Tag Archives: #SOLSC17

Moving on up

19 Mar

The three 6th graders and a 7th grader sailed through their four preliminary battles like a well-oiled machine. Winning each of the battles, they had 175 points. That seemed like a good number, but we had to wait until all the other battles finished to see how we’d fared. Teams around us talked,whispered and laughed. We could over hear the team totals of the teams around us. We figured we were almost certainly in the next round, the Sweet 16.

We were shocked and elated to find out we had the 4th most points. Woohoo!

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The  subsequent rounds were elimination rounds. If we won the Sweet 16, we’d go on, if we lost, the tournament was over. The team, two boys and two girls, was ready and played well, handily defeating their competition. We were moving on to the Awesome 8 round, competing against a team in our school district.

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One of the members of that team was a former student, but that didn’t stop me from celebrating when they missed a question. The competition was tight; we were ahead by a bit at the halfway point. In the second half, we missed a few, but never lost our lead. At the end, we were ahead by four points. When ased if they wanted to challenge a question, my team said no, but the other team did. When this happens, teams have two minutes to find their answer in book. Fortunately for us, they could not.

That put us in the Fabulous 4 and that we are going to State!

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So, my 2017 OBOB season isn’t quite over yet, and that is very okay with me.

Friday afternoon traffic

18 Mar

I could have left school during my end of the day plan period, instead I stayed and got ready for Monday. I knew I had to get home quick, walk Lucy, then head out again for Rocket’s vet visit and transfer to his new owners. Yes, it was a rainy Friday afternoon, , but how bad could the traffic be?

Really bad, I thought as I merged onto Highway 26 after navigating the suburban roads that got me there. I quickly began to rethink my master plan. If we kept crawling along at less than 10 miles an hour I’d never be able to make it. I could just go straight to the vet, though that would probably get me there too early. 

I kept driving in my lane and noticed that today, the other two lanes were moving faster. Although the lane I was in would take me my preferred route, I might have to take an alternate, I thought.  I could change lanes and drive through downtown. As we continued to crawl along, I started checking my driver’s side mirror. Suddenly a space appeared and I moved into the lane to my left.  Just one more lane to go.  Another space, much larger,  and I was driving the speed limit again.

I manoeuvred through the Pearl District, crossed the Broadway Bridge and then… flashing lights in front of me. A fire truck was sideways, blocking access. A big accident? I couldn’t see as I turned and took the detour.

I got home a little later than I’d hoped, but not as late as I feared I’d be. Poor Lucy, got a “hello”, a poop walk, and dinner. then I was out the door.

As I started driving towards the vet, another journey that required highway driving, I worried about the slow traffic I’d encountered on the way home. Fortunately, it was smooth sailing South on I-5. For drivers, going North, it was a different story. They were at a stand still. I filed that info for the trip home.

Everything went well at the vet. The new family was super excited. The daughter of the owner, who had been keeping Rocket was weepy.

I took an alternate way home to avoid the I-5 traffic jam. It looped me back to Highway 26, which, two hours earlier had been slow. By the time I returned to it, it was clear sailing home.

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Patience rewarded

17 Mar

I have been patient.

I have tried not to think about it.

I tried not to check.

But I can’t pretend I haven’t been a little anxious since I received (and responded to) the letter from the IRS.

I checked again a few days ago and saw this message:

I was almost giddy reading it. I have to admit that part of me, a fairly large part, still worried the IRS letter was masterful plan by identity thieves. You hear about things like this all the time and wonder how people could be so gullible. I worried I was one of those gullible people.

On Wednesday morning, I saw this message:

 I checked my account immediately. Sweet relief swept over me as I saw the scheduled deposit. I said a little prayer of thanks, worry lifted from my shoulders.

Water Woes

15 Mar

 

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I arrived home yesterday to this message that started a conversation among the residents in my ten-unit condominium.

What the heck? How can that be? I wondered as I hustled to the kitchen and turned on the faucet. Nothing.

