Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 287- Tough Cookie

Everyone in my building at work comes with a reputation.  In my first few weeks, I heard all about everyone's business.  It was if everyone was all excited to have someone new with no opinions as a sounding board, and they'd just talk and talk about everything and everyone in an attempt to fill me in and keep me informed.  I listened.  Then, I took everything they said with a grain of salt.

I am most certainly not high and mighty, and I say my fair share of things that I shouldn't.  However, I have made a conscious effort to stay out of the gossip and to save up all my gossip and things I have to say about other people for Tom.  He's probably bored by these stories most of the time (I don't blame him), and he is occasionally amused.  More importantly, his eyes glaze over, and I know that none of these things that I say will ever find their way out of this house and into the world where they could hurt or upset other people.  I must say I'm proud of the way I have handled myself thus far.  I have to remind myself all the time to bite my tongue and that this type of gossip has no place in my work vocabulary.  I hope that eventually this will become natural.

Anyway... that is all just an extremely long-winded way of saying that although every person that I work with cannot be my favorite, I do at least have a cordial relationship with everyone I have met in the building... including Tough Cookie.  TC is one of those people I was "warned" about.  TC is a tough cookie and is not someone who is easily impressed.  TC makes people nervous. 

Now, at long last, let me get to the point.  I was feeling a little down today because a bunch of my students really didn't do well on a test I gave.  I am usually really confident in my abilities as a teacher, but this caused me to falter a bit.  I wondered if they didn't do well because I wasn't teaching well... or maybe I wasn't motivating them to try or be interested or learn... or maybe the test we wrote was flawed.... sigh...  I eventually convinced myself that I can't take this all on my shoulders.  Some of those things may be true, but I know that there is accountability on the part of my students too.  For every student that bombed, there was another who was successful.  I am back to being a Positive Polly again.  I will put my head down and push forward, and I have all kinds of ideas about what to try next and how I can do things better.  But... I won't deny the fact that I had a few rough hours of self doubt where I wondered if I was not giving my kids what they needed and if I would need to rethink what I was doing in my room entirely.  

In the midst of this came an e-mail from Tough Cookie. 

By the way, it is a pleasure working with you.  You are smart and poised and really "get" these kiddos :).

This could not have come at a better time. Gossip be darned, TC, you're alright with me!

Thank you, Tough Cookie, you made my day.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 286- 4:00pm

Tick tock
4 o'clock

Where was I today?

I'm often at school until at least five.  The final bell doesn't sound until 3:20, and then we have to follow the kids out to the bus to stop any possible shennanigans.  I frequently have some kind of meeting or copies to make or stuff to do or after school tutoring, and before I know it, it's 5 o'clock.

I have worked really hard this quarter to stay on top of everything, and today I got to reap the rewards.  I was home by... wait for it... 4 o'clock!!!!  I enjoyed the beautiful beginning of fall weather outside with General for a bit, took a nap (that is unheard of these days), and got some grading done.  I also got caught up on a few shows on my DVR.  It's amazing the kind of stuff I can pack into an extra hour these days!

To continue the loveliness, I think I'll go to bed before 11 tonight.  Man, I'm going to be hyper tomorrow with all this sleep.  I'm already using exclamation points like it's my job.  Watch out, kiddos!

Thank you, 4:00 pm, you made my day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Day 285- Britney/Brittany

It's Glee Tuesday!

Over the second season of Glee, Brittany became one of my favorite characters.  Like Sue Sylvester, just about every single line she says is some kind of off-the-wall bit of hilarious.  Take her first line of tonight's episode, for example.

Mr. Shue: Who can tell me who Christopher Cross is? 
Brittany: He discovered America!

Brittany finally got her chance to really shine with some solos tonight in the episode featuring songs from that other Britney... Britney Spears.  At first, she was hesitant to fall under the Britney spell.

Kurt: Why not Britney, Brittany?
Brittany: Because my name is also Britney Spears.  My middle name is Susan, my last name is Pierce.  That makes me Brittany S. Pierce.  Britney Spears.  I've lived my entire life in Britney Spears' shadow.  I will never be as talented or as famous.  I hope you'll all respect that I want Glee club to remain a place where I, Brittany S. Pierce, can escape the torment of Britney Spears.  Thank you for understanding.  It's been a hard road.    

Yet, some trippy time at the dentist's office is enough to send Brittany singing and dancing through much of the Britney Spears catalog in costumes and sets that are amazingly close to the originals.  Man, this girl can dance!  Eat your heart out, Britney... Brittany rules.

This girl is so funny that she's acting even when she is not the focus of a scene.  She's always in the background making a funny face or doing something else complete in keeping with her space cadet character.  Then, out of nowhere, the camera pans to her, and she delivers another homerun.

"I don't brush my teeth.  I rinse my mouth out with soda after I eat.  I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist."

"This room looks like the one on that spaceship where I got probed."

"Please don't pull out all my teeth.  When I smile, I'll look like an adult baby... but with boobs."

I could go on and on... yay for my girl Britney :).  I hope that this means a lot more of her to come.  And Sue.  And Carl the dentist aka Uncle Jesse aka John Stamos aka another one of my childhood crushes turned Glee guest star (he joined the NPH club tonight).  If Glee could somehow land Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), the trifecta would be complete!

