Update

I’m done.

Wow, that feels good to say. Grad school is done. I’m waiting on one grade for one paper, but it is all over but waiting for the diploma at this point. I think this is the first time in two years I haven’t *had* to do anything and it feels really good, especially after the last few months. Two classes, full time work and an internship were a lot, but we made it through. The last two months were hard – hence no posts – but it was worth it. I finished the internship at Thanksgiving, finalized the portfolio that week and defended in the beginning of December. The last paper for the last class got turned in this past Sunday, and then it was just work stuff this week – midterms and crazy schedules. But it is over and I have two weeks to find my brain again.

IMG_20171206_190741.jpgArthas is doing well. We’ve had a few run-ins with off leash dogs in the last few months, something that is never fun. The last time it ended with Bob scraped up and Arthas limping, but otherwise ok. I know people think its ok to let their dog’s off leash, but really, it isn’t. Poor Arthas is still scared of other dogs and every encounter where ones just run up to him (and attack in two cases) just makes getting him to accept them that much longer of a process. Happily, he is still just fine with the cats and I can say we are almost totally normalized. The kittens can walk right up to him and Arthas just lets it happen. He isn’t going out of his way to be friends, but he isn’t growling for the most part. He does still have his quirks and we are now on trashcan number five in the efforts to keep him out of the trash. So note – dog proof trashcans really aren’t dog proof if the dog in question is highly motivated and somewhat clever.

IMG_20171214_092849.jpgTigger is still a great big brother to the two new kittens. He is a grumpy old man in the morning and doesn’t like to be played with before breakfast (and he is not shy about letting Alinea know that) but he is generally very sweet with them. Tigger is still my baby at almost eleven years old and he just keeps on keeping on.

IMG_0057.jpgThe kittens are growing. I know, that is what they do, but really, they keep growing. They look like cats now with only the occasional hint of kitten, but they still play like kittens. They love to play with each other – which is great for Arthas and Tigger – but Ella has attached herself to Arthas and Alinea goes to Tigger when they want to just hang out. Oh, they sleep together plenty still, but it is interesting to see the dynamics developing.

IMG_20171217_175451.jpgAs for wine, I am still drinking, tasting and taking notes – I just haven’t had time to write them up and post them. In many cases, I forgot to take pictures of the bottles and the glass. So … I will be updating the wine posts soon. I hope.

I even managed to find a tiny bit of time to plant a few plants in the back yard. The kale did so well last year, we have more and this year we added a jalapeño pepper plant, a black cherry tomato plant, thyme and basil. Amazingly enough, the basil is doing fantastic! (it is usually the one herb I cannot grow.) The garden is in a pot this year as we haven’t reestablished the garden plot after Irma. I think this will work ok though – and I found a new use for wine bottles.

I hope to have more updates soon and if I get super lucky, a new job using the new degree. I know it will take a while, but I can’t wait to start something a little different.

Happy belated Hanukkah and Winter Solstice. Merry Christmas a little early and prost to a wonderful New Year!

Progress Report

We are half way through the year and I thought it would be a good time to measure progress. Like all good teachers, I want to see where I am, and what I need to do to get to where I need to be. Have I learned what I wanted? Do I need to go back and revisit something?

School: I just finished my 9th class and have three more to go before I graduate. I am pretty sure this is the *last* time I am going back to school – two master’s degrees is enough and I don’t have it in my to go for the PhD. I registered for the Florida exam for next month and I have the next few weeks to study for it, so hopefully that will be enough time. Three more classes. (deep breath) I can do this.

Pets: If I am being completely honest, I did not expect to be here pet-wise. Somehow, even knowing that Leia was sick, I though she would pull through, get all better and still be making Arthas love her. I miss that cat. I miss Gracie and Jessie too, but I’ve had longer to adjust to losing them and having Tigger, Leia and Arthas around definitely helped. Arthas is awesome even if he isn’t the easiest dog, but he is pretty great and I am so glad we adopted him last year. I am trying to not add another cat to the house, but I do miss having more than one. I need to go back to work *soon* so I don’t have time to look at adorable kitties that need a home.

