Monday, April 30, 2018

I read a book.

Well, a PDF of a book. It's not that shocking, really.  I did the same thing a few weeks ago, reading 1984 over a day and a half, because DS2 had recently read it and may be using it in his senior thesis.  That book is even more grim than I remembered, and not exactly a fun read.


Yesterday, I read Treasure Island, somewhat unbelievably, given my wide reading habits, for the first time.  This was occasioned by our 8th grade being on a multi-day trip to Washington D.C., their teachers being gone with them -- and me teaching language arts to the 7th graders while they're gone.  They're just finishing up TI, so I thought I should read it so I could, you know, actually answer some of their questions.

Anyway: I loved it, as unlikely as it was.  It's the kind of story you just go with, because it all happens at such a breathless pace in gorgeous old-fashioned prose.   Perhaps the thing I loved the best is the clear lineage from TI to Pirates of the Caribbean.  I maintain that the PotC The Curse of the Black Pearl is one of the most perfect adventure movies ever made, and I still enjoy it when I catch it from time to time.

By way of giving the substitute language arts teacher a break, the students have been watching the old Disney movie version of TI and I am 100% sure that Geoffrey Rush, who played Capt. Barbossa in PotC, based his performance on Robert Newton's Long John Silver.  His voice is uncannily similar.  Of course, the whole Capt. Sparrow as "pirate, and a good man" conundrum has its origin in the character of Long John Silver, who is clearly a pirate, but also, when possible, and sometimes even when it's not very convenient -- a good man.

I only saw half the movie, since I'm switching off classes with the other 7th grade homeroom teacher, and so today taught social studies (the Kansas-Nebraska Act!).  I may just borrow the DVD later this week to watch the rest of movie, just to see how they treated the material.  Huge chunks of dialog come straight from the book, the film's Jim Hawkins (Bobby Driscoll) looks entirely too young and soft to pull off even half of Jim's exploits from the novel.  Skimming the plot summary just now, though -- I don't think I'll bother.  Silver making off with the treasure in a skiff?  Bah.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

there, and back!

I'm exhausted and sun burnt, but very happy with how things went.

Mt. Lemmon is absolutely gorgeous! In my jeans and hiking boots, with my layered shirts and sweatshirt, traipsing about in Nature at 9000 feet elevation, I was in my happy place. I almost feel as if I've missed my calling...


Not my photo -- I didn't have time to take any of decent quality -- this is just part of the mountain road, near Hoodoo Vista [elevation ~6600 feet], an absolute stunning array of geology in action.  The woods were just as spectacular. (Also not my photo, but we did walk through forest like this at Middle Bear, elevation ~5000(?) feet, and again at the summit, ~9000 feet.)


The students were great, the chaperones super helpful, the staff wonderfully knowledgeable, kind, and enthusiastic.  The bus driver was heroic (would you want to drive a tour bus up there?!).  The only slight disappointment were the cloud cover and extreme winds last night, but we still got a telescope demonstration which was very cool. 

Perhaps the only significant downside to all this is that I didn't sleep well at all, and am thoroughly exhausted now even more than usual.  Post-hike exhaustion is very  similar to the excellently-tired feeling I get after being at the beach all day, maybe that's just the sun burn.  The only real down side now is that I don't want to go back to work tomorrow!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

field trip eve...

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, my brain already going 100 miles an hour.  Lots of little things to do to pull this whole thing off. 

40 students, 15 chaperones, 7 inquiry groups, 16 dorm rooms...

I think we're all set, although I do have paperwork still pending for one student that was a late addition (today!).  Amazingly enough, by the end of Wednesday, everyone had paid, and by Friday morning, I had all the paperwork, too.  There was quite a bit of that.

Yesterday was preparing the material the 8th grade needs for Monday and Tuesday.  Today was administering the pre-program survey (put it online, then emailed it to the students), finding and typing up prayers for the trip, sending reminder emails to the chaperones -- only half of them read it -- and then everyone else who is coming, and about then is when I got the "Hey, can we make this work?" message.  So we did, which of course made extra work.

Then to school, to print everything that needed printing, then shopping for water and snacks with a colleague.  Then driving around looking for name tags and a new expandable file, and ended up getting both at Staples.  Then home to wrestle Word into mail-merging the name tags so they'd have the student's group numbers and dorm rooms on them: best way to avoid having to repeat the information ad infinitum (I hope).

Anyway: still have to do my own paperwork (oops), pack, make a lunch for tomorrow, obsess over every detail yet again, and hopefully get some sleep before this thing kicks off. 

