Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Silence

The one part of the fitbit watch that I didn't comment on last week was the silent alarm.  This feature may very well have changed my life.  As I've mentioned a few times, I am not much of a morning person.
So the requirement as a teacher to rise early is literally painful for me.  And even worse is waking up early to an alarm clock.  That sound makes me shudder.  Needless to say, between the early mornings and the jarring alarm clock, I'm kind of moody in the morning.
While figuring out all the details of the fitbit, the directions mentioned the silent alarm.  At first I was skeptical - how could a silent alarm jolt me out of bed like an alarm clock?  But the idea of a silent alarm was also very appealing.  So over winter break, I played around with it a bit.  There weren't too many days I needed to set the alarm, but when I did I also set it on the watch.  Because the time needed to get up over break wasn't very early, on most days I woke up before either alarm went off.  So the true test was when I went back to work.  I decided to set the watch for 4:50, the time I needed to get up in order to walk Rigby, and then the alarm clock a couple of minutes later as a "just in case".  I worried that the silent alarm, which is a vibration on the wrist, wouldn't be enough to wake me so the alarm clock was a second layer of protection.  The first few weeks back to work, the setting of the watch wreaked a bit of havoc with my sleeping.  I woke up constantly through the night, I think worried about whether it was going to wake me up.  The worst was that I kept waking up 10-15 minutes before it went off.  To someone who loves to sleep, those lost 15 minutes are a killer.  Anyhow, I gave it a month trial and by the start of February, I was back to sleeping through the night and also was awakened by the silent alarm, before the alarm clock ever went off.  The wrist vibration is much less jolting than that stupid alarm clock.  Now, mornings are still painful, but at least I don't want to throw an alarm clock across the room.  It's definitely more pleasant.  The only draw back is wearing the watch to bed, but it's definitely worth it, for now.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

My Valentines

Over the last couple of weeks I've been searching for something fun and easy to make for student Valentine's Day treats.  Pinterest is both a huge help and hinderance.  I found some cute ideas that I very nearly made, but just couldn't bring myself to spend $50+ on Valentines.  I spend that kind of money on my classroom all the time, but not on things of so little importance.  This year's treat cost a whopping $3.00, and it can be used again for many years to come.
When I initially stumbled upon the crayon hearts, I was put off by having to purchase a heart-shaped muffin pan.  It was such an easy project, and I have crayons coming out of my ears, but when I looked for pans at Michaels and on Amazon, I again couldn't justify the cost for a silly Valentine.  But when I walked into Walmart on a fluke and found a silicone heart "pan" for $3.00, I made my decision to make them!
My students always start the new school year with a box of 24 crayons.  About halfway through the year, they get a new box.  Students are given a choice to take the old box home or to "donate" them to our classroom community crayon bucket.  Luckily, I had just given out the new boxes a week or so ago and most of my students wanted to leave their old ones with me.  Little did they know they were contributing to their own Valentine's Day treat.
I came home with bags and boxes of used crayons.  Many of the directions I saw online mentioned buying new boxes and using those.  With all the used crayons I have in my classroom, that would have been a waste.
My biggest concern about the project was getting all the paper off without breaking all my fingernails.  A work colleague of mine recommended using an X-acto knife, but even that sounded tedious.  I found soaking them in a bowl of warm soapy water for just a few minutes loosened the paper enough that the crayons fell right out.
 The purples, greens, and oranges were the easiest.  The reds and blues were more difficult - the glue holding the paper was less resistant to the soapy water.  They would begin to pull off, but then tear when it got to the glue.  A quick run under warm water in the exact place it was sticking released it easily and the papers came right off after that.
The crayons were then sorted into like colors.  Of course, the pinks and reds would have been the most ideal colors to use for Valentine's Day, but Crayola only includes one red and one pink in the box.  They include about a million oranges and purples and greens and yellows in the box however, so those colors made up most of my hearts.
 After they were dry, the crayons were broken into smaller pieces to fit better in the pan.
 And then placed into the $3.00 silicone pan with coordinating colors.
 They were baked in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.
After they cooled completely (2-3 hours), they peeled right out of the pan - which is a plus using silicone.  I was very pleased with the way the lighter/brighter colors turned out - the pink, orange, and green crayons are gorgeous.  I was a but disappointed the way the blues and purples turned out as far as the look of the heart.  Both hues are quite bright and pretty on paper, but the color of the crayons are dark and they didn't show the colors when melted like I thought they would.
I made up a card which says, "Color Your (heart) Out!  It's Valentine's Day!"  And secured the hearts to the card using a large dot from the hot glue gun.
I love the way they turned out.  Valentine's Day is on Sunday this year (and over a 4-day Presidents' weekend to boot), so our exchange will be this coming Thursday.  I hope they are a hit!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Saturday 9 - Nope

