Monday, April 18, 2016

This weekend...

We had a beautiful weekend here in Pennsylvania!  It was very much needed after being sunny but still quite chilly for the last couple of weeks.

Scott was off of work, so we had a fun and productive weekend!

We started off by attending a local fire department fundraiser on Friday evening.  It was a 200 Club fundraiser, where they pull ticket numbers and every 10th number called wins cash prizes with the last 5 tickets called being guaranteed winners.

We did win $50, but that was the cost of our ticket, and with all of the other money we spent to try to win, it was a loss overall.  Still, we had a good time, and that's all that matters.

On Saturday, we got up early and got to work outside.  We are going to be siding our house this summer.  So Scott started taking off some of the old siding and putting up insulation sheets.  Meanwhile, I was burning card boxes (we had a TON), and my brother-in-law finally came to cut down the huge, scary pine tree in our yard.

Once we gave up on working for the day, Scott and I took the motorcycle out for a ride and got some lunch.

Then we met up with friends for a night out and some karaoke!


Yesterday, we did some more yard work as we now have to clean up all of the tree debris from our yard.

Then sore, sunburned, and exhausted, we napped on the couch.

Thankfully, this beautiful weather is sticking around this week.  I can't wait to get my students outside for recess!

How was your weekend?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Teacher Thoughts: The Woes of State Testing


Day 1 of State Testing is in the books.  In Pennsylvania, my students take the PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment).  While there are some important factors involving our school's scores, this post is not about the evil woes regarding job status or school funding.

This is about boredom.

I.  Am.  So.  Bored.

As I type this, we have only completed our first day (see beginning of post).  My students are having some extra recess (indoors because it's rainy and miserable here today).

My lesson plans for the next three weeks are finished.  I really and truly don't have anything pressing that needs to be done.

Which makes me think that I must be forgetting something.

During the testing we are not allowed to be on the computer or doing anything constructive because we are to be "actively monitoring" the students.  Also known as "stare at them and watch them take a test."

I don't put pressure on my kids.  All I ask is that they do their best.  I'm not going to give 11- and 12-year-olds an ulcer because I want them to score well to help me.  It's not worth it.  Having them develop anxiety over test taking is not one of my objectives as a teacher.

We tested for most of the morning.

Then we watched about half of a movie before lunch (they requested The Princess Bride).  Then I have mostly been letting them have recess since.  Hopefully, we can get outside at some point this week.

I read a book while they were at music class.

I.  Am.  So.  Bored.

What's state testing week like in your state?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Serial Podcast: Part 2

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Yesterday, I shared my thoughts about Season 1 of Serial.

Today, it's on to Season 2: The Bowe Bergdahl Story

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I'm going to just come right out and say what everyone is I'm thinking: Season 2 sucked.  And it was kind of a weird thing for me.  I kept listening because I wanted something to listen to.  I was kind of bummed when I listened to the most recent episode and Sarah said it was the last, but at the same time, I was glad it was over.

I'm a very complicated person.

With that being said, here are some of my thoughts on why this season was less than enjoyable:

For starters, Adnon's story in season 1 leaned more toward investigative reporting.  There was a real question to be answered: Is Adnon Syed guilty?  Many people still aren't sure.  Others have made up their minds one way or another.  Either way, I feel that people still want to know what's going to come next for Adnon.  Will he get a new trial?  Will his conviction be upheld?

Season 2 really didn't seem to lend itself to investigative reporting.  Sure, there were some questionable things that Sarah Koenig looked into, but ultimately, there's no pressing question here.  Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his Army unit.  The end.  You can question his motives.  You can look into why this happened, but in the end, the outcome is still the same.  He deserted.

Throughout this season, it's mentioned that Bowe was trying to make a statement that he felt his commanding officers were deliberately sending men into danger.  I honestly can say that I don't think walking off in the middle of Afghanistan is the best way to make your point.  Most of us who are pissed off with our bosses or colleagues at work just simply whine about it to a trusted friend then suck it up and deal.

In Bowe's defense, after learning that he was discharged from the Coast Guard, I do not understand how he was allowed to join the Army or why the Army did not take this discharge more seriously.  It does seem that this situation could have been avoided had Bowe not been allowed in the armed forces.  But alas, it did happen.

I just don't feel like Season 2 really brought any sort of new or interesting information to the table.  It just seemed to explain why some people are pissed off at Bowe and why other people aren't.  The only truly unanswered question was whether or not men and women were killed in the line of duty while specifically searching for Sgt. Bergdahl.

