Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ten Things Tuesday--MCAS

The MCAS is the Massachusetts version of a high-stakes test used in part to determine whether students in the state are eligible for a high school diploma. The 10th grade test (the one that counts toward graduation) covers four subjects: English, mathematics, science, and history. Initially, a passing grade was required in all the tested subjects. Currently, only English and mathematics are required. While originally 4th and 8th graders were the only younger students to take the MCAS, in response to mandates by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, there are now annual progress tests in each of the grades 3-8, in addition to the big test for the sophomores.

The English Composition portion of the test is being given this week (the remaining portions are given in a two week interval in late May). It goes entirely cntrary to the culture of our school to have these tests, not because we don’t do tests or because they can’t pass them (in fact, we have placed in the top 10 of schools in the region for English the last 3 years running). On the contrary, it is simply that our assessments run much more to the creative and the alternative, than paper-and-pencil tests. Especially, we are not a school with a culture of seriousness surrounding test taking. People can listen to music, sit on the floor or take it in crayon, if they want. Sometimes, they can take them with buddies. Almost never do I tell them, “This is a test. If you talk, you will get a zero.” However, the people who make the MCAS do not allow for such frivolity, and so we are bound by a certain degree of formatily in our administration of this test.

This is not to say that we don’t do everything we can to make light of things. My school that incorporates the performing arts into everything, and we strive to do it in ways that mock or otherwise deride unnecessary stuffiness. Therefore, in keeping with that spirit, below is a list of 10 things we are doing at my school that make the experience of taking the MCAS fit our school’s culture and attitude:

1. The test is administered in the Sunset Lounge (what we call our library). This space is so named because it is on the top floor of the school (which is on top of a hill), and there are lots of big windows which provide a full view of the exceptionally picturesque countryside.

2. We provide brain food before, during and after the test. Fruit, bagels, granola bars, juice and water for all the students taking the test. For the teachers? Coffee and donuts! We don’t have to take the tests, and we’d fall asleep out of boredom without stimulants of some kind.

3. The lead proctor comes to school in costume--a different one each day. Today, she came as a bureaucrat wearing a hat announcing same.

4. We take a minute to breathe in and out three times before we start the testing event for the day. Ahhhh! That’s better!

5. We read the instructions from the proctors booklet using accents and voices. Those of you who know me can imagine the kind of fun I have with this.

6. During the testing, the proctors circulate every couple of minutes, smiling and giving a smile, the thumbs-up sign or a quiet high five whenever we make eye contact with a student as we pass by.

7. During break, the students play Magic the Gathering®, strum the guitar or talk about the school’s upcoming musical, Little Shop of Horrors, which opens this week at the Academy of Music. If you’re anywhere nearby, and can get to this show, I strongly encourage you to see it. This is most decidedly NOT what you think of when you hear “high school” and “musical”. Trust me.

8. Very few classes are actually teaching anything this week. This is not just because of MCAS, but because, in addition to Little Shop, there are a number of other shows, trips and lectures going on that students are involved in. It’s a busy week for everyone, and it made sense for most of us simply to tread water for the week. My classes, for example, are using class time to make up tests, revisit works in progress and put the get help with the outlines for their research papers. The outlines are due Monday and are not eligible for extensions, which is making some of them nervous because they’ve never really done outlines for research papers before.

9. When they finish the testing for the day, the students go to a “decompression chamber”, where they can talk, play cards or chill for a little bit before they head to their next class. In May, when the weather is warmer, they’ll be able to go outside and relax in the field behind the school. There is an organizational reason for this, believe it or not. Because the students finish testing at odd times, giving them a place to go means they don’t keep interrupting classes as they come in at staggered times.

10. When all the testing is done for the year, we’ll have an ice cream party.

Don’t you wish you got to take high-stakes tests at my school?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Daycare, Papa style...

Wifeness is upstairs with Maeve and a whole truckload of womenfolk. They’re doing something estrogen-y with scrapbooks. Caleb and I offered (or maybe we were told, I can’t remember now) to entertain the children for the afternoon so they could scrap and book with pointy scissors, real glue and (most of all) no distractions.

