Category Archives: life as a teacher

Teaching Tuesday: Parkland

I have more thoughts and feelings about the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida than I am currently able or willing to express. I’ve spent way more time over the last few days engaging in debates with people who haven’t set foot in a school room since they themselves were in school about the “answers” to the problem of gun violence in schools. I don’t want to turn this post into a rehash of those debates.

For the moment, I will only address one, which was from a gentleman who declared that we really need to stop blowing this out of proportion as there have not really been 18 school shootings in 2018. In his opinion, if the firing of a gun was not during school hours and did not result in death, it should not really be called a school shooting. In his opinion there have really only been three school shootings this year. He then went on to say that we needed to stop making a big deal out of school shootings because kids shouldn’t be having panic attacks about going to school, especially since students were more likely to be attacked by a shark than to be involved in a school shooting.*

I side with Everytown for Gun Safety when they define a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.”

The reason I use this same definition is because any time a gun goes off in a school, whether it is with the intent to directly harm students or teachers, an accident which happens because someone brought a gun illegally to school or an accidental discharge from a gun carried by school personnel, there is the potential for real harm to come to students. Whether that harm is physically from a stray bullet hitting a student–like in the case Castro Middle School in LA where a student brought a gun to school which accidentally went off and injured four people–or emotional from a child hearing gun shots in their school and worrying that someone is trying to shoot up their school, the potential for damage is still there and it is still great.

So while there have only been 7 intentional shootings at school during school hours–five of which resulted in injuries or deaths–there have been 10 additional shootings on campuses across this country, four of which resulted in injuries or deaths. According to many, these 10 shootings, which resulted in three deaths and four injuries should not be classified as school shootings because they didn’t take place during regular school hours with the express intent of causing injury. Of course, since four of those 10 shootings took place on college campuses, it’s harder to identify “school hours.” After all, students are on those campuses 24/7 and just because no one was injured doesn’t mean no one could have been injured.

People who are arguing against the label of 18 school shootings seem to want to downplay the reality of guns in schools because in some cases no physical harm was done and even in the cases when harm was done, it was often only to one person and often just an injury, not a death.

As a teacher, I find this idea appalling. The idea that anyone wants to downplay the mental of physical damage done by guns on our campuses is disgusting. Just because miraculously no one was hurt in some of these shootings that have gone on this year, does not mean we turn a blind eye and pretend they didn’t happen. Nor should we only count mass tragedies like what happened at Parkland as a school shooting.

The reality is that we have too many guns being brought onto our campuses. Each gun brought into our buildings, regardless of the intention of the person who brings it in, has the potential to do both physical and emotional damage to our kids. Rather than make semantic arguments about what constitutes a “school shooting,” we need to be addressing the bigger picture and making sure that our students and our teachers are safe.

*I did the research on this and according to National Geographic, the US reports about 19 shark attacks per year and has one fatality once every two years. This is an average for the last several years, but even so, so far there have been 23 people killed by shooters on school campuses this year and we haven’t even completed 60 days yet, so his logic is ridiculous.


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Chocolate Monday: Cookie dough brownies

cookie dough browniesI’m baaaaaaaccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

Thanks to the concussion I sustained in my recent car accident (not my fault, I was rear-ended while stopped), I had to take a bit of a hiatus from my blog. I tried to maintain my blog at first, but it turns out when my doctor tells me to limit my screen time, I should do a better job of listening.

I thought I was doing better. My headaches had mostly subsided, I no longer had to nap in the middle of every day and I wasn’t having as many strange emotional outbursts. I was on the mend, so I figured I’d better get caught up on all that grading I’d been neglecting.

Silly me! My headaches rushed back, I was exhausted and my emotions…CRAZY!

So, I did my best to cut out any screen I could, but now that I’m finally starting to feel mostly normal (only like two headaches last week), I’m gonna try this whole blogging thing again.

For my first chocolate blog back, I want to talk about a Pinterest recipe I tried out last week. I had to bake something to reward a few of my students for their reading achievements. I love baking and over the years I’ve built up quite a reputation at my school for my mad skillz in the kitchen. Sometimes I create my own recipes and sometimes I cheat a bit and use other people’s recipes. Not that it matters to my students (or my family). They love it either way.

I love Pinterest. I’m the person who saves all those amazing recipes and then actually makes them. I mean, not all of them. I have dozens of recipes on each of my different food boards (side dishes, main dishes, cookies/bars, desserts, breakfast, crock pot, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, popsicle/ice cream and candy) that I have not yet gotten around to try, but I make something off of Pinterest at least once a week. Usually 3 or 4 times.

