Monday, November 30, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Third Grade Teacher

2:30 am: After tossing and turning all night, thinking about my plans for the week, I finally fall asleep.

6:30am: Wake up a little late, throw on a comfy sweater and jeans, and make a cup of peppermint mocha coffee. Spend a couple of minutes doing Beth Moore's Esther study and trying to give up all my lesson plans, concerns, and decisions to the Lord.

7:25am: Arrive at school. Make a cute morning work flipchart on the Promethean board that involved a math problem about Buddy, a squirrel. The kids love it. Buddy will be making a reappearance later on in the week.

8:45am: Remind kids that they've been here for about an hour and there's NO reason why morning work shouldn't be done. Sigh.

9:00am: Start a Reader's Workshop lesson about summarizing. Honestly, it's one of my least favorite things to do, much less teach. Ick. But it's necessary. And this is a reteaching lesson, and I still feel like I'm pulling teeth to get a good response out of them. I thought I had planned an engaging lesson but I realize as only three kids are even trying that I didn't. Make a mental note to figure out a better way to teach it. Probably, it should start with me being interested in it.

9:20am: Pull a small group to work on main idea. On my teacher observation notes, I write, "This lesson BOMBED. Totally boring." Part of the lesson involved writing down important words from a paragraph. I groan when one kid misspells a word he is copying.

10am: Read Beatrice's Goat, a true story about the blessings of Heifer International. I have them write down any reactions they have comparing their own lives to the life of the Ugandan girl, Beatrice, who receives a goat that eventually pays for her to go to school. We run out of time, and I'm frustrated because I love lessons like this.

10:25am: Drop my class off at art and head upstairs to solidify plans for math. I spend about 45 minutes planning a lesson I'm really excited about, involving technology and a hands on activity. Realize after all that planning that I've planned for the wrong objective. We'll start that one in a couple of days.

11:15am: Pick up my class from Art and split them up for Spanish classes. The class lists have changed and I've forgotten to tell them until this very second. I hastily try to organize them while it seems like they're asking me a million questions. Get it figured out and head back to the classroom to figure out math.

Decide to try out a CGI math (click for info) approach, which we learned at Meredith. I write out three challenging word problems and have my students work together to figure out the answers and explain their thinking.

Write out a model of a friendly letter and decide to write it to my friend, Christie, about my Thanksgiving meal. It's so cheesy I almost think I should send it to her.

12:00pm Recess and lunch. Thankful for the chocolate basket on the secretary's desk.

1:15pm Take a deep breath and begin math. I spend the next hour walking around the classroom listening to students teaching each other concepts I haven't explicitly taught. I push them to explain their thinking when I know they've just written down an answer their friend told them. The "brightest" kids in the room are frustrated because they know the answer but can't explain it. A couple of kids keep trying to explain to me that there is no answer, it's impossible to find, but I just smile and say, "Oh really?" It's so tempting to give them a hint, but when they finally figure it out they feel so accomplished. When math time ends, one girl says to me, "I never knew math could be this fun." I could have cried, right then and there.

2:15pm. Present my friendly letter to the class as a model. Ask them to think of people they can write to. Accept all responses, even requests to write to imaginary friends and pets. "JUST WRITE" I tell them. Most of them do.

They know that I love to bake, so I give them an analogy. "If I wanted to make a pie, and just sat in my kitchen staring at the oven, would the pie ever be made? So if you need to write a letter, staring into space probably won't get you very far." I get a laugh out of some of them. One kid writes a letter to himself about his day. It works for me.

4:00pm. I'm home and start working on a beef stew for dinner. I've spent the past hour enjoying another peppermint mocha and writing. This is going to be a good week.

My husband, Superhero

It was 5:40pm. Small group was to start in 20 minutes. Joel calls me on the way back from the gym and says, "I'm going to be late. Really late."

If I'm being honest, I'll let you know that I silently thought that he had lost track of time working out and would miss small group. And internally, I groaned.

But the title of this post is "My husband, Superhero" and this is what really happened:

Joel was driving home (on time) from the gym, and he spotted a boy on the side of the road. He stopped the car, realizing something wasn't right, and called 911. The police let him know that a missing report had been filed on the child, and a police car came to pick the boy up. Joel followed behind to the police station to be questioned about what had happened. The parents came to pick up their son and were obviously very thankful.

The thing is, this isn't the first time something like this has happened. A couple of months ago, Joel witnessed a boy get hit by a car in a hit and run accident on his way to church. He waited with him until the ambulance came and followed all the way to the hospital to make sure he was ok.

When we first met, he lived in Greensboro. One night, he left his school bag in his unlocked car. The next day, a homeless man showed up on his doorstep with the bag in hand. You see, inside the bag were letters written to me on a notepad. The man had read them and apparently felt compelled to return them. Joel invited him in and talked to him for a long time. A few days later, he went grocery shopping for the man and left the grocery bags in his unlocked car.

A couple of years later, we were out to eat with some friends. A man we'd seen before on Hillsborough Street was asking the manager of a restaurant for food. The manager angrily turned the man away. With all of us in the car, Joel drove elsewhere and got the man a meal.

