Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some Changes

Before Spring Break, the students in my class had kind of lost their minds.  Between some new students starting with us in mid January (which takes up a lot of my time) and new administration (who doesn't seem to have the same behavior management philosophy as the previous admin did), small behavior problems kept creeping up and the procedures I had in place were no longer working.  As it got closer to spring break (and report cards and parent teacher conferences) I didn't have the time or the energy to change the situation as I was merely crawling to the Spring Break finish line at that point.  I knew, however, that over break I needed to figure out some new procedures and gimmicks to solve some of these small behavior issues in order to make it until the end of the school year.
Both new students arrived in mid January, bringing a lot of baggage and drama with them.  It's impossible to wrap one's mind around how a seven year old can bring baggage and drama to a second grade classroom, but it happened, times two, and my class of sweet kiddos had turned into bratty teenagers before my eyes.  Fortunately for us, one of the student's family issues caused them to move again (sadly, for the third time this school year), which has helped some, but one thing we've worked on since returning to school last week is some classroom community building.  The tattling and blaming and not taking responsibility for one's actions had gotten out of control and coming together as a class to work on this was a must.  We spent the week learning about being a "Bucket Filler" and not a "Bucket Dipper", which are cute ways of reminding everyone to be kind.  We've also started a community circle each afternoon which is a time when we get a chance to share positive thoughts about each other.  It's amazing the change that has made in the room, even after just one week!
The other behavior issue I've been struggling with it the shouting out and talking during instruction.  In my relatively short (17 years) teaching career, this is a behavior that has been getting worse and worse each new school year.  Kids, by nature, are self-centered and impatient.  It's our job to teach them to wait their turn and learn how to be respectful when they aren't the center of attention.  In my observations, many kids aren't required to do that anymore at home.  Their parents cater to their child's whim, rather than the other way around.  And rather than a child be made to sit quietly and be patient, so often they are handed an electronic device to keep them busy, and quiet.  In my opinion, this has done a disservice to kids.  They no longer know how to just "be" and also do not know how to wait their turn.  In addition, with the change in curriculum to the Common Core and the need for student discourse, kids are talking all the time.  My group this year is mostly quite bright and very excited about learning.  Unfortunately, because of that, they think that they can talk out or with others anytime they feel like it.  I've struggled this year with not wanting to stifle this excitement for learning and not having multiple students shouting out at me at any given time.  After some research on some of the teacher blogs and using children's literature, I came up with a plan that I enacted last Monday morning.
The kids listened to the story My Mouth is a Volcano, which is about a boy who can not keep his thoughts to himself and interrupts everyone in his life.  Then one day some other students interrupt him when he's talking to the class, and he doesn't like it one bit.  Then we did some role playing where during discussions I interrupted whoever was speaking.  No one liked that very much, which was powerful.  The kids also did some writing on how they were going to keep their volcano mouth under control.  Lastly, I introduced "Blurt Beans".
Each student starts the day with 3 beans.  Anytime they blurt out/interrupt while someone else is talking or turn and talk to a neighbor during instruction, they have to return a bean to the blurt bean container.  At the end of the day, anyone who still has beans left (one, two, or all three) get to put them in the reward jar.  When the beans reach a certain level, they earn that reward.  It's been in place for about a week now, and so far the results have been favorable.  There are still the repeat offenders who just "can't help it", but after losing one bean (and the rest of the class being disappointed) they are able to keep things under control.  Using peer pressure for good is always quite helpful!  
I am a huge proponent of classroom management and feel that if kids aren't behaving, learning is going to be a challenge for them, as well as their classmates.  I spend a large portion of the new school year on classroom management, trying to invest in it heavily early on in order to reap the benefits of it for the rest of the year.  That usually is the case.  Sometimes though, there is a need to change things up,  As hard as it can be, I'm more than willing to give up some academic instruction time to nip poor behavior in the bud.  Everyone is always happier in the long run, especially the teacher!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Super" Bloom