What it comes down to for me is this: Season 1 made me feel sympathy for Adnon Syed.  Season 2 failed to make me have any sympathy whatsoever for Bowe Bergdahl.  Was it awful that he was a prisoner of the Taliban for 5 years?  Absolutely.  I would not wish that sort of situation on anyone.  BUT he walked off.  He knew the risk he was taking.  He did not take the appropriate routes to present his problems to those in authority.  There are consequences for our actions, and those were Bowe's.  I am glad that we were able to bring him home safely to his family because no one deserves to lose their son or daughter.

To me, though, there's no case here.  He walked off.  There's nothing to look into.

What are your thoughts on Season 2?


Monday, April 4, 2016

Serial Podcast: Part 1


I know there are so many people out there who have listened to the Serial podcast, and I, too, have been swept up in the phenomena.  I felt that with end of Serial, Season 2, that I would take a bit of time to share my thoughts here in my little corner of the Internet.

So let's talk about Serial, Season 1: The Adnon Syed Story.

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A quick recap for anyone who's been living under a rock those who may not know: Adnon Syed was tried and convicted for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999.  Sarah Koenig is a journalist who researched the case and hosted the podcast.
Despite being convicted of this crime, there are circumstances surrounding the case that are very questionable.  These circumstances are what made the case interesting enough for investigation and a podcast.  To me, the podcast was like a drawn-out episode of something on Investigation ID (i.e. a True Crime drama), and it was extremely interesting.
After finishing the first season, I was left truly questioning if Adnon was actually guilty.  At the very least, I am certain that Adnon deserves a new trial.  There are so many things that don't add up: Jay's stories, lack of evidence, lack of physical evidence, alibi witnesses that weren't contacted, etc. etc. etc.  Whether he did it or not, I do not understand how  a jury convicted Adnon with what the State presented.  
When Season 1 of Serial ended, another podcast related to Adnon's case began:
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This podcast is hosted by Rabia Chaudry (a friend of Adnon's family), Collin Miller, and Susan Simpson, and it really delved into the legal side of Adnan's case.  I will admit, this podcast is definitely biased toward Adnon; however, they did closely examine many different aspects of Adnon's case.  Despite the heaviness on law, I also found this podcast interesting.  The three hosts took a good look at the documents and evidence related to Adnon's case, and I can honestly say that at this point, I really don't think that Adnon committed this murder.
Recently, there was a hearing regarding a few important aspects of Adnon's case.  The judge's ruling could result in Adnon receiving a new trial.  Sarah Koenig, Rabia, and Susan were in attendance at the hearing (although, Rabia ended up being sequestered and was not able to attend most of it).  
I'm extremely interested to see what the outcome of the hearing will be.
Have any of you listened to Serial and/or Undisclosed?
What are your thoughts?
Do you think Adnon is guilty?

Friday, April 1, 2016

March Books


Thank goodness for Audible, or I would've completely failed at reading this month!  It was a very busy March, and I had things going on every weekend.  So I really just didn't have much time to sit down and actually read a book.

Alas, here's what I did "read" in March:

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I really loved this book! I think it might be tied with FanGirl for my favorite Rainbow Rowell book.

I also listened to this one on Audible. I was thrilled that the narrator from FanGirl and Landline was back to read Eleanor's sections of the book. I liked that this book had a male narrator for Park's sections of the book.

I honestly don't have anything specific that I liked or disliked about the story. I just really enjoyed the book! Really deep, I know. But that's how it is. :)



TarnishTarnish by Katherine Longshore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I can't say that I loved this book, but I did like it. Tarnish is the story of Anne Boleyn before she becomes fully entangled with King Henry VIII.

I have read book after book on Henry VIII English court, many of them by Philippa Gregory, and I've read many others about Anne Boleyn. I felt like this one didn't quite "fit" with what I feel I've learned about her through other authors. Of course, this is historical FICTION, and a lot of what is presented in the books I've read is speculation. I think that overall, the other books I've read by different authors have paralleled each other more.

Since I listened to this book on Audible, I can say that I did enjoy the narrator.





Thursday, March 24, 2016

Stuff & Things: Daily Routine

Stuff, Things, etc.

Yesterday, Joey  published a post about mornings, and it included her routine.  I was inspired to write a post about what my regular daily routine looks like.

(Although, this is NOT my routine today, as I am on Easter break!)

6:00 A.M.  The alarm goes off on my phone.  I turn it off, turn on the local news on TV, and proceed to spend a half an hour checking my social media, email, and taking my turn in Yahtzee and/or Words with Friends.  (This time also often involves making a post on Facebook or Twitter about how bad I am at or how much I hate mornings....)

6:30 A.M. Pry myself out of bed to the bathroom to wash my face and put in my contacts.  Then I usually put on one of the shows on the DVR to "watch" while I do my make-up and hair and get dressed.