Last year, he was saving up money for an expensive game. He saw a news report that the Raleigh Rescue Mission was really low on supplies. He took all the money he was saving and drove to the store to buy the things they needed.

Joel is just a person who doesn't turn away. I'm thankful he's been at the right place at the right time to help people. He's just a wonderful person, but he doesn't ever brag about stuff like this. Ever. I could tell dozens of more stories about how generous he is. When I think about how the Lord has blessed me with such an amazing husband, I'm speechless.

So this one's for you, babe. You're my hero.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Oven Baked Tortilla

Joel can testify to the fact that I love tortilla espanola. It's not like a Mexican tortilla, it's basically an omelette. It was my favorite thing that my host mother made in Spain, and when Joel and I got stuck in the Madrid airport on the way to Turkey, it was our meal as we awaited our next flight.

This has been my favorite (although inauthentic) recipe thus far. Just a note: I am terrible about measuring things. But the best thing about this recipe is that you don't have to be exact.

3 large potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled
6 eggs
3/4 of a red pepper, diced
1/2 diced onion
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/3 cup of cheese
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the eggs and mix with the sour cream and cheese. Add the potatoes, onion, and red peppers. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into a greased 13x9 baking dish OR a rimmed baking pan. Bake until it's lightly browned-about 20 minutes? It could be less, or more. Just keep checking it.

My favorite things to add to this are ham or chorizo, or leave out the red peppers. It's a yummy breakfast and it's really good on a baguette. Mmm...

So many leftovers... (and a recipe)

We had a great Thanksgiving this year. I started the day by waking up early, enjoying coffee and Beth Moore's Esther study, and doing yoga that was on FitTV (my new favorite thing).

I was preparing for what would prove to be a whirlwind next few days!

My brother came over early and, since we are Peruvian and don't have huge family traditions related to Thanksgiving, we made Spanish tapas...13, to be exact.
My favorite was oven-baked tortilla espanola, and I'm going to post that recipe after this.

My parents came over and we stuffed ourselves silly with prosciutto wrapped asparagus, sundried tomato pizza, chorizo, melon, and artichoke salad, and olive and cheese empanadas. It was way fancier than anything I've ever made, but my brother loves to cook, so he planned the whole menu!

After cleaning up the house, Joel and I took a quiet walk in the neighborhood before going to his parents' house and enjoying a delicious and traditional Thanksgiving meal. Turkey, stuffing, corn pudding....amazing.

We came back here together and had pumpkin pie and watched Up. Of course, I cried again. It is such a good movie.

The past few days have been a whirlwind of Christmas shopping, working a little, and hosting impromptu get-togethers. Today, I'm looking forward to working in the nursery at church and going to the gym. And I'm loving the fact that I've had a good hour to watch the CBS Early Show and drink coffee all by myself.

Something I'm extremely thankful for is the fact that I have a great class to look forward to teaching tomorrow. In this time of recession, I am so thankful to have a job, and even more blessed to have a job I enjoy!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thankful for freedom

So it may be the books I've been reading, but lately, every moment I've been struck with the blessing of freedom.

I wish I was a better writer.

I finished Things Fall Apart last week, and The Handmaid's Tale last night. This one theme kept resonating with me. While both books are fiction (surprise!), I can't help but be struck with how real it is that women lack so much freedom around the world.

Have you heard of these recent news stories?

Lately, I've been researching my options going back to school. And the fact that I have options is such a blessing, especially after reading this. I'm thankful that my parents brought me here so I had the freedom to choose from so many different opportunities.

Being married to someone who supports me in everything I do, and who allows me to be crazy about baking but will clean up the kitchen after me, is a blessing. He listens to me, respects me, and treats me as an equal.

And I wish I was a better writer to communicate fully how thankful I am to the Lord for the freedom I have from the bondage of sin.

"My chains are gone, I've been set free.
My Lord, my Savior, has ransomed me."

I'm just so thankful for the freedom I enjoy. And I think that's why being a teacher is so important to me. I want my students, boys and girls alike, to be able to have all the opportunities possible for them.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chalk Talk

Chalk Talk is probably my favorite classroom thing these days. The link details it, but for my teacher friends from MC, we used this in a seminar once, but I got the idea from a wonderful fellow teacher.

I used it today to ask the question "How do people adapt to different environments?" I posted some "thinking questions" on the board, like "How do people work and travel? What do they eat? What do they wear? What do they do for fun?" Let it just be said that this was an activity done before any teaching, so I was assessing their prior knowledge.

My favorite response comes from the table that chalk talked about life in the desert. They really could not fathom people in the desert working or eating anything but scorpions. I kid you not, one kid who was serious as a heart attack wrote, "They eat camels and drink cacti juice." I think I need to spend a good bit of time on this. Most of their schema comes from Aladdin, for real.

A New Book, a New Recipe, and a Cold?

