Monday, January 16, 2006

Besides being a great dad... father, this past Sunday, finished this. Yay, Dad! It's his 5th race and he had a personal best time of 3:48. I sat near the finish line and cheered him when he came by, thus getting an eyeful of the thousands of other people also finishing a 26.2 mile run. My conscience, meanwhile, mocked me with the realization that I was in the midst of thousands of people in better shape than I am. My conscience is unfortunately still and quiet anytime I think about going out to exercise, though. And when it goes quiet, the couch and the chair and the fridge send out faint melodic trills designed to lure me to them.

I need to drown them out with the sobering thought that my dad is 56 and just finished another marathon. I'm 25 and can't finish a run around the block. Sigh. I have so many good intentions right now that they're almost overpowering those little melodic trills. Almost.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

In the Classroom, Part 1

Yesterday was the end of my first week back to work after the Christmas break ("winter" break according to the district policy, although I forgot to call it that numerous times). I've been mulling over several different things regarding my students and my classrooms, so I'm going to do a series of posts on the topic.

One surprise for this week was the success of my lessons for Wednesday and Thursday. I went to a morning conference with my principal on Wednesday, so I had to have a sub-friendly lesson. That usually means a reading packet with questions for the kids to answer. It also means I make it myself, because the materials that come with the textbook are woefully boring. If you imagine a teacher droning in a monotone about the war of 1812, giving all sorts of definitions and obscure details, that's the textbook. One wise piece of advice I was given, during my student teaching, was to look at the textbook as just another resource, not the dominant guide or tool.

So anyway, the reading packet I gave them for Wednesday was partly about Alexander Hamilton's struggles to found a national bank (since we're studying the first 3 presidents and their actions right now). But the concepts aren't that easy to grasp, and they don't relate to the students' lives at all, so I made the rest of the packet about the national debt and then about personal finance. They were supposed to make a small weekly budget (how much do they spend, how much do they get) and read about the dangers of credit cards. So periods 1,2, and 3 did this on their own while I was gone, but I was there to guide periods 4 and 6. The thing that really shocked me is that so many kids didn't have the slightest idea how to make a weekly budget. They were really confused at that part of the packet, mostly because many of them said, "I don't get an allowance. My parents just give me money whenever I want it" or "I don't pay for anything; my parents get me what I need and want". Now the school I teach at is in a pretty wealthy neighborhood (new suburban homes, probably from $300,000 to over a million), and the kids all have I-pods and highlights in their hair and manicures, but still! Good grief, don't these parents have any idea how to help their kids get ready for the future? So I had to give an example of how when I was in elementary school, I got a weekly allowance, had to put 10% in savings and 10% in church, and had to save for toys that I wanted. They understood why my parents did this for me, but I doubt any of them are going to go home and say, "Parents, please give me less money and put me on a budget so I learn some responsibility". These kids are totally being set up for what I've heard described as overconsumption syndrome- they expect to have a certain level of luxury their whole lives. Parents pay for it now, but when they get their first job out of college, and perhaps can't afford their cell phones and trips to the mall for new Abercrombie clothing every weekend, they will spend it anyway and end up with big debt problems. I experienced a little bit of that myself (the idea of going without a cell phone or occasional meals out would seem like a great hardship to me, but fortunately I never had to make the choice between those and debt), but these kids are going to have such a hard time in a few years. I heard a lot of them saying that their parents have already promised them cars- cars that they get to pick new, not the family hand-me-down.

Nevertheless, they were very interested in the money discussions, especially when on Thursday I told them all about credit cards and why they're such a dangerous thing (high interest rates over time). It's fun to find a topic where the kids aren't having to be forced to pay attention (as with most of our history topics that we're supposed to be studying), and they come up with questions for me the entire time we're holding the discussion. So did I give them anything positive from these 2 days? Spiritually, probably not, but practically, hopefully so. And for me, it's definitely more fun to do a lesson like that where there's some interest, than having to hold their noses to the grindstone ("Okay, guys, today we're going to talk about the precedents that Washington set...")

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More cuteness!

I promise this blog will not become a forum for cute animal pictures (see here if you want that) but occasionally I might succumb to the temptation... Posted by Picasa

Enough cuteness to last all year!

