Saturday, January 24, 2015

CAM's First Book Report

CAM has a book report! She's in second grade, so it's probably about right. When I was in second grade, I made up my own book report assignments because I felt like my teacher didn't give us any and I wanted them.  Yes, I really did, and yes, my parents still have them. I think I wrote a story, too -- about a parakeet. I am glad to see some accountability over reading and not just daily reading logs. But that's just me being me.

I like the style of this first project. It's a "brown bag" book report. Students had to read a biography and then create a report based on that, using a brown paper grocery bag.

The front of the bag had to say the title, author, and illustrator, and could use drawings and printouts.

The back of the bag had to relate the most important part of the book through an illustration (no printouts).

One side panel had to say what you liked about the book, and the other something you disliked about the book.

Inside, there had to be five "props" related to the book, which will help for an oral presentation the kids have to do when they return to school.

CAM picked "Who Was Anne Frank," which has led to countless conversations about concentration camps, Nazis, our ancestry, and so many things. It has been awesome.

We were gently admonished to let this be our kids' work. My only worry is that someone will think it isn't!  CAM's illustration of the hideout in Amsterdam is pretty fantastic.

Hard at work drawing the three-building scene with the Amsterdam hideout in the middle. If you look carefully, you can see she's basing her drawing on a similar sketch in the book she read.

I helped her by drawing the initial two lines and teaching her some ruler tricks -- marking the ruler to know how long to draw each segment, lining it up with the top windows to draw the bottom windows perfectly in line with them, and so on -- but I think there are fewer than 6 lines on that paper that I drew. She really ate it up.
But this wasn't without issues. Getting CAM to faithfully bring home her book from school has been pulling teeth. Finally, she realized this Wednesday that she had almost no time left to finish her book and do this report (which is due Monday) and that I would absolutely let her drop the ball if she was going to drop the ball.

Thursday after school, we went to the grocery store specifically to get brown paper bags. We spent a moderate amount on groceries, got all the way home, and realized we'd forgotten to ask for paper bags.

I texted Mick at work and he brought home two bags.

It didn't much matter, though: CAM had left her book at school again!

She read the rest of the book yesterday (Friday), after I told her that we could not write a report without her finishing her reading, and that I would not bail her out in tears Sunday night.  After hockey today we found ourselves unexpectedly without plans. It is snowing here in New England, and our plans for the afternoon and evening changed with the weather's unanticipated severity. So we were home, WHM was entertaining himself with Legos, and CAM and I sat down at the kitchen table to attack this report. To her credit, she wanted to finish it all today so there would be nothing to worry about tomorrow. She did a great job!

The colored-in drawing. I regret not taking a snapshot before she started coloring, because the pencil drawing was really impressive, and I think the coloring actually takes away from what a good job she did. I also wish she'd WAITED to color, because the buildings should not be black -- but we'll just say it's nighttime. Anyway, this is clearly done by a child, but I am worried that the teacher may think I drew the houses first -- which is absolutely not the case.

The front. Title, Author, Illustrator, and then some "creative" elements, including a printout of the image of the book. 
The props in the bag need to help the presenter give an oral presentation about the book, going from the birth of the subject to their death/the present.

We chose (and yes, we chose these together):
  1. A photo of Anne Frank
  2. A felt Star of David
  3. A leather journal to represent Anne's diary 
  4. A "map" of the hideout
  5. A photo of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

The kids are not allowed to use notecards. So here is where my devious brilliance great idea gives CAM an advantage: we put the props on card stock with a secret code to help her presentation. The props go in the order of the rainbow. To anyone not in the know, we just used different colors. But actually, the first photo of Anne, which introduces the whole book, is on red. We skip orange and then talk about the yellow star and how the Jews were persecuted and how Anne's family moved to Amsterdam. That leads to green, which is the map of the hideout, and it's easy to remember to talk about the diary. Finally, blue -- the concentration camp where Anne and her sister died (a month before the Allies liberated the camp, a detail CAM keeps mentioning). Red-(orange)-yellow-green-blue. CAM's been singing a song about the colors of the rainbow since she was three. She's got this 100% under control!