I shot off an email letting people know my water was off too and called the water bureau’s emergency line. Apparently, a contractor in our neighborhood had hit a water main and created a “water emergency”. Well, that would explain the work crew and the “road closed” sign I’d  seen down the block when I got home. The woman I spoke with wouldn’t say when work would be finished. When I told her I was thinking I should go to the grocery store and get some water she said that they anticipated the repair would be done by evening.

Okay. Maybe I don’t have to make a water run, but I decided to take stock of what I had.

Nothing.

No bottles of water. No three-day emergency supply. Not even ice cubes I could melt. I did have some cans of flavored mineral water in the fridge… I was failing basic preparedness.

What would I do if it took longer, and I couldn’t shower tomorrow morning? What would Lucy drink?

I thought about all the comedies I’d seen where water is cut off and the characters use water from the toilet bowl. They never think about the water in the tank, which could be boiled. Is that potable? I could boil it to be sure there was water for Lucy. Could I bathe in that? The ick factor is high, even from the tank. So many unanswered questions.

Fortunately, the water came back on just after seven.  I am glad I won’t have to shower in toilet water, but I think I should get some emergency water. Maybe I should start building a real emergency kit while I am at it.

 

 

The Paper Mountain

15 Mar

I buried myself. It was unintentional, but it was all my fault. One assignment was a longterm project to be done at home. The other was the final project for our information unit, the teen activism book my 6th graders produced, much delayed after 10 snow days this year. And I collected their writer’s notebooks. I was swamped with paper,stressed and worried about getting the work back in a timely manner. Two classes of 30 x all this work due at the same time. Are you feeling my pain?

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Today, though, I finished grading the information books and I feel like I have summited  a mountain. Or maybe crawled out from under one. Maybe, really, I can just see the summit from where I am. Bu this feels like significant progress.

The science teacher on my team has kids turn in everything electronically, but I don’t really find that a good process for me. I was feeling a little behind then times, until a colleague shared this article about the value of hard copies. Vindication.

I still have a bunch of papers to grade, but I am feeling less burdened. If I may mix my metaphors a bit, I might say there is a light at the end of the tunnel I just crawled out of.

Savor π Day

14 Mar

Pie.

At mention of the word, most people visualize a delicious apple, or other fruit pie. My mind goes straight for lemon meringue. But, if I take a moment and go a little deeper, I get to something more savory.

My mother is French-Canadian and nothing is more French-Canadian than that savoriest of pies: the pork tourtière.

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My mother made it every Christmas and told us that it was what her very Catholic family ate when they came home from midnight mass on Christmas Eve.

My vegetarian sister calls it pork torture, but living far away from family, I have taken on this cultural icon as part of my Christmas celebration. Many cultures have similar meat pies, but the spicing of this one makes it perfect for Christmas, or whenever you want to eat pork tourtière.

Here is my mom’s recipe, with my adaptations an annotations

PORK TOURTIERE

1-1/2 pounds ground pork

1 large baking potato

1 large onion, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 dash of allspice

1/2 cup of water

1 recipe for a 9″ double crust pie (Unlike my mother, I buy them out of the freezer section)

1 egg , beaten

1/4 teaspoon paprika

  1. Bake potato until done, 30-40 minutes, in a pre-heated 400º oven. (I microwave the potato).
  2. Peel and mash the potato, or, if microwaved, mash the potato with the peel. Mom always said that’s where all the vitamins were.
  3. Place the potato, ground pork, onion, spices and water in a large frying pan and simmer until very thick. This could take up to an hour.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare your pastry if making from scratch, like Mom, otherwise follow the package directions.
  5. Line a pie dish with pastry. Spoon in filing, spreading evenly.
  6. Cover with top crust.  Brush this with beaten egg and sprinkle with paprika. Cut steam vent(s),
  7. Bake for 50 minutes at 350ºF (175ºC).
  8. If edges brown too fast, cover with a strip of foil.
  9. Serve warm.

