Early Monday morning, as I was eating a banana, the following thought came to me: Curriculum catalogs are like Toys R Us for teachers. Here’s why.Picture a toy store. Now, picture yourself in said toy store standing in the middle of one of those long, huge aisles large enough to accomodate an 18-wheel tractor trailer truck, and surrounded by shelves on either side bulging with toys of all kinds. This is how I used to feel every time I open a curriculum catalog.The urge to splurge is even greater for the teacher who is having doubts about his practice, and thus feels the need to re-invent himself. These moments of doubt occur for many teachers, and throughout their careers. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and now I’ve got a t-shirt for every time I have had feelings of self-doubt. What I have discovered along the way, however, is the importance of finding my teacher voice – developing a platform of beliefs about how I teach, how students learn, how I assess, and beliefs about language – and applying them to give support and rationale to the methods, materials and techniques I use in the classroom. Armed with a solid set of beliefs, I am not as easily swayed by the shiny new toys bursting from the curriculum catalogs.That doesn’t mean that I won’t take a peek when the new catalogs come to my home. It just means that I no longer act like a kid in a toy store. I’m very content with the toys I have at the moment.
Since my post, The “S” Word, I have gotten myself together and have begun to prep in earnest for the upcoming school year. I read several posts by Repairman on his blog, RepairKit about grades and grading. Those posts not only prompted me to reflect on the subject of grading, but also forced me to re-evaluate how I grade and why. As a result, I have arrived at the following goals for the upcoming school year with respect to grading.
~Eliminating the use of zeros for uncompleted homework and when factoring the term grade. Per my reading, zeros are harshly punitive, represent an extreme, and do not measure real learning. I happen to agree with those conclusions. Instead, I plan to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy regarding homework. For example, when students don’t complete homework, they will be asked to join me at lunch or after school in order to do so. This holds the student accountable for the work, and gets at the root of the problem for why work is not being completed. Assigning a zero does neither of these things. There are many reasons why students don’t do their homework, and it’s rarely because they didn’t want to do it.
~Assigning grades to work which indicate what a student knows and is able to do with the language, and using these grades as the basis for the term grade. Work which is designed to allow the student to acquire, develop and refine skills, such as homework and classroom activities, will be assessed and commented upon, but will not be factored into the term grade.Furthermore, my colleague, Exhausted Intern, over at Not Enough Hours, has inspired me to align my units and lesson plans more closely to the National Foreign Language Standards. Teaching at an independent school, the National Standards are merely guidelines, and are not used to create curriculum. However, the
rebel trailblazer that I am, I am going to use them to create my curriculum, and see where it takes me. I am excited about the enhanced learning opportunities and greater skill development teaching and assessing using the National Standards it will bring for my students.
The aforementioned are the big ones. Other things include streamlining my classroom expectations, and including my students more in discussions re: grades and classroom management. It feels good to get a much earlier start on curriculum prep. Last summer, I was distracted by an out-of-town five-day workshop. The workshop was rewarding and transformative, but it took me away from my prep nonetheless. Furthermore, I attended a full-day workshop which derailed all of the planning I had done prior to such a degree that it had me questioning my approach to teaching language. It’s a long, scary story, and causes me to shudder every time I think about it, but I will say this: A conversation with a trusted colleague helped me to regain my confidence and got me back on track. Praise God for colleagues!
My goal is to have the first trimester planned for my Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 courses, which breaks down to to three units per course. However, the hardest part is accomplished: Dipping my big toe into the cold, icy pool of planning for the new year. Now comes the part where I am wading waist-high in the pool! Weeee!
Monday, July 16th marked exactly one month since I have been on summer vacation. In that time, I have passed by my school’s campus four times. This was not planned. It just so happens that several of my doctors are located downtown, and, as I had appointments with those doctors, I had to pass by my school’s campus.It’s strange. Passing by my school’s campus gave me a sort of queasy feeling: It was a reminder of the time which has passed, the things which remain undone, the summer days growing incrementally shorter, and me slowly going into panic mode. Although I am not due to report on campus for another six weeks, seeing my school reminded me of the work I have yet to do in order to get ready for the coming school year. It seems that every summer I begin my vacation with lots of plans and ideas: lessons I want to create, and things I want to learn. A month already has passed, and I need to get to work on the lessons and projects.My mother, always the one to encourage, tells me: “You have plenty of time. Try and enjoy your time off.” I am certainly enjoying my time off. I am catching up with family and friends, tending my plants and flowers, reading books, watching films, and blogging. Life is good.And yet, although the impending workload nags at me, I’m just not feeling the planning-for-school-groove right now. So, here I am, writing this entry and watching The Godfather Part II.As a colleague said recently: Please don’t say the “s” word until August 1st?
I think I have the cleanest and most deoderized kitchen sink drain/garbage disposal in the world.
I just finished dumping two boxes of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda down the drain/garbage disposal. Since I placed a fresh box of baking soda in the freezer and refrigerator compartments, dumping the two boxes down the drain/garbage disposal was the only logical alternative.
Unless, of course, someone reading this post has another use for two boxes of baking soda for the next time I replace them, which will be a month from today.