This is fine with me, but it was made clear to me this morning as Wifeness was setting things up for the kids to do just how differently she and I look at the job of babysitting. Wifeness, for example, bought a craft activity for them to do that involves little foam purses and copious amounts of stick on decoration. She made sugar cookie dough for them to play with as well. Nice activities, those, but definitely more along her line than mine. I have something different in mind.

March Madness!

That’s right, kids! Grab your bracket sheets, ‘cause we’re gonna do some NCAA Tournament picking. Who do you like? Winthrop’s got a shot at upsetting today, and look there! That’s Joakim Noah. He’s going to be the MVP of the tournament.

I’ll explain the pick and roll using their stuffed animals and, if they watch closely, maybe we can re-enact the Tennessee vs. Virginia game using Polly Pockets and Groovy Girls.

I’m taking the Groovy Girls at -7 on the spread because they’ve got the deeper bench. They outplayed Dora and the Explorers in round 1 action, and they’re 4-1 on the year against soft dolly teams. They can’t score in the paint, but those Groovy Girls are deadly from 3-Point land.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

In Gratitude to a Snowblower.

Wayfarer House is replete with a variety of sounds and effects that give visitors the impression that it is a living entity, with its own spirit. Some of them are obvious, like the radiators that hiss and whisper when the heat is on. Others are more subtle, such as the quiet creaks, clicks and rasps the house makes when the wind blows, or as it heats up in the morning or cools down at night. Some of them are man-made, like the computer that hums quietly under the desk or the dishwasher that makes the light in the kitchen dim when it kicks on. This essence can be found in all parts of the house, from the standing freezer that can be heard to purr softly in the basement to the cuckoo clock used that to tick and tock discreetly in the living room (although it has been silent for most of the last couple of years because the little ones have a tendency to pull on the chains). All these are the sounds of home and I am grateful for their presence because they are pleasant, quiet reminders for me to take time to be thankful for them and the comforts they provide.

This feeling of sentience is part of the essence of Wayfarer House, and the house is not the only thing around here that gives this impression. Today’s story, for example, involves our snowblower.

Our snowblower came to us as a result of some stellar yard sale hunting on the part of Wifeness. It cost us $30. I took it to a shop for a tune-up and some love after it came home, and the guy who worked on it said that it would move snow just fine, but that one of the parts in the carbeurator was out of kilter just enough to give it the impression that it breathes like a person does. He started it to demonstrate and, sure enough, it sat there and breathed.

brrrrrrr (inhale), BRRRRRR (exhale), brrrrrrr (inhale), BRRRRRR (exhale)…

I discovered when I put it to use the first time that it breathes harder when it’s working than when it’s idling, and that there is a rhythm that makes it work effeciently, just like a person working at VO2 max. It exhales hard when it pushes heavy snow, to get extra power, just like you or I might. It can push like this for quite a bit, too, but eventually it will run out of breath and, if you try to get it to push snow while it’s inhaling, it will choke and stall. Nothing worse than breathing in your food, right?

I’ve worked with this machine for three winters now, and we have come to understand each other. I keep it fed with gas and oil and help it do its job well, and it throws waaaay more snow for me than it’s designed for.

Just as I do with the house, I try to take time to be thankful for all the machines that I use. This includes the snowblower. It has done very well for us these last three years, and is deserving of regular thoughts of gratitude and appreciation. I must admit, however, that I have been lax in this recently and, as such things happen in my world, it came back to haunt me. During our big 12”+ snowstorm in February, the snowblower shut down about ¼ of the way into clearing out the driveway and refused to start again. It was snowing too hard at the time to rip it apart and find out what the problem was, so I was forced to shovel the rest of the way (many thanks go out to Caleb, who lent his body to the cause that night). The next day, back stiff and shoulders sore, I apologized to the snowblower. I promised to take it in for another tune-up when the winter was over, and I wheeled it to an out-of-the-way corner of the yard to sit out the rest of the season.

