Camping with Students

I’ve been gone for a few days. Where was I? Winter camping with kids. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about the environment as well as themselves. I’ll be writing several posts as I get my thoughts together.

Last night it snowed. It was beautiful this morning as I walked to my car. Here’s a sneak – preview.

morning snow


The chicken or the egg?

I’m not an English teacher. But I have several friends that are. It’s not uncommon for English classes to read a book and follow it up with the movie. Sometimes it’s something popular and the student has already seen the movie. What does the English teacher hear from the student in all seriousness?
“The book really follows the movie pretty well.”

Another experiment

Tonight’s experiment was Asian Chicken and Chili Soup. It’s another Everyday Food recipe. Maybe I just write about my food adventures so I can take a pretty picture and post it. The flash reflected off of the broth, but you’ll get the idea. I’m not quite like Sharkey when it comes to taking pictures.

soup flash

This one was pretty easy. I didn’t poach the chicken. I cooked it in a frying pan and used some of the Red Curry Paste from my Thai cooking class last week. The thing that really gave it a kick was the Asian hot chili sauce. It was hot enough that I had to blow my nose – and I don’t have a cold. I really don’t know diddly squat about watercress. I don’t think I had enough, but it’s not exactly farmer’s market season these days. But all in all, the experiment was a success.

So easy and so good!

veggie pita

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about a Food Adventure. This was so easy and tasted really good. I modified a recipe out of my Everyday Food magazine. It’s from the March issue, so the recipe isn’t on the website yet. It is called “portobello, broccoli and red-pepper melts”. I switched the broccoli for asparagus and I used a pita instead of a slice of bread. It’s basically roasting your vegetables in the oven and putting them on a pita with some Gouda cheese and broiling it. Of course, the part that makes it good is the light mayo with a minced clove of garlic, salt and pepper on the pita. It’s just a thin layer, what can it hurt?

It always surprises me when I take the time to cook and it actually turns out. I’ve never thought of myself as a cook. But maybe I am…

Lending Library

The other night I picked out some books to bring to school. They’re for a student that is living in a shelter. Her parents are divorced. She was living with her dad. Her half brother did something bad and the girl didn’t keep quiet about it. Now, her father is siding with the brother and has given up all custody of her. Her mother is in another state and her best option for finishing high school is to stay here until the end of the year.

Life in the shelter is no picnic. They can’t go out unless it’s with an adult. They go to bed at 10 pm, they wake up a 6 am. There isn’t much to do there. So what does she do? She reads. Books are wonderful. They allow you to escape and imagine different realities of your life and the lives of others. You can be transported to far away lands. You can dream that life is so much more than you, living in a shelter, where your dad brought you your stuff, and didn’t even say goodbye.

So I ask, if you were in her situation, how well would you handle it? Would you have the strength and determination to live in a situation that felt like a jail just to finish high school? I don’t know if at 17, I was tough enough to do that. The general public really has no idea what many of these kids are going through. The obstacles that they have to overcome are enormous and in many cases, of no fault of their own.

I do know one thing. This girl is tough enough. She will get through it and she will not only survive, but she will turn into a productive citizen and be more responsible than her parents. I just wish she didn’t have to go through hell to get there.

Habla ingles por favor?

What did I do to my tv? I had muted it while I was reading another blog tonight. After awhile I fumbled around to channel surf and get the volume back on. Oh look! Grey’s Anatomy is on. What? The voice on Meredith is not Meredith. She’s speaking Spanish. In walks Christina. She’s speaking Spanish too. Huh? Are they showing the repeat in Spanish because more and more of our population now speaks it? Yes, I actually thought that.

I went to my other tv and turned it on. All of these Grey’s characters are speaking in English. So what did I do to my other tv to make them all bilingual? I’ve had this tv for over a decade and not once have I ever made anyone speak Spanish on purpose. After about five minutes of pushing various buttons on the remote I figured out how to make them monolingual again.

Does this surprise me that I don’t know all the ins and outs of the tv? Nope. I can hook up the vcr and dvd players, iPod port, etc. and get it all to work. If it works, I don’t think too much about it. But then again, I did have my HDTV for over a year before my brother-in-law came over and pushed a few buttons on my remote to get the digital channels. Oh well…

Tipping Point

Have you read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell? If you haven’t, I recommend you do. The concept of one event tipping the scales to start an epidemic or an event is quite interesting. By the way, his book Blink is fascinating also…

I have a tipping point in my gangsta class. Honestly, four weeks ago I wouldn’t have worried about their behavior for a sub. I have my share of kids that given the opportunity, could choose to behave poorly. But for whatever reason, they were under control, didn’t antagonize each other and did their work. At the start of a new quarter I had several students added to my class. Some were added because they moved to the area. One was court ordered to come to school. And one was in a different class and someone realized that he had failed not earned credit in Algebra 1 and needed to make it up to succeed in other classes. He’s a repeater.

The repeater was gone on Friday. Guess what? My class was back to normal – the way it was before repeater was added. We had a good time, joked around, learned some math and got things done. I didn’t have to constantly police my room.

What I realized is that this one kid is the tipping point. He’s an attention seeker with a low attention span. He’s completely capable of learning, but I haven’t figured out the trick to avert the poor behavior. Maybe if I make a game out of it with myself it won’t piss me off so much… I’ve already tried calling the parent. It’s one of those standard cases where you talk to the parent and say to yourself, “no wonder the kid has issues.” While I try to sort this out, I still have to figure out how to contain the poor behavior without letting it completely disrupt the rest of my class and short change the other 30 kids. Oh yeah, and get them to learn some math while I’m at it.

I’m a math teacher. But more accurately, I feel like I’m a wizard at juggling behavior. With the NCLB act, all teachers have to be highly qualified and pass very difficult tests to get licensed. But I’m pretty sure there is no PRAXIS test for classroom management. And before you can be effective at all in teaching your subject matter, you have to be able to juggle everything else that gets thrown at you. Some things just can’t be measured with a test.