Thursday, March 29, 2018

Good, groceries and Vietnam

 This week,  friend Sara Holbrook wrote about food being served in a school cafeteria in Romania. Her post resonates.

I heard echoes of it on vacation in Vietnam. An Australian and I were helping ourselves to some passion fruit juice and fresh tomatoes and cheese during breakfast on the AuCo cruise through Ha’Long Bay. I started raving about the food and presentation as cruisers go do. He echoed the praises for the fresh prawn and tamarind, the wasabi mashed potatoe, the hot soups: mushrooms and coconut chicken. Delicious, decadent, the food and caring service. Then came the next standard question, “where are you from?”

“I live in Singapore, but I am from the United States,” I replied.

“Ah, they’ve all but ruined food in the states, right? Poison and preservatives, I think,” he said.

I don’t disagree. How could we reshape ourselves, our children, our elderly, if stopped serving factory-made foods? If we didn’t, as Michael Pollan says, eat anything our grandmothers or great grandmothers wouldn’t recognize as food.  I know I would be healthier if I consistently made good food choices. 

Eat fresh. Move more.

Part of the moving is gathering and preparing the food ourselves. That  part of the work of food is easy to avoid. We can order delivery or stop in a food court (in Singapore these are called Hawker centers). We have groceries delivered to our doors. We buy pre-made pastas, pre-cut vegetables, pre-baked bread, whole pizzas or meals, frozen.

Walking the wet markets in the old quarter in Hanoi, Vietnam, I can see the work that fresh, whole food takes: growing, harvesting, cleaning, trimming,  chopping, selling. There are certainly less plastic and preservatives here, an environmental  bonus of choosing such foods. 

We might gain time, but our health suffers when we give up all the work of food. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Will and Skill

Birdsong begins as day dawns. The air is cool, humidity low. The streets are starting to wake up in Hanoi. I can hear the busy beep beep of motorbikes coming around the corner next to the Cinnamon Cathedral hotel. Such skill those motor bikers have. They stream through the streets in seeming endless swarms. Sometimes their flocking movements make sense and other times they cut random routes across plazas or pedestrian walkways.

Skill and will— we have  conversations about both  at school in our PLC groups when we talk intervention or acceleration strategies for learners. Does the learner have tremendous skill and the will to push forward? Or is skill lagging because the will is not engaged? 

I’ve noticed tremendous skill and strong will here on the streets of Hanoi. Women cycling or walking their bikes with stories of flowers or paneers brimming with greens, herbs and vegetable. Women running local restaurants from stock pots — turning steam and vegetables and bits of meat and noodles into old broth and meals to share:  a living. 

Women working from bicycle shops selling eggs, fruits and vegetables.

Strong will and the skill to skirt traffic and communicate clearly and wheel such loads gracefully. Good reminders for me.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Good Morning Vietnam

I am an early riser, a morning Lark not a night Owl. I wake up early—usually before five. This vacation morning I was ready to sleep. The bed was comfy. The air con was set to chill and the cathedral-view room, cozy and dark.

Then: church bells. A chorus of bells, clad, ring, bong, Dong, clang, hummm. [When I get home I will add the church bell video— the WiFi here at the hotel won’t upload to YouTube this morning.]

“No, we won’t mind the church bells,” I reassured the hotelier when she checked us in.

And even at five in the morning, I didn’t, really. The Lord must wake the priests, the nuns, the lay people— entire town or at least those in a two block radius, I grinned groggily once the bells woke me.

Good morning, Vietnam!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Landed: Vietnam

We arrived in Vietnam after sunset. A man wearing a badge took us from the taxi to his van. We showed him where we wanted to go. He quoted a price—about 90000 dong, about $40 dollar, about 1 hour, maybe 30 kilometers. It is hard to be sure. We got in the van wound our way to Hanoi’s old quarter. Motorbikes sped and zipped and whirled and spun trailing streamers of ezxhaust. Cars nudge and lean and honk into lanes crossing traffic.

