Tuesday, February 27, 2007

You're not as think as you tall you are...

I have a new student in my homeroom. He's 16, and very tall. He's hard to miss. For some reason, even though he is a 10th grader, he is placed in a 9th grade homeroom. Now, while he is tall, he thinks he is even taller. From the first day in class, he's been proclaiming his height as 6'8". He's a bit obnoxious about it. I have a little experience with tall people (Hi, Kevin!), so I'm thinking he's more like 6'3" or 4".

The other day, while on hall duty (and we're STILL not letting those students distract us), Suzanne spotted him going in to my room. Suzanne is 5'10", and also a pretty good judge of height (being on the lookout for a tall man, and all). Anyway, I told her his height fantasy. At that point, the bell rang, and we scurried off to our respective rooms.

Not 2 minutes later, Suzanne walks in to my room, toting a yard stick! Without a word, she marks off 6 feet on my wall with her pencil, and beckons tall boy. He stands against the wall, and Suzanne marks his height on the wall. Mind you, she's not yet spoken. Finishes marking the wall, indicates for gigantor to sit down, and measures from the 6' mark on the wall to the mark she just made. Turns to the class, announces "6 feet, 3 and 3/4 inches",and walks out.

Is this best teaching practices? Have I mentioned that Suzanne may be my favorite person - - ever?

BTW - Andre (an in 'the giant') informed everyone that her ruler was wrong. He is still insisting his height is 6'8". As mom would say, "Whatever blows your skirt up!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Winter's Last Blast (I hope...)

Woke up Sunday morning to 3+ inches of snow. Quelle suprise! (Betcha didn't know I was all international like that, huh?) Anyway, it was unexpected.

Needless to say, we didn't go to church. Before it got too late, I ventured out to buy the Sunday paper and a few snow day necessities. One thing I bought while out was a cheap snow shovel. Good choice! I got stuck turning in to the driveway. Couldn't go forward, couldn't go back. And no, I wasn't in my one-of-a-kind rear-wheel drive Jeep. I was in Mom's car, with front-wheel drive. Anywho, I got out my shiny, new shovel, and managed to clear the snow from around the front tires, and for a few feet beyond. That was enough to get the car in the driveway, and stowed safely in the garage. Whew!

As the day wore on, it became clear that the storm was not as bad one county over. The county where I teach. The county where I would probably have to drive to the next day. School was already cancelled in Madison, but was still on for Greene. OK, I have a shovel, and I'm not afraid to use it!

So I did. For almost 2 hours, I shoveled the driveway. I am woman, hear me groan...

Sure enough, school was on for today. And I was able to get out of the driveway. Life is good.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Blessings from 2/18-2/24

  1. Survived a thermite reaction (more about that below)
  2. Beautiful weather for much of the week
  3. Early dismiss yesterday for work afternoon - got much done
  4. Got in exercise 3 days this week
  5. Stayed OP, even if the scale didn't move much this week

OK - the thermite reaction. Tom decided a couple months ago that he wanted to show the kids a thermite reaction in class. A thermite reaction is what some experts think was used to bring down the twin towers. Yeah, a little nervous-making. For a more practical application, a thermite reaction extracts native iron (pig iron) from hematite (rust, basically). Since we talk about ores and such in Earth Science, it has relevance (barely). He presented his request to administration, and made them very twitchy. Eventually, they gave permission, and we were on 'Go' for Thursday.

How it works: Thermite is a mixture of hematite (powdered rust) and aluminum powder. Hematite isn't scary, aluminum powder is. This stuff ignites when exposed to water. So, get some in your eye? Inhale a little too much dust as you pour the powder? Not a good idea...

Anyway, you mix the hematite and aluminum, and put the mixture in a small clay flowerpot (hole covered in the bottom). Put that flowerpot in another flowerpot, and suspend both in a ring stand. Stick a sparkler in the thermite for a fuse. Fill a coffee can with dry sand, and place under the suspended pots. Light the sparkler, and run like hell.