I’ve had this recipe for cookie dough brownies saved on my cookies/bars board for quite some time. Last weekend was the perfect time to make them. I wanted something to really wow my students and these looked like they’d do the trick.

And boy did they! When I handed them out to the readers who’d reached their goal, they were ecstatic. More importantly, the rest of my students perked up and asked how many books they had to finish to get one. After I handed them out and my students raved about them, I saw a renewed enthusiasm for silent reading.

Although they took a little extra time and created double the dishes since I had to make brownie batter and cookie dough, they were worth it. The recipe calls for dark chocolate chips, but I knew the Penzy’s Dutch process cocoa powder I was using was going to be a bit stronger than the garden variety Hershey’s, and I don’t really like dark chocolate much, so I opted for semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I hoped would help keep these morsels from being too sweet. I think they did.

The brownies themselves are quite tasty. They aren’t overly dense, but they make a substantial bottom for the treat. They were moist and cooked to perfection. I don’t like when my brownies get crunchy. I am a center brownie girl. I usually dish out the edge brownies to my family members and students and save the amazingly delicious center ones for myself!  Thankfully even the edge brownies in this batch didn’t get crunchy.

The cookie dough topping was sweet and tasted pretty much like the delicious cookie batter I whip up for my regular chocolate chip cookies, but without the danger of raw eggs that I’ll admit I risk every time I make cookies.

Combined they are rich. I can only eat one and cannot imagine two in the same day, much less at the same sitting. My husband says he likes them, but that they are too rich for him–he’d rather have a brownie and a cookie than the two combined. Of course, he prefers his candy in the Skittle or gummy form, so I’m not sure his opinion counts for much in this case.

If you like to bake, I highly suggest giving these a try. They are a real crowd pleaser.


Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 9/10 (pretty cheap to make)

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Free Reading Friday: Inherit Midnight

Inherit MidnightYet another Rosie nominee is checked off my list! Only 3 more to go…so I’ll finish the 2107-2018 list off in just enough time for the 2018-2019 list to be revealed. That’s only slightly disheartening as it means: more books!

I really enjoyed Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers. Granted, I thought the love story was a bit too immediately perfect and even the main character of Avery seemed a bit one-dimensional at times, but it was still a fun book to read and I think teenagers will especially enjoy this YA mystery novel.

The story centers around Avery, the black sheep of the family who has spent her entire life being spurned by her very wealthy, very haughty extended family for being the product of her father’s affair with the nanny. Since her mother died in childbirth and her father is an alcoholic, she is raised by her slightly cold grandmother who has unrealistic expectations of both family honor and duty. She does not allow Avery any freedom and when Avery sneaks out to go to a perfectly innocent party with her friends, she is shipped off to a truly horrible boarding school.

However, the story does not center around her misadventures at boarding school, but her grandmother’s inheritance contest. Her grandmother, who no one has seen lately, has taken ill. In an attempt to find the most worthy heir, she sets up a contest, which she is constantly monitoring, that everyone who wants to be the heir must compete in. The rules are strict and the contests all center around knowing the family’s long and prestigious ancestry, something Avery’s grandmother has been trying to instill in her family members her entire life. It seems that only Avery paid much attention though.

As Avery agrees to compete in the competition not for the money, but to find out more about her past. With the help of Riley, the 19-year-old son of her grandmother’s lawyer, Avery is whisked away on adventures across the globe in a race to solve puzzles and survive her family members, because someone is sending her threatening notes and texts.

Although it is a bit predictable, I found myself wanting to find out how Avery was going to solve each task and which of her family members would be eliminated after each task. Conveniently, Avery’s grandmother, who is very stuffy and obsessed with her prestigious family is also a big fan of reality TV. So Avery’s journey is part Survivor and part Amazing Race.

For anyone who likes a mystery, especially one geared at a YA audience, this is a great book.

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Teaching Tuesday: Teaching with a concussion

Although I do have quite a few sick days built up, I try hard not to take them. Considering the time it takes to prep sub plans, answer questions students email and then grade work they did while I was gone (not to mention trying to sort out the sub notes), it’s often easier to just suck it up and go to school.

Turns out that is so much easier to do with a cold or sinus infection or something relatively small than it is with a concussion.

