BulgingButtons

Not bad for a fat girl


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Longest Movement Streak

That’s what my watch tells me every day after my workout. Wow, talk about a sentence I never thought I would write. It’s true though. I’m on a roll.

If you’ve been with me for any length of time at all, you know that exercise hasn’t exactly been something I’ve been keen on, but somehow that’s changed. Not ALL exercise. I haven’t completely changed my stripes. However, there’s a workout that I’ve been doing every day since May 27. Well, every day but one, and that couldn’t be helped. What is this magic workout, you ask. It’s jogging in the pool. Yes. Each day I put on my swimsuit and head out to the pool for at least 35 minutes of nonstop jogging. Occasionally I go twice in the same day.

I’ve always loved being in the water. I was once a lifeguard, and when I was little I swam like a fish. I have the faded construction paper “ribbons” from summer camp to prove it. One of my favorite baby pictures is of my mom standing over me, holding my hands up in the air while the rest of me is in the kiddie pool. I was clearly very happy at that moment.

This all came about entirely by accident. Let me explain. May 27, 2021 was the last day of the most challenging and exhausting school year I’ve ever experienced. I came home that afternoon tired. Not Friday tired. Not last day of school tired. More like relieved that I’d survived the school year tired. I sank into a chair, and promptly zoned out. I could have gone to sleep in a heartbeat. I would have slept for hours, maybe days, but I decided I didn’t want to do that.

I was on summer break, and I decided to reclaim my life. The 2020-2021 school year was not going to claim me as a casualty. I survived. I figured the best way to revive myself would be to jump into the pool. After all, late May in my part of the country is pretty warm, and a dip in the pool would be just the thing.

I hadn’t gotten into the pool yet this season, so I wasn’t even sure what the temperature would be, but it was terrific. I got in, I jumped around a little, I swam a few laps, and I felt great. That’s when I decided to challenge myself. I figured I have this pool (I insisted on it back when we were house hunting), so why not commit to using it each day of the summer? That’s how it started. Each day I got in, and when I did I spent some time jogging. It was all fun and games until I got my early birthday gift of an Apple Watch.

For at least 3 years my sweetheart has been wanting to gift me one, but I put him off and put him off. Then my supposedly waterproof Fitbit decided that it really wasn’t. Well, that watch has been a total game changer for me. It’s a game to me to “close my rings” each day (activity, exercise, and standing… which is a joke because it counts sleeping as standing). It also has pushed me to up my levels of activity and exercise.

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but during the year of Covid (not that it’s gone, but I do mean last school year), my daily step count averaged somewhere between 2,000-3,000. I’ve heard that 10,000 should be the minimum for most adults. Well, right now I’m averaging between 11,000-12,000 daily. I’m interested to see what my lab results will be the next time I go for my routine check up. I’m sleeping better, my appetite is pretty under control, and I’m feeling good about this whole movement thing. On top of all that, the time spent in the pool is time to clear my head and enjoy the dragonflies and occasional hummingbirds that fly by. If only summer could last forever.


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Student Success Strategy

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to participate in a virtual staff training. Here we were, a staff of mostly white, mostly female educators trying to improve our practice. We worked with a trainer who has spent her career researching and applying methods to bring EVERYONE to the table in terms of education. From early childhood to graduate studies there are obstacles that many of our learners and their families face that take them further and further away from receiving the quality education they deserve.

There was a lot to learn, think about, and digest, but for me there was one nugget that stood out. Here it is: Every Decision Made Must Be For The Benefit Of The Students. It seems both obvious and simple, but when I think about day to day practice in schools (not just my own), there’s plenty of work to be done. Think about it. Every decision. Wow. Let me just throw out a few, some from the workshop, and some from my reflection.

  • curriculum (yes, that’s HUGE)
  • class size
  • class make-up
  • teacher hiring
  • teacher preparation
  • lesson plans
  • assessment
  • discipline plans
  • schedules
  • school assemblies
  • morning announcements
  • visitor policies
  • teacher evaluation process
  • building conditions
  • athletics
  • cafeteria set up
  • instructional team decisions
  • furniture placement
  • performances
  • family communication plans
  • rewards and incentives
  • technology use
  • competitions
  • lighting
  • heating/air conditioning
  • wall/hallway displays
  • playground design
  • supervision of unstructured times

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Within each of those individual bullet points there are dozens of factors to take into consideration, but the most important one must always be the best outcome for the student.

The reality is that we know there are things that could and should be better if only we had bigger budgets. Smaller class sizes, more access to high quality instructional materials and equipment, the ability to bring in experts to share their knowledge and love of their field to spark kids’ interests; all of these would be wonderful. However, we must work with what we have and find ways to make it better.

There are dozens of times a day during teaching when I make decisions on the fly. If the class seems to be drifting off, we switch gears or take a break. If the work turned in is poor, I analyze the weakness in my instruction, and have another go at it taking a different approach. If part of a lesson has taken longer than expected, I modify the assignment to reflect the shorter amount of time for students to work on it. These are things that teachers do all the time, and the more experienced they are the better they get at it. But experience can also bring an attitude of “this way works for me, so I’m going with it.” This is where the Benefit Of The Students can come crashing down.