We check in to the Cinanamon Catnedral hotel. Cathedral view,  teak floors, teak beads, sliding teak doors to get into the brightly tiled and slated bathroom.  American outlets. The room is lovely and the balcony space just makes it.  Look at this view.

We drop our bags and fly down the stairs for an initial explore. Undaunted, we wade into traffic and safely cross several streets. My friend Allison’s nd I are traveling with our teenage boys and they are mighty hungry, so we go in search of dinner. There are cafes where patrons sit at low tables nearly on the sidewalk. Then are store-front, street level cafes and then even two and three story cafes with balconies. We choose, of all things, an Italian spot and are greeted by as my friend says “real Italians!” We sometimes forget how wide the world is and how International the landscape. Here in Southeast Asia we hear so many languages and see people from Italy to Uganda, from the U.K. and Germany, from Canada to South America. All the languages we hear in snippets on the streets while we walk. 

Hanoi is lit  at night. People are out: on feet, on bicycles, on mopeds, on scooters, on motorcycles and Vespas, in cars and trucks and taxis and vans and buses.  Motorcycles are parked four and five deep along the narrow road. Traffic is a bit of barely organized chaos.

We are in for a spring break adventure! 

Friday, March 23, 2018


Today the birds were singing in the trees on my pre-dawn walk to school. Mynah’s throaty thrum and chirpy songs underscore the lilt of the brown throated sunbird and whistle of black-napes orioles.

My flip flops slapped against my heels as I walked up the first hill peering into the leafy trees. The morning birds make me smile and this morning they reminded me of the family who lived next door to ours when I was a kid. In that neighborly family, Jere, SR used to sing in the shower in the morning. We loved overhearing a few lines through the bathroom window which was a cracked a bit to let the shower steam out. I can’t remember what songs he sang. I can remember his deep voice and my Mom’s voice praising the song when she crossed the driveways and tippy toed up to the window and aimed a few funny words up into Jere SR’s ear. 

Oh they laughed— those young parents. I was in third grade, maybe fourth. I can’t quite remember.

But I do remember Jere, Jr. maybe a year younger than me; maybe two? 

Today is Jere’s birthday.

More than twenty colleagues and  friends and family members have birthday’s this week. 

It’s the biggest bitlrthday week on my calendar. My birthday is tomorrow, the twenty-fourth as is Michelle’s and Bonnie’s and Dana’s and Luana’s and @HeyLeeAnn’s daughter. Oh the living and the joy in sharing tempers the bittersweet of firsts. 

My first birthday without my Dad in the world with me. 

Thursday, March 22, 2018

It's All Relative

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

"Is it tomorrow? Or today?"

"Do you mean my tomorrow or your tomorrow? Because I'm living your tomorrow, today."

"What time is it there? Oh, it's your morning. That's right. I forgot."

"If he arrives midnight Wednesday, is that tonight, Tuesday, or Wednesday?"


So relative, right?

Relative to zone and schedule and calendar and mindset.

I've missed a time or two blogging this month. To post for the 21st, which this morning was many of my readers' middle of the night, I should have published by noon. But people. But questions. But meetings and plans sometimes don't operate on a schedule or in their calendared spaces.


Am writing.

Shout out to the team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the 11th annual
Slice of Life Story Challenge. Magic happens when teachers who teach writing,
write themselves. Joins us. Link up everyday in March or on Tuesdays throughout the year.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Grades Talk

Grades talk.

How and what a teacher grades says a lot about what a teacher or a team of teachers values. Consider two teachers: teacher x and teacher y.

Teacher X and Teacher Y both work in a public school district whose teaching contract specifies a minimum of nine grades per quarter for high school students. Both teach ninth grade English.

A look at a student's grade report in Teacher X's class shows four vocabulary assignments categorized as homework, three vocabulary quizzes, a bell work grade and a worksheet grade.  Nine grades total.

  • What is the student learning? How can you tell? 
  • What does the teacher value? How can you tell?
  • What's missing? What makes you think that? 