I considered it a blessing that we received only one other real snowstorm in February, and it was one that I could shovel without a lot of fanfare. When March arrived, I harbored the faint hope that we would be done with snow for the winter. The gods of winter in New England, however, would not be denied their traditional parting shot before giving way to spring. They sent a Nor’easter to us, laughing as they did so that we should know better than to get our shorts out in March.

Yesterday, the snow fell hard, fast and grainy. It was heavy, like sand, and just as difficult to move. Wifeness wanted to go out after dark and throw some of it around, and came back inside an hour or so later having cleared out about a third of the driveway. Maeve and Caleb, apparently itching for some back-breaking exercise as well, shovelled half of the back parking area. I decided just to wait until the storm finished before I went out. I fully expected that I would be shovelling for four hours or more, and felt no need to draw the pain out into two separate sessions. I went upstairs and rode my bike instead.

The next morning, I got up, tugged on my tall L.L. Bean boots and headed out to take stock of things. In those parts of the driveway where the others had worked the evening before, there was about 6” of snow, but there was a sizeable amount of terrain that sported a full 14” of newly fallen sand, and my body immediately began to protest that shovelling it constituted an abuse which would not go unrecognized--or unavenged.

I stood in the parking lot for several minutes, talking to my body and strategizing about just how I was going to move all that snow, when my eyes found the snowblower. It was nearly covered by snow, and looked pitiful, though unrepentant about its decision a month ago. I knew what I needed to do. Like an insensitive teenager seeking reconciliation with an insulted prom date, I trudged over to the snowblower and again apologized. I talked to it a minute about how it deserved better from me than it got this year, and that I appreciated that it needed to stop that time in February. I wondered, though, if it wasn’t somehow missing out on fulfilling its purpose by simply sitting there. I said there was no pressure, but if it wanted a real workout, this was the perfect opportunity.

(At this point, you are either thinking I’ve completely gone over the edge and you need to take me off your list of blogs to read, or you are smiling because you have had such conversations with supposedly inanimate objects yourself and totally know what this feels like. If you are in the latter group, please read on…)

“OK,” I said with a sigh, “the choice is yours.” I reached down and turned the key to ON. I pulled the choke and primed the engine--three pumps, the way it always likes. I put my hands on the cord and tugged tentatively. It was stiff at first, but yielded after a moment. I pulled again, and got good smooth action. It usually takes three pulls, though, so I braced my feet and pulled hard. There was a cough, a sputter, black exhaust, then nothing. My shoulders slumped, but I decided to give it one more try. I braced my feet and pulled. It coughed. There was more black exhaust, but this time, it roared to life, spitting out the gunk that had settled in the engine from its period of inactivity. Finally, it began to breathe.


I could not help but smile, lift my arms to the heavens and mouth words of thanks. I had no way to know how long this would last, but I committed myself to offering similar gestures of gratitude for however long that was. I turned it toward the parking lot, and we got to work. We bit into the deepest, heaviest snow and steadily threw it toward the edges of the parking lot, doing most of it in stages that helped us to make a HUGE pile on top of the small vegetable garden for the kids to sled down later. We stopped to refuel after. The snowblower got gas; I got coffee. Then, we set to the driveway. This, too, required a staged attack, but we took our time and the snow offered little sustained resistance.

We made continuous progress until we got to the end of the driveway where the town’s plows had thrown up a wall of packed snow and ice nearly 3’ high. Normally, this would have made the snowblower sweat, but not this time. We carved a hole through it, then slowly widened the opening by chewing off slice after slice, until we were through it. I decided to pay this blessing forward and dig out our next door neighbor, too, clearing their driveway and beating a path to their porch, so they could reach their cars.

The snowblower and I worked for three solid hours. When we were done, I patted it on the body and, for the umpteenth time today, said thank you. Then I turned the key and it sighed itself to a stop. Seriously. It said, “Ahhhhh!”. Apparently, it had enjoyed itself. I’m glad. I did, too.