Thank you, Britney/Brittany, you made my day.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 284-Students' Supportive Parents

I have been communicating with the parents of some of my students on a one on one kind of basis, but today was the first time I had to make a big chunk of phone calls.  We are nearing the end of the quarter (quickly!  Friday!), and I want to make sure that all of my students care enough to earn the grades that they should. 

I was apprehensive about making these calls because I have heard all kinds of horror stories.  Telling a parent that his/her student is failing or close to failing the quarter is not exactly wonderful and welcome news.  However, I saw my CT navigate waters like these with parents beautifully, so I took a deep breath and called with confidence.  My intentions are good, after all.  I care about these kids and want to do everything I can to help them succeed... even if that means attempting uncomfortable conversations with their parents.

A beautiful thing happened this afternoon.  Every single call and e-mail has gone well so far (knock on wood).  Parents were thanking me for keeping their kids in line and for alerting them to potential issues.  I'd like to think that this is due partly to the fact that my kids have great parents, partly to the fact that they know that I am coming from a true and caring place, and partly because I am beyond my experience with schmoozing parents.  Perhaps my sales experience came in handy a bit, and perhaps it is clear that my effort grade exceeds that of some of these kids that I am constantly pushing so hard.  Whatever the case... whew!  I hope this streak lasts as long as possible!

Thank you, students' supportive parents, you made my day.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Day 283- Man on the Plane

Ok, so I still need to update yesterday's post with all of the amazingness that was the Miller-Sheldon wedding.  I'll get to that.  Not yet.

The moment that made my day today was really quite simple.  I brought a set of papers with me to grade on the plane ride, and I worked on them on the way home.  As we were waiting to leave the plane, the man sitting next to me (who was not Tom) said, "I saw you grading papers.  Are you a teacher?"  When I told him that yes, in fact, I am, he replied with, "Thanks for what you do.  You are in a noble profession, young lady.  We appreciate you."

There's all kinds of negativity floating around these days about public schools and public school teachers.  Everyone wants to complain about the problems that exist, but very few people are actively looking to be a part of the solution.  It was nice to have this little moment with a complete stranger to make me feel validated and important before I'm back in the trenches again tomorrow :).

Thank you, man on the plane, you made my day. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Day 282- Miller-Sheldon Wedding

Wow... it's only 4:30 and my day has already been made?  Um, not exactly.  I may be a morning, afternoon, and night person, but I am not a four in the morning person!  However, Tom and I are headed off to celebrate the wedding of some of our dear friends from Seattle.  No, we're not going to Seattle.  We're actually going to Connecticut.  Yes, I understand that this is all getting a bit hard to follow.

Instead of lugging my computer all over the country today, suffice it to say that this wedding will most certainly make my day... for now.  I'll post all the details of how and why when we get back tomorrow :).

Thank you, Miller-Sheldon wedding, you made my day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 281- New Teacher Work Day

We will be flying this weekend.  Again.  We will be leaving the house sometime in the 4s in the morning to catch a flight in the 6s.  Again.  However, we are incredibly excited for the weekend.  Again :).

In light of all this, let's keep this short and sweet.  My day today was just that-- short and sweet.  I had my first "New Teacher Work Day," where all of us first year kids met with our district mentor.  This meant that I got to sleep in until 6:30.  That may not sound like much, but it is definitely sleeping in compared to my 3:30-4am alarm tomorrow morning!  I spent the day conversing and sharing and reflecting with a bunch of other people who totally and completely get my life right now.  Teaching can be an isolating profession at times because I spend most of the day hanging out with people who are literally almost half my age.  It was really quite nice to have an opportunity to chat with other new teachers and to share stories and ideas.  It was even nicer when we worked as a larger group to share our small group conversations and my peers kept sharing my ideas as the good things they learned.  Toot toot!

I got home today at 3:30.  That NEVER happens these days!  I got to take a nap and get some work done, and I got caught up on some of that stuff that is filling up my DVR.  Puppy and I spent some time together before he went off to play with his friends, and Thomas and I got to play too.  Even though I was working all day, this feels like sort of a three day weekend, and that's just lovely. 

I will go back to work on Monday refreshed and ready to share my sunshine... which is a good thing because next week is the end of the quarter and sure to be crazy!  For now... sweet, sweet sleep :).

Thank you, New Teacher Work Day, you made my day.

Day 280- James*

It would be easy to get caught up in my work instead of enjoying my job.  I am constantly doing "stuff."  I am lesson planning, creating assessments, developing materials, grading papers, going through late work, communicating with parents... there's always 40 hours of work to do in a 24 hour day.

I must admit that I'm proud of myself, though.  Each day I ground myself in what is important-- my students.  I know that we've only been in school for two months, but I'm proud just the same.  I will not allow myself to feel bogged down or burned out because all of those other things are just the "stuff," the means to an end.  What really matters are those kids and the 50some minutes I get to spend with them every day. 

In typical teaching fashion, I had a million and one things to do today.  I will be in meetings all day tomorrow, so I had to create sub plans.  I had things to grade and parents to contact and reports to analyze and assessments to create... I was hoping to get a lot done after school, since I won't be in the building tomorrow and will be gone at a wedding out of town all weekend. 

"We plan, God laughs."

I barely got any of that done after school today.  Instead, I did something much more important.  Even though I know that the audience for this blog is small and that no one would ever go blabbing about my kids, I'd like to keep the details of this student's situation to a minimum in order to protect his privacy. 

