Monday, December 30, 2013

2013: Year in Review

I had an epiphany when I was at Church this past Sunday. Not exactly a new idea but one I struggle with. Time to let go of the past and move forward. It was based on the passage from Philippians 3:13. I accomplished 1 of my 7 core life goals this year. Sometimes I get upset that one isn't enough. But truthfully, most of life is not in my hands. So I am focusing on 2014 with the idea that God is in control and I am holding the wheel. Sort of like one of those electrified track race cars at the local fair. They are guided by electricity. The track gives you a bit of freedom to move and adjust how you move into the curve and how much gas you give the car. But none of it is possible without the electricity.

In this vein, I took a look back at 2013. Here is my year in review.

1. Attended a wedding of a co-worker. I was a guest of an invitee. It was a true pleasure to be asked and a great evening. So happy for the lovely couple!
2. Visited a local wind turbine farm called California Ridge near Urbana for part of a work institute day. Very cold but very interesting. I learned a lot about the power grid.
3. I went to my one and only U of IL sporting event. A womens basketball game. Thanks to a co-worker who invited me to share her extra ticket!

1. I endured a whole new round of allergy testing due to my inability to feel well. Blood tests, allergy tests and asthma tests. I was given a sheet that included foods to avoid if allergic to mold. (On the list by the way is beer, wine, soy sauce, canned tomatoes and sourdough bread). I was not a happy camper!
2. Celebrated my dog, Piccolo's, 2nd birthday

1. Chaperoned my 2nd Senior trip to the Wisconsin Dells. This trip was a blast, perhaps more for the adults than the kids!
2. Near the end of the month we had over 8 inches of snow. Needless to say, Piccolo had a blast. I love shoveling (it is a great all body workout and good for clearing the mind). Which is odd, since I hate cold.

1. Race Month. I ran the Shamrock Shuffle. Again. My goal was under an hour (My longstanding goal is to get under 50 minutes but since Spring is particularly bad on the sinuses, it is not likely!)
2. I did the "Mini i" Challenge as part of the Illinois Marathon with a friend. She has been an inspiration and was thrilled to run a race with her (at least the first race). Consisting of a 5k on Friday night and a 10k on Saturday morning, it is a tough race (the "I Challenge" is the 5k plus either the 1/2 or Full marathon, btw). I rolled an ankle half way through the 5k when I caught a pothole but managed to finish well. I probably overdid the 5k and struggled in the 10k. But finished. And so glad I did the challenge!

1. Resigned my position after 4 years at Urbana High School. Love my coworkers. Learned a lot. And so glad to be a teacher.
2. Hired at Mundelein High School - part business/part social studies. I love this job. Check off lifetime goal #1 - Get hired as a teacher in Chicagoland.

3. Attended graduation 2013 for my Urbana Seniors. Technically I had to, since I was the 2013 class sponsor for 4 years. But I wanted to. So happy for these kids!

1. Celebrated 2 years with Piccolo in my life.
2. Was with my sister, brother-in-law and niece for part of two days! She celebrated birthday #2.
3. Visited historic Springfield, Illinois, land of Lincoln.

1. Went to the U of IL fireworks display for the 4th. Just me, a blanket, a bio on Ben Franklin and some gorgeous fireworks. And a few thousand people nearby!
2. Moved to the Chicagoland area! Set up my apartment with the help of my parents.

1. Began my new job!
2. Received my great-grandfather's naturalization papers in the mail. One step closer to becoming a real Italian citizen (technically, I am recognized as one via consanguinity. I just need to prove it).
3. Met one of my fave chefs, Fabio Viviani. Of course he is Italian. Love his humor. Enjoy a lot of his dishes as they are simple and rustic yet can be fancy at the same time!
4. Friday Flyover at school. At work before 6am with hundreds of students and staff to form words on the football field for the helicopter to show on local tv. Fun morning!

1. New immunologist. Learned a TON of things. Life changing. Foremost being, I can't/shouldn't ignore the fact that I have asthma.
2. Got a Fitbit Flex fitness band. Love this thing. Not only aiming for over 10k steps per day but it tells he how well I slept (or didn't).
3. Joined the Sweatshop, an amazing gym in Buffalo Grove, IL. 

1. Welcomed a brand new niece into the world from a distance. She was born in New York.
2. Enjoyed watching The White Queen on Starz network, about the War of the Roses, one of my favorite time periods in history.

1. Painting outing (my 1st time ever) with my high school gals. We still meet up regularly.
2. Chaperoned a trip to Cleveland with Mundelein's Future Business Leaders of America students. All 114 of them!
3. Spent part of Thanksgiving week with my Aunt and cousins. So fantastic! Met my new cousin, Henry.

1. Birthday dinner with my parents at my fave Chicago restaurant, Quartino.
2. Ended my 1st half of the year at Mundelein. Time is flying. Still loving my job.
3. Celebrated my great-Aunt Sug's 90th birthday. She is an amazing woman. And knows it, which is lovely to see. Still trying to convince her to sell her doll clothes for more when she works her craft shows!
3. Spent part of 3 days during Christmas week with my sister, brother-in-law, parents and two nieces. Love these folks.
4. Spent an afternoon lunch with my parents and Aunt.
5. Celebrate (d) New Years Eve on the Irish time zone with Chicago pizza and best friends. That is the plan anyway!

So there you go. A walk through my year. Lots of great moments. Incredible stuff. And more to come. Looking forward. Not dwelling on the "what is not" or "what went wrong" or "what I don't have". It is about the present and what my situation is currently. I can hope. I can dream. But in the end, I need to live out each of the 365 days I am given. Hoping you will do the same with the new year you are blessed with. Share your favorite moment of 2013 in the comments. Let's all reflect on 2013 as a good one!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

MOTI (Moment of Teacher Impact)

I coined a new phrase this week. I experienced a "MOTI" otherwise known as a Moment of Teacher Impact.

Not long ago I wrote here about how proud I was of the debate my Economics students did. Well, this past week it was my Intro to Business students that just blew me away and left me laughing.

We started a new term a week ago and since it technically began on a Friday and finals had just ended the smart folks in my department planned to get students involved in the term "activity" right off the bat. There is an investing game teachers (and anyone) can play at and a classroom of students can compete to earn the most money. So last Friday I set my two Intro classes up with $100,000 in investment "Cash" and let them loose picking stocks and learning the ropes of the stock market. [Side note: I meant to do 10,000 but the extra zero butted itself into the game...results should be the same, although perhaps a bit more dramatic and varied depending on what really happens to the market].