The hardest part of the project -- other than getting CAM to bring home her book -- was trying to differentiate between something CAM liked/disliked about the book versus something about the story the book told. In the end, I thought that if I gave too many examples ("I wish the pictures were in color," "I wish there were more examples of Anne's actual diary entries," "I liked the photos," etc.) that it would not be CAM's original thoughts anymore. So, I let her interpret it as things she liked about the story, not about the book, and didn't fret too much.

I think that's quite alright for second grade. And if not, well, we'll keep working on it. In the meantime, what a great job she did, working almost 100% on her own!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Thirteen years!

I've really fallen off the blogging bandwagon in the worst way. I can't even muster up any excuses.

I've got a lot on my to-do list to get this blog current. I'm going to resolve, for the 99th time, to do a better job...


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Math Education: We Don't Need Algebra 2

I was cashing out at Gymboree earlier, and as I started to walk away, another customer set some items on the counter and asked, "I am buying these as Christmas gifts, but if they don't fit, will they be able to return them?"

The cashier said, "We have a 180-day return policy with your receipt." 

The customer then asked, "So, will that work?"

I won't go on a soapbox here about all that's wrong with education, but c'mon. She didn't even know enough to know she should have been embarrassed. We don't need Algebra 2 for all kids. We need to rethink our priorities and content so adults can function (moderately intelligently) in society.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reason Number Infinity I Love My Husband

CAM was down in Saco all day today for a baton twirling convention. It's a full-day skills clinic, really (or a series of clinics, if you will).  We have had a long week, and if she wasn't exhausted already, she was certainly exhausted by the end of the day. (Evidence: one of the coaches said that by 2pm, she was "meowing" in response to questions.)

The convention is for all of the Northeast, and so this evening there was a cookout and party at the "headquarters" hotel.  They really did a nice job -- lots of outdoor games and competitions for the twirlers (I'd say "girls," but there were also a few boys), a cookout, and at the end, a campfire and s'mores.

We stayed for all the team events and dinner (CAM didn't eat, and I hadn't paid to attend, nor was I hungry) and then out of a combination of being cold and it being late -- and Day Two is tomorrow, and we live an hour away -- I decided to head home in that downtime while people were still eating and the bonfire wasn't ready.

Mind you that I checked with all the coaches that we'd miss almost nothing by leaving.

CAM broke into full sobs.  One of her coaches gave her a big hug and said she just needed rest.

I promised CAM we'd make s'mores in the oven when we got home, and when she was still upset because she was missing her "first fire," I reminded her that her Uncle Mark makes amazing fires at their house upstate and that she's been there before ... and we'll go again soon.

I then called Mick to ask him to start the oven, so that when we got home we could make s'mores, stat!

Well, when we got home, the boys had made this:

That's a paper campfire, complete with flames, colored red.  And pillows and stuffed animals are circled around the fire so we could "roast" our s'mores.

WHM was actually the one who suggested that he and Mick make CAM her very own campfire, and he and Mick made it.

CAM and I sure are lucky.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rage Tears

You all know I teach high school math in a public school here in Maine. I've occasionally voiced my frustrations, both with what public school is and has become, and the idiosyncrasies of my particular school.

I don't have the emotional energy to get into it all here, but I left work today in rage tears.

Below is my Facebook post about it.  Comment if you are curious, and I'll write more. This is far, far too important to ignore, but most people are so far removed from what actually happens in schools that all they know is what they see on TV.  That is to say, folks see angry unions against angry politicians. There's no honest dialogue because there's too much name-calling and too many agendas and egos in the way.  All most people know about schools right now is spin, and that there's this thing called Common Core.  People have mixed opinions, if any at all.

I am not political. I can't say anything about my ego -- that's for you to judge.  But I'm in the schools, and my voice is SILENCED because I need a job.

Well, screw it. I need a job, but I also need to do what's right for kids.

Here's my Facebook post...

Feeling incredibly, ridiculously discouraged after a meeting about the Smarter Balanced assessment. It's not our school, it's not our kids, it's the exam. The implementation idiosyncrasies on top of all of it will make me lose my mind. I have a moral problem with setting our kids up to fail, and that is what this test does. I can not defend that *to anyone.* I can not, in good conscience, put my head on my pillow at night when I am one of many cogs allowing this to happen. When good people do nothing, evil prevails. That is what is happening, people. In the meantime, my colleagues think I am crazy. This isn't just poor practice. This is BAD FOR KIDS, and those of us to try to stand up to stop it risk losing our jobs.