I had a student stay well beyond the designated afternoon tutoring time today.  The reason for this was quite simple.  He did not want to go home.  It is not a good place.  At all.  We'll leave it at that.

Instead, he stayed at school for a while.  We chatted about the amazing strides that he has made with his grades, and I encouraged him to talk about his future.  I want him to know that he can dream and overcome and that things don't always have to be the way that they are now.  He went out in the hall for a minute to "get his stuff from his locker" and returned with a broom to sweep my room.  I told him it really wasn't necessary, but he insisted.  He kept asking what he could do to help in my room.  What I wanted to tell him was that the best thing he could do for me would be to allow me to help him. 

I thank God for putting James* in my classroom.  I had the honor today of giving a scared kid a place to feel safe.  All I have done is let him know that I like him and that I believe in him and that I'm proud of him.  He has shared with me that he failed all of his classes last year, but this year he has good grades.  He listens to directions, tries to keep other kids in his class in line, and is fiercely loyal.  I am thrilled to play a small part in what will hopefully be the time in his life where he realizes that where he is going is exponentially more important than where he comes from.  I am so incredibly thankful that I am in a position where I might have an impact and change the course of his life forever.  That's what gets me up in the morning and that's what I stay up thinking about at night.  That's the "stuff" that really matters.

Thank you, James, you made my day.      

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 279- Dialect

I Dialike Dialect

A terribly bad poem

Sometimes I catch my students looking
at the clock or out the window.
They shuffle all their papers
and can't wait 'til they get to go.
I don't let myself ever
take it too personally
After all, it's school that bores them
and certainly not me!

However, in my class this week,
we've had oh so much fun.
When they leave, they're walking,
and rarely do they run.
We've covered many topics,
they're writing and their reading.
It's knowledge that they're craving,
and me... I do the feeding!

We had such a good time today
with examples of dialect.
When do I use this or that,
and when do they intersect?
We laughed about "the mitten" and "up north"
and, of course, the pop.
My only fear is that this lesson
might just be hard to top!

You see, today there were
oh so many students' hands raised,
They were overjoyed to share
and soaked up all my praise.
And as our time together ran out,
instead of running for the door
The students sat there in their desks,
just wanting to do more!

Thank you, dialect, you made my day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 278- GLEE Premiere

GLEE Tuesdays are baaaaaaaaaaaaaaack!! :)

I've been excited for this day since the season finale.  It was International Peace Day today, and we were celebrating at school.  While my students wrote ideas about how they might spread peace in their worlds for their warm-up, we listened to the Glee recording of "Imagine."  Between that and our sensory details activity with popcorn, it was a fun day at school.

What really topped the day off, of course, was a new epsiode of Glee.  Oh, Sue Sylvester, how I have missed you!!  One of the best parts was Sue's commercials for the new Glee project.  Were there any good quotes?  You bet your bottom there were!

"Think about it.  What do animals do except poop on your lawn and make you feel guilty about how delicious they are?"

"Why should children be bored by the tyranny of reading?  Words are hard!"

"The arts?  They don't need your support.  What artists do need is soap.  Seriously, the next time you meet an artist, smell him.  I swear they rub their armpits with onions."

"People are always saying get involved.  Well, to them I say sure.  I'll take a stand... for as long as it takes me to find a comfy chair."

"Don't be a Sue.  Do something good instead."

Welcome back!!  It's so good to see you again, Glee :).

Thank you, Glee premiere, you made my day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 277- Jennifer Grey

Ok, ok, I have to admit it.  I watch Dancing With the Stars.  This shouldn't come as any sort of surprise because I have already admitted to many reality television guilty pleasures.  I didn't used to watch it, but Tom got me hooked.  I'm pretty sure that he may have forgotten this fact because now he makes fun of me for watching, puts in his headphones, and watches/listens to things on the computer loudly to prove how not into it all he is.

Since it was the first show of the season tonight, the dancing was pretty rough.  There are always a few standouts, though, who are clear frontrunners from the beginning of the season.  This season is no exception.  Brandy looked as if she stepped straight out of the lead princess role in a Disney movie, and that guy from that show that was cancelled a long time ago (you know, the one we've never heard of before) was at least very entertaining to watch. 

The real star of the night was clearly Jennifer Grey.  Even though she got a nose job that made her virtually unrecognizable, I still remember all of those Saturday afternoons that I spent watching her tattle on her brother in Ferris Bueller's Day Off  and fall in dancing love in Dirty Dancing.  I can still recite all of her lines from memory ("I carried a watermelon.  I carried a watermelon?"  "Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you.") and I still want to grow up to be as pretty as she was in all of those dancing costumes. 

The real kicker is that she grew up to be even more beautiful.  She danced a waltz tonight that completely took my breath away.  She floated around the floor in a soft gray costume to "These Arms of Mine."  Even though she was dancing with Derek, who has won the competition more than once and usually fights to be the center of attention, I couldn't take my eyes off of her the whole time.  It really felt as if she was not dancing with a partner, but rather she was drifting around in her memories of Patrick Swayze and Dirty Dancing.  She was so vulnerable and intimate that I felt as if we were old friends reminiscing.  What a beautiful thing her dance was to witness!

Carrie Ann Inaba said, "Something very profound just happened. Some things get better with age and I definitely think you're one of them."  I couldn't agree more.  Her body and her dancing were above and beyond all expectations.  Perhaps instead of dreaming of being Baby Housemann when I grow up, I actually want to be the real Jennifer Grey now.  I hope she keeps it up next week!