What happens? Well, the sparkler ignites the thermite, which sets off the reaction. This reaction generates heat in excess of 2500 degrees F! As you watch this fireball, you can see molten material flowing out of the hole in the bottom of the second flowerpot, in to the coffee can filled with sand. Soon, the coffee can is glowing. When the reaction is over (about 2 minutes for this amount of thermite), you can see a white-hot lump of molten iron resting in the sand. When it cools, you have a lump of pig iron! Needless to say, nothing is left of the hematite and aluminum mixture, and the container flowerpot is ash.

Really neat, huh? Things went like clockwork 2nd period - everyone behaved, stayed back behind the marked line, the sparkler lit without incident. Yay! Fast-forward to 7th period...

All day, the wind was getting stronger. By 7th period, we had gusts up to 30 mph. Hard to light a sparkler in the wind. Tom enlisted my help - I had a large piece of cardboard to hold up beside his weapon of mass destruction to help block the wind. He decided to light another sparkler in the building, and use it to light the sparkler in the thermite. OK - let's look at that word "sparkler." Notice anything? Yeah, as he was trying to light the sparkler in the thermite, a spark ignited the reaction! I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life.

Don't try this at home...

Monday, February 19, 2007

just a little gassy

Followup on the water problem at school. Right after lunch (right after I stood in line to pee in one of the two available stalls) an announcement was made to evacuate the buildings. Evidently, while trying to fix the water pipe, the backhoe hit the gas line. Everybody was evacuated to various buildings around town by grade level. 9th grade homerooms (that's me!) trekked to the Primary School gym, where chaos reigned.

After 30 minutes or so, we were told we could herd the students back to the High School. Was the water fixed? No. Was the gas line fixed? No.

School was dismissed at 12:30 due to "utility problems." Ya think?

Hold your water...

The principal just announced that we have a broken water pipe. He's asked that, until further notice, everyone use the bathrooms by the cafeteria - all others are closed.

900 people, 4 stalls. You do the math.


I'm spending 4th period in Pi. Pi stands for 'Positive Intervention', and is a place in the school where students who are having issues can spend any where from 45 minutes to the entire day. It's designed to keep kids in the special education program out of ISS (In-School Suspension). As such, Pi is staffed by an assistant and a Sped teacher all day. I don't have regular Pi duty, unless the assistant is out for some reason. She is out today. Now, she schedules the students who are to be in Pi all day (discipline issues), and she knew she was going to be out today. As a result, no students are scheduled. However, teachers can send students to Pi throughout the day for short stretches - to take a test, to calm down, or just to get a problematic student out of the classroom. So, here I sit. So far, I've had one guy come in to take a test he missed last week. Otherwise, I've been just hanging out, wasting time.

I brought my flash drive, thinking I could work on some presentations for later this week. Evidently, Pi people don't need newer computers - there's no USB port on this one for my drive. So much for good intentions. I've checked and answered my emails, I've checked on my online class, and now I'm waiting for the bell, and lunch.

Oh, and the room number? 3.14


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Weighty topics

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'm attending WW meetings with a co-worker, Tom. He is a scientist, first and foremost, and is very opinionated. While it can be difficult to have a conversation with him (he knows everything about everything - just ask him), he is also a very kind person. He is very serious about losing weight, and is a good accountability buddy for me.

Last week he started talking about the fact that he bought a juicer over the holidays, and wanted to start using it. Evidently, his brother comes over regularly and juices up various vegetables. Lately, his brother has been buying and juicing organic carrots. So much so, he's turning a bit orange! Tom thinks this may be a good idea - he has dark Italian coloring, so he thinks it will look like he has a tan! This should be interesting...

Anyway, on Thursday, Tom was asking me how many points are in 5 large carrots (the number he wanted to juice up for the day). I looked it up, and told him they would be about 3 points - not bad (if you like carrot juice). Later that day, while I was on the computer in his class taking attendance while he got the class started, he walked over and opened his desk drawer next to me. In that drawer was the biggest carrot I've ever seen. It was ginormous! I started laughing, and had to make up a phony story to explain what I was laughing at for the students. Explaining to a class of ninth graders why Mr. D had a huge carrot in his desk was just too problematic.

