Monday, July 28, 2008

School Dreams

I can tell that I have the next school year on the brain because I am having nightly teaching dreams. Although I am doing preparation school work every day, I have a sense that it will not be enough to make a smooth start. Two main reasons for this: (1) I will have a freshman homeroom, and I have never had a freshman homeroom in 14 years of teaching; and (2) I am teaching a new subject, Honors Probability and Statistics. Since my first BS is in statistics, I can teach the subject in my sleep, so to speak, but I still need to create a pacing guide and a general walk-through for myself. Ah, at least I no longer have the time constraints of the department chairmanship. I can do this.

I've been trying to get out almost daily to walk for an hour or so, but today I woke up too late to avoid the summer's heat. I think I'll go to the local big mall and walk there while checking out the fall fashions. The funny thing is the fact that due to a small salary, this will be the first time I will be at said mall in over a year. The stores are too expensive for me and my family. It will be a nice change of pace walk, though, especially with the air conditioning. (Maybe that's why Barak Obama does not sweat when he works out in front of reporters: air conditioning?)

I still have my muslin shirt waiting for me to cut the interfacing and sew. The pattern calls it the "3 hour shirt", but the package notes that the time approximation does not include pinning and cutting the fabric. It is a rather quick-to-sew pattern, and it's one of my favorites, so I figure just a little bit of time on it. Today, maybe? Then I can move on to checking out the thrift stores for jackets and dress pants to get for teaching. I don't have enough time left to do any serious clothing sewing after the shirt because I have other obligations awaiting my attention.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What a difference 2 days can make!

We finally had rain ... severe thunderstorms ... wind ... rain ... lightening strikes ... rain ... and so on ... We are now on the other side of the isobar, and it is much, much cooler. There goes my sewing days for a while, but I did finish repairing our favorite comforter last night. (Our cat just came in, damp from outside. I wonder under what did she walk to get her fur so damp?)

I went to the school yesterday and discovered that my AP computer science students from last year did not pass the AP exam. Ouch! Teaching coding and concepts is the easy part. I've had trouble teaching the logic of certain structures that I find easy to understand myself; hence, the trip to the computer science workshop early this month. I needed someone else's eye to help me see what I could not. I have some great activities to center my students on the logic and structures. Also, they will be required to spend at least 3 extra hours a week in the computer lab outside of class. Plus they will be taking progressively harder practice exams every Friday. I intend to ram the learning down their throats, even if they really don't want it. After all, they chose to take the AP class, and they cannot drop it after the first week due to school policy.

This morning before and after my daily walk I will be working on something new to me: Alice programming language/system/?. I think I can use it to get the idea of object-oriented coding more entrenched into my AP students, plus I have an idea of how I can use it to create an animation to use in my math classes to entice more students into computer science for the following year. I just need to learn how to use it better. Of course, I still have the shirt waiting to be pinned and cut out, but that can hold off until later today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sewing Days

We may be close to "dog days", but I call them sewing days for me. We have no air conditioning in our house, so when the heat goes over 94 degrees Fahrenheit, one can only do so much and that much cannot involve a lot of movement. Hence, I get the urge to sew.

I got my muslin out and ironed it last night in front of a large fan. It's hanging on the banister waiting to be pinned and cut out. I found my favorite shirt pattern, so now I'm ready to take both to the dining table and begin. I'll probably get to it tonight with fans going strong. I also found the muslin dress I made as a try-on for my daughter's wedding gown (I made said gown, too.) 3 years ago. I tore the seams out, and I'm now using it to patch the back of our favorite comforter. "Wash it, fix it, wear it out. Make it last or do without." Those WW II people knew of which they were speaking.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Successful Thursday, lazy Friday

In the afternoon on Thursday, I replaced the screen on the fire escape screen door. Getting the trim off was not as hard as my husband expected; the fact that I did it and not he contributed to his opinion, of course. As I expected there was no spline keeping the original screen in place, so I felt confident that I didn't need any either. It took a while to get all the nails and brads out. Then my husband helped me start to put up the new screening, minus spline as explained above. While I was standing on the ladder, I found that I could easily touch the overhang on the eaves, so I measured it: the overhang on our eaves is just a tad over 25 inches. No wonder gutter people shudder when they look at our house.

