Thursday, June 30, 2011

Finding my Balance!

Today I worked out for just over 2 hours. It was amazing. I took a one hour spin class followed by just over an hour of weights with a great friend/trainer. I was exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. By the end, I was done, but it was the best kind of done.

Now I'm back home and I'm looking at the pile of reading I need to catch up on. I'm thinking about the research topic I still need to figure out. Yesterday I was ahead in my classes, by this afternoon, I'm behind. That is the nature of summer term. It's like a roller coaster speeding down to the bottom only to slow to a crawl on the climb back up. Just when you think you've got it under control, the speed comes again. It's exhausting and I'm doing my best just to hang on for this ride.

Yesterday was Madeleine's birthday. I spent a couple of hours reading a couple of chapters in the morning, between giving her bike to her first thing in the morning and meeting her later on for pottery painting and the rest of the birthday festivities. It was wonderful and I wouldn't trade it for anything. These are the moments in life that you can't get back if you miss.

Yes, I know that all of life is like that, but if I was to die tomorrow, I would want to have spent today doing the important things, with the important people. I can't imagine saying "if only I had read one more chapter, or reviewed one more article". No that just doesn't seem that important to me.

Except when it is. Like now, when I only have 4 weeks left of this term and it is only getting crazier. I have to be disciplined to stay on top of my studies, on top of my fitness and still have fun with my family. Who knew Summer would be a full time job.

My favorite Dr. Seuss book is "Oh the Places You'll Go". In that book he says "Life's a great balancing act". True that Dr. Seuss, True that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to make a 7 year old smile

Buy her a bike for her birthday!

Looking forward to many happy rides with you Madeleine! Happy Birthday Kiddo!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Triple Threat!

Take that Summer School. Not so tough now, are you?

This is the advantage of being a little farther along in life than the average college grad student. I know how to take charge of a summer school situation. No beautiful summer days spent stuck in a library for this college girl. No, with the addition of my beautiful trifecta of apple goodness, I'm fully set for a summer of fun. No longer tethered to the wall with my aging MacBook pro, I picked up a shiny new iPad. Not only can I hang in by the pool while researching Thorndike and Dewey, I can create my own little WiFi hot spot with my iPhone should my favorite adventure spot of the day not have it's own access.

Yep, there are some things that are much better about being a grown up.

P.S. Dear Steve Jobs, you are welcome for the deposit in your retirement account.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Move over NBC!

The Biggest Loser is no longer being held on NBC, nope not any more. It has been moved to the corner of 53rd and Bluestem. Pick your team, it's Boys v. Girls this season. Well, boy v. girl that is.

It happened like this. We were at my sisters for our usual plan of stealing their well prepared dinner. We haven't had to prepare our own food in weeks! As I'm casually brushing olive oil and rosemary onto our home made, smoked salmon pizza, Stafford says to me "so, are you still on a diet?" to which I, the ever sharp tongued sister, reply "are you calling me fat?". Seems kind of like a rude thing to ask when I'm brushing olive oil on a pizza. He stumbles through his "no, but if you want to be on a diet then I have a challenge."

Tell me more oh foolish boy, tell me more. The parameters aren't too great. 10 pounds by race day. Barrel to Keg race day that is which sounded great to both of us until Sarah pointed out that race day was one month from yesterday. We both looked at each other with the same panicked look to which Stafford blurted, um 8 pounds by race day.

So, that's how it happened. I'm yet again in a weight loss challenge. I love that there aren't even any prizes yet determined. I think we both just want an excuse to lose 10 pounds and this would give us the kick in the ass we need.

I'm pretty sure that I can lose close to that just by putting down the chip bag, re-corking my free flowing wine fridge and removing sugar as my main food group. All of which is easier said that done.

Prepare yourselves for some withdraw effected posts. They could get ugly.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hello Summer

The calendar said today was the first official day of Summer and my pasty white legs in shorts concur.

I celebrated this Summer Solstice with a morning run. Good thing too because I left at 9am and was still hot. My sister didn't fare so well. She stopped by after her run, dripping at 11:00am. Yikes! Of course she ran 2 miles farther than I did. Pesky little sister, she always has to show me up.

From there I dove into the excitement that is my summer term classes. 33 pages of boring journal articles took up most of my day. However I ended my day with a meeting of a new triathlon club starting up in Corvallis. I've always loved the idea of doing a triathlon, but the idea is so daunting. Now though it might be possible with the aid of a new club and an amazing brother in law. We will see.

Tomorrow I will hop on the bike and see how that goes. There is an event at the end of the summer which unfortunately coincides with the the Warrior Dash. I'm not sure if it's possible to change our day of that race or not as it runs both weekend days. If not, I guess I have something to think about.