A look at a grade report for a student Teacher Y's class reveals grades in categories: homework, classwork, projects and tests. There are eight homework grades all titled journal, only two are not exempt from the final grade (so they are not averaged into the final score). There are two tests one named TKAM and another TSB. There are eighteen grades in the classwork category: four vocabulary practices, five quick writes, four discussion grades, and five independent reading grades. One of each type (vocabulary, writing, discussion and reading) appears to count toward the final grade. An essay is noted under projects as is a book trailer (both count).

  • What is the student learning? How can you tell? 
  • What does the teacher value? How can you tell?
  • What's missing? What makes you think that? 

This feels like a complicated word problem, doesn't it?

Here's a trick question to take your thinking on a tangent: what do these grades say, if anything, about feedback students might be getting? 


Teachers should not independently control or create how the grade book is set up for any given course. I have come to believe that these  decisions must be made by course-alike teachers working together in PLC groups (or the like). Grade books from course to course  should match. Your A and my A for the same course, let's say English 9, should mean the same thing. When individual teachers make individual decisions about assignments and grading policies our As don't often mean the same things.

Make sense, doesn't it?

I'd love to hear your thinking around grades and grade books (or grade book programs). Who decides at your school or in your district? How do your teacher teams calibrate or insure alignment when it comes to assignments, assessments and grades (evaluation)?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Shout out to the team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the 11th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge. Magic happens when teachers who teach writing, write themselves. Joins us. Link up everyday in March or on Tuesdays throughout the year.

A recent hand phone* conversation:

12:16 a.m. 

Buzzz, buzzz
My Singapore phone vibrates. My son is enroute from the states, so I answer immediately—- sending a prayer up as I do.


“Good morning, lah.”

“Good morning.”

“Did you know you are missing your Singapore American School card, lah?”

“Oh, no, I didn’t. Did it fall out in the cab?” I think about how my badge hold has a small split on one side— the tropics are tough on plastic. I think about how. I have money I might have on my card at the moment. Our ID cards work on campus and off (for the bus and train).

“Ahh, yes, lah. Can I get it back to you?”

“Yes, you can give it to security at the school or at the condo if you are in the neighborhood.”

“Can. Give it to security at your condo, Lah?”

“Yes, yes. Can. Thank you.”

“Okay. Thank you! Bye, Bye.”

The cab driver called back just a few minutes and said if I was not yet sleeping could I come get the card.   So, of course, I did. 

Imagine leaving or losing something in a taxi cab and having the driver call you, notify you and return it to you.

This is Singapore. 

I try not to make a habit of losing things, but I once left my cell phone in a cab. The driver brought it right back to my school (where he’d dropped me off) and now tonight’s escapade with my school i.d. card. 

If you’re going to lose something in Singapore, you’ll likely find out that things here are always found. 

* Singaporean English (Singlish) has some unique words and sayings:
Hand phone for cell phone.
Can - used like yes (and cannot, like a no can do)
Lah—added to the ends of phrases and sentences— I am still investigating lah, leg, lot,  moe mah and meh— as well as some sounds like a deep aahh — her’s hoping  Lah is not the equivalent of  a Carolinian’s “bless her heart.”

Monday, March 19, 2018

Now's the Time

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community and valuing voice. Join us at Two Writing Teachers
Slide by the Slice of Life buffet for seconds or link up to serve your own slice of life.
I first published this piece in 2015 and today as my son wings his way home to Singapore and we text about his schedule for senior year, I thought I'd repost it. 

My son's biggest complaint when he was a sophomore in high school was that he sometimes he got bored in some of his classes. "It's too quiet," he would say or  "the teacher talks a lot."

Who didn't get bored in a class or two in high school? I sure did. Who's been bored in a college class or a professional development session? I'd raise my hand for that one too.

A little boredom's not going to hurt him. In fact, some of that mind-wandering down time, may actually be good for him. But there is a difference between boredom and engagement.

Whenever my son talks to me about his classes, I wonder about mine. That's one teacher-parent bonus. Would my class have bored him or engaged him yesterday? If he had walked in yesterday, he may have gotten bored. But given a choice, he'd have engaged in reading a book. The writing practice part of the lesson, well, that might bore him.

