December 29, 2009

What Gifts Can Reveal

Yesterday, I received an email from one of my students detailing the contents of her stocking and other Christmas gifts. Among her list were a Coach purse, Tiffany necklace, iPod touch and a completely redecorated bedroom. I found it somewhat amusing that I was feeling jealous of a 12 year-old, so I shared this with my Facebook friends.

As anticipated, many of my friends were right there with me... drooling over the outrageous gifts we only wish we had received. Some wondered what was left for this girl to receive in the future (A good question. Where does one go from there?). One comment, though, both surprised and irritated me...

"I'm not jealous. She'll be pregnant and spoiled at 16 too!" retorted one reader.

Wow! There's a leap! Someone clearly has some built up aggression. Maybe this is bringing back memories of her own childhood when she was jealous of her own peers for having more than her family can afford (I'm not making assumptions here... her comment reminded me of one such conversation we had in middle school).

Being the mama hen that I am, my immediate instinct was to protect and defend my student. Really? Do all privileged children end up spoiled and pregnant at 16? I think not! And certainly I haven't seen evidence to suggest this could be the future of the child in question.

"Maybe your 12 year old should be donating to all the children living in cars right now. The economy sucks! [Parents] should share their wealth, not spoil their children," she demanded.

Okay... as a collective whole, I would say that these are probably some of the most privileged children I've ever encountered, but that doesn't make them all spoiled brats. I firmly believe that you can give your children everything under the sun (not that I advocate this) without them developing a sense of entitlement.

And the assumption that my children are not giving back to those that are less fortunate is completely invalid. My students participate in charity work all year long and this month alone purchased more than 90 gifts to fulfill letters to Santa for an underprivileged school in a neighboring town.

We say all the time that children cannot help what they were born into. And I don't think it's fair for people to judge anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic status (or race, religion, creed, etc.), including those that are more fortunate than most. Let us not be so quick to believe that those who have, do so with no regard to those that go without.

December 23, 2009

True Friends

I had lunch with my best friend from high school yesterday. For various reasons, our friendship sort of dissipated a couple of years ago, but with one phone call, it was completely rekindled as if nothing ever changed.

How is that possible?

Because she needed me. Because she was going through something terrible and needed a shoulder to cry on. Her dad has been diagnosed with ALS. And certainly, when you've cared for someone as deeply as we've cared for each other (we were best friends since we were 15), all of the petty arguments are thrown out the window when you hear this type of news.

But this post isn't about ALS and how devastating a disease it is. This isn't about how her family is coping with this life-altering diagnosis. This post is about the disappointment I feel for her when her "friends" can't pick up the phone or send her an email to ask her how things are going. It frustrates me that at a time when she needs the support of her friends probably more than most any other time in her life, people aren't there for her.

And then... I'm glad that she knew I'd be there for her. Because that, to me, is the definition of a true friend. Someone who, despite everything, is there for you when times are tough.

It seems like the older I get, the more people I care about are facing these tough times (Life must have just been simpler back in high school). And it's when you face these things that you discover who your true friends are.

I used to be the kind of person who had a million "friends" and that the key to happiness was to be liked by everyone. I'm starting to understand, though, that I'd rather have a couple of really close, dependable friends than a whole bunch of acquaintances. I'd rather know who will be there for me when I need it most.

December 16, 2009

What's Going On Here?

Tonight, I came home from work feeling more exhausted than usual. There are only two days left until winter break, and the kids are out of control with excitement. Coupled with the fact that I am coming down with some sort of cold, I literally hit my wall somewhere around sixth period today (and we have nine periods in our day). It made for a very interesting afternoon.

I was hanging out in the basement talking on the phone when my brother, Scott, completely out of the blue, walks down the stairs and hands me a full box of pizza. If you knew my brother, you'd understand why this seemingly innocent action was completely mind-boggling for me.

"What's this?" I inquired.

"A peperoni pizza," he explained, "I got myself a cheese one and that one for you."

"Why?" I asked, skeptical of his good deed.

"Just because," he retorted.

"Are you sick? Is someone dying? Did you hit my car (again)?" I questioned.

"No!" he assured me. It was just a nice gesture for no reason at all.

"Uh.... thanks?" I responded, still not quite believing it was true.


Something is going on here, and I'm determined to get to the bottom of it! But in the meantime, I'm going to enjoy some yummy pizza from my baby brother!

December 15, 2009

In Memory of Shannon Sperando-Sales


Shannon Sperando was the captain of my high school cheerleading squad. She had the biggest, bluest eyes you've ever seen and beautiful brown ringlets that hung down her back. She certainly made a statement when she walked down the hallway, but it wasn't just for her beauty. She was also incredibly nice to everyone she met. She was exactly the kind of girl you wanted to call your friend, and through years of laughing together during cheerleading practices and whining together through our torturous math classes, I was fortunate enough to be able to call her just that.

Just over two years ago, Shannon was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I know I speak for many when I say how inspired we've been by her strength through it all. When the prognosis was more than grim this past November, she surprised us all by waking on Thanksgiving Day to give her loved ones one more blessed holiday with her. She amazed her doctors by fighting a fatal infection that raged through her already-weak body to hold on for just a little longer. Finally, on December 12, after receiving a beautiful blessing from her husband, Shannon went to be with the Lord.

Through all the grieving, I can't help but admit that my heart smiles just a bit to know how much Shannon was loved. John, her wonderful husband both proposed and married her in the midst her diagnosis and treatment. Nothing was going to stop him from dedicating himself to the love of his life, and he supported her every step of the way. If that's not an amazing testimony of his character, I don't know what is. We should all be so lucky to have people in our lives that are so dedicated to loving us so completely. Thank you, John, for loving Shannon so fully!

December 3, 2009

Learning Responsiblity

I'm curious... at what age should it become the students' responsibility to submit their homework rather than the teachers' responsibility to chase it down?

I had a parent track me down after school today and try to bully me into changing his daughter's grade from last trimester because he was unhappy with her grade. This student is very bright and produces high-quality work in class, but she had five missing assignments in the last two weeks of the trimester (which ended November 11), causing her grade to drop from an A to a C.

I understand that this would be a frustrating situation for parents, especially when they know their child is capable of better, but forgive me for thinking that the frustration should be taken out on the child, not the teacher.

How is it my fault that your child didn't submit her work even after I extended the deadlines for her? And why do you think it's okay to come into my classroom unannounced and question my procedures (which, by the way, have already been explained to said child's mother via email three times earlier this week)?

