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Heavy Metal

Today, the Mr. and I are on our way to visit Chicky.  She will be among the players being recognized at Senior Night during Saturday’s last home game.

What a bittersweet time this is for us.

As I gathered the items that Chicky had requested that we take to her, I couldn’t help but notice, for not the first time, the many many soccer medals hanging in her closet, all accumulated during sixteen years of play…

Those aren’t even all of her medals, I’m sure.

I inspected each one, slowly reading the name of each tournament, year, and place awarded.

A few stood out in my mind as memories invaded my mind.

The Orange Classic was one of our favorite tournaments to attend.  It is an annual tournament held in south Florida near where we spent eight years of our lives.  Chicky started playing soccer when she was six years old…in south Florida…so many of our friends were tied to the sport.  Years later, after we moved, we would run into these friends as we traveled from tournament to tournament.  Once, we even ran into someone in an airport across the country!

We attended the Top Gun tournament several times over the years.  The above medal came from one of the first tournaments Chicky played in after we moved away from south Florida.

The next medal was awarded at National Cup, which was held in Arkansas.  Chicky’s team had finished as #2 in the state of Florida.  Chicky’s team got to go because of some strange ranking thing that allowed certain teams to attend if they had won certain leagues.  Going to Nationals was an exhilarating experience, although it was a terribly long drive (and the hotel was a dump…next to a mall where a person got shot in the parking lot and someone…not on the team…got attacked in the hotel).

Yeah.  It was an interesting trip.  As a side note, I took my first real knitting project with me on this trip…the ugliest blue scarf you’ve ever seen.  I also took my first class through Troy’s online program…a basic here’s how you do long-distance learning class.

Chicky played at quite a few Disney tournaments.  Let me tell you that Disney knows how to put on an athletic event!  It was at one tournament where Chicky was reunited with players from south Florida.  This happened a few months after we had moved away, and it was a joyful time!  Chicky’s team won that tournament.  We played in the heat, and we played in the cold because yes, Orlando can get cold in the winter.

The Timberwolf Classic was put on by a rival high school a few hours away.  We loathed this school, and Chicky’s team played in the tournament every year she was in high school.  The way the tournament was planned out, we never won.  Ever.

Until 2008 when we beat our rival soundly in a thrilling game!  We had a dear friend whose daughter played on the other team.  She was a fierce competitor who always brought out the best in Chicky.

One of the most rewarding high school experiences was her senior season.  Chicky played some of the best soccer I’ve ever seen her play.  Her team went to the Final Four playoffs and lost the game in overtime in torrential rain and freezing cold.

She was named to the All Star team and had a wonderful experience playing in that game.  If I’m not mistaken, she was named MVP of that game.

Chicky’s travel teams were good.  They went to Final Four several times, although the teams she was on never won the entire thing.  Still, to be considered one of the top four in the state was a huge honor.

This medal came from her last Final Four.  It was a bittersweet end to her travel soccer career.

Chicky’s heavy metal doesn’t end with those hung around her neck.

She has received numerous awards and trophies over the years as well.  Here are a few of my favorite.

She was awarded Best Defensive Player her senior year of high school…

She also received a beautiful MVP award at that same banquet…a time of celebration that I cried through…

She’s also been recognized at her college awards ceremonies…

The last time I visited Chicky, I saw another award in her car.  It had not made it home to her shelf.

The above pictures are but snapshots of my sweet girl’s soccer career.

I posted the pictures, not to brag, but to celebrate her accomplishments.

She would be embarrassed, and I’m sure I’ll probably hear about it when she finds out I’ve written this.

She would be the first to put the honor where it’s due…to the One who blessed her with her talent.



Last night, on Facebook, I read the following post by Lysa TerKeurst:

How bad is just a little gossip?

The Bible warns us that gossip will separate close friends and I believe it. There is nothing worse than to feel betrayed by a friend’s careless words. The Bible also warns us that what we sow, we’ll reap. In other words, if I gossip about others, I can almost bank on the fact that others will soon be talking about me.

Think of what a great gift it would be tell a friend that you’ve made the commitment to never say anything dishonoring about her. You know, I know how great this gift is because I had a friend make this commitment to me. And now my heart feels so safe with her. The trust we have is rare and beautiful.

