Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble Gobble! What to do the day before Thanksgiving...

You try teaching 11th graders on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I dare you. Really.

I'm not quite sure what it is about this day -- whether it is the anticipation the students have towards the upcoming mini-break, the exhaustion that many teachers are at at this point in the year that they don't have the energy to be the way they usually are in the classroom, or maybe its just a day on which teachers and students realize that there are things that are more important than what they know -- such as the people around them -- and, therefore, they simply just want to talk.

This year, I showed my students a West Wing episode called "Isaac and Ishmael," and episode that was produced a few years after 9/11, which explores the conflict of civil liberties and national security during the age of terrorism. It is a great episode for students not only because it discusses this conflict in an good way, but also because the episode focuses around a group of 11th and 12th grade students that get stuck in the White House during a lock down, and spend the day talking with the White House senior staff (If only this were to have happened to me when I was in 11th grade...)

Aside from this, here are things I have done with my students the day before Thanksgiving, or for that matter, any other break:

1) Show episodes of family guy and explain all the references the kids think they get, but don't
2) Go through every state, and wait for one student to say "Wait, that's a state?"
3) Allow students to imitate you in front of the class, and then act as them so they see how ridiculous they can be sometimes
4) Have students clean or organize the classroom
5) Play Chess
6) Have students push all the desks to the side of the classroom and then do flips over desks
7) Order Dominican Food and have your students explain to you what everything is because you have no clue
8) Go through the website you spent many hours putting together for them, but forgot to tell most of them that it existed until that day
9) Have students make up every single piece of work they are missing
10) Put your hands in the air and give up -- Hey, Its Thanksgiving!

If you have any other ideas, share!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Terribly Sorry

So I hope to continue much more with this, but I definitely have not posted in the last 6 months, and so for that I am sorry!

I went last night to see the Radio City Rockettes, and it was quite a show. One thing that I noticed right off the bat was that it was most definitely not the normal theater going crowd, as half the theater was empty/still standing as the show started. I can't imagine that being the case in for a broadway production...or maybe I'm just being a little harsh.

Anyways, definitely a good time -- and you get a 3D tour of New York, along with a song of sung by 100 Santas.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

My First Ticket

Yesterday I got my first parking ticket ever.

It was for letting my meter run out. The sad thing is that I was literally sitting across the street in a coffee shop, and didn't even notice what was going on.

Yet, someone up above must have known it was my Spring Break, and happily made sure that the village of Evanston has ticketing policies which are foolish.

The price of the parking violation? 10 dollar. That's cheaper than the garage parking decks in the city. Next time I go to the movies I might just leave my car in a spot rather than paying for parking.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Double Edged Sword That Is Pandora

Pandora is a double edged sword.

It is amazing as a product and a tool. I can listen to music that I enjoy for free, even though my iTunes library has about as extensive a collection as Bodega's in the Bronx have of Kosher food.

However, it has a single flaw: It removes the mystery of why you like the music you like.

Whenever someone asks me what type music I listen to, I struggle to explain to them what my taste in music is. I name a few bands, somehow settle on "Alternative Rock" as what I enjoy, and leave it at that.

Now, with Pandora, I can tell them that it is not necessarily "Alternative Rock" that I enjoy, but rather, I enjoy music that "features electronic rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, major key tonalities, electric rhythm guitars and a dynamic male vocalist."

I'm not quite sure if that's a good or bad thing, but right now it's just not what I need. If you have any good Alternative Rock songs/bands to suggest to me, please do so. However, if I need some new music that "features electronic rock instrumentation, a subtle use of vocal harmony, major key tonalities, electric rhythm guitars and a dynamic male vocalist," I'll let Pandora figure that out for me.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


So I recently was invited to sign onto Twitter by someone. I have never had the intention to get involved with Twitter, especially since I currently don't have a Smart Phone that would make it more useful.

However, in the last 48 hours I have posted a few times to Twitter, and been conversing here and there simply through my laptop.

The problem is that I now I'm confused what should be communicated directly to people by text, what should be twittered, and what I should blog about.

I guess this is something I should blog about. Decision made.

I also think I might start making lexiconic slogans to describe what you can do with texts, blogs and twitters, like the ones Comcast created to promote their Triple Play package.

My first one, and I encourage you to come up with others, is:

Twextogger - A person who uses their phone to twitter as a means to replace their blog.

I hope to never become a Twextogger.

P.S. In the beauty of the computer age, I was able to just tell to blog spot to "Add" Twextogger "to Dictionary"

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Bill Cosby Became Famous

Bill Cosby was right about one thing: Kids say the darnedest things.

There is a family guy episode in which Stewie gets on Cosby's Show and says, "I was under the impression the name of the show was "Kids Say the Darndest Things," not "Old Black Comedians Never Shut the Hell Up." (Sorry for the political incorrectness...) Anyways, there is a reason why people watched that show. Kids do say the darnedest things.

As the youngest in my family, I never had the opportunity to watch a little sibling grow up. And so, I never had the chance to laugh at little children do funny things very often.

However, on the second night of Passover, three of my cousins came over for the Seder -- they are ages 3, 7 and 7 (the last two are twins). The twins are of course funny and cute (and can read very well as we were all privileged to hear). Yet, the three year old by far provided the entertainment for the night at the far end of the table.

I have a two friends who teach 3 and 4 year olds, and so I decided to see what this three year old could do. In my infinite wisdom, and slow IV of teacher juices flowing through me, I tried to teach the three year old how to add. This of course was not a task I really thought would be successful, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

Before moving onto using manipulatives (as in AWESOME Duplo blocks from my childhood) as my means of teaching addition, I began by using fingers. We first scaffolded by counting the fingers on my hand, which she did very successfully, making it up to five. I then had her count the one finger on my other hand, which she did successfully. When I put that one finger out, I had used my index finger.