The students in all but two classes were so engaged in reading or writing on Monday that they were silent save the hum of the air conditioner. They were  silent for a good twenty-five minutes. It about killed me.

The quiet, I mean.

It's not all that exciting to watch kids read and write. I mean, to me it is. I love to read and write. I love to study kids' reading habits and writing skills. But to your average person stopping by or to the everyday student not engaged in a book, it can look and likely sound pretty boring. It can sound like nothing is going on, like no teaching is happening or has happened.

We know that's not true. It takes a lot of teaching and modeling and conferring and talking to create a reading and writing community. It takes a lot of work to get to the silence of twenty-five minutes and every single student in the room is engaged in either reading or writing.

Every student in all but two classes. In September I anticipated this day. I know it takes time to get here.

That quiet --the whole class engagement-- happened yesterday. Now is the time. The book seeds I sowed are sprouting and growing. It is a sweet season in our reading and writing year. So much changes for the readers and writers in my classes between now and January.

Yesterday, Kids weren't asking me for book recommendation or interrupting their reading or writing time to ask a question about a project or vocabulary test. Kids weren't interrupting each other to gossip about the chemistry test or bemoan the AP World History essay they were writing. They settled into our routine quickly and got to their books and ideas.

The students were working. I was working to not distract them.

Oh, how I wanted to confer. Oh, how I wanted to talk about Before I Fall with Meghana. She's  on page 160 or so according to our Reading Record. Before I Fall is my favorite Lauren Oliver books and I wanted to ask her what she thinks of the structure. I wanted to show her on our our current learning progression or evidence-based scale how the novel she chose fits one of this month's instructional goal.

But I didn't (yet).

I wanted to interrupt and ask questions. I wanted to listen to what kids had to say about the books they were reading.  I wanted to ask. I wanted to push. I wanted to book talk new titles. I wanted to do, do, do but yesterday, I didn't. I let the kids do.

I didn't get them talking yesterday because kids need work time in class too.


Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sunday Sights in Singapore

The National Gallery
Ahhh, art. If that is your art opinion, you will be well satisfied by the exhibits (both permanent and on loan) at Singapore's National Gallery. This fall we saw works by Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama: Life is the Heart of a Rainbow. Awesome. Currently impressionists' words from the Musée d’Orsay Museum are on display. Two highlights from this exhibit include a collection of paintings showcasing how impressionists used shades of black and a collection of artist's tools and how technology of the time (paint tubes and the like) influenced the impressionists.

Madame Darras  by Renoir

Can you imagine?! Renoir's palette and paint box!

The Cloud Forest
Bring a jacket or a wrap when you venture to the Cloud Forest. When you walk in you feel the temperature difference immediately. Constantly cool, the Cloud Forest must measure temperatures in the high sixties, low seventies. Definitely chilly to folks who are acclimated to the eighties and nineties of the tropics. Cooler than the air are the flowers--and they are everywhere! Imagine a three story man-made mountain cloaked in greenery: that is the Cloud Forest. At every turn up the "mountain" we marveled at floral displays that brought art exhibits to mind.

Up on the walk way in the cloud forest.
Orchids on exhibit

Tree Top Walk
I enjoy a walk in the woods. The birdsong, the cricket chorus, the squish and rustle of mud and leaves, nature is restorative. We first did the Tree Top hike in July. Computer science teacher, Nick Kwan, organized a group of new teachers. He also took 360 degree photos and uploaded several to Google Maps. My husband is in the picture below.  Beware of the monkeys though. Don't smile at them (showing teeth is a form of aggression in the world of monkeys). Don't carry food, either. Monkeys chased us like trolls across the suspension bridge.

The sun was barely up when we arrived at the park this morning for the Terry Fox Run. If you do not know about the Canadian hero, Terry Fox, take a few minutes to be moved by his story.  It is a beautiful day for a run/walk at East Coast Park--bougainvilleas are in bloom  and the breeze coming in off the water--glorious. The park is much bigger than I first thought and along the pedestrian trail are camping sites,  restaurants and rental stations. I can't wait to go back with our roller blades and to rent paddle boards and explore. 

