Ready, Set, Go!

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Ready, Set, Go!

Believe me, every day I blog….in my head, but never get to writing. With the end of Ramadan, my chance to regenerate, I need to charge ahead to something I’ve been eager to pursue—besides breakfast and coffee in daylight.

Ramadan commenced with a very different start than my norm. As our son was unable to take time off work to drive a 2007 powder blue Mustang he’d purchased from an auction through a relative in Phoenix, my husband and I flew one-way to make an epic trip back to Chicago. Also, a long-held dream was fulfilled when we visited a dear girlfriend I’ve known since 5th grade. We stopped by to see her briefly for lunch in Ruidoso, NM. Since we were traveling, we suspended our Ramadan fasting but plan to make up the days. Yet, these being the longest days of the year, we’ll defer them until shorter, cooler days reappear. In Chicago, that should be in about two months.

Naturally, since I live in “flatland,” I love mountains, dry heat, forests, and bodies of water. Everywhere I go, I try to envision if it could become “home,” but although I can get along well in many places, the decision always includes consideration of where my children could live and work. Also, I reminded myself today that as Ramadan invariably puts athletic activities into dormancy, I value having decent biking trails and cheap golf nearby. It was great to pedal over to the library to pick up a book on negotiation skills today. And as we’ve not golfed in a very long time, and only visited the golf range once this year, it’s time to schedule some outings because there are only four months left to the season.

Yet, as Ramadan has multiple spiritual and physical benefits of bringing one closer to the Creator, improving the body’s metabolic efficiency, and vastly increasing socializing through multiple iftars (dinner invitations), it causes one to pause and prioritize how one wishes to become better and more on course with the vision of one’s life. Think of it as a time to make resolutions.

Typically, I would sleep after the dawn; many nights I’d be re-evaluating my choices and mapping new possibilities. Now, transitioning back to daytime work hours, coffee, and focus-enabling hydration, I’m juggling what Curly from City Slickers said, “…just one thing.” I’m READY to commit, SET with a plan, and it’s time to GO!

Seatbelt Time

Buckle in till the end


It is “seatbelt time,” that brief span of two weeks or less when classes still meet, but everyone knows that they are sooooo done with straining over the disciplines of school. When assigning homework brings a roll of the eyes of every student, and teachers are going through the motions while grinding their teeth, you know the jig is up because teachers walk into the teachers’ lounge asking, “Is it June yet?”

Well, it is here. My insight lends me to regroup, change plans, shake it up, and do those things the students have been clamoring to do. Skits, outings, art projects, are a few of my tools. I’d even made a classroom set of Roman numeral Bingo cards, and I think we’ll have some more practice the last few days.

Noticing that a few of my middle school students’ handwriting could be described as atrocious, they will get coached and practice some calligraphy using an italic font and a bulk of pens I’d ordered from Amazon specifically for these seatbelt days.

With May having AP exams, other standardized tests, field trips, field days, and senior ditch days as acceptable distractions from the regimen of learning, it is time to take the foot off the pedal and evolve into a stunt driver of new and alternative curriculum.

Always keep them guessing, and try to preserve their joy in gaining new skills, developing their social-emotional development, and building their confidence to explore a vast ocean of knowledge. Here’s to hoping for summer and the cry of “school’s out!”

Life’s a blazing blur

3764133068_fd4f23e736_z Down to the wire, life has been a frenzied, blazing blur all of January, February, and March with teaching middle and high school level classes, writing research papers, designing presentations, planning and completing two education conferences, and having progressive interviews for a principalship in Silicon Valley. The latter which I have just returned from today. Now we wait for the final verdict.

The premeditated strategy to stay ultra busy in hopes of not having time to curse Chicago’s lousy winter weather was a success, and it helped that this El Nino gave us a milder span of confinement. Having the chance to travel and escape it a few times helped too. Yet the stress of being overbooked with commitments resulted in my decision to suspend my participation in some favored volunteer activities for the next year because I realized that there has not been enough time to do some things I’d intended to pursue for nearly three years. With prospects of a relocation and ultra responsible obligation to a school community, I may only have a few months to accomplish those items on my list– but it is all good.

