Oh-my-word-this-was-such-fun! (said in 1 breath)

Fellow #SquirrelCrew4Lyfe member Melissa gets tree kitty bonus points for pointing out #FridaFest2017 in conjunction with an opportunity to participate in a Guinness Book of World Records attempt to arrange the largest gathering of people dressed like #FridaKahlo. Melissa, Gina, and I prepared our wardrobes immediately! Gina found my dress, which I will wind up wearing frequently in the future as roomy nap time equipment. Crafty Melissa created our headwear, which was required by organizers to be a “minimum of three artificial flowers.”

Driving into downtown Dallas was fun, seeing the trail of Frida’s heading toward the Dallas Museum of Art. The event was not exceptionally organized and we spent a good bit of time inside, watching the long line of Frida’s – of all ages, sizes, and genders – and contemplating how this was going to go down. There was approximately one museum cafe line open for water, other beverages, and food. I suspect the museum did not anticipate the sheer size of participants that showed up and I’m not sure why online registration was available. Our ID was never checked. Shrug. Despite the lack of preparation on the part of the museum, this event was SO FUN. Good vibes all over the dern place. How could you be anything but happy with a sea of pink and red happy people all around?!

After Melissa picked up some intel from museum employees that indicated there was a certain (unannounced) line cut-off to make it into the record attempt, I made an executive decision that we were going to stealthily cut in line. Don’t look at me like that. Teachers are the worst at following instructions.

And that, as they say, is history! According to what I have read, the results of the attempt will not be available for several weeks or longer. Memories = permanent.

 

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Ms. Jam is the JAM!

I recently, virtually met a Canadian ray of sunshine by the name of Jam Gamble. She is, well, her fantastic Twitter bio really does the best job of explaining what she’s bringing to the world:

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Delightful, right?! Anyone who is about spreading the good, especially all of the under-reported good in education, is someone I want to learn from and be inspired by. Jam hosts a blog, among other talents, in which she highlights educators from all around the globe. Fellow educators, I challenge and encourage you to submit your own Jam interview! Interview details are on her site, and my interview is linked below. Give her a follow on social media, as well, y’all!

My Jam time!

Hybrid Teaching (AKA: Blogalescence 2.0)

This is becoming a trend. The last time I blogged was nearly one year ago. The blog prior to that was, well, a spell before that. Since then I’ve taken a few more adventures, read a few more books, and collected a few more wine corks. I’ve also taken on a new role at work for the last couple of years, so that seems like a decent enough topic to bounce back into this bloggy stuff. I have a class blog that’s nearly new but that’s mostly for student and guest blogger posts.

For several years I’d been reading about this thing called hybrid teaching. I don’t mean a teacher fueled by part coffee and part chocolate because that’s already a very real phenomenon and existed long before hybrid vehicles. I was fascinated by the idea – in reality for people already – that a teacher could instruct children in a traditional classroom for part of her schedule and do something else for the remainder of her work time. Some hybrid teachers spend part of their day coaching teachers and the other part of their day teaching in their content area. Some teachers split their time between serving as technology support and content teaching. Others even may split their time between classroom teaching and administrative duties, like counseling or as a vice principal.

I found myself in the lucky proposition made by the best education leader I’ve personally known (my principal) to take on the campus advisory lessons (AKA: character lessons, social and emotional learning, or homeroom lessons) and being afforded time in the school/work day to write those lessons.

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Flash forward about two school years and I can enthusiastically say that this experience has brought an even deeper level of satisfaction to my work as an educator. I’ve learned so much about adolescents, the brain, emotions, and human relations. I feel like I’ve grown as a person. I’ve attended training sessions and conferences that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to attend, heard speakers known nationally and globally for expertise in their given field, and I’ve cultivated an even greater level of appreciation and respect for what campus administrators (counselors, principals, and the like) manage on a day to day basis.

I’m attending campus leadership meetings and witnessing how a principal who truly listens to her staff (as my principal does) orchestrates a healthy school organization with a myriad of moving pieces. My non-teaching and meeting periods are spent writing the school’s homeroom social-emotional lessons. Our curriculum is partly based on the work and materials produced by a fantastic Dallas organization: The Momentous Institute. If you check out their data & success your hair is going to stand up at attention, salute you, and then faint.