No, your daughter cannot still submit these assignments that were due over a month ago! I think this has been a very important lesson for your daughter, and I am confident that she will be more diligent about turning in her work in the future.

I believe that middle school is the perfect time to learn these lessons, rather than waiting to high school where more is at stake. This is exactly why we more responsibility on our students at this age. We expect that there will be bumps along the way, but that's part of the learning process.

I'm just glad I was able to remain calm and professional while still holding my ground!

November 1, 2009

Halloween

Corey and I are going to a Halloween party next weekend, so it never crossed my mind to prepare a costume for this weekend. While I was getting ready for date night on Saturday, it crossed my mind to surprise him with a costume. I had one thing in mind, and I knew he'd love it because he wouldn't have to dress up to make this idea work.

So I hurried over to my jewelry box. Yes, my jewelry box.

Buried in the bottom of that box is a ring. By no stretch of the imagination would anyone call this ring special. In fact, I received this ring in a box of "junk jewelry" from a friend who was a designer at Claire's.

So why would I choose this ring, you ask? Because the brilliant cubic zirconium is the perfect resemblance of an engagement ring. Yes, we could be the engaged couple!

When I presented my idea to my mother, she laughed heartily. My brother warned, "It's not April Fools Day," which only made this idea even more hilarious. I just hoped Corey would also find my suggestion funny and not run for the hills.

Luckily for me, my man has a great sense of humor! :)

We're still undecided about our costumes for next weekend. I told him that if he can't decide on one of the suggestions I emailed him, we'd be going as the engaged couple again. Maybe that will motivate him to pick something!

October 20, 2009

Who Decides These Things?

I would love to meet the person who is responsible for the five day work week. I mean, I'd just love to hear the logic behind five days of slaving away and only two for rest.

I always wonder about people who claim Friday as their favorite day of the week? Really? Friday? I'm always so exhausted on Fridays that all I want to do is go home and curl up on the couch. I hardly consider it the start of a weekend. I'll choose Saturday as my favorite, thank you.

And Sunday? Please! Sunday doesn't count either because I spend half my Sunday preparing for the week (or sometime just day) ahead. This is especially true for teachers because we surely can't start Monday morning without a proper lesson in place. And don't even get me started on the grading that I always seem to put off until Sunday evenings.

Today at lunch, a coworker suggested giving up summer vacations in place of 4 day weeks and 3 day weekends. I don't know about you, but I think that's a great plan! When my alarm rings before the birds are even chirping on Monday mornings, I'd love to be able to motivate myself (and yes, I do this every morning) by saying, "Only three more days after this." Three is much nicer than four, don't you think? It just makes the whole week more tolerable.

Who do I need to talk to about implementing this plan?

October 17, 2009

My Grandma is Funny

A few weeks ago, I was at Woodfield with my sister, mom and grandma. We didn't need anything in particular, but it was a good reason to spend the day together.

My grams is a people-watcher. She's could spend the entire day at the mall or airport just watching people walk by. On this day, though, she made a very keen observation.

"Where are all the people my age?" she asked me.

"Dead!" I told her, "Or locked up. We normally don't let your kind out during the day."

We both laughed aloud.

That's one thing I love about my grandma: it's so easy to make her laugh!

Later, we stopped into express so Amy could try on a pair of jeans. After about 30 minutes of browsing the store, my mom and I realized grandma had gone missing. Oh, great! I thought. It's like bringing a toddler to the zoo!

I started calling out her name (not that she can hear me anyway) as I circulated the store, hoping she hadn't wandered out on her own. It's dangerous out there, you know.

And then I found her. Standing frozen in the panty section with a look of horror on her face.

"What's wrong, Grams?" I asked her.

"I just don't understand. What's the point?" she asked, holding up sheer, nude-colored g-string.

"It covers what it needs to cover," I informed her.

"Hardly!" she scoffed. "Why wear anything at all?"

"Not all thongs are like that," I protested, guiding her to a section of non-sheer, non g-string panties.

"Now, those are nice! They'll do their job!" she admired.

Guess what grandma's getting for Christmas this year! :)

October 1, 2009

This Time of Year

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms." - Joe Fox, You've Got Mail

Reasons I love Autumn:

1. Nature looks so breathtaking as it prepares to hibernate for the winter. I love the beautiful colors of the trees before the leaves begin to fall. Something about it makes me want to slow down and enjoy each moment.

2. When the weather cools (not that it was necessary after a cooler-than-average summer) to the point that jeans and a comfy sweatshirt are just perfect for gallivanting around town.

3. Treating myself to hot cider and gooey caramel apples. Yum!

4. Snuggling in my bed on lazy Saturday mornings because it feels so snuggily being buried in my blankets.

5. The scent of a fire burning in the fireplace.

6. Sipping on chai tea lattes (because who drinks those in the summer?).

7. Wearing my cute, new boots!

8. Sunday football parties (Go Bears!)

9. Warm, tasty chili.

10. Gathering with friends and family for the holidays.

September 14, 2009

Out of Control

Dear Kanye,

What's wrong with you? Seriously! What in the world possessed you to take the stage and spotlight away from someone?

News Flash: Your opinion is not the only one that matters. Clearly, your opinion is not in line with the masses... because Taylor Swift won that award fair and square!

I hate that you have caused me to be embarrassed to admit that I'm a fan of your music. In the past, I've been able to shake my head and laugh off your crazy antics. After all, your previous trades haven't harmed anyone but yourself. You looked like a fool, but I could still add, "but he's a great artist."

This time, though, you have crossed the line. It's one thing to be laughably egotistical, but it's quite another to allow your inflated sense of self stand in the way of others. Not only have you embarrassed yourself, but you have embarrassed Beyonce (who made it very clear that she did not want to be associated with you at all), Chicago (quit giving us a bad name), and your fans (including those of us who followed you before you were mainstream).

Since you're such a huge fan of hers, maybe you could take a lesson from Beyonce. She showed more class in two minutes last night than we've ever seen from you. Take notes!

September 9, 2009

She's Here!

In case you missed my earlier declarations (here, here, and here)... I LOVE BRITNEY!

Awesome news? She's performing in Chi town tonight.


The bad news is that I did not receive my free front row tickets or backstage passes. I know this because I checked my mailboxes at home and work multiple times.

Did I purchase said tickets and backstage passes? No. Did I call the KISS FM when they asked for caller #3 on September 3? No. Did I still hope that they'd find some magical way into my possession? Yes!

Apparently, the ticket fairy missed the memo on this one!

It's a sad, sad world!

What are We Afraid of?

I still don't understand how a speech to the youth of our country sparked so much controversy.

