Friday, March 20, 2015

Carpe Diem! #SOL15, Day 21

missed Day 20 of the SOL blogging challenge. The time change from MST to London time created a time warp. Boo! 

If my trip across the pond has a theme, it's siege every fleeting moment, no matter how quickly it passes. Our tour guide, charming Nicki, called this "Speed Sughtseeing."

Wit that in mind, after arriving, we did a whirlwind tour of the British Gallery before seeing a fantastic performance of "Phantom of the Opera."

Today, we visited the Tower of Lobdon and saw the British Crown Jewels. Next, we dashed off to St. Paul's Cathedral, then to Westminister Abbey, on to Buckingham Palace, and ended the day with a ride on the London Eye. 

I loved seeing Poet's Corner, of course. 

Here are a few phone pics from the trip:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#SOL15 Day 19: Flight Test

Today was a first. I proctored and administered a test to a student in my Communication 1101 class who is traveling to Europe and the UK with me and 31 other people.

Here's Danielle taking her Flight Test: 

#SOL15 Day 18: "Live Heavy. Travel Light"

This month I'm participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Today is Day 18!

This past weekend I posted a picture of my carry-on bag in it's partially packed state for my trip to the UK and Europe. I included this caption: 

Packing for my 13 day excursion to London, Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. I'm not checking any bags, this is my carry-in w/ 11 outfits and a jacket in it. I'll have a small personal bag that attaches to this one, and it has everything else I'll need, including a book.

The picture precipitated many warm wished for an exciting trip as well as travel tips. As I read comments, the often cited baggage metaphor took new shapes in my mind. 

A high school friend with whom I recently reconnected on FB offered this: 

One carryon is the only way to travel. As one takes trains/taxis in Europe from the airport and beyond, the flexibility creates luscious independence!

Indeed! How often to we sacrifice our independence by allowing professional and personal baggage to drag us down? 

My favorite comment came from a former student: LIVE HEAVY. TRAVEL LIGHT!

I love the sentiment and the wisdom Rylie shared with me. It's her Carpe Diem worldview! 

As I head for the airport, I'm leaving behind the big bags. I have 14 outfits in that carryon, three pairs of shoes, and an additional personal item (a small bag that attaches to the carryon), which means I'll have a free hand to grab hold of whatever I need to that will make my trip exciting. 

"She's a roller," observed my friend Chris. 

Yes I am. I'm learning daily how to roll for packing and how to roll with life. I'm living heavy and traveling light. I'm leaning toward "luscious independence"!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Find Someone and Ask: #SOL15, Day 17

During March I'm participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I'm grateful for the dedication Stacey, Betsy, Tara, and the others bring to the challenge each day and for their commitment to visit the blogs of participants. 

I've never been shy about asking questions, about raising my hand in class, about participating in discussions of any kind. Even when traveling, I'm ready for a chat and love meeting new people and learning about them. 

Many students, however, live more reticent lives. Bringing them into the academic conversation isn't always easy, but "FIND SOMEONE AND ASK" changes that dynamic. 

In our ongoing study of British poetry, an early activity that gets kids talking about poetry and reading their poems closely that I use is FSaA. Credit for the activity goes to the brilliant student teacher I had last year, Drue Nagamo. 

Students each have a grid with nine squares. Each square has a question. Each student must get a new respondent for each square. Students must ask their classmates and record the answers. After they finish, we talk. It's an organic discussion that follows no set pattern. 

FIND SOMEONE AND ASK gives students a casual atmosphere for talking about and sharing classic texts.

A caveat: This activity should not be used to transfer textbook questions onto a handout. The questions need to avoid feeling like a worksheet. 

It's not just the teacher's job to ask and answer. As Albert Einstein admonishes us: "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

Go ahead and find someone and ask. You might like the questions and the answers. 