There are challenges, as there are to anything “worth it,” but thankfully they are few in number. Some people view social-emotional learning as another “edu-fad” that will pass soon enough, so why invest time and money into it? Well, I’ve done a bit of reading on the impact of poverty on learning as well as the trajectory of poverty in our country. If we don’t address needs stemming from poverty, in education, we’ll go zero places. We could even be in economic and social trouble at some point without educating the whole child. Some will argue that this area is the job of families. I don’t disagree. But when children arrive at our school doors with academic, emotional, nutritional, and social deficits, we adapt or die. According to several reputable organizations, not only do roughly one in five American children live in poverty, but over half of American public school children live in poverty. source

It’s crucial in education to personalize learning for students. Or as best possible. Most education experts now admit that personalizing learning for every student on a large scale (think: a middle school with both genders and 1k-plus students) simply isn’t feasible. But we press on. So while I integrate opportunities for personalization into social-emotional lessons, I would be delusional to think I can meet the needs, every time, of each teacher and student on campus. But that’s always the goal!

Another minor challenge is the perception of having time carved out of my day to spend on social-emotional learning. With limited resources, growing student-to-teacher ratios in some areas, and an ever-growing list of demands placed upon teachers, it can be tempting to question the legitimacy of a teacher’s non-teaching period(s). I know that feeling. I’ve been there. “What DOES she do during those “off” periods?” There’s got to be some perfect Office scene reference for this.

Despite these few (and sometimes trivial) challenges, our program is growing and gaining more and more buy-in from teachers and students. We receive inspiring and positive feedback from both students and teachers, parents, and district colleagues.  It’s hard work and sometimes difficult to be a part of something “new” or “different,” but again, it’s worth it. I’ve always counted myself lucky to be a teacher, but my current journey under my principal and her administration makes me even more thankful to be an educator. One of my favorite Tweeters (also a high school principal and author) recently had this to say about social-emotional learning:

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This has been a long one! But with my recent track record you might not hear from me again until 2018.

Blogalescence

Holy cow! I haven’t blogged since August. I feel lazy totally ok about that. I got motivated to post again after Mrs. Marrier gave me recent high fives & after reading her recent post on training your brain. You didn’t think she had just ONE blog, didya? This woman is fierce. Check her out. Oh, and she’s beautiful, talented, the wife and mama of a charming family, AND nice. If there’s any single life philosophy I would pass along to my nieces and nephew, it’s that nice is…nice. Nice is valuable. Way underrated these days, me thinks… Cliche, but true, I wanna be the person my dogs think I am.

Speaking of my last blog date, that’s also the month (August) that I embraced a no buy new challenge.  A lot of folks (still) comment that they “could never” do something like that. I think it’s about mindset, more than what’s actually realistic. We humans used to be a culture of saving and frugality, minimalists, so it’s clearly possible. And not actually as difficult as perceived to be. I do think that if you are especially susceptible to media and advertisements, it’s probably true. You can’t do it. If shopping is something you enjoy, the act of perusing stores and displays, then, well, yeah, this may not be for you either. But if you’re keen on saving, cutting clutter (hello, Marie Kondo fans), and gaining back time for your personal life, but all means, give this a spin!

In essence, since August, any clothing, shoes, fashion accessories, some cosmetics, and some household items I’ve purchased have been resale, or second hand. Some of the items were new, and simply retired by their former owner. Like my friend Anne T. pointed out, for anyone already comfortable (and even eager) with shopping Goodwill and the like, this is not a huge step to take. Fortunately these days, there are so many more options for resale shopping. These are a few of my online favorites: PoshmarkMercariThredUp, and a recent find that syncs you with local goods: VarageSale. My go-to local resale store fronts are Closet Revival in Plano and Your Resale in Carrollton (Sasha pointed me there!), as well as my neighborhood Goodwill location. If you work on my campus or near there, the local Salvation Army storefront near Valley View and Josey has furniture finds daily, as well as half off all clothing on Wednesdays. Alexis D. is the master of Facebook garage sales, and I’m a member of some, but I’ve not (yet) sold or purchased anything from them.

On the selling end, I’ve been successful gaining some pocket money and closet space back by selling better than gently used shoes and clothing through Poshmark and ThredUp. Most of my decluttering has gone to either family or Goodwill, though.

I’d love suggestions to hear of other resale options you may be using successfully. Ciao, for now!

Endeavoring to #zerowaste,

Heather

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A watered down matter

Before you dive into this post, take a restroom break. Not because I intend to be windier than normal, but we’re gonna be chatting about a watery topic.

Back? Ok. Let’s go. MA—JUH pet peeve of mine: routine use of single use, disposable plastic bottles. It should be a pet peeve of more folks because, folks, we all gotta live on this rock! And our children, their children, their grandchildren’s children, and all of the cockroaches that are going to outlive every other organism. Pause: if you have irrefutable proof that the zombie apocalypse is arriving within our lifetime, then you should stop reading right here.

Come on folks, we’ve come along way since the days when one of those Brita water pitchers in the fridge prompted other people to say, “Oh, you fancy, huh?” so if you are sensitive to the taste of your tap water – I get it, not all tap water is created equally – then buy one of those fancy pitchers, or buy one of those even fancier water bottles with the filter built-in, but for the love of St. Aqua STOP routinely using single use bottles.