Today, while at our WW meeting, we were both pretty happy with our losses for the week. While we were sitting, waiting for the meeting to start, Tom exclaims "Look! I'm crossing my legs!" I almost fell out of my chair laughing at him. He was so excited because he was able to cross his legs again. I guess you take your pleasure where you find it.

We've been trying to get a couple other teachers to join us at our weekly WW meetings - so far with no success. One teacher in particular has some health issues that make it important that she lose about 50 pounds. She has excuses every week about meeting us at WW. I told Tom this morning that I thought the real reason may be the cost of the program. While it's very reasonable (about $10 a week if you do a monthly pass), she's going through a nasty divorce, and has to be very careful with her finances right now. Tom wasn't aware of this, and decided to do something about it. Before the meeting started, he snuck (hard for a 280-lb man to sneak) up the front of the room and picked up a 'start-up' booklet. This book basically explains the program - giving food plan options and 'how to get started' tips, as well as a points calculator. I think the leader would have given it to him, if he asked, but he just got it for himself. With this book, you can (if you have the willpower) do WW on your own. He said he's going to give it to this teacher, as well as other material we get weekly. Is it wrong? Maybe - but either one of us could give her the material we have if we wanted to do so - this is my 2nd time with WW, so I have all the material from the last time. I'm making up a WW package for her this weekend of all my extra stuff. Maybe it will get her motivated to start losing the weight.

My totals so far this time around? 12 pounds in one month! Not too shabby.

Blessings for the week 2/11-2/17

  1. 2 days off school, and 2 delayed openings. I got some sleep-in time!
  2. Continued weight loss
  3. Laughing with friends
  4. Valentine phone calls from all three men in my life (and I mean my husband and sons!)
  5. Friends who will give me a ride to work when I can't get out of my driveway

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Home again, home again

The weather forecast for the past few days has been dire - a huge winter storm is on its way, and will dump snow and ice on us for at least 2 days this week. Up until yesterday sometime, the forecast was for this storm to hit sometime last night, and continue through today. I went to bed last night, with the revised forecast ringing in my ears, resigned to going to work today.

When I got up this morning at 5:15, sure enough, there was not a speck of snow or ice. I took my shower, got ready for school, packed my lunch, and made breakfast. As I was getting ready to leave (around 7:00), I picked up the remote to turn off the morning news. Just then, the announcement came that my school system was closed for the day. What? I'm dressed! I put on makeup! I already ate my breakfast, for cripes sake! Jeez...

It's now after noon, and all we have is rain so far. They (meaning the TV weather forecasters) are still saying we're going to get a bunch of ice. We could have gone to school for at least 1/2 day today. Now we're looking at (maybe) being out of school for most of this week. Now we're looking at making up days during Spring break or (heaven forbid) in June.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Planning ahead

The weather is supposed to turn bad again tomorrow night. This time, the forecast is for sleet and freezing rain turning into snow later on Tuesday. Here we go again with my piece of crap car.

This afternoon, after the bball game (we lost to Maryland, but it was a very good game), I went out to the store. I usually go on Sundays to get lunch and some dinner stuff for the week. When I walked in to Food Dog, they had a stack of 50-pound bags of Halite (Ice Melt). Great idea! I bought a bag, and hefted it in to the back of my Jeep. I figure, I can use it to help melt the ice on the driveway AND it can weigh down the back of my car and help with traction. Good idea, eh?

We'll see...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blessings from last week 2/4 - 2/10

  1. More snow, but this time no ice, so we were able to get out and about fairly quickly.
  2. Related to #1, good neighbors who plow driveways and roads.
  3. Continued weight loss
  4. Even with a snow day on the day my IEP from hell was scheduled, I managed to have the meeting on Friday and get it done.
  5. Ken was able to come up for a visit this weekend.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Where is everybody?

We had a day off school due to snow yesterday. This snow was very different than the storm we had a couple weeks ago. No ice, no freezing. Cavanaugh came yesterday morning and plowed our drive and road, so I was able to get out as early as yesterday after lunch. Even my sorry rear-wheel drive car had no problems.