Anyway, by Wednesday of this week, my students were SO competitive! Most of them went for stocks of corporations they were familiar with. The two biggest purchases were for Google and Chipotle. Turns out, both of those companies saw massive jumps in the market earlier this week after releasing positive earnings reports.

The MOTI for the week came in my Homeroom, where I have 2 students from Intro plus a few of the other business teachers' Intro students. They all had their smart phones out and the Marketwatch app and were checking their position against others in the game. "Hey I'm in 2nd place!" "Hey, Ms. B., I dropped 3 places in the last twenty minutes! Help!" They had conversation for nearly 20 minutes straight about stocks and the market. I was sitting at my desk just tickled!

Before the bell rang on Wednesday, one of my students said to another, "I think this is the most adult conversation I have ever had."

This made me a laugh hysterically. I told the kids how proud I was that they were using their knowledge from the game and the Investing unit we had just completed and were talking about it. And to tell the truth, by Friday they spend the entire Homeroom period doing the same thing.

Now, if I can just get them all to be playing the market long term instead of trading stocks every day....

We shall see by the time December rolls around and the game concludes!

[Side note #2: I am also playing and am currently in 37th place out of 62. I am playing the long-term game. I don't know that it will make the point I want it to in just 2 months' time but we shall see!]

Have a great wrap on October everyone. Go learn something and have a conversation.
(Then let me know what it is you learned!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Being Healthy

Before moving back to Chicagoland I had made two health goals.
1. Find a new allergist within my insurance plan who had a great reputation from their patients
2. Find a new gym to workout at.

I am proud to report, three months in,  I have accomplished both!

I visited the allergist for the first time once September rolled around and insurance kicked in. She was amazing! She was able to not only notice things that most allergists in the past had just ignored or shrugged off as nothing but she connected my sinus/allergy issues to a host of other issues and "irritants" that made them worse. I had made these connections years ago but no one was able to back them up or told me I was silly. Now I had proof, from medical journal articles she gave me and pamphlets on ways to protect my environment (all of which I have done for years). In one four hour visit, I was tested for all sorts of allergies from mold to trees to weeds to animals to the foods I had supposedly been allergic to. Most of the tests came back as I expected. The food allergies, I am pleased to say, are all extinct.

I also received a list of the times of years when my allergies would be worst and why. Apparently Spring is my worst time (I always felt it was fall, which as I am learning this last week is not a good time of year but it is not due to allergies). It starts with the trees (my worst allergy) and molds then leads to summer with the grasses. That then turns into weed season and mold again, which is frequent due to inclement weather and temperature swings. It is these temp swings that have been wrecking havoc on my sinuses these last few days. Subtle changes in humidity are tough. Just going from my door to the car then back out and into work can disrupt the balance. I suppose this is what several sinus surgeries can do to a person. I don't regret either of them for any reason, even the botched first one helped for a few years. But there are issues that surgery can not even change. Much the way knee or shoulder surgery patients say they can feel the weather changes in their bones, I suppose.

ANYWAY, on to the other vow to myself. Join a gym. I researched a bunch in Champaign. It took a few weeks (3) of unpacking before I resumed the quest. I ended up calling a place called The SweatShop. I walked in on Wednesday night expecting a brief chat and assessment. What I got was a full on workout. Wasn't expecting that. But now that I know how the gym operates, I should have! The place is genius. A workout "Plan" on the board gives a theme for the day. Walk in whenever you like, no classes (except on Sat mornings). I've seen everything from Toss Your Cookies to Alphabet Sweats.  It is a fun place to workout and I can tell people that attend are in the same zone as I am - needing the workouts, enjoying the workouts and willing to work hard but at our own pace.

In addition to the workouts I have been participating in a Biggest Loser contest at work. Turns out, one of the Biggest Loser contestant winners attended Mundelein. She was at Homecoming festivities this year. I have come close one week to wining something. I was a half pound off. I am not sure if I will enter the contest for Term 2. I will probably do so. With holidays on the horizon it can't hurt to have another motivator!

I am trying to get healthy. I can tell I am stronger. Now that finals are over I can hopefully graze a bit less on popcorn while grading. And if I can get past not feeling so great with my nose being stupid I might just plow through and not eat trying to ignore how nasty my sinuses are behaving!

So here we go. Towards the holiday season.  Give me a little cheering on! Being supportive is the best to keep me going!

Good luck to each of you as you also press on.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A month goes by & A new term begins

The last month has absolutely flown past. We went from temperate end-of-summer to true fall temperatures where breath can be seen as I walk the dog in the dark each morning.

Along with that month came the end to the first 10 weeks of the school year. In Mundelein reckoning, that means the end to the 1st term and two days of finals.

Monday was a day off for Columbus Day (brief thought: We get a day off for Columbus but not for Veterans Day?) and Tuesday and Wednesday were finals. My coworkers in the Biz Ed department had warned me that October and March finals are the hardest. I couldn't understand why. And then I realized once Thursday came....

On Tuesday and Wednesday students took two 2-hour finals. They had an hour break in between the finals and then were out at 12:45. Teachers had the afternoon to grade. It was like a snapshot. Add an hour for lunch and that leaves about 1 1/2 hours to grade each day. Not much! I had 1st hour off 1st Term and so I spent those two hours during finals trying to prep for Term 2 (which began on Thursday). I knew I'd be focused on grading and not prepping. I wrote my syllabus for my new course (Government) and consulted with another Gov teacher to make sure I had the right things prepared for the first few days. Then I got to work Tuesday afternoon grading the 30 5-10 page papers that my Econ kids did for their final exam. Technically, I only had about 25 of them. The other 5 were tied up in the Google Drive system app we were using which the Tech folks had sadly decided to start archiving. It took until this weekend for me to figure out how to access those few remaining final papers.

On Wednesday I gave my final two exams for my Intro to Business classes. This included a 60+ MC exam and a 5 question short answer section to complete in partners on their Virtual Businesses. There was a snafu for my 3rd hour final. Turns out the wrong final was saved in the drive and so I technically gave an older version of the final. That explained why the bubble sheets the kids used didn't match the test. It was a frantic hour between finals on Wednesday trying to determine the problem. It got resolved with a few minutes to spare and then 4th hour things went smoothly. So much for getting grading done while my 3rd hour kids took their exam. I spent the whole 2 hours answering questions about why the answer sheet didn't match the questions (sometimes even when on the board and spoken to the whole group once discovered, students don't listen - some too focused on trying to complete the test).

