Monday, July 21, 2014

Shave Time, Shave Money

As a teacher I am usually short on two things: cash and time. We all know that teachers are infamously paid not a lot for the LONG hours they work... I have talked about this before.  Now I am going to go in to some ways you can make the most of the time and money you do have.

Here are my top 5 ways to shave time and money.

1. Ditch Cable or Dish and go with a media player (we have the Roku 3 & a HD antenna for local {FREE} over the air channels) and a subscription service (we have Hulu Plus)... so not only does this save us $100s but now I can watch my favorite shows on the go as well as when I have a minute at home.  I also can pause it and come back to it later if I don't have time to watch a whole episode.  It is awesome.  The Roku 3 also has a phone app so I can shave time looking for the remote because it is tiny and let's face it... it is lost in the couch cushions most of the time.
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2. Cleaning Supplies that come with refillable pods.  You shave money off having to buy the bottle each time and you also have the supplies on hand when you need them shaving you time off a trip to the store.  LOVE IT.  This one by REPLENISH is great.
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3. ROOMBA.  Okay, so I am gone a lot during the school year and when I am home I am tired and I don't want to do anything more than stuff my face and maybe pick up the big chunks if someone is coming over.  BUT we have two dogs who have lots of hair.
aren't they the cutest?
Getting a cleaning lady is just not in my budget possibilities but a Roomba was and boy do I love Rhonda.  She cleans every day while I am at work and I do not see any dust bunnies anywhere.  She is a saint.  Some of them can be pricey but if you look hard enough you can get a reasonably priced one.  It is worth it.
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4. BarkBox ( Okay, so I thought at first it would be a splurge but then I found a groupon and gave it a try.  After seeing the quality treats and toys my babies get each month and reviewing the cost of what I used to spend going to the pet store to get treats and toys I now know I am saving a TON OF TIME AND MONEY.  They come in different sizes to accommodate different dogs and usually have 2 toys and 3 treats (at least for the small pups).  There is usually $50 worth of goodies involved and subscriptions run you half that or less.
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5. Dollar Shave Club ( Here is another subscription service (which by the way shave a ton of money off your bills and time off your day) and this one is for the guys although ladies you can use the razors, too, but my husband goes through lots of razors keeping his face baby butt smooth.  Mostly because we buy cheap ones he has to throw away quickly.  With the dollar shave club not only are they here for him ready to go but they are great razors, too.  For as little as $1/month your man can have his razors at the house (you don't have to worry about taking your time to buy him more).  Plus there are great shaving supplies to support the razors like post shave moisturizer and shave butter.
Here is their f**ing great commercial. (And the inspiration for the title of this blog post.)
The last way you can shave time, shave money is with your makeup.  Younique 3D Fiber Lashes save you money on having to get lash extensions every month... heck that saves you time, too.  It takes me about 10 minutes a day to do my lashes up great and look like I spent hours and $$$ at a salon.
My lashes Before and After.  Seriously, 10 minutes!

Now that I have shared my top ten ways to shave time, shave money in my life share with me what you do?

Saturday, March 8, 2014

My Favorite Classes... to Teach

I have been teaching for six years now.  In those six years I have been at three very different schools.

My first two years were spent in Killeen, Texas at a pretty rough school.  I taught Algebra 2 the first year and this is by far my favorite math topic because it is the first time you get to think in abstract math terms... but for kids who are not strong or interested in thinking like a mathematician it is tough.  This first year I was mostly focused on classroom management and so afraid of mutinies.  I mean, there are 25 of them and 1 of you.  If they really wanted to rebel they could steam roll me in an instant... I still have nightmares where this happens but I don't worry about it as much anymore.  I have developed some tricks to avoid that happening and they are things I learned in this first year of teaching.  The biggest thing I learned is that you can't get respect if you don't give it.  For the first couple of years disrespect was a huge word that would get thrown around a lot.  No one wanted to be disrespected or accused of being disrespectful.

Algebra 2 is still one of my favorite math subjects.  I just love all of topics that are covered and when I was in Korea I really got to go in to the why and not just the how.  I adored this.  We had fun learning that year.  It was great to have students who wanted to know about math and who were willing to think about the math.  I have taught it back in the US and it was a year of showing the kids tricks to get them to an answer which makes me sad but for some students they are just trying to get through and you do what you have to do to get them there.

In Korea, I also got to teach Algebra 1 for the first time and I fell in love.  I love laying the foundations of Algebra for students regardless of how they feel about math PLUS it is the most relatable of all the math subjects to what you would use outside of the math classroom.  I have also found that I LOVE this age of students (8th or 9th grade)... they are fun.  They make me laugh and are willing to go along with the "fun" teacher things I ask them to do without a lot of the sass you get from the older students.  When I first started teaching I really didn't think I would ever like this age so it is funny that I have come to love them.  I am currently teaching this class and it is by far my favorite class periods even the classes with the most challenging personalities in them.