Even though Southern California is essentially a desert, wildflowers typically bloom beautifully in the spring.  For the last 3 or 4 years however, springtime blooms have mostly eluded us.  The yearly poppy (and other flower) viewing visits have been planned but not carried out because the spring bloom has been fleeting, at best.  Due to all the rain we (finally) had this winter, this year's spring bloom has been newsworthy.
My mom came into town for a few days at the start of my spring break, and we took a drive to see what was blooming.  We first headed to Lebec/Fort Tejon.  The drive itself up the 5 freeway through the Grapevine and the Tejon Pass was worth the trip alone.  It's been so long since we've seen anything green growing on our mountains, so the scenery was spectacular.  The shades of green might even give Ireland a run for its money.  Unfortunately, the elevation in Lebec is about 3,500 feet and as we got closer to the areas with blooms reported we were socked in with fog and mist.  The flowers were all closed for business.  After waiting about an hour to see if it would burn off, it didn't we headed back down the mountain and took a little detour into Gorman which was just beginning to flower.
 It was quite pretty, but I'm sure by now the entire hillsides have exploded.  We were just a tad early.
After that. we continued to head south until we hit the 138/Lancaster Freeway and cut across to the Antelope Valley which is where the Poppy Reserve is, our next stop.  Both my mom and I like to take pictures so the quick drive was slower because we kept pulling off to the side of the road for photo ops.
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a state protected reserve which highlights our state flower.  Although we were again a tad early to see them in all their glory, what we did see was beautiful.
 On a side note, with the publicizing that has been done on the news and social media about the "Super Bloom", people are coming in droves to see them.  That is a good thing, but it has led to some poor behavior.  This was a section adjacent to the reserve.  I'm not sure if it's part of their property or not, but it's made very clear all over the grounds to stay on the trail, the poppies are protected, no dogs, and rattlesnakes live in the poppies.  In this section however, people were sitting in them, walking on them, one car even drove through the area.  There were two dogs playing in them.  Being such a rule follower, I had to walk away because the whole scene irritated the heck out of me.
There have been news reports of this poor behavior - destroyed flowers, rattlesnake bites, and altercations with rangers.  Gah!!!!  I had planned on going back up the Tejon Pass this past week, but then heard that due to this, the Fort has closed off viewing times and visitors can only come in by appointment only.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Dream, A Chuckle

As I think I've mentioned before, I don't dream (or remember my dreams) very often.  However I woke from one on Saturday morning, my first day of spring break, that made me laugh.  I'm not sure of the context, which is usually the case when I dream, but for what seemed like several minutes I listened to someone say, "business" over and over and over again.  But rather than annunciate the three syllables in the word it was said emphasizing the many "s" sounds in the word.  It was more like, "bisssss nisssss, bisssss nisssss".  I remember thinking, "Why do they keep saying that?" feeling irritated.  Then I woke myself up, and it was only about 6:00 am.  That's when I remembered that my bedroom window was open, and I heard a bird whistling in the same two beats the "person" was saying "business" in my dream.  With eyes still closed, I got up, closed the window and fell back into bed.  I wasn't going to let this bird interrupt my sleep or invade my dreams that early on the first day of break.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday 9