7:10 A.M.  This is NOT the ideal time.  I'd prefer it to be 7, but as I can't get out of bed until 6:30.... I go downstairs to make my breakfast protein shake.  (Although, last week, I made yummy, healthy banana nut muffins from The Balanced Life Sisterhood February Recipe Bundle to have each day.)

7:25 A.M. Out the door to drop my niece off at school and head to work.

8:00 ish A.M.  I usually arrive at school around 8 or a little after.  Our teacher report time is 8:10.  I get into the building, check my mail, go to my classroom, turn on my classroom lamps (I hate fluorescent lighting), and maneuver the desks back to where they're supposed to be.

8:10 A.M. Depending on the day, I either get to chill/work in my classroom until my students arrive, chat with my friend Kim who works in the building, go to rehearsal with the teacher's singing group I'm in, or attend a meeting.

8:30 A.M.-3:35 P.M.  Students arrive at 8:30, and from then on I am herding cats, so to speak.  I teach three 80 minute English Language Arts (Reading & Writing) classes each day.  Mixed in there is a 40 minute morning planning time, lunch, and at the end of the day a 30 minute enrichment/remediation period or activity period.

3:35 P.M.  Buses are gone (if we're lucky), and I hop in the car to head back home!

4:15 ish P.M.  Arrive at home and go inside to change for my workout.

4:30 P.M.-5:30 P.M.  Work Out (lately this has been walking on the treadmill and a #30DayPilatesBody routine

5:30 P.M. Make dinner

6:00 P.M.-9:00 P.M. ??- The rest of my day depends on what needs to be done.  I've started trying to do at least one cleaning task each day.  Ideally, I would like to be in bed by 9, but more often, I am getting READY for bed at 9 including showering, Bible reading, etc.  Some days, I consider it lucky if I'm asleep by 10.

So  what's your daily routine look like??

Friday, March 18, 2016

Teacher Thoughts: Book Source


As a teacher, I have built quite a large collection of books for my students.  As a 6th grade English Language Arts (ELA) teacher, I feel that it is my duty to have a good selection of books for my students to read.

My first year of teaching 6th grade, I inherited a decent amount of books from previous teachers who retired and left books behind.  I added to this collection with books that I had as a child/teen and continued to build my library with my Scholastic Bonus Points.

Then I started to notice that books had gone missing.  Despite having what I thought was a check out system, it was truly impossible to tell who really did have my books.

Enter Book Source.


I wish I could say that I remembered how I came across this, but I don't.  All I know is that it has made a HUGE difference in how I track who has books from my classroom library.

The first thing that I did was download the app.  There is also a corresponding website, which is what I use most often in the classroom. 

Here's how I got things set up:

1.  I created an account when I downloaded the FREE app.





2.  I spent a great deal of time during my summer break entering books into my library.  
You can do this by scanning the EAN code on the book or manually entering ISBN numbers.  I had to use both methods.  I had books that were so old that they didn't even have ISBN numbers, so I just created listings myself.  I also had books that did not have a bar code or didn't have a bar code containing the ISBN, so I manually entered those, too.  I used the website to add any listings that I couldn't scan with my phone.  (I promise, that after the initial time commitment, it's not time consuming at all!)  As I get new books, I quickly scan them with the app and add them to the collection.

3.  Set up Login Information and Passwords for students.
Once I had the library set up, I created a classroom ID and password for both the students and I to login to the website.  From here, you also create a separate teacher password to access the teacher page to do things like manage students or the library.  I added the first name and last initial of all of the students that would come to my classroom this year and gave them all a general password.

Now, the set up was completed!  

During the first week of school, discussing my classroom library was on my list of introductory things to discuss with my students.  I have a poster hanging by the computers that goes through the steps of logging in and checking out books.

When a student picks out a book from my library, he goes to the website and logs in.  Then he clicks on the student tab, searches for his name, clicks on it, and searches for the book he has chosen.  Once he finds the book, he clicks "check out," and voila!  Book checked out.  I don't need to do anything.  I can pull up a list of students who have out books if I notice one is missing.

Students can return books on their own, but I prefer to be in control of that.  When a student finishes a book, they bring it to me to return.  I can scan it back in with the app on my phone or use the website.  I have a bin in my library for students to put the book back, and my classroom librarian will file it later.



I have it set so students can only check out 1 book at a time, and I know exactly who has it and how long it's been checked out!



As you can see, I have 740 titles in my library, and this has been a HUGE help!  

Teacher friends, do you have a system for managing your classroom library?


I was not approached by or compensated in any way by Booksource.com for this post.  All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

 
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