Since the news came out that Obama was going to address our nation's children last week, my district began receiving angry parent calls... on both sides of the spectrum. Some argued that we didn't have a right to expose their children to his socialist agenda; others argued that any efforts to keep the speech from airing was racially motivated.

The district, and my principal, decided to leave the decision in the hand of each teacher rather than make a decision for all. They did, however, give parents the option of writing a note to excuse their children from any speech-related activities. Luckily for me, the speech aired during lunch, so I hadn't planned to use it yesterday anyway. I am, however, thinking of using it as a part of my persuasion unit (along with MLK Jr. and many other leaders).

I received one parent letter. Only one. But one was enough to frustrate me!

What are these parents so afraid of? The text of the speech was made public well in advance (and well before I received the letter), and it was completely innocuous.

And even if it weren't... do parents really think it's a good idea to shelter their children from any ideas that go against their own? Don't they want their children to learn to think for themselves? Whether religion or politics, I think my beliefs have only been strengthened through times of learning about alternative points of view. How do you know what you stand for if you don't know what you stand against?

If staying in school, being respectful to your teachers and setting goals for your future makes you a socialist, then I'll take my armband now.

September 8, 2009

Sweet Gift

How scrumptious does this look?

Let me tell you... it's pretty much the yummiest cupcake I've ever had in my life. It comes from Sweet Mandy B's in Chicago (Lincoln Park for all you Chi town folk). Today was my first encounter with a tasty treat from SMB, and it certainly lived up to the hype.

My friend and coworker, Jenny, has talked about this place as long as I've known her. She claims she needs a 12-Step Program for her addiction to those sweets, and I can completely understand why.

Jenny, who knows how much I adore cupcakes, picked a pink one up for me while she was there this weekend. She told me via Facebook, and I could hardly wait until today! If you follow my blog, you'll certainly remember an earlier post when I declared my love for these babies!

(P.S. Have I ever mentioned how much I love presents?)

Let me tell you. Sweet Mandy B's does not disappoint. It was so moist (even after sitting on my desk all morning... I was saving it for lunch... and practically drooling over it all morning) and vanilla-y (I decided today that vanilly is a word... go with it)... I was savoring the taste well after lunch was over.

Seriously... if you ever need a date to SMB, I'm your girl!!
Thanks again, Jenny, for the thoughtful surprise! I loooooved it!

September 2, 2009

Great Day!

Ever have a day when you know you're just on? Today was one of those days for me. I don't know how exactly it happened, but I felt like everything I've ever learned about teaching came pouring out of me during today's lessons. I had great interactions with my students, I was enthusiastic about the material, my students were extremely engaged in the lessons... it was simply perfect!

And I don't say any of that to pat myself on the back. Mostly because I'm not quite sure where it all came from. Maybe it was the Dunkin' Donuts my class won for breakfast for selling the most during our magazine drive. Whatever it was... I hope it lasts!

Boy do I wish I had been observed today!

(And with this post, I've reached 100 entries on my blog! Whew! What a milestone day!)

August 30, 2009

Cousin Bill

A couple weeks ago, my brother received a friend request on Facebook from Bill. With that request came an intriguing question, "Are you related to Mike?"

Mike, for those that don't know, is my father. And through a series of conversations, we learned that Bill is the son of our father's cousin, which makes him our second cousin.

Though we had never met (well... my mom said we met when we were babies, but that doesn't count), it was obvious we were related. As soon as I accepted his friend request, I could see the family resemblance in his pictures.

My father is an only child, so I was very excited about discovering cousins on his side of the family. Even more exciting is the fact that Bill is my age (3 years older) and lives within an hour. He called me last night to invite me to meet him and his wife. So, this morning, my sister, brother-in-law, and I drove to the marina on the Fox River and met them for some boating and brunch. It was a beautiful day (though a bit chilly on the speedboat) for a little relaxation on the lake, and we had a great time laughing together and learning about each other.


I hope this is the beginning of a long friendship with our newly found family members! :)

August 26, 2009

On Day One

On the first day of school (one week ago), my team was informed about a student that was to be on a strict supervision schedule. We were told from our principal that this child must never be out of our sight; someone has to be assigned to him from the moment he arrives at school until the moment he leaves.

We met as a team to devise a plan and agreed upon who would take him from one class to the next and how to best "hand him off" to another staff member while still being inconspicuous. I'm not going to lie, there was definitely some hesitation in the group about this immense responsibility. None of us had ever dealt with an issue like this before, and there was some concern about being able to watch him so closely while also trying to monitor the rest of our students. Nevertheless, we knew we had to move forward and try our best.

I have this student in two of my classes back to back. When the bell rang for the passing period between those classes, the student exited my room (with his classmates) and snaked his way through the crowded halls to find his friends for a few moments of socializing.

Try as I did, I lost the one kid I'm not supposed to lose on the first day of school!!!

What a great start to the year!

August 16, 2009

The Time Has Come

This past week was my last week of summer. It is bittersweet that I must return to school tomorrow for the first institute day of the school year. Though I am excited about what this year will bring, I am certainly sad to say farewell to the carefree days of summer.

For the past week, I have been a busy little bee setting up my new classroom. It was quite stressful (in a good way) finding just the right place for each piece of furniture, picking the perfect bulletin board trim, and creating a smooth flow to my classroom. Honestly, I lost sleep over these decisions. On more than one occasion, I got out of bed to sketch a classroom layout idea in an effort to quiet my mind enough to finally fall asleep! :)

When I arrived at school on Wednesday, I was surprised to see a full parking lot. For a minute, I thought I had missed an important meeting or something along those lines, but alas, it was just Schedule Day. Within minutes of entering my classroom, word got around that I was in the building, and I was enthusiastically greeted several of my former students. Although it was not a very productive time, it was so much fun to catch up with my kiddos. I truly loved the group I had last year, and I hope I love this year's group just as much (though I wonder if it is possible).

I'm going to try with all my might to fall asleep tonight at a decent time so I can get up with the birds tomorrow morning for our first institute day of the new school year. Wish me luck!

August 6, 2009

Bachelorette Weekend

I spent this past weekend in Apple Canyon Lake for Martha's bachelorette weekend. For those that don't know, Apple Canyon is located in beautiful western Illinois near Galena. If you haven't visited, you should. It's gorgeous!


We arrived around 5:00 PM Friday after a 2.5 hour drive and immediately grabbed our drinks for our golf cart excursion. Apple Canyon has a private trail that surrounds the lake, which was a ton of fun to explore. It was a great bonding experience - especially when we arrived at the flooded part and had to push the carts to the other side.

