Final #sol14 Post

Today is March 31 (barely, by the time I post this.  Must.type.quickly!) and that means it’s the end of the Slice of Life Challenge.   I’ve been participating in the challenge since the beginning and this is at least the 3rd year in a row that I’ve blogged every day in March.

But that’s not what makes me smile.

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hNope.

What makes me smile is reading the reflections from my students, many of whom wrote 31 slices this month on their own blogs.  Half of my 80 freshmen chose to continue blogging on our private Kidblog site, but the other half blogged publicly for the first time!  (You can check out their blogs here). Later this week we will reflect on the experience but more than a handful did a bit of reflecting on their blogs tonight.  It made my teacher heart swell with pride to read that the process actually turned out to be enjoyable, worthwhile, and sometimes fun.  A few students even plan to continue blogging!

I love watching my students grow as writers and the most dramatic growth often occurs during our Slice of Life Challenge.  They begin to write better and faster, they begin to come up with interesting topics faster, and they begin to take compositional risks.  It’s awesome.

But now it’s 11:30pm and I just finished reading and commenting on about 30 blog posts.  Now, I sleep.  Unlike some of my students I will of course continue blogging.  But it will be back to our regularly scheduled posts around here.  I may not blog everyday, but Slice of Life certainly helped with my blogging block of the last few months!

Food Truck Fiesta! #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hLast night Chris and I went to a local food truck fiesta, the first of it’s kind in our area.  The event was meant to be small, with about ten trucks in attendance, and the weather consisted of rain, rain, and more rain.  We’ve been hoping to try some of the food trucks for a while but most of them work in North Jersey so we were looking forward to last night’s event.

Apparently, so was everyone else.

We severely underestimated the number of foodies in the Princeton area.  And we underestimated their devotion to food trucks.  It was pouring rain when we got to the event and I was a little nervous because I saw a comment on the Facebook event page that noted lines were 1.5+ hours long.  No way, I thought.  That’s just someone who was grouchy about the weather and exaggerated their experience.

When we pulled into the parking lot, the rain picked up.  We could barely see out the front window of the car and it looked like the festival wasn’t too crowded.  Then I started hoping that they wouldn’t shut down early, as we had driven about 25 minutes to get there.

After donning our rain gear, we made our way to the middle of the food trucks. It looked like the crowds weren’t too bad…….

Man oh man, were we ever wrong.  The lines at some of the trucks were seriously over an hour long!  And the trucks without lines were out of most of their big sellers important ingredients.  Chris was excited to try the cheese curds from the curds truck and that line was short.  The cheese curds were also amazing!  But then I tried to get cupcakes and they were closed for the day.  I tried to get donuts after that, but the line was 45 minutes long and I was soaking wet.  I finally settled for tater tots from the tots trucks only to learn they had run out of the cheese and most other toppings.  My tots were good, but they would have been much better with cheese.

I can’t imagine what this festival will be like when the weather is better.  I hope they get 5 times the number of trucks!  Otherwise, we might save time just driving around NJ to visit the individual trucks….

 

 

*A list of the trucks that participated yesterday.

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Therapy Dog Art #sol14

It’s not everyday that you come home covered in green fingerpaint, but that’s what happened to my dogs this morning.

Yeah, I was also covered in paint. But it was worse for them!

What exactly were we doing at 11:30am that resulted in green paint everywhere? My two dogs were painting pictures for an art auction!

Yes, you read that right. And it was pretty awesome!

Dublin and Bailey are both certified therapy dogs with Bright and Beautiful Dogs and they do visits about once per month.  Dublin recently participated in a Rutgers University study that looked at the effects of therapeutic animals on children with autism.  Bailey is a big fan of reading with the dogs at a local library.  Both of them love working and it’s pretty great for Chris and I, too.

Our local chapter of therapy dogs is called Furry Angels and they work with a local rescue called Adopt-a-Pet.  Adopt-a-Pet is holding a canine art auction in May and some of the therapy dogs and rescue dogs are contributing paintings.  This was our first time painting and it was nothing like I expected.

