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College Gameday

I have always loved to watch football.

When I was a youngster and had a TV in my room, I would hole up on Sundays and cheer on the Broncos and the Redskins…my favorite teams.  How I selected them, I have no idea (except for the Broncos because I lived in Colorado until I was nine years old).

Growing up in Alabama, you have to choose sides quickly, or if you’re born in Alabama, the choice is made for you according to your parental units’ leanings.  Because I moved to Alabama when I was nine, I got to choose for myself.

I chose wisely.

WAR EAGLE.

It wasn’t long before I got sucked into the Iron Bowl rivalry that was talked about for weeks at school.

This is how I started watching college football.

The Mr. is a hardcore college football fan, and when we got married, there was the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) expectation that I would spend Saturdays glued to the TV, cheering on SEC teams…except for the OTHER school in Alabama, as well.

So I do…quite willingly…for I do love competition and respect athleticism.

With this being the first Saturday of college football this season, I thought I would celebrate accordingly…

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tartlets

I tried a new recipe yesterday, but because it needed to be chilled, the guys and I couldn’t dig in until today.

The wait was more than worth it, for the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tartlets (recipe found in the book Vegan Pie in the Sky) were the perfect blend of chocolate ganache yumminess, peanut butter creaminess (not too strong), and crispy chocolate cookie crumble crust crunchiness (the English teacher in me begs you to admire the alliteration I just incorporated into that sentence).

Rooster’s eyes nearly rolled back in head when he took his first bite, and we almost had to fight him for the plate, which we were all sharing.

Take a look and just try to tell yourself that you’re not a teensy bit interested in vegan baking…

Contented With the Hodgepodge

Hola!!  I don’t know about you, but I am very thankful that Monday is a holiday!  It’s always a nice little break after having been in school a couple of weeks.  I need the day to catch my breath and just be, even if I will be working from home…albeit in my jammies.  Join up with Joyce so you can have the same kind of fun we are!!

1.  Labor Day weekend (in the US of A) is approaching…what’s something you’ve labored over this year?

Early in the year, I labored over finishing my Reading Endorsement.  It was something I really needed to finish but had time to do.  I didn’t think I’d have time to take the final two classes, but I was very fortunate in that my scheduling worked out perfectly.  I had very supportive instructors who provided helpful and positive feedback.  Although the Reading Endorsement program is a notoriously difficult one, I am thankful I went through the experience and find myself with a better understanding of why struggling readers have such a hard time and how to address their needs better.

2.  What is one word to describe your ‘job’ or career?

Consuming

3.  What was your worst or least favorite job ever? Why?

My least favorite job was a temporary gig delivering phone books.  It was very difficult manual labor that I completed in the dead heat of the summer.  It was one of the most miserable experiences of my life.  I’d rather birth ten babies without epidurals than deliver phone books again.

4.  How do you measure contentment?

This is a tough question and, obviously, very subjective.  Personally, I measure contentment by the level of peace in my heart.  How do I find peace?  By trusting God through the good and the bad and not wanting for more than He gives me.  Although I thought of throwing the word “joy” in my answer, I decided not to because I may not always feel joy in my life, but I can always be at peace knowing that my heavenly Father loves me and sent His Son to die for me.  Everything else pales in comparison.

5.  Pickles-like or dislike? What is something you eat that requires a pickle? Dill, bread and butter, sweet gherkins…what’s your favorite kind of pickle?

My favorite kind of pickle is the one that is on my plate in front of me.  I like them all.

6.  In your current house-town-state, what is it you like living close to?

I live less than fifteen minutes from the beach.  Although I do not cross the bridge often, just knowing that I can makes me a very happy girl.

7.  What is one thing on your ‘want-to-do’ list before summer draws to an official close?

In my mind, once school started, summer officially ended.  Honestly, I am content because I feel as though I accomplished everything on my want-to-do list.  Now, that’s not to say that if I won the lottery, I wouldn’t be able to find stuff to do while I was enjoying my early retirement.  However, I rested up all summer, kept the house in somewhat-decent shape, and simply enjoyed being me.

8.  My Random Thought

I continue to be in awe of the classes I’ve been assigned this year.  Although the work is quite daunting…teaching English/Intensive Reading/Writing, I am thrilled every time my students walk through the door.

They are respectful.

They are eager to do well.

They are allowing me to conform them to the classroom expectations they developed.

They are, quite simply, precious, and I have grown to love these kiddos so much already.  I cannot imagine how much more I’m going to love them by June.