*A more detailed lesson plan is on the Better Lesson dot com website in the Master Teacher Project and can be found in my poetry unit, Unit 10, Lesson 3. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Half Way to Half Way, U.S.A.: #SOL15, Day 16

This month I'm participating in the Slice of life Blogging Challenge sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. Here's Day 16!

When I received the email for Day 16 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge, Betsy's reminder that today is the halfway point reminded me of a dot on the map. 

Halfway, Missouri marks the halfway point between Bolivar, Missouri and Buffalo, Missouri. Local lore says the town is so named because of its geography.

Halfway to Halfway, U.S.A.

I'm halfway to Halfway
Traveling the asphalt
Watching mile markers whiz by
Literal and metaphorical places
I recall...

Halfway Baptist Church
In Halfway, Missouri
Marks the halfway point 
Between Bolivar and Buffalo.

In college we joked that the congregation--
By virtue of the church's name--
Traveled halfway to heaven and
Could get no further than half the way.

Halfway Baptist in Halfway, Missouri
Searching images of Halfway, Missouri, 
I learn Halfway is a popular 
Name for small towns,
Halfway formed settlements.

Straddling geography
As though uncertain which way to go
West to Buffalo; East to Bolivar
A roundabout of the mind. 

Halfway, Kentucky is actually the name of three 
Places in Kentucky: 
Allen, Barren, and Calloway Counties 
All lay claim to Halfway. 

Halfway, Oregon boasts panoramic mountain vistas.

"HalfwayOregonskyline" by Finetooth - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

My thoughts often reach the halfway point 
Turn down a one-way blue highway in my mind,
Reaching their final destination:
Cracks emerge,
I've reached a
Cognitive DEAD END.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Make Me Better #SOL 15,Day 15

This month I'm participating in the Two Writing Teachers blogging challenge. This is Day 15 of 31. 

Some people bring out the best in us. Others, not so much.

While enjoying an evening of music, my friend Angie and I chatted about colleagues who bring out the best in us, those who make us want to be better teachers. 

The first person I recall who mad me want to be better is Nydia May Jenkins, my high school debate coach. I've thought about her often as I've read Deb Day's blog, Coffee With Chole, where Deb has shared her speech team's experience's. When Miss J. taught me, she "wouldn't give a plugged nickel" for me, as she told one judge my senior year. Yet, she changed her mind as I improved, as she brought out the best in me, as she made me want to be better. 

I've had a couple of administrators who have made me want to be better because they were horrible people who inspired me to prove them wrong. The worst of the lot is Jeff Taylor, whose totalitarian abuse I suffered for 12 years. If you are a new teacher, take note, and rise above if you have an incompetent idiot such as Jeff Taylor as your boss.

Fortunately, I now have administrators who make me want to be better. They do so by treating me with respect, by not jumping to conclusions when a kid or parent whines about some minor incident, by thanking me for the job I'm doing, and by saying they appreciate me. They also listen to my concerns, even when they are hard-pressed for time.

My friend Angie has always made me want to be better, especially when dealing with special services students. Angie is the head of our special ed department and helps me see perspectives that I'm not familiar with. 

I also have online friends who bring out the best in me. Gary Anderson, who blogs at What's Not Wrong, keeps me honest, as does Rhonda Deighton, Amy Szerence, Cherylanne Schmidt, and others. 

Not wanting to disappoint my friends motivates me to do better. The trust I've earned as a National Board Certified Teacher and as a Master Teacher in the NEA Better Lesson Master Teacher Project and via my freelance work with Stenhouse Publishing all push me to do better than before. 

Even seeing Stacey drop by this blog encourages me to say something new and  worth reading. Others participating in the SOL15 challenge push and inspire me, especially those new to blogging. 

My students also drive me to be better, especially as more students enroll in Comm 1101, the dual credit class in the ISU Early College Program. 

I'm a pretty intrinsically driven person, but there are many people who give me that extra push. They're the people who make me better and who make me want to be better. 

Angie with her boyfriend Kelly, who is in a local band.