.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The best of the best

In life, we are sometimes blessed to have a friend like this. A friend who can smooth the bumps in life. A friend with whom we don't need to pretend to be anyone but who we really are, who knows what we're thinking before we say anything, and who knows just what we need to hear, even if we didn't know we needed to hear it. That's the way it is for my girl and KF, her bestie. When our world nearly came crashing to an end in May, she called KF from the hospital, and they were there, almost as soon as she closed her phone. K was there, along with her mom and her husband, and they stayed well past visiting hours...waiting with us for the miracle that gave husband and daddy back to us. K and I walked the halls and found distractions. Her mom and husband sat with me in a dim waiting room, steadfast in their determination to see E back to vitality, daring anything but the best outcome for him. Friends like this.

KF is practically a member of our family. She's the kind of friend who doesn't need to ask where things are in the kitchen cabinets, at home in our home. We always keep K favorites on hand. This girl lives with the motto that everything tastes better covered with ranch and washed down with diet coke. We've shared many tables together, from her discovery of the joys of lox, to her first Jewish deli in New York City, to a Maggiano's feast, her love of food and conversation is a great addition to every meal. She has traveled with us, from younger day Disney trips to last summer's New York excursion, sharing the tiny space of a hotel room for four. She laughs at our family's inside jokes, yet always treats the adults with well-mannered respect.

Today as my daughter felt her heart break a little with the pain of being so far from her boyfriend, she held fast to her K. Somewhere between the loud harmonizing, silly monkey faces, text messages, late-night giggling, and diet coke they comfort each other. Someday they will stand up for one another as they graduate, complete college, marry, and begin lives and families of their own. I can begin to imagine the young women they may become. And I'll bet anything they'll be there for one another, smoothing the bumps in life.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My resolutions, more or less

"A New Year's Resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other..."

1. More home-cooked, less restaurant
2. More exercising, less excuses
3. More outdoors, less indoors
4. More being, less doing
5. More engaging, less worrying
6. More play, less serious
7. More writing, less procrastinating
8. More understanding, less judging
9. More self-appreciation, less self-deprecation
10.More now, less woulda' coulda'