This picture is now the desktop background on my computer, and every single time I turn my computer on or off, I can't help saying 'Aw, baby pandas!'
16 baby pandas born in China at a research center this year. Isn't this the cutest picture ever? Not all cutesy things make me melt, but pandas are a weak spot! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

7 Sevens for the New Year

I read this, and since it fits my love of lists and my love of New Year's resolutions (more on that later, perhaps), here are my 7 Sevens:

7 things I want to do in 2006:
*Get back to playing music (piano, flute, and learn guitar)
*Treat my time with God as importantly as I treat time with my husband
*Figure out what kind of master's degree I want to pursue (education? counseling? political science?) and maybe start a class
*Do something service-related in a new area that stretches me
*Exercise more and learn to cook more healthy things (2 in one, but oh well)
*Read more books on theological and spiritual issues
*Spend more time maintaining friendships with short notes, emails, calls, etc

7 things to do less of in 2006:
*Watch TV shows
*Eating fast food and candy
*Worrying about possible crises/disasters/losses
*Read books centering on death and pessimism
*Wasting free time
*Taking family for granted
*Being controlling

7 ways I'm going to be a better wife/friend/daughter in 2006:
*Be more up front with HH about what I want or need him to do, instead of trying to manipulate or be sneaky (and he usually catches on anyway)
*Plan more dinners with my parents- and sister- in law
*Call my grandparents and brother more often
*Call friends and family for a short time when I have a few minutes, instead of thinking that long conversations are the only important ones
*Pray for wisdom in knowing how to support HH, surprise him, and let him lead
*Pray for my students and treat their visits during lunch or after school as opportunities, not bothers

7 Scripture passages I want to memorize in 2006:
*It's been so long since I've disciplined myself to memorize anything, I want to brush up on the Awana verses I memorized growing up
*Break Romans 7-8 into 6 sections, and those are my other 6 passages :-)

7 Books to read in 2006 (that I've not read before):
*The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote
*The White Album, Joan Didion
*The Tamuli Trilogy, David Eddings
*A Grief Observed, CS Lewis
*The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn
*Soul Survivor, by Philip Yancey (or other books by him)
*some kind of low-fat cookbook :-)

7 movies to watch in 2006 (that I've never seen):
*The Graduate
*Tristan and Isolde (depending on what rating it gets)
*Underworld 2 (HH's request for a date movie)
*March of the Penguins
*X-Men 3 (hurrah!)
*Lady in the Water (I like M. Night Shyamalan's creepiness)
*and some indie movies that have yet to be publicized

Side note: a movie worth re-watching (or watching, if you haven't seen it):
*Crash (if everyone in the US could see this, what discussions and possible changes it might cause!

7 people I want to join this list-making:
* Brad and anyone else who reads this! (I don't know if there are 7 of you, but ah well :-)

2 weeks of bliss

Happy 2006 to all! And by that I mean that I hope that you, reader, as well as myself, have a year of growth and challenges and grace and the awareness of God's love.
I've really enjoyed the first 3 days of this year, not for any huge reason other than I'm on break from school (well, from work- since my work is teaching school) and it's SO nice! The intuitive reader can probably deduce that since my last post was the middle of December and titled 'Sick', the weeks between then and now were filled first with a huge rush of end-of-semester craziness and holiday craziness, followed by the break. The intuitive reader probably cannot deduce that my 2 weeks of break (of which I only have half a week left) have been filled with a great visit to my family in California for Christmas, seeing old friends, spending time with HH (whole days when we're both off! I love those), staying up late and getting up late, and general laziness.
Side discovery- I think my natural sleep pattern, had I no constraints of alarms, work schedules, etc, would be about 12:30 am to 8 or 8:30 am. It's been so good to feel actually rested on a consistent basis! During the work week, though, giving that much time to sleep means less time with HH.
The enjoyment I'm feeling at these 2 weeks off, though, brings up musings on my attitude towards work. When I'm on break like this, I feel like I actually have a life that expresses me- I have time to read, to play music, to do rubber stamping, to clean the house to the level of organization that I want it to be, to see friends. Naturally, then, I wish that life could be like this all the time- no grading, no stress over lesson plans or kids' behavior, no early mornings, no 11-hour work days. Does that mean I hate my job? I know that I certainly don't like it sometimes, but on the other hand there are lots of satisfying and fun elements to it. Plus I certainly am not lazy when I'm working, and I sure get lazy fast when I'm on break like this. And it's not a reasonable expectation to have all leisure time and no responsibilities or work- most people for most of history haven't had that expectation (some aristocrats and royalty excepted). So I guess the main question is then the sense of mission that I do or don't have with my work- the more purpose it holds, and the more results I see, the more satisfaction (for any job, not just teaching). I think my joy at the break, and reluctance to think about going back on Monday, are partly because I lose sight of the purpose and the results (purpose seems theoretical, and results are rarely seen). I need to spend some time of my break mentally chewing on this, rather than putting it off until Monday morning. Hopefully it'll make the spring semester be more enjoyable and less something to be endured. Because I don't want to spend 4 months enduring something, I want to enjoy it!