For the past three years I’ve made a point to go to the State Fair.  Usually I go for the food.  Anything you can think of – on a stick.  But the fact that I’ve been watching my weight had deterred me in years past.  The last three years I’ve gone to the fair because of the amateur talent contest.  Each year the finals are at the Grandstand in front of several thousand people.  I have gone to the fair because of Josie.

Josie is the daughter of a good friend of mine from college.  Her dad, Brian, and I studied Calculus together.  We were good friends throughout college.  He went on to become a doctor, get married and have kids.

The first year, 2009, I sat by myself in the crowd during the finals.  I had no idea what to expect when Josie got on stage.  She was 10 years old at the time.  She sang Bubbly by Colbie Caillat.  I remember sitting in the crowd and when she started singing, feeling the collective group dynamic of, “Wow, this girl is GOOD.”  Josie didn’t win that night.  But is was amazing to see how comfortable a ten-year old was on stage in front of a few thousand people.

In 2010, Josie made it to the finals again.  This time I sat with her parents and grandparents.  She got 3rd place this time.

Last spring, Josie released two singles on iTunes.  They were both covers.  One was a cover of Taylor Swift’s “The Story of Us.”  The other was a cover of One Republic’s “Stop and Stare.”  I like her version of The Story of Us way better than Taylor Swift’s.   I, of course, downloaded them.

About a month ago, I made my way to the state fair.  I went to one of the preliminary rounds to get into the show at the grandstand.  I had some meetings that day and by the time I got to the fair I actually missed Josie’s performance.  But I did find her, and her family and hung out with them that evening.  Josie won the open division for pre-teens and made it into the grandstand show.  The next night, she won first place in the county fair talent contest.  So, she made it to the grandstand two different ways.  I went up north, so I didn’t see the grandstand performance.  Josie got 1st place this year.  She performed her original song, Sunshine.

On September 14th, Josie released 3 more songs in iTunes.  All 3 are her original songs.  They’re really good!  Check them out.

In my classes, I play music when the kids are working on their homework.  I’ve played Josie’s stuff for them.  They can’t believe that she’s only 12.  I wish Josie could hear what they say.  Because they’re closer to her age, I think that it means a lot that they like what they hear.

Last week I was talking with a few of my Hmong girls while a Josie song was on.  One of them actually had heard all of Josie’s music on her Guitar Josie YouTube site.  It was so cool that one of my kid’s had heard of her already!

Josie is in 7th grade.  She is a totally sweet girl.  The music stuff is stuff that she’s doing on her own and gets her parents’ support.  She’s got a manager that is getting her music in places that people can hear it.  She’s extremely talented and I’m sure that eventually she’ll be known all over.  She’s already got record people watching her and calls from a national tv show.  It will definitely be fun to watch the progression of this talented young girl!


It always makes me wonder…

My students are 14 – 19 years old.  Sometimes I really wonder about their home lives.  They have these bodies that are almost adults, yet they seem like young children.

I have a particular student.  He’s actually pretty good at math.  He likes to put his head down in class.  That’s always an issue with me.  Apparently he’s also a drug dealer.  He seems like he should be classified in the adult world.  But as I go back to check on him while he has his head down, I notice something.  He’s sucking his thumb.

I’ve had a few thumb-suckers in the past.  I don’t make anything of it or point it out.  But it always makes me wonder about them.  I know it’s a comforting reflex.  But at 16?  What kind of shape are these kids in if they’re still sucking their thumb when they are legally able to drive?

Anybody else out there have experience with this?  Care to shed some light on it for me?

Lending Library

In my first hour class I’ve got Susie, who helped out with the locker clean-out last spring.  She’s a great kid!  I had one of my cabinets open and she could see that I had some Janet Evanovich books.  She had read the 1st one in the series this summer and liked it.  That day she took home Metro Girl.  She brought it back the next day.  Finished.