I firmly believe that to have a great friend, you have to be a great friend. And becoming a woman who refuses to gossip is a wonderful place to start.

Oh, how this spoke to me.

Gossip is a topic that I’ve struggled with…especially after I returned to the workforce when Chicky was in middle school.

Being at home full time, it was much easier to avoid gossip.  I’m not much on socializing, so I really wasn’t around a lot of people.

Working outside of the home changed that.

I remember when I worked in an office full of women.

Oh the stuff I heard, even on my first day at one place, would have curled your hair.

Even though I try to avoid it, it’s nearly impossible.

I work hard not to talk about people, but I know I’m not perfect.  The times I have gossiped, I’ve tried to justify with lame excuses such as, “I just needed to vent.”



Why not call it what it is.

Something I have been really convicted of the last two or three years, though, is sitting places where gossip is going on around me.

Even though I may not be actively participating, am I any less guilty?

I mean, I am still listening, and by listening, aren’t I condoning the words I’m hearing?

What choice do I have?

Well, one of the choices I often make is to remain aloof.  Often, people see this as either stuck up or anti-social.

I am neither.

Well, maybe I am a little anti-social, but I operate better in very small groups, such as ones or twos.

I fight myself, though, wanting to be part of a group but feeling uncomfortable when stuff is being said about someone, although I will admit to guilty glee when the conversation turns to a person I’ve had a serious run-in with.

Still, I am a very loyal person, and if someone tells me something, I’m not a person who will run and blab it to others.

I want to be trustworthy and honor my friends, and I hope that I receive the same treatment in return.

I want people to believe I am a good friend because they trust me…because they know that I won’t gossip or say bad things behind their backs.

Gossip is a bad thing, to be sure, and I pray that the Lord shows me the best way to handle uncomfortable situations.

I pray He gives me the courage to remove myself from those conversations quickly, gracefully, and in a way that honors Him.

Grouchy Hodgepodge

I took my title from one of Joyce’s questions and, quite honestly, it really fit the mood I was in yesterday.  It was the first day back to school after Fall Break, and it was apparent that nobody really wanted to be there, nor did they appreciate the hard work I’d put into making my lesson plans.  Sigh.  Grumpy was my middle name!  But that was yesterday, and today is a new day.  Let’s play Hodgepodge and link up with Joyce to add our own fun answers!

1.  What was your biggest worry five years ago?  Is it still a worry?

My biggest worry five years ago (2008) was that Chicky would re-injure herself playing soccer.  She had hurt her left knee the year before, and though she was stronger than ever, my Mama Heart worried over her.

That worry never quite left me and, lo and behold, she injured the other knee a few weeks ago.


I love my children to bits and just cannot stand to think of them hurt and unable to do the things they love.

2.  Yesterday (October 15th) was National Grouch Day…what makes you grouchy? What cheers you up when you’re feeling grouchy?

What makes me grouchy is when students won’t take class seriously.  I teach Intensive Reading to students who have not passed our state reading exam.  Passing FCAT is one of those boxes that must be checked off before a student can receive his/her diploma.  I find it very frustrating when kids interrupt class with their antics, and this 5’3″ teacher is putting her foot down.

Now, what cheers me up is when those same children sincerely apologize and get down to work.  They had a hard time yesterday, which made me call my nail tech in desperation.  I needed pampering.

Soccer balls…in honor of Chicky’s Senior Night, which is on Saturday

3.  In one word, how does it feel to be photographed?


4.   Besides your parents, who would you say had the greatest influence on you in choosing your life path?  Explain.

My English teacher, Ms. Warr, influenced me to become teacher.  I’ve written about her many times.  Here’s a link to a post I composed shortly after I learned of her passing.

She taught me to never settle for anything less than my best.  She taught me how to edit my writing.  She taught me that it’s okay to be uncool in front of your students.

She taught me to “Bloom Where You are Planted.”

5.  The crisp days of autumn are here …what’s something you like to eat, but only if it’s crisp?

French fries are much better when they are crisp.

