Tuesday, February 20, 2018

seems like old times...

I sent an email to the ACS about all those strange typos in the Middle School Chemistry curriculum, and it turns out that it's pdf-viewer specific.  After a brief email exchange, I decided to try it in the different PDF viewers I had available, and what do I find?  The PDFs look perfect in Google Chrome and Adobe Acrobat, but are full of errors in Microsoft Edge.

Par for the course, unfortunately.  Microsoft apps are such appalling bloat-ware at this point, and their online versions are so ham-strung you can't even make a table of contents!  I don't even want to talk about the fun I had setting up OneNote Class Notebooks for my students over the weekend...

Anyway, it was fun trying to identify exactly where the problem was, and even better being able to pinpoint something.  And the ACS guys were great to work with, too.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

here's how long weekends go

Friday, I left school at a decent hour for once.  There was no staff meeting, and I pushed myself to leave because I had to drive up to Tempe to pick up DS1.  Dinner with all my boys was nice, a lovely salmon with tomato and basil off my very own little basil plant (I haven't killed it yet!).  Since it's Lent, DH and I don't do date night on Friday.  After dinner, in  front of the tv... lesson planning, specifically finding videos to support my lessons.  The vastness of the internet becomes apparent during such searches.

Saturday: up early to do errands and pick up our family portrait, finally.  There was some delay getting the frame, but it's gorgeous.  Of course it's not on the wall yet.  We'll see how long that takes! Then... more lesson planning and prep.  They are not the same thing.  It's great finding things for my students to do, but nothing is ever exactly the way I want it to be, so I end up substantially editing or completely retyping things.  The ACS's Middle School Chemistry curriculum is awesome but so full of typos I would never give it to a student.  The errors are all the same, dropped letters.  It's odd, but I can't give 8th graders work that asks them to use fat toothpicks instead of flat ones.  You see the problem. [UPDATE: The dropped-letter problem only occurs in Microsoft Edge; the pdf documents are perfect in Chrome or Acrobat.  Weird but true, and they're looking into it.]  I've already typed up 2, 10-page lab packets and have one to go.  The students love them, and most importantly, are learning with them, but it's really quite time consuming.

Saturday afternoon: vigil Mass, where I am in the regular corps of Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist now.  I'm over my nerves, finally, but I do get twinges every so often of wanting to take a Mass off.  It's a different experience when you're working.  There is no time for contemplation.

Saturday evening: a quick dinner out with DH and DS1, as DS2's friends were coming over to celebrate his birthday and they were eating pizza (of course).  After dinner:  five more hours of lesson prep: typing up the second of those 10-page lab packets, and ordering needed supplies for it, among other things. It's like I sit down, and then I look up and it's 12:30 AM and no wonder my eyes feel like sandpaper.

Sunday:  DS2 impressed me greatly by making his friends French toast (his special recipe with pumpkin pie spice and vanilla extract) and bacon for breakfast.  I juiced the last of the oranges and everyone was happy.   Then I puttered around and cleaned up the kitchen, then made breakfast for DH and I. Since then, it's been puttering either around the house or online.  I haven't done a single productive thing today for school!  I have been doing a lot of recreational online shopping, though, since at this time of year, most everyone steeply discounts their already marked-down merchandise.  "An extra 60% off sale prices" is very tempting, but I mostly limited myself to things I needed.  It's true I don't need those earrings I paid $6 for, and the kimono-style blouse was  real splurge at $18, but still, $11 for a really nice sweater feels like an accomplishment.

The plan is to do some grading after dinner.  Tomorrow I'm having an eye exam early, so I won't be able to do any reading or anything until the dilating solution wears off.  By the end of the day I'll be feeling that beginning-of-the-work-week pressure, and getting annoyed with myself that  I didn't buckle down and work Sunday so that Monday could just be a nice day.

I'm feeling defensive over my day off, and then feeling silly for feeling that way.  No one else is saying I should've worked today.  This is the kind of nonsense that goes on in my head on a regular basis.

It's been a nice day.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

a moment

About 4:30 this afternoon, I was setting up the science lab for tomorrow's adventure in chemistry, because we have Mass in the morning and therefore I don't have the prep hour I do all the other days.

We've been in the lab every day this week, using a modified version of this awesome Middle School Chemistry curriculum from the American Chemical Society.  This is the most hands-on chemistry I've ever been able to teach.  I have the space, I have the resources, I have the time, and I have the complete support of my administration.

So yeah, I was on campus pretty late, but it was with a smile on my face. 

I love my job.