The Slice of Life Story Challenge is hosted by the team at Two Writing Teachers during the month of March and on Tuesdays throughout the year. Head over to share your own slice.

St. Patrick's Day Memory

Blogger doesn't have a re-blog option. This post from past was first published on the blog I kept for family. Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sort and Learn

“You might need to spread out on the floor,” I said.

They did.

They sort words into categories. Words that meant talkative and not talkative. Words that meant criticism and praise. Words for hidden or secretive. 

“Rail? Like the railroad?” 

“I don’t think so. Look it up.”

Yes! Talk and discovery and rehearsal and practice. We followed the sort with a word round up in students’ academic journals. Then we played a round of Kahoot. 

Come Monday we’ll review again with Quizlet Live.  Looking for some lists? See the links below.

Praise & Criticism words

Secret/hidden & Stubborn words

Talkative & Not talkative words

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Resource Time

Students filed into the room after school in pairs or alone. They walked in slinging  backpacks and lunch boxes and athletic bags and water jugs and musical instruments onto empty desks. A chorus of "Hey Spillanes" pulled me out of my end of the day reverie.

I wheel over to a students desk--it's the end of the day and jet lag is catching up with me, so I just stay in the chair and scoot, scoot with my feet. It makes me chuckle. Once I sidle up to the desk I say, "What are we working on today?"

And so it begins.

Thursday afternoons from 3-4:30  or so I stay late for kids who need to come in for additional support or to make up work or or who want to re-assess and give a task another try to show me their learning. I call it resource time after a practice my son experienced at his K-8 school. I appreciated that he had an opportunity to get extra help or have that time (if needed) with his teachers each day. When he was in middle school, every school day ended with twenty minutes or so of  resource time. His experience shaped my own practice.

I've been holding a weekly resource time for a several years now. At my former school,  during my final year there, the principal pushed for such an hour in each department. Then, Tuesdays were earmarked for English.  Other days of the week were tagged for math, science or social studies. School wide support can't be beat.

Resource time helped me refine my grading practices too. I've written about grades and grading and zeroes here and  late work policies here and grades and working time here. As a teacher, grades and grading policies have been an interest of mine for many, many years. I believe a grade should represent what students know and can do--not a behavior or an economic status. I believe a grade should represent the learning, not the average of attempts to learn.

Any grading program, it seems, is a limiting factor because each averages grades. Our PLC and school overcomes the averaging factor with policies. School-wide, we use letter grades, not points or percentages. We look for trends in performance and exclude early attempts to capture the most accurate and most recent achievement level(s). 

Sketchbook Exchange

Teacher artist, Becky Green, organizes a Sketchbook Exchange at school.  Essentially, you choose a theme for your own sketchbook, sketch out your first page to show the them and pass your book on.  We exchange books with group members about once a month and by year's end will have a collection of drawings from colleagues. I loved the idea, so I signed up straight away. Such an exchange is a first for me.

I love to sketch and to paint and to doodle. I've been playing with the ProCreate app to transform some of my word art pieces this year. The Sketchbook Exchange challenges my creative thinking in new ways -- one because there is suddenly, deep breath, an audience! And two because each person's theme is unique.

My theme is & yes. And seems an ongoing theme for me. Life says you get this & that AND that. Oh AND... like that old Coke commercial. This year  I've had some pretty spectacular "ands" in my life but I've also had some strange juxtapositions: celebrations and challenges side by side.  I started my own sketchbook with a Brian Andreas poem on the first page (a little overworked) and then an Irish prayer tucked in a pocket in the back.

From my sketchbook.
I wish I'd taken photos of each journal I've received (or each piece I created)  this year, but I wasn't consistent in documenting them.

The sketchbook that just got passed to me has an "I am..." theme. I don't want to give away the artwork, so I will just share a couple of stunning clips. These doodles and sketches, I must say, sure feed my creative soul.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Long Haul

I feel out of writing practice. My writing brain seems gauzy: wrapped in the fluff of funeral flowers and comfort meals  and handkerchiefs. Slice of life stories capture small moments-- think ALL the imagery. Build the moment, draw it out, say something with it: go!