6.  What’s the most useless object you own?

I think I own a mop.  It may be in the garage.  Obviously it’s been a longgggggggggg time since I’ve used it.

You think I’m kidding.

I.  Am.  Not.

7.  Share a favorite fall memory.

I don’t know that I have one favorite fall memory.  I think that for me, fall is all about the smell of burning leaves, college football season, and a crispness in the air.  Those things make fall memories.

8.  My Random Thought

I seem to always be one of the last to the party.  Such is the case with jumping on Katy Perry’s Roar bandwagon.  It must have been during Dancing With the Stars when I really listened to the lyrics for the first time, and I have to say that I LOVE them!

I like the message of speaking up for yourself.  I find it empowering!  Enjoy the video (so cute with the emojis).

I Take Back My Words

First of all, can I get a Hallelujah that it’s Fall Break in these here parts?

I think I spent between ten and fifteen hours grading between Monday and Thursday…

I was also given a book that the English and Reading departments will use for a joint book study…

Interestingly enough, just this week, I’d decided to use Close Reading as one of the strategies I’m going to focus on in my Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP) for the 2013/2014 school year.  I’m excited about what I’m going to learn in the book study!

With all of that plus more going on, I was more than ready for a time of rest.

I turned off all of my weekday alarms…

The Mr. quietly slipped out the door, and when I woke up, it was nearly noon…

Go ahead and be jealous.

As I got ready for my day, I thought about my students, because that’s what I always do.  I reflected on the way the week had gone and funny moments shared.

One such moment happened on Thursday during 6th/7th period.

You might remember when I told you about one of my students calling me boogee.

By the way, you pronounce it as boo-zhee.

I was corrected.



As I was talking to the class about something that I’ve since forgotten (imagine that), the same young man who had called me boogee told me, “Mrs. AuburnChick, you are not boogee.  You are soooo not stuck up.”

I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped.

He went on to say, “I know people who are way more stuck up, and you are not stuck up.”

Then, he said words that made me smile, “I take back my words.”

I leaned my head down and said, “Can you repeat that because I’m not sure I heard you correctly.”


I like to have fun, in case you didn’t know that already.

His smile was big, and other kids joined in with him by saying that I am not stuck up.

These moments are important to me because they are part of the bigger picture…building solid relationships with my students…bridging connections.

I think it’s a little naive to think that students will come to school and love the learning process.

Let’s face it.  Most don’t.

Many of them resent having their brains stretched to the point of being sore.  Some want the easiest way out.

I don’t provide that.

I am demanding and require much of my charges.

I am learning to ask hard questions.  I ask them to reflect on their learning.  I require my students to show me what they know, not just regurgitate “book” answers.

They won’t do this willingly if I haven’t built a rapport with them and established common interests.

Such connections lead to trust and respect.

Trust and respect lead to a desire to work hard and not let each other down.

Do I care if some students don’t like me because I demand so much?

Not really.

Does it bother me when I can’t connect with a student?

Yes, because I worry that the child won’t succeed because he/she will resent being in my room in the first place.

It is my sincerest belief that if I can win a student over, I can then begin to cultivate a love for the learning process.

The student who took back his words is having a love/hate relationship with me.

Some days, he’s happy; other days he’s not.

A small moment like the one we shared let me know that I am impacting his life, and that he is seeing the connection.

That was apparent during last night’s football game when he walked onto the track, toting his drum (he’s in the band), and he smiled and spoke to me when I waved to him.

This makes this teacher heart of mine happy.

Feeling Overwhelmed With Too Much to Teach

The work my students recently performed in class…

…resulted in summary paragraphs in which they cited evidence from the text…

After three days of grading, I’m finally finished and very, very tired.

I have found myself grumpy the last few days but more so since yesterday.

I’m beginning to feel the pressure of teaching three preps-in-one…reading, English, and writing.

My tenth graders will take the FCAT Writes test in February, and because District writing scores were low this past school year, a renewed effort is being made to help our students in this area.

Intensive Reading teachers have been tasked with multiple duties that include teaching writing.

Now, don’t get me wrong…writing is my thing, as is grammar.  However, I’m finding it challenging to fit everything into my planning.

