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Archive for July, 2010

Why I Teach

I recently had to write about how meaning affects my role as a teacher and how it affects my students as well.  After writing it, I realized it’s why I love to teach.

Meaning

When stressed beyond belief, when your students are driving you crazy, when your To Do list is two pages long, and when you don’t know what you’re going to cook for dinner, because you’re too tired to cook, you sometimes wonder why you’re a teacher.  The pay definitely isn’t the reason.

After a long, aromatherapy soak in the tub, a soothing cup of herbal tea (or a giant chocolate bar – whatever works for you), along with a mental health day and some shopping, you start to miss your students – really miss them.  You think about why you went into teaching in the first place, and why you stuck with it year after year after year.  You know that your coworkers are like family to you.  They’re often your friends inside and outside of school.  Still, that’s not the full reason you stuck with teaching for all of these years.

It’s because of the kids.  It’s because of the experiences, the joys, the “Aha” moments, the struggles that you’ve overcome, and the vast amount of learning and strides that you’ve made in your teaching career.  Still, it’s mostly about the kids.  They’re your kids.  No matter how they may behave at times, you still love them.  You love when their eyes light up with joy and excitement during a fun learning activity.  You get such a sense of accomplishment, both for them and for you, when they finally “get it” after a struggle to learn, understand, and apply a concept, strategy, or skill.  As the year goes on, and June approaches, you start to get sad every time you think about the last day of school.  You don’t want the year to be over.

Thus, meaning affects my role as a teacher, because I care deeply for my students, my coworkers, and I have pride in the hard work I do every day, even during the summer, as I plan for the upcoming school year.  If my job didn’t have meaning for me, I wouldn’t stick with it, wouldn’t keep trying, never giving up on those kids that need you the most.

A teacher that cares motivates her students to keep trying, do their best, and help others.  A teacher that doesn’t care has behavior problems and academic issues with her students.  Her emotions, level of commitment, and pride have a definite affect on her classroom community – both in attitudes, behavior, and academic achievement.  This applies to all subjects, including math.  A teacher (such as myself) that enjoys teaching math, is excited about it, and strives to inspire others to keep trying, try new ways of solving problems, and to share what they are learning with others will have much more success and enjoyment from her students than a teacher that complains, doesn’t care, or has no sense of meaning from what she does.

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Moving Cabinets

I just found out that the cabinets ARE going to be installed in my classroom before school starts.  Therefore, I’ll probably have to move the bookshelves that my husband and I just set up, after being told that we could put things there.

Great.

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A labyrinth is different than a maze.  Mazes offer challenges, false directions, and dead ends.  You often can’t see where you’re going for the big picture.  Labyrinths are meant to offer meditation, calmess, and a way to center yourself.  The path is usually made of rocks or a painted line.

Here was my experience:

I walked a labyrinth earlier this week.  I looked it up on one of the websites provided in the a book I’ve been reading for grad school called A Whole New Mind.  I was surprised how many there were in our town.  I’ve actually walked a labyrinth before.  It was a large, canvas one, laid out in a church fellowship hall.  I remember it being a reflective experience.  I think I even had something to read as I walked, to help me meditate.

The labyrinth I went to this week was an outdoor one at a church.  White stones had been placed so as to signify the path to walk.  The grass was green (a rarity for here in July) and about ankle high.  I was on my way to the pool after the labyrinth, so I was in flip flops.  Mindful of recent (awful) bug bites from when I didn’t use bug spray, I liberally applied insect repellent before venturing into the labyrinth.

I remember the sound of the crickets.  They never ceased to fade out of my hearing.  Occasionally, especially at first, I could hear cars driving by on the nearby street, and often a barking dog would disrupt my meditations.  Still, I tried to walk slowly, focusing on slow, measured steps, as I made sure to stare at the ground directly in front of me, so as to lose myself in the labyrinth.

