Showing posts from 2016

Planning for an international field trip during Spring Break

The house is quiet. One kid is at a friend's house checking out each other's Christmas gifts. Another is out grabbing groceries with dad. I'm cuddled up on the coach, listening to the audiobook version of  The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris . * The book is one of several recommended to the students and teachers traveling to Ireland, Wales, England and Paris during Spring Break 2017. A few weeks ago, after months of procrastinating, I completed  A Tale of Two Cities . *   Next on my list is  The Hunchback of Notre Dame . * One of my goals in life has been to travel. In recent years, despite my strong desire to do so, I simply haven't gotten out much. As a Spanish teacher, this is far from ideal. My dream is to visit a different Spanish-speaking culture each year, bringing back stories, pictures and momentos to share with my students. A big piece of this dream is being able to bring my daughters with me. Over the years, I've observed that my students who have

Longest week of the year

The first week of school has to be the longest week of the year! I had planned to blog each day -- to give true insight into the first week of a NerdyTeacherMom. But, as you can see, it's Labor Day, and this is my first post since school started. The week leading up to teachers' returning was met with denial. Remember all of that "I'm going to work several hours each day in August" talk? Well, that didn't quite happen. I did, however, watch some good Spanish programming on Netflix (I could argue that was work-related) and reached new heights in Candy Crush. After a few hot hours in the school building on the Saturday before students started (the air conditioning was not on), I managed to be ready for three classes of Spanish 1, two classes of Spanish 2 Honors, and a new weekly homeroom class called Bear Time. Monday was grueling. Despite a large mug of dark roast, I felt like I never really woke up. Dang those summer mornings sleeping until 1

"Children are a blessing to be enjoyed"

When dealing with kids, sometimes you have to encourage yourself. After threatening to "slap the black off you," "knock you into the middle of next week," or "slap the taste out of your mouth," my mom would simply pray out loud: "Jesus, keep me near the cross!" My sister and brother and I would then know she was on edge, and we were usually smart enough to back off. These days, my go-to line is more of an affirmation: "Children are a blessing to be enjoyed." It's one of the many sayings I've learned from listening to Joel Osteen on satellite radio. Taken from Psalm 127:3, it reminds me that no matter how far my girls have gone, how much they are weighing on my last nerve, I need to be thankful for them. Saying it aloud helps me remember to not get worked up over little things. Hearing it aloud alerts my children that they are "skating on thin ice." Hearing me chant it multiple times further drives the point

My plan to NOT lose sleep

NerdyTeacherMom has only 17 more days of summer. I envision my colleagues enjoying themselves, stress-free. I see them reclined at the pool or at their beach houses. I picture them in their home theaters with their feet up surfing the Netflix menu. I assume many on on their decks sipping out of wine glasses and chatting with their friends. Why such imagines? E verybody at school seems to talk about spending weeks on the Eastern Shore or Delaware beaches. I, on the other hand, run around my house telling kids to stop bickering and wondering how Chic-Fil-A and Costco manage to pop up so frequently on my account statement. And I'm already losing sleep over the school year that hasn't started. Of late, the routine is to wake up around 2:30 a.m., go to the bathroom, get back in bed, think about all the things I have to do. After losing good sleep on three nights this week alone, I've developed an action plan. I've decided to devote 2-3 hours each day until school s

Ugh! July's almost over!

The end of July conjures up a bit of anxiety for this NerdyTeacherMom. I know, I know ... the Bible says "be anxious for nothing." I'm working on that. This is right about when I start to lose sleep about the upcoming school year. The 3 a.m. worries are typically things like how can I do a better job teacher question words this year,   or I should find someone now to talk to my classes about why speaking Spanish is so important, or   maybe I'll try planning a field trip this year . On top of the usual worries, this year I've added a biggie: I am pursuing my National Board Teacher Certification. Becoming a Board Certified Teacher  will be validation that I am an "accomplished teacher." It will help me improve my teaching and make my school look good. Plus, it will add a few extra bucks to my paycheck. Despite recommendations to spread this process over two years, I have committed myself to submitting all of the required components i

Give Them Choices

When given an opportunity to select topics for projects, my children know that they are free to choose their own. There's only one catch: the topic needs to be Black. Okay, maybe they aren't free to choose.  Why limit them? Because they need to know our history. Their history. Period. And I'm not going to leave it to others to make sure they are self-aware. Over the years, the girls have submitted projects on Bessie Coleman, Wilma Rudolph, Barack Obama and Gabby Douglas. They've researched places like Bermuda and the Bahamas. Then there was this year's 5th grade bottle project. The assignment was to use a 2-liter bottle to create an image and write a one-page report telling why the selected person is a leader. When Morgan came home with this assignment, my mind immediately went to work with suggestions: Madame C.J. Walker, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X ... But she had another idea. "I know you want me to do somebody Black, but I really want to

Paparazzi Teens

Photo credit: NEA Today M y typical reaction to surprising things is to stare in amazement . Only later do I think, “Dang! That would have made a great photo.” Or “I wish somebody had caught that on video.” Today’s teens and tweens react differently. As quickly as my mouth drops, their phones are capturing the moments.  My 14-year-old is no different. Last week, her little sis and I were trying to harmonize the chorus of Lukas Graham’s “7 Years.” (I don’t particularly love the song, but if a kid wants to sing with her mama, who am I to turn down the opportunity?) After nailing the notes, we high-fived each other. Seconds later, we heard our voices replayed on a cell phone. My reaction: “You were taping that!?!” (Yes, I still use words like “taping” instead of “recording.”) My second reaction: “Was it video or audio?” Looking raggedy in my ‘round-the-house gear – even if I do sound like Whitney (ahem) -- is not the look I want going viral.  I’m sure today

What do you want me to write about? Seriously. Tell me.

