Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

SPRING break was last week and boy did I need a break! Not that my students have been difficult or the grading is crazy (quite the opposite) but it was apparent that I needed to refuel. Actually, I have 1 student who is tardy nearly every day, the 1st period of the day, by 20-30 minutes. (It's a 50 minute class). He came on time, even after the time change, for 9 days straight. I praised him, encouraged him and it seemed to work. He broke his streak this week but I encouraged him none the less. So good things are happening.

There is something about knowing a vacation is coming that makes you want it that much more. Your body starts to show signs of needing rest. Either that or you become more attune to your need for it. Whatever the case is, it was suggested I go to Florida to visit my parents for a few days and after some hesitation, hopped a plane and made it to West Palm Beach.

Let me tell you - sun is underrated. Warm weather, which had been virtually forgotten in Illinois since approximately October, was literally a breath of fresh air. I fell into the Florida lifestyle pretty quickly.

To wake up, patio doors wide open and comfortable air wafting through the home is glorious. Heck, sleeping without 1-2 pounds of blankets and comforters over me was wonderful, too. The sun was out almost the entire week. It really is like the commercials where women scoff when a small cloud passes in front of the sun. I soaked it all up!

I spent a few mornings out doing my 10k training (really behind due to the cold I had but I figure I can still keep training past the 10k and just focus on finishing rather than getting a great time or trying to run the whole thing). My runs were through the gated community where our home is so the traffic is minimal, especially that "late" in the morning when most of the residents are already out on the golf courses or up reading the morning paper. My scenery included wild turkeys, people driving by on golf carts, multiple people out walking lap dogs (is that all people own in Florida?) and the many palm and coconut trees.

We spent 1 day at the beach walking along the shore after a drive down the Intracoastal. Jellyfish were prominent and I have an unreasonable fear of them, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. I recall once as a child down there seeing blue jellyfish littering the beach. Someone must have put the fear of God into me and ever since it's ruined my beach walking along the Atlantic Ocean. Thankfully my parents mentioned they've started a shell collection, so I had a reason to look down for shells in addition to the black blobs of jellyfish. It was almost like I was 9 years old again and all you had to was distract me with a game and I'd keep putting one foot in front of the other. I realized, too, I was spoiled by Chicago's mostly pristine beaches where the worst thing you could step on is a cigarette butt.

We ate out a few times. I had lunch with my mom and cousin Kathy who lives just 20 minutes or so from our place along with her sisters. I haven't seen Kathy since 1991 so that was wonderful. I love spending time with family. We get such short time on this earth and none of it promised so it makes me genuinely happy. I'll have to get to Florida more often! Dinners tended to be healthy and somewhere near water.

We spent one afternoon on a tourboat seeing the extravagant houses of the rich who live in the Intracoastal in Ft. Lauderdale. Insane. The yachts are gargantuan and the houses are enormous. There are some where you think to yourself, "only 2 people live there?" and others were you learn the people are there just a month or two or in one case, have never set foot inside! It was on the boat that I got my extreme sunburn. I did it on purpose, so no complaining. I've got a tan almost complete now. You'd think a former lifeguard would know better. But I do that once a summer.

To match my sunburn, I also had my hair colored. I waited till after my day in the sun to do it, because I didn't want to spend money and then sit in the sun lightening it. I went in to my south Florida salon and discussed doing a strawberry blonde color, similar to what my childhood hair was. Apparently, strawberry blonde means something different down there, because I ended up with strawberry hair with blonde streaks. I hated it at first but it has really grown on me. I think the sunburn made it look a bit off at first. Now, with the tan coming in and seeing it on my head for a few days, I really like it!