Here’s what I mean. In my teaching I have always read aloud to my students. I have taught kids from preschool to grade six, and I have read to them all. Over time I’ve found many books that I love, and in my heart I would like everyone else to love them as well, but I know better. My reality as a white woman born in the suburbs more than 50 years ago is quite different from that of ANY child born in the last ten years. Now add in family structure, race, gender identity, home language, disability, living conditions, access to adequate food, housing, and healthcare, economic situation, issues of safety in the home, and more, and you see that my reality and my students’ realities may be worlds apart.

What speaks to me, inspires me, motivates me, and enthralls me may do none of those things for my students. If I were to share some of my old favorites, it would become a lesson in drudgery for many of my kids: just a boring old lady reading a boring old book. That is NOT how you share a love of literature. Thank goodness for Jason Reynolds, Meg Medina, Kwame Alexander, Kate DiCamillo, Varian Johnson, Pam Munoz Ryan, Linda Sue Park, Tedd Arnold, Jason Chin, Dusti Bowling, Erin Entrada Kelly, Dav Pilkey, Jeff Kinney, Jacqueline Woodson, Matt de la Pena, Katherine Applegate, Dan Santat, and so many others for giving voice to the children of today. Of course many old favorites have stood the test of time, too.

A mixture of older and newer titles.

While I’m feeling pretty good about the literature I share with me students, I do sometimes make decisions that I know aren’t necessarily in the best interests of the students. Is every lesson as engaging as it could be? No. Time constraints are a big factor on this one. Planning, executing, and assessing these top tier learning opportunities take a good deal of time and effort. Every teacher I know has limited time, and most of us are knocking ourselves out in the effort department, just trying to keep our heads above water.

Here’s the thing: when you know better you can do better. Can I completely reinvent what I teach and the way I teach it? Not completely, no. But can I make adjustments that benefit kids? Absolutely. After all, doing what’s best for kids is why I became a teacher in the first place.


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What Do You Say At a Time Like This?

I’ve felt tongue-tied recently. At least online. I want to write, but I’m not exactly sure what to write about. Naturally there are the BIG things. Things like justice, equity, access to healthcare, governmental responsibility, constituent responsibility, the role of media, the role of the courts, the issue of personal responsibility, the issue of public health.

I’ve stayed away from the BIG topics because I feel like a blog isn’t the right place for me to share my thoughts about them. It’s too one-sided. There are my words, then your interpretation of what I mean, then maybe a comment from you and a reply from me and that’s about it. There’s so much room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. There’s so much margin for error. I prefer to discuss these topics in a more two-sided way, with give and take from both parties. We don’t learn from one another by making proclamations, then closing our eyes, ears, and hearts.

So if not the BIG things, then what? There are plenty of things rattling around in my brain, but they seem so trivial at a time like this. In light of the pandemic raging and the U.S. Capitol being overrun, does anyone really want to read about my seemingly never-ending quest for just the right hand cream? Maybe. After all, I’m not the only one washing my hands excessively this winter.

Or maybe you want to hear about my brownie fail? I’ve made this recipe dozens of times, if not more. These brownies are the best. They ALWAYS turn out. Except the other day they didn’t. The closest I can figure is that I either set the oven for the wrong temperature (maybe 325 instead of 375?) or I set the timer for the wrong amount of time (13 minutes instead of 23?). I was distracted. I had more important things on my mind (more about that in a minute), and I rushed. Sure, they looked a little strange when I pulled them out of the oven, but they weren’t jiggly or anything. And no, I didn’t test them, because why would I? After all, I’ve made them dozens of times, if not more, and I was distracted. They’re still pretty tasty, but they are definitely underdone. Like, way underdone. They hold together, but really, they’re not exactly cooked. Oops.

And why was I distracted? Well, because if was just about kickoff time, and my football team is in the playoffs. Yes, the Buffalo Bills are showing up and it’s glorious. This football season has been a welcome distraction from the BIG things. The team has done so well, and they’ve been so much fun to watch. It’s been a long time since the Bills have gone this far, and it’s a ton of fun. Thank you, Buffalo Bills.

Then there are a bunch of “other” things. Things like the stolen credit card number (that my credit card company caught, thank goodness), the glitchy connection to my online students, and the thousands of spam messages to this blog. There’s the job hunt my son has been enduring, and not seeing much of him due to this stupid pandemic. There’s the mountain of work I need to do in order to complete the requirements to be considered for National Board Certification (for teachers), as well as the professional observation I need to schedule. There’s the concern about going out into the community that has kept me from the dentist and the hair salon, making me feel somewhat like a cave-woman. There’s the worry that I feel for my friends and loved ones, as the list of people I know who’ve been diagnosed with this horrible disease grows. There’s the anxiety of watching the news, but the feeling that I have to keep informed. There’s the wrath that my colleagues and I face from some members of the public, in our community and beyond, because our schools are functioning in an online only capacity for the time being. There’s a lot. And here we are, right back to the BIG things. They’re impossible to ignore.

It seems to me that it’s the big things that frame our lives, but it’s the small things that make them worth living. I’ll set up my observation, and continue the quest for the perfect hand cream. I’ll keep working my way through my National Board materials. I’ll keep looking for work-arounds when our Google meet goes wonky. I won’t give up on that brownie recipe, and I won’t give up on my football team. In the middle of all this crazy, you can still hear me shouting, “Go Bills!”