Susie mentioned that she was having trouble getting the Stephanie Plum series at the library.  No problem.  I’ve got all of them through #16.  I got #17 on my nook, so that won’t be a loaner.  Tuesday I remembered to bring in the Plum series #2 and #3.  By Wednesday she was done with #2 and almost #3.  I told her I’d bring in some more to tide her over for the weekend.  Thursday I brought in #4, #5 and #6.  Friday she brought back #4 and #5.  Both finished.  I’ll bring in some more on Monday.  The rest of them are hardbacks.  Something tells me she’s going to finish this whole series within 2 more weeks.

The reading that Susie does is great.  All of the studies out there show that kids who read a lot will excel.  Susie is getting an A in my class and I’m sure she will continue to do so.  That’s the kind of kid she is.  The thing that is valuable about lending these books to her is the connection between teacher and student.  Yes, Susie is an easy one for this.  But now I know something about her beyond the classroom.  She’s not just a face in a class.  She knows that I know something different/special about her beyond math.  Making those kinds of connections with kids is what helps to make me a successful teacher.  It’s another one of those things that they don’t teach you in ‘teacher school’ and that the public doesn’t realize is a key part of the job.  But when you think about which teachers were your favorites, I’m guessing they knew you as a person in their class – not just one of the many faces in the crowd.

Week 1, Round 16

The first week of school is only four days.  But it’s the longest week of the year.  I was in bed at 8:30 last night.

The physical and mental energy it takes to do this job is incredible.  I feel like I’m at the beginning of a workout routine.  The beginning is always tough.  You’re getting your muscles and your endurance in shape.  When I came home on Tuesday I could tell that I had been on my feet all day.  I could feel it in my hip joints.

My prep period this year is the last hour of the day.  I haven’t had 4th hour prep in years!  I feel like I go, go, go, slam my lunch, go, walk the halls and then crash.  The fatigue factor of 4th hour prep is something I remembered, but only vaguely.  All I want to do is stare at the wall.  Hopefully I’ll get used to it in a hurry.  It is nice to be done with my teaching duties at 12:30.  But we’ll see if my productivity increases as the weeks go on.

My classes seem pretty good.  I’m teaching all Algebra 2 right now.  I have my same TA as I did last quarter.  He’s a totally awesome kid and he already knows what I need done!

My prep work should be less this year since the Promethean Board is not new.  I’ve got all of my flip charts made.  I just need to tweak them for this round.

So all in all, it was a good start to the school year.  But I’m glad I’ve got the weekend to recover!

Better Safe than Sorry

A few weeks ago I went in for my semi-annual skin scan.  I usually come home with a few chunks of skin removed.  This time it was three.   Of the three, only one was easy to reach.  The one I was most concerned about was the one that was close to my melanoma scar.  The other two seemed similar to ones that had already been removed and had been fine.

It’s better not to try to guess about these things.  It turns out the other two were ones to be concerned about.  They weren’t pre-cancerous or any melanoma cells.  There were just abnormal cells.  They can’t say what will happen in the future with those cells.  So to be on the safe side, they remove the cells and make sure there are clean margins.  The easy-to-reach mole was small enough that the biopsy took care of having clean margins.  The hardest-to-reach mole was a big sucker and needed a re-excision.

My re-excision is about the same size as my melanoma scar.  I have 3 internal stitches and 7 external ones.  I was kind of a geek and had the nurse take a picture when it was first done.  Now it has been a week and for me to get a closer look at how it’s healing, I have to take a photo with the timer and zoom in.


I do have a fair amount of people who search for melanoma scars and get referred to my blog.  So since this one looks a lot better than when it was fresh, I’m sharing.  It looks like it’s healing fine to me.  I get the stitches out on Monday.  🙂

Before & After

Bathroom - before & after

It is pretty much done.  I have to get some bathroom rugs and do a little touch up painting in a few spots.  But for the most part, it’s finished.  Yeah!  🙂

I love it!