June 21, 2010

Blog2Print

I just stumbled across a link for Blog2Print. Are you familiar with this? Basically, it allows you to turn the pages of your blog into a book. What a cool concept! (I realize this has probably been possible for quite some time, but this is the first I've heard of it... and I think it's awesome!)

I think it would be such an incredible gift to give your children a book of your thoughts and observations about them! How entertaining would it be to experience your childhood through your mother's eyes?

I know a few people that have blogged about their work as missionaries. What a great way to turn those memories into a keepsake for your family!

(No, I am not paid for my comments... I am just easily excited about small things in life!)

Interview Update

This afternoon was the interview. I was surprisingly calm once I got into the room and started the Q&A session. The group was asking me some standard teaching questions and recording their ratings on a sheet they had in front of them. I didn't feel like I said anything earth-shattering, but I also wasn't thrown off by anything they asked.

I was told that I was one of twelve candidates today, and that they were looking to narrow down that pool to five for the second round. Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call inviting me to a second interview before I even got home!

So, now I get to go back on Thursday for round two. I will meet with another group (I think) of teachers for more Q&A, and then I will teach them mock lesson. I've never done this before, so it's pretty stressful, but at the same time, this is supposed to be the fun part. Let me show them what I can do!

I'm anxiously awaiting my "teaching assignment" from the principal so I can start planning.

I'll let you all know how it goes!

June 19, 2010

Living by Candlelight

Yesterday afternoon, a burst of violent storms charged through the Chicagoland area. They didn't last long, but it managed to knock our power out almost instantly.

It wasn't bad, at first, because I sat at the window for quite some time watching the storm attack our home. I tend to become very anxious during this kind of weather, but at least it keeps me busy.

Like I said, though, the storm didn't last long. Within the hour, the sun was peeking through the clouds, and we were left with no power... and nothing to do.

The saving grace around here was the fact that we somehow still had an Internet connection, so we busted out our laptops and watched the batteries drain as we played on Facebook. But even that got boring after a while... and I, for one, didn't want to use all of my battery while there was still an evening of potential darkness ahead.

My brother and I decided to go out to dinner since it would give us something to do. I guess that's a pretty big bonus, since I don't recall my brother and I ever before going out to eat just the two of us.

When the power was still out upon our return at 8:00, I packed a bag and headed to a friend's house for the evening. Half way there, my brother called to tell me the power had returned.

Hallelujah! Let life resume!

Seriously, though... what did people do before electricity?

June 18, 2010

Just a Little Somethin'

As soon as I was let go from my school, my amazing co-workers began offering advice, encouragement, recommendation letters, and phone calls on my behalf to anyone they knew in other districts. I have to say, that it felt really good to have such support from the people who worked with me daily, from the people that genuinely know what my classroom looks like and what it's like to collaborate with me on a team.

It's no secret that most people get their jobs because of who they know. But in this economy, living in a state that just laid off over 22,000 teachers, it is even more important than ever. So, I've truly appreciated every time they've reached out to one of their friends for me.

One of those contacts may just be paying off. This morning, I received a call from another suburban district offering me an interview for this coming Monday. They have several open positions in English and Social Studies at the middle school level, any of which I'd be lucky and happy to accept.

The interview is only scheduled to last 30 minutes, and I know they have several candidates coming in... but I have my foot in the door, and that's a good start!

And for the first time ever, I am just as anxious to see if I will like them as I am to see if they will like me. I know, I know... a job is a job. But when you come from where I'm coming from, you understand the importance of finding a school that offers a "right fit."

Here's to hoping we're a "right fit" for each other.

June 14, 2010

The Hunger Games

If you haven't yet gotten your hands on this novel, you simply must! I bought four copies of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games for my classroom this year and could not keep them on my shelves. Everyone, even my reluctant readers, gave the book high remarks. I was finally able to read it in May, once my students returned my books for the year, and it definitely lived up to the hype.