It's happening: writer's block. This is why I hesitated to start a blog. I worried that I might actually write something that people would actually want to read, then lose my credibility because I only posted once in a blue moon. It's not that nothing's been going on my life. In fact, I have plenty of legitimate reasons for not writing. Do I set aside [fill in the blank from the list below] to tap out a few paragraphs? grading papers planning lessons clipping coupons reading tweeting checking Facebook napping doing hair Candy Crush getting organized (you get the gist) And once blogging has been prioritized, what the heck do I write about? My kids are at the age where EVERYTHING is embarrassing. So I have to tread lightly when using them as writing material. I have personal issues (don't we all?), but do I really want to put all of that out there? People who do that come across as super self-centered, especially if their business does nothing to

Finding the right college -- in 5th grade?

My 5th grader has been getting mail about colleges. Her reactions are so cute that I can't bear to tell them she's only 11 years old. Back in November, she received a letter from Mount St. Mary's University that's still on her bulletin board. When she opened it, she squealed and jumped around a bit, thinking she'd already been accepted into a college. My explaining that the purpose of the letter was simply to get her interested in the university did little to squash her excitement. She read the letter aloud, then grabbed a yellow highlighter and read it again. She highlighted the sentences with affirmations:  "A student with your talents deserves the opportunities you'll find at the right college ..." "Because I believe you are the kind of student who could thrive in our community ..." "Outstanding students like you shine when they find the college that fits ..." She underlined in red a sentence that made both her and th

What to do (and NOT to do) if you bump into your child's teacher in public

NerdyTeacherMom broke a self-imposed rule at Target yesterday. I bumped into my 8th grader's English teacher and chatted away for nearly five minutes. That was four minutes beyond the time I allow myself to chat with my kids' teachers in public places. No, I didn't ask anything about my daughter or her class. It was more teacher-to-teacher talk, like how awesome my principal is and will we finally have school on Monday after so many snow days. Even though she seemed to be enjoying the conversation, I felt so ashamed of myself!  My school is less than a mile away from my house. While it makes for a amazingly awesome commute, this proximity often doubles the length of errands intended to be quick. Let's look at a trip to the grocery store, for example. Before we get to Harris Teeter, let me interject that I am rather social. My husband says I go out of my way to speak to people. It's part of my make-up, I guess. I'm a preacher's kid. I was a cheerle

Snow day task: Write a letter

My all-time favorite snow day assignment to my children is to write a letter to an older family member. I typically recommend ideas to include. However, the more they do this, the better they seem to get at coming up with things to say.  It’s so important to me that they not only learn how to write a personal letter, but also connect with family members they don’t see often. I'll be truthful. There's usually a bit of groaning about this. But I think that's because they simply don't want to be told what to do. Both girls typically tackle the letter early (to "get it out of the way"). I don't quibble with them about when they do it, the paper they use or any of the small things. I don't edit, either. I just look at it to make sure it's written neatly and represents the family well. In Spanish 2, I teach a unit on running errands (which includes vocabulary words like “mail” ( el correo ), “letter” ( la carta ), and “mailbox” ( el buz ón ). I

Urban News Report

NerdyTeacherMom found yet another way to trick her kid into reading and sneak in a quick lesson about journalism. In our house we have a "no-electronics-at-the-table" rule. Well, really, it’s a “no-electronics-at-the-table-when-other-people-are-there” rule. Since I was the first one downstairs today, I set up the iPad to see what was going on with Snowzilla. Before I could even pick a news site, my 11-year-old had joined me. “Let’s see what’s going on with this snowstorm,” I said, navigating to my folder of news apps. Before I knew it, she’d clicked on CNN. “You can’t find local news on CNN,” I chided. “Let’s check out the AP.” “AP? What’s that stand for? That sounds boring,” she said. “It’s the ‘Associated Press.’ They have the best news. They report it, and all of the newspapers, radio stations and TV stations get their news from them,” I explained. I started reading aloud. By the second paragraph, she asked, “Why are you reading like that?” “It’s m

Snow Day Reading - Rich Dad, Poor Dad & "The Road Not Taken"

My 5 th grader walked into the room with a copy of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad   * and asked if it would help her become rich. I encouraged her to read the first chapter and to persevere if it got boring. When she started to complain, I urged her to read the tough parts aloud. I’m proud to say that she made it through the first chapter. I had promised her a “quiz,” so I asked her a few questions to see if she actually understood: ·          Why is the book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad? ·          What were the differences in each dad’s thoughts about money? ·          What did Kiyosaki say was more powerful than money? Being the NerdyTeacherMom that I am, I felt a rush when I saw that Kiyosaki had included the poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost at the end of the chapter. I know, I know … my English teacher colleagues tell me that the poem is so overused that they’re nearly sickened by it. But perhaps it’s the nostalgic part of me that loves the poem. I’d mem