After our golf cart tour, we were invited to take a sunset tour of the lake on Annette's (a neighbor) boat. Despite the chill, it was a great tour. I seriously need to get a house on a lake with a boat. I would spend my entire day there!
When we got home, we were all exhausted (and tipsy). We had to force ourselves to make a fire because we didn't want to miss the opportunity, but we never got around to eating our s'mores. We all crashed in bed before 12:00!


The clouds threatened rain Saturday morning, so we were concerned about our beach plans for the day. We took a quick trip into town for some orange juice and ended up at a townie bar at 10:00 AM drinking mimosas in our pajamas. We were all shocked to see how packed the bar was so early in the morning, though most of the crowd was eating breakfast. We played a little shuffleboard while waiting for the clouds to clear.


At the bar, we made friends with some of the locals, and one offered to take us to see his friend's horses (Carla is a huge animal lover)... whom, by the way, was out of town for the weekend but gave him permission to bring us by nonetheless. People are so friendly in the country!


Once the skies cleared, we made our way to Galena Cellars, the winery and vineyard for a little tour and wine tasting. The vineyard itself was small but beautiful. The weather ended up being beautiful as well, so we sat in the yard with our wine and some snacks. It was such a relaxing afternoon. We learned the proper way to taste our wines and enjoyed tasting several. Until this point, I had only ever liked one kind of wine, but I walked away from this tasting with a whole list of tasty drinks. I even purchased three bottles to take home!



When we got home, we grilled some burgers and hot dogs, played a little Partini and enjoyed our second campfire - this time with s'mores. I could seriously get used to this lifestyle!

On Sunday, we spent the day lounging in the sun and playing ping pong and ladder golf. The weather was perfect, so we decided to head down to the beach and take a dip in the lake. It was a great way to wrap up our relaxing weekend. I already want to go back!

July 24, 2009

Is That a Hint?

Speaking of Wrigley....

Here I am: home alone on a Friday night. This is the perfect opportunity for me to work on the class I foolishly decided to take, but instead, I'm searching for any opportunity to procrastinate.

Wrigley is curled up in a ball at my feet, enjoying the sound (I presume) of the gentle hum of my laptop and my fingers clicking on the keyboard as I spend far too much time on Facebook.

And then it dawns on me that this is a great time for some karaoke, so I bust out my favorite Wii game: American Idol. Oh, how I love this game. The endless hours of entertainment it provides. My only complaint is that I wish I had even more songs to sing. I've searched high and low for the first edition of this game, but it is insanely overpriced on Amazon (and I cannot, for the life of me, understand why).

But I digress...

I pop in the CD, choose my favorite song, "Big Girls Don't Cry," and start belting out the lyrics (and scoring quite well, thank you). Wrigley looks directly at me, stands up, and leaves the basement!

And I thought Simon was tough!

Meet Wrigley

If you've ever read, Marley and Me, you have a pretty good understanding of how lovable yet dim-witted some dogs can be. Wrigley, our yellow lab, was just like Marley as a puppy, but now, at the ripe old age of 2, he's really much better.


Yesterday, when I let the dogs out (yes, we have two), Wrigley saw a neighbor walking past our house. He simply couldn't resist the urge to make a new "friend" and lunged toward the sidewalk, snapping his leash on his way. Luckily, he's harmless, but she was a little shaken to see a 100+ pound dog pounce towards her with his tail wagging and tongue hanging out of his mouth.


When I asked my dad today if he knew about the broken leash, his response was, "Yeah. But if you put it on him anyway, he thinks it still works."

Haha! I love my dumb dog!


July 23, 2009

Work Types

I think there are two types of people at work. The first, are those that come, do their job and go home. These people don't need to be overly chatty with their coworkers because they aren't dependent on them for emotional support or friendship. They are there to do a job, and if you don't like them, it's no skin off their backs. These aren't necessarily people who dislike their jobs or their coworkers, but they keep their personal and professional lives very separate.

My boyfriend falls into that first group. In fact, it's a miracle we're dating because we met at work. He's the guy who eats lunch in his car every day so he can listen to his satellite radio and take a little cat nap. He'd rather work alone on his tasks so he can get them done. But he is also a man who truly loves his job - it is his passion. He just doesn't care to get caught up in the office politics or drama. His coworkers are simply that; he would never call them friends.

And then there's me. More than three years after leaving Corporate America, I still have dinner dates with a group of girls I call my friends from that job. People like me crave that social interaction in the workplace. I, too, try to avoid office gossip (okay... I don't mind hearing it, I just do everything in my power to make sure I'm not a part of it), but I also recognize that the majority of my waking hours are spent in the workplace - I need friends at work! I perform better when I know I'm surrounded by those that support me. Whenever I start a new job, my biggest anticipation is related to finding a place to fit in.

Because I crave these friendships, I was nervous about the open position on our team for this upcoming year. I didn't know who we'd "get stuck with," and I was additionally nervous because I knew I'd have to plan with this person. This caused me a lot of anxiety because I worked so well with my team last year, and I wanted that same experience. I kept trying to tell myself that it didn't have to be a friend to be a good working relationship, but I knew in my heart of hearts that that's what I longed for.

Two weeks ago, we interviewed "the new girl." She had a very impressive resume, but I wanted to be present for the interview so I see for myself if she'd be a good fit. The interview went well... but I'm no fool. I've been tricked by that process in the past, so I was still holding out. Our principal hired her immediately, and she and I set a date to meet so we could go through the curriculum. Last week, at our 5 hour meeting, all of my anxieties washed away. I love this new girl. We are two peas in a pod, and we've both already established that we're going to be BFFs!

I can't tell you how good it feels to know that my new partner will be a friend!

I Love Chili's

Have you ever unintentionally ended up at a expensive restaurant wondering what in the world you can order off of an over-priced menu?

That happened to me last night. I met up with my friend Martha and her fiance, Ryan, for some wedding shopping and dinner. Both Ryan and I wanted Chili's for dinner (seriously... when do I not? I love Chili's! They have the best salsa in the world! Seriously! I wish I could make it myself.), but Martha was adamant that we needed to go someplace new. So, Ryan and I lost, and we ended up at an upscale Mexican restaurant, which shall remain nameless, instead (who knew such a thing existed?).

It wasn't until after ordering drinks (thank God I only ordered an iced tea) and diving into the complimentary chips and salsa (which didn't at all compete with my beloved Chili's) that we opened the menu to reveal the prices. There was only one salad on the menu, and even that was $13.00! Really??? Vegetarian quesedillas were $17.00! Someone needs to remind them that quesedillas are only tortillas and cheese.