I am not as good at the "textbook slice" piece as I might be writing just about teaching or instructional issues. I've been writing my way around that for a while now. But I think that is okay. We learn to write better by writing. We learn about ourselves as writers (and people and mothers and daughters and teachers and friends and aunties and wives) by writing. 


This morning the refrigerator is humming its electrical song. Wind chimes alternate between high twinkle and loud clang as a warm front begins to blow in. The sun is still sleeping and the lamps are dimmed to low-yellow light. 

I am thinking about: topics for writing, the header and layout of the blog, my Mom, lesson plans for this week at school, feedback and grading that will need doing, my dog curled at my feet-- are we all packed? I am thinking about what food we left in the apartment, cab logistics after midnight, Mom's health, air conditioning, writing,  the weather and wind,  Kelly Gallagher's topics chart, ordering groceries to arrive in Singapore when we do, Mom,  the snow forecast for Detroit, sleep strategies for the flight,   my nieces and their swimming results, Mom, the Delta Sky Club in Japan, connecting with cousins, roller skating and the baby goats we missed this trip, Mom, parallel structure,  making bread, putting on a  pizza feast. Mom. So many thoughts winging through  this morning. Maybe next time, I will settle into focus on one of them.

We lose time on our return to Singapore. Though we leave on a Monday morning, we won't arrive until Wednesday after midnight (Singapore time). There is a kindness in the long journey. It blurs the edges of events. Our travel time is usually twenty-five hours, give or take depending on delays. It is not as bad as it sounds--you get used to it. Today's flight will be our seventh since July. 

Our bags are packed and we're ready to go. We'll time travel today en route to South East Asia. I know to the day when we will be back in June.  

The team at Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in March and on
Tuesdays throughout the year. Swing by the link up slice to serve yourself up seconds or join us! 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Testing to Evaluate

The team at Two Writing Teachers hosts Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in March and on
Tuesdays throughout the year. Swing by the link up slice to serve yourself up seconds or join us! 

Testing season has just begun in the state of Florida. At Singapore American School (SAS) there is no such season--well, except when the advanced placements tests begin. In Singapore students take a yearly assessment, but it is used as almost a clinical check to make sure kids academic health is sound. Like a blood test, a CBC, the doctor scans the results to make sure there aren't any numbers far out of normal ranges. At SAS teachers are not judged by test scores--my public school self still wonders how that can be true.

 In Florida, at state, district and local levels teachers are evaluated in terms of their instructional practice and their students' test scores. Test scores influence curricular and  programatic decisions.  As a former "Race to the Top" state, Florida uses a "Value Added Model," a complex equation that tracks students' test scores by teacher over time. Many researchers note the model's limits. My last five years teaching in Florida administrators evaluated my practice using this "new" model.

Each category in the evaluation model, instructional practice and test scores,  makes up fifty percent of a final composite score for the year. The scores, once compiled,  label a teacher as highly effective, effective, needs improvement and unsatisfactory. The math to compile the scores is interesting. Luckily, someone once shared a spreadsheet template that automatically calculates scores. Of course, I've wasted all sorts of instructional planning and assessing time plugging numbers into the spreadsheet to see what sort of "grade" I could get. Teachers, like kids, will game any grading system used in order to learn (and conquer) it.

I hate that this model reduces teacher performance to number, a number that is cloaked in the mystery of equations and weights. Yet,  I love the complexity of the model.

It is complicated much like teaching. Teaching is complex, as is any model that tries to capture the  nuances, the instructional moves, the many decisions of a master teacher.

Florida adopted "the Marzano Model" from Learning Sciences International. It examines teacher performance across four domains and sixty individual elements. It is a living model that has changed over time. It is also a model that changes as teachers and administrators' understandings of it changed. Implementation varies district to district, school to school, administrator to administrator.