I think my focus that day was on relaxation.  I noticed the thoughts going through my head and the level of relaxation and meditation I felt were quite similar to how I normally feel when trying to fall asleep.  Dozens of thoughts seem to fly through my mind constantly, and I cannot seem to find a break from them.  This, too happened in the labyrinth, at least at first.  As I walked, the feeling of the grass getting between my feet and my flip flops helped me to connect to nature.  I was very tempted to walk the labyrinth barefoot, and if I walk it again, I just might do so.  It helped me to relax and enjoy the beautiful morning air.

Eventually, my thoughts channeled to one train of thought at a time, although my mind continued to keep itself quite occupied with unending thoughts.  Still, my body and mind gradually relaxed, so that it felt as if I were on the verge of falling asleep.  I can compare the experience to how you feel when you do restoration yoga.  Therefore, if you want a new way to relax, to center yourself, and to get some exercise in at the same time, try a labyrinth.

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My husband and I have been working the past few days to set up my classroom.  Due to a lack of masking tape, I haven’t been able to put up many posters, and since the school plans to install cabinets in certain areas of my room this year, I have to go easy on the decor in certain corners.  Still, everything came together really well.

Here’s a panorama my husband took of my room today.  Click on the photo for a larger pic.  Then, click again to get an even larger image.  Remember, I’ll be putting up quite a few posters as soon as I can get my hands on some tape.

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This is a Keurig Single-Cup Home Brewing System.  In other words, it’s a snazzy coffee, tea, or hot chocolate maker.  I like the design, because it stores a lot of water, and all you need to do is turn on the machine, put a cup under the spout, put a small tea, hot chocolate, or coffee “k-cup” inside it, and press the size button.  It think it’s nice you don’t have to measure out grounds, count filters, and then change it daily.  You also don’t have to rinse out a caraffe.

I’ve only tried the dark hot chocolate (not enough chocolate flavor for me), so I can’t rate it on taste.  I’d love to try it with chamomile tea sometime.

Cool thing – It also comes in a beautiful, shiny, lipstick-colored, fire engine red!!

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Here’s how I’m doing on the President’s Challenge.  A full star means that I’ve done at least 30 min of activity a day for at least 5 days during that week.  I’ve already missed two days this week, so I hope that I’ll get my activity in and complete this week’s star.

Here are some of the activities I’ve been doing the past few weeks:

  • Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit (Yoga), and Wii Dance on Broadway
  • Swimming
  • Stationary Biking
  • Walking, Hiking
  • Jogging
  • Pilates (not much)

Have I lost any weight?  No.

Have I been eating well every day, thus helping me to lose weight?  No.

Do I want to lose weight?  Yes.

What else would be really cool?

  • I would like to be in shape to do a triathlon.
  • I would like to be able to jog for 20 minutes without having to stop every few minutes for a breather.
  • I would like to fit into my smaller clothes, instead of having to make or buy new clothes in larger sizes.
  • I would like my local pool to be open early on weekends (with lap swim hours at that lovely, early time).
  • Scratch the last one.  I just looked up the pool schedule, and it has lap swimming at 10AM on weekends.

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For a grad school assignment on design, I need to record things I find that have good design, as well as those that have flawed design.  The book says I can write them down or take pictures.  For me, it works best to blog about them.

I really love the cover design for Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington.  (I like the story, too!)  You’ve got Rosie the Riveter with an awesome hair style and handkerchief, which I wish would be even more in style right now.  You’ve got the flag in the background, planes, and a nice overall retro look.

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The other day, I made 4 banana bread loaves.  I had to use 2 bowls, because my largest was 2 quarts.  I used a gift card to get a 4 quart bowl and I’m very happy with it.

Today, I made 5 pounds of Jamie Oliver hamburger patties (bread crumbs, mustard, parsley, eggs, salt and pepper).  The bowl held it all.  I mixed everything up by hand, separated it into five piles, and then separated each pile into 6 smaller pieces.  I had already labeled gallon size freezer bags, so I put 6 hamburger pieces into each bag, flattened them into patties, and then put everything in the freezer.  Now, I have 5 cheeseburger meals ready to go.

Also, to get hamburger meat off your hands, dish soap works really well.