While I love me a good Saturday 9, just hearing the name of this week's song artist makes me want to punch him in the face.  I do not have Bieber-fever, in fact I think he's a little sh*!  So I'm NOT linking the song! :)
1) This song is a plea for a second chance. Are you good at forgiving/forgetting?  I actually am not.  I'm probably the world's biggest grudge holder.  If I let my heart make the decision,  it often says, "You're dead to me!"  I have to constantly remind myself that...
 2) "Little sh*!" asks his girl to "forget this." What have you done/said recently that you wish could just be forgotten?  I've been pretty well behaved recently, so I don't think there is anything that I've regretted.  The year is young, though.
3) "Little sh*!" says he needs just 6 hours sleep every night. How about you? How much sleep do you require to feel sharp?  On average, about 6 hours a night is what I get during the work week.  I'd like 10-12, so I make up for it on the weekends.
4) "Little sh*!" D&G underwear, which can cost as much as $102/pair. Sam may be crazy, but there's no way she'd spend that much on underwear. What's something you're willing to splurge on?  Shoes!!!
5) He may be picky about underwear but not cuisine. He loves Big Macs. If we were going to McDonald's, what would you order?  The fries, of course.   
6) When it comes to healthier fare, "Little sh*!" has told fans he enjoys snacking on bananas and grapes. What do you reach for between meals?  When grapes are in season, they're a favorite.  I also keep nuts and Kind bars in my classroom for recess time.
7) Performing in Germany, "Little sh*!" told a girl who approached the stage, "Ich liebe dich” and she fainted. Have you ever fainted?  Yes, three times.  The first time, I was about 8 and my family and I were watching the show Emergency One.  The doctor on the show performed a spinal tap and, after I asked, my dad told me what it was I fainted.  The second time, I was up in San Francisco with a friend of mine's family.  We were making Dim Sum and I was in charge of mushing the meat and spices up with my hands.  I don't know if it was the texture or that my hands got cold, but I passed out onto the kitchen floor.  And the last time was when I was 15 and taking a required health/first aid class.  The teacher had told us that someone passed out in the class before mine, and then as he started lecturing about going into shock, I passed out, fell out of my desk, and onto the floor.  I haven't passed out since, but often feel like I'm going to when I get my eyes checked - weird.
8) As a kid, "Little sh*!" was teased for being one of the shortest in his class. What do you recall being teased about in school?  Nothing specific, just regular kids stuff, but all pretty painless.  No scars.
9) Random question: Will you be watching this weekend's Super Bowl?  Wah, wah, wah!  No, I really could care less about it.  If the Pats are playing, I'll check the scores, but other than that I don't even know who is in it this year.  I'm always up for a good party, but not on a Sunday night.  So Super Bowl Sunday means nothing to me.  

