Saturday, February 25, 2017

Where in the World

I often torture myself trying to guess where in the world all those gorgeous, screen-saving landscapes on my Amazon Fire might possibly be located.Vietnam? New Zealand? Switzerland? Alaska? And I was doing that exact thing this evening as we all relaxed in the great room of our Oscar-weekend beach rental. A rare February thunderstorm boomed overhead and rain swished hard on the roof while Josh and I threw out place names to match the scenes gliding across the TV screen.

"I wish they would just tell us where they are so we could know if we were right!" I complained. "I'm going to write Amazon and ask them to do that! Wouldn't that be a fun game?"

"Well," interjected Victor, "there is a game that is similar to that. It's called GeoGuessr and it uses Google maps to basically drop you down in the middle of somewhere and make you guess your location."

Well, it wasn't long before we had that app up on the big screen collectively scrubbing every detail of the image to try to figure out just where in the world it might be. Oh, the pictures weren't nearly as pretty, but the game was a lot of fun, AND? We knew where it was in the end!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Start Your Engines

Hard to believe, but it was 2,917 days ago that I started posting this daily blog. The milestone was on my mind today as I introduced my latest group of sixth graders to the 100 Day Writing Challenge.

Over the years I have learned that, while daily diligence is mandatory for me, when the rules are completely unforgiving, a single misstep will almost certainly lead to quitting for my students. And so I have built in safety nets on either end of the challenge, such as the next five days before the official March 1 kick-off. Any kids who post practice pieces will be able to count them toward the ones they miss. There are also some extra days at the end for those writers who are oh-so-close.

As result, this Friday evening finds me reading through a collection of hundred-word self-portraits of my students' lives, and as ever, I am exceedingly moved by the small details they choose to share and the honesty with which they examine them. They are thoughtful, inventive, wise, and quirky.

Here are just a few of their observations:

Yesterday, I woke up to the stramatic yelling of my mother.

I want to be happy, but the thought of my electives haunts me.

Onstage I am the worst at jump roping, so I figured that if I practiced and practiced, I would get so good that I would be able to jump better than the king of jump roping.

Today in English while our teacher was talking I completely zoned out for like five minutes.

Her team has only won once, but they have been trying really hard. That is why I love my sister's basketball game.

I felt like a monster was crawling up my throat and trying to belt out the national anthem.

Now, if you really love birds or just any animal then stop reading now. 
(This particular writer waved me over as he was working. He had a very serious look on his face. "I'm writing about a dead bird I saw on the way to school," he told me, "but I'm afraid it is way too intense for some kids, so I'm going to add a warning.")

Peace out! Stay Alive and ask yourself what does the fox say? Serious. I really don't know? Tell me soon!

It's going to be an exceptional 100 days.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Connecting the Dots

A friend and colleague stopped by my classroom this afternoon with her dad. I was grading reading assignments and more than happy to take a break to meet a man I had been hearing about for over twenty years. When he found out that I was an English teacher, he gamely turned the conversation to correct usage and grammar (or the lack there of) these days. In a minute or two we had covered text-speak and spelling and dialects and the power structure.

"I'll tell you who does value exact grammar," he said. "Lawyers! One comma in the wrong place can mean the difference between damages and no damages for their clients."

I nodded. "It's like that old joke: Let's eat, Grandma versus Let's eat Grandma. Commas can save lives!"

We laughed, and then he asked, "How did we get to cannibalism from grammar?"

"Well," I answered, "I was just grading some work on a book about the Donner Party. It might have something to do with that!"

And we were off again.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Authentic Assessment

While the last few groups of students finished shooting and editing their commercials today, the other kids played a couple of online quiz games on persuasive techniques that I found for them.

Not having created the questions, I played along with the first group, confident in my ability and knowledge.

And when I came in second?


I was proud of the boy who beat me.

Aw, heck! I'm proud of all of them-- they've done a great job on this project. They almost make me want to buy back my own kitchen gadgets.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Talking 'bout my Demographic

"I really like this show!" I said as I clicked off the second episode of The Good Fight. A spinoff of the popular prime time legal drama The Good Wife, so far it can only be seen on CBS's subscription streaming service.

"It has familiar characters," I started.

"And strong women? Relevant political and social issues? Compelling drama?" Heidi added.

I nodded.

"That pretty much checks all my boxes," she agreed.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Too Short

Animated and live-action shorts were the marquis event of the day as we willingly sacrificed another 60+ degree day in winter to sit in a dark theater. Was it the weather, the movies, or the intrinsic melancholy of that third day of three-day weekend that cast the slightest of palls over the feature presentations?

Oh, I wouldn't have missed the anthology of films, and the company was stellar as always, but I found my attention wandering, and I must confess to being a little disappointed when the lights came up and we were a few hours closer to the beginning of another work week.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

We'll Be Back

We tried to get out and hike this morning, and it seemed like such a good idea to finally do Section B of the Billy Goat Trail. After over 25 years of hiking the most iconic route of our region, the last time I was there I was astonished to notice a section B AND a section C on one of the trail maps along the canal, located a few miles south of the Visitor's Center.

And so we headed out at a little after nine, but by the time we arrived at the trailhead, all the parking was taken. Many cars were even parked along the road, right under all the No Parking signs. Perhaps the popularity can be explained by the small(ish) lot, which is actually a little bit closer to town, or maybe it's because it costs five bucks to get into the national park, and from here, you can walk in for free. Everybody wants a deal.

In any case, we chalked it up to live and learn and cruised off to find some other way to enjoy yet another incredibly beautiful day in February.

Bonus: We did discover that, unlike on the original Billy Goat, dogs are allowed on those sections of the trail.