Don’t believe how horrible these things are? Google search “Pacific Vortex” or, better yet, check out this link (its contents are way shorter than my post): http://www.trashisfortossers.com/2015/08/simple-swap-plastic-water-bottles.html

Don’t dig the metal bottles? That’s ok. I didn’t either for the longest time. Don’t want to risk using glass bottles that can break (but normally come with a cute, impact resistant cover)? Solution: spend 5 bucks or less at your big box store of choice and watch your money formerly spent on single use bottles start to add up. Do you need even more convincing? People, friends, family, loved ones, colleagues, I will BUY you one if you commit to use it. Ain’t kidding.

I gotta leave you with one last nugget, in case you didn’t know this: many of the water bottlers are using the very same tap water in their product that is available in our kitchens. Conspiracy theory? Nope. Some of the “big ones” are on record admitting that their bottled water is the same stuff that flows freely from most western world faucets. So, sip on that knowledge for a spell. I’m not trying to guilt you, peeps, I’m trying to let you know how stupid easy it is to cut the habit and go to water bottle rehab.

Have paws, will travel.

We had the opportunity recently to personally visit the partner organization our foster dogs often travel to, Helping Hounds of Dewitt, NY. We periodically still receive questions from time to time of the “why” for sending foster dogs to other states. Without coming across as Judgy McJudgerson – I’m gonna do my best, here are a few wide angle reasons why:

  • Texas and her due east neighbors have a an ever-bulging population of unwanted (yet adoptable) dogs.
  • What happens to dogs in crowded municipal or county shelters? Yes, they are often euthanized when space is needed for more dogs that are dumped or surrendered.
  • Texas and her southern neighbors seemingly don’t have as high of spay/neuter rates as other states do.
  • Texas and her neighbors to the immediate east may still have some higher demand for bred dogs than do other states.
  • Could someone perceive these statements as generalizations? Sure. But data don’t lie, y’all. And, this is often what Helping Hounds is looking at, mid-week, just a few days after a transport from Texas or another partner state:
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Vacant kennels

Most “dog people” have the belief that just about any other “dog people” are good folk. But visiting the site in NY made all of our good feelings about what we do for Love on Wheels, through Humane Society of Flower Mound, come to life in full technicolor. We visited early in the week, on a day Helping Hounds claims is a slow day for them. Perhaps so, but there was a steady stream of potential adopters at the front desk throughout our visit. Even during upstate New York’s winter, families are lined up on icy mornings waiting to meet the newly rescued and transported dogs. During our visit, volunteers were steadily walking dogs, loving on dogs, and tending to facility needs. We walked dogs ourselves, chatted with facility staff, put faces to names, and left knowing that our efforts are worth it. Way worth it. Wanna foster short term? We need more of those! It’s an amazing experience. And nope, you literally, contractually can’t keep ’em, so there goes that concern.

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Charley, on the couch that often hosts the “greeter” pup of the office or a photo of newly adopted dogs with their families.
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More vacant kennels

While we were in the Syracuse area we took a quick jaunt out to the heart of the Thousands Islands (that same salad dressing was born here), Alexandria Bay, on the St. Lawrence River. This is another town that could easily be a fictional backdrop for a movie or novel. A chunk of our visit was spent on a tour boat on the river taking in exceptional scenery and horrific jokes from the guide. No really, I’m pretty sure she was even worse than yours truly. Here are some of the best snaps taken from the boat as we drifted in and out of US and Canadian waters:

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The smallest island of the Thousand Islands, that qualifies as an island
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A true international homestead: the larger island is in Canadian waters, the smaller island is in US waters
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An island/house (which is concealed by trees) supposedly owned by soccer star Abby Wambach’s grandparents
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a portion of Boldt Castle, more on that later
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Statue of St. Lawrence, in the distance on the cliff
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I think I remember this bridge as being one that spans the river from US to Canadian land.
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Plus, I just like bridges.

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A portion of our river tour offered the option to tour (the never finished) Boldt Castle, which was incredibly intriguing. Talk about a love story! I will let you Google it up if you’re curious and supply some photos here of that visit:

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Boldt Castle has a long history of promise, love, family, grief, disrepair, and rebirth.
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Bowling alley
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He had to duck…
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I didn’t.
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Servant staff dining area
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Modern day tinker bell system
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Formal dining area for family and guests
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View from a guest balcony

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So long, upstate New York! You are pretty.We followed up this adventure with a swing through Philadelphia on our way to Cape May, NJ for the annual Green Phamily beach trek. More on that soon.