Thank you, Jennifer Grey, you made my day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 276- Little Caesar's

Thanks for not closing early after we called you on our way home from the airport.
Thanks for the $5 pepperoni pizza.  It was both hot and ready.
Thanks for that extra order of crazy bread.  I certainly didn't need it, but my food baby thanks you.
Thanks for filling us up so we can get to bed.  You were a nice little ending to a fabulous weekend!

Thank you, Little Caesar's, you made my day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 275- Baptism

I am falling asleep sitting up because we have been up for almost 19 hours straight... but oh, what a fantastic 19 hours we have had!

3:30 a.m. The alarm goes off.  Was that just a nap?  Is it really time to get up?  It's dark out.  Hmm...

3:35 a.m. Get up!  Get up!  Ok, shower.  Zombies get ready.

6:00 a.m. Flight takes off from STL for ATL.  Open-mouthed napping ensues.

10:00 a.m. Flight takes off from ATL to Greenville.  More open-mouthed napping.  Tom gets some of those delicious little biscotti airline cookies.  Jessi, in and out of consciousness, does not.  Fail.

11:30 a.m. Ferris witness a beautiful and emotional military homecoming on their way out of the airport.  Then, Annieka!

12:00 p.m. Ferri Godparents meet Maks :) and are reunited with Lily and Philos.  Hustle and bustle.

12:30-3:00 p.m. Michigan football.  W.  Moving on...

4:00 p.m.  Maks is baptized.  Hallelujah!  God Bless You, little Maks.

5:30 p.m. Philo party!  Taco bar, cupcake cake, gifts, laughs, bubbles, pictures, family, friends.  Maks is getting very, very sleepy.

7:30 p.m. to present.  Mas futbol americano.  Mucho mas futbol americano.

Maybe we'll go to bed soon.  Maybe we'll stay up for another five hours to make it an even 24.  Maybe I'm sleep typing right now and have no idea what I'm saying.

Thank you, baptism, you made my day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Day 274- Celebrations

Everyone can use a little attitude adjustment now and then.  I am certainly no exception to this... that's the whole purpose for this blog, after all, to remind myself of what is important and to recognize the million things I have to be thankful for.  We have a practice at school where we have to start out every meeting with celebrations, and I really enjoy it.  It is wonderful to hear about all of the amazing things happening in other people's lives, and it's lovely to hear people speak about the things that are going right before they get into the airing of grievances and down to the nitty gritty details of everything that's going wrong.

I decided to bring this idea into my classroom today for the warm-up that my students do to start the class.  I asked students to write about something exciting/fun/amazing happening in their lives or to share something they were looking forward to doing over the weekend.  Once they wrote these things in their warm-ups, the abbreviated versions made their way up to the board.

By the end of the day, every square inch of my front board was covered with excitement.  My students were thrilled that they would be playing or singing at the Cardinals game tonight.  They were looking forward to hanging out with friends this weekend and sleeping in... me too (well, the friends part at least)! One was raising money for leukemia at a car wash, while another was painting picnic tables for Girl Scouts all weekend in the hopes of a future scholarship.  I have skateboarders and football players and soccer players and softball players and a black belt in Tae Kwan Do.  Some less optimistic students took my advice and decided just to be happy to be alive.  Others overflowed with joy and had trouble picking just one thing to write. These kids were so excited to share and to read what all of the other classes had to say, and the atmosphere in my room today was incredible.  I'm going to leave these things up for a least a few days, and we had so much fun that I hereby proclaim every other Friday "Celebrations Day!"  Five minutes at the beginning of class gave us a whole day of wonderful.

My students are witty and kind and athletic and altruistic and thoughtful and sarcastic and bright and silly and cute.  They inspire me to try harder and to push harder.  They hold me accountable to giving my best every day, and I am better and happier for it.

I can only hope that these kids will learn as much from me as I am learning from them.

Thank you, celebrations, you made my day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Day 273- Adult Lunch

50 minutes
50 minutes
50 minutes
50 minutes
50 minutes


50 minutes

13-year olds
14-year olds
13-year olds
14-year olds
13-year olds


14-year olds



Work Work Work Work Work Work Work

I work with people half my age (literally) all day.  I have to remind myself to go to the bathroom when I get home because I'm too busy to remember this from 7-5.  I am constantly on my feet and running around and doing everything in my power to entertain those around me.  I just so happen to love this crazy, silly job.

I also just so happen to love the 20something minutes per day that I get to spend with my colleagues at lunch.  It is so refreshing after playing with my students all day to talk with a group of peole who know who Chuck Norris and U2 are, people who drive and vote and own houses and are involved in relationships that exist on more than a day to day basis.  My peers on my team and the other 8th grade team that have my lunch are warm and funny and sarcastic and hilarious.  It's nice to have some time to chat about our students... although many times it's nice to chat about anything but our students. 

Today we were all laughing until we cried at lunch.  The reason for this is not appropriate material for this blog.  Sorry :).  Mmm hmm.

The important thing is that these lunches are refreshing and energizing, and I think they help me to be better at my job.  Plus, I do get a little kick out of the envious looks that my delicious leftovers get each day.   

Thank you, adult lunch, you made my day.       