Because of back roads and such, we have a 2-hour delay this morning. Now, in NC, a 2-hour delay meant the students were 2 hours behind, but teachers were to get in as close to normal opening time as possible. I never liked that unwritten rule too much, but it didnt' come into play very often. So I wasn't sure what time teachers were to report today.

Yeah, it's 8:30, and I'm the only one here on my hall. Evidently, I didn't have to be here until 9:30 - just like the students. Does that mean I get to leave at 2:00?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

No school tomorrow! We have (so far) about 1/2 inch of powdery snow here in Madison. I think there is a bit more over in Greene, since they closed schools already.

We have two 'banked' days, so we don't have to make up the day. My IEP meeting from hell was scheduled for tomorrow, so I don't have to face that. Yeah, it will have to be rescheduled, but that just gives me a bit more time to be ready for it.

Today, Suzanne decided that we had offended the snow fairies last week by doing our snow dances (plus cartwheels) in the hallway in anticipation of a storm. We were hoping to go home early last Thursday, and not have to stay for Parent Conferences that evening. As it happened, the snow went to the south and east of us, and we got nothin'. Suzanne's theory today was that we had to sneak up on the snow fairies - use reverse snow fairy psychology - and make them think we WANTED to come to school tomorrow. So, in true Suzanne fashion, every time I saw her in the hall between classes she was singing some sort of warm weather, sunshine song. She finished up the day with a heartfelt version of "Tomorrow" from Annie. Very funny. And entertaining. AND.....it worked.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Bleh to Blessed

Today is a really grumbly day. Very busy. Very cold. I feel as if I'm one of those guys on the old Ed Sullivan Show, who keep tens of plates spinning all at once. Too much to do. Too little time. I keep breaking plates...

On my way home from work today, I needed to stop by the grocery store and pick up several things for the week. All I can think about is getting in, getting my stuff, and getting out quickly. On my way out the door, I meet a cart guy in the parking lot. Automatically, I say "hey, how are you? (not really expecting much response.) He answers "very blessed, thank you!" He then follows me out to the lot, on his way to pick up more carts. As we walk, he tells me how great it is that the days are getting longer. When I stop at my car, he stops as well, and hands me my bags from the cart. The whole time, he's talking about what a great day it is. As he hands me my last bag, he says "I'll put your cart up for you. You got your keys?" When I say I do, he says "Nice talking to you. You have a blessed evening, and stay warm" As he walks away, he stops at another car to help someone else with bags, and to bless a life.

Suddenly, my plates are all spinning once again.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Blessings 1/29-2/3

  1. The bad weather skirted to the south and east, so we didn't have to deal with snow and ice.
  2. Half-day workday on Friday. I got my classroom completely cleaned, and looking like someone could actually learn in there.
  3. Losing weight at a healthy pace this week.
  4. Finding time to exercise.
  5. Having fun with friends at work (on Thursday, while we were 'monitoring' students in the hall between classes, the teacher who shares my class with me entertained us with an impromptu split and cartwheel.)

Busy, busy, busy...

I have so much to do for the next week - and here I am, spending time writing in this blog.

I have a new online class starting on Tuesday. Usually not a big deal - I've taught the course almost 20 times. Yeah, I found out they changed the text and the assignments. I have to re-write my syllabus by Monday night, and be a little familiar with the new text. I'm going to work on that today, and hopefully have it ready to go by the time I go to bed tonight.

I have an IEP due on Wednesday. This girl on my caseload is a huge time commitment. She has a low IQ, along with anxiety issues which preclude her full-day attendance at school. She's not so anxious, however, to keep her from getting pregnant a few months ago. Maybe if she had been in school all day, she would not be pregnant? Who knows.... Anyway, her meeting is bound to be a long one, and I really need to have my i's dotted and my t's crossed on the paperwork. I've already started it, but need to finish it this weekend. That will be my priority on Sunday.

I also have to prepare for a new unit in Science. That will also be done today and Sunday.

And....we have a b-ball game at UVA tomorrow afternoon!

So much for a restful weekend.