Sunday, July 29, 2012

So Many Ideas

Each day this summer I've made time to check my reader, catch up on Twitter and comment on some blog posts. I've also had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a few different books for the fine folks at MiddleWeb. I've learned so much and found many great ideas that I've shared with my teammates for our potential use this year. They have done the same for me. What does this mean?

We have SO MANY ideas!

We have so many ideas I'm not even sure how to organize them or go about implementing them.

But that's good news. The better news is that I work with some really great people, and each of us has different strengths. While one person may find the idea, the others are good at organizing, seeing the big picture or figuring out how to make it best for all of our learners. It's why we're such a good team. Our strengths compliment each other, we're willing to push back when we don't agree with something, and the kids are the number one thing in all of our hearts.

So bring on your ideas Blogs, Twitter and Facebook. We can handle them and make this year amazing for our kids!

Friday, July 20, 2012

My Thoughts on the Tragedy

I woke up this morning, like many of you, to news of the horrific events at the movie in Colorado. It's very difficult for me to hear about tragedies like this, and I feel a tremendous amount of sadness for the families who have lost loved ones. They are gone forever thanks to the senseless act on one sick individual.

My thoughts on this are varied and scattered so I'm just going to throw them up here to say my piece.

In the coming days and weeks the debate about gun control will rage. It's a challenging discussion for me. On one hand the senseless loss of any life, no matter how it might be taken (because people die from other things besides a person using a gun), is just that. Senseless. On the other hand, as responsible guns owners, my husband and I appreciate the right to enjoy guns for sport and for, heaven forbid, protection. In addition to teaching me to love and respect nature my Grandpap taught me how to handle and shoot guns safely. Those times with him are some of my most treasured memories from growing up, and I surely would not be the self-proclaimed tree-hugger I am without them. I don't know what else can be done to stop these acts of violence by a small percentage of people, but I don't agree with banning all guns from all owners.

One topic that won't receive much attention but probably should is the media's handling of this situation. Yes, we need to know what happened. Yes, we should have accurate reporting. Yes, people who were there will upload their own videos and accounts because they can and should be able to get their stories out. But what disturbs me is the way the story is sensationalized and over-reported by the largest media outlets. The story was everywhere this morning, as one would expect, but I was bothered when I was slapped in the face with a headline that ended with, "The Batman Massacre" - huge font, big bold letters. I'm no psychologist, but I often feel like many of the people who commit these horrific acts of violence do so for attention or to get their message out. Wouldn't it be better for media to report the facts of the event and then focus on the victims and what could be done to support their families or their recovery rather than focusing on what was done, how it was done, and who did it? This would surely remove the attention from the suspect and lower the risk for those who might be interested in garnering the same amount of attention through a copy-cat crime.

There was one other thing that bothered me tremendously as I read through the article about the events of last night. The article I read specifically mentioned a 3 month old victim and a 6 year old victim, and it was stated that other children were among the injured. According to the movie is rated PG-13, and this happened at a midnight showing. What in the world were people thinking having their young children at this show??? It is a parent's right to raise their child they way they want to so if they choose to take them to this type of action film, that's their choice. I actually have less of a problem with the PG-13 rating (it still bothers me, but again - their choice) than I do with the fact that these kids should have already been in bed for 3 or 4 hours not at a movie at midnight. It just upsets me that these kids were in a situation where they, in my mind, shouldn't have been in the first place.

I can tell you that the discussions surrounding this tragedy are going to get UGLY - discussions about personal freedoms, like gun control, always do. Discussions where you question somebody's choices about how they raise their children usually do. You've probably seen some of these ugly exchanges, often fueled by people hiding behind anonymous avatars, in comments across the web. I hope they don't get ugly here - I didn't post my opinions to be attacked or to start an argument, I simply wanted to reflect.

So as I've been writing this I've been thinking back to my Zumba post. What I can take from this experience that could help my students in the classroom? In those ugly discussions people will not listen to each other. They will insult each other. They will say things that are not true and place blame where it doesn't belong. Perhaps what I can take from this is that I need to really focus on helping my students learn how to participate in civil discourse. We need to respect others' opinions, even when they differ from our own. We need to try and make our point without insulting people or sounding like sailors. We need to do our research and support our opinions with fact, not emotion. And we need to treat each other kindly. There's already so much ugly in the world, we need to learn to spread more light.

Monday, July 16, 2012

How Zumba Will Help My Students

It's a well known fact among my real life friends that I'm just a little bit uncoordinated. And by "little bit" I mean that my mom has always jokingly called me Grace, and the list of seemingly impossible injuries (like running into a bench on a track and getting 10 stitches) could fill up a page of notebook paper. With all my natural clumsiness it's kind of amazing that I enjoy and am, at least in my mind, pretty good at Zumba.