I got my concussion on a Sunday. Thankfully the next day we were off for MLK Day. On Tuesday we had a two hour delay due to weather, so I was able to go to the doctor and still make it to school on time. In hindsight though, that was not a good idea. Tuesday was a pretty miserable day for me. Even with the break from teaching I got by coming in two hours late, by the time I got to my lunch/prep period, I was completely wiped out and my head was throbbing. I ended up napping for about 25 minutes on the floor of my classroom behind my desk.

I took Wednesday off of work for an actual break. And I felt a bit better on Thursday when I returned. Once again, by the time my prep/lunch rolled around, I was on the floor behind my desk taking another nap. Friday was a repeat.

While I got a lot more rest on Saturday and Sunday, it was still not enough. I went to school on Monday and before I even thought about getting lunch, I turned my lights off and slept for 45 minutes. I had to set a timer to wake me because I knew if I didn’t I’d sleep so long kids would be banging on my door.

Tuesday I did not get my nap. Not because I didn’t need it, but because I decided to take Wednesday off of work to rest up, so I spent my prep getting all of my plans in order. I was so tried by the time I got home from school that I was in bed a little after 9.

Wednesday did NOT turn out to be a break for me. Due to some pretty nasty weather, we had an e-Learning day, so I had to revamp my sub plans so that kids could do everything at home. I also had to supervise my own children so they could do their work (and my 7 year old needs a lot of direction). Plus, I had to answer questions from my own students all day. I finally couldn’t do it any longer and took an hour and a half nap. Since my children were done with their school work, they were darlings and played quietly so I could rest.

Not only have my own kids been pretty helpful with my injury, so have my students. They’ve been kind and supportive and not at all demanding, which is great. They think it’s hysterical that I’ve been napping under my desk and have offered me blankets and Advil. I haven’t taken them up on either. When they see my yoga mat behind my desk after lunch, they ask how my nap was. “Not long enough,” is my standard reply.

Teaching takes a lot of mental acuity and there is no moment when your brain can just sort of shut down and wander. I can honestly say I understand some of my students in a whole new way now. One of my AP kids just came in to talk to me because she too has a concussion. She apologized for not getting some work done and I told her not to sweat it. We’d figure it out as we went along. We commiserated over our pain.

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Teaching Tuesday: Snow days part 2

Thanks to the glory that is an e-Learning day (electronic learning), even when we have snow/ice days, my students still have access to all of their work and instead of losing a day and having to make it up on MLK Day or Presidents’ Day or Spring break, we get to count it as a school day and we don’t fall behind.

I LOVE the concept of e-Learning days. They are not always the most effective instructional days, but we can get some extra skills practice in and I don’t feel like we’ve lost much time.

My only complaint is that since snow/ice days mean power can go out or services can have interruption, students aren’t required to have all of their work completed until they return to school the next day. Now, if we miss a Monday and are back on Tuesday, that’s not much of an issue for me. However, we missed a Friday. And not just any Friday, the Friday before MLK Day, which meant my students got a 4 day weekend.

Now, I have no problem with my students getting a 4 day weekend. I got one too and was pretty happy about it. The only problem I have is that technically their material, which they should have had no difficulty finishing on Friday (since there were no power outages in the area) wasn’t due until Tuesday when we went back to school.

About half of my kids did the work on Friday. I was able to then grade it and feel pretty excited about having all of my grading done. However, as the weekend stretched on, only three additional kids did their work. The rest were waiting until the last possible moment on Monday (or even early Tuesday morning) to finish their work. So, instead of being able to use that extra time off to truly get caught up on grading, I had to wait and once again get behind on my grading.

Because if we had had a regular school day on Friday, all of their work would have been turned in to me and I could have graded it over the weekend, then come to school with a completely blank slate.

Instead, I got to start the week off behind (again). This is particularly frustrating to me because my own children got all of their work done on Friday.

If my 10 and 7 year old can do it, why can’t all of my 17 and 18 year olds?

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Free Reading Friday: Secretariat

SecretariantSecretariat by William Nack was an obligation book for me. I read it because one of my students asked me to so that she could use it for her non-fiction book project. Since I’d read Seabiscuit the year before for a similar reason, I figured this would be similar. I’d already exposed myself to the world of racing, so this book would be easy to get through, right?

WRONG! At least not for me. Now, I am not a racing fan of any sort, so I’m sure that was part of my problem with the book. Actually, it was like 90% of my problem with the book. Since I am not a fan of horse racing and do not follow it in any way, my only real knowledge of racing comes from Seabiscuit and the one time I went to the race track with my family because my aunt had won some sort competition which entitled her to a party at the racetrack. I was 15 and wasn’t even allowed to bet, so my memories of it are hazy at best.