Then, someone commented, and here are my two replies:

I wanted to quit. I was crying rage tears. Mick says it is time to be LOUD and attach my name to it.

That doesn't even get to how much instructional time we lose to practice for these and how my AP class keeps getting time taken away, including time to take these tests PRIOR to our AP exam. When I already only see them every other day. RAGE TEARS.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

New Kicks

WHM's super-fast Spiderman sneakers had a blowout this week.

To be precise, that happened on Tuesday, exactly one day after the BOGO sale ended at Stride Rite.  This photo is when he showed me the issue while he and I had dinner and waited for CAM's ballet class to end. (Side note -- I am so excited that he and I get to have "dates" every Tuesday while CAM dances!)

Our nearest Stride Rite is precisely 60 minutes away, at the Stride Rite Outlet in Kittery, Maine.  That's okay, because I prefer to shop the outlet and it's a nice excuse for a drive to Southern Maine. Sometimes we wander the outlets in Kittery, sometimes we go to Portsmouth, NH, and sometimes we meander our way back to Central Maine and stop at the mall in Portland or at Stonewall Kitchen in York, or any of a million other beloved detours.

In any case, WHM can't go to school -- especially since this past week was full-on July weather -- without sneakers.  He can't exactly wear dress shoes and shorts, or snow shoes and shorts.  And sandals are not allowed.  So, we promised him we'd buy new sneakers on Saturday, when we could most easily head down to Kittery.

He went straight to the superhero shoes again.

Mick and I were really trying to get him to go with lace-up sneakers, so he could learn and practice tying his shoes.  In fact, before he had Spiderman shoes, he had lace-up sneakers.  (Also, for some reason we don't quite even know ourselves, we'd been steadfastly opposed to superheroes, cartoon characters, anything like that on shoes.  CAM never had a pair, and WHM only had Spiderman because the last time we went shoe shopping, I was without Mick and was, apparently, a softie that day.)

In any case, Mick and I tried everything yesterday.

"Mommy, I wealllly want theeese."

"But, WHM, these are so stylin'."

"No, but these hurt."

"No, they don't."

"But I weally wike this style."

"Daddy would like you to try some big-kid shoes, like his ... and CAM's, and mine ... see this super-cool color?"

"I don't wike that color."

"What about these?"

"I don't like those bottoms."

"What about these?!  Super awesome with red and black! And check out the bottoms!  Spikey! Come on, WHM, we really want you to get a pair that has laces.   You need to learn how to tie your shoes since you're in kindergarten!"

"Mommy, I want these.  With velcro."

"Let's just try these on, okay? Let's see how they look. You USED to have a pair with laces, you know!  A pair just like these!"

"Those hurt."

"They only hurt when they got too small.  We'll get your right size and they will feel great!"

We tried on the black-and-red sneakers, but they were a half size too big and even Mick regretfully admitted that they were not a good choice.  Too big is almost as bad as too small, especially with our little fall-prone man.

At this point, the Ironman shoes were not coming off his feet.

"Come on, WHM, those sneakers are just like the Spiderman shoes you already have. Let's try a new style."

We found an adjacent pair in a style we could live with and Mick chimed in: "Look!  These have laces AND velcro! Look how the velcro goes across!"

But WHM sat on the floor and pointed to the shoes he wanted, and said "Wook. These have velcro and it doesn't just go across. The velcro on this one goes here and here.  These are just like my Spiderman shoes and I already know I wuv this style."

Suffice it to say, the day's negotiation went to WHM.


These were well-loved and were on my "replace next" list, anyway.  The blowout forced the issue.

After:  (Note the similarities in velcro and style!)

We have also been informed that these shoes are EVEN FASTER than the Spiderman ones, and that it was a very good decision to buy these.

Thank goodness.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Some Afternoon Photo Fun

I love that we have essentially this same pose in countless photos in the past seven years.  This is CAM at play, deep in concentration in her chalk art. 

WHM only wanted to make silly faces to start. He's been hamming it up all day!