Thursday was a half day and the 1st day of Term 2. Students had 45 minute class periods in their Term 2 schedule. I had to remember that I did NOT have 1st period off anymore and that my new Gov't class was 1st hour. My prep hour is now 2nd hour. I think I like it better so far. At any rate, my Gov't students seem extremely enthusiastic and I tried to hook them in by showing them a document from 1832 (created after the 12th amendment was passed and before the Civil War era) that my immigrant/revolutionary ancestor was granted. I told them they all had people come to America for one purpose or another and at some time recent or long ago. Many of them came because of the political freedoms we have and the type of government that was created in America. This class would give them more details on why it is so important to know and why their ancestors also may have been drawn to this country. They were pretty curious. My Intro to Biz kids were given a brief intro to the new term. They are the same kids as last Term so an easy transition. They then had about 30 minutes to set up their Stock Market Portfolio as part of the Stock Market Game on Pretty cool.

That afternoon most teachers were listening to a speaker for staff meeting but the Biz Ed teachers, dept chair and tech specialists & tech directors headed to East Leyden High School to investigate their 1-1 program and student-led help desk course which we are implementing at MHS next year. I am extremely impressed at this program and excited to see it off the ground in Mundelein. However, I am trying to not get too excited. While it could mean job security for me, it also has a chance of not being so. I haven't even had a formal evaluation here yet! I love it at MHS so I am hopeful. I can only continue to do my very best. There will be trials. There will be triumphs. All of them will be important to my growth as a teacher.

So that's a wrap on what you've missed while I was gone. I'll try again to be consistent. Til then, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts. And if you are at a school with a 1-1 initiative, let me know!


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September 3rd - A School Day To Remember

I need to pause for a moment and just soak up how nearly perfect today has been. Nearly perfect despite waking up pretty tired after three days of sleeping in and a morning where I didn't think I'd get everything done at work due to the school world all trying to make copies.

But the day really was amazing. I started my day with a 7:30am meeting with one of my department chairs. This particular person is also my evaluator and was the one who saw part of the debate my students did on Friday in Economics. Let me tell you, that debate. That one that I wasn't sure went BETTER THAN any student-driven lesson I've ever done.

To clue you in on that day (since I alluded to it in my previous post) it began at 5:30am with over 400 students on the football field awaiting the flyover of a local news helicopter. We were to form three different phrases on the field for three different flyovers to promote the beginning of the fall sports season. The school day begins at 7:45am and around 9:20 there was an impromptu pep assembly. My Debate was to begin at 10am and I was already nervous about the amount of energy (high or low) my Econ kids would have by that time of the morning. Turns out I had nothing to be concerned about. They listened patiently (mostly) as each side gave their opening arguments and points. Almost all but five students were fully involved. And by the time rebuttals were over these amazing students had pulled a ton of quotes from their packets into their arguments, books from English class (Outliers was the number one book applied) and personal life experiences. The team for Capitalism rapped their closing statement and tossed Monopoly money in the air at the finish. I wanted to cry.

Turns out my evaluator did, too. She is not in the classroom this year due to taking on other duties and misses it, so that was her reason. But she also told me the bit of the debate she had witnessed was among the top she had ever seen done in her years of evaluating teachers. I knew it had gone well. I didn't realize it was that great!

Those of you who are not teachers may not know how much prep goes into doing something like a debate. Even if it takes just two class periods, I probably put four hours into finding supporting documents (capitalism and socialism) to have kids use as sources, develop rubrics for the group and for each individual and then edit anything I might find to tailor it to my particular class of students at the time. Then there is the making copies and after all is said and done, grading the rubrics and students' own reflections/evaluations. Hours of work for just three hours of class time.

So that is how I began my day. After my meeting I had about one hour to enter a few lingering grades, figure out how to actually be sure my gradebook was set up correctly for progress reports due at 3:30pm (the popup box wouldn't show) and then make copies of a packet I worked about four hours on for my Econ class this week. The copier was booked solid for about 30 of those minutes. I checked three times and there was always a line. I finally caved at 25 minutes to the next bell to just get my job logged into the machine and wait for it. Thankfully I had about 10 minutes to go before the bell to pack my bag and be ready to travel to the next two classrooms before lunch.

I had a meeting after school for an hour and then made sub plans for the periods I am missing tomorrow due to new teacher meetings (didn't know teachers had so many meetings, did you?). Then a problem-free drive home, walk with the dog and finally my first relaxation moment of the day.

Then came the cap on an already lovely day. I opened my mail to find not just one gift card I thought I was expecting from a utilities promotion but two! I don't know if I should have received two, but I'm taking it. My amazing rep had told me he'd try and get me another gift card. He must have been able to make it work. Talk about customer service!! (AT&T, thank you! I might as well give you a plug).

I'm once again nestled onto the couch with my pj's on and ready to watch my hour of tv. (Who Do You Think You Are, one of my fave shows). I could have brought home more grading but life should also come before work and if I get just two hours of free time in my day, then I am going to set aside late work and make up work and keep my two hours to myself.

I'm so thrilled with the start of my school year. I really, really know this is special. I am sure some rough patches will occur. I'll try and give you a glimpse of these points, but I don't often dwell on the negatives but focus on the positives that result from all things. Glass half full.

I'll leave you with a few images from Friday morning's flyover. Enjoy your week folks!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Week Three & the Friday FlyOver

I am writing this with just mere minutes left before I go to bed. It has been a long week. I can't believe I am saying that when it is only the second full week back at work with students. Although, it is technically my fourth week back working.

As I mentioned previously, I am really loving my job, the people and most of all these students. I am working as hard as I can to plan ahead and get things copied more than a day ahead of time and really feel like I am a pro. But with new curriculum it isn't always possible. Or with random interruptions to planning.

For example, I have organized my students in Economics to run a debate. It was supposed to have happened today but in 60 minutes I had hoped to give them yesterday to work as teams and develop their arguments and rebuttals, picture day intervened. I found out just before first period that nearly 1/2 my class was scheduled to take their pictures during my 2nd hour Econ class. That meant I had to adjust the schedule. In the end, they didn't have enough time to really plan, instead using much of the time to catch up their classmates who rolled back in one at a time. (I have to hand it to them, I dismissed the ones who were scheduled with a pleading request that they return as quickly as possible and not delay and chit chat. They did just that. Talk about ethical, responsible and respectful!) So I agreed to let them use 1/2 of today's shortened class period to prep and run the debate tomorrow. In all honesty, it will probably run better because they feel better prepared.

I certainly hope this is the case because my first informal evaluation is also occurring during that debate. I have given them all the tools they should need and have explained the process and amount of time each side has for each argument and rebuttal. I told them their only homework (beside their weekly essay due on Fridays) was to practice not speaking when someone else was! I'll have to update you on how this goes.

