Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ten Tidbits

1) This week, we worked on video book reviews (a la Ebert and Roeper) for our final book projects in one of my LA classes. One of my students, a jolly and portly Asian fellow with a toothy grin, showed up in a starched, collared shirt and a festive tie. He explained that he "wanted to look handsome for Mr. Camera." Love.

2) My camera is slowly collecting dust and this is making me sad. Next week, I am off and Kev is working, and I plan to spend some serious time learning my craft behind the lens. Lord knows the photography on this here blog needs it.

3) I got the cutest tumblers for my mentor teacher, boss, and teaching assistant from Monogram Chick that look like this: (photo stolen from M.Chick- thanks!)
I am now super pissed that I didn't buy one for myself.

4) I am at the stage of Christmas shopping where I am seeing more for myself and less for others. It is getting hard to restrain myself from shopping for me. I'm such a selfish little grinch that way.

5) It is also starting to be the temperature where all I can think of is getting out of the midwest. We're planning to take a big abroad trip this summer (destination TBA, though I think we have it pretty much chosen), and the idea of not getting on a plane until July is frankly depressing.

6) Listen to me- bitch, moan, bitch. It's no wonder this blog has such a teensy following. Thanks for sticking around.

7) In my other LA class, we are working on writing critical reviews by writing food critiques. One day, my co-teacher was explaining some helpful tips for visiting a restaurant, and concluded with "there may be a small caveat to visiting a restaurant with a chatty friend- your notes may not be as thorough." Panicked, a (non-ELL boy) burst out "wait, WAIT! I don't even like seafood and you are asking me to eat CAVIAR- aren't those baby fish?!" Hilarious.

8) It is 50 degrees and rainy here. WTF snow? Where you at?

9) Peppermint Joe-Joes (Trader Joe's Oreos with peppermint candy cream) are my favorite thing in the world. I ate three of them at lunch and I feel no shame. Thank goodness for leggings and Uggs season.

10) Life is good, people. Life is really freaking good this holiday season. To say otherwise would be a lie.

What tidbits are floating around in your brain this week?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How To Kick a Cold

On Sunday, after a full weekend of holiday party-ing, I woke up with a throat tickle. Attributing it to a weekend full of yelling my witty insights to people in party- crowded rooms, I assumed it was nothing more than residual hoarseness. Alas, I was wrong. By Monday afternoon, I realized I may have a full blown cold on my hands.

The Christmas miracle? Today I am already feeling MUCH better. As a teacher, I have weathered my fare share of viruses that are just strong enough to make you miserable, but not quite strong enough to justify staying home sick and undertaking the loathsome task of writing sub plans. Generally, (knock on wood) I can kick said cold in about 48 hours. How do I do it you ask? Well, here is my arsenal:

First of all, I start chugging water like a madwoman. I am for 100-150 oz of water daily during my sick time. Yes, it is a ton of water. Yes, it makes me pee constantly. But for every little bathroom break I'm having, my body is flushing (hah!) away those nasty germs. It cleanses the system and helps kick my cold to the curb. It's free people, and it works.

Now these next few items will cost a teensy bit of cash, but they are so, so worth it. Most can be found at Walgreens. At work, I am talking constantly, and because of this, my throat gets terribly dry and scratchy. Over the years, I have tested many, many different cough drops, and these Halls Triple Soothing Action Cough Drops do the trick. Those little vapory guys in their assorted mint flavors make my nasty cold infested head into a little steam room. I also love that they come in multiple flavors and are sugar free. When you are consuming 5-6 a day, these things matter.

Next, I always snag the Vick's Sinex Day/Night Combo Pack I love that these bad boys don't require you to sign your life away at the register when purchasing, and having everything in one box is oh-so convenient. The day pills do a great job at opening up the sinuses and relieving headaches, while the night ones knock you out so hard that even your snoring husband won't wake you. Win-win. I use these round the clock, in conjunction with the Zicam Zinc Chewables. I find these to be much less offensively flavored than the dissolving tablets, and I've noticed that if used correctly (every 3 hours during the day, and for 2 days following the absence of cold symptoms) that they really do seem to help shorten the time you are wallowing.

The last three items on my walking dead survival guide are items of necessity. When I have a cold, I'm super paranoid about spreading it to others. Hence the Germ-X. I have a ton of people in and out of my room daily, and I'd hate to get them sick, which will mean I will get sick. It's a vicious cycle. I also hate having nasty cold dragon breath, so I keep Altoids on hand at all time. The zinc chewables leave you with nasty breath, and these certainly help. Lastly, when I'm sick I don't have much of an appetite, so these chocolate-mint Luna Protein Bars, weighing in at about 200 calories each, taste awesome and make sure that I get a good mix of protein and carbs.

So, there you have it. If you are stupid enough to go to work when you are under the weather like I am, use these easy, on the go tricks to get you back to your sassy self in no time. Your body, and your colleagues, will thank you.