It sounds easy, right?  Have the dogs walk through the non-toxic paint and then let them walk across the paper.  Easy-peasy.

Except not at all.  Because my dogs, who will roll in the mud, walk into raging waters, and run through the wet sand on the beach decided that they were drawing the line at finger(paw?)paints.  Nope, not having it.  Not at all.

With some gentle coaxing (aka bribing with treats) we got them to dip their paws in the green paint and create an Irish-themed painting.  It was a slow and steady process but we are pretty excited about the results.  Hopefully it will raise some money for the rescue dogs!  Plus, we got to practice first and ended up with a fun painting to bring home, too.

 

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Bailey was displeased with the whole process and let us know afterwards (and again after her bath).  Dublin was a little anxious but you’d never know from the above photo.  Both dogs were covered in green paint and then proceeded to wrestle in the yard and smudge paint all over each other.  Baths were a necessity when we got home!

The Aussies will be at the auction on May 2nd, so stop by if you want to meet them!

More info on the auction/fundraiser:

“What could be cooler than a picture personally painted by a Pup? Come for a fun night! Come to meet the “Pup Artists”! Come if you’ve ever adopted a Pup! Come if you plan to adopt a Pup! Come to support Adoption of a Furry Furever Friend! Buy your very own, one-of-a-kind piece of artwork, produced solely by and with the full cooperation (well maybe with some coaxing and bribery thrown in), of our  4-legged family members! Come to watch or come to bid, or just donate if you can’t come. It’s all about one terrific cause- Adopt a Pet and Save a Life- it may be your own!”

Information here

 

Science Symposium #sol14

Today was the second (and final) day of the Monmouth Junior Science Symposium.  I love attending this event each year with the freshman and I always learn a lot.  This year, HTHS had a lot of students presenting papers and they all did a phenomenal job.  I was so proud of my seniors, who have become expert speakers and presenters over the last few years.  And the research they are doing?  Seriously, the world is in great hands. :)  Plus, one of our sophomores took second place overall, which is just incredible!

My favorite part of today was the keynote speaker.  A professor at Monmouth University, Dr. Gary Lewandowski studies relationships.  His presentation today was entitled “The Science of Love” and it was so apropos!  Just like the research my students have been doing alongside Romeo & Juliet, he talked about how the human brain reacts to love.  It was a funny and fascinating presentation and I loved all the connections my students made to Romeo & Juliet.  I couldn’t have planned it better myself! Plus, he told the audience about the best types of pick-up lines (cute ones) and the best time of day to ask someone out (in the morning, before the stress of the day sinks in).  I saw a lot of students taking notes!

But two days on field trips makes for one very tired Sarah.  I planned to write more about MJSS but I just don’t have the energy.  Sometimes, sleep is just more important!

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Fitbit Love #sol14

This past Christmas I received a Fitbit.  I was intrigued and willing to give it a shot, but I wasn’t sure if it would stick.

 

Three months later, I haven’t taken it off.  Well, it has to charge once a week, but otherwise I wear it all day and night.  And it is awesome.

I’m pretty active, thanks to the dogs, so I wasn’t too worried about the step counter.  However, I didn’t realize how competitive I am.  I friended a few folks through Fitbit and suddenly I can’t lose to them.  I find myself checking my step counter a few times each day and if it seems low I start walking around my classroom, the hallway, and even the school more.  Looks like Fitbit knew what they were doing, at least when it comes to folks with a competitive streak!

But the real reason I was interested in the Fitbit was the sleep tracker.  I am a night owl and I frequently think I don’t get enough sleep.  The sleep tracker was designed to tell you how long you slept and how often you were restless or woke up.

The first night I used it I was impressed.  Three months later, I am blown away.  First, it turns out I sleep more than I thought.  Still not enough (who does?), but more than I previously imagined.  I used to think I tossed and turned a lot before falling asleep but it turns out that’s not true.  And thanks to the placebo effect, just seeing the chart each morning makes me feel more rested and ready for the day.

I also like tracking how I feel in relation to how I sleep.  Last week my average weekly hours slept decreased and I could tell even before I got my Fitbit report.  But now, thanks to the three months of data that I have, I can predict when I will feel run down and I can try to prevent it.  How cool is that?