Martha immediately apologized and said we could leave, but it would have been rude to do so at that point. So, I found the cheapest item on the menu (tacos) and told myself I could make it work. The worst part about it all was that it wasn't even good. I hate to admit this, but Taco Bell has yummier tacos, and those are less than a dollar!

For our next dinner date, we're going back to Chili's whether Martha likes it or not!

July 20, 2009

Girls' Night Out

Beth, a good friend from college, is getting married in just a few weeks, so we took her out this weekend to celebrate the end of her bachelorette days. I haven't gone into the city much in the past few years, but I was more than happy to make this trip to celebrate her big night. I was also really eager to see Rachel, another good friend who now lives in LA (and I never get to see... boo!). I knew it would be a night to remember!

We started off our adventures at Flirty Girl Fitness, which is an actual fitness center (as opposed to just the makers of the Flirty Girl DVDs) in the west loop that offers sexy fitness class (hip hop booty, pole dancing, cardio striptease, chair dancing, etc.). I swear if I lived in the city, I would totally sign up for a membership there. We opted to take our party to the Coyote Ugly Style Bar Dancing class, and it was a blast! Our instructor choreographed a routine to Shania Twain's "Man, I Feel Like a Woman," which was the perfect song to start the night. At the end of class, we went into the lobby to perform our routine on the reception desk for the next groups that were waiting. It was hilarious!
After our class, we enjoyed a cocktail hour at the bar (Oh yes, it's a fitness center with a full bar. I love it!) with some gifts and games. We played one of those "He said, She said" games, and it was amazing to see how well Beth and Joel know each other. I was definitely impressed at Joel's attention to detail (For example, he knew her favorite color was seafoam green. What guy knows that???).

After drinks, we went to Quartino's for dinner. If you haven't been there, you're missing out! It's an Italian tapas restaurant, which was a new concept for me. And even being the picky eater that I am, I really loved this place (especially the sangria). Good food, good friends, and good conversation. What more could a girl want?

Once we were (really) stuffed from our meal, we walked to McFadden's to kick off the dancing portion of the evening. Silly me, I left my ID at Beth's apartment, but thankfully I was able to convince the owner that I was of legal age (I don't know why, but I told him, "C'mon! I'm a teacher!!!"). The DJ played a great selection of songs (everything from top 40 to Madonna to Shania Twain to Journey) and kept us entertained well into the night. Rachel created a scavenger hunt for Beth to complete, which included getting a piggyback ride from a stranger (check) and drinking a stranger's beverage without asking (check). She was a great sport about it all!
After McFadden's, we walked down the street to Hunt Club, where I was less than impressed with the music. By this time, we were all struggling with exhaustion... we're definitely getting old! We left this club after only about 20 minutes and opted to sit at the "park" outside instead. It's funny to think that we used to do this almost every weekend in college (sometimes twice in one weekend). I know we started this day much earlier (5:00), but I still think my partying days are limited.

All in all, it was a great night. Beth was all smiles, which is, of course, the goal of a bachelorette party. And although I only met half of our group this weekend, it felt like they, too, were old friends by the end of the night. I can't wait to see everyone again at her wedding in August!

July 12, 2009

Poor Pepper!

Remember the same-sex penguin couple at the San Francisco Zoo? They hooked up back in 2003 and have nested together since. At one point, the pair even took care of an egg together. This couple was the notorious for adding fuel to the nature versus nurture fire when it comes to homosexuality. If two male penguins can find love and raise (hatch) a baby together, why can't humans, right?

Well, the word on the street is that Harry and Pepper are no longer together. Sad, right?

It all started when a female penguin, Linda, lost her companion and has "befriended" Harry. Pepper, as you can imagine, was not very pleased with the new company and reacted pretty violently, causing all three penguins to be separated. (I swear, I'm not making this up!) I mean, can you really blame him? Just who does Linda think she is coming between a happy couple?

Since the three have been reunited, Harry and Linda have nested together, leaving poor Pepper all alone. The zoo keepers say all is well, but Pepper is surely heartbroken over his loss. And then to be forced to watch Harry strut around with Linda each day... how devastating!

Harry, where is your loyalty???

July 10, 2009

Car Thieves on the Loose

A few weeks ago, I walked to the driveway, as I do every morning, and opened the door to my car. As soon as I sat down, though, I realized something was different. The entire contents of my glove compartment and armrest were spilled onto the passenger seat.

"Hmmm," I thought, "That's weird."

I immediately called my mom (who was already at work) and asked if she had been looking for anything in my car. I assumed she had been looking for my tanning lotion or something along those lines. At I dialed her number, I was a bit miffed that she would have such disregard for my things. If you need something, that's fine, but at least clean up after yourself!

"It wasn't me," she explained, "I haven't been in your car at all."

Next, I called my dad, thinking that he must have been looking for my insurance card or something along those lines. He's not exactly the cleanest person in the world, so it would be just like him to leave things on the seat once he found what he needed.

"Nope."

And then it hit me: Someone broke into my car!

Now, when I say, "broke into," I really mean "opened the door without my permission" because the doors were unlocked. I know... I know. They're locked now, I promise.

The weirdest part, though, was that I've still not been able to identify anything as missing. My navigation system and ipod were both in the house. My insurance and registration cards were both on the seat. My I-pass was firmly in place on my windshield. Nothing was missing!

Which leads me to ask, "What kind of criminal goes through all that trouble and takes nothing?"

It happened to my sister the week following while she was out of town with her husband. This time, though, they did take her tanning lotion and an old makeup bag full of free samples.

And just yesterday, it happened to a friend of mine who lives about 30 minutes away, which leads me to wonder if this is the same criminal or just the new crime.

Either way, my doors are safely locked!

July 9, 2009

NCLB: The Football Version

I saw this on a blog I follow and thought it was too good not to pass along:

No Child Left Behind: The Football Version

l. All teams must make the state playoffs, and all will win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable.
2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time and in the same conditions. No exceptions will be made for interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL
3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don't like football.
4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th games.
5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.

If no child gets ahead, then no child will be left behind.

July 7, 2009

In Memory of Michael Jackson

"Thriller" was the very first music video I ever saw. Although I don't remember it (I was just under 2 years old at the time), my dad says I was so frightened that I buried my face in his chest. The choreography of this video was so ahead of its time. I think every dancer, myself included, in the past 3 decades has learned and performed the thriller routine at least once. In many ways, it has become a "classic" dance. I can't help but smile whenever I see it performed. (Do you remember that scene in 13 Going on 30 when Jennifer Gardner leads the cast in the dance? LOVE it!)

