"A mind once stretched by a new idea can never regain its original dimensions." ~Oliver Wendall Holmes

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

My Picks

The tripod is out on the river. It's been there for awhile. There isnt this much snow left, this picture is from two years ago. I finally bought my Ice Classic tickets. Break up is nearing.

I hear the ice is really thick this year, but I'm not sure that really matters all that much. There are so many factors that go into the timing of the river ice breaking. Last year break up was more like a melt down. The ice just slowly melted away and then we had massive flooding. I hope that doesnt happen this year. Last year, I was in Anchorage with the music festival kids during break up. I hope that doesnt happen again.

This year, I would like to be here for break up. This year, I would like it to be the kind of break up where the ice flows in huge chunks down the river making the tink-tink sound that ice cubes make in a glass of water. This year, I would like to see big mountains of ice piled up on the beach for me to climb on. This year, I would like break up to happen during 1 on these times...

May 1, 10:54pm
May 5, 2:19am
May 5, 2:19pm
May 10, 8:17pm
May 15, 6:00am

These are the days and times I picked for my Ice Classic tickets. Kas-I picked those Cinco de May days because the ice has NEVER broken on may 5th and I chose 2:19 because it's your 29th bday....you better bring me some good luck woman! :)

Wouldnt it be nice if I won? I think so!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It goes by so fast...

We have only three weeks of school left after this week. One of those weeks will be finals week, therefore, we have two weeks of instruction time left. It really just boggles my mind that it goes by so fast. There is still so much to do. It seems as though no matter how much time there is, we can never get everything done within a school year. I have worked so hard every year to revise and refine my curriculum, but no matter what I do there is just not enough time.

It's frustrating to know that there is no amount of hard work or long hours that will accomplish all that the state has said is required. I could cut out some crucial topics, but that would leave huge gaps in their knowledge. I could step up my pacing and just blaze through topics, but the kids wouldnt learn anything.

Sometimes it is frustrating to know that no matter how good/great/amazing of a teacher I am, I'll never be good enough to get through all of the content. It's frustrating that even though I'm doing everything right and doing all of the things that great teachers do and working hard to make sure my students succeed, it is not enough.

Next year, I will refine the curriculum of my class even more and I will get through even more of the content, but in the attempt to cover the content that means that other important things get pushed to the side. At some point, there will be a realization that our society asks for too much in a 7 hour day/180 day school year.

I think that Public school advocate Jamie Vollmer states it well on his website...

There has been an increasing and unrealistic burden placed upon our public schools over the last hundred years.

America’s public schools can be traced back to the year 1640. The Massachusetts Puritans established schools to:

  • Teach basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, and
  • Cultivate values that serve a democratic society (some history and civics implied).

The creators of these first schools assumed that families and churches bore the major responsibility for raising a child. The responsibility of the school was limited and focused for 260 years.

At the beginning of the 20th century, society began to assign additional responsibilities to the schools. Politicians, business leaders, and policy makers began to see the schools as a logical site for the assimilation of newly arrived immigrants and the social engineering of the first generation of the “Industrial Age”. The trend of increasing the responsibilities of the public schools began then and has accelerated ever since.

  • From 1900 to 1910, we added
  • nutrition
  • immunization, and
  • health to the list of school responsibilities.
  • From 1920 to 1940, we added
  • vocational education
  • the practical arts
  • business education
  • speech and drama
  • half day kindergarten
  • Phys. Ed. including organized athletics, and
  • school lunch programs (We take this for granted today. It was, however, a significant step to shift to the schools the job of feeding America's children 1/3 of their daily meals.)
  • In the 1950's, we added
  • safety education
  • driver's education
  • expanded music and art education
  • foreign language requirements are strengthened, and
  • sex education introduced (topics escalate through 1990's)
  • In the 1960's, we added
  • Advanced Placement programs
  • consumer education
  • career education
  • peace education
  • leisure education, and
  • recreation education
  • In the 1970's, the breakup of the American family accelerated, and we added
  • special education (mandated by federal government)
  • Title IX programs (greatly expanded athletic program for girls)
  • drug and alcohol abuse education
  • Head Start
  • parent education
  • behavior adjustment classes
  • character education
  • environmental education, and
  • school breakfast programs appear (Now, some schools are feeding America's children 2/3 of their daily meals. Sadly, these are the only decent meals some children receive.)
  • In the 1980's the flood gates open, and we add
  • keyboarding and computer education
  • global education
  • ethnic education
  • multicultural/non-sexist education
  • English-as-a-second-language, and bilingual education
  • early childhood education
  • Jump Start, Early Start, Even Start, and Prime Start
  • full day kindergarten
  • pre-school programs for children at risk
  • afer school programs for children of working parents
  • alternative education in all its forms
  • stranger/danger education
  • anti-smoking education
  • sexual abuse prevention education
  • health and psychological services are expanded, and
  • child abuse monitoring becomes a legal requirement for all teachers
  • In the 1990's we added
  • HIV/ AIDS education
  • death education
  • expanded computer and Internet education
  • inclusion
  • Tech Prep and School to work programs
  • gang education (in urban centers)
  • bus safety education
  • bicycle safety education, and
  • gun safety education