I’m being creative, but I know I’m not where I need to be yet.

Honestly, these kids need a separate writing class that includes a lot of grammar instruction.

I’m trying to teach some of it, but with my focus primarily on reading strategies…a MUST because students have to pass FCAT to graduate…finding adequate time to teach specific writing skills is proving to be a daunting task.

Thank heavens that I adore my students, and that they are extremely forgiving.  Because they are tenth graders, they recognize the importance of the instruction I am providing.  They are quick to understand, however, when I start feeling grumpy.

They are feeling the pressure too as I work them hard each day, afraid to let one minute pass without instruction happening.

Do you want to guess how glad I am that Fall Break begins tomorrow?

I think we all need to step away from the classroom, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the change in seasons.

A Deliciously Evil Hodgepodge

Hey all!  Do you feel a crispness in the air?  It’s the perfect time of year…especially down here in Florida where we don’t get much of a break between seasons.  While I’m enjoying the weather, I’m also having fun playing along with the Hodgepodge.  Link up with Joyce if you want to join in too!

1.  The USA will mark Columbus Day this year on Monday, October 14th. What’s something you need or want to explore (literally or metaphorically speaking)?

Oh goodness, but this is difficult to answer!

I guess the teacher-nerd in me will answer this question by saying that I really need to explore TeachingChannel.org more.  This is a wonderful resource that has a lot of videos.  Each video has resources attached to it, and the teachers in the videos are great about responding to questions.  Finding the time to explore is the difficult part with everything I need to do for school.  Maybe this summer…

2.  The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, or Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty…who do you most love to hate?

Ursula rubs me the wrong way.  The Little Mermaid is one of my favorite Disney movies, but Ursula just makes me nauseous.  She’s ugly to look at and her laugh really annoys me.

3.  Is open-mindedness a virtue?

As with anything, open-mindedness can be a virtue, or it can be a negative thing.  Being open-minded allows one to listen others’ opinions without judging.  However, I think you can be too open-minded to the point where you become a person who isn’t willing to draw a line in the sand as far as where you stand on issues.  Being wishy-washy is not, in my opinion, something to be admired.

4.  How often do you weigh yourself?

The only time I weigh myself is when I go to the doctor, which is once in a blue moon.  I don’t like scales because I already have mental issues about my body.  Stepping on a scale makes me not want to eat.  It’s best that I stay off of the scales.

5.  This question comes to you courtesy of Rebecca over at Making Memories, so thanks Rebecca!

Costa Rica was recently named the happiest country in the world on the Happy Planet Index. What’s the happiest country in the world to you, and what makes it so?

This is a tough question.  I won’t answer with the name of a particular country because I have only lived in the United States and have nothing to compare this to.  I’d say, though, that a happy country is one that treats all people fairly, allows people a true say in the running of the government, puts God first, and keeps the focus on individual accountability and integrity.  A moral country is a happy one for me.

6.  Besides The Bible, what is one book you think should be mandatory reading for high school students? Why?

One of the books that is very popular right now is 13 Reasons Why.  It tells the story of a young woman who records a set of thirteen cassette tapes that are to be listened to by a list of recipients.  Each tape explains how that one particular person played a role in her death.

It is a very, very sad book that stresses how important it is that we consider every single action we take and every single word we speak to another person.  The reader learns of how the smallest thing triggers a snowball of repercussions from which the young woman cannot recover her self dignity.

Teenagers need to read this book.  It will make them think twice about the way they treat their peers.

7.  I went shopping at some nearby outlets last week, and while I was there, I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts. How about you? Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

I let the Mr. pick up most of our gifts.  I only take care of my sister and my mom.  I wait until December to get those.  I hate shopping.  I don’t think there’s any need to rush.

8.  My Random Thought

Our Fall Break begins this Friday.  We will have Friday and Monday off.

I am more than a little excited; however, I plan on working from home.  I have my IPDP to do (part of my teacher evaluation), and I have one final assignment for my ESOL class.  I also need to create new seating arrangements for my students.  They are getting tired of their table mates.  You can bet, though, that I’ll be sleeping in and working in my pajamas.