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 272- Katie*

Some of the skills we've been working on in our 8th grade classes are drawing inferences and making predictions in reading.  For a quick little practice sheet, students were asked to make a prediction about what comes next in this cartoon.

Here's what Katie had to say:

The goat is going to jump on the plane and climb on top.  Then, he's going to eat through the plane because he doesn't want free peanuts... he wants some metal.  I know this because he's a magical flying goat. 

Pfft.  Noooo.  The goat is actually standing on a mountain that is covered up by clouds.  So the plane will crash in 5...4...3...2...1.  BOOM!  Haha.  I know this because they can't see the mountain.

I already absolutely adore Katie for so many other reasons.  She's sweet, she's kind, she participates in class, and she's always smiling.  She has her own style each and every day.  Sometimes she shows up in baggy basketball shorts and a hoodie.  Other days she'll show up in flowing skirts and hippie headbands.  She is just such a happy, silly, all around fabulous girl. 

Katie's creativity (followed by an answer that demonstrates that she actually knows what she's doing) is yet another thing to throw onto the pile of reasons why I like her.  After having a good chuckle with me over this answer tonight, Tom is now a Katie fan as well.

Thank you, Katie, you made my day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 271- My Sweet Helper

Tom made a delicious dinner for me when I got home from work.
He has been emptying the bathroom trash occasionally before it gets too full.
He helped to fold all kinds of laundry this weekend.
He takes the dog out for a nightly spin, and they both come back panting, tails wagging.
He scrubbed more than his fair share of dishes, got the groceries, and made a trip to Costco.

Who says that you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

The best part of all this is that he did all of these things without me even asking him to.  I'm a lucky lady these days :).

Thank you, my sweet helper, you made my day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Day 270- 7th Hour

To say that my 7th hour is a chatty bunch would be an understatement.  They are the opposite of my 1st hour... they just do not stop.  What a set of bookends for the day!  It's a good thing they're so likeable :).

I experienced something in 7th hour today that I have not experienced in there ever before.


Quiet, hardworking students.  On task.  I think I must have finally worn them down!  That's what I'd like to believe, at least.  They participated when it was appropriate and worked quietly when it was appropriate and acted as if they were totally appropriate people.  They seemed to be really pleased when I complimented them on their behavior, and they worked even harder.  They didn't even try to pack up early!  Oh, how I hope this loveliness will last.  If it does, there's hope that I might eventually wear them down on that late work... 

Thank you, 7th hour, you made my day.

Day 269- Homemade Chinese Food

In the past, I have stayed away from trying to cook any kind of Chinese food myself.  I figured that this was best left to the professionals (those ladies down at Mandarin Garden really know their way around a kitchen).  However, in a continuous attempt to expand our weekly menus and to add some flavor (literally and figuratively) to our lives, I have become a bit more adventurous.  Tom and I worked together stupendously tonight to create a lovely meal.

Here's our menu, which Tom calls "Asian Persuasion."

Asian salad- lettuce, wonton strips, dried fruit, Asian sesame dressing, etc.
Crispy fried sesame shrimp, zucchini and mushroom caps with a ginger soy dipping sauce
White rice

It sounds and looks pretty simple, but Tom said it was, "Oooh!  Delicious... especially scrumptioussssssssss."

Thank you, homemade Chinese food, you made my day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Day 268- Alan Jackson

Yes, Denard Robinson tickled me maize and blue today with his 500 yards of offense.  Yes, Michigan football pleased and amazed me today with a big win in an instant classic game.  No, I'm not going to elaborate on either of those things any further at this time.  My hope is that there will be plenty of time for that this season.

On this day nine years ago, I woke up, showered, and went to my psychology seminar.  I had been living in Ann Arbor for less than a month, and I was just settling into a routine of classes and studying and football Saturdays and all of the other fabulous things that come with college.  That day started just like every other day of that week and of that month and of that semester.

I quickly discovered when I left my psych class that morning that it would not just be any other day in a string of days.  People were running around frantically saying that classes were cancelled, and everyone should just go home.  I was confused.  I had another class.  After hearing this from multiple people, including professor-looking people, I started to walk home.  I tried to use my cell phone to figure out what in the world was going on, but it wasn't working.

When I got back to my dorm, I found doors open up and down every hallway with footage of planes crashing into the Twin Towers.  I found people in total shock.  I found a girl in my hall from New York who was sobbing and redialing in a frantic pattern. 

Then, I remembered that my dad was supposed to fly that day.  Or was he?  Oh my gosh... was he flying that day?

Even though I knew he was supposed to be traveling from Texas or somewhere southern back up to Detroit and would be nowhere around New York, I was terrified.  If people could fly planes into the heart of New York City, there was no telling what else might be happening.

Everything turned out just fine for us.  My dad eventually got home safely.  I spent the evening at a candlelight vigil, and my sister and I went to church the next day.  We went home that weekend to spend time with our family, and things returned to normal within a week.

However, I will never forget that day.  I won't forget it because so many other people did not have the luxury that I did of simply going back to their lives.  We remember these people on this day each year-- heroes and mothers and fathers and friends and husbands and wives and Americans of all ethnicities and religions and orientations.  Tragedy knows no color or gender or religion and neither does heroism. 