I have taught a math modeling class for students to help prep them for the Exit Level test to meet NCLB graduation standards.   I enjoyed this class but the students were mostly high risk students and some of there stories really tugged at my heart strings and their behaviors definitely story worthy.  We also had a lot of success getting the students ready for the test with a 75% pass rate of my students that year.

Another class that was a fun topic to teach was Quantitative Math... it is a "college" level discrete math class for seniors who don't need precalc in college or life.  I love going through the topics that aren't taught in high school with students that are still important and interesting... like personal finance, statistics, probability, math in art, cryptography, etc.  We also get to do a lot of projects and go at whatever pace we want or need because it isn't controlled by a NCLB test or future class.  But again the challenge with this class is the students who are in it because they don't necessarily like school or math and who are just trying to get a box checked so they can get their diploma... this takes away some of the excitement of the topic.

Precalc was a great class to take but I felt totally unprepared the year I taught it.  I really don't know how well I taught the subject but thankfully I had fantastic students who did a lot of studying on their own.

Rounding out the list of classes I have taught and liked would be 6th grade math... This was my least favorite class to teach, though.  I am just not very good at it because I want to explain either too simply or too complicated... Had a hard time finding a happy meaning.  This age is also the hardest I have had to teach.  They were great kids but just a bundle of hormones that had them confused and feeling out of control.  The kids were stuck between being in Elementary still and being in Middle School... they were constantly in conflict and sometimes that conflict was directed at me.

WAIT! No, the class I like to teach the least is GEOMETRY.  I just don't like it.  Can't draw shapes have a hard time explaining the difference between postulates and theorems and I always take the LONG way to solve proofs.  It is just not my cup of tea and if you ask me I don't get why students have to take a full year of it anyway... you could boil it all down to a semester and give the kids more Algebra experience.

What was your favorite math class to take before college?  If you are a teacher what has been you favorite class to teach?

Here are some random class photos from over the last 6 years of my teaching career.
HA! I AM a professional.

I loved the latin saying for our school on the wall of the cafeteria.

My desk in year 2.

Love this clock.  It has been broken twice and been to Asia and back.

Korean classroom

View from my desk.

My math sign 
A week of lessons

Summer SAT prep class rules.

Tools of the trade.

Students hanging out.

Love spirit and dress up days!

Crazy Hair Day

Me on the far right WINNING the twisting contest.

Quizzing a young student about Pi Day.

<3 student love

Current desk area.

Birthday love.

Architecture of 100 year old school from my classroom window.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A day in the life of a teacher... or at least me.

It is a common misconception that teachers have it easy.  I mean they get the whole summer off to laze in the sun, right?  HA!  Here's what I really do during the school year... including those lazy days of summer.

I get to school every day an hour before the first bell.  I have a lot of work to do to be prepared for the students so I can put on the face of authority and knowledge and sometimes that hour isn't enough.  I spend this hour prepping my brain, my words, my materials, and if for some act of fate I have any extra time I look ahead and plan that, too.  But at least once a week and often more times than that my hour is not available or cut short because of meetings (staff, IEP, 504, curriculum, etc, etc, etc) or students needing help (I made a decision the first day of my teaching career that I would always be available to students who came seeking help and if I am in my room I am available to help or talk or whatever).  That first bell often rings without me being 100% where I need to be.  I have been super lucky to have awesome 1st period classes because they tend to be my guinea pigs for the lesson.  I tweak it the rest of the day due to how they perform and react.

Until lunch (and after lunch) I teach, I maintain order, I answer questions (random nonsense, life, and math), and I always have to be on my toes because no two days are the same despite any amount of planning.  For the first four years of my career I was fortunate enough to have my own classroom where I taught all of my classes not having to move to another room unless I chose to teach the students in other locations (my fave was the day I took my precalc class out to the futbol pitch and studied in the sun).  The last two years I have taught in a hundred year old building that is on the edge of downtown and with very limited space... so not traveling just doesn't happen (although a small few do luck out).  This is an added challenge to all the others.  I have a homebase and this year am lucky to teach most of my classes in that room but I do have to teach two classes in other rooms and I always feel less prepared in those rooms and find myself traveling back to my homebase to retrieve things forgotten all too often.  It just throws the whole period off PLUS I hate leaving the students "alone" even if the teacher whose desk is in that room is usually in there to supervise in my brief absence.