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Steps

Happy February!  How has a month of 2016 already gone by?  Sheesh!
Sunday ended the first month wearing my new Fitbit watch/fitness tracker.  And after one month, here are my thoughts...
  • I did NOT need another thing to obsess over.  It has so many options (steps, miles, floors, calories, hours sleeping, restlessness), and it has kind of made me concerned over things that I've never been concerned over.  I take it off when I shower, and if I forget to put it back on the whole day's tracking (in my mind) is ruined because it's no longer accurate.  So in order to counteract the obsessiveness, I've taken to not wearing it on the weekends.  During the week, my routine is pretty established so even if it's not on my wrist right after my shower, it's on before I leave the house because I always leave the house with a watch.  The weekends are an entirely different story routine-wise.  Leaving it off those two days gives my brain a break from checking it every few minutes.  
  • 10,000 steps is supposedly the goal for a healthy lifestyle.  I spent the first month with it tracking that I was hitting 10,000 each day, but what I found was that I was hitting 9,000+ steps before even getting home from work.  A few days last month, the 10,000 "vibration" went off while walking to my car in the school parking lot.  There's walking across the room to work with a group, there's walking to students to answer a question, there's walking around the room doing a lesson, there's walking to the office and restroom during my breaks, but there's also a lot of stopping in between.  Clearly, teaching is a very active job, but what I found from the tracking is that very little of those steps are continuous, and not getting my heart rate up, which is the point.  So I've upped the goal to 15,000, which has been much more difficult to achieve.
  • With that being said, being able to see those steps and wanting to reach that goal, I often find myself just shy of it right before going to bed.  So rather than let it slide for the night, I walk around my house and up and down the stairs until it clicks over to 15,000.  Part of me feels like it's ridiculous, on the other hand maybe it's not.  
Anyhow, I wasn't really interested in getting a fitness watch at first, because I do keep a fairly active routine.  But now that I have it, it's made me look at my activity more, or maybe it's made me smarter about it.  

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Don't You Care

I have never heard of this week's song or band - The Buckinghams' Don't You Care
1) What's something that seems to fascinate everyone else, but you just don't care about?  Winter weather.  If I remember correctly, most of the country gets snow every single winter, and sometimes a lot of it.  So I'm not quite sure why a snowstorm in January warrants 24-7 media coverage.  Oh, and the supposed El Nino that is "here".  We've had like 60 days of news (in a row) about it and only one day of rain.  
2) The lyrics refer to "the times we cried and laughed." Which did you do more recently, cry or laugh?  Definitely laughed most recently, but I have to admit that I am a sentimental crier, or weller-upper would be more accurate.  A cute dog, a young person respecting his elders, someone saving the day, my students accomplishing something especially challenging, all bring tears to my eyes.
3) In the song, our hero seems surprised that his girlfriend doesn't believe him. Are you more believing and trusting, or suspicious and skeptical?  Khaled Hosseini wrote (in the Kite Runner) "And that's the thing about people who mean everything they say.  They think everyone else does too."  That about sums up where I come from.  
4) This song is just over two minutes long, which seems short for a song but awful long when Sam is waiting for her chicken soup to heat in the microwave. What's the last thing you heated in a microwave?  My lunch in the staff room.
5) This week's band, The Buckinghams, was one of the first acts to perform at Chicago's premiere summer festival, The Taste of Chicago.* Let's think ahead: Have you made any plans for Summer 2016?  Summer plans are usually not something I make...After the school year is over, the last people I want to see are kids, and they tend to be EVERYWHERE in the summer.  Plus it's hot and usually twice as expensive.  So summer is usually a quiet, trip-free time, preferring travel over winter or spring break.  So no.
6) In 1967, when this song was popular, Rolling Stone magazine published its first issue. What magazines do you subscribe to? Do they arrive in the mail, or do you read them online?  I've let all my subscriptions expire since pretty much everything is available online anymore.  However, I must have signed up for a lifetime subscription to Vanity Fair because I keep getting it and I don't think I've actually paid for a subscription in quite some time.  It arrives on my doorstep (or in various other places around the front of my house) as they now now "hand deliver".  It also pops up in the newsstand on the apple products, but I don't tend to read it there.
7) Country star/American Idol judge Keith Urban was born in 1967. Are you watching the final season of American Idol?  I do record America Idol and actually watch it from time to time.  I had stopped for quite a few years, but a weekly dose of Harry Connick Jr. is enticing.  
8) In 1967, the average cost of a movie ticket was $1.25. By 2015, it had risen $8.60. What's the last movie you saw in a theater?  I saw the Hateful Eight on New Year's Day, but haven't seen anything since.  I wish the tickets were $8.60!  A matinee here is anywhere from $11-$15!
9) Random question: Sam's taking everyone out to dinner and she's buying. Would you prefer the steak or the lobster?  A medium filet or ribeye please.  I've heard good things about lobster, but I can't eat it, so steak it is!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Penmanship