By the way, my 6th grade classes I’d written about in my previous blog are much improved in conduct and we have definitely made some great strides and connections. Being a democratic class community, I found it surprising that students voted to return to the traditional rows versus desk clusters. What they did ask for, and I approved, was that they could relocate themselves to sit by favored classmates. This was with the understanding that I could veto the arrangements if they were unable to focus or became disruptive. I’m greatly enjoying their progress and look forward to the next unit on Ancient Rome. They’ve asked to do skits!

Also pleasing to me is the interest in the school, where I interviewed, to encourage students to pursue some of the more creative and expressive avenues in art, writing, and media. I do believe they are on the right track to recognize these as significant pursuits which can enhance student motivation and ownership of their education. That’s a formula for success.

I am very blessed and grateful with how my efforts and prayers have resulted in rich rewards. Stay tuned for what should be an interesting springtime of emergence.

 

 

New Kid=New Teacher

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Agh! Just starting at a new school at mid-year is rough for students, but it isn’t easy for teachers either. I’m the “new teacher” that just came on board in January for 6th grade Ancient History and high school AP Psychology, and it is as much of a transition for me as it is for my students.

Teachers typically take the first few weeks to get to know their students, establish routines, and set a positive climate. But even experienced teachers know that after winter and spring breaks there is a certain degree of retraining that is needed.

Last weekend, when I flew to Santa Clara for an interview, my students endured one day of a substitute. To my chagrin, the 6th grade did not conduct themselves optimally, and I felt responsible. For if teachers have trained their classes well, the students should be able to follow established protocols even without the regular teacher’s presence. Of course, with less than one month, mine were evidently not well settled, so I took measures to modify my protocols.

The previous instructor used daily bellwork that featured map handouts each week, and she used her computer desktop to project questions relevant to those maps prior to the day’s lesson. I found that procedure conflicting with also using the desktop to report attendance at the start of each class. In addition, I really like to use short video clips to illustrate geographic places and concepts.

It occurred to me that this fit nicely into what Fred Jones, author of Tools For Teaching described as Preferred Activity Time (PAT), whereby students are rewarded if they behave and perform responsibly.

I communicated my displeasure with the conduct during my absence, and stated that we would concentrate on note taking skills each day. Students would be allowed and rewarded if they put effort forth to take good notes, as they could be used on formative assessments and specifically quizzes. On days which were productive, we would enjoy geography “bellwork” and a relevant video at the end of class. This week we saw a clip on the locks of the Panama Canal, some facts about Mexico, and a modern housing subdivision in Managua, Nicaragua.

Now students come in, ready their notebooks and texts while I complete attendance. I have learned their names, established cooperative groups via a seating chart, have numerous writing samples which indicate several areas I have targeted for remediation, and I am feeling pretty good that we are going to progress happily through till June.

As for Santa Clara, I’m going to enjoy this SuperBowl regardless of which team wins because it was my good fortune to have my hotel room view directly upon Levi’s Stadium as preparations were underway. The area is lovely and I truly enjoyed meeting people at their local school.

In fact, everything is win-win, and attitude, autonomy, and ambition are guiding my game lately. Enjoy!

5 Tips for a Better Year

 

Holiday breaks can foster fertile ideas and hopefully you have made solid plans for your entrepreneurial intentions. Yet, even if you are not an entrepreneur per se, you may have had ideas of ways you wish to improve your life. With that, allow me to share some tips with you, as I’ve had some fun conning myself at times to do the nasty but necessary tasks that I’ve preferred to defer, but just knew that I had to do.

I think it was Brian Tracy that coined the term “Eat That Frog” as a title for one of his books. This zany phrase was extrapolated from Mark Twain who described that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, then that is probably the worst thing that will happen all day. The gist of it is that with the myriad of distractions in our lives, be sure to knock off the most vital thing you can prioritize in order to gain traction; eat that frog.

For me yesterday, I updated and renewed a FAFSA application with my child who is in college. Everything else-albeit more pleasurable-took second place to “eating that frog.” Today it is writing lesson plans, for I am returning to the classroom for some part time social studies at middle school and high school levels. This will give me the pleasure of satisfying my “kid fix” while funding my other entrepreneurial tools that I want to explore. The only downside is that I’ll have to join the early riser club again, but it is probably for the best.