I also remember September 11 every time I hear "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" by Alan Jackson.  It is an incredibly beautiful song written about the day and the reactions of everyday Americans.  The lyrics bring tears to my eyes every time I hear them-- including one time when I was eating lunch in my car at a Sonic (I'm not sure who was more embarrassed... me or the girl bringing me my ketchup).  I listened to the song a whole bunch of times today and relished in the message.  It always makes me think about the kinds of things we should do and the way we should treat each other-- not just in the face of tragedy, but every single day. 

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day

Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the site of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry

Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below

Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home

Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

The greatest is love
The greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Thank you, Alan Jackson for the constant reminder, for your message full of love and void of hate, and...

Thank you, Alan Jackson, you made my day.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 267- Challenge Students

UPDATE: Justin and two of my other students all got big parts in the play.  They're incredibly excited and are toting their scripts all around.  It's sweet :).

We've been working with our 8th graders on all kinds of writing skills for the past few weeks.  This is reinforced by reading examples of good writing together, dissecting them, and then practicing these skills again independently.  I asked them to go home and write last night and told them that it was extremely important that they complete the assignment so that we could work with their pieces of writing today in class.  It worked.  This year's group is infamous for turning things in late or not at all, and they have lived up to their reputation.  Not today.  My kids came to school today with their writing.

I was not only pleased that they all went home and tried out their assignment for class.  I was also delighted at many of the things I was seeing.  Their writing was funny and brave and full of detail and personality.  They're taking my stuff seriously.  I like it.

My challenge students really impressed me.  Challenge class is just another name for my advanced class or "the kids who did well on the standardized tests."  It's the top kids in the 8th grade.  These kids came to class today on fire about writing.  They were trading their pieces before class and reading them.  They were so very excited to share and to learn and to revise and to add new things.  We went over a few new concepts, and they were thrilled to get a chance to write some more.  I spent much of the class period conferencing and got through almost everyone today.  They were so eager for feedback that they lined up like little puppies wanting to share and learn and absorb.  It's a magical thing when a classroom is buzzing with students chatting about their actual work. 

I have my work cut out for me with their spelling and grammar and a few other things.  However, the level of effort and enthusiasm over the past few days have been more than encouraging.  They're jumping on my bandwagon.  Woot woot!

Thank you, challenge students, you made my day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Day 266- Mallory*

One of the things that I'm absolutely loving about teaching is seeing things through the eyes of my students.  It's true... kids really do say the darndest things!!  Here's something Mallory* wrote in a paper today that made me laugh out loud.  Literally.

Cats keep the single and lonely people company.

I certainly don't mean to diss the cat people.  Or the single people.  Or the lonely people.  There are many people I like who just so happen to have cats.  I'm friendly with lots of singles and lonelies too.  However, her observation had me cracking up.  Tom too.  General giggled in his own way.  Then, he barked, got out all his toys, and laid down in a big exhausted heap in the middle of all of them (General, not Tom).  I guess dogs keep us married folks company.

Thank you, Mallory*, you made my day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Day 265- Justin*

His name isn't really Justin, but he reminds me of the character Justin from "Ugly Betty," so we'll go with that.  Justin (in real life and on that t.v. show) is spunky and sweet and sassy.  He's not like a lot of other boys his age... but, in some ways, that's part of why he's so awesome.

Because he's different, I worry that he may experience some tough times, especially in the sports loving, wise cracking, girl chasing herd of his peers.  It seems as if he is mostly friends with girls, and it seems as if this works just fine for him.  He comes to class beaming every day, so that's a good sign.  I hope I'm right.

A week or two ago, I filled out Justin's recommendation form to try out for the school play.  I did this without hesitation because I adore this kid.  He is always the first to volunteer answers in class and to start discussions.  He always makes eye contact and responds to my "Good mornings" with enthusiasm, which is no small thing for a student his age.  He turns in oustanding work-- not because he is the most intelligent student in his class (although he is bright), but because he really tries hard and puts time and thought into everything he does.  He is not afraid to voice his questions and to clarify when he doesn't understand.  He is always kind to his peers, and I've already caught him doing the right thing when he thought no one was looking.  He is a dream student and an all-around oustanding kid.

Play tryouts were yesterday after school.  He waited around after his class to ask me for my advice.  I told him that I don't know the first thing about acting but that if he stopped by my Ac Lab at the end of the day, I'd give him a pep talk... that I can do!  Sure enough, he came in, and I gave him my best.  On his way out of the room, we all applauded for him.  He was ecstatic to tell me today that his name was on the callback list for tomorrow, and I couldn't be more thrilled for him.

If you think about it, say a little prayer for Justin tomorrow.  I would love to see this kid get his opportunity to bloom and to shine.  This would mean everyhting to him at this point in his life.  I am also reminded, however, of an essay I read recently about failure.  In the essay, a grandma was hoping for some failure for her grandchild.  This is not because she was awful or rude or cranky.  Rather, she truly believed that it is through failure that we learn some of the most important lessons in life.  If everything always goes right, how do we learn what we're made of and what we can overcome?  I'm not sure that this is the best age to experience those kinds of setbacks, what with the fragile teen ego and all.  All I can hope is that no matter what happens, Justin will come out of this all with his bright smile intact.

Either way, I'll be waiting on the other side with my pom poms :).

Thank you, Justin, you made my day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day 264- Kohl's Sale Skirt

One of the highlights of my day today was short and sweet.  A $7 clearance skirt made me feel like a million bucks.