And in most states we have not added a single minute to the school calendar in five decades!

All of the items added to the list have merit, and all have their ardent supporters. They cannot, however, all be assigned to the schools.

The people of each community must come together to answer two essential questions: What do they want their children to know and be able to do when they graduate, and how can the entire community be organized to ensure that all children reach the stated goals.

The bottom line: schools cannot do it all.
Schools cannot raise America's children.

What is the solution to this? I'm not sure, but I do know that at some point somethings gotta give. I also know that I LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT. I absolutely love being a teacher and making a difference in the lives of kids. I also know that there are amazing things happening in schools and that far too often people focus on the few negatives rather than the multiple positives. Basically, if a person is looking for the bad things, then that person will find them. I also know that I'm doing my best to help make school a better place for my students and, for now, that's all I can do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

cold again

I had to wear my winter coat again today. We've hit a minor setback in the attempt to achieve spring. It was 18 degrees this morning and the wind was freezing. There's snow in the forecast for the next few days. No more open window for me for awhile.

I hope spring is going as planned wherever you are.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

An Open Window

April 26, 2010 Rise: Set:
Actual Time 6:52 AM AKDT 10:36 PM AKDT
Civil Twilight 6:00 AM AKDT 11:29 PM AKDT

Moon 9:04 PM AKDT 5:52 AM AKDT

Length Of Visible Light:
17h 29m
Length of Day
15h 43m
Tomorrow will be 5m 31s longer.

Last night's low 23 Today's high 41

The last week or so we've had temps that are high enough to sleep with the window open. I've enjoyed the fresh air. This afternoon it was even nice enough outside to open all of the windows and get a little breeze going in the house. We even went for a walk to the grocery store.

Sleeping with the window open is like opening the window on the night life of Bethel. Last night at about 4:30am I awoke to some yelling outside. There were three girls standing outside in the driveway/parking lot arguing over a cigarette. Then they started fist fighting and cussing at each other. They were obviously drunk and in no way capable of actually hurting each other. It was an interesting little interlude to my evening. After a few minutes, one of my neighbors yelled out of the window that she was going to call the cops and the girls took off.

No snow on the ground means there are less snowmachines running around town, so at least I wont be woken up to the roar of a snowmachine engine.

Well, it's time to turn in for tonight! Good night and sweet dreams! :)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Summer Plans

I have a whole summer of plans. I am excited to say that I am planning to spend the entire summer in Alaska. Of course, that is the plan which may or may not change depending on whether or not life (or my mother) throws a kink into things. I figure that after living here for 3 years, it's about time that I spent a summer here. Avery will, as usual, be going to spend the summer with mom, which is a bummer because there are so many amazing opportunities for students during the summer that he will miss out on. My Alaskan summer is pretty well planned out and includes alot of classes...some of which I'm taking and some of which I'm teaching. But I was sure to schedule myself a few weeks of down time to have some fun and experience the summer side of Bethel.

Summer includes 11 weeks. Our last (work)day of school is May 22 and our first (inservice)day back is August 9th. Here's the plan...

Weeks 1/2: Attend the summer science institute through LKSD (my school district). It will be focusing on physical science, which is my weaker of my two subjects, and is worth 4 credits.

Week 3: I have off. Free time, play time! Although I will probably do some prep work for my summer science camp.

Weeks 4/5: Teaching summer science camp(see this post for a description). It's going to be soooooo fun! We have planned an amazing, fun, and engaging curriculum. I cant wait.

Week 6: I have off. More free time and play time. Time to get out on the river with anyone I know that has a boat. Time to explore the summer version of the town I live in.

Weeks 7/8: Teaching session 2 of the summer science camp. Different group of kids, same curriculum so it should be a breeze.

Week 9: I have off. Free time, play time! I'll probably fly to Juneau on Wed or Thurs of this week so that I can have a few extra days to visit the city and do some touristy stuff.