So as I sit here praying that all goes well tomorrow and for a little Spiritual Guidance should it not, I am also aware that that is just one part of my Friday. I am aiming to leave my house by 5:10am tomorrow. What?!? Yep. 5:10am. That is about 15 minutes AFTER my alarm normally goes off.

My high school has been given the chance to be on the local morning news. Our interim principal has been revving the students (and, via email, the staff) to participate and get there early tomorrow. The goal is 5:45am for everyone. The students will be forming words on the football field as the news helicopter flies overhead a few times during the 6am hour. I am excited to participate and see the kids get excited about the honor. I'll then want to take a nap by the time lunch rolls around at 11:45!

Tomorrow night is our first home football game. I'm also aiming to attend that, as well. It was tradition at Urbana and I love supporting my students and school. I'll be exhausted, glad the "informal" is over and glad that Labor Day is this weekend, allowing an extra day of rest. I am going to need it!

If you live in Chicagoland, check out or watch at 6am tomorrow. I'll be one of those folks in a white shirt. And perhaps a coffee in hand.

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Teacher Update - Living By Ben Franklin's Version of Happiness

I read a fantastic quote by Benjamin Franklin, whose biography by W.H. Brands I have been reading over the last two summers. It reads, "...Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom to a man in the course of his life."

I'm now just about done with my second week of teaching at a new school. It has been a fantastic time but also days filled with more challenges than I anticipated. I suppose that is part of the reason a challenge is what it is. You can often predict how things will go and what the stumbling blocks will be. But when you are thrust into a new environment with a minimal amount of knowledge about the daily workings of a place, only time and experience in that space will truly give you the insight as to how to best overcome the challenges that come about.

Let me share some of the best things about my new job first.
1. The faculty. I have yet to meet someone that is not helpful or greets a fellow coworker with a "hello" or "how are ya." The interim principal, who has been at the school for years, is organized, friendly and pretty funny. Last Friday just before the final bell rang at 3:20, he came on the P.A. and told kids they'd done such a great job they were being given two days off (the weekend). Pretty funny! My Biz Ed coworkers are great, too. They are personal and we've shared a lot over lunch already. I have spent more time with three of the Biz teachers than anyone else in Applied Arts or Social Studies, simply because my office/desk is in the Biz Ed office. I have popped into the Social Studies office a few times and everyone I've met has also been friendly. It's the type of place you want to work.
2. The Students. Wow, what a difference. I had some great kids in Urbana. But even with the best classroom management skills on the planet, I couldn't have had an entire class of students have notebooks out, writing down a "word of the day" and waiting for me to give them the definition while I take attendance. It is beautiful. I pass students in the hall and they say good morning. The swear words in the hall are minimal, unlike the conversations I'd hear at Urbana. There is a lot of building up and an obvious desire to learn. I'm trying to do more "student-driven" learning. Letting the kids puzzle something out or peer helping when they have questions. Then the teacher trouble shoots or reteaches. It works! These students are involved in their school. The majority of kids I've talked to about things other than classwork are in a club or sport or will be. It is refreshing to see such driven young adults.
3. The technology. Lots of technology here. A larger school and more students which means the options are a bit broader and need is greater to have more available. I used Chromebooks this week in my Econ class. I had never used one, nor had most of my students and together we all got them logged on (challenging) and learning how to use Google Docs and be productive. There are several computer labs and there are four rooms in the Biz Ed wing that are labs and nearly every class (that I know of) in Biz Ed is taught in there. Every room I teach in has a Smart Board. Again, I've never used one and I'm picking it up pretty quickly. Using virtual business simulation software, which we were going to purchase at Urbana but had never used by the time I left. Kids love it!
4. The support. The mentor program is real here. My mentor is fantastic. He emails me about the littlest things just to make sure I know about them. He checks in about something he remembered to ask me before even saying hello. He is the type of person who comes early and stays hours late and even after over a decade in teaching it doesn't phase him. The new staff coordinators are also fantastic. One of them is my social studies department chair and my evaluator. She is also checking in on me and we've got a brief meeting, scheduled by her, to make sure I'm doing okay. These are things Urbana wanted to do but I didn't feel always followed through. Let's be honest though, my mentor my first year thought that just "scheduling" a meeting and talking for a minute "counted" and he could cross that off the list. It wasn't about helping me or making sure I was doing okay. It was about meeting requirements. I hope I am living up to the expectations the school and I have set for what I am doing. There is only one way to find out! Keep pushing hard, doing my best and keep asking questions.
5. The schedule. Block scheduling is awesome! Think about it - students have just four classes per day. That is only four things to think about and study. It is the idea of specialization at work! Workers perform better when they have fewer tasks or jobs to focus on. So do students. Instead of 7 or 8 classes to study for and memorize, it is four. Fantastic. Plus, Thursdays are late start so that teachers can have PLC (Professional Learning Communities) time and collaborate with each other. We do not have to come earlier or stay later. It is just late start for students. I love it. Much more accommodating for teachers and staff. We all put in so many more hours than people outside of teaching realize. Hours of prepping quizzes, worksheets, discussion prompts, debates, searching for videos, etc. When you are teaching new preps like I am, it takes longer to do all of that. It is a change after four years of having preps fairly well planned that just needed tweaking. Besides, in 90 minute classes, you can do three or four activities with kids and they won't get bored (hopefully) in addition to give them time for practicing those concepts being learned.

What more do I need? Challenges are few when you read all of that. My biggest is just pacing. I have to get everything taught in just 9 weeks. I am striving to pace my classes about the same if not exactly the same as other teachers who are teaching Econ and Intro to Business. That is the tough part. Learning technology is pretty tough. I am new to Google Drive and Google Docs and sharing documents and the new gradebook system and all the other procedures I need to log into for test recording. I will get it all down, I am sure.

I can already tell you that I hope I get to stay at this school for a long, long time. I'm working hard to make that happen. I have wanted to be a "lifer" at a worksite since I began working. It just hasn't happened yet. Perhaps because I wasn't using Benjamin Franklin's lovely outlook on what happiness is. I think I am closer than I have been in a few years. (That is not to say there are a few things I would like to have/experience yet). I am also working hard to keep you all posted on how this journey is going. So far so good on that line item, right?

I need to go pick out my red for school spirit Friday. It is the only day of the week we can wear jeans (although I learned that Thursdays we can if we have a "Just Read" or "Be Nice" t-shirt which I need to figure out how to order.) Happy almost Friday all!

Please leave a comment. Encouragement means a lot.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Fabio Viviani - Connnecting with Tradition

Over the summer, when I'm not teaching (or moving, for that matter), I tend to watch more television than I do during the year. Last summer I begin watching a show on ABC called "The Chew" which featured some chefs whose recipes I enjoy. They talk about food and cook food - both things I love to do.

