Slice of Life #26- Notebookitis

I have a terrible disease.  If you are a teacher you probably have it, too.  I like to call this debilitating disease “notebookitis”.

Notebookitis means that I have an unhealthy obsession with notebooks.  I always find myself drawn to the stationary aisle in every store, where I can spend hours perusing notebooks.  I love to inspect the paper, feel the covers, and compare one notebook to another.

This week Chris got his Loot Crate (a monthly subscription box full of geeky stuff) and it included special edition Field Notes Brand notebooks.  Two of them!



I’m in love.

I also a similar illness that results in me buying pens all the time and then feeling very protective over said pens.  I know I am an adult but I don’t like sharing my pens!  People inevitably walk away with the pen they borrowed because they think it isn’t important.  But as a pen-lover, this makes me sad.

I’m pretty sure this is a common disease that runs rampant among teachers.  Do you also have a stationary-related illness?

Slice of Life #25- Big (Great!) News!

I’ve wanted to go back to school forever.  I started to seriously research programs about a year ago.  I struggled to find the perfect program because I have such diverse interests.  All of the MFA programs for children’s and YA lit piqued my interest but I eventually found my way back to my other passion- science.

I am thrilled to say that in May I will begin working towards my masters in biology as part of the 2015 cohort of the Project Dragonfly Advanced Inquiry Program at the Wildlife Conservation Society in Bronx, NY.  The program allows students to receive a “graduate degree co-delivered by some of the nation’s premiere community and learning institutions. AIP students take courses at an AIP Master Institution while sharing ideas and developing projects with fellow students and faculty nationwide via web-based learning communities.” How awesome is that?! 

This is such an exciting opportunity and I am over the moon that I was accepted!  I’ve been passionate about science since I attended a STEM high school and choosing between English and science was a hard decision.  I don’t plan to stop teaching English but I hope that this program will support some of the work I do in and out of the classroom.  And I am a huge proponent of the crossover between English and science so now I can be living proof of it!



(And who knows…..the MFA might be something I pursue later!)

Slice of Life #24- The Day the Internet Went Out

I was just finishing up lunch duty when I tried to send an email.  Hmm, that’s weird.  The error message that popped on the screen told me there was no wireless connection, despite the symbol in the top right corner of my computer telling me otherwise.  I tried to refresh and had no luck but didn’t think much of it.  I teach at High Tech.  The internet doesn’t “break”, so I figured the wireless signal was just weak.  I packed up at the end of the period and headed to the faculty room for lunch.

When I entered the room it was abuzz with folks talking.  “The internet is down!” was repeated over and over.  Ok, annoying for sure, but I assumed it would be fixed in a few minutes.  I had a long to-do list to accomplish but wanted to heat up my lunch first.  I figured that by the time I was finished eating a quick lunch someone would restart the server (or whatever needed to be done)

Yeah, that turned out to be false.

Ten minutes passed.

Twenty minutes.

Forty minutes.

An hour passed.

Every so often I tried to refresh the page and received the same error telling me there was no connection. I began to panic as 5th period approached.  My seniors were due to present their satire sketches and their scripts were on Googledocs.  My rubric was on Googledocs.  My attendance was on Googledocs!  (Thankfully I do have a paper copy of the attendance). The internet had to be fixed by the time those seniors came to class, I thought.

Yeah, that turned out to be false.

Needless to say, it was an interesting English class.  I used my phone to access the rubric.  The students tried to read the scripts from their phones.  The groups that had printed out their scripts in advance felt vindicated, as they did not have squint at their phones in order to present.

We made it through class but it was not easy!  There’s not a lot you can do at High Tech without internet!  We read, we talked, and we presented.  I couldn’t do my grading, input grades, or even post my homework.  When the final bell rang I think we were all relieved!

Slice of Life #23- #WeNeedDiverseBooks Local Book Drive!

Over the next few weeks my National Honor Society students will be running a book drive for Bridge of Books [501(c)3], which is a local grassroots organization whose mission “is to provide an ongoing source of books to underprivileged and at-risk children throughout New Jersey in order to support literacy skills and to encourage a love of reading.” Our focus will be on collecting new and like-new YA books that feature diverse characters because‪ #‎WeNeedDiverseBooks‬ and the teen population is historically under-served in most of the organization’s book drives.

Bridge of Books is a fantastic organization that serves children and schools all over New Jersey.  They stock classroom libraries, which is a cause near and dear to my heart.  They also distribute books through more than 100 agencies across NJ, through the NJ Youth Corp, directly to children through schools and community outreach events, and to adult correctional facilities (to support parent/child reading programs for incarcerated parents). The organization works in cities and rural areas, even providing book delivery in most cases, with the goal of ensuring that every child owns and has access to books of their own.

Interested in contributing but not able to get to HTHS? We have a public wish list on Amazon and books can be shipped right to the school. (I know, I know…Amazon. But we don’t have a local indie and I’m hoping to save people shipping fees because it’s for charity!)

Slice of Life #21- An (Awesome) Exhausted Slice

I had grand plans of detailing my insane day, but it is almost midnight and I just walked in the door.  I am exhausted.  But I am exhausted in a good way.  So as I try to eat a quick dinner before the dawn of a new day I will list some of the cool parts of my long day.

  • Spending the day at the NCTE conference.  Jen and I met at 8:30am on the Parkway and we left Montclair almost 9 hours later.  We went to workshops, met with authors (David Lubar is awesome!), and listened to some great speakers.  I also loved seeing how excited the attendees were to get the books donated by my amazing publisher friends.
  • At the general meeting after the conference Jen and I were voted co-vice presidents of NJCTE.  🙂
  • We left NJCTE and headed to Jersey City to catch the PATH train to New York City.  This did not go as planned and I will probably explain that tomorrow.  Suffice to say that the parking in Jersey City is awful and we refused to pay $50 to park in Hoboken for a few hours.
  • We made it to McNally Jackson on Prince St. with seconds to spare!  But the crazy day was totally worth it because the author panel and reading was so much fun!  Coe Booth, Michelle Knudsen, Jennifer A. Nielsen, Andrew Smith, Lindsay Smith, Jessica Spotswood,Tommy Wallach, and David Levithan were awesome!

It’s been a long day and I will get this posted just before midnight if I post it now.  More to follow!

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!