Saturday, September 25, 2010

Congestion, Sleep Deprivation, and Other Obstacles

It's 6:30 am on a Saturday morning, and I am sitting here at the computer, totally bummed.  I needed to sleep late this morning, I actually had the time to sleep late, and as usual when these conditions exist, I just couldn't do it.  I woke up at 4:30 am (close to my usual time), dozed until 5:12 when I absolutely had to go make a trip to the bathroom, came back to bed and tossed and turned until 6:05 when I gave up.  Part of the reason that I couldn't get back to sleep is the cold I have.  Once all the congestion gets disturbed, the coughing and sinus draining starts to interfere with sleep.  And then my brain starts whirring.  I start thinking of all the chores and errands I have to do, all the school work I have to do, and this morning, I also started thinking of the meditation I still have to prepare for church tomorrow.   So, here I am, with a great cup of coffee, sitting at the computer.  The bright spot is that I was able to connect to the internet at a faster rate than we've been able to of late.

We don't have high speed internet here.  This summer, Fairpoint brought high speed access to 2/3 of my road, but I live in the 1/3 that didn't get it.  We have 2 options for internet access:  dial up or purchasing satellite services.  We've lived with the dial up connection for years.  When my neighbor chose the satellite option we were very interested in his experience.  He has had many problems with it, and has been extremely disappointed in the speed.  Plus, it's really expensive.  Our dial up never connected at top speed of 56 kbps, but we usually connected at 52 kbps.  Since the upgrade however, our usual connection speed has dropped to 26-28 kbps which means we usually can't connect to many websites before timing out.  I have trouble connecting to my bank services, and trying to shop on line has been problematic.  Even email can be extremely frustrating, especially when friends send us photos!  We've called Fairpoint numerous times, and finally were told that because of the upgrade, there's less bandwidth available for dial up accounts.  In addition, there are no plans at this time, to expand the high speed availability.  So, not only are we deprived of the high speed access, our dial up access has been drastically reduced.  Does anyone else see a problem??   Occasionally we can connect at 41-42 kbps, which is what happened this morning.  So today, you get a blog post!  (And I probably won't log off the computer until Monday morning!!)

Work has been pretty stressful.  It's been a real culture shock for me to switch grade levels.  Aside from the expected burden of learning new curriculum and developing completely new units,  there is a huge difference between 6th graders and 7th graders.  My tried-and-true classroom management tricks aren't working, so I've been putting a lot of energy into learning new management skills. I've been getting to my classroom about 45 minutes before my contracted time, and I've spent 3-4 hours at school after my contracted time.  I've spent most of my weekends doing school work too.  Despite the fact that I've been in the classroom 17 years, I've been feeling much like I did my first year teaching.   I have some other serious issues to deal with also, which have made it difficult to be positive about work right now.  So that's been interfering with sleep too.

Maybe the clogged internet is a metaphor for my life right now -- an overload of information trying to pass through a very limited conduit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book #86 Catching Fire

As part of my job as a middle school teacher, I need to stay current with adolescent literature.   Most of the time, I understand why the kids like a particular book, or I can see where I would have liked it at 12 and 13.  I really like it though when I find books that I enjoy despite the fact that it was written for a much younger audience.  I'm reading The Hunger Games trilogy because it's such a favorite in 7th grade right now.  And I'm really enjoying it!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the riveting second book in the The Hunger Games series.  The Districts in Panem are full of unrest,  and Katniss discovers that she has become the catalyst for rebellion.  In an interview with President Snow she is told that if she doesn't figure out a way to stop the uprisings, her family and friends will be destroyed.  It's also the 75th Quarter Quells and in a special edition of the Hunger Games, all of the tributes for these games are survivors of previous games.  Of course, Katniss and Peeta are the representatives from their district.  Once again they are fighting for survival.  But this time, are the other tributes really their enemies?   Suzanne Collins has created a tightly woven net of government conspiracy and control that reminds me of the 1960's series "The Prisoner" as well as George Orwell's 1984.I can't wait to read the final installment of this series.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Days In

I feel like I'm drowning in work already.  I knew this year was going to be tough, and so far, I'm not wrong.  Changing grade levels is hard, harder than I expected.  Even though I am teaching what I love, English language arts(ELA) and social studies, it is a new curriculum with new expectations.  Although I have GLEs for ELA (Grade Level Expectations), there is no set curriculum guide.  The other 2 ELA teachers approach their subjects differently, and seem to assume that I know what I'm doing!  And I do, but it sure would be nice not to have create ALL my own curriculum.  It's kind of the same deal with social studies too.  I have the general topics, but no guide.  I've asked for copies of units, but so far I haven't gotten any.
So I'm back to spending 9 hours in the classroom each day , and a huge chunk of the weekend time, reinventing the wheel.    The schedule is hard too --- we start the day with our prep, and then have our kids for 5 hours straight without a break, for them or us!  I know that it will get easier with time, but . . .