I would have shovelled my house out by hand if it had come to that. I would have worked for 4, 5 or even 6 hours, beating the muscles in my back, shoulders and legs to a pulp in the process. I would have gone to bed at 6pm with 1,000mg of ibuprofen in my system to put me to sleep, and offered appreciation for being healthy enough to shovel all that snow. I would have done this without complaining because it would have been my karma, the consequence for my ignoring the importance of being thankful. However, I am grateful to the universe, and to my snowblower, for giving me a chance to remember the lesson without having to go through all that.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Easy Come, Easy Go…

Just when we thought it was safe to take the plastic off the windows…

We had several days in a row of fabulously warm weather this past week. The snow has largely melted at Wayfarer House, and at my school we were able to play softball on the softball field, instead of the parking lot (which is much safer for everyone’s vehicles, I’ve discovered). Local flora has begun to blossom and fauna (including the middle schoolers) have entered the rutting season. People’s blood is thinner now than it was just a week ago, which makes the weather today hurt just a little bit more.

We’re getting snow today. Not just a little snow, mind you, but a full-fledged Nor’easter, complete with all 5 varieties of winter precipitation and heavy snow warnings. The end result will be a dumping of over a foot of snow on Wayfarer House and continued cooling over the next several days (highs in the 30s, not the 60s). It is snowing heavily as I write this, and my school is joining the growing numbers of institutions closing early and sending students home. I may have to pick my girls up early from pre-school, depending on how the roads are as I head north. Right now, they are not due to close early (which is good, since neither Wifeness or I is really in a position to come and get them today). I have all-wheel drive on my car and I am an excellent driver in the snow (if I do say so myself), so I’m not worried about all this, but it does throw monkey works on the wrench for my afternoon plans if I have to go pick them up. I was hoping to get my new cycling shoes first!

I haven’t been riding in almost 2 weeks, and I’m really itching to try out my new pedals. Have I shown them to you? They look like this (but on my bike).

And my shoes look like this.

With both of them together, I can ride like this!

Wifeness and I started looking at possible routes for my ride to Pennsylvania in July. I’m totally stoked that she’s going to be part of it! I certainly wouldn’t have minded doing it by myself, but I’ve always enjoyed going on adventures with her and this way I can share it with her and with my girls, even if they’re not riding themselves.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

10 Things Tuesday—Discoveries

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Last week was a reporting week at school, which means a lot of correcting, reviewing of attendance and writing of narrative so the students know if they’re performance is not up to snuff.

I’ve decided to review 10 things I’ve discovered in the past week:

1. I can run 5k in under 30 minutes. I’m very excited about this because it means there’s a chance that a triathlon in August won’t be the very death of me. I want my 5k time down to 27 minutes before I start adding distance. Now that the weather is steadily above freezing, I’ll be able to run more than once or twice a week. I’m hoping to be at a 10k distance by May.

2. I like Lily Allen. I watched a recent rerun of Saturday Night Live, where she was the musical guest. I had never heard her music before, and I found I really liked it. I’m not a big fan of emo/pop, but there’s something about it Lily’s music that I enjoy.

3. Hairballs the size of a child's fist, when lodged deep in the tub drain, are surprisingly tenacious.

4. Daylight Saving Time, when it comes this early in the spring makes it hard to get up in the morning because it’s dark again. When it’s light at 6:30, I can get up. When it turned dark again so suddenly, my body thought it was winter and went into hibernation mode. Even with this issue, I still like DST because the extra light means I can do things outside after supper. (Light = Good)

5. It’s "Daylight Saving Time", Not "Savings". There’s no “s”.

6. A softball left in a parking lot, when run over by a car, can squirt out with quite a bit of speed, but will not still not smash a windshield.

7. I do just fine eating just half a bagel for breakfast as I do with a whole one. I’ll have to eat an apple before lunch, but my body has taken quite well to smaller breakfasts of late.

8. I am the only person living at Wayfarer House, upstairs or downstairs, who can blink both eyes independently.

9. Mbungo makes people nervous, but that doesn’t keep them from stealing his clothes.

10. My students will work harder to prepare for an exam if they know that it will come in the form of a game, and that chocolate will be involved. It remains to be seen if they will actually perform better when this is the case, but I’ll post the results next week after they’ve taken it.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

10 Things Tuesday—Essentials…

This week’s list reviews the 10 things I find to be the most necessary to my existence.