Lunch time is always fast and chaotic.  Depending on where I worked it was between 30 to 40 minutes.  This time is sometimes spent in meetings (but thankfully that is RARE) but mostly is spent eating my food as quick as possible because I am having to wrap up the morning and get ready for the afternoon if at least mentally.  I also have students in my room every day at lunch.  Lately it is just for them to hang out but this is also a time for the students who have after school activities to do retakes and get help.  I do a lot of talking and eating.  On rare special occasions I get to sit with my colleagues and talk.

During the day I have been given at least 1 period (and on a few super lucky years 2) to PREPare... depending on the day I can do anything from create lessons, plan the future, grade papers, input grades, make parent contact, or rarely go to another meeting.  On the days where my mind is blown (because of too many CCSS buzzwords and no CCSS plans, mean students, bad lessons, or any other issue), I tune in and tune out with my headphones in and try to level back out for the rest of the day.  At the end of it all I am taking care of 150 humans who are trying to find their place in the world while I am trying to get them to be interested in math and some times I need to not forget to take care of myself, too.

I bet you can guess what I do when the last bell of the day rings and all of the students run out the door to go to practice or home... because it is the same thing I have been doing since an hour before school whenever I wasn't teaching a class.  I am getting ready for the next day or the next week.  I am filling out paperwork.  I am sitting with students who need help or need to just hang out.  I also supervise Math Lab two times a week.  Every contract I have ever had has required the teachers to be at school from a half an hour before the first bell to a half an hour after the last bell.  I rarely am at school during JUST those hours. Besides the hour before school that I find I NEED I am also at school for at least another hour and sometimes more depending on what needs to get done... and it is never ending.

When the work week is over I spend at least one day of the weekend doing something for the next week... whether it is grading papers (which having a student TA this year has really cut back on) or planning the future.  Even if I am not physically working on planning I am always critiquing myself in my head.  I know that I can always be better and I strive to be better.  I also believe that the day that I have it on lock and have nothing to improve upon is the day I should have a different career.

Recently, I have started mentoring the school's FRC team and it has been an amazing experience.  The things that the students do and accomplish just impress upon me.  It is a time consuming commitment though... for the first six weeks of the new year we spend a lot of time in the Lab with the students.  At least there four of us to split of the time and duties and support each other.  After the build season is the competition season and that takes me out of the classroom for a few days to go travel to the competitions (at universities) and supervise the students.

By the end of the school year I have put in probably an average of 1800 hours doing school things.  This is a 50 hour week for each of the 36 weeks of the school year... on average... so you know that sometimes I put in more hours than that.  When the school year is over I spend the first month of the summer thinking about the next year and planning and creating and all those things I do during the school year just without the students present.  I also have professional development to attend as well as a few meetings.  Even though it is summer I don't start to relax even a bit til about a month after the last bell rings and then get ramped back up a month before the new school year... so I really only get a couple of weeks if a month tops to truly relax and have time off from school... and this is after working the same amount of hours in 9 months that most professionals work in 12 months with TEENAGERS.

So tell me... do you still think teachers have it easy?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Being a Teacher...

Okay, I am going to try and blog more about being a teacher.

Half way through this year... this is the toughest time of the year.  Morale for teachers and the students is low.  It's dreary and cold outside (this year colder than usual with no snow to pretty things up).  I like to share this graphic because it is so very true for the rollercoaster that is a teacher's life.

This year I have a particular class that have the worst attitudes... they have been wearing me down like a river.  I am really hard on myself when I get classes like this and students like this because I feel like I could have managed things better to prevent it.  Today I heard from another teacher who was having very similar issues, and although I hate to see it happen to another since I know how it feels, I am, also, relieved that it doesn't just happen to me.  For my students they got to get an ear full of a pity/guilt party where I laid my feelings and barely held back tears out for them letting them know that I did not appreciate their bad attitudes and cruel words and that if they couldn't get their attitudes in check and didn't need this course for a credit we should part ways and they could go do running start, get a job, or be a TA because it wasn't fair to me, or their peers to keep rotting up the barrel.  I got through to a few who are now doing something else, one of which had the stinkiest attitude of them all.  woo. Thankfully, this class is an anomaly and the rest of my classes are some amazing FRESHMEN (blows my mind, too, that 15 year olds are amazing in math class) and they lighten my spirit.  They are hilarious, kind and loyal.  They have bad days and bad attitudes but nothing like my older kids that wear me down.

The freshmen this year have been fabulous.  They want to come hang out with me in my room.  Even students that aren't mine who are friends of my students come in and hang out... a couple of them coming in when their friends aren't even with them.  I help them with their homework (math and whatever) or sometimes we just chat.  It is awesome.  The other day in class they were fighting over who was my favorite student and I told them I loved them all the same... which is mostly true.  They have slipped and called me mom a few times (one class even tried to make it stick instead of calling me Mrs. W).  And lately the girls have become really huggy which just throws me off and I have to give that weird and awkward back tap hug to avoid impropriety.

