Slice of Life #20- Goodbye to Glee

I know it’s unpopular, but I am still a diehard Glee fan. I’m too invested at this point to stop watching so I haven’t missed an episode this season.  Tonight was the series finale and it made me nostalgic, so I am dedicating this slice to the show that always makes me laugh and cry.

Glee premiered in May 2009.  I was teaching 6th grade with my dream team of teachers.  Three of us were (and are still) obsessed with Broadway musicals so we immediately fell in love with this wacky show where they sang songs like “On My Own”, “Maybe This Time”, “Defying Gravity” alongside “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Ride Wit Me”, and “One”.  We would purchase the songs from each episode and listen to them on the drive to and from work.  We went to the first tour at Radio City Music Hall and had an awesome time.  Sure, most of the attendees were kids, but we loved it!

Soon after that I moved to my current job.  But we still talked about Glee, excitedly following the appearance of guest stars like the amazing Patti Lupone.  And we went to the second Glee! Tour the next summer, too.  This time the audience was mostly our age.

Another reason I loved Glee was because my students and I could talk about it together.  My first year at HTHS I spent many lunch periods discussing the show with the underclassmen while doing my lunch duty.  It became a regular chat and I love getting to my students outside of English class.  Most of those kids have graduated now, but the show will always hold a special place in my heart because it reminds me of them.

And of course, there was the loss of Cory Monteith.  I woke up on that August morning in 2013 to a text message from my friend saying, “Cory Monteith died?!”  I think it’s the first time I ever felt the loss of a celebrity. Lea Michelle and Cory Monteith seemed so happy together and I had been a Lea Michelle fan since seeing her in Spring Awakening. (And standing in line behind her at the Tony Awards!) Then, watching her sing goodbye to Cory and his character Finn just broke my heart.  I am still impressed by her drive and dedication to the show, continuing to perform even after losing him.

Tonight was the final episode of Glee and they did a wonderful job.  It was great to see the all of the characters back and to learn where they would go from here.  You could tell they were saying goodbye to each other along with their characters.  The music choices were wonderful and the throwbacks to the first season made me smile.  I’ll miss the show and I will definitely miss the music.  But I am so glad that Glee was on my TV for so many years.  Thank you to the cast, crew, writers, and staff for an awesome (and often crazy) show.  “Don’t Stop Believin'” will always make me smile.


Slice of Life #19- A Great Day!

Today was an awesome day.  I’m going to list the numerous reasons why below.

  1. Today was day 1 of our annual field trip to the Monmouth Junior Science Symposium.  I love listening to the high school students who present their research and I always learn something.
  2. The text-to-text lesson plan for Speak that I wrote with my awesome Learning Network editor went live todaySpeak is such an important book to me and I think it should be required reading, so anything I can do to help teachers bring it into their classrooms makes me happy.  It’s even cooler that when I tweeted Laurie Halse Anderson the link she was so kind and impressed.
  3. I had a lot of reading time today.  I’m in the middle of Kelly Gallagher’s In the Best Interest of Students: Staying True to What Works in the ELA Classroom and I highly recommend it.  The chapters are short but they are packed with great ideas.
  4. Some of my alumnae visited and they fixed my library!  When I got back the trip my principal told me, “Oh!  You missed Kat and Kiera!  They came to visit and they were so disappointed that you weren’t here.  I told them they should take a picture of themselves surrounded by your books and send it to you.  Did you get it?”  I had not, but when I walked out of the office I pulled out my phone to double-check.  When I looked up, Kat and Kiera tackled me with hugs.  We chatted for about 45 minutes and caught up, which was wonderful.  They returned some books they had borrowed, raved about a few (especially Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld), and organized my library.  These amazing girls spent almost two hours re-alphabetizing all of my books.  My library looks amazing!
  5. The Paper Towns trailer came out today!  And while that’s exciting in and of itself, something even cooler happened.  One of my students won a social media contest and was invited to a secret trailer premiere yesterday.  Today she surprised me with a poster from the secret meeting!  She was on cloud nine because John Green was there and so were some of the actors from the movie.  How cool is that?!
  6. March Madness is here!  The next few days are my favorite days of the year.  Basketball is on from noon until midnight, there are crazy upset, and there is never a dull moment.  I’ve been watching all day and even though my bracket is busted it has been fantastic!
  7. It’s almost time for the NJCTE conference!  If you are in NJ you should come!  We have great workshops, awesome authors, free books, and food!  Oh, and there are door prizes.  You can register at the door so make your way to Montclair on Saturday morning.