Friday, January 05, 2018


My winter break didn't start until mid-day on December 21, but it wonderfully continues through this whole week.  I've spent the better part of this 2-plus weeks feeling like I'm finally getting over a long, stubborn illness.  Part of that is because I did finally kick the cold symptoms that had been hanging on since Thanksgiving.  An even bigger part, though, is feeling as if the veil of depression that settled over me at the end of May has begun to lift.

I've been struggling this year, much more than I should be.  I'm not in grad school anymore.  I'm only teaching three subjects.  I have right around 100 students.  I've got way better technology to help manage student science project work.  But I still have felt nearly continuous anxiety, and often struggled to get lessons planned and materials prepped without feeling like I was doing everything at the last minute.

I struggled to make sense of it, because I objectively had much less work than I've had for the past 4 years.  I don't have to upload ridiculously detailed lesson plans, two weeks in advance, by 8AM every Monday, for example.  Nor am I leading and documenting weekly PLC meetings.  Nor am I participating in three child study teams... but still.  I am doing many lessons "from scratch", even though the curriculum is by the same publisher as at my last school, and so big chunks are substantially the same... but the standards are not, which makes me a first-year teacher again, in some respects.  Integrating engineering, modeling, scientific argumentation... awesome, but time consuming, since my curriculum is not aligned with the NGSS.

I'm tired of being new and having to create everything from the ground up.  Now, at the halfway point, I have a ridiculously long To-Do list, and I'm only about halfway through it.  Last year I was too exhausted to do much of anything over the break, but I have more discipline this year and will knock off the rest of the list over the next four days. (And then it's back to work.)

Throughout this year I have been aiming for a better work/life balance, and to that end, I've put more  energy into meal planning and prep than I did last year... but last year, DD was home and a big help on that front.  But there's only so much I can do in a day, and over the past 5 months there have been a lot of days where, after dinner, I just didn't work because I couldn't push myself to.

That's the big difference between this year and last: needing to push myself to get anything done. I'm relieved the low-key anxiety underlying everything seems to have dissipated. Perhaps now all the little (and not-so-little) teacher tasks I have to do won't seem like such a burden. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

a merry little Christmas

You know your kids are grown when they sleep until 9:30 Christmas morning.  As it was, DS2 was knocking on the other two doors, announcing, "Christmas!"  He wanted to open presents.

You also know your kids are grown when opening presents takes approximately 10 minutes, and within another 10 minutes, everything is put away.  It helps that we have sworn off the entire idea of "stocking stuffers" and only get the kids stuff they actually want/can use.  Plus, they are old enough now that aunts and uncles have finally quit sending stuff for them... with one exception -- my older sister, who, as DH says, "... is loaded, she has nothing else to spend her money on."  True. But everyone else has stepped back, and that's good.

Me, too: this is the first year I haven't sent gift cards ($$$) to my multitudinous nieces and nephews.  One of my brothers told me to stop, literally.  I respect that, and appreciate it, because although I love my job, I've taken a bit of a pay cut (but I am paying into a pension fund, so it works out.)  Still, the cash on hand is not so much in evidence this year.  At least I'm not paying for grad school -- that helps.

The rib roast is resting on the counter, and I have to go defrost the shrimp.  Last year's lobster tail was inexplicably bitter, and I'd rather not go through that hassle just to be disappointed again.  Dinner preparations will begin eventually.

There's a pitcher of mimosas in the fridge, Christmas music on Pandora, and fresh balsam candles making the house smell like a Christmas tree.  I'd love to bake something but my students completely overwhelmed me with their gifts of delicious things, so it would be silly to add more.  It's very quiet here, with everyone off in their own corner doing whatever -- the way it usually is. 

Still, everyone is home, and happy. And so is my heart, this Christmas.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Maybe we should just move?"

-semi-serious question asked by DH yesterday, contemplating the state of the plumbing.  It's an impending doom situation here.  We know it will fail again, we just don't know where or when.  *sigh*

And then I opened the microwave to take out my cup of tea, and the front panel fell off sending sparks everywhere.   Yep, we have been in this house for 19 years.  If moving weren't so expensive, we probably would do it... but for now, we're staying put, and getting a new microwave.

Contractors are coming Friday to give us an estimate on fixing the hole in the wall.  That is totally the kind of thing we would have done ourselves in the past, but the insurance is covering it, so we'll leave it to the professionals.  Getting the plaster texture right is tougher than it looks.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Also in the "don't do this again" bin

Non-emergency plumbing repairs the day before Thanksgiving.  My nerves are extremely jangly after trying to disable the smoke detectors going off from all the soldering happening to repair and replace this manifold:
Pipes aren't supposed to be green.
The moisture/mold abatement team will be arriving shortly.  I expect we'll be dealing with fans/blowers and dehumidifiers for several days at least, but we should be able to deal with that.