For the last few years, I've seen and heard criticism towards educators for no longer teaching/prioritizing writing by hand, whether it be printing or cursive.  My initial reaction to that criticism is one of defense.  It is a fact, in the 67 Language Arts and 27 Math standards that I am required to teach my kids, handwriting is no longer part of the curriculum.  What is part of the curriculum is producing writing on the computer using a keyboard.  While I understand the need for kids to be keyboard literate, I will save my rant about giving WPM requirements to people whose fingers aren't long enough to type correctly on the keyboard for another day.  With the emphasis on creating career-ready individuals the need for handwriting skills is, if we are being honest, no longer a priority. Ask anyone in business, technology has inundated every part of the work day and handwritten anything is essentially nonexistent.  Going further, the amount of pressure put on districts, sites, and the teachers in regards to standardized testing, not one of those entities is going to put the time into something that will not end up on that test.  And I also have a third, personal, take on it as well.  Kids are picking up pencils at a younger age.  Parents send their kids to academic preschool, and those kids are being given homework to complete.  However, no one is teaching them HOW to form letters, and many of those kids are not developmentally ready to do so either.  With a year or two of preschool and maybe even a year of pre K, kids who are entering kindergarten are coming in with some terrible writing habits.  For example, starting from the top, down when forming printing letters is not a skill most small children have, so they start from the bottom, up.  A lot of young kids also feel more comfortable holding the pencil with a fist, again due to developmental control, rather than the correct hold.  Both can lead to a lack of control, and very sloppy printing.  Those habits are extremely hard to break in the span of a school day when other curriculum is deemed more important.  Writing by hand has definitely been left by the wayside.
And part of me agrees with that decision.  On the other hand (no pun intended) handwriting is a form of expression, and it does sadden me some that kids aren't being given the chance to perfect it.  And after watching this video, that feeling is reinforced.  This guy is amazing!
Writing by hand is truly an art form.
In our current educational system with the emphasis on standardized testing and quantity over quality, removing handwriting is what we have to do.  If the teachers had any input into what we taught and how we tested, I suspect we'd find a place for it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Saturday 9

It's been a brutal couple of weeks for entertainers of a certain age, hasn't it?  This week's Sat. 9 is linked to Glen Frey's (1948-2016) The One You Love.
1) In this song, Glenn explores one of the great romantic conundrums. This week, Saturday 9 is confronting it, too. If you had to choose, would you prefer to be loved, or to be in love?  Hmmm, I've found those to be mutually exclusive.
2) The song describes an awkward moment: an old boyfriend calls when a woman is on a date with someone new. To whom did you last say, "I can't talk now?"  Oh I say that all that time, especially if someone calls me on the phone.  
3) The lyrics talk about heart vs head. When you find yourself in that predicament, which usually wins -- heart or head?  Oh, definitely my head, to a fault.
4) This song was from Glenn Frey's solo album, No Fun Aloud. What fun stuff are you looking forward to this weekend?  Sleeping in!  What?  Sleeping is fun!!
5) Glenn Frey was born in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. The Motor City is known for car manufacturing. Is your car domestic or foreign?  This car is a Nissan so in theory it's foreign I think.  But I have read some Nissans are actually manufactured in the US, but I don't know.  This is my first foreign made car.  My dad always made me buy Fords, and once I bought a GMC (blasphemy). 
6) The popular 1990s sitcom Home Improvement was set in Royal Oak. Are you handy around the house?  No, not really at all.
7) Glenn Frey co-founded The Eagles in 1970. What's your favorite Eagles' song? I know all the words to Hotel California and I always liked Dirty Laundry.
8) The Eagles helped define "California Rock," but in recent years Glenn and his wife lived in Tribeca. Have you ever been to New York? If so, did you like it?  I have been to NYC a few times.  There are parts I like and parts I don't.  There is a lot to do, and I really appreciate the ability to get around easily without a car.  To me, summers there are suffocating and claustrophobic, but the rest of the year it's a fun place to visit.
9) Glenn wrote "Smuggler's Blues" and "You Belong to the City" for the iconic 1980s TV show, Miami Vice. What else comes to mind when you think of the 80s?  My childhood.  And big hair.  I was always envious of the big hair as I could never get mine big.