Regardless, today was an excellent start to the summer!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Summer Projects!

Today is my first official day of Summer Vacation. I finished up my classroom, report cards and such yesterday (thanks Mom, my room is amazing!) and have a clean break for the summer. Well, except for learning how to teach 4th grade Science, but I can at least start that in August. Anyway, now it is time to start thinking about my summer projects!

First I need to relax enough to get these knots out of my body and the ringing out of my ears. I'm hoping that happens soon. I also have 2 grad classes this summer so they have to be a priority as well. Working around that I have to get going on the rest.

Which starts with this vessel I live in. What the heck happened to my body over the past 8+ weeks since the half marathon? Yikes, so project #1 is "out with the soft.. in with the fit." It sucks that I keep doing this pattern after all these year. I get in shape for something, only to let it go once it passes. Since we have Barrel to Keg in about 5 weeks I have to jump start it now. I'm expected to run 2 legs which could be about 8-12 miles and I think they'd like me to run 3. I'm not planning on doing that cause I want to work on playing the rest of the summer so I need to save my legs for that ability. I saw an infomercial this morning for a program called "INSANITY". It is as the name suggests ridiculous! Super duper boot camp on steroids. I"m tempted to order it. We will see. I'd love to look like those people and it has a calendar of the workouts to do, nutrition to follow. Brainless. My kind of workout!

I'm also going to an informational meeting about a new community triathlon club forming. It says all levels welcome so I'm going to check that out. Stafford said he will go too so it would be nice to have company. I already love biking and running. Of course I hate swimming but that could change.

Today we leave for Sean's 2 day gig with his Dad's band. That should be fun. It will be nice to get out of town for a couple of days before I start grad school on Monday. And my classes are online so that is a huge benefit to this summer school thing.

So to end this rambling, post, things are going to change around here this summer. It's gonna be a great one!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The letting go...

This is it. The final week of the 2010-2011 school year. I celebrated by dragging my ass into work this morning to get a jump start on the week. Good thing I did too because I made major progress and then opened my e-mail to find a cubic ton more work than I anticipated. At least I'm not freaking out about it now as much as when I got there.

I'm hoping that this week will go smoothly with minimal surprises. I'm kind of sorry to see this batch of kids go. I really enjoy them. But since I didn't get the 4th grade gig I was hoping for so I could loop with them, I'm ready to just move them on. Kind of harsh, but it is easier to just let them go. I know this is the job I signed on for. One little year. Usually it isn't a big deal to let them move on, but occasionally, just sometimes you meet a batch of kids that has more heart and soul than most. That is this group.

And so I will work a little harder than usual on my year end slide show (yes Sean, it's gonna happen again). There will more than likely be a few tears and not just on the part of the kids come Thursday. The room will be a little more quiet when they go.

Sometimes, your life is a little bit better in June than it was in September, because an imprint has been placed on your heart that is just a little bit deeper than those of years past.

I hope they remember me as much as I shall remember them. It has been an honor. As Dr. Seuss would say "Oh the places they will go."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Auntie's Choice

I am a wife, aunt, sister, daughter, teacher and friend. These are just a few of the roles that help to define me in this life. However, since November the one that I have enjoyed the most because of it's long absence is that of Aunt. As you can see, I have been working tirelessly to make up for lost time. I'm instilling the value of a good cup of coffee and cultivating their taste for the perfect donut (which for the record continues to be Voodoo, but that doesn't stop the quest). We ride bikes, attend sporting events, watch movies and spend endless hours together. I've been to gymnastic programs, track meets and band concerts. I pay for The Little Gym lessons and I rent a trombone every month. I adore being an aunt and wouldn't give it up for anything.

So imagine my horror when I learned last week that tomorrow night is the Spring Concert. What's that you say? So what you say? Oh, sorry, let me clarify that... it's the Spring Concerts. As in two. One for the Zach, one for Madeleine. On the same night within 30 minutes of each other. WTF? It's like Sophie's Choice! How am I supposed to be able to choose which event to go to when it is between the two children I love the most on this planet.

Seriously Corvallis School District 509J, you couldn't make sure that the middle school and a feeder elementary school didn't have a concert on the same night. I'm betting the Johnson's aren't the only family with kids at both schools. Nice calendar committee real nice.

Guess I'm going to have to scrap my lesson plans for the day for my Albany kiddos and get them on a rush project to invent me a teleporter that can get me to two places at once. Given our clear aptitude for such things it shouldn't be a problem.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A little slice of heaven

This was the best weekend in recent memory. Truly it was! We started out headed bright and early to Eugene for the Prefontaine classic. As last year, it was awe inspiring. The best part was that this year it was my whole family who sat in the grand stands.

