Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You do THAT?

I get a sick satisfaction by not living in the same county that I teach in. I mean let's face it; after spending so many hours with other people's children every day, it is very refreshing to be in the company of people who call you by your first name. I admittedly twitch a little whenever I hear "Miss K" after hours or on the weekends, because it forces me to think about where I am and what I am doing--not because I'd be caught doing something immoral or incriminating, but just because the behavior is so, well, paparazzi-like. AANYHOO--so--hubby and I took advantage of one of those educator-deals to a professional sporting event for our so coveted date-night. As we were walking around the arena looking for our section, I heard, "Miss K! What are you doing here?"

I don't know if that is teenage speak for "It's good to see you," or "I am still developing my conversational vocab and this is the first thing that comes to mind," but I chuckled and said, "Basketball--you?" (which was of course in hopes that there would be some thought to the asking of the question). Glad to know I'm attempting daily to put an end to egocentrism. Yes young ones, teachers do things--normal things--outside of school--can you even imagine?

As this is yet the season of thanks, I'm thankful that after 4pm, especially on Fridays, my doppelgänger "Miss K" goes into her lair.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

English Teacher Musings

Essays, unit packets, lesson plans, meetings. Then grading, reading, checking, monitoring. Man, I am overwhelmed--and that's just at work! Not to mention my family, me-time, all my extra-curriculars, and just some good ole' fun and/or do-nothingness. I think I got overly ambitious trying out some new things that I find myself where I was last year yet again creating so much from scratch. Yes I have plenty of loaned and borrowed (ahem, stolen) things too, but it was supposed to be easier this year. In many ways it is, but I must be doing something wrong--ah well, maybe I'll figure it out by Monday (Columbus day is good for something!)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bad Karma?

Okay, So I don't really believe in karma by definition, but that ole' Murphy definitely tends to be "all up in mine" at the beginning of the school year. Let's call it adversity--I'm clear that it's one of those battles with the unseen. First, let me say that I LOVE my school, my kids, and my colleagues, so that helps in all of these minor hindrances. On top of that, I'm pretty laid back and can flex with just about anything, so this post is not to complain. But when you picture in your mind things going a certain way, more often than not you'd just like to see that vision manifest.

Murphy's law 1-A:0439--So, imagine my excitement when I found out last month that I was getting a SMART board--yippee! I was already trying to figure out when I could write a grant to get one, so this was a glorious gift. I started planning a couple of new lessons I could try on it. But then I get to school last week (I graciously decided to help "bridge" the rising freshlings so they'd have a better year), and find out that the county ordered the wrong ones, and had to reorder different ones (even though 2 of my colleagues had theirs installed). To me, this translates into-- County + Revamping a plan surrounding purchasing, delivering, and installing technology = Don't know when I'll have the goods (but it won't be before school starts on 8/11.) Last year it was the messed up trailer w/ no computer, and now this.

Murphy's law 1-A:0440--I had been trying to check my roll, to plan yes, but also to see how many of my "angels" from last year I would be having again. It didn't appear to be uploaded until today--let's just say that 4 on the list made my day take an interesting turn, but I'll deal with that. What really jolted the nerves was the fact that I still only have 26 desks, yet one of my classes had 33 on the roll--What? Fortunately (and gratefully, after the trailer) I have a big room, but it would be great to have just a few more desks too.

So, I wasn't expecting first-day jitters a week early, but for some reason those things did it. I pray that I'll still be excited about going back come Friday... (I will, I just had to get that out--exhale.) Oh, and by the way--soooooooo glad I was a good kid in school.
UPDATE, 8/14: So I got my desks, and my classroom looks great! It makes a difference being able to set up BEFORE the kids arrive. Also, I guess NO ONE can use their Smart boards until after 9/1/08. Red is my favorite color, but not when tape bears its hue.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Rookie Remix: Suck or "Crunk"?

Yeah, so I don't make a habit of using crunk in my lingo, but it fits the metaphor so just roll with me as I highlight 07-08 and look ahead to 08-09.

Being a rookie is any situation is hard. It is especially hard when you are not necessarily a rookie in other facets of life, but are found in a situation where you are learning the tricks of a trade and becoming more polished in your craft, all the while being critiqued. So, while beginning things is usually challenging for a multitude of reasons, my hardest part of being a first year teacher was doing so after having been a leader in so many other areas of life.

We new teachers have all heard the good, bad, and downright stank from veterans, teacher-educators, and peers in the profession. As with anything, you filter through all of it to take in only what you need, but of course you are sometimes left with a stank taste in your mouth as some words linger. For example, one of my grad-classmates turned colleague (who has ten years under her belt) told my cohorts and me that our first two years were going to suck. Great. Way to kill a rookie’s excitement. She was not without advice for combating this of course, but it still put a damper on one’s hopes of standing out amongst fellow rookie-teachers.

I would love to say that I didn’t experience any first-year suckage, but I would be straight up lying, and that’s just not me. Not to mention, it wouldn’t be reflective if you ignored the bad stuff, so here goes.

