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.

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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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!

Honored #sol14

I’m still on cloud nine and it’s late so this will be short and sweet.

Today I spent my Saturday at the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English annual conference at Montclair University. I heard author Jeff Hirsch speak, I met great colleagues from across the state, and I got to hang out with Chris and Michelle (my amazing colleague).

Why was Chris at an English teacher conference?

Because this happened:

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Thanks to a nomination by Michelle I was named the NJCTE English Language Arts Teacher of the Year. Michelle gave a beautiful speech that included a letter from one of my seniors and I could barely keep it together.

I feel silly accepting an award like this because so many people make me the teacher I am today: my colleagues, my students, Chris, my family, my friends, my PLN, and so many others. So I share this award with all of them

Thank you. ;

Reminiscing #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hTonight I chaperoned the school semiformal.  It was a little bittersweet for me, as it was the last non-prom dance for my seniors.  But it was adorable because everyone was dressed up and we even had a few promprosals (one of which I was able to participate in).

But the best part of tonight was when the student DJs played Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”.  Immediately I was transported back to college.  Without hesitation I pulled out my phone and sent a text to my college girlfriends.

love you girls and miss you!  the dj at the school dance just played shakira’s “hips don’t lie” and it made me think of you! *szeretlek*

I wasn’t expecting a response as it was 9pm on a Friday night. We are spread up and down the East coast now and some of us have babies, new jobs, new friends, and other things that keep us occupied on a Friday night.  But almost immediately I got a response.

ahhh!  I’m having flashbacks!

And before I could respond, another text came in:

Hahah! Just leaving the gym and “slave 4 u” and “toxic” both came on my ipod!

We proceeded to reminisce for a few minutes via text and it was great to share those memories.  Music has played such a huge role in my life and certain songs always bring me back to different moments in my life.  Those three songs we talked about tonight transported me back to Douglass College circa 2001-2003.   I love that we can reach out to each other thanks to technology.  While we may not see each other as often as we did when we shared a dorm, we can still get in touch with the pressing of a few buttons.  Those girls are still my best friends and I don’t know what I would do without them.

Now if only we could find some time to hang out!

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