 

 

Rehoming Rocket

12 Mar

Poor Violet!

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Not only did she get drenched and muddy, but her life is about to change forever.

We met at a park yesterday for Violet and her family to meet Rocket…

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…a two year old boy who needs a new home. His mom had a stroke and can’t take care of him any more and Violet’s parents want a playmate for her.

In spite of the torrential rain, things went well. It wasn’t love at first sight for the two dogs, but that rarely happens. They sniffed each other and walked nicely side by side. While they walked Violet’s family had a little meeting and decided that, yes, they’d like to adopt him.

We made a plan – in the park, in the rain – to transfer Rocket to his new home on Friday. His invalid mom wasn’t at this meeting so she needs a chance to say goodbye. We will all meet again at our vet’s office, where Rocket will get a microchip and a once over before going to his new home.

 

Tools of the trade

11 Mar

When I was in teachers college, they told me I would build a toolbox over time. They talked about management and engagement strategies I could add. They talked about books and songs and stories. They never said I needed to add real tools.

For years, I kept an allen wrench in my desk for those occasions when a student’s desk suddenly collapsed on one side, a leg giving out. I had jewelers tools to replace the screws that fell out of glasses and reattached arms.  My 4th graders thought I was a rockstar.

In my new school, my repair work is more mundane. I replaced the latch I’d torn off  the only locking cabinet the day I forgot my keys.

Yesterday, I tackled an annoying problem that has been growing: failing laminate.

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I looked in my teacher toolkit and found just the right tools

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The repair was made in about five minutes. It will sit over the weekend and, when I return to school on Monday, I will remove the tape.

Mission accomplished.

The Classroom Cold…A Haiku Series

10 Mar

Last week…

I laughed out loud at

the face the girl made when her

neighbor sneezed on her

Monday…

The classroom, normally

so full of chatter, is now

full of coughs and sneezes

Wednesday…

Pain in my cheeks, right

above my back teeth tells me

I’m the next victim

Thursday…

Digging through the cupboard

for prescription decongestants

life is good again

Friday…

Medicine coursing

through my veins – Who put this

goldfish bowl on my head?

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My Day With Donalyn Miller

9 Mar

As soon as I heard that all middle school Humanities teachers would get to hear Donalyn Miller present on “Creating An Engaging Reading Culture” I was giddy with excitement. I had read The Book Whisperer  and  bought my own copy. I’d borrowed Reading in the Wild from the library and found it inspiring, too. But to see her in person…that was taking things to a whole new level.

I won’t transcribe my notes for you, just let me say, I was not disappointed. She was really funny – teaching middle school tends to give you a great sense of humor – and very practical. Every thing she talked about was eminently doable. She also provided some talking points for a difficult decision I made recently.

We are a one-to-one school. Every student has been issued a Chromebook. This was more an issue of physical space than access to technology. We are bursting at the seams and gave up our computer labs this year to add more classrooms. To compensate for this loss, the school district made us a one-to -one school. It has been a blessing in many ways, but it presents dilemmas as well.

Right from the start of the year, I have let students read on their Chromebooks. For the most part, there have been no problems. Yes, a few kids play games, or do homework when they are supposed to be reading, but at this point in the year, I know those who are most likely to do so and keep a close eye on them. My biggest concern has been the amount of screen time students are getting. I’ve stewed about this and last week I announced my plan to the kids: when we return from Spring Break, all independent reading will require a print book. Surprisingly, few kids complained.

In my gut, I knew this to be a good decision, but I lacked the research to back it up. Today, I got it. According to Donalyn Miller, multiple studies has shown that students in one to one programs read less. YIKES! There is a flow to reading a print text that does not happen when reading on a laptop –  people read differently online, skimming and scanning, rather than reading for deeper understanding.

That information alone would have  been enough to make the day great, and it came in the first part of the morning and more good stuff was yet to come. I am going back to school this morning energized and excited to tell my students about the great day I had and begin applying some of what I learned.

 

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Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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