Here are some pictures of the banana bread (recipe from Owl Haven’s Family Feasts for $75 a Week):

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I’ve recently been intrigued by headbands made of silky fabrics or scarves.  I love the idea, because regular, hard headbands have always hurt my head.  I decided to make one, so I looked up several how-to sites.  I have lots of silky fabric scraps leftover from making blouses, so the scarf didn’t cost a thing.  Instead of tying the scarf or using elastic, I used a snap.  Here’s what I came up with:

Materials:

  • long fabric scraps (at least 3.5 wide)
  • snap
  • scissors
  • thread
  • needle
  • measuring tape
  • iron and ironing board
  • loop turner or safety pin
  • Opt:  quilting ruler and rotary cutter

1.  Put a measuring tape around your head like the headband.  I had 22″ for mine.  I cut out a strip of fabric 3.5″ wide and 22.5 long.  I used 3.5 as my width, because I had a quilting ruler that wide (I used a rotary cutter to cut on either side of the ruler).

2.  Also cut two additional strips (same width as #1) that are 12″ long.

3.  Sew one 12″ strip to either end of the 22.5″ strip.

4.  Fold the strip in half lengthwise with right sides together.  Press.  Sew along long edge.

5.  Turn right side out and press with seam in the middle, not on the edge.

6.  Fold ends inside, press, and sew closed.

7.  Sew a snap to the seams where the 12″ and 22.5″ strips were joined.

I love the snap idea.  You don’t have to deal with a bulky knot at the back of your neck.  It’s also easier and quicker to make the headband with a snap than with elastic.


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I went swimming at the local pool this morning.  I wore a one-piece suit (not my swim dress with leggings) and did an easy workout of 200 warm-up, 4 x 25 drills, and 200 cool down.  I showed up 15 min. before the end of lap time, so that was great until 10:00 hit.  Then, all of a sudden, a kid showed up in my path, out of nowhere, and it’s a good thing I was looking where I was going.  I then had to move to the single lap lane, which had people doing side-by-side, so I had to keep an eye out until I got their attention and could make sure we could all go in a circle.  After that, I still kept an eye out.

For breakfast today, I had yogurt, Kashi cereal, and an apple.  For lunch, I had half a sandwich, and a salad with ham and avocado.  Dinner was Chinese food, so oh well on that.  At least I ate well for two meals.

Yesterday, I got on the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  I’m happy that I’m able to get in some variety in exercise this week.  It’s not much, and I’m definitely taking it easy, but at least I’m cross training.  This is probably going to be the only week this summer that I’m at home instead of out of town, with no teacher workshops and no grad school.  By the way, grad school starts up again on Saturday.  I might go to a Relief Society meeting with my friend on Thursday, but that’s all I have planned.  I’ve been watching lots of movies and reading, so it’s been very relaxing.

I had a SpaFinder gift certificate, so I went for a facial today.  The people at the spa were very nice, and they wanted to make sure that you were comfortable and pampered.  It was really nice.

On a side note, I have the Wii Dance on Broadway game and I’ve been playing it practically every day.  It’s definitely more of a workout than Wii Sports.

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Modest Swimwear

A few months ago, I purchased a custom modest swimsuit from Modestly Yours Swimwear.  It’s made to your measurements and is two pieces:  a dress top and leggings.  You can wear it to the water, in the water, and around about after.  My family and friends always think it’s a dress!

I’ve worn it to swimming pools and to the beach, wearing it in the car all the way there.  I didn’t need additional cover ups.  It fits perfectly and I can’t see myself going back to regular swim suits when I’m at the beach, waterparks, etc (although a regular, modest suit would probably be better for swimming laps).  I have a snap at the bottom of the skirt so that the skirt turns into shorts when I’m in the water.

Here’s a picture from the beach:

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Mosquito Bites

Word of advice.  When doing yard work in the summer, wear bug spray.  If you don’t have any, go buy some.

A few days ago, I acquired several mosquito bites while doing yard work.  I’ve tried soaking in Epsom salt baths, applying calamine lotion and hydro-cortisone cream, and using ice packs.  I’ve found that ice packs work really well.

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