Every day, I have a huge amount of useless emails that I typically don’t even open after scanning the subject line because I do not find them relevant to my needs. Consequently, they pile up and I periodically unsubscribe or at least bulk delete several times each year. The reason I acquire so much email is that I find many free resources that give benefits, but at a certain point it becomes clear that subsequent offerings don’t interest me, are not coming at an opportune time, or cost more than I am willing to invest. Purge unnecessary emails. Ditto; for smartphone apps that free up more memory.

The tips on decluttering from Marie Kondo still give me “spark joy,” but it is deep winter now and I have no need for chiffon blouses, Boho skirts, and lightweight workout apparel. In fact, I’m recovering from a Baker’s Cyst (getting drained and having a Cortisone shot was like eating a frog!) that put brakes on my typically athletic lifestyle, so until I mend it seems joyful to thin out warm weather clothes from closets and drawers, except for what I will wear to present at the West Coast Education Forum in Newport Beach in mid-January.

Lastly, with high expectations for a productive year, it makes sense to calendarize, in order of priorities, all the work, personal projects and dates you intend to pursue. This includes writing and marketing campaigns, content creation, social dates, and vacations. For me, if I put it on my calendar, it is going to be done-even if it’s within a few days of my posting-so fill 2016 with a seriously accountable calendar of things that matter to you!

Hope you have the best, healthiest, happy and prosperous year ever.

Love. Peace. Patience.

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Love, Peace, Patience
Humans are precious elements of creation and each is sacred. Yet, in our forgetfulness we become corrupt, no longer pure as the day we were born. We must strive to regain the purity, no sin, no stain, no imperfection, and we ask forgiveness to once again be given the clean slate we had been gifted with at the start of this earthbound life.

Inherent to this we check our motives, actions, priorities, earnings, and choices. We pray to be guided rightly and to live mindful of the best character traits of the prophets and ancestors we have loved.

Love. Peace. Patience. With fortitude we use these anchors-exemplified by the best of humanity-a reminder to guide us through the storms.

Love and Home

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Love and Home
Is home the familiar place you land each night, or is home where your family gathers? I’d questioned this after being away from my home to attend the very successful and gratifying West Coast ISNA Education Forum recently in Anaheim, California, and also pursuant to shuffling several consecutive days between my home to cook the daily dinner, sleeping at my elderly father’s home to care for his needs, and working a temporary teaching assignment at my former school.
There are the comforting aspects of my home, like my own bed, my routines, seeing my husband and kids in our identified abode, known as home. Somehow, checking in over the telephone was not the same as face-to-face verification that they were healthy and happy.
Yet, while I evaluate, again, the prospect of getting the house ready for sale, I ponder if changing the familiar place in exchange for another is risking the setting that bonds us. If I move, will I disrupt that feeling of being home? Will I regret my decision? Or could it be that home is wherever the people I love are?
My extra few days to enjoy the companionship of friends in Redondo Beach and Glendale, California were enjoyable. Spending time with my dad in the home where I was raised was equally comfortable. Going back to teach in my former school, but in the new building addition, has also been touching a familiar chord. These clues may indicate that home is wherever the people I love are. The adage “home is where the heart is” comes to mind.
Could it be that with every place we go we may leave some favored aspects behind, but we can also create or design new niceties? I believe so; as life is full of change, the adaptable are those who thrive.
Fear may hold us back from opportunity if we are not open to new experiences, and that may mean that happiness may be unrealized. Yet, we never know. I recall many people who have left Chicago only to return because they tried some place new and did not find it to be better for them. Often times, they cited the fact that they missed their family and friends. Therefore, perhaps the strategy when relocating is to meet new people, contribute to the community, and grow new roots. Nice people can be found everywhere, and each new place needs leaders who can help.
Instructive to this point, my son mentioned that he likes community-based video games. He was chatting with three guys from Brazil yesterday, and he truly found satisfaction in connecting with them. He and his friends love this, and it is where he finds his community. Knowing this, I think that relocation will not be disruptive to him, as long as we still have the ability to physically be present to debrief each day. That will be the ultimate challenge though if we are distant from our other children. As a wife and mother, I realize that that is what defines home to me. It is not so much the place, because even meeting at a coffee shop to chat about the day can work; it is seeing those I love and knowing that they are doing well that brings me satisfaction. Home is wherever those I love are, and I want to enjoy my “home” everyday.