All in all, it’s been a pretty awesome day.

Slice of Life #18- A Rant About the USPS

This is going to be a rant.  Just a warning!

Over the last few months my mail delivery has slowly been going downhill.  Below is a list of just some of the issues I have been dealing with:

  • irregular mail delivery- Sometimes my mail is delivered, then I get nothing for two days.  The next time the mail comes i will clearly be more than a day’s worth of mail.
  • late mail- On Friday I received an important piece of mail.  The problem?  It was mailed from my town five days earlier.  It arrived five hours after I was supposed to be at the location it was inviting me to.
  • packages thrown in the snow- I live on a main road and recently my packages have been thrown in the snow, thrown in the road, and if I am very lucky it’s stuffed into the mailbox and I can’t get it out.
  • custodian delivering mail- Yes, that’s right.  Two weeks ago a man in a van (not a USPS van) parked in front of my house.  After about fifteen minutes I went outside to see if he needed help.  He introduced himself as the custodian at the post office and said they had him delivering mail, even though he had never done it before.  He said, “The trained me for about five minutes this morning.  That can’t be a good sign.”
  • other people’s mail- Today I did not get any mail.  Well, I did not get any of my own mail.  I did get the mail for 551 My Street and 777 My Street. Where is my mail?!

None of this makes me happy.  I have tried contacting the post office but nothing changes.  They just tell me that they are understaffed.  No apologies, no offers to make it better.  Just a half-hearted apology.  Today I was told a supervisor would call me back ASAP.

I’m still waiting.

Maybe tomorrow my mail will come?

Slice of Life #17-Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

This is a ridiculous week, full of late hours and a conference on Saturday.  But St. Patrick’s Day is my favorite holiday so I can’t let it pass without celebrating a little.  I wore my green sweater this morning and then decided to throw a beef stew in the crockpot before heading to school.

The stew took a little longer to throw together than planned so I was almost late to school.  But when I came home and opened the front door I remembered why it was worth it.  The house smelled delicious and my stomach started growling almost immediately.

I decided that Guinness beef stew wasn’t enough, though.  I thought back to our last trip to Ireland and tried to remember some of the side dishes served with the beef stew over there.  It didn’t take long for me to remember the delicious mashed potatoes.  A little online research helped me figure out the name of the dish: colcannon.  It’s a mashed potato that’s full of butter, cabbage, and green onions.  It is, not surprisingly, delicious!

I am not usually one to take pictures of my food but tonight I had fun.  The most important part, though, is that dinner was delicious!  The flavors melded together and I felt like I was back in Ireland for a few minutes.  It was exactly what I needed tonight!

And now I am off to eat a slice of the Irish soda bread that I bought fresh at Delicious Orchards today.  I hope you had a great St. Patrick’s Day, too!  Slainte!

Slice of Life #16- Congratulations!

As I glanced up at the clock towards the end of lunch I remembered that the email I had received earlier that morning had said that the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards would be announced at noon.  I had received a few emails about the announcement, as I had 6 students who received awards during the regional round.

As the clock flipped from 12:00 to 12:01 I decided to log in.  I did not expect any of my students to win (even though their pieces were all amazing) because the odds were just so slim.  I mean, over 250,000 students enter the contest each year!

I was only half paying attention when I logged in to the website and saw this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 10.55.19 PM

I had to read it twice before scrolling down to see the student’s name.  What?!

“Ahhh!”  I screeched, throwing back my chair.  I was sitting in the faculty room, so immediately my co-teacher asked me if I was all right.

“Eileen won!  She won a gold medal!”  I’m not sure my poor co-teacher even knew what I was talking about but she knew it was awesome.