Don't worry, the skirt itself was not short and sweet.  It was medium length (long enough) and only kind of sweet.  I found it through a chance enounter with a clearance rack at Kohl's a few weeks ago while Tom was looking for some new Dockers on sale.  It was mildly aesthetically pleasing.  However, I thought I might be able to throw on a few accessories and make it work.  When I saw the $7 on the price tag, I decided that I could most certainly make it work.

Today, apparently, I kind of worked it.  Just about anything looks decent when paired with a white collared shirt and a cute belt, eh?  I think I'm finally learning how to mix and match five(ish) basic things to make like twenty outfits.  Oh, the possibilites!  This excites me :).

What also excites me is that I got compliments all day long on my cheap black skirt.  A little flattery here and there is nice for the ego every now and then.  Plus, I'm finally learning how to politely accept compliments by saying thank you instead of turning them into some kind of self-deprecating humor.

As for this self-deprecation stuff, I'll leave that for the discussion of the photo below.  I will never be photogenic, and I have come to terms with that :).  Whenever I write about clothes, my mom always wants to see them.  So... this one's for you, Mom!

Thank you, Kohl's sale skirt, you made my day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 263- Labor Day

I absolutely do not take weekends for granted.  I have spent the past nine years of my life in and out of the retail and food service worlds.  I've sold all kinds of stuff, served all kinds of stuff, and done all kinds of stuff.  One thing the retail/service world does not recognize is a good old-fashioned weekend.

There are positives to this.  It is nice to find a Monday delightful because you have it off while everyone else is complaining about going back to work.  It's lovely to have a sometimes more flexible schedule by not being tied down by "The Man" and his 9-5 (or 7-4 in my case) schedule on Mondays through Fridays.  However, now that I'm in a big girl job again, I am finally able to enjoy the beauty of two (consecutive!) days off instead of pretending that I don't care about weekends anymore.

Three (consecutive!) days off is absolutely UNHEARD OF in the tools/bras/sub shop/Greek family restaurant world.  In my new big girl world, I got those three days this weekend.  How does it feel?  It is everything I remembered and more from when I was thirteen.  In fact, Tom and I spent part of the weekend acting gleefully as if we were thirteen.  You know, dance parties, movies, board games far below our ranges of intelligence, silly jokes, etc.  We also had plenty of time to take care of our big kid responsibilities today (laundry, groceries, sleep).  After all that, this third day of the weekend also allowed us to do things simply because we wanted to... like watching multiple fascinatingly disgusting episodes of "Hoarders."  I'm not quite sure if I'll want to do that again, but it was fun while it lasted.

The only thing we didn't do on Labor Day?  Labor. :)

Thank you, Labor Day, you made my day. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Day 262- Eat, Pray, Love

- Gingham's turkey and spinach omelette (I needed a break from my usual order, the Gingham's Country Club omelette)
- leftover football chili cheese dip (processed cheese...mmm... http://www.thisiswhyyou'
- movie theater popcorn with a touch o' butter
- Fratteli's roasted chicken canneloni with peach wine from Augusta, MO
- Omaha steaks apple tartlets (the last of our goodies from the Lisa Kohl gift that just kept on giving)

I think I'm going to brush my teeth now in order to stop my eating.  Thank goodness this is not one of those food journals where I have to count calories. 

Service:  St. Robert Bellarmine's 9:30 mass
Overall Message of the Day:  Be a disciple.
Favorite Hymn From Today's Service:  "You Are Mine"
Funniest parishoner:  Boy five rows up doing the YMCA (when stopped, he became the boy five rows up vigorously picking his nose)

Gettin' our Jesus on really starts out the week right.

I loved settling into our Sunday routine of worship and hashbrowns.
I loved spending the day with my boys.
I loved waking up on a football high, instead of with a football hangover.
I loved playing board games with Tom (and this had nothing to do with the fact that I ruled).
I loved taking a nap in the middle of the day.
I loved that my husband loved me enough to go see "Eat Pray Love" with me (he ended up liking it too).

The Jersey Shore has GTL.  It's funny.  It's catchy.  We like our EPL just fine.  It's addictive too.

Thank you, Eat, Pray, Love, you made my day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Day 261- Brock Mealer

Brock Mealer, a diehard Buckeye, gleefully led the Michigan football team onto the field for their home opener today.

Wait... say what?

You can read the sensational story of his incredible courage, faith, and devotion HERE.  WARNING: This story may cause you to "get something in your eye" a time or two.

Brock Mealer, a man paralyzed in a car accident, a man who was told that he would never again leave his wheelchair, walked across the field today.  He did it wearing a t-shirt that read "1%.  Glory to God."  The 1% was an acknowledgement of the fact that he had beaten the 99% odds against him.  These were the odds that dictated to him that he would never walk again.  The "Glory to God" was his acknowledgement of the presence of the Big Man in the Big House this afternoon.

Brock Mealer showed today what incredible faith and dedication and hard work can do.  He was also proof that Mike Barwis, our strength and conditioning coach, possesses Jack Bauer/Chuck Norrislike skills.  With God's help, Brock Mealer learned how to put in time on his knees.  With God's help and contributions from Barwis, Mealer learned how to stand on his own two feet again.

Perhaps there's a greater symbolism here, as our humbled team and fans find their way back to excellence in the game that they hold so dear and their faith in a program storied with success and tradition.  Perhaps this remarkable story is really meant as a reminder of something bigger than any man or any game, and football is just God's clever vehicle to reach 113,090 people at a time.  In any case...