Wine: I am having a ton of fun with my little wine experiment. I went back through all my notes from the last two months (yes, I take notes) and did discover a few things:

  • I *think* I can identify cherry, mineral, apple, and peach in wines fairly consistently. They are about the only flavors I can identify with any regularity.
  • I don’t like earthy dark wines. This is not a shock, but there is it.
  • Barbera, Zinfandel, Pino Noir, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc – when done well – are delicious wines.
  • Tannat is not to my taste
  • Chien Blanc and Muscadet are amazing. I need more of these wines in my life
  • Un-oaked or very minimal oak Chardonnay is actually really good. Who knew!
  • I still have no idea what “legs” are supposed to look like in low, medium and high alcohol wines. I guess, but I think I’m guessing wrong.
  • Yes, there is a difference between the ten-dollar bottle of wine and the thirty-dollar bottle of wine. There is. That isn’t to say the ten dollar bottle doesn’t have a place, it does, but there is a difference.

Travel: Bob and I have not done much traveling this year for a variety of reasons. We did manage a quick weekend trip to St. Augustine Beach where we did pretty much nothing, and that was awesome. Nothing is planned for the rest of this year, but I’m starting to think about next year and where we might like to go. A lot is going to depend on airfares, my job situation and the pets, but I’m starting to think.

Food: I love food and I love eating. I really don’t like eating the same things over and over, and work plus school makes it hard to be really creative. I’ve given myself a bit of a break and just accepted that I can do some creative cooking, but not a lot right now and I know I will barely have time to cook this fall. I do think I’ve had a few culinary successes this year and I’m sure I will get back to more experiments, but for now … it is what it is.

So that’s it. I’m going to work on identifying aromas and tastes in wine, finish school, try to keep from getting another cat and find some more easy, yet delicious and interesting foods to make. Hopefully in six months, I will have accomplished all of that, but if not, there is always next year. 🙂

 

New Year, New Adventures

It’s been a while since I posted, and this one is s little over due. I have had one adventure in the kitchen this month (corn and potato soup) and it turned out well, but I forgot pictures. It’s been a little busy. 

  
My adventure this year is grad school. Again. Yes, I have one masters, but I decided to go for another. My boss wanted me to go for a Ph.D or Ed.D, but I’m not willing to sacrifice half a decade to being in school again. I found a great program, totally on-line, that I can complete in two years. I officially started a few weeks ago (hence the lack of posts) and am getting into a good rhythm. In addition to now juggling full time work and part time school (which is way harder than full time school and part time work it turns out) I’ve gotten a few projects at work. My bosses like that I’m going for administration, so they’ve given me a few things that are more administrative tasks. Presentations, trainings and another thing that would take too late by to explain and I have homework I’m putting off to write this. 😇

  
Bob has been great about how busy I’ve been lately, but we did find an hour to check out the new beer place that opened near us. Bob drooled when he saw it, and I was pretty happy because they have cider and sodas. Yes, good cream soda and incredible root beer. 

  
Last month, before the craziness started, I got myself a present. I take a ton of pictures, but they always end up just in my phone. A new little device changed this and I love it. I can hook up my phone and then print actual pictures. They aren’t big, but when I get a cute picture of the babies it’s nice to be able to print them out. 

And that’s about it. I’m going to try to post, but they may be sporadic for the next two years. 

New Adventures

Sometimes I feel like it is time for a change. The last few years at work I’ve vacillated between loving my job – the kids, some of the people I work with – and hating it – some of the people I work with, the testing, the ever changing paperwork, the ever added work load. When I have the “I hate my job” days I look around at what else is out there. Sometimes it reminds me that I overall like what I do, but sometimes it reminds me that I can do something else.

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Over the summer I decided to put a concerted effort into seeing what else is out there. I looked at district jobs, private sector jobs (not in education) other charter school jobs and private school jobs. I’ve looked at university positions and government positions and found there are a number of things out there. Most, being a teacher, I don’t qualify for, but the options were intriguing. The more I looked, and the more I left work at work for the summer, the more I did not want to go back.

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I got lucky this summer. I interviewed for a few jobs and found one that I thought would be really good for me. Then came the hard part – actually getting the job. After a few rounds of interviews, I was offered the job and decided to take it. Come Wednesday I will be back in the classroom full time, but this time in a private school.

Going to a private school was a little bit of a hard choice for me. I’ve always worked in public education in one form or another and still, despite everything, believe a strong, well funded public education system is the best chance at empowering the next generation and ensuring the continuation of a productive society. Going to a private school almost feels like betraying that belief but I know that right now, it is the right decision for me to make for me. I will still be working with kids and kids who need extra support academically. I’m still teaching, but I don’t have the extra responsibilities that were wearing me down or the testing requirements that eat up so much of the school year. I may actually be able to teach and that is worth taking the chance. I’m excited and I know it is the right move because once I turned in my resignation to my old job, I started breathing easier and sleeping through the night.