“I have to find Eileen!” Thus began my trek around our (thankfully) small school.  First I popped into IED.  Nope, no Eileen.  Next I checked the Spanish room, because I thought the freshmen might be in language class.  Ok, no luck.  Maybe French?  That meant trekking to the basement.  When I got downstairs the French room door was closed and when I knocked there was  a lot of giggling behind the closed door.  It opened a crack and when the student saw it was me I was quickly invited in.  It turned out Eileen was not there, but the French class was enjoying an ice cream party!

“Where’s Eileen?  Do you guys know what class she has?” I asked as I looked over the table to sundae toppings.  A student told me that Eileen was across campus at gym class so I had to put my search on hold.  But I did enjoy a bowl of ice cream while waiting for class to end.

Our period ended at 1:09pm and by 1:04 I was at the front door waiting for Eileen to get back from gym class.  I didn’t know if she had heard the good news but I wanted to give her a congratulatory hug because I was so proud of her.

Slowly the kids started trickling back from gym.  One group, two groups, three groups….where was Eileen?  Had I missed her somehow? For a moment I doubted myself and took a lap down the freshman hallway.  When I didn’t see her I asked a classmate who said she was at the end of the gym class group.  I hurried back to the front door in time to see Eileen arrive back at school.

She was probably a little freaked out to see me standing at the door and pointing to her.  But then I pointed to my computer screen, pointed at her, and saw her slowly make the connection.

“Oh my gosh.  No. No way!  Is it Scholastic?” she asked me breathlessly.

“YES!” I practically shouted as I hugged her.  “You won a gold medal!  A national gold medal!”

Eileen was grinning from ear to ear at this point.  Her friends hugged her, I hugged her again, and then she had to hurry to class.

“Log on!” I told her. “Check it out for yourself!  I am so proud of you!”

Needless to say, it was a pretty epic day. I am incredibly proud of Eileen, who is a gifted writer.  I am so glad the contest judges agreed with me!


Slice of Life #15- Where I’m From

I spent part of my day planning my next unit of study, which I am very excited about.  (More about that later!)  This unit includes our poetry study of George Ella Lyons’ “Where I’m From”.  I’ve been doing our version of these poems since I began teaching and it’s always an amazing experience.  I think Paul Hankins first introduced me to George Ella Lyons and I am so grateful that he did.  So in the next few weeks we will be writing our poems in class, but I’ve included my poem below.

Where I’m From
I am from books,
from Pepsi and the NY Post
I am from hills and grass
(green, soft and smelling like summer).
I am from the milkweed,
the hibiscus brought inside during winter
(an orange and pink sunset growing toward the sun no matter the season).

I’m from “taking a ride” and always being late,
From Jane and Tim.
I’m from the fast talkers and fast walkers,
From eating your crusts and haunted old roads.
I’m from Psalm 23, bagpipes playing hymns, and rosary beads.

I’m from Ireland and Scotland,
Grandmother macaroni and breakfast for dinner.
From the Little Grandfather, a professional football player who jumped
ship in the United Stateswhen sailing as a Merchant Marine,
from Nanny, following Papa around the country during his naval years, raising a son with a husband fighting in a great war.

I am from the photo albums and boxes of pictures in the upstairs closet, telling the stories of a loud, large, and loving family.
I am from dog-eared baby books and school pictures hung over the fireplace

I am from love.

Slice of Life #14- Happy Pi Day!

Happy Pi Day! As an alum of a STEM school Pi Day is a pretty big deal.  And this was an epic pi day!

My day began with bagels that Chris picked up on the way home from the gym.  That’s when he informed me that he would only be eating round food today, in honor of pi day.  Always up for good food, I agreed.

We enjoyed our bagels and then ran a whole lot of errands.  We missed 3/14/15 9:26:59 so decided we would celebrate when it came back around twelve hours later.  For lunch we settled on sandwiches from a local farm, on kaiser rolls in order to ensure their roundness.

Then the big decision came up- what kind of pie did we want to eat for dessert?  See, I like apple pie and French silk pie, while Chris loves berry pies and banana cream.  I abhor bananas so there was no chance of us sharing a pie.  Not only that, but we ended up going to three local orchards in search of pies.  Apparently it was a popular dessert choice today!

In the end, we decided on a pie for each of us.  I chose apple pie and Chris chose banana cream.  Of course, they were both delicious!  Oh, and we kept up the round food idea for dinner by having a chicken pot pie.