Week 10/11: Attending the Juneau Art Institute. This year's theme...the Nexus of Art, Native Culture, and Science. I've heard phenomenal reviews of this institute from everyone who attends, so I'm expecting it to be good. Plus I'll get to spend two weeks in Juneau for FREE! Because of a grant that LKSD has, everything is paid for....flight, a room in the college campus dorm, the fee for the institute, even meals. All we have to pay is $100 for the 3 credits. Amazing deal! Two whole weeks focused on art and Yup'ik culture. It should be awesome! And I'm so looking forward to seeing a part of Alaska that I've never been to.

Then we start school the following monday.

Exciting. Busy. Fun.

With the two classes that I'm taking now (5 credits) plus the two institutes I'm attending this summer (7 credits). I should complete Number 23 on the birthday list: Take enough credits (12) to move over a column on the pay scale. I should also be able to get Numbers 3, 12, and 16 done this summer. Anyone want to come for a visit?

Just one thing...

It has snowed for the last 5 or so days in a row. That's all I have to say.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The mud is back, but...

I kind of like it. The mud means warmth and sunshine and going outside without 50 pounds of clothes on. The mud here is different though. The mud here is silt and sand which dries quickly and become dust. The mud here is gooey and can swallow your shoe with one wrong step. The mud here can suck you in and hold you hostage up to your knees. The mud here can be worse than snow for getting your vehicle stuck. With this mud, mud boots are not optional, they are a necessity (although Avery still refuses to wear them).

We've had the most beautiful days lately. The snow is almost completely gone now (this picture is from last year). It has been nearly 50 degrees for 5 days in row, although it still gets below freezing at night. It's warm enough to sleep with my window open and there's enough light now that the sun wakes me up before me alarm clock. It seems like the mud is here really early this year, but I'm happy to have it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

No place like Nome

The first place that I visited when we got to go into town was the museum. It was a museum about Nome's history. The exhibits mostly consisted of information about the settling of nome during the gold rush and the race to get diptheria serum to Nome during the epidemic. This is, of course, what the Iditarod sled dog commemorates each year. The museum was well put together and clearly well maintained, although it was quite small. Above is the museum and below is a picture of Front Street. Front street is the street that runs along the beach and has lots of shops and bars.
The Bering Sea was frozen as far as the eye could see. It was a beautiful sight and I was just happy to get the chance to see it. We had had several days of blustery weather in Nome, but it finally cleared up enough for us to get to go into town. In fact, it was even above freezing at 35 degrees. It made for a very nice walk. A couple days later when we took off in our chartered aircraft for home, we could see that the ice was broken up not too far from the coast.
This structure is called "The Arch" and, as you can see, it is a marker for the end of the Iditarod sled dog race that finishes in Nome each year. Under the arch is me with the band/choir director from Dillingham. It's funny that we only see each other a couple time each year, but me and some of the other directors have become great friends. One of them, the director from Unalakleet, is leaving next year and I will miss her very much. Our band/choir trips just wont be quite the same without her there!
In the center of town is this huge gold panning dish and some statues of historical people from Nome. The kids had a great time throwing snow balls while waiting for the bus here. As I bent down to take a picture in front of this big gold pan, I got blasted right in the head with a snowball.
While the kids were at their Saturday night dance, I took a walk with one of the other band directors and we got to catch a glimpse of the setting sun. It was nice to get outside, because we had been trapped inside of the school for days.
I was impressed to see that Nome had a pretty big wind farm up on their little hill. This picture shows only about half of the windmills that they had. I'm sure that those windmills practically power the entire city (Nome is smaller than Bethel). I really wish our windmills would be installed soon. We were supposed to get a few last summer, but I'm not sure what ever happened to that.
Nome's slogan is "There's no place like Nome." Before going to Nome, somehow I had come under the impression that Nome was a really nice place to live and that they had a really great school. I had somehow gotten the impression that Nome was a little more "classy" than the rest of the bush villages, but after going there I can honestly say that I was not impressed. I could list all of the things that I saw that make me think that, but I dont feel that that is necessary. I would rather just say that although Bethel might have issues and our schools are not perfect by any means, I am proud of what we are doing here and can say that I think we have alot going for us. Being in the Nome school for a couple of days, made me realize what a great school I am teaching in and that I am glad I am here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Individual schools concert