This summer I was watching and a guy named Fabio Viviani was on the program a few times. He is an Italian from Tuscany who competed on Top Chef (which I don't usually watch because they are not making food that is quick to make or with ingredients that are typically on the grocery list) and just opened a restaurant in Chicago called Siena Tavern which looks amazing!

I noticed a tweet earlier this week ( @FabioViviani ) that he was going to be at a local Mariano's Market doing a cooking demonstration for Bertolli Olive Oils. Well, I couldn't pass that up!

Turns out, Fabio is as funny in person as he is on tv and his passion for food is evident. He loves what he is doing and seems deeply committed to making cooking a part of the story. After all, in Italy food is at the gathering but not necessarily the point of the gathering. Italians celebrate with food. It emphasizes the story and the memory. If you think about your favorite meals or restaurants, they are probably your favorite because of something that happened while eating that particular dish or in that particular location.

Fabio's new book is all about the recipes he grew up with. He says they are the 300 year old recipes that his nonna passed on to him and that he is passing on to the reader. It is about tradition, simplicity and eating. Below is a story about his nonna and how making pasta is a bit different when you have a food processor. (His vision is for people to hand make pasta every week and not buy the store-bought stuff. So easy with the processor and pasta machine! It took him less than 40 minutes to make a sauce and the pasta...with lots of extra talk time in the middle.)

There are a lot of things that might ring true in that story, but the reality is, I don't remember my grandmothers ever cooking. My dad's mom tended to let me aunt do most of the work. And when with my Maternal Grandma, I have more memories of eating out or at "the Club" in their neighborhood than I do of her cooking. Although, we had a lot of great lunches with deli meat and chips and soda!

I know that from my mom's stories, she had the experiences that Fabio had in his Italian house. She describes stories of her grandma's cooking, ravioli especially. Even today she values that recipe and the meat sauce recipe that was passed on to her. I love the thought of blessing the food others will eat with your time and patience. I just pain love when people share a meal around a hom-ecooked meal. Living by myself, I almost never get to experience that.

At any rate, it was great to learn a thing or to from Fabio on Saturday. I'll continue to follow his internet "show" and Email newsletter, Chow Ciao. Hopefully he'll appear on the Chew a few more times. And I'll have to check out Siena Tavern! It was a joy to meet him. (I am glad I wore my Italian t-shirt for the occasion.)

Enjoy your weekend everyone. Buon Appetito!

Making Pasta By Hand
Fabio Viviani & I

Monday, August 12, 2013

School Year Start: Year 5 @ A New District

A Super Start

I had a coworker say to me today, "So, you would have been tenured when you walked in this year at your old school." It is a scary thought but so true. I would have had job security. I wouldn't have had to be evaluated this year. I wanted to write a little blog as I start the school year and meetings before the students come on Wednesday. So here goes.

Job security can be trumped by happiness and long-term goals. It was a risk. But I am extremely happy I made the move. As much as I have always wanted to be the person who was a lifer at a job, my life's journey has not led me down that path, at least not yet. I remember my days at Jam Productions and was awed by the length of time so many of the employees had been there. In fact, it felt like the people who were there for short periods of time or came and went quickly were not counted among the fit to be in the industry and work within those purple-hued walls (yes, every wall on the three floors is a shade of purple and all are lined with record industry status and photos of celebrities).

Yet I look back these eight years later since I left the music biz full time and realized one important thing that would never have let me stay in that job - there was no growth. There was no promotion. I was already a marketing director for my department. I suppose I could have had the chance to switch to another department or job responsibility but in no way did any job give you a chance to grow and adapt and learn (life-long learner here!!) about the changes happening around me in the business.

Since I started teaching, I often reflect about the ways I would be doing marketing now. Radio would be minimal. Direct mail would die out. Print, except for things like the Red Eye would be mostly gone. Big promo on websites, fan lists and facebook and other social media would be huge! I mean, twitter is free. Facebook posts from your company are free. Apps like BandsInTown actually tell others about your events. Email lists may be even better since those are people who sign up who WANT to get announcements. Somehow I don't think marketing budgets for shows have shrunk but the means to how those dollars are used are probably drastically different then ten years ago.

Then I go back to my teaching experiences. Getting to collaborate with staff is huge. It has been a central focus the last three days in new teacher meetings and today in our all staff meetings. Being a life-long learner is something that students and teachers need to reach for. I heard yesterday that being a life-long learner is also an admission that you don't know everything. Because no one does. But at least it means you are making strides to be smarter or deeper about the world, society or self.

Urbana was a fantastic place to grow as a second-career teacher. Even though I didn't really have anyone to collaborate with about my classes since I was a singleton teacher, I reached out to others and made an attempt to collaborate. The school was a sold rock of people who were friendly, fun and supported their kids.

I see all of these same qualities in my new Mundelein coworkers. The administration is supportive and are faces in the hallway, just like the ones in Urbana. Department Chairs are leaders and supporters. I left today with my Applied Arts chair telling me he hopes I can be in Business full time next year. I want nothing more than to be a part of this school for the next sequence of years and to know he is already looking forward for that to happen was precious sound. The Applied Arts/Business folks have been overly welcoming and we all did lunch today. The Social Studies crew I am sure is the same but I haven't had as much interaction with them much. I did meet with my fellow Econ teacher and he seems brilliant and has the content written into his teacher DNA. It will take time to for me to be more than a few days ahead of the kids, I think, as I adapt to the 90-minute block and new curriculum, even if the content is not very new.

I've seen lots of new videos that are encouraging towards teaching and funny because they ring with truth. The initiatives at Mundelein are all about rigor and making our students learners and masters of the content they study, no matter if their are moving low to medium or medium to high level of achievement. All over the hallways are motivational slogans and pictures of former students who serve in the military, made honor roll or are involved in the school. I particularly like their hallway pass system and I think it will make keeping students accountable so much easier.

My goals this year include being involved, supporting students and striving to make curriculum that is as much student-driven as it is project-driven. Powerpoints will be minimal. Student discovery maximum. And hopefully, I can develop some more life-long friendships and find people to attend football games and do game nights with me. Because I miss game nights!

 I'll write again soon as I wrap up the week. I can't wait to meet my new kids (mostly freshmen/sophomore this year) and start helping them learn. Here we go!


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Fajitas Meet Pasta Primavera

I have been participating in new teacher workshops for the past two days and have learned so many things that it will probably take me a few days to digest and sort them into some sort of meaningful blog. Of course, by then I'll have begun teaching and will probably have even bigger events to share with you that all of the experiences of these past forty-eight hours.

For now, I'll leave you with a topic that occurred to me while cooking a meal over the weekend.