Do you have any fitness trackers or sensors?  How do they work for you?

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Romeo and Juliet and Adolescent Brains #sol14

I’m still knee-deep in rough drafts, but I have given feedback on 43 of them.  That’s more than half!  I am seriously working on them every minute of the day, but they are getting done.  And I know it’s valuable and the best thing I can do for my students.  But it may not have been my brightest idea.  Next year I need to find a way to provide feedback and not lose a week of my life.  The goal is to keep them writing and revising, rather than just turning in a “final” copy to me, only to ignore the comments I leave. It seems to be working so far!

This is one of my favorite assignments of the year.  After reading Romeo & Juliet we study adolescent brain development and the effects of love on the brain.  Students do research and decide who (or what) is to blame for the deaths in the play.  The rough drafts are fascinating because every student approaches the essay from a different angle.  I’ve read about placing the blame on the nurse, the friar, the prince, and the parents.  But most of the students place the blame squarely on Romeo and Juliet.  About half of them excuse the couple for their actions because of adolescent brain development and/or loves effect on brain function.  But the other half?  They show no mercy!  Romeo and Juliet should have had the common sense and knowledge to avoid suicide, and the students are very convincing.

And now it’s back to reading and leaving feedback…11454297503_e27946e4ff_h

An English Teacher’s Sick Day #sol14

Last night, I felt the crash coming.  The past two weeks were finally catching up to me.  I was cold, I kept coughing, and I was losing my voice.  Because my life never slows down I decided the best decision was to call out today and try to let my body rest.  So I did just that.

The plan was to sleep late, rest, have some chicken noodle soup, and hopefully kick this cold’s butt.  I did do some of that, thankfully.  But I forgot that the dogs don’t take sick days, so we still took 3 walks.  Then I remembered I had to leave feedback on freshman rough drafts.  The students are writing their Romeo & Juliet and adolescent brain development essays a little differently this year and it requires more work from me.  The students just submitted rough drafts and rather than grading just the final draft, I am providing feedback on the rough drafts.

Eighty rough drafts.

Three to five pages.

And a works cited list.

I am crazy.  I realize this.

Thank goodness the essays are really interesting and most of them are well-written.  But I spent a good 5-6 hours reading and providing feedback today and I only finished 25 essays. I know this is worthwhile work.  I know this is the best thing I can do for my students.  But oh my word.  So.many.essays.

See you all in 14 more hours.

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Must Teachers be Passionate? #sol14

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March my students are posting a slice each day on their blogs and I am joining them.
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I’ve been doing a lot of pondering lately.  The topic of most of my thinking has been teacher passion.  This morning I finally shared my questions on Twitter.

I work with a lot of amazing, passionate educators every day at HTHS.  I’m also lucky to have a PLN full of teachers who are passionate and engaged, always seeking new information and honing their craft.  But I  recognize that passion can be consuming.  It means lost sleep and bringing work home with you.  It means you can’t (or don’t) leave your job at the office.  It means spending money and time on conferences, books, journals, professional development.  Granted, if you are passionate about a subject it doesn’t always feel like work.  But it still takes a lot out of you.

My question is, should we expect all teachers to be passionate?  Is that fair?  Or is it ok for a teacher to be in it for the convenient schedule, steady paycheck, and reliable hours? Plenty of teachers enter the classroom for those reasons and do a fine job. And the expectation for most careers seems to be that you go in from 9-5, do your job, and come home.  Passion not necessary.

Business Journal recently looked at passion in the workplace and  discovered that passion is rare in more careers and workplaces.

Two recent discoveries by The Gallup Organization offer insights into why passion is rare in U.S. workplaces:

  • 55% of the U.S. working population is not engaged at work.
  • 16% of the U.S. working population is actively disengaged

 

This pushed my thinking a bit more. Then my friend Teresa and I started talking.