The Low Points:
Floating the first two weeks while trailer is still getting repaired, moving to the trailer and the air conditioner breaking(August + south, uhh...yeah), then floating again and back to the trailer, all in the first four weeks of school. What a great way to begin my first year. Other not-so-winning moments:
  1. Constantly putting out fires in 1st period, and getting to the point of just trying to make it through the semester. Yep, it was sad.
  2. Staying late pretty much everyday, and no, not just on the days where I had tutorial hours. Even though I tried to get everything, including as much grading as possible done during planning, I was not as consistently successful as I wanted to be.
  3. Doing more for one class than others. Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about!
  4. Creating just about everything from scratch. I was so eager to do this, but this took most of my time, especially trying it out first before I used it. Yes, I borrowed plenty as we teachers know well how to do, but you know you still have to adapt for your groups (and your personality). I admittedly lean more toward the perfectionist side, but hey, you do that when it’s your livelihood.
  5. One of our grad school slogans was “sleep is for the weak,” and, I am a night owl. So, I didn’t get as much sleep as I needed last year. I believe this affected my personal life the most (My hubby and pre-schooler get awards for "most supportive family of the 07-08 school year").
Now, for The High Points (Yes, I have them!):
One of my repeaters who wanted to sleep the first week of school (didn't let her) ended up with a low “B,” and after proudly scoring an A on a test became the class go-to-girl; “Ask Able—she’ll know the answer.” Parents at different times telling me that their children were reading—for fun--due to something that was said or done in class. My steady high-B student (who was very content there) fiiiinally pulling his grade up to an A, after a pep talk with him for my desire to track a true student-athlete’s success. He knew he was able, he just liked to coast. Not that A’s mark success, but I always explain to a student that if you can you should do—you never know when you’ll need the leeway, especially when a state-mandated test makes up a portion of your grade. And of course, students who generally don't value literature loving some of the selected texts and giving the subject a second chance. Others:
  1. Getting a classroom before spring break! This made a huge difference in my classroom management. If you’ve never been without your own classroom or even your own space, you may not appreciate the valuable real estate that it is.
  2. Seeing students be proud of their work, and not just because they were seeking my approval/affirmation or wanted a good grade, but because they began to value themselves as learners.
  3. Seeing students correct certain mistakes and know why, as well as being able to explain them to others.
  4. Having excellent support, both at school and at home--again, awards are necessary.
  5. Being able to say that the first year didn’t suck! I personally love the block system and being able to have a true new beginning in January was wonderful. Second semester was way better the first, even though it had its own set of minor challenges.
These may seem minor wins, but as you know from the world of sports, a W is a W.
Since I’ve been thinking all summer about all the things I will change and implement for next year, I admit that I haven’t yet been brave enough to de-clutter yet; meaning decide what to keep or toss. I have a host of good unused materials and lessons that I have that may work for a different group, so I will soon (er, this week) be revisiting them and tweaking, adding, and deleting. Also, since it seems that most awards are reserved for the 3-years + crew, I would like to achieve some others milestones—not sure what these are yet, but I’ll figure something out.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sure to Make a Teacher Smile

Hopefully you fellow educators caught the penny-sale last week at Staples? This is teacher-economics at its best: Four hundred pencils for 0.54! I think this year the forgetful frequent offenders will have to barter the correct lit term to get a taste of this minor commodity. I can just see it now--
Scholar: Miss K, do you have a pencil? (They always walk right into it).
Miss K: Sure I do, because I never come to class unprepared. But you'll have to tell me what it's called when inanimate objects or animals are given human characteristics before I can offer my goods. (Wait five seconds) If you don't know, ya' betta ask somebody.
(Another pause--gets help from classmate--)
Scholar: Oh yeah--personification!
I'm thinking it will be a constant reminder of earning what you get, and might encourage peer learning as well.
But of course I'm open to other ideas.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

First You See It, Then You Don’t: The Case of the Fading-Fade Gel

Last year, I purchased this new fade gel for skin discolorations hoping to find a decent over-the-counter (OTC). Much to my surprise, within two weeks after the initial application I noticed several of my darker scars had begun to fade away! I had only previously seen this kind of result from prescription creams so of course I went back to Ulta to get more—but they were out! When I went back a couple weeks later, it had been discontinued.

Of course I was HOT. I had found something that was bulk-buying worthy, but just that quickly it was gone. So I looked to the Internet, not really seeing anything that had the same packaging. I thought that was strange, but also not finding any recall information I just kept looking. It resurfaced a few weeks later online, but—you know, the shipping—ARRGH! I ended up getting it for a decent price; however, I was still curious as to why it disappeared for that stretch of time.

What It Is, and Why This Gel Was Pseudo-detective Worthy
The product is from NeoStrata’s Neoceuticals line, and it’s called the HQ Skin Lightening Gel. I believe what is different about it is the combination of the hydroquinone with kojic acid, another skin-brightening agent. This particular formula is 3% kojic acid with 2% hydroquinone, and not a laundry list of other products that would make you want to scream. It got the job done quickly.