This meal has become a new favorite. When I first interviewed for my job at Mundelein, I drove over three hours in the rain. I had left early, unsure how long the drive would take with such inclement weather and arrived with over an hour and a half to spare. So I found a Noodles & Company and decided to take a quick lunch. I've only eaten at Noodles once. So when I asked the employee what he suggested, he told me about their "seasonal" dish the pesto pasta. Buddy, you had me at pesto.

I have absolutely no idea why I love pesto so much. I'm not a huge fan of tomatoes (I am really Italian, right?) since they have such an overwhelming acidic taste and are a mix of weird textures when plain - squishy and crisp all at once. I really, really hate ketchup - since always - tomatoes, vinegar and sugar - no thanks! I've made some great marinara sauce but can only handle it for a day or two and then quickly tire of eating it. I can handle certain pizza sauces. White sauce, alfredo, is delicious but not exactly super healthy. Pesto on the other hand has a combination of my favorite flavor enhancers - garlic, parmesan, and especially basil, to name a few. Add in a great first-pressed olive oil and pine nuts and you've got yourself an outstanding punch of a sauce in just a tablespoon or two (I prefer two). It is a bit on the fatty side, with the olive oil and nuts, but both have healthy fats and are okay in moderation.

I've been eating pesto since I moved into the City when I first started working at Jam. I did not ever eat pesto growing up. It was always bolognese sauce. A family recipe from the gorgeous Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, home to, where else?, Bologna. My first experience with pesto was a version by Classico. It did not use pine nuts and even used sunflower oil or something else but it was garlicy and basily and I was hooked.  The downside was that I only ate the pasta with a protein and no veggies. I didn't think any would work. Of course, I wasn't a big veggie eater until recently so, please know this post is really a representative of a big win for me, nutritionally speaking.

Fast-forward to Noodles in April 2013 and low and behold a new dish. This pesto pasta was full of chicken and spinach and asparagus and red onion. It had a few walnuts sprinkled in and topped with some feta cheese. It was delicious! I have recreated that dish about 25 times since April. It is now my staple lunch on weekends (or weekdays before work started back up). I am not adding loads of veg from the fridge to beef up my favorite dish. I alternate between chicken and chicken or turkey sausages. The one below is from last weekend with a chicken sausage stuffed with spinach and mozzarella.

Now instead of a huge bowl of pasta and sauce and some protein, I have a huge bowl of veggies and meat with a little pasta added in along with the pesto. Sometimes I add in the fresh parm (I still have some that was sent to me back in March from Italy!) or I'll put feta on if I'm feeling like a little guilty food pleasure.

You may at this point be asking yourself, "What on earth does this have to do with fajitas?" If you asked yourself that then pat yourself on the back. You remembered the title of this post. Well, here it is. As I sat eating the pesto primavera over the weekend, I realized that the food I eat out most is Mexican cuisine and often I order fajitas because I like to build my own and avoid the sour creams and sauces that make the tortilla soggy. A fajita is much the same concept as the pasta dish. You have a protein, a combo of grilled veggies (Peppers and onions) and usually a flavorful sauce or condiment to add on. The carb is a tortilla instead of pasta. But the concepts are similar. Is this a sign I'm loving vegetables? Or have an affinity for a specific type of dish?

My conclusion was that what I eat across cultural cuisines tends to fall into similar categories. I like hand foods - nachos, fajitas, chips & salsa, hummus & pita/carrots. But nothing beats a good meal with a combo of carbs, protein, veggies and flavorful sauce. Waaaay more colorful than my old days trying pasta, chicken and alfredo - all the same shade of the rainbow. They say to eat the rainbow. I think I'm getting closer the older I get. Some of you may say - that's a lot of pasta to eat! Well, I suppose that is a bit true. But the portion is down and the nutritional value has significantly increased.

I'm going to continue to work on my repertoire. Maybe one of these dishes will be the one my future hubby falls in love with. I can only hope its the pesto!


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Path to Dual Citizenship - An Update

I had a fantastic time with my mom yesterday, one that brought up a lot of memories for her and a lot of new ones for me.

It has been a little over five years since I began the quest to gather all of the documents I would need to official become a dual citizen in Italy. I have had mixed results over the years and honestly, haven't gotten very far. To apply for citizenship I essentially need every document that connects me to my great-grandfather who came here from Italy just after the turn of the 20th Century.  I've learned a lot along the way about my ancestors. I have had varied emotions about my pursuit and wondered often if this would have been something he wanted his descendants to do some day down the road.

I came through these thoughts coming to the conclusion two years ago that YES, he would appreciate my efforts to regain the attachment to his homeland. The main persuasion came in the mail, via a copy of his naturalization record. He showed that he was naturalized just months after the birth of my grandfather, his youngest child. I think deep down he knew that he wanted to have all of his children, American born, before he himself became a citizen. Whether or not he knew that waiting until after they were all born would mean I had full access to obtaining citizenship is up for debate. (If he had been naturalized prior to my grandfather's birth, I couldn't gain citizenship). I think he waited on purpose. To think he had signed up for the US Military during WWI and waited all that time to officially gain American citizenship is amazing.

I found a great blog recently that expresses how these questions can be difficult for descendants. The woman who wrote this post lays it all out in the second half of this website.

My own grandfather died when I was in junior high school. I can remember him speaking a word of Italian now and then. He would raise his hands after he was done eating to signal he was finished. I always wondered if that was an Italian thing or just his thing. I didn't know many of my Italian relatives. I have met a few since I was a kid and it seems they are scattered around the country. I do know a lot of my Grandma's relatives (not Italians), since they were always living near each other in Florida or close by my immediate family in Illinois. But the Italian side was a pretty big mystery.

I've since learned that my Mom spend Sundays with her Italian relatives. She has told stories about the black pepper tortellini (or was it a ravioli?) that one lucky person would get on their plate. I've seen pictures of their gatherings. They all look happy. I think all of the pictures of my mom with her family on both sides always looked like a big group of happy people.

That is why yesterday was so special. We spent an hour or so before lunch calling to get marriage and birth certificates. We pinned down places where we might get an official naturalization record. I'm tasked with writing a church to get some sort of birth notice for my great-grandmother. We then went to lunch at a new spot (Tom & Eddies) and enjoyed conversation and specialty Cokes from the fancy coke machine (yes I had cherry sprite zero!).

We then drove to a nearby cemetery to visit the graves of my great-aunt and great-uncle who passed away in recent years. She had not visited their graves yet. At least, I thought that is what we were doing. Turns out, my great-grandfather who came here from Italy and great-grandmother are also buried in the same cemetery. Somehow I had missed that tidbit when we planned out the day a few weeks ago!