1. My pocket knife. I have had one since I was about 10 years old, and I am rarely without it nearby. I have a small Swiss Army knife currently, and I have come to rely on it as an extension of my hand. I carry it with me everywhere and use it all the time. This one has a belt sheath, which is great! I can keep in on me without the inevitable damage to my pants pockets that comes from storing them there. If I don’t carry it in the sheath (such as when I’m at school), it lives in my 5th pocket. Finally, a good use for that 5th pocket!

2. My laptop. I have been so happy since I got this machine! I bought it originally to do graduate school, but it has been so valuable to me in so many other ways. I use it at home, at school, at the library and at numerous WiFi spots (including my garage) in my area and, together with the next item on the list, I am able to accomplish so much more, so much better, than I have ever been able to before in my life.

3. The Internet. The web is my first source for information and inspiration of all kinds. I love that I have access to the entire world whilst pajama-clad and basking in the comfort of my living room!

4. Coffee. I am a coffee drinker. I usually have two cups a day, one in the morning on the way into school (accompanied by a bagel or toast) and one in the evening after dinner. I use a small French press to make it at home (I’m the only one in my house who drinks it), and I love the rich flavor that it gives. I try to take a few minutes to just sit and take pleasure in drinking it slowly. It’s a sort of meditation done like that and, when I take my coffee in this way, it treats me well. I’ve been drinking coffee since I was 11. I had my first cup with a little milk and sugar, and instantly fell in love with the taste of it. My friend’s mother gave it to us, to warm us up after we’d been playing out in the snow that winter. I have no idea if it was appropriate to offer an 11 year-old a cup of coffee at that time or not. A parent would never give coffee to someone else’s child today, although most parents would not hesitate to offer children a bottle of (fully caffeinated) soda. The logic of this escapes me.

5. A Car. I love to drive! I love to go on roadtrips! Cruising in the summer with the windows down and the radio playing on a warm, summer day is one of my visions of a perfect moment. I can drive damn near anything, but I prefer vehicles with manual transmissions. It’s part of the experience I love the most. Something about being able to feel the road.

6. Food. Apart from the obvious reasons for why this would be included, it’s presence on my list comes from the fact that I am a gourmand. I love food! Although the term gourmand implies excess, I really try not to overeat that much. For me, it’s less about quantity than it is enjoyment of what’s there. Buffets, for example, are marvelous things because I can sample a hundred different foods all at one time. Cookouts are great, too, because there’s such a culture of community that goes with them. It doesn’t matter who’s there, everyone gets along when there’s grillin’ goin’ on!

7. Summer weather. I am a child of summer. I am active then. I am happy then. I am at most peace with things in my world when it’s warm outside, the birds are singing and it’s light out until 8pm. I feel strongest when I’m outside in summer weather, and I’m far more motivated to do arduous tasks at that time of year than in the winter. I’m just so much more energized by summer than any other time of the year.

8. My automatic pencil. This may seem like an odd choice for this list, but consider that I am left-handed and I have what can be politely described as unique handwriting. It is much easier to write in pencil because I don’t run my hand over the ink before it’s dry (thereby saving my long-sleeved shirts from certain ruin), and I have the added benefit of being able to make corrections to anything as I go. Why an AUTOMATIC pencil? The answer for this lies in the fact that it is always sharp. Regular pencils get dull after just a few lines of writing. I have this thing about writing with dull pencils. I like my leads to be SHARP. With .5mm leads in my pencil, I never need to worry about writing with dull lead.

9. My solitude. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a person who very much enjoys his time alone. Even if it’s not productive time, just being able to sit and be is healing and comforting to me. It brings me back to center and rejuvenates me. It also compliments my need to be around people, which, although not as essential to me as my need to be alone, is certainly something I value.

10. Wifeness. Yes, she makes this list, and not simply for all the mushy reasons. She and I have built for ourselves a nurturing, supportive, enjoyable, productive life, and I have found that, while there may be times I need to do things away from her, it’s not nearly as much fun and I’m not nearly as right with things when we’re not together. Put simply, she's an essential part of my happiness. I'm grateful every day that we decided to do this together.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Two memes in a row...