Turns out, round food includes a lot of carbs!

Slice of Life #13- A Walk in the Park


How can you have a bad day after hanging out with these smiles?

I have lots of little things I do to destress, but my go-to is walking the dogs.  We walk in rain, snow, heat, and wind.  As I tell anyone who asked me about Australian Shepherds, “They are our own personal trainers!”

Thanks to daylight savings time and the warmer weather today we were able to go out to the park with our dog friends.  A huge group of nine dogs (4 Aussies, 4 Huskies, and a Mastiff) and a lot of long line leashes enjoyed exploring the muddy trails and freshly melted snow.

The dogs love these romps but truthfully, I might enjoy them more.  Sunlight, fresh air, and lots of puppies- what more could a girl ask for?

The picture above is from the end of the walk.  We were only out for about forty-five minutes but I felt like a new person by the end.  And judging by the smiles in the photo above the dogs were pretty content, too. I’m so happy that spring is almost here and that it does not get dark out before 7pm anymore.  The dogs are definitely happy about that, too!

(And they have been sleeping ever since we got home.  They woke up for dinner and a quick trip outside, but it’s been sleepytime since then.  That’s the other great part of our group walks.  At the end, we have a lot of very tired dogs!)


Slice of Life #12- Live and Laugh

This has been a week.  And it looks like next week will be very similar. You know how it goes- work all day, getting home late, lots of grading, issues outside of school to deal with.  You wake up at 5:45am and go to bed at midnight.  The to-do list keeps getting longer and longer.

Sometimes you just need to laugh.   I’m conscious of this and I try very hard to set aside time for silly TV each night because I can watch a comedy and work on my t0-do list at the same time.

My go-to for laughs is usually Friends (now available on Netflix!).  But for the last few days I have been watching The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt instead.  Written by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, it’s a quirky, over-the-top comedy that never fails to leave me laughing out loud. Seriously, it’s quirky.  It’s weird.  It’s crazy. But it’s also sweet, innocent, and adorable.

Kimmy was the victim of a post-apocalyptic cult until being rescued.  She spent fifteen years in an underground bunker.  Now she’s thrown herself into life in New York City and comedy ensues.  All of the supporting characters are fantastic, Kimmy is perfection, and the writing is amazing.

And the best part?  The Babysitter’s Club plays a pivotal role in one of the first episodes.  And not just any book; nope, the super special mystery!  I devoured all of BSC books and owned most of the specials and super specials, so as a rabid BSC fan in middle school this made me very happy.

If you also need something to get your mind off of the rest of the world I highly recommend The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix.  Sometimes you just need to laugh!

Slice of Life #10- After us the dragons

“Life is never fixed and stable.  It is always mercurial, rolling and splitting, disappearing and re-emerging in a most unpredictable fashion.  I never make a journey to a wood or a mountain without experiencing the temptation to explode a puffball in a new clearing or stopping to encourage some sleepy monster that is just cracking out of the earth mold. This is, of course, an irresponsible attitude, since I cannot tell what will come of it, but if the world hangs on such matters it may be well to act boldly and realize all immanent possibilities at once.  

Shake the seeds out of their pods, I say, launch the milkweed down, and set the lizards scuttling.  We are in a creative universe. Let us then create.  After all, man himself is the unlikely consequence of such forces.  In the spring when a breath of wind sets the propellers of the maple seeds to whirring, I always say to myself hopefully:  After us the dragons.”- Loren C. Eisely

I walk the dogs almost every afternoon, through rain and snow and heat and fog.  But no matter what the weather, I love to go off the beaten path.  As the seasons change from winter to spring those paths are starting to fill with pops of green as plants burst out of the dark soil.  Soon the dandelions will dot the fields and I will be tempted to reach down, pick one, and blow the seeds into the wind.

Loren Eisely challenges us to create.  To smell the flowers, spread the seeds, and turn over the rocks.  Create something.  Be a part of creation.

On today’s rainy walk I was delighted to see plants reaching out of the ground towards the sun.  Soon they will be flowering and spreading across the forest floor.  While winter is beautiful, spring is even more special and beautiful.  So keep reaching, little plant.  Be bold and we will follow.