In the cemetery, once we headed towards my great-grandparents' grave, my mom started remembering details on where it was located. She came a lot as a child with my grandpa. She remembered the corner, the shrubs, the tree and a well where she could get water to water plants that were left there. I was impressed as it all flooded back. We stood at their grave and she introduced me to them (it was beyond touching - if cemeteries didn't creep me out so much I'd have cried!). I said a silent thank-you and hello.

We noticed some new things. My great-grandmother's middle initial is L. My great-grandfather's birth year is listed as 1892. Everything I have says 1893. (I've suspected he lied about his age when he arrived at immigration for some time now. He was 15 and 1 month from turning 16 so much have had some reason to claim he was 16 upon arrival). I expect there was some sort of child law that prevented those under 16 from traveling alone. Two of his older brothers had come over years earlier. You can read more about the immigration experience at Ellis Island here.

I still have a long way to go before I accomplish my goal of dual citizen. I need my great-grandfather's birth certificate, which seems to be non-existent in the place where his brothers' birth records are kept. I did attempt to research when I was in Italy three years ago but the records office was on strike. Poor timing!

I also need apostille on each document and translations into Italian for all records that are not from Italy - which is most of them. It will probably be another five years before my quest is complete, but it is so worth it!

So why the desire for citizenship? One, because it is possible and it is my heritage. I want to preserve it. I am the furthest generation allowed to earn it. If I don't do it, my descendants will never have the chance and may lose the connection to Italy which I think is so special. Secondly, having an EU passport makes travel in Europe much simpler. Have you ever been in a line waiting to get through Immigration at a major Euro airport? The EU lines entering the country are so short!

I'll update on this project as I progress. It may be few and far between though. We shall see!


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Travel Bingo

This post has been in the works for years, and I'm finally getting around to writing it. It makes sense, really. Last weekend I made one of my final trips between Champaign and Chicagoland - twice. I came up to Chicago to see Sister Hazel, my favorite live band on Saturday night and then moved in Monday. With that much driving through almost nothing but farmland and an occasional town or wind turbine, you need something to keep yourself occupied. The radio doesn't always cut it. I've listened to Italian language programs, audiobooks and news radio. You need something to look for. A game of sorts. It helps on long drives.

As a kid, we had little red plastic boards that had pull tabs, almost like a bingo board with different objects under the tabs. As you saw them on your roadtrip, you pulled the tab across.  They looked something like these:
We had a roadtrip every year growing up. We travelled with three other families (the fathers had all been college roomates) who by the time I was a teen lived across the USA. Each year one family picked the destination. We did everything from Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee & New York. We did family trips, too, to see my grandparents and family in Florida and Virginia. In addition to the bingo games we did license plate searches, seeing who could get the most on a trip or even which color car we saw the most.

Weirdly, the license plate thing stuck with me even into adulthood. I tended to keep my eyes peeled for plates on my walk to work when I lived in the city. On an average day I saw six state plates. If I didn't see six on my way in I superstitiously believed it would be a rough day. I don't know if that was ever true, although I had my share of difficult days! There weren't many days I saw less than six. (You can see my previous post about this obsession here).

Moving on to my last four years living in Central Illinois, I needed a new thing to occupy my two and a half hour drive north (for the record, my best time was exactly two hours door to door). What I discovered was that early on in those first few drives the same trucks tended to pop up in my view. The one I recognized most often was the Sherwin Williams paint truck. It has a vibrant red and blue coloring on the back and sides and is hard to miss. Only once, in my many drives north and south did I not see one of these trucks. And last weekend I even saw one being hauled by a yellow cab, adding to the color mix. Here is a picture of one I took earlier this year:

In fact, on that Saturday drive before I moved, I saw a record 11 Sherwin Williams trucks going north and seven coming back. I'd never seen that many. Apparently they are really on the move during the weekends!

So there you go. I'll probably come up with something new as I drive north to school and back each day. It will probably be license plates for a while. (I have just three left to find this year - Alaska, Delaware and Rhode Island - two of which I hope to see when I head to New York sometime later this year. And yes, I did see Hawaii. It was just north of Rantoul on I-57 about two months ago!)

What do you do to occupy yourself on your travels? I'd love to know. Leave a comment and share your travel tales!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Hello everyone! It's almost MAY!

As usual, I have just wrapped up a busy April with the Illinois Marathon races, PSAE testing week, Prom and a few other big things that I'll share in this space eventually.

Another post is coming soon once I have time later this week and have had a chance to upload race day photos.
(I've got some funny and fun race stories to share! For example, have you ever been passed by the lead runner in a marathon....twice...while running a shorter race? Yep, that happened while running the 10k on Saturday!)

In the meantime, I need to get some sleep. The dog has already beat me to it!

Buona Notte!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Trace of Childhood

I'm sharing something a bit different on this week's blog.

If you knew me as a kid, you may know we did a lot of family trips each year. Most of those trips were done by car and as a family, my parents, sister and I saw a lot of the Eastern U.S.A. on these vacations (Every state east of the Mississippi except Maine, oddly enough). Back in the day, there were card games, board games and other things that kept us occupied on such long drives. For example, do you recall the "coloring books" with the magic pens that somehow knew which color to create depending on where on the page it would touch? Between the hours of car games and the mega-hits of the 80's that played on the radio (can you say "We Are the World"?) as we traveled across the country, those trips were always fun. Well, except perhaps the time we drove back from Washington, D.C. when the timing belt on our car went kaput in Clyde, Ohio!

At any rate, one of my favorite memories in these car rides was counting license plates on the cars that went by. There used to be little boards that were red with little sliding panels that you could use to mark off the states or scenes you passed by (silos, cows, barns, water towers, horses, etc.). To this day, I still count state plates. When I lived in Chicago and walked to work, I averaged 5 state plates per morning on my walk. I held to the superstition that if I didn't see 5 plates it was going to be tough day. More than 5, and things were going to be great! It is nonsense, but it made the day interesting.

Enter the era of phone apps and now I can use my phone to track which states I see. From Thanksgiving, November of 2011 through the end of 2012, I counted 45 plates. The ones I had not found included Vermont, Nevada, D.C. (it counts), Montana, Alaska and Hawaii. Not bad for someone who basically stayed in Illinois the entire year!

I have since restarted the clock and in the last 5 days alone, these are the plates I have seen:

Did you notice that all three of these are plates are ones that I never once saw last year?

I see a lot of cars from Texas and Iowa for some reason. There are the typical nearby states such as Indiana, Michigan and Missouri. On my drives back and forth to Chicago I see a lot of trucks from Maine, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Those are all fairly typical. I also managed to see quite a few plates from Canada, such as Quebec and Ontario, even one from Saskatchewan. Too bad those don't show up on plate apps.