This week's song link is Asia's Heat of the Moment...
1) What's something you did or said "in the heat of the moment?"   Most of my life “mouth” has gotten me in a bit of trouble in all sorts of moments.  Now that I’m old older, it’s no longer worth the aggravation that it causes me vs. the point I’m trying to make.  C’est la vie
2) Asia's founder and bass player, John Wetton, passed away in January. One of his bandmates remembered him as a reliable performer who made everyone around him look better. Do you enjoy being the center of attention? Or would you, like Mr. Wetton, prefer to play a supporting role?  No, I do not like being the center of attention and would prefer to play a supporting role.
3)  When were you in the car for than an hour?  Most of my hour car rides are for a drive that is, by mileage, quite short.  The traffic here is atrocious most of the time, so none of my hour car rides are exciting adventures...just trying to get from one side of town to the other usually.  Today, we are going wild flower hunting though.  So we will probably be in the car for a longer, adventurous drive!
4) The song refers to disco hot spots, which apparently, by 1982, no one wanted to go to anymore. Let's make that negative into a positive. Describe your perfect night out with friends. Where would you go?  These days, my living room’s couch sounds like a nice place to hang out with friends.  But if we’re feeling motivated, I evening out to the theater or one of the museums for an interesting speaker.  Add in a nice meal, and it sounds like a fun evening to me!
5) In 1982, the year this song was popular, someone laced bottles of Tylenol with cyanide. That's why we now have tamper-proof caps on many products. Have you used anything in a tamper-proof bottle yet today?  I remember the Tylenol scare as a kid!  I have not.  It’s the first day of spring break so there are NO aches and pains.
6) In 1982, Time Magazine's Person of the Year wasn't a person at all, it was "the computer." What do you use your computer for most often?  There is very little these days I DON’T use the computer for. 
7) 1982 also saw the premiere of The Weather Channel. Where do you learn the day's weather forecast? (Watching the local news on TV, checking your phone, looking out the window ...)  The Weather Bug and Accu Weather apps on my phone. Although, my phone has phantom photos on it that are taking up storage but aren’t actually there.  I have had to delete a whole bunch of apps, just to use my phone until I can hook it up to the computer and wipe those photos from it. 
8) In 1982, Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie, Conan the Barbarian, was a hit in theaters. When you settle down to watch a movie, is it usually a fantasy, like Conan? Or do you prefer another genre?  My preferred genre of movie/show is drama/suspense/thriller and if its about detectives or spies that’s even better.  I also like comedy, if not too slapticky, romance comedy, if not too sappy, and action if there is some semblance of a realistic story in it.  Fantasy or pretend is not a genre I tend to watch at all, but I have seen all the X-Men/Wolverine films, and do like those! 
9) Random question: What is something you try to avoid?  Mayonnaise (listening to it, seeing it, or eating it) and having my picture taken.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Treasure. A Benign Post.

My level of frustration with our federal government's new administration is on red alert, and if I were blogging about that, I'd have plenty to say.  Trying to bite my tongue and stay away from posting about politics has felt a little stifling which has led to me not really wanting to write about anything.  Writing benign posts feels mostly uninspiring...but I think I've got one today!  :)
My dad spent part of the 60s in the navy.
Part of his enlisted time was spent in Korea and the rest he spent in Japan.
Growing up, I vividly remember a tea set that he had brought back from his time in Japan for his mom (my grandma), who then gave it to my mom.  The delicate pot and tiny cups were white, decorated with a red and gold dragon.  I have vivid memories of getting this tea set out every-so-often and playing with it, because what made it so special and fun to a little kid was that when the tea cups were tipped up towards the light, there was a shadow of a Geisha.  You would have no idea it was there unless it was in the right light.  I found them so fascinating.
The set was housed in my mom's china hutch.  But sadly, in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, that china hutch fell over and most items in it were destroyed, including the tea set.  We don't have a lot of family treasures or mementos, but I would have considered that one so it was sad when it was gone.
Fast forward to earlier this year.  I was visiting with family at my aunt's (dad's sister) house.  Before I left, she told me she had something for me.  She went behind the bar and came out with a bag.  Inside the bag was a Japanese saki set with the same red and gold dragon design.  Come to find out, my dad had also brought back this saki set for my aunt and uncle.  My mom and aunt had somehow touched on the subject of it the last time they were together, and my mom mentioned how special I found the tea set.  My aunt decided to give me the saki set.  That just warmed my heart and made me sentimental over it.  The best part of the set...the little cups also have the geisha shadow in it.
Since I'm even less of a saki drinker than I am a tea drink - I rarely drink tea - this set is residing in  my sideboard which is much less top heavy than a hutch.  Hopefully, it will remain safe there.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


I often want to hide my head in shame after posting about the weather here in California.  We get such little weather that when it does happen, as I've mentioned, we kind of lose our minds. As I also stated a couple of weeks ago, every few years we get torrential rains which makes us sound like babies, "Oh, it's going to rain a lot in this storm."  But the reality is that while the rains that come might be few and far between, they really are quite powerful.  Storm Lucifer has been talked about all week. It was predicted to bring a lot of rain and wind and with that some damage.  Below are some snippets of the news spliced together.  The most fascinating are the two sink holes.