To try to de-stress I read this first book in Alexander McCall Smith's newest series:

Corduroy Mansions (Corduroy Mansions, #1)Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this gentle slice of life in the Pimlico section of London.  Corduroy Mansions is inhabited by a likeable group of folks:  a middle-aged wine merchant who's trying to get his adult sponger of a son to move out; Marcia who is trying hard to get William to notice her; several young women who share an apartment, a less-than-notable Member of Parliament, among others.  There is even Freddie de la Hay, the dog William adopts to try to get his son to move out!  As in other Alexander McCall Smith books, the characters display all the foibles we humans possess, and it's well-seasoned with accurate observations of human nature.   The chapter titles are especially humorous - "Don't Try This at Home"  was very well-chosen!  I also appreciate the well-chosen names for several of the characters.  Terence Moongrove is a perfect name for someone who is attempting to connect with Beings of Light through sacred dance, and what else could Oedipus Snark be named?  While I prefer the #1 Ladies' Detective Agency series with its more focused narrative, I will look for the next books in this series.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Eventide Scarf

I finished this knitting project last night.  It's the Eventide Scarf by Laura Nelkin.  I made it from Audrey, by Shaefer Yarns which I purchased from Jimmy Beans Wools.  the color is called Indira Gandhi. It's beaded too! I used these beads which were part of the yarn kit I purchased.This was actually a pretty easy pattern, although when you start it's a bit fiddly.  There is a knack to placing the beads so they fall on the correct side of the scarf.  I purchased the pattern on Ravelry, here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Book #84

The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber TreeThe Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this first book in Susan Wittig Albert's new cozy mystery series.  The Dahlias are members of the Darling, Alabama gardening club.  It's 1930, just at the beginning of the Depression, and there is a great deal of worry that the town's only bank may be failing.  The rather wild young woman who works the cosmetic counter at the local pharmacy, has been discovered shot to death in a wrecked car.  There has been an escape from the local prison farm, and is Ophelia Snow's husband having an affair with his brother's beautiful young wife? And is there really a ghost haunting the Cartwright mansion, home of the Darling Dahlias' garden club? This is a VERY gentle story told from several different points of view.  Life in the small southern town is lovingly portrayed, and a real sense of place is evoked.  I loved the details of everyday life:  the party line phone and switchboard (I used to work a switchboard in college), the lovely summer dresses and hats, the cosmetics; and the recipes were an added bonus. The feel of this book is very different from the China Bayles' series. I am looking forward to the next installments.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Back on the Treadmill

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted!  All I can say for myself is that I have been incredibly busy.  As you might have guessed, school started.  All of us teachers had to report back on August 25th for 3 days of meetings and inservice.  But I actually started going in everyday the previous week.  My room was moved and it was necessary to go in BEFORE my start date to unpack what felt like billions of boxes and to arrange the layout of my room.  If I had waited for the August 25th, my students would have come into a room filled with boxes and stacked desks.  The kids arrived on August 30th for a full week of school.  We used to have the kids come in in late August for 3 days, followed by a 4 day week (the week after Labor Day), and then a full-fledged 5 day week.  This is the 2nd year we've started with 5 full days in a row.  I don't know who ends up more tired - the kids or the teachers!  And this week was horrible, weather-wise.  We suffered through 5 days of 90° F weather in unairconditioned rooms.  My room temperature hovered between 92°F  at 7 am to 97°F by noon.  Not exactly conducive to learning.  And both the kids and I were adjusting to new schedules at school.  They start the day with their Unified Arts (p.e., music, art, world language, etc.) and I have prep.  Then the academic core classes start at 9 am and except for a 30 minute lunch/recess break, go until 2:12.  Try holding a 7th grader's attention in social studies at 1:45 pm in a 95°F degree classroom on a Friday afternoon!  And that of course is another piece of my busy-ness.  I am teaching a brand-new grade level.  After 16 years as a 6th grade teacher, I've been "promoted" to 7th grade!  This is a big adjustment for me.  I get to go back to teaching social studies instead of science, thank goodness, but I  really LOVED 6th graders.  I have a few of the same students, but most of them are new to me.  I think that's good for them, and for me.  I am a bit apprehensive about the drama of 7th graders --- but I'm looking upon it as a good challenge for me.

I've been busy on other fronts too.  I was "contact person" for my church this past month.  That means when someone calls the church office during non-office hours, they get my phone number.  If they have an emergency they call me and I put them in contact with the folks they need.  We maintain an emergency shelter and a food pantry in our little church, and I had quite a few calls for help on those fronts.  I'm also the vice moderator (soon to be the moderator) of my church, and our administrative team has been quite busy with developing a policy and procedures manual, and with helping our new pastor and the congregation get acquainted.  This month is busy with the installation service for our pastor, and with a number of other meetings.

All of this has interfered not only with my time for blogging, but also for my knitting and reading time.  The first 3 days of school, I came home, grabbed a quick dinner, and then I was in bed and asleep by 8:30 pm.  It  seems to take longer to adjust to the daily routine each year!

This weekend is off to a lazy start --- I have managed to get my laundry finished, and I did manage to get a few phone calls taken care of. I even finally read the daily paper from Thursday, Friday, and today!  I hope to  get my lessons planned today, and maybe get a start on the bookkeeping for my husband's business, so that I can have the rest of the weekend fairly free.  We shall see.  I am also a great procrastinator at times!!  So wish me luck as I transition back on to the fast-moving treadmill that the school year becomes!