My Personal Word Wall

When you teach, you’re told that putting up a word wall is a good idea.

A word wall reminds students of the new vocabulary they have encountered during their reading, and they are reminded to use the vocabulary in different contexts to completely absorb the words rather than simply memorize definitions.

While my students are learning new vocabulary, I am gathering my own words, taught to me by my students.

I’ve learned such words as “fye,” “ratchet,” and “twerk.”

The urban dictionary app loves me.

My newest word made it to my “wall” last week.  Please tell me if you’ve heard of it.

The word?


No.  It’s not booger.

A booger is something icky that sticks to the inside of your nose clearly visible to the public and which may become an edible item depending on the person wearing said booger.

Oh no.

We’re talking boogee, which is pronounced like “boo-jee.”

This word came up during the following conversation:

“Mrs. AuburnChick, are you going to the fair tonight?”

“No, I’m not,” I said.

“Why not? There’s good food,” one young lady said.

I said, “I don’t like fairs much, and I wouldn’t be able to eat the food anyway.”

The kids know I am a vegan.

Next, I heard, “Mrs. AuburnChick, you are needy.”

Um, really?

I replied, “No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are.  You can’t eat this, and you can’t eat that,” the same girl said.

And then I heard, softly spoken, “You’re boogee.”

Now, I’m the first to admit that my hearing isn’t always what I’d like it to be, so I leaned my head down and said, “I’m what?”

“You’re boogee,” she repeated.

I naturally asked, “What is ‘boogee’?”

A young man piped up, after struggling to find a “standard English” word with, “You’re stuck up.”

Oh yeah.  Did you just sit up straighter?  I know that I put my shoulders back, ready to defend myself.

What I actually did was turn this into a vocabulary lesson about denotation and connotation and proceeded to explain what the phrase “stuck up” meant.

They held their ground and insisted that I was stuck up.

I was genuinely confused.

Stuck up people think they are better than others.

You read my blog.

You know that I am the first to admit when I make mistakes.  Heck, mistakes loom around each corner and attack me constantly.

I explained that “stuck up” has a negative connotation.

They wouldn’t budge.

It bothered me, so when I got home, I looked up the word.

A girl who is high class or someone that looks like they have a lot of money

Well, that didn’t sound so bad, but when I mentioned, to another class, that I’d been called “boogee,” they looked appalled and insisted that I reveal the name of the person who described me this way.

Honestly, I give up.

Boogee isn’t good.

I don’t understand it.

My personal word wall continues to fill up with words in which the denotative and connotative meanings do not remotely resemble each other.

Me thinks I’m getting old.

The young folks are confusing the heck out of me.

Play Like It’s Your Last Game

Yesterday afternoon, after church, I had a long conversation with my Chicky.

Both of our schedules are hectic, and she’s not usually one for long chats, so catching her in a talkative mood was a dream come true.

One of the topics we covered was soccer.

Even though she’s unable to play because of her knee, she still attends every practice and sits on the bench during games, urging on her teammates the entire time.

It’s killing her not to play.

She’s a competitor.

She’s rarely been down for the count.

Not being able to contribute hurts her worse than the pain in her knee.

As we talked, she told me about how, since she tore her ACL the first time in the ninth grade, she’s always played like it was her last game.

Truth be told, she’s played this way since she first stepped onto a field at the tender age of six.  I don’t think I ever watched her play when she wasn’t going at it full speed ahead.

Still, though, I keep going back to her comment.

Before she tore her ACL during her first high school season, she was playing pretty darned good soccer.

She’d never given much thought to getting hurt because, quite frankly, she had rarely been hurt.  The worst she had experienced was a rolled ankle.

Her comment yesterday was extremely insightful, though, and gave me a rare glimpse into her heart…into her motivation.

If you’ve ever watched my girl play, you’ll know that she has played some phenomenal soccer since the ninth grade.

Her last season of high school soccer was especially breathtaking as I saw her make some of the most unbelievable plays I’d witnessed to that point.

Her intense play continued throughout her college career and often led me to suck in my breath in fear and admiration.

Watching her play simply took my breath away.

I never had any idea that she was playing as if each game was her last.

I thought she was simply taking care of business.