With the way this year is going, perhaps I may even catch Hawaii and Alaska!

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Welcome to Teaching 2013-Style

Knock! Knock! Knock! Anyone still here? A little dusty in this space. Time to spruce it up!

Okay, I know I've been really tardy on writing blogs the last 18 months or so. Only one blog in 2012. Really? Yes, really. It was a great year, but I'm hoping to make this space a bit of a re-awakening of sorts.

(side note: I'm wondering where the phrase 'spruce it up' came from)
(side note #2: The Baltimore/Denver playoff game is on an it is GOOD! This may take longer to write than normal!)

Anyway, I need to get back to writing here because this has been one heck of a week back to start the second semester of School.

I kicked off the school year last Friday, going in for a few hours despite a throbbing headache I assumed was a cold. When my head pounds, it is usually due to changes in the weather, but this one was a bad. At any rate, going in before the semester starts is more of a peace of mind activity. I had everything prepared for the first day of classes and my room was clean and organized. I didn't really have to do anything. I just needed to make sure. One of my life mottoes is be prepared. I knew I was but another motto is: double check. So that's what I did last Friday.

My classes are smaller this semester, which I love but wouldn't mind having a few more students, especially in my keyboarding class, my first class of the day this semester.

As a recap, the day begins at 8. I aim to be there before 7:30 (again, remember my two mottoes). I head up the stairs to the 3rd floor and dump my belongings in the office. That Monday, I didn't go back to the opposite side of the building on the 2nd floor to my classroom, but just straight down the hall to the business computer lab to mark my seating chart.  I encountered my first (but manageable) problem upon entering the lab - our grade database was not working. I had no access to my student roster! No problem, as I had seen the list previously. As the kids walked in around 7:55 I realized I have a GOOD group of kids. I can see one is going to be pretty talkative (freshman) and the rest, although mostly underclassmen, were kids who already seemed to be on task. One of my favorite kids from my law class last semester was in my keyboarding class and she was super excited to begin. I love enthusiasm. Class was interrupted a few times by one of our assistant principals who had to quickly reschedule our hall duty assignments for the following period (every teacher has either hall duty or is on a Team who meets twice a week). No problem.

Second hour was my hall duty, now located at the bottom of the main stairwell, tucked in a bit of a corner. Last semester I had hall duty during 1st period and was in a more trafficked area, meaning I had to write a LOT of tardy passes.

Third hour is my Coop 1 class, a bit larger than last semester and 4th hour is my Coop 2 course, my seniors, about the same size it had been.

In all 3 classes we went through the syllabus and then I did an personality/learning styles assessment that is called True Colors. It is pretty accurate and I think all of my students enjoyed it. I learned a lot about them, seeing who needs more structure and less structure. (Next week I am rearranging my seating chart by their colors to see if that makes a difference in their talkativeness, especially in my Coop 2 group).

The rest of the week went along pretty well. No major issues with any students, except for the four who had no job (a requirement before school began!!!). One student had quit her job, another hadn't had one in a few months since they'd been fired a few months earlier and another one had a job but it turned out to be a seasonal job so she needed a new place. Two other students came in on Monday saying they needed a job but both found employment quickly, with my help.

Luckily, I have some amazing employers in the area who want to work with high schoolers. The manager of the Culvers in South Champaign gets an especially big nod, as I've never seen an employer who wants their employees to be as well-rounded or as open with him about their lives as he does. They go so far as to call him Dad sometimes. Amazing guy. Jimmy Johns (headquartered in town) also hires many students and I had a new student join my program on Wednesday. We meet later that afternoon and together we called Jimmy Johns and asked if they were hiring. We got him an interview at 4pm and he was hired on the spot. Seems like a great kid and I can't wait to see how he flourishes.

At any rate, Friday came, and although I'd had lessons planned for the week, they needed to be adjusted based on what feedback I was getting from the kids. In every class I adjusted my plans (hooray, good teacher qualities!!!). The first week back is always tough, as both teachers and the students are getting used to being in the routine again. Still not feeling well (or sleeping well) I was giving my all during the day and crashing on the couch in front of the tv every night. I had by Thursday recognized that I didn't have a cold and was instead a strange sinus infection. My doc is out of town so I was told to go to Convenient Care. Thank goodness I keep an antibiotic pill or two (or three) each time I get a prescription. I am not going to Convenient Care and being around people who are there with the flu (an epidemic at the moment).

I digress....

Friday was Pay Day lunch in the teacher lounge followed by time for me to run around working on two separate projects. The first was getting notices out to the 70-odd seniors who want to attend the senior trip in March and the other was to talk to the counselors about those two students who were still jobless. I got the first project done during 6th hour. 7th hour, on my way to the counselors office, I saw one of my favorite Coop students crying in the hallway. She hadn't been herself during class, keeping her head down on the desk and mumbling inaudibly so I had sent her to her dean. (Turns out that was good because she was sent to the Study Hall room where the auto teacher was presiding that hour and she could talk about her ailing car with him). Aaaaannnnnyway, I saw this particular student in the hall just before the 7th hour bell rang and she came up to me asking if she could talk. Her eyes were so red it looked like she had pink-eye. She was crying once I said yes. We found a quite spot in the teacher copy room which was vacant for the moment. She then laid out the difficulties she had faced over the two weeks of break. Now, this kid works two jobs, 30+ hours a week and goes to school. She is sweet as could be and I know her home-life was a little tough, but it had gone down hill. As she sobbed and told her story, I tried to just listen and give advice where I could. I was feeling a bit guilty for not sending her to history but this was partly about Coop so I let her talk...for 35 minutes. Hopefully I was enough of a sage to make her feel better over the weekend. I am hoping that Monday finds this kid smiling again. She reminds me of myself in several ways. Big heart, positive and determined to do her best. She helps everyone she can, often overlooking herself, a lesson I had learned into my late 20's.  I walked her back to class, a bit more at ease than before and then headed to the counseling office. I saw the social worker and gave her a heads up as I waited for the counselors to open their doors from various meetings with students who were making last minute schedule changes.

By the end of the day, I had gotten both of those jobless students to meet with their counselors. Both were heading to open interviews at Taco Bell and had done or were about to do a few online applications. One was hopefully going to hear from my guy at Culvers this weekend about being hired.

I'm resting this weekend (obviously watching more tv). I really have a good feeling about this semester. There are a lot of other things in the works, which I'll keep secret for now. More about those as they develop!

Have a great weekend folks. And thanks for coming back to read my teaching-life journey!