After the meet we hit Eugene for some lunch and Voodoo Donuts. Great time! Then we came back to Corvallis, where we picked up Madeleine from the the sitters and geared up for the 3 mile trek down to American Dream Pizza and Gelato. Here is Sean and I on the Roof Top of the Dream enjoying some time together!

Madeleine was a total trooper. She cruised like a mad woman on her single speed, too small bike. Here is our victory pose when we got back to her house.

The fun continued this morning when my sister and I got in a short run and yoga session. We took Maddie downtown to a birthday party and enjoyed ourselves wandering around town, drooling over bikes and window shopping.

I got a new pair of summer Keen sandals. I'm so ready to use them. Especially if the summer is going to be filled with amazing weekends like this one!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It takes a village....

Well, until the test scores come in and then it's every person for themselves. That has been the story at my school this week. We are the proud owners (yes, sarcasm both implied and stated) of the lowest test scores in the district. Well, correct that, my team has the lowest scores, they get slightly better as the grades increase. Our 7th grade team has the best in the district. Wonder what they are doing upstairs.

Now, I could make a million excuses for why this is the case. It could be that we have two teachers on our team who literally phone it in. It could be that we followed the pacing guide provided by the district to the letter. It could be that the kids are a super immature batch. It could be that I gave up my class for 5 weeks to a student teacher who didn't have skills much higher than a 3rd grader. Yes, I could play the blame game all day. But I won't.

Because that isn't going to change the scores one bit. They are done, finished, over. They are horrible. They are embarrassing yes, but feeling bad about them isn't going to change anything. So no matter how many different ways my principal shows them to me, explains the ramifications of them to me, and put together comparison power point presentations complete with graphs for me, I can't change them. Do you want me to feel like a failure? Great, you win, because I do, but all I can do now is move forward from here and plan what to do about it next year.

Therein lies the problem of course. Because I honestly don't know what exactly to do different. There are so many tweaks I can do to try and improve them. But then how will I know what worked? I can go back to assigning nightly homework on concepts they are supposed to already know to keep skills fresh. I can chuck the pacing guide and teach what I know is on the test. But then isn't that just teaching to the test?

Didn't I just spend the past two year researching and buying into the whole "proficiency model" in which an assessment is just one snapshot in time. Kids get multiple tries and many different formats to show proficiency. I have designed assessments for just this purpose to give my kids the best possible option for learning concepts and demonstrating proficiency. But now I'm supposed to put all that aside because we live in the world of high stakes testing. Thanks NCLB for that.

It's all about "the test" and "the test" makes people nervous, and edgy, and unkind to each other. All the things I don't tolerate in my classroom appeared in the staff lunch room today. Accusations..blame..questions.."why are your scores so low." "Is it the kids or is it the teacher?" Is this what we are coming to? Seriously? This is the best hope we have for our children? Teaching them to pass a test? Yeah cause that is what life is all about. Regurgitating answers on a multiple choice test. We don't need any of those problem solving skills! Forget learning to work with each other. As long as you can pass the test then I'm successful as an educator, and you're a shining star in this system.

As I said to my colleague in the lunch room today as insults were being tossed around, I don't mind holding high standards for my students and myself. In fact I expect it, both from them and from me. But I need systems in place to support the education of these children I've been trusted with. I can't do it alone. It takes a village after least that is what I thought I signed on for.

If this is the direction that we are headed I don't think I can do this job for much longer. I want my students to be successful, and I believe that if I teach them the standards set out for their grade level, they should pass the test. Unless they don't, and some won't. I'm excited for the opportunity to tell them that the progress they've made this year is meaningless. Who cares that you can read fluently now, or that you've mastered the art of long division. Who cares that you learned about the life cycle of a butterfly or how to write poetry that made your mom cry.

Yes, you learned to solve problems with your peers in ways that didn't involve your fists (unless it was to throw out a rock, paper or scissors) or your mean words. Fine and dandy kids, but that stuff just doesn't belong in the classroom anymore. Nope, it's high stake testing season.

So much for developing a love of learning in my children. I'm pretty sure that this year was the last I'll be hearing from parents at conference time that this is the first year their child has loved school. Kids want to come to our class because they feel safe and successful. Well, while they are safe, it turns out the successful part, well...not so much. Bummer kids. I'm really sorry about that.

Let's all raise a glass and toast to progress. Cheers to the testing machine, like a dangling chad, it's multiple choice! It should be pretty damn fun when these are the adults who are supposed to be running the country when we get old. Good fucking luck!