Back to the screening ... I used a marking roller from my sewing supplies to push the screening into what grooves there were. There were not grooves across all of the wood. Did I mention that this was an old wooden screen door? I stapled gunned the heck out of it. That screen ain't going nowhere anytime soon. I trimmed the excess with one of my new utility knives. Lastly, for me, I replaced the trim; I think my dad would probably have gotten new trim, but I'm not that perfect in my home rehabbing skills ... yet. My husband painted over the trim after dark. I think everyone should paint after dark, it's so hard to tell how the new paint makes you realize that the whole door needs painted. It is nice, though. My sewing room is getting a friendlier, homier feeling as I continue to fix it up, and this just adds to the charm. Now, I need to work on making the fire escape landing look and feel like a balcony. Hmm. Next summer.

I did finish making my jumper that night by sewing the hem. One new jumper for the fall. Next to make is a tailored shirt. I can never have too many of them.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Home ... Work

I watch a lot of home repair/decorate/build/buy/etc. shows summer and winter. They help me get energized on fixing up our 93 year old historic home. (No, I refuse to get on the National List of Historic Places or whatever because I would not be allowed to do some of the things that I want to do, but I live in a historic district in one of the homes that makes it historic.) One thing that I've really gotten from those shows is the fact that so many home owners plan to do some repair work when they get around to it, but they don't get around to it until they are ready to sell. I do not want to be one of those people! Anyhow, today I will be working on the screen door to the fire escape. Did I mention that our house had been split into 2 apartments when we bought it and that we made it back into a single family dwelling?

One really nice perk of teaching is the ability to do stuff in the summer and save money plus add to one's repertoire of skills by working on one's home oneself. My husband thinks that some things cannot be done by us because he cannot do it, but he is the one who was sure that I broke our washing machine 30+ years ago when he came home to find I had taken it apart to fix it. I fixed it and put it back together before he finished his nap that day. I have spent the past year learning how to replace the screening, and it looks rather simple in concept. Of course, reality will be a different thing, but I am up to the challenge. Besides, I really don't like the "quick and dirty" repair he did years ago on it. I can do this.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Summer Preparation

What is it about teachers that we spend part of our unpaid summer "vacation" preparing for the next school year? I understand that I am teaching a new-to-me subject, so I need to do some serious prep work, but I ran into the Latin teacher today when I dropped in at the high school, and she was creating new tests, worksheets, etc. for new textbooks. I sometimes wonder why we don't just require that we will never teach new subjects nor use new textbooks in our situations; it would certainly make the summer freer for us. Oh, well. I just need to keep in mind that time spent well now means more free time outside of school in the next year.

I've been finishing up my jumper, but I ended up doing more hand stitching than the pattern suggests. I find that as I get older, I want things done better. Maybe my father was right: "Good enough never is."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Teacher Time Saved

On Friday I had my annual physical. I make sure that I get physicals, medical tests, etc. taken care of in the summer because it is such a hassle taking time off school as far as using a substitute goes. Since I teach math, there are very few substitutes I can get who can actually teach a lesson, so I have to create generic lesson plans that usually involve a lot of worksheets. I find that to be such a waste of teachable time. So much for the idea of teachers being out whenever they feel like it. Maybe I should have taken on history or some such subject. ;-)

I've been catching up on newspapers; I'm currently in the middle of March. I find it so amusing that politicians and others put the onus of students' learning on the teachers exclusively. It's like putting the dental health of patients entirely on the dentists' shoulders and ditto for doctors. As long as we have a cultural view that it is okay for students to do badly in science and math, we will never have major success in those areas across the board. Of course, we do have a president who takes pride in being a "C" student. That man shows me just what value a Harvard MBA does not have. End of sermon. I have some sewing to do.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

3 Day Workshop

I came back Thursday evening from a 3-day workshop. Here are my notes that I kept whilst at the said workshop.