No chance of rain in the forecast, but it's supposed to be cloudy.  It would be disappointing to be at an observatory without getting a chance to use the big telescopes! I'm not giving up hope, though.  We'll see!
St. Albert the Great - St. Francis of Assisi - St. Bernard - St. Dominic pray for me!
(patrons saints of science, environmentalists, mountain climbers, astronomers)

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Holy Week

Last Friday, the last Friday of Lent, was my first science symposium (our version of a science fair) at my new school.  It was remarkable for many reasons, but mainly for the fact that the students actually enjoyed doing it.  We had some technology issues, sure, but overall, the process worked well.  Since we had the time, all the students presented to the class, and then to the younger students during the day.  In the evening, their parents came.  I had to send them all home at 8 o'clock, but I was home by 8:15.  I think I put away a single folding chair -- parents and students put all the tables away in no time flat.  It seemed a little unreal at the time, because it was a very long day, starting with getting everything set up in the early hours before our regular Friday morning mass, through school hours and then a staff meeting and then grading all the display boards before the parents came in the evening.  Somehow it all worked. 

But now that it's over, I have to switch gears quickly to planning my 7th grade field trip.  We had scheduled a parent meeting for Monday, so another thing I had to do last week was nail down our transportation so we could figure out how much money we needed to collect from the students to cover costs.  I sent all the information over last week, and still hadn't heard back on Monday, so I sent a "hey, we need a quote!" email, and got back, "Oh, we decided not to do it" -- about 3 hours before the meeting!  Scrambling ensued, the other bus company we work with was contacted, and they were great, and we had a very reasonable quote within an hour.  *whew*

That left me enough time to go home, put together some dinner for the boys, and then sit down and put together a power point for the parent meeting.  Back at school, I notice my computer is off (weird!) and turn it on again, when suddenly the lights go out, and the emergency lights come up, and that's how we ran the meeting.  I mean, it was funny, because mine was the only building with no power, but the parents were all in there, and no one wanted to move.  It was probably a net benefit, because we moved things along pretty quickly -- we had 3 different topics to cover and we still wrapped up in just over an hour.  The parents seem happy about the field trip (UA SkySchool) and I have a lot of parent chaperones already signed up.  So, even though we were literally in the dark, the meeting went well.

Tuesday morning: still no power!  I brought my morning classes to the computer lab so they could see the presentation and videos I had planned for them, and by lunch time the power was back on.  The rest of the day went OK until I started cleaning out the refrigerator while I was prepping dinner, when I clogged the garbage disposal.  I've done this a few times in the past and I do know how to run a disposal.  It cleared a couple of hours later, and fortunately we have a double sink, but it was just gross for the entire time I was prepping dinner. 

Wednesday, my long day: no problems, really, until the end of the day, when I found out that a weird thing that happened in the morning was more concerning than I thought. I had stepped out for a few seconds to grab something off the printer next door, and came back to find one of my students standing at the front of the classroom.  I got a laugh in response to my "What are you doing out of your seat?" question, but I shrugged it off since we were heading down to the science lab to see how far we could drop our shell-less eggs before they'd break (not that far, of course!).  It turns out that the student had done a cartwheel - and whacked her leg on a desk or chair on her way back down.  Another teacher noticed the bruise and asked about it, and found out how she got it.   My heart just dropped when I heard what had happened.  I feel very lucky that the student wasn't seriously hurt!  I ended up pulling her out of class and then calling her mother to let her know what happened.  Fortunately her mother was very supportive, and she apologized to me about it very thoroughly, but still, it was very upsetting. 

Home, finally: a huge pile of grading to do, but I'm exhausted.  DS2's piano is going... better (I don't believe I've mentioned here that his original piano teacher fired him, seemingly out of nowhere but actually quite justified, last month) but his lessons with the new teacher are back to a later hour, and we don't get home until 8:30 the earliest. 

So I'm exhausted and writing this instead of grading.  Last week was intense with all the student presentations and the symposium, but I didn't feel stressed.  This week I feel I've lurched from one crisis to another, but nothing's actually been that upsetting.  I thought, this afternoon, I would be totally justified in feeling overwhelmed and crying over all the stuff that's happened this week, except I don't feel overwhelmed.  Maybe I finally am growing up, or maybe all my extra prayers are reprogramming my brain towards peace, because all these problems pop up but then they get resolved, and no one needs to freak out about anything.  There's a lot to be said for learning how to be flexible, and I'm getting a lot of practice at it this year.

Tomorrow we have a half-day, and then, finally, blessedly, no school on Good Friday, and all of next week off for our very delayed spring break!  (Between now and Sunday: house cleaning, picking up the two college students, shopping for Easter dinner, baking [something - lemon squares?], brining the turkey, etc etc)

After break? Only 6 more weeks of school!  It's going to fly. 

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.