I wasn't paid any money to endorse any of these products. I get asked often how I kick colds so fast, so I thought I'd write this post. I am also in no way a medical expert, so if you feel ill you should ALWAYS consult a doctor. Blogs do not have the answers. Doctors do.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

'Tis the Season for Your Teacher

During my last five years of teaching, I have taught many grades in many different types of schools- everything from kindergarten to 8th grade. As such, I have received many different types of gifts from many different families. While I'm not a greedy person, I am always shocked to realize how many parents have a difficult time choosing gifts for their students' teachers. Rather than letting your child choose the gift (I have received Webkins, teddy bears, and Lip Smackers because of this tactic), peruse these lovely options so that your teacher's heart will be warmed this year.

1) Think books! Most classroom teachers purchase books and teaching materials with their own money throughout the school year. Many of these same teachers are avid readers. When I taught elementary school, many thoughtful parents donated their child's favorite book to the classroom library as a holiday gift, or got me gift cards to Barnes and Noble. I've also recently discovered eBookFling, an online book rental community for users of PCs, Macs, Kindles, Nooks, or iPads. For $36 dollars, your teacher can rent one book a month for twelve months. Each title rented appears on your reader or computer for two weeks, then vanishes. Awesome!

2) Skip the lotions and go for office supplies. I'm fortunate enough now to work at a school with more than ample supplies, but I'm still a sucker for a fun notebook, or a fancy clipboard. Paper Source has amazing file folders, fun stapler, scissor, and notepad sets, and cheery organizational tools that any teacher would love!

3) Think about what you know about your child's teacher. Last year, I was teaching with a friend who was recently exploring a vegetarian lifestyle. She was also the teacher to a set of twins. For the holidays, the twins' mom gifted my friend with a few tried-and-true vegetarian cookbooks that they use often in their home. My friend was ecstatic. Does your child's teacher enjoy running? Cooking? Photography? Spa days? What small gifts could you give related to his or her interests?

4) Magazines, magazines, magazines. Almost every male or female I know reads magazines, and subscriptions right now are often less than $20 a year. Rather than splurging on that lotion gift set (of which male or female, every teacher I know has at least 12) go for literacy. Again, make it something that your child's teacher is interested in. If you don't know your child's teacher that well, go for a professional magazine or a current events type magazine. We will thank you. This year, I drew my school's principal in our Secret Santa exchange. I know he loves to run, so each day I've been giving him either a fitness magazine or a protein bar. For the "big gift" at the end of the week, I found a running coolmax long sleeved shirt on super sale. Rumor has it, he is quite pleased with his haul so far. Everyone loves magazines, and everyone hates paying for them.

5) Cold, hard cash. Gift cards to teacher supply stores, general merchandise stores, or the ever popular Visa gift card go a long way. We don't care what the amount is, we just love the inherent splurge promised in the gift card.

Above all else, remember that your child's teacher is an adult. He/she also teachers multiple students. Take ten seconds to go beyond the usual gifting. You will make his or her day!

What tried and true gifts are always a hit in your gift-giving circles?

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Reads

Hey everybody! Can you believe it is time for another fabulous Friday Reads? This weekend, I'm hoping to finally finish the Everlost trilogy. I'm feeling a bit more inspired since hearing Neal Schusterman, the author, speak yesterday, but I'm still needing a little push. Then, to balance out my YA love, I'm going to sit down and read Schindler's List, in order to finally finish the Back to the Classics Challenge that I started earlier this year. I'm still not really sure what I'm planning to do as far as reading challenges, but I will keep you posted.

Last week, I finished reading A Gate at the Stairs by one of my all time favorite authors, Lorrie Moore. True to form, Ms. Moore did NOT disappoint. Her writing, quite frankly, humbles me, and she manages to find the poetic in the mundane. I loved here characters in this book, and the story, about a college student the year after 911 struggling with personal and societal identity crisis, veered into wild turns. Initially, I thought the book would be just another nannying-for-rich-people-helps-student-find-herself tale, but this book was so much more. While reading, I was forced to confront my personal attitudes towards race, war, and stereotyping, and I'm still pondering many of the themes of the book. Although A Gate at the Stairs was published 10 years after Moore's last book, it was hands down worth the wait. If you are an aficionado of thoughtful prose, or a lover of a book with themes that run deep, this is for you. It is the perfect antidote to all of the YA reading I have been doing lately.

What are you reading this week? Be sure to share on twitter with the hashtag #FridayReads to participate in an amazing community!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

From the Darndest Places

It is no secret that I love my job. I am passionate about working with kids and teachers who challenge me, and I often find that I learn as much, or more about life from them than I teach them in return. It's a beautiful thing, and I would never, ever work in another profession.

This week, some great things were brewing in the Language Arts Department (of which I am a teensy, sort of part, since I teach a self-contained ELL LA class). Several teachers have recently participated in a conference, and wanted to de-brief some of their big thoughts. We began discussing our own personal reading and writing lives. Apparently, a presenter at one of the presentations had challenged this national group of Language Arts teachers, saying that if a teacher doesn't have a rich reading or writing life, how do they expect to authentically connect with and ameliorate their students' literacy lives? My mind was blown.