A few years ago, I read The Poisonwood Bible for a college class designed almost completely around this novel. My mother-in-law, a missionary kid whose parents worked in Nigeria, really disliked this book, and suggested I read Things Fall Apart if I was truly interested in reading about this part of the world. Three years later, I finally got around to reading it. I'm halfway through, thanks to the day off yesterday.

Recently, Joel emailed me with this little tidbit:

i figured out why what we want to read is so different.

i'm a romantic. not necessarily a "romantic" in the lovey-dovey meaning of the word, but in the literary-study-of-life meaning of the word.

Romanticism: values feeling and intution over reason
- believed that imagination, emotion, spontaneity, feelings, and nature were more important than rational thought
Dom likes her facts. She's a Rationalist. Those are lame. All they think is that facts and reasoning are the only way to live through life.
So now you can never say I'm not romantic. Cause that's all I am, baby

Truly, I love nonfiction. I'd rather teach it, read it, watch it, listen to it...most of the time. Joel loves these books by Jose Saramago and also Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I have read a total of zero of his favorite books. On a Friday night, I'd want to go see Food, Inc. and he'd want to see some silly action movie (wink;). This used to be a slight bone of contention, until we came to this realization.

That having been said, I'm proud of myself for making it halfway through Things Fall Apart, considering the last books I got through were the ones in the Twilight saga. I'm not proud of that. Just honest. Currently taking bets on whether or not I'll finish this one.

Secondly, I made pumpkin muffins for us yesterday and saved some for a fabulous Spanish teacher who assisted me in translating a conference this morning. I make this a's about the only thing I can make.

Here goes:
1 package of yellow cake mix
1 15 oz can of pumpkin
As much cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg as you can get in there! At least a tsp. each.

Mix together and spoon into muffin tin. Sometimes I add walnuts, chocolate chips or streusel:

Streusel topping:
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 c of flour
1/4 c of sugar
more cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg
(mix together and top the muffins. It makes a LOT but I sure do love streusel.)

Bake at 350 for about 18 minutes. They are really moist, so check with a toothpick. They never really become brown.

Thirdly, I have a cough. So do a few kids in my class. Hand sanitizer is not a joke, kids.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tasty Tuesday and a Big Thanks

I have a confession:

I am a terrible cookie maker. Truly awful I have made cake-like chocolate chip cookies and burnt oatmeal raisin. My peanut butter cookies are too salty and my sugar cookies are too chalky.
And for this reason, I LOVE this recipe. It's the only cookie I haven't completely ruined. It's originally from

And the ginger molasses cookies from Whole Foods are my absolute favorites, so I tend to make these a lot!

Ginger molasses cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons white sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and flatten slightly.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

I have some leftover Halloween sprinkles, so I may spend my Veteran's Day making these!

Speaking of, I just wanted to write a short note in thankfulness for my brother.

This is our goofy picture at my rehearsal dinner. He's a captain in the army, and has served overseas in Iraq. I am so thankful for what he has done and I just wanted to say thank you, big bro! You watched out for me when I was a kid, telling me the good teachers to get at school and the ones to watch out for. You will always try to improve my fashion sense, but we both know you're the true stylish one! You even gave me your car when I wrecked mine in high school. And I know you have also given so much of yourself to others.
Remember tomorrow is Veteran's Day!

Friday, November 06, 2009

I'm so glad for Friday

I'm so glad for Friday because this is the first day I've been home before 5pm in a long time. Here are some highlites of the week:

-Report cards went home (thank the Lord) with *no mistakes* (crossing fingers).
-I can get back to teaching instead of assessing, which plain old stinks.
-We have been reading a Time for Kids about Turkey during our reading mini-lessons. Sigh. I love it, and today, they just had so many awesome questions about different countries around the world. And let's be honest, I absolutely LOVE learning and teaching about other cultures so I had several Time for Kids around the room for them to choose from. It was a good teaching week.
-We danced to my favorite classroom mix. I think I posted a while ago that I was searching for songs. I decided on: Explosions in the Sky (great for writing time), Mint Royale-Show Me, Caedmon's Call-Volcanoland, Jack Johnson songs from Curious George, the I Am Sam soundtrack, and Counting Crows-Accidentally in Love.
-My classroom was chaotic this afternoon and hilarious. We made signs for our Belize social studies project, and generally enjoyed a Friday afternoon.
-Math was fabulous. It was challenging, engaging, and quick-paced. And I was really stressed beforehand because I felt like it was going to be really boring, but it ended up actually fun. And it was rounding. Whoda thunkit.

The following things, of course, would NEVER EVER happen in my classroom:
-It was 104 degrees in my classroom this afternoon and I did NOT open the emergency window so that we would not pass out. While I was dealing with a classroom conflict some kids certainly DID NOT lean their whole bodies out the window in full view of the carpool line.
-I did NOT spend my planning period writing a song for our Belize project instead of filling out profile cards.
-My room DOES NOT look like a hot mess.
-There are NOT worms from our compost project sitting in little baggies in the back our room. They most certainly do NOT smell yucky.
-I did NOT leave an important form that was due today sitting on my desk instead of turning it in.

It's been a good week. I'm going to take a nap.