For those of you who've never seen or heard of Zumba, it's a Latin dance based cardio workout. My favorite instructors remind everybody that the point of Zumba is to get moving and having fun. We aren't supposed to look like the instructor or like each other. While every class and instructor is a little bit different, Zumba looks something like this:

So you might be wondering how Zumba is going to help my students besides giving me the stamina to keep up with them!

One of the things I have noticed is that many Zumba instructors attend other instructors' classes. I haven't researched to see if this is actually a requirement for new instructors to get certified, but I see it just about every single week. Imagine if teachers, new or veteran, had the opportunity to go and not only observe but participate in other teachers' classes! What could we learn from each other? What kinds of suggestions could we make to help each other better meet our students' needs? What little things would we notice about the kids that would help our colleagues build better relationships with their students? Really, the possibilities to this kind of learning are endless. I need to figure out a way to make this work for me during the upcoming school year.

That isn't the only thing from tonight's class that will help my students. This evening one of those new instructors was participating in class. He, yes HE - very few male instructors in this area, was an enthusiastic participant, and I'm looking forward to going to one of his classes. After class I ended up in one of those awkward "I'm walking one direction, he's walking in the other and we end up in the same spot" situations with him. As we started to move around each other he looked me in the eye and said, "Hey - great job tonight!" I had never talked to him prior to this moment, but he took just a second to acknowledge my hard work in class and give me a compliment.

His positive comment has stuck with me all night long. It reinforced my feelings of enjoyment and confidence, and it made me more interested in attending one of his classes. How often do we teachers take every opportunity we can to compliment our students, to point out the positive effort they are putting into a task or the the positive choices they are making? Even if it is a priority for you, I bet we could find even more opportunities to positively support our students. And if four little words can make such a big impact on a 38 year old, imagine what those four little words could do for a 7, 9 or 13 year old!

So how will Zumba help my students? Tonight it reminded me that my coworkers are great learning resources, and it reminded me that I need to catch my students "doing good" as often as possible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading Update

I'm still not sold on e-reading. I get that it's a great way to get connected and to learn more while reading, but I'm just not loving it. While we were at the beach I finished Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and started The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. I'm about halfway through the latter, but since we've been home I just haven't been motivated to pick up the iPad and read. I'm not sure why I'm so against e-reading. Maybe it's because I'm missing out on something - is it because I don't know what I don't know so I'm not getting the most out of my e-reading experience? I would love to hear why people love using an e-reader so maybe I can get it another valiant effort.

In the land of paper books, I finished four others while at the beach and after we got home. 

Two were the second and third books in the 50 Shades trilogy, and they were meh. I get the hype, but I'm glad I was able to borrow them and didn't spend the money to get them myself. 

The third book I read was One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. I enjoy history, and I especially enjoy books that take a true historical event, in this case the offer from the Cheyenne to trade 1,000 while women for 1,000 horses, and put a twist on it. If you are at all interested in the Old West and the plight of the Natives and how they were treated, the book would be one for you. By the end of the book I had to keep putting it down every few pages because of how disgusted I was by how the whites treated these people, their land, and the animals who lived there.

I took a trip to a different era when I read The Last Wife of Henry VIII: A Novel by Carolly Erickson. Again the history aspect is what originally drew me to this book, and the story of Henry VIII and his many wives has been told many times over. I enjoyed the different perspective of this story, although the not-so-happy ending left me wanting to read more about those left behind. 

Next up on my list is a professional book that I'm reading and reviewing for MiddleWeb, and then I guess I'll try to get back to those e-books and see what I can do.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Hard to Do the Right Thing

This whole situation with my husband is really testing me, and sadly I'm not feeling like a very good person because of it. Right now I feel like I'd really like to be more on the top of this list than the bottom of it:
Even though I know it's not right and would just bring more negative energy into the situation, I would just like to see people get what they have coming to them. And some days I would like to just help that to happen a little bit faster. Would I actually do anything? Heck no - I'm terrified of karma!! And in my current mood I feel that, unlike others in this situation, karma would nail me right away. So I will keep trying to be strong and intelligent, but it's really hard.

It's especially hard on days like today. I'm sure you've probably seen this:
People do an awful lot of talking without thinking. I get it: people get upset so they tell lies to attack the other person with whom they are angry. But come on, people. If you're going to tell a lie about a person, at least think about it and make sure it makes sense! Anybody with half a brain can see that the latest lie I heard today is ridiculous. If my husband stopped selling your product in the old store because it was unsafe for people and animals (click here to read about the recall of foods that caused thousands of dogs and many people to be ill) and he even went to the local news to get the word out about this recall, why in the world would he want to carry that junk when he is finally able to open his own business?? If you're going to lie, please make it reasonable.

But the one thing that we've learned through all of this is that some people are simply ridiculous, and they will do just about anything to make up for their own shortcomings. Sadly, they will continue to talk and try to make things difficult for us, and we just have to try to be the better people.
So, like the frog, I will sit back and wait. And I will look forward to the day when this is all behind us and we can laugh at how ridiculous all of these brainless people really are.