It sounds so simple. We teach. They learn. We coach. They rewrite. They read. We question. But really, it is so much more complex than that. How are we to challenge students to push beyond their previous inhibitions with genre or craft, if we aren't constantly pushing ourselves in new and strange directions? How can we create lifelong learners if we are disengaged with the world around ourselves?

The truth is, I am not often good at this. I come home from work tired, and want to wrap myself in my domestic cocoon rather than engaging with the outside world. On the weekends, I want to spend time with friends, not ponder my intellectual life or challenge myself. But to be a better teacher, I have to get beyond that. I have to do things that scare me. Practice language. Take risks. Write. Rewrite. Learn a skill. Listen. Be TAUGHT. I'm not very good at these things. I break down, I get humiliated, I am a poor sport when asked to participate in a game I'm not good at. I don't try. And yet, I would hate this same behavior in my students.

Self improvement goals come from the darndest places.

Are you a risk taker, or a rut finder?
What are you doing right now to challenge yourself?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

10 Things-Randoms

1) Doesn't this blog look magnificent? I had been wanting to do a major blog overhaul for, well, ever, but don't have the html skills to really pull off doing it. Luckily Jessica at Diamond Doll Design ran a flash sale, and lo and behold, you are looking at the results. Thank goodness for the technologically savvy. I am certainly not one of them. Jessica was amazingly easy and speedy to work with. Huzzah!

2) Last night, I took a walk with a friend and we passed a festive Starbucks. In said Starbucks, there was an approximately four year old boy with his nose pressed up to the window and his tongue out, slowly licking the glass. Yikes.

3) Upon seeing said boy, I quietly thanked the Lord that I no longer teach kindergarten. My junior high kids have the good sense to keep their disgustingness a little more hidden.

4) As previously mentioned, we've been living a 90% vegetarian lifestyle. I've realized that while I have tons of energy, dinner options are limited. Leave a comment if you have a delicious meal for me to concoct.

5) I chopped my hair the Friday after Thanksgiving. Yesterday, had a poll open regarding Katy Perry's new hairdo. Methinks she stole mine. Harumph. See?

6) My mom would keel over if I showed up with platinum and pink hair for the holidays. I think it could be festive.

7) Kev has his fancy schmancy holiday party at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Friday. I may or may not have purchased a new dress that I may or may not now be concerned about fitting into.

8) I googled "ugly christmas sweater shops" and this popped up. What. The. Fudge.

9) I have been dragging myself out of bed this week and getting to school later and later. Oopsies. Bad Colie. Thank goodness traffic has cooperated and I haven't been late.

10) I have a meeting after school with a boss that terrifies me, so I spent way too much time this morning looking for a power outfit. Do other people do this, or am I a weirdo?

What random thoughts are you pondering today?
What does your power outfit look like? Mine almost always involves boots and a cardigan.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Reads

Happy Friday all! I spent last week reading Eating Animals, and I already updated you on how it changed my life. Then, for some brain candy, I read Are You There, Vodka? It's me, Chelsea by the sometimes hilarious Ms. Chelsea Handler to empty my brain out. Empty is actually a good word to describe the whole book. The first five essays in it are, well, meh. Not hilarious, not inspiring, and more self-indulgent than anything else. Though the book picks up some steam by the end, I'm still not exactly impressed. Her first book, My Horizontal Life, is much funnier, probably because everyone has awkward sex stories that are relatable. Lord knows I certainly do.

Anyway, this weekend I am going to try and finish two books, one of which I have been positively aching for.
I have a huge writer crush on Lorrie Moore, ever since I read her short stories in my college Creative Writing Workshop course. Bonus points to Ms. Moore for being a college English (not creative writing!) teacher in her professional life. While this means that we have to wait a long time for her books, they are always filled with gorgeous writing, feminist themes, and thought provoking memories. This lady is magic, and inspires me to put a little more extraordinary into the mundane things I write on this here blog.

While I am so stoked for A Gate at the Stairs, it is definitely a book that needs to be savored in a quiet place, and since the bulk of my reading is done on my gray couch, surrounded by my fat cats, with Kev playing video games or watching terrible movies in the background, I also have Everfound, the final book in the Skinjacker trilogy by Neil Schusterman, on the back burner. I have to admit, I read this trilogy on the recommendation of one of the kids in my 8th grade LA class, who ranted and raved about them, and asked me if I had started them every day until I had no choice but to start for my own mental sanity. While I haven't fallen in passionate love with this trilogy (they are a little too over the top for me, and some of the characters could be developed better), I am excited to see how he wraps things up.

Don't forget to tweet your Friday Reads with the hashtag #fridayreads. More importantly, don't forget to read!

What are you reading this weekend?