When Chicky tore her ACL that first time, she realized that she wasn’t invincible and that another game was never guaranteed.

As such, she always did everything possible to win.

She played when she was sick; she played when she was sore.  She iced aching muscles, loaded up on carbs before games, and got plenty of rest.

She did work on the field and sacrificed her body to do the job she was there to do…prevent the other team from getting the ball in the goal.

She did it so well that she stood out, and it was fun to listen to the ooohs and aaaahs as she won headers young ladies of her stature don’t normally win.

She did it with grace, style, and class.

As her mother, I look back to the time before soccer played a large role in her life, and I recognize signs of this motto…Play like it’s your last game…lived out early in her life.

She entered this world with a gusto and did everything early.  She hit all of the baby milestones weeks before what was considered “normal,”

She ran hard, and she played hard.  She didn’t stop for something silly like a meal, and there many, many nights when we fed her as she ran circles around the table.

As a student intern, she’s teaching amazing lessons and is making plans for the class she will one day lead.

She’s living life just as she’s played every soccer game…as if each moment is her last.

She is such an inspiration to me.  The conversation we had…that one small comment…is being stored up in my heart as one of my own new, personal mantras.

Leave everything on the field.

Don’t hold anything back.

Sacrifice willingly.

Play like it’s your last game.

I love you Chicky, more than you will ever possibly know, and I thank you for inspiring me with your dignity, grace, humbleness, and determination to be the best in whatever arena you find yourself, be it soccer, school, or your Christian walk.

Do Work!

I had to chuckle when my 6th period class left for their break between class sessions (they get a five-minute break between 6th and 7th periods because we are together for both).

Usually, one or two students stay behind; however, every single one of them left the room.

They were tired.  They had been working hard on our unit’s summative assessment…a summary paragraph of an article we read…one in which they were being required to cite evidence from the text.

As I looked at their tables, I was blown away by the work displayed…

I walked around and took pictures of individual assignments in progress…

If you look closely, you can see that we used a variety of strategies to closely examine one piece of text.  They had to go into the text so many times that I’d be willing to bet that they can repeat, verbatim, much of it.

This is Common Core at its heart…using evidence to support conclusions.

It’s a tough thing for students to do, but I am excited as I watch students begin to make connections, and I trust that this will get easier every time we do it throughout the year.

Next week, I will have them reflect on how the various strategies helped them.  Here’s a snapshot of the reflection sheet…a two-column graphic organizer I adapted for this purpose…

See what I mean about things getting exciting?!  Good stuff, I’m telling you!!!!


Yesterday, my friend/mentor, Cinda, came into my classes and made smoothies for my students.  It was her way of celebrating the nearing end of a writing unit she taught them.  The unit revolved around an article titled “Mind over Munching,” and it required that students investigate the claims that supported how our minds control the food choices we make.

While she made the smoothies, I worked with students as they completed their paragraph frames.

This writing business is tough, let me tell you.  Kids have to be taught what a topic sentence is and how to cite evidence.  This requires a lot of higher-order thinking and is the crux of Common Core standards.

After my last class, we spent some time reflecting, as we always do.

One topic led to another, and I shared with her how much it had meant for me to watch her teach.  I can see my approach to lesson planning taking a new direction as I now want to incorporate multiple strategies with single pieces of text.  I think doing this will help students deepen their thinking, make our units more relevant, and will connect more standards in a logical way.

Cinda and I continued to talk, and I told her that this is a big year for me because I don’t feel like I’m doggy paddling anymore.

She responded by saying, “You’re swimming now.”

Then, she corrected herself and said, “Actually, you’re snorkeling.”

I turned my head sideways in question, and she explained that I am doing more than swimming at the surface of the water but am taking my teaching to a deeper level.

What a wonderful visual, eh?

As I take the next step in lesson planning, not merely filling in the boxes on my lesson plan template, I will be leading my students to do more than check standards off of a long list.

Their ability to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and ultimately create new understanding will become the norm instead of the exception.

Teaching continues to be an exciting adventure for me, and as I grow more adventurous, my students won’t be able to help themselves as they get pulled in with me.

This is what teaching is all about!


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