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Summer, finally.

June 24, 2013

I love summer.  The lazy starts to the new days.  Sunshine (finally, although we are still fighting off the rain).  Grilling.  Reading.  And now I need to catch up on my writing!

So, this happened:

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Sarah is an official Middle School Student.  Her elementary school does a whole ceremony for the fifth graders who are leaving the school.  It was so lovely.  Sarah sang with her choir friends that were also fifth graders at her school.  There was a slide show of  pictures of them when they were in kindergarten with their fifth grade  picture.

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And at the end, the kindergarteners make an arch with their hands that the fifth graders have to go through.  It represents how much they have grown in the six years that they have been in elementary school, and how much the kindergarteners have yet to grow.  So.  Cool.

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I really couldn’t have dreamed of a school that would have been better for Sarah.  I am so sad that she is leaving its safety and comfort to go to MIDDLE SCHOOL.  But she is ready.  She will be fine.  She WILL.

We also have a new resident at our house:

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She decided that she would build her nest right next to our front door, and then was crabby when we wanted to enter and exit our house.  So, we now exit and enter through the garage.  We don’t want to disturb this:

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Eight eggs.  She started with two, and then added one or two over several days, possibly a week.  I wish I would have kept notes so I could be precise, but:  Summer.  No notes.  She is now past the point of flying away when we are near.  She just stays very still.  The eggs take 28 days to hatch.  They should hatch any day.  I hope I get to witness it!

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We also went to my friend Anna’s wedding in Des Moines, Iowa.  It was a road trip!  We drove down on Saturday and came home on Father’s day.  We got to Des Moines a little early before the wedding, so we stopped at the sculpture garden.  It was awesome!

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The wedding was lovely, as was the bride.  After which, we went to check in to our hotel and had an hour of swim time before the reception began.  Jeff took a nap.  I took the kids and my book, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, to the pool.  The reception was wonderful.  Great food.  We had cream of lobster and corn chowder.  YUM.  And the cake?  Anna’s mom MADE the wedding cake.  Red Velvet with butter cream frosting.  Oh.  My.  It was heavenly.  We danced and danced and then Nicholas and Jeff hit the pool around 9:45.  The girls and I joined them at about 10: 30.  We swam until 11.  We live on the wild side don’t we?

The next day was father’s day.  I smuggled breakfast in a cooler for my husband:  Chocolate Eclairs from Patrick’s Bakery.  I had to hide the cooler and hope for the best.  Jeff got up and went fishing which I am sure he will blog about if you would like more information there.  He hasn’t yet, but he will.  When he got back he opened his cards and presents and we ate the delicious Eclairs.  Yum.  We hit the pool for another hour and then packed up and went to Jethro’s for lunch.

Jethro’s was voted the most manly restaurant in the region.  I read that in the bathroom there.  It was also featured on our new favorite program, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  The “Triple D” recommended this place and we were in town, so…why not?  I am so happy we did.  It was the best food I have had in a long time!  (For any of you June Garden readers, it was GODDAMNIT! good.)  Jeff was in heaven and kept talking about it throughout the four-hour drive home, although, he wished he could have napped after that meal.  I offered to drive, but male chauvinism still exists in the whole driving-long-distance realm of my life.  Not that I mind.  We were home for about two hours before we had to be at dinner with my family.  I ate entirely too much on Father’s day.  But it was all good.  I hope Jeff had a good day, despite the long drive.

I really enjoyed Wild.  It was really weird because I had no idea that she was a Minnesota girl.  I think she may have been at the College of St. Thomas a year or two before me.  I am pretty sure she was there with Jeff.  I kept trying to figure it out.  I kept reading despite not being able to put myself in her place.  I would never, ever choose to hike in the mountains carrying heavy things for three months.  Or even one day.  I am not a camper.  I am a hotel kind of gal.  I like to go on “hikes.”  I call them “walks.”  And a couple of hours is enough for me, as long as it isn’t too hot, or too buggy.  Her hike was amazing.  I would definitely recommend this book.  It is beautifully written with an honesty and self-reflection that I can’t recall reading in any other book.
The other excellent book I read was The Other Wes Moore.  Oh.  It was fascinating.  And sad.  And, and, and, oh.  It was good.  I wish I could have you all over to sit and discuss this book.  It is comparing the lives of two very similar kids who share the same name, the same socio-economic status, but end up living two very different lives.  It gives the reader a sense of what it is like to grow up without a safety net.  And how some people weave their own.  It is eye-opening and perspective shifting.  I highly recommend it.  I am playing around with this title in my head to read with my students.  It is at a more difficult reading level, but I think they would benefit from this book, and I think that they would be engaged and motivated to read it.  Let me know what you think, if you read it.
I read The Lightning Thief as well.  Nicholas is reading it, and I wanted to be able to talk to him about it.  I have read it before, and I liked it.  If you haven’t read it and like Greek Gods and such, this is a book for you or for a resident of your house that likes adventure and fantasy.  It begins a whole series and then there is another series based on this series, so it is a hit with Sarah as well.  She is obsessed.  Nicholas is plodding along.  He still isn’t done.  I finished on the day before father’s day.