I thought today's memorial was a beautiful tribute to the man that he was. For those that knew him personally, the message was clear: he was a a great entertainer with an even bigger heart. They portrayed him as a man who loved his family and friends deeply and worked for unity and peace across the world. More than once, I was surprised to find myself a little teary eyed as I listened to songs and stories about his life. And I completely lost it when his Paris addressed the crowd.

No matter what you thought of Michael Jackson's personal life, there's no denying he was a sensational entertainer. I've heard so many artists in my lifetime mention MJ as their inspiration, but until today's memorial, I don't know that I truly understood the magnitude of his impact on the entertainment industry. He crossed so many genres and influenced so many singers, dancers, producers, directors, etc. Entertainment, as we know it today, is what it is because of MJ.

For someone who struggled to find it in life, I hope that Michael can finally Rest In Peace.

Michael Joseph Jackson (1958-2009)

July 6, 2009

Bulletin Board Search

I don't think I ever updated my blog to say that I do have my own classroom next year! And I was lucky enough to inherit a classroom full of furniture and supplies from a retiring teacher, which was really been a blessing (she left me bookshelves full of novels... this is a huge help!).

I've been brainstorming the many ways I can arrange my new classroom and looking for ways to make my room functional yet attractive. Particularly, I've been trying to find some interactive bulletin board ideas because I have plenty of space in my new room.

I often refer to middle school as "the forgotten years" because in education, it seems like we are often overlooked (or ignored). There are plenty of resources for elementary and secondary teachers and classrooms, but it's not easy to find things that are relevant for this age group.

My bulletin board search is only proving my theory. I'm having the hardest time finding relevant, attractive, interactive bulletin boards that are geared toward my students. I'm even willing to make my own, but I was hoping to at least find some inspiration online.

Here's the part where I appeal to you, my readers. Does anyone know of any websites I can use as a resource? Do any of you have any ideas of your own for a 7th grade language arts classroom? Thank you in advance!

Independence Weekend

I thoroughly enjoyed my holiday weekend, though I didn't spend it doing any of the traditional activities. It was certainly nice to have an extra day off of work (tomorrow is my last day of summer school.... hallelujah!).

I got to spend some much-needed quality time with the boy toy. It's amazing to me that we can still spend an entire evening and the following morning together just talking. No TV. No entertainment. No distractions. We're just happy being together. I love that! He's the only person with whom I can hold a 3 hour phone conversation without getting bored. Even after all our years together, it doesn't get old.

I also got to spend some quality time with my family. I had dinner on Friday night at the Olive Garden with my sister and my parents (I swear I have a brother too... he's just never home). It was nice to have a night out with the family. I hang out with my mom and sister all the time, but it's a rare occasion to have my dad tag along. :)

Saturday was spent shopping at Woodfield with my mom and sister, enjoyed a delicious sushi lunch at Todai, visited my grandparents and my god-dog Samantha (I adore her... I need to get a picture of her!), and enjoyed a movie and fun with my sister and brother-in-law.

All in all, it was a great weekend!

July 3, 2009

The Hunt for the Perfect Jewelry

I mentioned earlier that my summer is booked with wedding-related festivities, and much of that includes assisting Martha, one of my best friends, in the planning of her upcoming nuptials. Most currently, we have been on the search for the perfect jewelry for the bridesmaids. The bride would like to purchase earrings and a necklace for her maids as a token of her appreciation, but we are having the hardest time finding the "right" pieces.

Who knew that finding the bridesmaid jewelry would be more of a search than the bride's dress?

The dresses are a champagne color with a black, lace overlay. Aren't they cute? I'm really excited about this dress because it's totally wearable again. It doesn't scream, "I'm a bridesmaid dress." (And BTW, I look exactly like the model when I wear this dress. Seriously. You wouldn't be able to tell us apart.)

Martha thinks gold jewelry with black beads or stones will look best, but some of the girls aren't sold on wearing gold.

Do you have any suggestions of where we can look for affordable jewelry that the bridesmaids are likely to wear again after the wedding?

July 2, 2009

Update

Forgive me for not updating you on Kenny's progress sooner...

After days of waiting for the swelling to subside, Kenny finally had his surgery on Monday. The doctors fixed his jaw and teeth and added a GI tube so he can get his nutrients. He won't be chewing any food for the next 8 weeks, but the doctors would like him to swallow some liquids before they release him from the hospital.

Kenny's in a lot of pain, which is to be expected, but he should make a full recovery (thank God!). He's been up and walking around a little bit this week and learning how to take care of his tube and dressings. He was a very lucky young man. The bullet actually went in beneath his jaw and came out his mouth. An inch or two in the wrong direction, and this could have been a very different update.

Now, our prayers are focused on Corey's mom and sister, who have really taken on the brunt of the responsibility for caring for him. They've been rotating nights with him in the hospital, which I know is taking a toll on them. When Kenny leaves the hospital, they will continue to care for him. Our primary concern is that they continue to take care of themselves as well because this is a very stressful situation.

June 29, 2009

Movie Date

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Elaine, my coworker, and her two adorable children, Isaac (6) and Hannah (3) for lunch and a movie. This was Hannah's very first time in a theatre, and I am happy to report that she was a fabulous little movie watcher! Elaine was sure to chronicle the event with a plethora of pictures, and I'll have to ask her for copies so I can share them with you. They're too cute for words!

After hearing so many great reviews, we chose to see the Pixar movie Up, and none of us was disappointed. Both the kids and adults thoroughly enjoyed the movie, though Hannah needed some reassurance during the "scary parts", and we spent the whole ride home quoting our favorite lines. Here are some of our favorites:

"I hate squirrels!"

"My name is Dug. I have just met you and I love you."

"Point!"

"I hid under your porch because I love you!"

"Treats. I smell treats. I like treats."

"I like you temporarily!"

I think my favorite quote of the day, though, came during the preview for The Princess and the Frog (which also looks good). While Elaine and Hannah discussed their excitement over the coming movie, Isaac proclaimed, "I wanna stay home with Daddy!"

June 25, 2009

Bad News

I knew something was wrong when I saw a missed call from Corey at 7:30 AM today. Although I am already at work by then, Corey's usually just waking up. It was one of those moments when your heart begins to pound because you just know something isn't right.

When I texted him back, he told me something happened with his nephew, Kenny. This boy has been caught in the middle of drama since about the time Corey and I met. Things have gotten progressively worse over the years, but I was still shocked to hear what happened when I called Corey during my break: Kenny has been shot in the mouth!