I feel like doing another one, so here it is (I got it from Chili):

Have you ever had an argument with a teacher?
Nothing that one could call a serious argument, no. I have engaged in lively and spirited debate with teachers, but when I did so, it was always with a smile on my face.

Can you count in Roman numerals?
…at least up to the last Super Bowl!

Are you bilingual?
In order of fluency, I speak English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and German (although I have to say my German saugt entsetzlich!)

Do you know how your car’s engine works?
I can change the oil, plugs, and any of the various hoses, filters, fuses and external parts on it. That said, I hand the oil changes and tune up work to Rich. When you equate time to money, it’s a great savings to have someone qualified and trustworthy to work on your car.

Can you program the time on a VCR?
I can make our VCR do things most people only dream of!

How many email addresses do you have?
My base account is my personal account through Wayfarer House. I also have an account through my school and an account through my university that are both funnelled to the base account. There’s a Google account out there that is part of the forum for starting the Landmark Community School, but it’s not active at present.

Do you own a slinky?
I don’t, but my children have several. There’s one in my classroom, also, that my students sometimes play with.

Do you talk to yourself?
I do it all the time, but particularly when I’m concentrating, wrestling with a project or problem. I also do it when I really push myself to the limit when I exercise.

Do you have a tough time remembering people’s names?
I don’t when I choose to focus on it. I don’t always choose to focus on it because it distracts from other things I’m carrying in my brain at the time. If I’m really going to remember things that come at me in random fashion, I have to prepare for it by clearing my brain beforehand.

Did you go stag to your Senior Prom?
I came that way and went that way. I wouldn’t have been any worse off for staying home, but I was on the planning committee, so I was obligated. It wasn’t a bad evening, but the memories I carry from it are not among my most treasured.

Is any leftover food currently residing in your refrigerator?
All kinds. We just had community dinner, so there’s beef stew in addition to the cod and fusilli from Saturday. Leftovers are good. They make for good lunches at school!

Are you high maintenance?
All people are high maintenance on some things. I have my things, but they are neither abundant nor prominent.

How do you want to be proposed to?
Well, I did the proposing to Wifeness, but I’m sorry to say it wasn’t terribly romantic. Not one of my best moments, really.

Do you work out regularly?
I have done a good job of this since Christmas, and I’m excited to be making good progress toward my two of my goals for this year: A bike trip to Pennsylvania and a triathlon.

Do you care about your appearance?
I do, but I'm not fastidious about certain things so much of late. I let my beard go for a week at a time, I don’t get my hair cut quite as often as I used to and my clothes go longer before they get replaced. It’s not so much a lack of caring as it is a choice to focus on other things for the time being. It will matter more soon, and when it does, I’ll give it the attention it demands.

Do you like to be tan?
I do, but I can’t tolerate the sun as well as I used to. I suppose that’s because I don’t spend as much time outside as I used to. I’d love for that to change.

If you had your choice of anyone in the world to spend a night with, who would it be?
I prefer to spend my nights with my lovely wife. It doesn’t really matter what we do. I just enjoy spending time in her space.

How many keys are on your key ring?
There are seven. Two car keys, two house keys (Wayfarer House and Wifeness’ folks house) and three school keys. There is also a bottle opener, a baby pin and the clip that attaches everything to my belt.

How much money is in your wallet/purse right at this moment?
10,000 Brazilian cruzados. Value in American dollars? 0.00¢ (the cruzado was changed to the real several years ago). I keep it in there in case my wallet is stolen. When this happened several years ago, the perp brought the bill to the bank to see what it was worth, and this led to his arrest.

What is your favorite spice or seasoning?
Black pepper undoubtedly sits at the top. Fresh onion and garlic are close in second place.

What does your name mean?
I have always understood my first name to mean “noble” or “strong”. It’s a celtic name, I think.

Do you give your pets holiday presents?
She gets an extra scoop of food at Christmas. Wifeness gets her toys.