Signs It’s Not Summer Vacation Anymore

Signs it’s not summer vacation anymore…

Visiting Starbucks…before 7am…on a Monday…to hear “See you tomorrow” from the guy who rings up my order without my saying a word

 

Dreaming of finding time to start another project with this yarn combination…

 

Suffering through the blisters of closed-toe dress shoes…

 

Enjoying a glass of my favorite wine after a good but overwhelming week and a half back in the classroom…

My Weekend in Pictures

It’s 9:13pm on Sunday night.

I’m a bit tired from a busy weekend, so I thought I’d try something different and let my pictures speak the words my fingers are too tired to type.

Here is my weekend, in pictures…details to follow…tomorrow, if my fingers get “un-tired.” (not a word, but it’s my blog, and I get to make up the rules).

The Best First Week Ever

Yesterday ended the fourth first week of school in my teaching career thus far, and I can honestly say that this has been the BEST start I’ve ever had.

I walked into class the first day very nervous.  I’ve been told that veteran teachers get butterflies each year as well, so I knew I was normal in this respect.

Armed with a vision for the week and the structures and routines I wanted to train my students with, I began.

The first couple of days of school are traditionally the honeymoon phase where everyone, including the teacher, is on his/her best behavior, so it didn’t surprise me to see my students smiling, nodding their heads, and going with the flow.

What did surprise me was the way their enthusiasm continued throughout the week.

I kid you not.  It did not waver.  Not one little bit.

When the last bell rang on Friday, I was nearly in tears…not from being overwhelmed but from a sense of joy and hope.

Later that night, I wrote my students’ parents an email to update them about our week, and here is part of what I said:

The first week of school is over, and what a productive one it was!  We spent a lot of time working on classroom procedures and discussing expectations.  The students brainstormed ideas of what constitutes acceptable behaviors and habits of citizens of our community of learners.  They were insightful, and it was a privilege to watch them discuss, among their peers, why certain behaviors were more important than others.

My overarching question for the school year is:  What are we, as citizens of this community of learners, doing to prepare to be college/career ready.  It is my goal to keep the students focused on the bigger picture…the prize at the end of their high school journey.  I explained to them that by helping create the classroom behaviors (I am not using the word “rules” this year), they would “buy in,” take ownership, and do everything they could to help the classroom as a whole succeed.

There were a LOT of discussions among peers.  Research has proven that students who collaborate frequently show the greatest learning gains, learning to think at the highest levels cognitively.  This is another of my goals…to help them learn to think outside of the box.  Only when they do this, will they be able to analyze and understand the various types of text placed before them.

Students had the opportunity to earn three formative grades this week.  They wrote a letter to themselves the first day and described feelings (good and bad) about last year, concerns/feelings going into this year, goals for the year, and a plan to obtain their goals.  Their letters were candid and revealed so much of their hearts.  I was greatly touched by their writing.  I will return these letters at the end of the year.

Today, I took them to the computer lab to help them set up their Edmodo accounts, school-issued Gmail accounts, and Remind101 message subscriptions.  These are all technology tools that I will be using during the year.

I cannot tell you how happy I am with what I saw this week.  Your children were respectful…to me and to their classmates.  They were accepting, especially when we engaged in a Flocabulary discussion today (ask them how they feel about minors being restricted from using indoor tanning beds).

I saw eagerness in their eyes this week.  They want to succeed, and I strongly believe that they will.  They have already forged bonds, and I know that the sense of family we began developing this week will grow more and more throughout the year.

My mentor, Cinda, and I talked about what made the difference this year.  She asked if was my experience, knowledge of Kagan structures, and confidence.

While I feel that these factors did play a role, I told her that I thought it was God who had orchestrated the details…the combination of students…the grade I am teaching (nearly all tenth graders who are a lot more mature than incoming ninth graders).

I also think the success in my class can be attributed to my heart change that occurred this past summer…the new perspective gleaned from introspection.

I am rested.  I am seeing my students through new eyes.

But, again, that is all because of God, who graciously restored me.

It is my strongest desire that the rest of the year is equally exciting as I watch my students’ hearts and minds stretch.

Reading Is…

On the first day of school, I had my students complete a profile page as a way to get to know them.  I used a template I found on the Internet and changed it to read “Englishbook” instead of “Facebook.”

I tweaked some of the questions and let my kids have a go at them.

When I sat down late that evening to read them, I was often surprised by what I found.

Take a look at one student’s response to the prompt, “To me, Reading is…”

I completely agreed with this tenth grader’s answer, and I identified with it wholeheartedly.

I spent my childhood with my nose in a book.  Even during high school, I was rarely without one.

I read my way through John Jakes’ Kent Family Chronicles series, a fantastic collection of historical fiction, along with most of his other books that had been written at the time.