July 8, 2008

Here I sit in a college dorm in the Old South, taking part in an honored teacher summer tradition: the educational workshop/conference. This one has to do with teaching computer science, but, frankly, they all have a certain sameness to them. They take place in a college or university, the food is college institutional fare, each participant has his/her own dorm room with a shared bathroom, the dorm furniture looks like it comes from the same catalog. The main differences are in the subjects and the qualities of the workshops/conferences. The strange thing to me is the fact that I did not live in a dorm when I was in college, but now I seem to spend part of most summers living in one.

I write this on the laptop I borrowed from my high school for this workshop. I feel I should use it since I lugged it around all afternoon with me. (That’s the last time I’ll borrow a laptop without a shoulder strap!) I had asked prior to this workshop if I needed to bring a laptop, and the workshop contact said it was a good idea. Good idea, my foot! Since I have no wi-fi card on this machine, I cannot use it to connect to the internet. Next time, I will be leery of computer science workshops where the college is not supplying access in a lab. Other than that glitch, I am really enjoying this workshop which means that I am actually learning some new stuff that I can use in my teaching.

I spoke to my husband on our cell phone. We bought a “no-name” cell phone when we visited my mother during Easter break this spring because the hotel was having trouble with their new phone system. I do like the fact that I could tell him that I arrived safely when I got here today. That has always been a problem for me, even when I worked in private industry before the days of cell phones. My computer science students have always found it amazing that their CS teacher would not own a cell phone. I guess we finally made it to the 21st century now. Off to a shower and then a book. One nice trait about said cell phone: I programmed it to be my alarm clock for the night. Now, that is very useful add-on.

July 9, 2008

There is a major plus for me at this workshop: I am actually spending time outside of the workshop with others in the same workshop. I’ve usually ended up sharing a dorm apartment with others in different workshops – not a good thing for a world-class introvert like me. This eating, sleeping, etc. with people I see all day does help me keep from feeling isolated in the evenings. I have to remember that when I fill out my evaluation tomorrow.I got a lot more useful ideas today. My only fear is the fact that I tend to be very enthused when I leave these workshops and overplan what I can do during the school year. Now, planning too much on its own is not a bad thing, but in my zeal I do not do any of those new things well. I hope that I will remember to choose just a few new things for this year and plan them very well so that I have good successes instead of mediocre successes due to little planning.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Working on

I am slowly coming out of a combination sinus headache/migraine. Yesterday was all sinus headache due to allergies, and I guess it kicked off a migraine which started last night. I am currently working my way out of it now. What really irks me is that I cannot go walking with a bad headache. In fact, I can do little with one. I started sewing up a jumper that I had cut out this past school year, but I only got so far yesterday. I hope to feel up to finishing it today. I really hate headaches!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Summer Daze

5 a.m. comes, I awake and decide to stay awake since next week I will have to get up early to drive to Charlottesville, Virginia. Cat is happy because she can go out and check out everything in the dark. I'm trying to set up a decent summer schedule for myself; if I don't, I feel like I have wasted my time off when school starts up again. Does anyone remember how nice it was to waste summer vacation doing absolutely nothing useful except for one's chores? I do, but I'm middle-aged now, and I have a great desire to continue moving in a positive direction.

Well, I go for a walk on the greenway. I like to walk. I get to stretch my legs, meet people moving one way or another, check out nature and architecture, and, most of all, think! I remember one time a male teacher asking me what did women like to do most of all. My answer: women like to think. That was not the answer he expected; he believed that women liked to shop. Obviously, he never noticed that I did almost no shopping. My favorite stores are home centers and fabric stores, i.e. places where I can think and dream plus walk.

After coming home, time for a quick bath in my decades-old claw-foot tub with window open bringing in light, sound, and the smell of summer. One thing about having no air conditioning in my house, I am reminded of summer visits to my grandmother every time a breeze comes through the mosquito netting. I love it, love it, love it!

On to my one hour or more of school work. I drove to the school this morning and took care of several things in about 3 hours, including a few I almost forgot. I laminated my new calendar system for the fall. Although I very strongly believe in the separation of church and state, I feel that people in the public schools have become too paranoid since my new perpetual calendar has no Christmas, Hannukah, Easter, Kwanzaa, etc. placards. At least I have all those from my old calendar, and I will use them with my new calendar.