Thank you, Brock Mealer, you made my day. 

Day 260- College Day

Background: Every Friday at school is some kind of dress up day.  We've had Cardinals Day and Hawaiian Day and "Look Your Best" Day (for school pictures).  Today's magical theme was College Day, where students were encouraged to wear gear from their favorite colleges.  We had mostly a whole lot of Mizzou roaming the halls, with the occasional something or other else.  Do I even need to say what I was wearing?

Things I Loved About College Day

1. I got to dress in my Michigan gear from top to bottom (which I would have done today anyway).  My students especially enjoyed the maize and blue striped socks and the waving of the "All In" towel.

2. It gave me a reason to play my "Saturday Traditions" cd, which features selections from the Michigan Marching Band.  All of my classes had the privilege of listening to "The Victors" today (which I would have done anyway).

3.  My students are big ol' brown nosers, but their efforts are often quite transparent.  What I told them today when they were attempting to suck up once again was, "If you really wanted to earn brownie points, you would be wearing a Michigan shirt today, and you'd already know the fight song."  Many students responded by asking where they might buy t-shirts and by copying down the fight song lyrics from my "Leaders and Best" bulletin board.

4. I always give away free fist bumps or high fives or something else at the door as students leave the room.  In honor of College Day (yup, would have done it anyway...), students received free high fives with either a "Go Blue!" or a "Beat UConn!" 

5. It was a reminder all day that MICHIGAN FOOTBALL STARTS TOMORROW! :)

The first time I have a student come back to visit to tell me that he/she had decided to go to U of M will be a very proud day for me.  Any subsequent days of this kind will be equally special.  For many of my kids, I will beam with pride if they end up going to college at all.  I can't wait to see them in their gear for real.

Thank you, College Day, you made my day. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Day 259- TGIFridays

I thought I was sooooo smart when I planned the meals this week.  Tonight we were supposed to have delicious pork BBQ sandwiches.  I have been craving them since Sunday, and I was so excited that tonight was finally the night.

I put my pork and sauce and all the goodies into the crockpot before I left for work this morning.  I left it on low and was delighted at the thought that half of our dinner would be made when I got home.  From the time I stepped out of my car this afternoon (early evening, really), I could smell the wonderful fragrance wafting out into the garage from the kitchen.  Mmm... barbecue goodness. 

Unfortunately, as I opened the door and stepped inot the kitchen, this scent changed.  I gave Tom a puzzled look, and he said, "Man, I know... it's bad."  He then proceeded to show me the char in the crockpot surrounding our brick of pork.  Sad.

I pride myself on my skills in the kitchen, and I fancy myself a pretty decent cook.  This was not my fault, I promise!!  Somehow Tom and I chose the mother of all crockpots when we registered for our wedding (he was the gun holder... this is totally on him), and that is what we have been dealing with ever since.  I thought the whole point of a crockpot was to leave things to slow cook in it all day.  I didn't think it was possible to overcook something so badly when it was on low.  We think the issue is due to the fact that the dang thing is way too big for the stuff we put in it, unless we're making something extra extra saucy.

Our loss was TGIFriday's gain.  They sent us home with some takeout to save the night.  We didn't even have to do the dishes!

Thank you, TGIFriday's, you made my day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day 258- Stephanie L.

I don't like to run out of stuff.  I always buy more butter when I'm halfway through the tub, just so I won't be caught with none some night while I'm making dinner.  I stuff four or five bags in the bottom of all the bathroom trash cans in order to make sure that it can always be changed and refilled all at once.  We stockpile Cotsco products in the basement and the garage... just in case.  If there's ever some sort of crisis, you can count on me for paper towels, Mountain Dew, tissues, cleaning wipes, toilet paper, foil, and freezer baggies for at least two years.  Oh, and extra salad dressing.  And microwave popcorn.  We'll call this a quirk of mine (because that sounds a whole lot nicer than other things you might call it).

Because of this "quirk," I always order two of my makeup stuff from my special makeup lady.  I like getting my Mary Kay creme to powder foundation in twos because then I can plan ahead.  When I finish the first one, I know that it's time to place my order.  Even if the stuff I like is backordered, this leaves me ample time (one whole foundation's worth) to wait for the new one.  It's a good system, trust me.

Last week, I had almost finished the first foundation, and I started looking around for #2.  I couldn't find it at first, but I placed my order and kept looking.  Imagine my shock and horror when I realized I was using #2, and all that was left was a ring around the edges.  Oh no!  System failure!  How could this happen?

I know, I know.  Women look so much better without makeup.  It's the natural beauty that counts.  Don't hide your face... blah blah blah.  Here's the thing.  I look better with a thin mask of foundation and a touch of blush.  Truth.  I don't know how to paint my eyes and lips all up or how to conceal or how to shape my cheekbones or any of it.  I just want my little somethin' somethin' on when I leave the house. 

My special Stephanie is usually quite speedy in her delivery of the goods, but I have had many disappointing trips to the mailbox over the past few days.  Then, at long last, I saw it today when I got home.  It was sitting on the island with a golden halo surrounding it... the little envelope with the obnoxiously pink label... the answer to my hopes and dreams (or at least my e-mail order).

Tomorrow I will once again be (sort of) fresh-faced and fancy free.  For today, I'll just leave it at...

Thank you, Stephanie L., you made my day.