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Since I also put this post under pets, I should give an update on the furry creatures. They are wonderful. The kitties went to the vet today and they are all in good shape. Tigger is weighing in at 15.5 pounds and Gracie and Leia are each 9.4 pounds. I thought Tigger would be a little bigger, but the vet said he is in great shape (and I didn’t get a lecture on his weight, so I think he is still good.) Miss Leia still surprises me by being the normal cat of the three (although she is the hardest to get in a carrier) and in great health. No sinus issues, no breathing problems and no surgery needed.

So things in our little corner of the world are going great. I’m excited about the new job (and without the need to move), the pets are healthy and happy and Bob and I can look forward to a (hopefully) quieter school year. We got our cheese box this week, so look for that post soon – it’s an Italian theme this month!

Testing

Last week I began my marathon of testing. When it is all said and done I will have administered 43 tests in 34 days over 7 weeks. This does not include the writing assessments that were given in February, the field test writing test that was administered in December, the ACT PLAN in October or the September or December retakes of the Algebra tests or the October Reading tests. By the end of this school year I will have spent more than 45 days administering tests. In our school we test all students in grades 6-10 in Reading, 6-8 in Math, grade 8 Science, grade 7 Civics and every high school student in Algebra, Geometry, Biology and US History. We also administer, because we are required to by law, the college readiness test to all eleventh graders. We are a typical public school.

I got to thinking about this earlier this week as I sat watching students take these tests. I had one student so stressed she ran out of the room to throw up and a second that was in tears by the end of the three hour test session. This student has a 3.8 GPA, takes honors classes, does well in those classes and will attend a four year university after graduation; this student has failed this test by one point three times. I cannot believe these tests accurately test reading skills when situations like this occur. I do defend testing to an extent. High School Teachers have a vested interest in their students doing well. We often see effort reflected in grades more than we should, and we need a way to identify if students are mastering content. But this is not the way.

In the past week I have also read more posts concerned with the current state of teaching and testing than I have in a long time. Maybe it is the time of year, maybe I have a heightened sensitivity to this subject right now, or maybe things have really changed as much as I think they have. First was a Massachusetts Pre-K teacher’s letter resigning after 25 years. She spends more time in meetings and being prescribed fixes than she does teaching. She sees the problems with asking students to learn things they are not developmentally ready to learn and she has finally had enough.

Next came the NY City Principal of a high performing school. She has the same concerns regarding the standardized tests that I do; the tests, I should note are made by the same company. The title of this op-ed piece is misleading, but the sentiment is one I readily identify with. Another piece on this same issues was from a NY City Teacher. She articulated beautifully how many teachers feel.

Part of my problem with this many high states tests is that they fail to account for several factors that will influence scores more than student development, teacher effectiveness or school quality. There is no place to note parent education and income, two factors that are better predictors of test performance than school rating and, depending which study you read, IQ. There is no place to mark that parents are divorcing, a death occurred in the family, a parent lost a job or that the student is working full time and going to school. There is no place to say the student is being evicted from their home or there has been no electricity for a month because the parents cannot afford the bill. There is no place to tell those scoring these tests that the student’s mother is in the hospital or the student was just released from the hospital. I have seen students who usually score “highly proficient” drop to “below average” when one of these events occurs during the school year. Some will bounce back, others will not. It seems to add insult to injury that we judge them and their teachers without all of the information.

My other issue with these tests, in addition to what the NYC educators have stated, is that they compare one class to another, not a child’s development and progress over the course of his/her education. A teacher’s rating based on whether this year’s class did better than last year’s class with no regard to where each of those children started. Yes, we can see a child’s progress on the score report, but that is not how teachers and schools are judged.

The other education related article that caught my eye this week was one about the difference between reading on line and reading on paper. We teach with paper books and we test on a computer. It isn’t the same task.

I want to see teaching go back to the creative inspired profession it once was. I want to see learning and curiosity valued more than the ability to guess correctly on a test. I want developmental experts to say what age children should be taught skills, not politicians and lawyers. I want students to want to know why and how and become curious about the world around them. I want tests to reflect what students know, not how well they learned how to take a test.

I’ve had a lot of time to think over the last week and I will have more time in the next six weeks. I’m hoping this testing season isn’t as bad as the last few and that this trend of adding more and more exams will cease soon. A graduation exam is one thing – a lifetime of testing is another.

Apologizes for the rant. I’ll be back to food and furry creatures soon, but I just had to do this once. It’s been on my mind a lot this week.