He's currently at Northwestern waiting for a bed in ICU. He's sedated and has a breathing tube, so we can't exactly ask him what happened. What the police have been able to gather is that he was riding a bike to a a friend's house around 3:00 AM (I know... what was he doing on the streets of Chicago at that time?) when he was shot.

At this point, it looks like he will have surgery tomorrow. Why it takes so long, I have no idea. From initial inspection, it looks like the bullet went into one cheek and out the other. He has a bunch of facial fractures and his tongue is pretty messed up, but it doesn't look like there will be any brain damage. Of course, we will know more tomorrow after the doctors are able to get him into surgery and really assess the situation.

Please keep Kenny, his family, and the medical staff in your prayers.

June 23, 2009

Broken

I knew it was coming. It wasn't a surprise. And yet... my heart is still sad for the Gosselins. (In case you've been living under a rock, Kate Gosselin has officially filed for divorce from her husband, Jon after 9 years of marriage.)

I can only imagine the type of chaos that would ensue in any family that size. For someone who has an innate need for control (which isn't necessarily a bad thing... hello... look at me!), I think Kate kicked it into overdrive in an attempt to maintain some order for her family.

I think their problems started when Kate forgot that Jon was her partner. Rather than treating him as an equal, she barked orders at him and berated him. The impression I got from watching their interviews is that Jon has had enough and is not willing to work on fixing the relationship. He just wants out.

I'm proud of Jon for finally finding his voice in his relationship. I just wish he would give himself a chance to become an equal with Kate. Instead, he's got one foot out the door and has expressed his excitement about what the future will hold.

My heart is broken for the kids.

And for me... I love that show!

June 21, 2009

On Father's Day

I have the best daddy in the entire world - and not just because he brought me into existence... though that certainly was an important contribution he made ;) - because he loves and supports me no matter what. I'm so thankful that I have a dad who is truly a part of my day to day life. My heart hurts for the many girls in the world that do not know the bond between a daddy and his daughter because everyone should have a dad like mine.

He's a dad that read me bedtime stories and dried my hair after a bath. He's a dad that brought home surprise banana milkshakes because he knew how much I liked them. He's a dad that left his job early so he could make it to my senior dance recital (which probably bored him to death) because he knew it was important to me. He's a dad that visited me in college and took me out for special meals after working a long soccer game. He's a dad that lets me start the crossword puzzles so I can answer all the easy questions.

He's also a father that loves my mother like a husband should. One of the biggest things I've learned from my dad is how a man should treat a woman. I love that he takes my mom on a movie date on a Sunday afternoon "just because" or goes shopping with her just so they can be together. I love that he still holds her hand when they walk side by side and drops her off at the door when it's raining. I'm so blessed to have been a witness to their marriage all of these years because they have been a wonderful example of how I hope my marriage will be.

You'd be hard pressed to find a man who is more dedicated to his family. He'd move mountains if that's what it took to make us happy (and sometimes, it's come close).

I love you, Daddy! Happy Father's Day!

June 19, 2009

Is it Time for a Reset?

On this evening's 20/20, the journalists explored what they are calling "The New Normal" since the economic recession in our country. One Canadian professor has called this "The Reset," a time when the American people have to stop and re-evaluate what's truly important.

Even before this recession, I've always had issues with the whole "keeping up with the Joneses" mentality because it seems that there is never any ending in sight. People I've seen fall victim to this way of thinking don't seem to ever be able to just enjoy their current place in life.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to live my life constantly lusting for more. There will always be someone with a bigger house, nicer car, newer technology, etc. I think it's pretty miserable to never be content with what you have presently, and that is my goal for myself.

I've done quite a bit of thinking about my priorities for how I want to live my life. One of the reasons Corporate America wasn't a good fit for me was because my industry required such long hours devoted to the job. I'm thankful to now have a career that I love and will allow me to be home with my children after school and during the summers.

I want a lifestyle that is comfortable but below my means (so that money is never an issue). I don't need the fanciest car or home; I don't need to fill my life with the "stuff" that brings superficial (and short-lived) happiness. I'd rather live modestly and find my happiness through my relationships with others and the experiences we share.

June 18, 2009

This Is Our Future

I cannot help but feel that we are doing a huge disservice to our youth when we pass them from grade to grade without first mastering the concepts that are taught.

As I write this, I am sitting in the computer lab while my students write their narrative essays. It's shocking, even to me, some of the things I have to explain. For example, how is it that high school students don't know how to write sentences. Even simple sentences. And I'm not even talking about the lazy kids yet; I'm only talking about those that legitimately cannot write a complete sentence to save their lives.
When I ask them to include dialogue in their papers, several students seriously asked me, "What's dialogue?" We spent an entire hour yesterday reviewing the procedures for punctuating dialogue. Not even writing it well... just punctuating it properly.

As I circulated the room a while ago, I noticed that nearly every student was writing their essay as one giant paragraph. One student tried to tell me he was done with this paper, and when I asked him, "Where are your paragraphs?" his response was, "You didn't say we needed them." Really? Do I need to tell them that capitalization and punctuation are required as well?

It's extremely disheartening to me that these students are lower than my seventh graders. Yes, I know that I am teaching to a different population and with different resources, but I cannot even begin to tell you how much I have to modify a 7th grade curriculum to make it easy enough for high school students.

My district has made it perfectly clear that they will not retain students (no matter how much they lack in academic ability) because of the emotional and social implications of holding them back. My response, though, is that we need to consider what happens to the these students when they are unable to achieve academic success because they haven't learned the basics?

Furthermore, how much of a disservice are we doing to society as a whole when we fail to provide these students with the education necessary for success outside of the classroom. I shutter to think about some of these students applying for jobs (although I teach freshmen, I have juniors in my class) because they cannot write, read or speak appropriately.

And what is the solution? How do we solve this problem? I don't have all the answers, but I think it has to start at the elementary level - and it just might include retention.

On Weddings

Wedding season is upon us (No, not mine)! My summer calendar is filling quickly with bridal parties, bachelorette extravaganzas, ceremonies and receptions. It seems like almost everyone I know is tying the knot this year (except for those that took the plunge the year we graduated from college... now that was a crazy wedding summer).

Today, I had the pleasure of accompanying one of my very closest friends (and her mother) to the bridal boutique to try on the dress she ordered months ago. I'd heard the description several times and even seen the pictures online, but neither did this dress any justice. To be honest, from her description, I was prepared not to like the dress, but she was breathtaking! It was exactly the dress I would've picked for her myself, perfectly her style and personality. I am so excited for September to come so I can stand by her side and watch her marry the man she loves.

