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The longest post in the world

July 23, 2012

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity.

First, we had the end to the softball season happen.  Jeff coached Katie’s team and they were good.  Good players, good coaches, and GREAT parents who all pitched in and helped out.  They lost one game during the season and ended up in first place.  That was nice during the playoff tournament.  We had a bi, and we won our first game 19-2.  Easy Peasy.  The next morning we won as well, but it was a good competition.  They were pretty good and I was nervous for the first half of the game.  On Sunday morning we LOST…gasp!  That stunk because if we would have won we would have gone right into the championship game.  Instead we had to play at noon.  Which we did.  And we won.  So, we made it to the championship game anyway.  We had to beat the team we had lost to that morning.  NERVOUS.  But we did it!  Then because that team hadn’t lost two games yet, we had to play them AGAIN.  And WE WON!  I never thought I would think watching FOUR softball games in one day would be FUN, but it was.  So.  Fun.  Katie was so proud.  And, ahem, Jeff was a little MORE than proud.  (I am just glad we won because I had to go home with the coach!)

On Monday, Sarah had her birthday party.  In June one of her best friends had a slumber party at a hotel.  This, of course, set a precedent.  So Sarah had her first-ever slumber party.  I was nervous, mostly because I am not that fun.  There would be no hotel, and no staying up all night.  Not to mention no snacks in the basement!  Mean.  I admit it.  But it all went so smoothly!  I had the girls come at 5:00.  I dinged around for a bit, while they organized their sleeping bags in the basement.  Around 6:00 we went out to Lee Ann Chin for dinner.  It was pleasant.  I love me some sesame chicken, so I was happy.  We went home and they changed into their swim suits and then we went to the beach that is two minutes away from my house.  They swam until it started getting dark.  We came home and then I realized I had some tweens in my house.  They had to shower.  (!)  Really?  I don’t remember being that clean in fifth grade.  After  everyone was showered and beautiful, we had cake and opened presents.  I forced Katie and Nicholas to go to bed…they were less than pleased…and the girls watched Matilda (the movie based on the book by Roald Dahl).  I went to bed.  The only drama was the centipede scare at 1:00 AM after the movie ended.  Have I told you that I made Jeff vow to kill all centipedes before I would marry him?  Yep.  But since he had to work the next morning, I took one for the team and got out my fly swatter.  I only got one.  All four girls had ALL of their stuff in their arms in the kitchen.  They were going to sleep in Sarah’s room.  Um.  There isn’t room for four girls in Sarah’s room.  They began negotiating…and I went to bed.  They figured it out.  Jeff made a huge breakfast the next morning:  pancakes, hash browns, bacon…YUM.  Then they played.  I basically ignored them.  Whew.  All that worry for nothing.

Sarah’s actual birthday was Thursday.  She is ELEVEN now.  I can’t really wrap my head around that.  She can babysit.  She is a lovely young almost woman…ugh.  That was even hard to type.  She didn’t have much of a birthday because she had golf and Nicholas had Lacrosse, but we all had breakfast together and she got to open her presents then.  Jeff and I gave her an ipod shuffle.  We discussed an ipod touch, but decided against it.  I don’t want to monitor the internet yet.  There is just so many things that I don’t know that are dangerous.  I have some learning to do before that.  Plus it is expensive!  I think she is fine with her shuffle, she seems excited and happy.  We also got her a speaker so she can listen to her play lists without headphones.  It has been a hit.  Heck, maybe I’ll even get a shuffle!  I have never had an ipod….I KNOW!

We have been out to dinner with both Jeff’s parents and my own and finally the birthday celebrating is done.  Thank goodness.  I have hardly had time for anything else!  This week is the last week of Lacrosse so we will only have Sarah’s golf to work around.  I have a TON of work to do, I stopped and then promptly started reading and I have not gone back.  So, I need to go and look at an old post in order to see what I told you about as far as books are concerned….

*****

Okay.  The first book I picked up out of obligation.  I have heard the author speak twice.  Once at opening workshops before spring semester 2011, and once at a conference that I attended last fall.  Steven Brookfield is a wonderful speaker, so I  bought two of his books.  And they have been sitting on my table staring at me ever since.  When I bought them he was there doing signings, so of course, I had him sign them.  I asked him which one I should read first, and he told me I should read The Skillful Teacher first.  I have started it.  And put it down.  And started it…and put it down.  This time was no exception.  It took me a week to get through the first chapter.   Then I made up my mind that I would finish this ding-dang book if it killed me.  It is so beneficial.  The content totally relevant to what I am teaching.  It is about COLLEGE teaching which I need to learn more about.  But, oh man, it is difficult.  I had to assign myself a schedule.  At first it was a chapter a day.  But then I figured it would take me fourteen days to finish it.  That was too long.  I wanted it done.  I changed my goal to TWO chapters a day and challenged myself to do more than that in order to finish early…which I did after Katie’s game on Saturday.  The best thing about this book is his discussion about feeling like an “imposter” when you are a teacher.  You feel like you are “muddling through” in order to convince everyone that you are competent.  This idea totally resonated with me.  I have been feeling exactly that, especially because I have made such a HUGE jump from teaching emergent readers to teaching adults.  But he also is reassuring.  He gives us an example of a discussion he had planned for one of his classes.  After he asked the initial question, he is met with silence. And blank stares.  He asked a follow-up question…more silence.  That is when he began to panic.  He then made something up on the spot.  He told them they didn’t have to talk.  (!)  Seems counter-intuitive doesn’t it?  He writes:

“To my astonishment this brief speech, born of total panic, seemed to unleash the conversational floodgates and veritable torrent of student comment burst forth….  I wish I could say that I thought this all out beforehand, that I knew in advance about the way in which performance anxiety constituted a barrier to student participation, and had therefore worked out a shrewd pedagogic tactic to deal with this.  That would be a lie.  What I enjoyed seemed like pure dumb luck.  And yet, to call it dumb luck is perhaps to underestimate the informed intuitive rumblings that lay behind this improvisation.  The rapidly compressed sequence of judgments  I was engaged in as a response to student silence can be described as practical reasoning (Brookfield, 2000)….  …muddling through situations is neither random nor amateurish.  Or, at least, it need not be.  Muddling through can be done well or badly.  When it is done well, it involves the application of informed practical reasoning.  Practical reasoning  comprises three interrelated skills of scanning, appraisal, and action…”  (pages 5-6)

This book is hard to read, but has so many great ideas for lectures and discussion, and especially for over-coming resistant learners.  I am so happy that I read it.  And, I am also happy that I am done with it.  I recommend reading it, but know it is work to get through.  And, for you non-teachers out there…just disregard…

I totally deserved a reward after finishing that book, so I picked up Monster by Walter Dean Myers.  This was a tough book.  It is YA because I am on a YA kick this summer.  This book is about a sixteen year old boy who is accused of being an accessory to the murder of a drug store clerk in a robbery that goes bad.  The author keeps the reader guessing throughout the book.  It is very graphic as to what life is like behind bars.  Chilling, really.  I was unsettled.  I know when I wrote about Speak, briefly, I alluded to the fact that I can’t do that realism that hits hard.  This was a bit too hard for me, but it was a wonderful book.  Excellent.  There is so much that can be discussed and questioned and explored.  I really wish someone else would have read it with  me so I could talk about it.

Since I had a bit of a stomach ache after that book, and yes, I had promised myself that I would read another professional book after that…a promise that I broke…I picked up Split by Swati Avasthi.  Yet another YA.  This one I can totally recommend.  I loved it.  Every word.  It had me near tears quite a bit, and it is brutal in a few places, and yes.  It is chilling.  It hit hard as well, but some how I was in the story more, or something.  It could be a cultural thing.  Monster is told from an African-American perspective, and from a poverty perspective.  Split is told from a wealthy white perspective.  I am not wealthy, but I am white and middle class.  That could be the difference.  Split is about an abusive father and his abused wife and abused two sons.  It is harrowing at times, and I was rooting for the protagonist the whole time.  Again, I wish I could talk to someone about this book!  I probably will be able to talk to someone, because I know the author!  She taught at my college fall semester last year.  She will be back this fall.  I emailed her right away and we are looking at dates to have lunch.  She is the kind children’s literature professor that invited me into her class to guest lecture.  I love her!  So…go read her fantastic book!

I am onto my next professional read.  I will tell you about it when I am done.  Let’s just say, I am making a schedule.

Sorry this is the longest post in the world…but I needed to catch up!

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8 Comments
  1. Anna permalink
    July 24, 2012 5:06 pm

    Katie is so cute (just like her mama)! Congratulations on the big win. And I love the pictures!

    • August 25, 2012 8:39 am

      Both Katie and my husband are so DIRTY in that picture. I guess after four games in the HEAT I can’t expect them to look clean, but geez.

  2. July 25, 2012 12:56 pm

    “I have to go home with the coach” …hahahaha! that cracked me up! Hurrah for everything in this post. Winners and birthdays and books and all. I started babysitting when I was 12 and I remember as an adult being rather horrified that adults let a 12-year-old (me) be responsible at home ALONE WITH A BABY. :)

    • August 25, 2012 8:40 am

      I know! I have told her that she can’t babysit unless I am home and able to come to the rescue if need be. Crazy that my kids are growing up so fast.

  3. August 8, 2012 3:19 am

    Hurrah for winning at softball!

    And I have to say – GOOD JOB reading that teaching book! That little excerpt you included was dense indeed. Just so many ideas packed in there, and not quite enough engaging writing, huh?

    Going to write down these YA reading recommendations. I just read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson, and it was so good!

    • August 25, 2012 8:41 am

      I am totally getting Major Pettigrew today at the bookstore. I love YA. Easy, fast, and oh, so good!

      *And thank you for the praise about that book. I love gold stars.

  4. August 14, 2012 6:54 pm

    Sarah’s 11? I started babysitting at 11, but I distinctly remember being a baby myself at the time. :) It’s nice to catch up with you; we should do it more often! (And by “we,” I mostly mean “me.” Must start allocating time to beloved blogfriends.)

  5. August 25, 2012 8:42 am

    Oh, Bethany. I am so happy to see your name here. You know you can do no wrong in my book. I just love you so!

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