 I hate that variability. I dislike inconsistency of implementation. But I love learning about and reflecting on teaching by digging in to some of the model's elements.

Somewhere, behind the scenes, practices shift, language changes.

The language on the model's map shifts too. In 2014 they are labeled DQ1 thru DQ9 and written as headings and the "I do" language of the questions has been shifted from the question to each element.

It's interesting, the language shifts, but difficult to keep current. And really, how important is it? How much time should a teacher invest in learning the model's map? Staying up on the lingo is much less important to me than learning about my students, learning about teaching or learning what is working and not working, so that I can try and tweak and fix before this group, this year is gone.

There is value in the model, no doubt. It reminds me that there are sequences I need to pay attention to as I plan instruction. It reminds me that I must develop a community and establish routines in my classroom --such systems make the classroom run smoothly and give learners security and predictability and that enables learners to focus their attention on the content. The model reminds me that kids need processing time and time to take notes or create visual representations of learning. The model serves as a reminder to me. I minored in education and went back to graduate school to study curriculum and instruction. The elements are familiar education concepts to me, but they aren't familiar to everyone. There are many paths to becoming a teacher and even though teacher preparation programs aim to prepare teachers, we know that learner to be a better teacher never ends.

So I love that the model pushes me to keep learning. I love that it helps me coach teachers new to my department.  I have written about it's use as a practical learning tool before, but as you can see, we have a love/hate relationship.

No doubt teachers in Florida have final evaluative observations approaching. If you are one of those teachers or you'd like to read more about how you can demonstrate your teaching strengths, check out Take Charge of Your Teaching Evaluation by my friend Jennifer Ansbach.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Sights

I have a running list in my mind of sights and sounds of Singapore I want to see. My son and I usually reserve after-church time on Sundays for such outings. Since I've been home this week for Dad's memorial service, I've thought a lot about our favorite Florida places--the sea, especially, calls.  Here are six Sunday sights.

Blue sky, golden beach grass, big sea grape leaves draped over dunes and ocean— waves and waves of it with not a high rise in sight. This is our “local” beach. There are pit toilets in the parking lots and boardwalks up over the dunes to the beach— we love how unspoiled (some would say primitive) it is. Bring your own water for drinking and washing up at day’s end.

Just down the way in Merrit Island is the Haulover canal which connects Mosquito Lagoon and the Indian River. My husband loves this spot. It often affords views of manatee (in February) or alligator (especially in March). Drive by to get a gander at the bridge or pull the car over and step out to walk up and  see what the fishermen are catching.

Gator getting into the river.

In east Orlando, when heading east on highway 50 you cross the St Johns river— the longest river in Florida. At this intersection with the highway, there are airboat rides and there is a fish camp and a boat ramp and often cows out grazing the river flats. The flats run dusty gold toward the horizon this time of year with just a few palms sitting the landscape. My eyes love that vista. Put a boat in there or rent one and see alligator and water birds. My son got this great gator shot when he and my husband were out on the river in the canoe this week.

Am old favorite in Winter Park, Leu Gardens boasts a gorgeous garden and special events like Jazz under the stars or the upcoming Boots & Blues concert. For an evening event, put together a picnic— fancy or simple— bring a blanket and chairs and hang out on the great lawn for a concert. Definitely a good time.

The blooms are bursting late February and early March at Azalea Gardens. This was my go-to picnic spot in high school and college— it’s a large garden with several private azalea framed alcoves. Plus it’s on a lake and has a cool sort of crumbly columned stone structure that is great in photographs.

In the summer, if we are outside, we are likely in water. We’re at the beach or floating in the springs. The springs maintain consistently cool water temperatures all year, so they are safe swimming holes in the heat of summer. At Rock Springs you can jump into the “run” at the spring head  and float with current down to the swimming hole. Sift through the sand of the spring for shark’s teeth or snorkel the edges to spot fish and water creatures. On the weekends, you’ve got to get there early because the park fills up and rangers close the gate. The best is a mid-week visit when the spring is not as crowded or for the truly brave, camp there and enjoy early- access to the water before the park opens.