While we were at the boutique, many decisions were made: which shoes work best? What should be worn in the hair? Which earrings match best? Is a necklace too much? etc., etc. It gets overwhelming (and expensive) very quickly, and Martha is not the best decision-maker in the world. It's a good thing I was there to help her along the way! haha

As I've helped Martha plan and prepare for her upcoming nuptials, I've learned a thing or two about my own preferences in a wedding. Even without a ring, I like to think about what "my style" of wedding will look like. I've realized that my taste is much less traditional than I once thought it would be. I no longer want to incorporate anything for the sake of tradition; I want every moment to be personal and reflective of who we are as a couple.

I'm curious, what personal touches did you add to your wedding to make it different and special?

Not Backing Down

Generally, I am very non-confrontational. My boyfriend has tried multiple times to teach me that not all confrontation is bad. While I know he's right in theory, I can't seem to get it out of my mind that confrontations lead to fights... and I hate fighting.

In the past few years, though, there have been some pretty significant situations where I've felt that I was wronged by others. In an effort to learn how to defend myself, I've been using these as opportunities for confrontation.

Even after college, I remained close friends with a group that I met in middle school. Somewhere along the line, though, those friendships changed. I no longer felt that I was valued, regarded, or even respected by this group, and it was really hurtful. With the support of my boyfriend, I learned how to express my feelings (this was hard for me) in an effort to rectify the situation. The harder part, though, was having the courage to walk away from those relationships when I felt that I wasn't being heard. This situation taught me that sometimes we confront situations and the outcome is not desirable.

Other times, though, we confront situations and the outcome is very desirable. One such instance is when I confronted an out-of-line professor for the way he treated me in class. I even had to go as far as reporting his behavior to his supervisors and appealing to a board of my peers for a grade change (which I felt was unjust). There were several times in this process that I felt it would be easier to "let it go," but because I confronted the situation, action was taken. My grade was changed, and I received a formal apology from the university for my professor's behavior.

I think that the biggest thing I'm learning in this process is that "I matter." It's not okay for someone to treat me unjustly, and I have a right to defend myself. What a great lesson to learn... even if it took me 27 years to get here.

June 16, 2009

Summer's End

Back in January, when I wasn't confident that I'd have a job for next year, I accepted an offer to teach summer school again through the College of DuPage. This is my third summer teaching in the youth education program, but this summer, I'm just not feeling it.

All I really wanted was a summer of relaxation and time to perfect my lesson plans for next year. I'm sorry, but a week of vacation does little to quench that desire.

And yet, I wake early each morning and try my hardest to find the motivation to get me through the four hours I spend teaching English 9? Oh, yes... I get to work with the freshmen. Do you remember how much fun you were back then? And I'm working with the ones that failed this class the first (and second) time around. I tell you, it's like pulling teeth to get these kids to participate (or even care)!

Today was day 2, and I'm already counting down to the end of this semester (while I still hope and pray that second semester gets cancelled).

June 8, 2009

Paid for Grades

Have you heard of Roland Fryer? He's a Harvard professor who founded a very controversial incentive program for students: cash for grades. The idea of this program is to give students an immediate incentive for learning and to decrease dropout rates.

Every five weeks, students are evaluated and earn $50 for A's, $35 for B's, and $20 for C's. Students receive half of their earnings up front and the remaining amount upon graduation. In all, there is potential for students to earn $4000 for their grades (the program stops after sophomore year). It's also important to note that this program is funded by private donors or the foundation itself, not by taxes.

In New York schools, where the program was first introduced, test scores have increased nearly 40%. That's huge!! Since some Chicago Public Schools have adopted this program, they've reported up to 86% of their students being paid. Teachers have remarked that students seem much more motivated to do well in school and have even formed their own study groups. I haven't seen any numbers related to absenteeism, but I'm willing to bet those numbers are also down since students can see the correlation between attendance and grades.

What I'm seeing here is evidence of learning. And isn't that the goal of education? I certainly don't think this program is the solution for all students, but I definitely see the positive impact it's made in many schools. Don't get me wrong, though, I can see how this program can be a huge headache for teachers - on a number of levels. But at the end of the day, I think that this works in the best interest of the students, which is why it gets my approval.

This morning, on The View, Elisabeth Hasselback suggested a scholarship match rather than cash upon graduation. What I like about that suggestion is that it still allows for the immediate gratification of payment along the way with the added benefit of having money reserved for college or a trade school. It's one more step in making higher education attainable for all students (which I believe is essential).

So, readers, what do you think? Is this a program you'd support?

June 3, 2009

Saying Goodbye

Today was our last day of school. It was bittersweet for me because it is the end of my very first year teaching. I've thoroughly enjoyed my students and will miss them in the time to come. The letter I sent home to parents pretty accurately describes my sentiments today, so I wanted to share it here:

Dear Parents,

I was given a plethora of advice about my first year teaching. I was cautioned that my first year of teaching would certainly be my hardest, and it was explained that, for better or worse, my first class was one I would never forget. I can say with absolute sincerity that I hope that both pieces of advice ring true. If so, I have a wonderful career ahead of me, and my memories will be cherished forever, for this was truly a wonderful group.

While I am a bit heart-broken to admit it, the time has come for me to "give back" your children, the same children you entrusted to me back in August. I do not give them back in the same condition, however, for we have grown immensely together in my classroom this year. Instead, I give them back as accomplished writers, fluent readers, improved listeners, and confident speakers.

It has been my absolute privilege to observe your children's personalities unfold each day. We've learned, laughed, studied, encouraged, and enriched each other's lives this year. I wish it could go on a bit longer, but give them back, I must!

Remember that I will always be interested in your children. Whatever their futures hold, whatever paths they take, I will be delighted to hear. Please enjoy every moment with them; they are so precious.

Always your friend,
Miss L

May 26, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I'm a glutton for reality television. One show that I love, in particular, is the "Real Housewives." There's something about watching these entitled women live their drama-filled, luxurious lifestyles that I will never experience that captivates me. Maybe it's envy, or maybe it's disgust. Either way, I'm hooked. The Bravo series has been on for a few seasons now and seems to add a new cast each year. So far we've seen...
Orange County with their oranges

New York with their apples
Atlanta with their peachesAnd New Jersey with nothing. Hello, Garden State! Give the girls some flowers!It's only a matter of time until we see a Chicago cast, and I'm dying to know which "forbidden fruit" those ladies will hold in the opening credits. Do you think they'll go with deep dish, Italian beef, or a hot dog? :)