The Disappearing Act (Perhaps?)
Hydroquinone has always been the one of the key ingredients in fade creams or hyperpigmentation treatments, and is usually maxed at 2% without a prescription (with a prescription you can get a higher concentration). It seems some other countries had banned it after finding that some populations experienced extreme side effects post product usage. While the U.S. (FDA) was considering a ban as well, I believe the conclusion was that the OTC recipes just needed to be reformulated to ensure safety and that the benefits outweighed the risks, yada, yada. Without going into detail, my science background is forcing me to include the clinical information; but be warned, this is NOT bedtime reading:
Disclaimer: Basically, use at your own risk, and make sure you use a sunscreen with this product. I am not qualified to give medical advice, so check with a Doc if you need to!

Mystery Solved
I’ve seen other variations of this product, but the only place I found it for a reasonable price was Skin-Etc. Here I paid about $34 for each 1 oz. tube and I got two, both to have a stash and to get the “free shipping for orders of more than $50.” I believe when I purchased it in-store I paid about $38. I know the price is hefty, so decide for yourself if it’s worth it. For me, the case is closed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Miracle Cure?

Adult Acne: it’s (I have a really bad pun I could use here) but let’s just say it’s bad--nothing good to say about it. So, fellow sufferers, you’ve probably also tried everything (my everything is six or more products). Now I know some bodily issues require serious treatment, but I’m just not satisfied with the fact that I need to develop some sort of master regimen that requires me to break Olympic records or pay thousands of dollars to get the same result that some woman with the same kind of skin as mine across the world (no spa facials, Neutrogena products, etc.) gets just from washing her face! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hatin’, but y’all know I love simplicity--simple solutions for everyday things. I knew something was out there, but had almost given up; that is until I heard about black soap.

I was getting my hair done, and as stylist-client conversation goes we somehow ended up on the topic of skin care. I explained the mammoth experimentation (differin, cleocin, retin-A, Proactiv, homemade concoctions, etc.) and my current desire for a skin care staple. So, she says, “You need to get some black soap.” I was surprised I’d never heard of it before—then she asked her other client, “Have you heard of black soap?” This woman revealed that her mother swears by it. Desperate to purge my bathroom cabinet for something that really works, I headed strait downtown to an obscure importer shop for what could be the miracle acne cure—out I came with my clump of what looked like newly-made soap wrapped in paper, and my little container of pure shea butter (cause’ you gotta’ grab that up when you can), and I was—hopeful.

Later that evening, I washed my face with a small chunk of the soap, and was surprised at the stinging, yes STINGING sensation! But, even though I kind of freaked out it wasn’t the tingling that most products do to make it seem like they’re working. It didn’t go away after I washed, however, my skin was not irritated—hmmm, weird. I was thinking that my poor little combo skin yet again had fallen victim to the treatments of oily-skinned folks and what have I done! My poor, skin, (sniff). So I put some shea butter on my face and went to bed, hoping that my face wouldn’t be irritated the next day.

I woke up with the cleanest, softest skin I’d had in a long time! Not only that, but the fine bumps on my chin and nose that have never gone away (no matter what), were disappearing and the skin was tight. Actually I take that back, those tiny bumps were cleared after a facial I had once. Needless to say, this is not a superficial, clog-your-pores-even-more cleanser; black soap multi-tasks with the best.

It has been 48 hours since I’ve used black soap for the first time, and I can honestly say that my skin has noticeably changed. It actually seems like the same result I remember from the torture of my 1989 retin-A or recent at-home chemical peel treatments, sans the peeling or redness.

Now, since, like I said I’ve been experimenting lately, I don’t know if everything up to this point aided in the result, or whether black soap is the lone ranger of the acne-prone, but products I’ve been using for the past three months haven’t produced much change. Since I’m still taking something internally, you may not get the exact same result. But, it just may be the answer to your troubled-skin questions.

I know it’s only been two days, but here are some facts from my brief research of authentic black soap:
• It is not only for black or ethnic skin as the uninformed might tell you, or the name might imply
• It is not literally black; it looks more like a clump of mud, and the color varies depending on which region it originates…
• Region of Africa that is, which might also lead to the first assumption (I believe mine came from Nigeria)
• Bar soap in general consists of lye (yes, sodium hydroxide) and fat—typically lard, or more often now, vegetable oils. Black soap is much more, pure let's say
• If not already doing so, support fair trade! Ensure that those who make products like this get what they deserve
• It’s free of all the perfumes and dyes—not to mention, it’s usually made with shea butter—why would it also need aloe & vitamin E?
• Finally, it’s a cleanser, exfoliant, toner and moisture all in one, without all the nasty
chemicals—can’t beat that.

If you search for it on the web, you’ll find tons of information and marketers—I would stay away from it if it’s truly black in color or smells really pretty—you can get other soaps for that! Get more information here.

So, I will keep you posted on the full results. Please share your stories and comments, and if you knew about black soap before, why didn’t you tell me?