I read espionage novels penned by Tom Clancy.  Sure, I didn’t always understand the submarine terminology and such, but the whole idea of the government being behind the bad things that happened in the country sent my mind reeling and gave me a lot of knowledge to build from years later when I returned to college as an adult and studied history as my minor.

I read froo-froo books as well.  The Sweet Valley High series had me stalking the bookstore, eagerly awaiting the next installment of Jessica and Elizabeth’s drama-filled lives, and I shared books with the other girls in class.

The books I read took me away from the dysfunctional home I lived in.

They helped me believe that everything would work out in the end, because most of the books ended with all loose ends wrapped up with a pretty little bow.

I honestly believe that although my students always start out complaining about having to read silently during my class, they grow to love it because it does, in fact, become the escape they so desperately need to cope with the real lives that surround them.

Such wisdom was revealed through one simple prompt on a form.

When Teenagers Write…

This year, I am teaching primarily tenth grade students.  Two of my classes are a combination Intensive Reading/English.  Within that framework, I am also teaching writing because tenth grade students in my state have to take FCAT Writes in February.

The task is huge.  For some reason, most students in today’s schools do not know how to write properly.

I had a very frank talk with my classes and explained that they would be writing every single day.  Not that they didn’t before, but those assignments were usually responses to the reading they had done each day.

This year’s writing instruction will be much more formal.

With this in mind, I set the stage from Day One by having my students write a letter to themselves on the first day of school.  I asked them to describe things they had liked and disliked about the previous year.  I asked them to describe their feelings going into the new school year.  I asked for examples of goals they hoped to meet this year and a plan for attaining these goals.

You could have heard a pin drop as those kiddos went to work.

When I read the responses later, my jaw dropped.

Students had been very candid, and I learned so many things about each student…much more than I had up to this point in previous years.

The stories they wrote…of running away…of being bullied…of skipping school…of being suspended numerous times…oh, how they broke my heart.

What made me weep openly, though, was their expressed desire to change…to be a better daughter and sister…to make new friends who would support them…to attend school every day…to be on their best behavior so they could stay in school.

It was as though time had stopped while I sat on the couch late Tuesday night, hesitant to read each story because of the pain and hope that sprung from each page.

The second day of school, we watched Ashton Kutcher’s speech from the Teen Choice Awards.  I’d seen the speech on Facebook and decided to turn it into a learning opportunity inside of my classroom.  I broke his speech into three sections, created questions related to these sections, and watched as my students diligently answered each one.

We had wonderful discussions as we analyzed each part for a deeper meaning.

These students are bright.

They are eager to share.

They are eager to learn.

Teenagers’ writings reveal glimpses into the vortexs of feelings that swirl within their souls.  Not quite adults, they don’t always know how to express their feelings, so they act out.

Given a pencil, a piece of paper, and a prompt they can relate to, students find a way to escape from the shackles that mire them down in muck as thick of quicksand.

They are given a voice, from which sings lyrics of sadness and hope.

When a teenager writes, he/she finds something that is often missing from their world…a voice.

It is a beautiful thing to behold.

Hanging Out at the Hodgepodge

Today is the second day of school.  I had a GREAT first day!  I don’t know if it’s because we are very much in the honeymoon phase or what, but I genuinely believe I have some really good kids this year!  Of course, I have really good kids every year!  😉  So, let’s get on with the Hodgepodge!  Visit Joyce to link up!

1.  What’s your worst food memory?  How about one of your best?

My worst food memory involves eating Brussels sprouts when I was a child.  I just could not stomach them.  I have no idea how I got through a particular dinner.  Obviously, I lived to tell about it.  My best food memory probably happened during the Alaskan cruise we went on a few summers ago.  I’d been doing the Daniel Fast for seven months and had not eaten sugar during that time.  I indulged in one dessert on the cruise, and it was as though fireworks exploded in my mouth.  It is amazing how your body reacts sometimes!

2.  Do you appreciate people telling it like it is, or would you rather a speaker temper his/her words and maybe beat around the bush a little?  How about when you’re the one communicating…which type are you?

I like people who play things straight with me but with a soft touch.  People who tell you the truth but are rude can go find someone else to kick around, thank you very much.  Show some tact sometimes!

I tend to be a person who does both, depending on who I’m talking to.  I think I am usually fairly direct, though, but I’m also long-winded.

3.  What’s your favorite place to hang out?

Joyce didn’t specify if we had to hang out by ourselves or with others.  I’m going to say that I like to hang out on my couch with a comfy pillow and blanket.  Yep, as the second day of school rolls around, I can honestly say that I already miss my afternoon nap time.

4.  When do you most feel like you’re a slave to time?

I feel as though I’m a slave to time from August to June.  Teachers live bell-to-bell.  it dictates EVERYTHING we do, and there’s no way we’ll ever get done with everything in the amount of time we’re given.