When doing up your jeans, do you button then zip? Or zip then button?
I do the button first. They zip easier that way.

How far would you go on the first date?
I never went beyond first base on an official date. To do otherwise always seemed ungentlemanly.

Do you sleep on your side? Stomach? Back?
If I want to sleep for a short or specific amount of time (18 minutes, say), I must do so on my back. If I want to sleep for at least a couple of hours, I am most comfortable on my stomach.

Have you attended a high school reunion yet? How was it?
I have no desire to revisit high school by going to a reunion. I’ll go with Wifeness to her 20th next year, though. That should be entertaining!

Are you ticklish? Where?
I am not ticklish anywhere any longer. I’ve worked to not be. When I was a kid, my mother could reduce me to jello by tickling my temples. She still tries whenever she comes to visit.

Would you rather change your past or know your future?
Knowing the future seems the more valuable gift. I don’t have any regrets about how I’ve lived my life to this point, so there’s no need for me to rewrite history.

Do you believe in saving yourself for marriage?
I did not do so for religious reasons, but I waited until I was nearly 20 to have sex. It was great when I decided to go there, but I was glad not to be burdened or distracted by it when I was in school.

Would you pick up a hitchhiker?
My wife will hit me when she reads this, but the answer is yes, as long as I didn’t have my kids with me. I relied on hitchhiking when I was younger to get back and forth to school, and I appreciate that some people need a ride.

Would you consider yourself a worrier?
No. I think I do a very good job of keeping centered in uncertain times. My view of it is this: If you can’t do anything about it, worrying about it isn’t going to change anything. Save your energy for things and people you can reasonably influence.

Do you notice when your crush/significant other changes something about themselves?
For the most part, yes. I may not always comment on it, but I usually notice.

Do your first impressions of people usually stick?
I’ve worked really hard to let my impressions of people form over time, though I am a keen enough judge of character and personality patterns for those impressions to be accurate.

What movie can you watch over and over?
I watch the old Star Wars trilogy a lot while I cycle up in my office, and I love to watch Running Scared with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines ("YEEEEES!!"). When I need professional insight or inspiration, I turn to Stand and Deliver. All in all, though, the movies I enjoy the most every time I watch them are the three Matrix films—especially the second. Great action, great story, great music… and 1,001 great quotes!

Do you like to cook?
I do! I haven’t been able to do much cooking during the last couple of years, but I very much enjoy the creativity and energy that comes from working on a meal. I don’t know as much as I would like to about preparing fine cuisine, but it’s on my list of things to learn more about before I die.

Do plants die in your care?
Sometimes. My plants at school suffer during breaks because I don’t water them before I leave, but I’ve had Theo, my ficus, for 17 years and he’s doing just fine.

What’s one thing you feel you must do in your life before it ends?
Start the Landmark Community School. It’s been a goal of mine since I decided I wanted to become a teacher and, though the specifics of the dream have changed over time, the essence of it has remained strong in me for most of my life. I’m excited at how close this dream is to becoming real!

A Meme for the Literary Masses...

Chili and Kizz have this meme on their blogs. I did it just to see how many of these titles I’ve actually read. I was impressed, considering I haven’t read 12 books that weren’t related to graduate school in the last 5 years. Anyway, here’s the list…

Look at the list of books below.
* (Bold) the ones you’ve read
* Italicize the ones you want to read
* Leave unchanged the ones that you aren’t interested in.
* If you are reading this, tag, you’re it!

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austin)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Friday, March 2, 2007

From today’s exams…


Me: “¿Avery, Cómo se dice ‘student’s desk’ en español?” (How do you say “student’s desk” in Spanish? The answer is spelled "pupitre", and properly carries the stress on the second syllable).

Avery: “Poopy tray.”

(Several minutes of rolicking and puerile laughter ensues from the class)

Me (after finally calming the class down): “Euh. Hmm. Well, no. Try again, and put the stress in a different place.

Avery (looking confused): “Poopy traYYYYYYYY?”


8. Ana sonríe mucho.

Please write #8 in English

Amy’s answer: Eight