*Those of you hip to hip-hop will recognize that the title of the post is appropriated from a song of the same name by Outkast. Here’s the chorus, which is actually the only part of the song I like:
Aint nobody dope as me
Im dressed so fresh so clean(so fresh and so clean clean)
Dont you think Im so sexy
Im dressed so fresh so clean(so fresh and so clean clean)
Aint nobody dope as me
Im dressed so fresh so clean(so fresh and so clean clean)
I love when you stare at me Im dressed so fresh so clean(so fresh and so clean clean)
This is a continuing series. In my first installment , I listed 17 films which have become my faves in recent years. In this second installment I list films to which I was introduced during my childhood and youth. By request of one of my newest blog buddies, JD2718, I have added older films. I hope they are sufficiently old.:)
1. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974). Based on the 1971 novel by Ernest J. Gaines. I was nine when I first saw this film. It was my first exposure to life for Black Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights era. Cicely Tyson was made for the role, and won an Emmy for her portrayal. I cheered during the water fountain scene. For years I believed that Miss Jane Pittman was a real person!
2. The Ten Commandments (1956). Referred to as “The greatest event in motion picture history”. It also garnered seven Academy Awards. I enjoyed the portrayals by Yul Bryner and Charlton Heston, and the re-telling of some of the Bible’s most well-known stories.
3. Roots (1977). According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, “Roots remains one of television’s landmark programs.” This twelve-hour mini-series aired on ABC television from January 23-30, 1977. As far as I am concerned, this is the *best* account of slavery ever made. Even though I was only 12 years old, I was mesmorized. Based on Alex Haley’s novel of the same name.
4. Carrie (1976). Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of the Stephen King novel. The first horror film I ever saw. Sissy Spacek is wonderfully vengeful. She takes care of business!
5, 6, 7. The Original Star Wars Trilogy: Star Wars (1977); The Empire Strikes Back (1980); and Return of the Jedi (1983). George Lucas’ masterpiece. For someone who is not really feeling sci fi, the three original Star Wars films converted me. Ground-breaking special effects.
8. Scrooge, aka A Christmas Carol (1951). Ebenezer Scrooge is brilliantly portrayed by Alastair Sim. In my opinion, Sim gives the *best* ever portrayal of Scrooge. I try to see this film every year during the Christmas season.
9. All Quiet on the Western Front (1979). The made-for-television remake of the 1930 film classic which broadcast on CBS. Based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. My first exposure to the horrors of war in general, and of World War I in particular. The telling of the story from a German perspective intrigued me. The characters are very three-dimensional, and I cared about them. Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine give stellar performances. Many memorable scenes which left an indelible impression on me.
10. The Wizard of Oz (1939). A perennial childhood favorite of mine. I haven’t seen it in a few years, but watched it virtually every year as a child. The lion is my favorite; I strive to have enough courage.
11. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). The genius of Charles M. Schulz brought to television. It is simply precious in every way. The pitiful little tree being transformed by Linus is my favorite scene.
12. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). One of my earliest lessons in appreciating difference. So many memorable scenes, songs and lines.
As I was driving myself home from a doctor’s appointment this morning, I reflected on my life. I considered how blessed I am. I have a car to get myself to the places I need and want to go. I am able to pay for the medical services that I need. I am able to buy healthy, nutritious food. I have a loving and supportive family. And, on occasion I am able to afford some of the extras which make life a little nicer. Despite all of the difficulties I have experienced in my short 42 years on Planet Earth, I am blessed.
So, my question to you, My Friend, is: Have you counted your blessings today?
Here are the foods that make me oh so happy when I eat them:
1. My mother’s fried chicken
3. Ice cream
4. Plain bagel, toasted, with a layer of margarine
5. Steak, baked potato, and a salad
6. Desserts, esp. sweet potato pie, cherry and peach cobblers, and chocolate layer cake
7. French fries
8. My mother’s potato salad
Now, those of you who have been reading my blog since I began writing it know that I suffer from several upper GI problems, including gall stones, irritable bowel syndrome, and acid reflux. So, how am I able to eat these no-no foods?
1. I negotiate carefully along the lines of space and time, i.e. not combining too many variables at once, not eating certain foods in the same week, limiting the consumption of certain foods to once or twice a month.
2. I follow my dietician’s adivice: Change one variable. For example, if I wanted to drink coffee, for example, I would not attempt to eat ice cream or a hamburger that same day. And, when I do eat ice cream or dessert, it is just a taste, i.e. a small dish or cone of ice cream, half a slice of pie.
3. I drink coffee 2-3 times per week, and when I do, I order a small coffee, black, from Dunkin’ Donuts. When I get home. I use a little Silk Soy Creamer, which is tasty.
4. I eat very little meat, especially red meat. When I do eat red meat, it might be once a month. So, eating a steak or hamburger isn’t as devistating to my compromised GI tract.
5. I eat a no-meat/whole foods/high fiber/cake and pie-free diet much of the time. I don’t consume milk, cheese or eggs.
6. I drink LOTS of fresh water. I no longer drink carbonated beverages.
7. I avoid the foods which aggravate my conditions as much as I can.
What are your food guilty pleasures?
When did shopping for a cell phone become so complex and so complicated?
After my hair appointment on this past Saturday, I stopped over at the Verizon store. All I wanted was a basic cell phone; no frills. I found everything but. I needed a shopper’s manual in order to navigate my way around. Phones with GPS systems, music download capabilities, and parent chaperone features. There was even a phone which opened sideways, fully loaded with what looked like a mini-keyboard. And, I don’t recall a seeing a phone without a camera component.
When did the cell phone industry lose sight of the main purpose of a telephone? I thought it was communication. i.e. to be able to make a phone call safely and conveniently, and when necessity warranted it. However, it seems as if the opposite is true from the array of cell phones on display at Verizon. Moreover, the way in which people in general use their cell phones, I wonder what they were doing before cell phones came into existence?
And, don’t even get me started on the iPhone.