On the second night of the festival, all the individual schools perform with their choir and band. This year there were 6 schools participating...Nome, Kotzebue, Unalakleet, Dillingham, Tuntutuliak, and Bethel. Our kids did a really good job with their performances. Above is the Bethel choir and below is the Bethel band. Of course, this is not the full choir and band. It is only the kids who were eligible for and attended the regional festival.
In total, we had 31 students on this trip. We were able to take such a large group because of the fact that we used a charter airplane, which was significantly cheaper than taking the jet. Below is a really nice shot of the entire group posing under the picture of the Nome mascot, the Nanook (polar bear).
And here are the kids being a bit goofy. I really like this picture, it's alot of fun. It's nice to be able to take such a large group on the trip because both the choir and band sound so much better with more people.
Hopefully I'll get some more pics posted soon. And maybe even some video of the girls who had command performances. And some pics/video of the combined band and choir. All in all, it was a really fun weekend, even if I did have to sleep on the (noncarpeted) floor of a classroom.

Friday, April 16, 2010

We made it!

Our 35 seater plane made it to Nome without incident yesterday. A blizzard settled over the city promptly after we got here. It's been snowing and crazy windy ever since. The kids are having a great time. Of course, they do have a really fun and amazing chaperone :)All of the kids who had solo's finish their performances for the judge yesterday, but we have no scores back yet. Hopefully it will be soon, because the kids are anxious to know if they are doing a command performance and if they made it to state. I told the girls that one of them had better have made it to state because I have a cavity that desperately needs filled and I've made an appointment to get it fixed while we are in Anchorage for the state competition. (Update...two girls got superior ratings and command performances, which means a trip to state. YAY! Update...four of our girls got superior ratings and will be going to state. All four sang vocal solos.)Today, the kids have been in rehearsals and instrumental sectionals all day. They've been playing music all day. Their lips are numb, their vocal cords are worn out, and they are starting to get a bit tired and slap happy. They have their individual school performances tonight, then some free time. Tomorrow we might get some time out around town, so hopefully I'll have some more interesting pictures from around Nome.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On my way to Nome

I'm headed to Nome, Alaska with the music kids tomorrow. We leave around noon on a chartered flight. We will be flying on a 35 seater plane. I'm pretty sure it will be similar to the one I took into Anchorage that I wrote about in this post. A good portion of the kids that are going on the trip are girls, so I will have a large group of kids to chaperone, but the music festival keeps them all pretty busy. I should have plenty of free time to go check out the town a bit. To see where Nome is, click on the map above for a bigger new. Make sure to find Bethel, so you can see how far we're travelling. Both Nome and Bethel are in Western Alaska.
Of course, it wont be all green and warm and sunny while we are there. There will still be snow on the ground and the ocean will still be frozen over. I will certainly try to get some pictures from the air to show you what it really looks like right now. Below I've included the video from the Nome Visitors Website, if you'd like to check it out. I'm excited to see another part of this great state!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just Busy

It seems every now and then, I need to blow off steam about how unbelievably busy my schedule is. Sometimes I cant believe how busy I allow myself to get. I was thinking about it the other day and realized that I'm actually working three side jobs along with taking two classes. Then, of course, there's all the regular stuff that goes along with regular life and raising a child (who also has a busy schedule).

Two Fridays ago I started to get a really bad sore throat, then on the following Monday a major head cold set it. I was miserable all week and missed two days of school. in addition to all the other stuff I had to do, I was out for the count for a couple of days(which meant sub plans). My cold is still hanging out and just wont completely go away. I'll be leaving soon to chaperone the regional music festival in Nome and sleeping on the floor for three days (which also means sub plans).

So, here's the run down, not including my regular teaching day...
Monday 4:45-6:45 meet with my summer school co-teacher about planning the summer science camp (side job 1).

Tuesday 4:30-6:45 class about aggression with a coworker. Biggest Loser on TV and usually my best workout of the week, although I havent been working out much lately because I'm just so busy that when I have some down time all I want to do is relax. I did ride the stationary bike tonight for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday 4:15-5:30 SIOP class with a group of other teachers, this class also includes reading chapters, journaling, trying new stuff in the classroom, and going to observe other teachers during my prep period

Thursday- nothing specific scheduled for this day, but this week on thursday I am traveling with the music kids to Nome for the music festival. This is often the evening the I worked on people's taxes (side job 3), but now I have all of those done now.

Friday-nothing specific this night either, but certainly there's always something going on. This Friday I'll be in Nome, last Friday I was at the NYO tournament with Avery. The friday before that Avery had kids over for a movie night and I made jam.

Saturday 8am-3:30pm work with the science curriculum committee revising the science curriculum for the school district(side job 2). Last Saturday I also spent time over at Avery's NYO tournament watching his award ceremony. I walked back and forth a couple times between the two schools. the Saturday before that I hosted the spa night and the one before that was Cama-i weekend.