It did rain VERY hard and it was so windy.  Luckily, due to the four day Presidents' weekend I didn't have to go anywhere.  And I didn't.  We mostly stayed holed inside the house listening to it, and again hoping that the very tall palm tree across the street that was blowing wildly in the wind didn't uproot itself and fall onto my house (which is a regular rainy day worry).  Anyhow, about midday it was time to coerce Rigby outside before she exploded.  Before opening the door to the yard, something moving on the grass caught my eye.  At first I noticed it was a bird, but then I soon realized that there were several.  They kept landing on the grass area and jumping around in the bushes and the fence.  I counted upwards of 10 at any given time.
 They're terrible pictures, but if you enlarge them you can clearly see some of them.  I've never seen birds that look like that before.  We have the little brown sparrows, the mourning doves, and the mockingbirds that come out in droves, but these colorful ones were a mystery to me.
 I tried to go outside without the dog to get a closer look, but as soon as the door opened they all flew up into the nearby trees.
I asked around and learned that they are American robins.  I had no idea we had them here!  I also learned that they usually are sighted in the spring.  Which makes me chuckle.  Of course they would arrive in my backyard on the most non-spring day we've had this year.
Not having the best of luck when it comes to wildlife in my backyard, I was a bit worried they were planning on making my yard a place to birth or die (neither have been successful in my yard) and I really wanted them to take their business elsewhere.  The dog went out shortly after that and so I didn't see them the rest of the day.  This morning, there were a couple in my yard and when I got home this afternoon, there were several flying around and singing in my trees.  I'm still hoping they realize I have a dog and they'll plan whatever they are planning at one of the neighbors' instead.  It's not looking that way, but my fingers are crossed.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Show

Anytime someone speaks or writes about their favorite band/musician, I'm always perplexed a bit in coming up with an answer because I have a lot of favorites.  Other than "country" music, I pretty much enjoy all music, and my favorites would probably depend on the day of the week or musical interests at the time.  If a gun were held to my head and I had to give an emphatic answer it would be Sting/The Police AND The Dave Matthews Band.  I've narrowed it down to them because they are both artists that have been around a long time, have an enormous collection of albums/songs, and while both have changed up their music over time they remain consistent to their "sound".  And maybe most importantly, they both give an amazing live performance.  I've seen DMB five times in concert, and two of those were three day shows.  I have seen The Police in concert twice (when the reunited in 2007) and Sting four times.  I don't go to concerts regularly like I used to, but make a point to if either of these are playing.
Sting came out with a new album, "57th & 9th" this past year and has been touring for the album since February 1.  This past Thursday night (yes a school night, and I'm paying for it this weekend) he was in Hollywood, and I got to go!   As usual, it was a great show.  I've only ever seem him (and The Police) at large outdoor venues like The Hollywood Bowl or Dodger Stadium.  This was at the  Hollywood Palladium which is a much smaller, indoor venue.  Other than some sections that have seats reserved for groups around the floor, it's general admission for standing around the stage. He was so close we could have touched him.  It was amazing!
On a side note, I don't usually film or photograph at shows because I just want to enjoy it while I'm there.  However, I did try to get a few moments on camera to share but my iPhone and I are having a battle these days over storage, so I didn't get much.  I found this on youtube and the person behind the camera seems to be in the seating area right behind where we were standing so what it shows is what I saw.  It's most of the show (minus 3-4 songs).  I love that it shows how close we were!
For this show, he is touring with his son, Joe Sumner, and a band from Texas called The Last Bandoleros, both of whom opened the show.  Then they were his back up singers for the rest of the night.  I saw Sting this last summer with Peter Gabriel at The Hollywood Bowl, which was an incredible show with a lot of spectacle.  This one was parred down and so intimate - it was different than the big venues but wonderful in its own right.
He played a little bit of everything - new ones from the recent album, older ones since his solo career, and then several from The Police.  Here's the set list for the show.  It was a good one.  Thankfully he included my favorite song of all during the 1st encore - at 55:07.  (sigh)