I was prepared for an underdog race horse story with lots of descriptions of the people surrounding the horses and the races themselves. And I got that. What I was not prepared for was page upon page upon page (seriously, like 1/4 of this book) devoted to begets. It was like reading Genesis in the Bible, only for horses. This horse beget this horse beget this horse ad nauseum. I was also not expecting very detailed descriptions of horse insemination. Seabiscuit was all about one horse and his racing career. Secretariat is all about those thoroughbreds that came before him, his amazing performance and those who trained him. It made the book awfully long.

I was also not a huge fan of Nack’s storytelling. I think part of the reason I enjoyed Seabiscuit so much was because of Hillenbrand’s storytelling. I actually liked her narrative so much that I went on to read Unbroken, which was a book that appealed to me even more and I found myself engrossed in. Nack’s narrative seemed broken up by all the begets and race times. It felt more like a list than a story at times.

I was also not a huge fan of Penny Tweedy. I thought her behavior spoiled and superior throughout most of the book. If Nack was trying to paint her as a heroine in the world of racing, it is not how she came across to me. She threw too many tantrums and was far too nasty to too many people for me to like her or even sympathize with her.

For true horse racing fans I’m sure this is an interesting read. It was just not the book for me. I felt each one of the 455 pages I read and I hate when that happens.

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Teaching Tuesday: Snow days

We had our first official snow day this past Friday. Technically it was an ice day as there was hardly any snow on the ground, but there was a thick layer of ice covering the streets, making travel unsafe.

On Thursday everyone was abuzz over the possibility of a snow day. Although the forecast was calling for up to 3 inches of snow (which we did not get) and some major ice after our nearly 60 degree temps which melted all the streets and fields, I had little faith in the forecast. It seems like every time we hear we’ll get 3-6 inches of snow, we get an inch at best. Usually I watch as all the surrounding schools close, but mine is open.

For the past two years we haven’t had a single snow day. Heck, I’m not even sure we had any two hour delays last year. I kept telling my students not to get their hopes up, but just in case, I brought home all of the grading I needed to do.

Low and behold, when my husband’s alarm went off at 5:50, I decided to get up and check the weather. The view from my front door was a tiny dusting of snow, so I didn’t hold out much hope of a snow day. However, when I went to check my phone, there was the text plain as day: school was closed.

I promptly headed back to my bedroom, poked my head into my daughter’s room and told her it was a snow day, so she needed to go back to sleep, set my alarm for 7:30 and went back to sleep myself.

I got up at 7:30 and headed straight for the computer. Since every student in my district has either an iPad or Chromebook (depending on their grade), our school qualifies for Electronic Learning Days. On any e-Learning days, we have to have our lesson plans uploaded for our students by 8 am.

I’d already planned the activities the night before, but wasn’t about to go through the extra work of setting them up just in case we had school. Since I knew what all my kids needed to do, I made sure the e-Learning attendance tab was open on Canvas, created step by step instructions for the class period and then emailed all my students when their tasks were up.

Then, I opened my email tab on my phone and my desktop and helped my own children log into their devices so they could start their e-Learning day activities. I’ll admit that juggling my children’s questions with my student’s questions was a struggle…for about 5 minutes! Luckily my son was almost entirely self-sufficient (he’s 10) and my daughter’s teacher made her activities pretty easy to follow. There were a few moments of frustration for my children, but with a little help from me they got right back on track.

Every half hour or so I told my kids to take a break and go play, which stretched out their day. Still, even with those breaks, they were both done with their work  by lunch time and thrilled they got to spend the rest of the day playing in their jammies. They actually didn’t even get dressed until 4 pm when they decided they wanted to go outside and play in the snow and I made them put on real clothes under their snowsuits. We may not have had much snow, but it was cold and I wanted them as bundled as possible.

I managed to not only answer all student questions, but get all caught up with my grading. Well, as much as I could. Although our students all have to sign in for attendance, they don’t technically have to finish the work given to them until the next class day…just in case there are internet issues. Since school was cancelled on a Friday and we have MLK day off, my students don’t have to finish their work until today. About half of them took their sweet time.

Not that I’m upset. In fact, it basically meant I had 3 whole days with no grading since I was all caught up. It’s a nice feeling being all caught up. Not that it’ll last, but it’s nice for now!

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