Among the highlights of the trip was also a chance to go through my grandmother's photos. No one had gone through them since she passed and I was anxious to see if there were any in the many boxes in the hall closet of the trip she and my grandfather took to Italy. I found a TON of absolute gems of a photo. Tin types from the 1800's, photos of my great-grandma as a kid. Photos of my grandma in her 20's in her long hair and long-legged trousers. A photo of my grandfather's 1st communion. And lots from my childhood and my mother's childhood. In my final hours of sifting, I found the file of their Italy trip from 1974. And inside was a single photo with a few relatives in our native city. At last, I had a photo of these mysterious relatives. And even names!

Needless to say, I had a fantastic trip. I've come back and am anxious to go back down there some time this summer. I've also already sent a letter to the church in Italy in the town where we're from, along with the photo and my family tree, asking if any of the women in the photo are still living or if they could provide any documents for me. I'm more determined than ever to complete my Italian citizenship this year.

I've got 42 more days of work. I double checked my plans for the rest of the year and most seem to be in order. There is a lot to do before May 31st but it will all get done. Year 2 will be over. I can't believe we're in the home stretch!

Hope you all are having a good end of March. The warm weather is coming. And you're gonna love it!


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Trying to Take Evil Out of the Classroom

I began the difficult task today of teaching my students how to do their taxes. How many of you would know how to do your taxes without the assistance of tax software or an accountant?

Well, I had a bunch of words on the board and the weekly schedule with THREE DAYS of tax practice this week for my Coop kids. So when 3rd hour came and my Law class walked in, to tackle the big topic of reviewing for their Contracts quiz, I was confronted with an interesting question.

I have an inquisitive student in Law. He's brilliant. And observant. So after several kids had called me over to ask questions on their review guide, this student called me over and asked, "Are you trying to take evil out of the classroom?"


It must have shown on my glass face. So he pointed at the board and said, "taxes."

Right. Are taxes evil? It depends on how you look at them. Where would we be without them? Our roads would be crappy. Funding for defense, social security, medicare, research and many other things, not the least of which is the 6% we pay towards interest on our massive national debt.

So we need to pay taxes. As I told my students, if you have to pay them every year, would you at least like to be informed about why and how they work?

Most didn't know when Tax Day was. Many didn't understand that you got credits and exclusions and deductions. Ohhhh, so many things to teach!

So I suppose I am taking evil out of the classroom. Funny way of putting it but I found it pretty humorous. After all, something big and daunting can be seen as evil until you study it and understand it a little better.

Like Bill Cosby said, "Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." At least in this case, decide to understand it so you are no longer afraid of it.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Can you believe I haven't blogged since Jan 31?

Well, a few housekeeping items, first. My sinus surgery has been amazing....although this weekend I was gifted with my first cold since I was approximately 8 years old. I realize that swimming from age 9-18 kept me healthy and then having antibiotics on a nearly continuous basis between age 20 and 30+ prevented me from catching them. I'm braving through this and nearing my regular energy level. Good thing because kickboxing continues tomorrow!

But back to my Title. Fruition. It's been developing a lot this semester with my students. Little things that show me my students are opening their eyes. In February I took students to Chicago with another teacher to tour and learn about the Board of Trade. I think a lot of students had an eye-opening experience, that the world is bigger than they thought. That work can be harder than they thought.

Then last week I finally had my first speaker of the semester. I had tried to create a weekly speaker series with people from the various industries students want to work in. I had a woman from a local hospital speak about a nursing career. A lot of my students want to go into a medical field and they were extremely interactive with her, asking a lot of questions. Afterwards one of my students said it almost made her cry because it make her passionate to talk about her future medical career. YES!!

This week we're taking taxes. My taxes speakers haven't been responding to me (they hopped on board immediately last year) so it's going to be me teaching how to do them. Lord help me!
Meanwhile, my 2nd speakers, from WICD tv, will be coming in to talk about journalism. I have 1-2 journalism folks in my class. Hopefully they'll speak up and pick their brains.

It's a short one today. I'm tired. And it's past bedtime. So g'night everyone!

Take that next step towards your dream this week, and see where it takes you....