That’s where I get stuck. Part of me feels that it isn’t fair to expect all teachers to be passionate about their career or current position.  But if we aren’t passionate, don’t our students suffer?  If my job performance suffers as a result of not being engaged at my 9-5 job, who is affected?  My company and I will have to deal with the ramifications, but odds are no one else will.  But if a teacher is not engaged and passionate about their subject area or their job, then their students are the first to suffer the consequences.

So what should expectations be?  Is it ok for teaching to be a way to pass the time, get a paycheck, and get to retirement?  Or should we demand that our teachers are passionate about something related to their job? That could be a passion for the subject matter they teach, or a passion for learning, or a passion for fostering the best in kids, as long as the passion is related to their job. Is that the answer?

I’m not sure what the answer is, because teaching is an all-consuming job, whether you are passionate about the career or just showing up everyday.  You won’t leave work at the office, you won’t be able to stay distanced from the students, and you will never be able to walk away unscathed.  Even if you aren’t passionate, it will have a deep and lasting impact on you.  And you can certainly teach students without being passionate, provided you are engaged in the day-to-day activities in your classroom.  When we demand passion, are we demanding too much?

Could passion lead to burnout?  Or does it prevent burnout?  My friend Tony Keefer used the word “play” to describe what teachers can do to spark passion and I love that.  You can play in a subject area, in the field, in reading, in writing, and beyond.  And play is equated with fun, so that’s good!

One of my experiences in school today pushed me to think further about this topic.  My awesome student-teacher set up a Skype call today for my seniors, who were able to speak with a local news anchor about her life in the industry.  The anchor was so passionate about her job but she made it very clear that it’s a 24/7 job, which reminded me a lot of teaching.  She said you are always “on” and always representing your company.  As a teachers, we can certainly relate!  She pointed out that if you don’t enjoy the job and you aren’t engaged and passionate, then you wouldn’t make it.  Should teaching be the same way?  Maybe it’s the responsibility of administrators to filter out teachers who are not passionate, to make sure they don’t end up stuck in a career path that they despise to the detriment of students.

All of these questions are still swirling about in my mind.  I’m not sure there is an answer, but it’s fascinating to think about.  I’ve been coming back to this question of passion since I wrote my post “You’re Too Smart to be a Teacher”.  That post inspired conversations about teaching as a backup career and way to get by until something better came along and whether that was fair to students and colleagues.  I won’t pretend I haven’t met teachers like that in the past, so I know they are out there.  But that might be true in all careers, so is it fair to expect something above and beyond that in teaching?

What do you think?
 

Check out my friend Katherine’s response to my pondering, too!

A Day in the Life #sol14

8am Wake up

8:05am Walk the dogs .75 miles

8:40am Leave for SAT tutoring

8:55am Stop at Starbucks because it’s Sunday which means I can have a frappucino!

9:10am Arrive at SAT tutoring.  Make copies, get organized, find my paycheck, get kids signed in,

9:30-11am Critical reading SAT class.

11:00-11:10am Break.  Make more copies

11:10-12:30pm Writing SAT class

12:30-1:00pm Run errands.  This means stop at the TJMaxx down the road and browse.

1:05pm Drive home

1:30 Arrive home and get ready to take the dogs for a walk.

1:40-2:50 Walk the dogs two miles at the local county park.  It was much colder than I expected it to be!

2:50pm Drive home and drop the dogs off

3:00 Food shopping and various errands

4:20pm Clean up around the house, watch some March Madness, check my bracket

5:30pm Eat dinner.  Thankfully, it’s leftovers so I don’t have to do much,

6:30pm Feed the dogs

7:00pm Walk the dogs another mile.  This is only around the block so it’s easy.

7:30pm.  Shower, do laundry, get the house straightened up.  Watch the end of the Iowa St/UNC game.  Check bracket.

8:15-10pm Work on comments for student research essays via Googledocs and answer email.

10:00-10:30pm Prepare Kongs to keep the dogs occupied this week.

10:30-10:45 Read for a few minutes.  Not enough minutes. :(

10:45-11:00pm Write blog post

11:00-11:30 Finish checking student teacher’s plans, leaving comments on students’ Slice of Life blogs, and plan what I am wearing tomorrow.

11:45pm Publish blog post and head to bed!

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