Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Slice and Dice

I missed my slice of life post last week. I don't know what got in the way: soccer practice, poetry club, paper grading, exercise, grocery shopping, dog training, house cleaning, laundry. It could have been any one of those. I want to write more than once a week, but I need to build it into my daily routines.

Still. I love thinking about what I'd like to write about on Tuesdays. Today I couldn't quite decide, so I thought I'd imitate my favorite YouTubers (Vlogbrothers, of course) . I don't have 27 parts like Hank Green had  last November, but I thought I'd share a few. Call it slice and dice, if you will.

#1 What did I love about today? Students trying my kale chips. Since I've been eating differently I snack between classes. Students are often curious about what I'm eating on the porch as they come into class. Yes, my classroom, a double wide trailer, or portable, if you will, has a porch--really it's just three concrete steps up to a small platform, but I call it a porch. Today I was snacking on kale chips and my ninth graders (many of them) said "Is that marajuana?!" As if. Really? Of course I set them straight and then offered them a taste. If only I could have captured all of their faces on camera. Ninth graders tasting kale chips  brought me back to my son eating green peas as an infant. Their scrunched up expressions at the bitter and the salty, awesome to behold. I'd say the kale had about a 50% appeal rate in the final poll. Some students even asked detailed questions about the recipe. Impressed me.

#2 What's one thing that went well in the last week? Substitute plans. Last week I was out for two days to facilitate a new lesson study group at my school. My school runs several lesson study groups (math, science, English, AP, reading, etc). We're in our fourth year of lesson student. We use materials from the Developmental Studies Center.  I love the process. I believe in it. Like National Boards, it focuses teachers on students as learners. Preparing for a substitute, however, I do not love. It's tricky. It's time consuming. This year I made sure to prep the students and talk about having a substitute prior to my absence. Once I returned we wrote about substitute. I asked students to list their top ten reasons for loving or hating having substitutes. Once students wrote, they shared in their table groups; then shared out two with the class. I compiled the comments from the class and it was a good discussion started. Here are the comments from my third period:

We like young substitutes. We hate when subs give us work we are not supposed to do (like crossword puzzles). We love when subs tell us stories about places they’ve been. We hate it when they take their jobs so seriously. We dislike subs that give us work that doesn’t even count. We like subs because they are push overs. We hate when we give substitutes our work and then the next day the teacher asks for it and the sub lost it. We like it when subs are creative and they draw. We love it when subs are cool and understand us. We hate it when substitutes think they are the boss of everything—when they teach the class as if it is theirs. One thing we love is how substitutes are calm and don’t test us. Something we hate is when substitutes do not know how to control a classroom. We like it when substitutes are funny (humorous). We like it when they know how to have fun with the class.

Still had the eyebrows for this trip.
Crossing the divide with a group of women who'd been girl scouts together. 
#3 What have a I mastered, lately?  Many people know I once wrangled llamas at a ranch in Colorado. The ranch is for sale now. I wish  I could buy it and turn it into a teaching and learning retreat camp. While at the ranch, I was charged with cooking a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for guests on a walking tour from Great Britain--they'd walked the Continental Divide and wanted a traditional meal when they returned from the trail. At that age, twenty-six, I'd never cooked a turkey in a gas oven. I'd never cooked a turkey without girl friend support or Mom on the phone for that matter.

Picture this: turn on the gas, hear the hiss, click the lighter. Click. Click. Click. Nothing happened. I sent the ranch owner's niece to get a long match from the lodge's fire place. I scraped the match on the wall, held the flame under the burner in the oven and. Well, you can imagine the fireball. Whoosh. Hot flames flew out of that gas oven into my face. I must have jumped back. I can only remember brushing the pencil shavings off of my shirt. Pencil shavings? I thought. The ranch owner's niece laughed and laughed once she saw I was fine. She pointed and laughed. I'd burned off all of my facial hair: eyebrows, eye lashes, cheek fuzz, everything. When I tell this story to my students they are mortified for me. Couldn't you draw them [eyebrows] on  they ask? There was no make-up at the ranch. There were no eyebrow pencils or permanent markers or any of that sort of stuff. I had to be hairless--it took a good month to grow back.
I have since mastered the gas grill--I only occasionally crisp the chicken too much, but I've never had the fireball in the face that I had at the ranch. That may be a good thing, but at this age, burning off a little facial hair ? I'm thinking that's no problem.

There you have it a few slices from my day today.

NCTE is a mere 37 days away! Hope I get to see you there!

Enjoy October!


  1. Love this. I laughed out loud at the kale story---marijuana? Just made me chuckle because I know just who would have asked me that. And what they like and dislike about subs--must be universal. I'm going to be gone for the first time on Friday. This reminded me to have "the talk" with my kids before then.

    1. Glad it made you laugh. I wasn't sure how the writing would come off, but I was aiming at humorous.

  2. I've been a sub and have been on the receiving end of poorly laid plans, or no plans at all, so I always tried to be thorough when I had my own class. I usually failed. I do so hate writing sub plans.
    I think you should include something about what your students said about subs in your regular sub plans. A good substitute will appreciate it.

    1. That's a good idea. I wonder if some substitutes would take offense though. One day I want to write about routines for substitutes--what I keep in the sub folder (http://www.scribd.com/doc/109591551) and such.

  3. A wild and wacky post -- love it! And man, I've tried kale chips but I just can't get them right. I feel like I'm eating dried leaves. What's your trick?? This will be my first year at NCTE! I'm super excited!

    1. Kale chips are sort of like dried leaves. My son can't stand the texture. It was funny to hear ninth graders say, "Ok, I'm getting the olive oil and the salt taste..." but many thought the after taste much too bitter for their liking. I just like them. I spray with olive oil and toss with a variety of spices: salt, pepper, onion or garlic powder, anything really.