Sunday 11am-12:30 is church, then I usually do alot of cooking and cleaning and stuff. This Sunday we actually spent some time out on the river snowmaching. We rode down to a couple of the villages downriver and just fooled around for awhile. It was a warm (34degrees), sunny day and I was happy to get out and enjoy it.

It's alot to take on at the same time, but I'm enjoying all of the things that I'm involved in. I just wish it wasnt all at the same time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

6 done, 24 to go

Last weekend I made a batch of orange marmalade that turned out fantastic. This week I had a half dozen grapefruits that needed eaten, so I decided to give grapefruit marmalade a try. I made a double batch a few nights ago along with another batch of orange marmalade. I have left a few of these little treats for several of my coworkers along with a note that read, "Thanks for all that you do."

Number 28 on the birthday list. Done.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eskimo stick pull

In addition to taking first in the One Foot High Kick at the NYO tournament this weekend, Avery also took first in the Eskimo stick pull.
The idea here is that you use your arms and legs to pul the stick out of the opponents hands. Having spotters on the sides supporting you is supposed to prevent much twisting or pulling the stick to the side out of someone's hands.
Avery was proud of his "battle wounds" to prove that he was the fiercest competitor in the stick pull event. He insisted that I take this picture of his calluses from the stick pull event.

Friday, April 09, 2010

77 inches

I went to my first NYO (native youth olympics) tournament tonight. I'm not sure why I've never been to one before, but maybe I was out of town or something. It was interesting. This is Avery doing the One Foot High Kick. They have to kick the hanging ball with one foot and then land on the same foot as they kicked with which is completely counterintuitive. He won first place in the junior high division with 77 inches. The winner of the high school division kicked it at a whopping 102 inches! Apparently the record is 114 inches...that's like kicking the bottom of the backboard of a regulation basketball hoop! Insane!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Taiko (Japanese) Drummers

As a part of this year's Cama-i dance festival, we had the treat of seeing these Taiko drummers perform. They are a Japanese drumming group from Anchorage. They had a wide assortment of drums, but there were other instruments as well.
One person played some sort of flute and another played a shell. The first thing they did was a drumming routine that is supposed to chase away all of the bad spirits from a place. It was very entertaining. The kids absolutely LOVED the costumes, masks, and acting of the drummers. It was so much fun! The kids in the audience squealed with laughter and screamed with joy as these drummers put on their show.
They were a very engaging group. It was so much fun to watch, although they were not all authentic and japanese, some of the group members were indeed Japanese.

Enjoy the video. Make sure to turn the sound up so that you can hear the drumming.

April recipe: Sloppy What?

That's right...Sloppy Jane Sandwiches. Have you ever heard of a Sloppy Jane? No? Me, either. This is a tasty twist on the traditional hotdogs and beans. I really liked this recipe, especially because it used very few ingredients and what ingredients it did call for were common and easy to come by. I used real minced onion, rather than instant. It smelled wonderful and tasted just as good. We put ours on hamburger buns. I'm sure I'll use this recipe again. This recipe also came from my crockpot cookbook and will count as my April recipe for number 10 on my birthday list.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring is different here...

Today it got up to 14 degrees above zero. There is definitely still snow and ice on the ground, although the mud is starting to show through in larger and larger spaces. If you've been reading the blog long enough, then you've probably heard me say that there are two seasons in bethel...mud boot season and snow boot season. Well, mud boot season (spring, summer, fall) is closely approaching. It just snowed yesterday and the day before. Just a light dusting, but still snow.

The days are much longer now with the sun rising before 8am, but not setting until almost 10pm. The sun is shining more too...not as many clouds. The birds are coming back. Ice classic tickets are being sold for the impending break up of the river ice. People are talking more and more about summer plans. Coats are being more commonly left on the coat rack in lieu of a hoodie. Prom and graduation are on the horizon. Cars and trucks dont need plugged in anymore. Snowmachines are being traded for 4wheelers. There's a freshness in the air.

Spring is definitely here...it's just different.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

5 done, 25 to go

Tonight was our girls spa night at my place. There were about 10 of us. I forgot to take pictures while we had out all of our nail polish and stuff. I only just remembered to snap a shot right before everyone was about to walk out the door. We had the most amazing hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and wine. I made Asian meatballs, which was another recipe out of my crockpot cookbook. We did facials, waxing, hair treatments, manicures, and pedicures, but best parts were the great conversations, the time spent together, and the laughs. Number 18 on the birthday list is complete and I do believe this might become something that we do every now and then. It was alot of fun!