I also finished reading What the BEST College Teachers Do by Ken Bain.  I am so glad that I read it.  There was a lot of things that I was nodding to while reading, and some things that I need to be better at.  The whole book is about a study that Bain did that tried to define what the best teachers do to be the best.  They selected many teachers from across all disciplines and looked for similarities.  It was interesting.  They selected many more than they kept in the study.  If a candidate did not measure up they were dropped.  The biggest thing I took away from this book is the fact that good teachers are hard to define.  They have very high expectations, but have low-stakes assignments to provide instruction, scaffolding and feedback to actually teach the concepts to their students (duh) before assigning a grade.  I do this, to some extent, but if assignments don’t have enough “stakes” then my students don’t do them!  I was intrigued by examples of teachers who only covered their curriculum and didn’t do anything to make sure learning was taking place.  I guess I remember professors like that when I was in school, but that seems off to me.  I am glad I don’t work with people like that.  He talked a lot about “deep learning” and “critical thinking”.  He argued against the “transmission” model of teaching and for the constructivist model.  I was on board with all of it.  I agree that the best teachers begin with their students, not their curriculum.

The biggest thing I struggle with teaching developmental students is the fact that many are not motivated to learn.  So many college resource books assume that the students are engaged and want to learn.  I still have some convincing to do with my students.  Many of the wonderful things Bain covered in this book hinged on the choice that students are making to be in the course.  My students perceive my course as a requirement, not a choice.  Many feel like they already know how to read, so why do they have to take my dumb class?  Many have failed so often, that not trying is a defense mechanism in order to not feel like a failure.  I still have a lot of thinking to do about this.  But it was such a worthwhile book.  I will read the companion to this book What the BEST College Students Do later on as well.  That should be interesting!

I have now started Stephen Brookfield’s Discussion as a way of Teaching.  I am back in hell.  I read another one of his books, The Skillful Teacher, last summer.  He is HARD to read.  I am not done with chapter two yet.  There are entirely too many chapters.  I am afraid that I will not read anything else for the rest of the summer because this book is so hard for me to stick with.  I need to make myself a schedule and start reading aloud to myself again.  Ugh.  I know what you are thinking:  Why do I want to read it, if it is so difficult?  Because it is so good.  It will change my teaching for the better.  I know it will.  But it will be a painful process.  He is such an academic writer, everything is so dense.  You have to pay attention the whole time.  There is no skimming.  It is exhausting.

Thank you for your book recommendations that you gave me in the comments of my last post!  If I can wade through Discussions, I may get to read one!

Confidential to Christina and Bethany:  I have tried to comment on your blogs and my comments are being eaten.  Multiple times.  I apologize that I gave up.  I will keep trying on new posts.  I got through on Christina’s yesterday, so I am hopeful that the crisis has passed.

Now, tell me:  What did your best college professors do?  How did they make a difference in your life and in your education?

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2 Comments
  1. June 24, 2013 4:20 pm

    I loved Wild too! I read it over Christmas last year. I couldn’t put it down. The way she talked about her relationship with her parents had me thinking hard about my relationships with my own. Also, I was inspired by the great writing!

    My best college professors gave me opportunities to reflect on my own experiences, and connect them with what I was reading. Also, I have always responded to high expectations – messages on the first day that I’m expected to work hard, show up, do my best. And they made me imagine things I could be and do way beyond where I was or what I had imagined for myself; it was a college professor who first planted the idea in my head that I should pursue graduate school.

    Beautiful photos and stories about family fun. And the duck-how wondrous!

    • July 1, 2013 10:41 am

      Thank you so much for your experiences with your professors. I am trying to balance the high expectations, which are essential for good teaching, and a “you can all do this” attitude. So many of my students are afraid they don’t belong in college. I want them to know that they are where they are supposed to be. They can do it! All the while, of course holding onto high expectations and not letting people slack through my class. It is a difficult balance.

      I can’t wait to hear about what you have been up to since you have finished your Thesis…hint, hint!! :)

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