5.  What was the last concert you attended?  Who’d you go with? Was it any good?

I last attended a Toby Mac concert near the beach two years ago.  He is a Christian singer and very, very good.  He had old people (I’m not talking about myself) jumping up and down!  He did an impromptu acapella number when the speakers went out.   This man is quite gifted.

6.  Reality TV…harmful or harmless?  What’s your guilty pleasure when it comes to reality TV?

Reality TV is harmful when people actually believe that others live this way.  I like them because they are an escape from the reality of my hectic life.  My guilty pleasures are many.  Heehee.  I like Big Brother, although Aaryn needs to go.  What an immature and offensive young lady!!  I also like the Bachelor shows.  I don’t believe in dating more than one person, and I don’t believe in the hanky panky that goes on.  Disgusting.  BUT, I’d like to believe that fairy tales can happen.  Watching helps me fight my cynical side.

7.  What’s something you think is overrated?

Famous people are highly overrated.  What is the big deal, folks?  They become famous for mostly inconsequential things.  Why should we elevate them to star status when everyday people are the ones really making a difference in the world?

:::stepping off of my soapbox now:::

8.  My Random Thought

My heart is very full right now.  I mentioned that it’s the second day of school.  My first day was the best I can recall to date.  The highlight of my day was seeing former students came by to visit…give hugs…tell me they wished I was their teacher again.

Working at the same school for three years running now has allowed me to continue building relationships with students.  They have grown to trust me more each year, and when my first kiddos walk the stage this year, I’ll be cheering them on as loud as their parents.

Letter to My Students for the 2013-2014 School Year

To My 2013-2014 Students:

My name is Mrs. AuburnChick, and I have the distinct honor of being your fearless leader this year.

I wanted to take a few moments to share my thoughts as we embark on this nine and a half month journey.

First of all, I would like for you to know that I rested…a lot…this summer so that I could enter the new school year refreshed and with a renewed perspective.  I’m known to have energy galore, so make sure you hit the ground running.  My enthusiasm knows no bounds, and I think you’ll find yourself unable to resist the pull being sucked into the vortex of learning that is housed within the four walls of my classroom.

(It’s a good thing the walls are made of concrete or else the entire school would be able to feel the effects.)

Second, I want you to know that though it’s only been a week since I crawled out of the pajamas I hibernated in all summer, I have spent most of these past seven days ruminating on how best to engage you…how to draw out the best in you…utilizing the talents and interests that reside deep inside each and every one of you.

I have been in contact with your parents and guardians, and they have provided insider information; thus, when we meet, it will not be as complete strangers.

Third, I want you to know that my primary goal is not to help you pass a standardized test.

Oh sure.  The State of Florida says this is a graduation requirement.  Obviously, I get that.

However, my primary goal is that you will learn to think critically…that you will not take things at face value…that you will question what is set before you (except for my classroom procedures, which I assure you are not really up for debate)…that you will learn to share your opinions and support them with solid evidence.

See, these are skills that will carry you far beyond any pass/fail test.

These skills will help you make a difference in the world by thinking outside of the box…by inventing new things…by improving those that already exist.

The people who created FCAT will one day look to you to improve their standard of living, and although you may harbor ill feelings about the angst you faced in high school trying to pass an impossible test, you will do the right thing (because you are all humane) and will come up with cures for such things as Old Timer’s Disease.  You’ll apologize that there’s no cure for ignorance, however.

😉

It is my hope that you will not measure your success by a letter grade or the percentage of questions you get right or wrong.

Life is so much more than that.

Success is measured by how much progress you have made.

Success is measured by how many times you take a fall and get back up again to start over.

There is no such thing as perfection.  Trust me.  I’ve learned this the hard way.  You’d do well to learn it while you’re young.

What there is is imperfect progress, to quote Lysa TerKeurst, a newly-favorite writer of mine.

The last thing I want you to know is that when you walk into my classroom, I ask that you do not allow your past to hold you back.  You are starting off with a clean slate as far as I’m concerned, and I will accept you just as you are.  I hope you will extend the same courtesy to me.

Our year will have its ups and downs, of this I’m sure.  I ask that you be patient with me on the days that lesson plans flop, I make you take notes forever, or my quirkiness and corny jokes get on your nerves.

You see, although I am an adult, I am much the same as you…striving for imperfect progress each day…shrugging off the disappointments in my life…carving out positive experiences from the moments I am given.

I cannot wait to see what this year brings!

You are special, and you have already earned a place in my heart simply by being on my roster.  Once you enter my classroom, you will forever be one of my children.

Let’s make this a GREAT year!

Love,

Mrs. AuburnChick

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