The story takes place in Panem, which is divided into 12 districts and ruled with an iron fist by the Capitol. And to make sure no one questions their authority, the Capitol holds the annual Hunger Games, which sends one boy and one girl from each district to fight to the death... literally. The winner of The Games, not only spares his or her life, but also brings food to his or her struggling district for the next year. And just for fun, The Games are televised for all to see - think Roman gladiators on reality tv.

This year, Katniss Everdeen has volunteered to take her sister's place in The Games along side Peeta, the baker's son. She knows that the livelihood of her mother and sister depend on her survival and must use every resource to her advantage to do so. It soon becomes clear, though, that she must not only win the games but also the approval of her audience. She tries balance what is necessary for survival and the need to keep her humanity, but can she do both?

If you enjoy reading books on the computer, here's an electronic copy to read.

June 13, 2010

How I'm Spending My Summer

This is the first summer I've had off since I turned 15, and I'm loving it! How am I staying busy, you ask? Here's my current To Do List:

1. Sleep in as late as I want
2. Have long, leisurely lunches and dinners with friends and family
3. Swim in my uncle's pool
4. Relax in mom's swing
5. Catch up on reading (Currently reading Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)
6. Work on my tan
7. Organize my novels for my classroom library (yes... this is fun for me)
8. Secure a job for the fall
9. Catch up on some scrapbooking
10. Visit the dentist for the first time in way too long
11. Spend an amazing week with my family when they visit from New Jersey
12. See Eclipse with cousin Shannon while she's in town
13. Eat some wings at Buffalo Joe's with cousin Bill and Heather
14. Attend a wedding for a pseudo-North Park reunion with my college roomie
15. Purge and donate unused items in my closet
16. Spend a day at the Lake Michigan beach with Ashley
17. Sister fondue night
18. Watch Precious, which I have already declared as one of my favorites even though I've never seen it because I am that confident I'll love it
19. Continue lengthy phone and Skype dates with Corey
20. Schedule a trip to New York to see Corey

I'm sure there are things I forgot, but that's enough to keep me busy for a while! ;)

June 3, 2010

Who I Am

It's no secret that most people don't look back on their middle school years very fondly. And it's no wonder when you consider how much things start to change during this time. Not only are bodies going through physical and hormonal changes, but this is the time when we all start figuring out who we are and the place we have in the world. Working in the middle school, I love being a witness to how my students navigate this time in their lives.
And then, I ask them to do something that would be difficult for most adults to accomplish. I ask them to describe themselves in an "I Am" poem through metaphor. We spend an entire week brainstorming, writing, revising and editing this piece, and then my students create a three dimensional visual to represent their poems. The results, I'm certain you will agree, are both thoughtful and fabulous, showcasing the individuality of each student!
Perfectly representing the changes that occur in during this phase of life, this student represented himself through an "Ever-Changing Chameleon":
This year, there was quite a food theme in my classroom. This student talked about each layer of the "All American Burger" and how it represented the multiple layers of her personality:

We know kids love sweets, but I was amazed at the level these girls were able to take their metaphors of M&Ms and Sour Patch Kids, demonstrating not only themselves but their relationships with others:


Here's a "Dolce and Gabbana Stiletto" waiting to be worn rather than just admired on a shelf:

Here's a "Radiant Yet Fading" sunflower that's desperately hoping her petals can stay in bloom despite the harsh seasons to come:

The student that created this "Changing River" is the one who hated everything we did this year! He was my biggest source of frustration not because his apathy and lack of effort was sometimes contagious in the classroom but also because I knew he was capable of better. When we'd journal in class, he was notorious for writing one or two sentences and then responding with, "I don't know what else to say," when prompted for more. Admittedly, I came to expect very little from this student, which made this project all the more impressive. Not only was his poem very thoughtful and reflective, but his visual stood out. Even his classmates were surprised to see how he completely surpassed our expectations in this unit.
I'm continually amazed by how insightful my students can be and how they stretch their minds to create these beautiful metaphors to share who they are. One of my favorite parts is seeing how this project unites the class because they are forced to be vulnerable in sharing their truths; I am proud of the way they encourage and praise each other for this work. I hope, hope, hope I have the opportunity to teach poetry again in my next position because I would love, love, love to continue to use this meaningful lesson.