Next came the big moment: What would happen when I put the one finger next to the other five, and asked the three year old how many there were together? Well, this is how it went:

"So if we have five fingers and one hand (I hold up one hand), and on finger on the other hand (I for some reason choose to use my thumb to represent the one finger), and we put them together (and so I put them together), How many fingers are there together?"

The Answer: "GOOD JOB!"

Good Job? Good Job? That's not a number!

It was not for a few moments until I realized what had happened. The three year old, being as literal as possible (How I didn't see this one coming I have no idea....) had seen the single thumb on my right hand pointing up, and concluded that 5 + 1 = Good Job.

It was then that I moved onto the Duplo, and actually, was semi-successful.

Good Job, Sam.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Been Listening All Morning

Been listening to this song all morning figuring out how to use it in school...


"I Can"

Basically, it has a good message, good motivation, good medium AND history. Isn't it gold?

Coming Home

On Wednesday I hopped on a flight back to Chicago to spend Spring Break (and Passover, per the post yesterday) with my family.

In the car on the way back my dad turned to me and said, "So, for the first two nights you're sleeping on the Futon." My brother, sister-in-law and grandmother were staying with us.

However, the question that I keep wondering as a 20 something year old, who was across state lines for college and now continues to live 800 miles away, is when does the home you grew up in stop being your "home"? (yes, I know there is something wrong with the grammatical placement of the quotation marks since they do not include the question mark; however, I don't like how it looks that way).

I'm immediately inclined to answer that question by saying that it stops becoming your home when you no longer have a bedroom that is yours. That is, a bed which you slept in for most of your life, still having most of the furniture that you used, and the general decor of the room (pennants, posters, pictures, books) is still similar.

If that is the case, then my home is still in Chicago. I still have my bed, my blanket, my cubs posters, my pennants from different stadiums, my desk, my bookshelf and my pictures.

My brother lost his room when he got married. Until then, he still had his bed, and room, fully intact -- aside from the treadmill my mom put into his room a number of years ago.

Yet, on some level, having been relegated to two different futons in two nights so that others who were staying with us could make use of my room and what is now the "Den" (which in reality is just my brother's old room with his bed replaced by a futon and newly painted, and, uncharacteristically, accented wall), I'm inclined to say that for someone who comes home 3-4 times a year, my home is away from Chicago.

This is not to say that I don't feel at home here, I do. Fully. Yet, the question that I think makes me decide this is, if my parents wanted to turn my room into something else (which they have contemplated), would I really have any solid reason that they shouldn't? Probably not.

If you have any thoughts on the subject, feel free to leave them.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

I Really Am A Teacher

I really am a teacher.

Not that I didn't realize it before. I always knew that I was a teacher (and sometimes a parent, friend, mentor, adviser, coach, chaperon, gossiper, partner in crime...depending on the day, period, minute or second). However, I hadn't realized how much I had internalized what that means on a day to day basis.

Sure, my friends and I share stories about our days -- whether it is that we figure out how to teach somebody to understand what they are reading, had a kid shout out "MONGOL" at the top of their lungs for 10 minutes, try to calm kids down after a gun was found in the school, explained to little ones what a season is, or had a kid come up to you really excited because they heard that Obama was at a NATO conference (and you taught them what NATO was) -- but those are just school stories.

I realized at my family's first Seder (passover meal) how much of being a teacher has slowly started to infiltrate and influence my everyday life, kind of like an IV tap that so slowly send teacher juices into my veins, yet not enough at one time that I notice it.

As I spoke, I refused to continue until everyone at the table was quiet. As others read from the Haggadah (the story of passover), I got very uncomfortable if people were talking while others were reading. As I read through the additional readings, the first thoughts that popped into my head were, "is there any way I can use this in class?" And, in fact, I can; there is a reading about how the original seal of the United States was supposed to have a depiction of Moses leading the people across the Red Sea as they were fleeing from Egypt, just as the American colonists were fleeing the persecution of the British thrown. As my younger cousins were discussing their college tours, I could not think of their tours or college choices but rather I thought only of where my students would end up -- whether it was fair that my cousins (and myself) had had opportunities that they did not.

I thought to myself, more than anything the whole night, what Passover really means. We are told in the Seder, "Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt," and that God freed you; to remember not just that you were once slaves, but that "you were once strangers in a strange land." I could not help but realize that what I want people in my life to realize more than anything is that they are privileged. No matter what. I have never had to sleep in a room with 5 of my siblings every night, come to class and write on the bottom of my test that I can't finish it because "I'm too hungry," missed school because I have to act as a parent and walk my siblings to school, or work 30 hours a week to help my parents pay the bills.

That is what Passover is telling us: Remember that what you have, you did not always have, and that there are others in this world -- across the country, around the corner, or across the bridge -- that are still waiting for their own redemption. You are privileged.

It amazes me that even my students understand this about themselves. They understand that they are privileged in their own way -- that there are people worse off than they are. They say it. Whenever we discuss a time in history in which people had their rights oppressed, they go into discussions about how bad it is for those people...or how their lives are so much better than those in the Great Depression. I hope that others can learn from their example in understanding what privilege is, and what it means.

That is what passover is about.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Hear it now. Cubs will win the World Series this year.

That's how it starts every year...hopefully, this year, it will finally come true. Not sure how much longer I can last in a city with a history of winning while still holding on to my Cubbies. At least when I was in Washington they hadn't won anything in the last 20 years...