As a teacher you have these kids in your life for a short period of time, a year usually and couple years if you are truly lucky, and sometimes there are kids that come through during that time that just connect with you.  I have some kids I look forward to seeing and hearing from everyday.  I know they are good for a laugh, or to spark an interesting conversation.  I always hate it when these students leave me early... I have had a couple of students in the past move on (to other schools usually) before our time is up and I feel cut short.

I have some really tough kids this year.  I hate to see the students who are struggling at home for all the different reasons.  I hate when they come to me and ask if I have some food because their stomach is growling and they can't focus.  It is just not fair.  I hope that for these kids I can provide for them something they need even if it isn't to have taught them all the math they needed to know this year.  I know that I was meant to be a teacher for these kids.  And hopefully, through that I can get a little bit of math snuck in there too.

Okay, now that I am all teary eyed I am going to stop.  I am gonna TRY to write more often.  I like writing.  If you read this and appreciate it please leave me a message.  I hate feeling like I am talking to myself.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Musing the status of my blog...

So with the exception of a couple of blog posts I really haven't posted much on the good ole blog (GOB - HA! HA! HA!) since moving back from Korea.  Pretty much life has been crazy and I really didn't have anything novel to write about being back in the States.  I have also realized I am not interested in writing about being a military spouse or really identifying myself with that "culture" either.  I wondered if maybe I should just close up shop since I had lost my focus and my topic.  I have decided to not do that and instead will focus on my identity as a Math Teacher (SUPERHERO, say what?) and all my feelings and thoughts regarding education as well as the lighter side of teaching (kids drawing asses on their papers because the worksheet for asymptotes had a typo and said ASSYMPTOTES), as well as reflecting on my own teaching experiences and attempts to be better at what I love to do.  So, if you read my blog before for some other reason then go ahead and unfollow... I won't cry.  To those of you who do stay validate me with LOTS of comments, okay?

Now here is some random cuteness:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Trip to Canana... It Rhymes with Banana (Just Kidding)

This summer has been full of trips and travel... we have had family reunions, weddings, and graduations.  This summer my mother turned 55 (she's a speed limit!) and I finished my Master's degree (in Mathematics Education) so to celebrate we decided to take a trip to Banff, Alberta, Canada.  It was fabulous.  We drove from the best state in the US, Washington State, up through the Idaho panhandle into British Columbia and over through the mountains to Alberta.  The drive alone, roughly 8 hours, was totally worth it.  The Canadian Rockies are breathtaking all by themselves.
We arrived in Banff at dinnertime although the sun was still high in the sky. (I LOVE SUMMER IN THE NORTHERN LATTITUDES!)  We checked in to our hotel which was the cutest little cottage resort where all the rooms do not have AC but they do have fireplaces.  They even had scheduled (free) activities every day planned for you if you were so inclined... we weren't this time around.  The resort was manned by young international people (I don't know if they were students) who were there for 2 month tours (?) and so you never knew if you would get a Kiwi, Aussie, or Irishman when you went to inquire at the front desk which we did daily since they were in control of the only ice machine on the property.  The town of Banff was also manned by the same diverse international young people and it was divine to hear so many wonderful accents everywhere you turned.  It was like we went to Europe but for a whole lot less money.  I am not going to bore you with all the sordid details about our trip but here are a few things you should know about Banff (and then some photos) because you should plan a trip there IMMEDIATELY:
  1. The water is DIVINE... it must be straight from a glacier and laced with some wonderful, happy minerals because mom and I were giddy whenever drinking simply the water for which we consumed GALLONS, many of which were straight from the tap in our bathroom sink.
  2. Despite it being 80F or so outside the Upper Hot Springs were relaxing and wonderful in their 104F wondefulness... despite the Aussie at the shop in town telling us we would "boil."
  3. Evelyn's Coffee House is the best thing going.  Drink lots of it... and bring it home with you.  Yeah... it's that good and I am a coffee snob.
  4. Lake Louise is beautiful but the size is so very underwhelming.
  5. Fairmont Hotel is very much a required stop... and if you plan it right there is a good wine tasting there (or so we are told).  We didn't get to experience it because we got there at 6:05PM (tricky sun being so high so late) when it was over at 6PM.
  6. Take any Gondola rides to the top of mountains because they are a trip and make you feel like you are in the Swiss Alps.
  7. The food is good no matter where you go or what you order... and if you are adventurous Canadian cuisine prides itself on wild game and you find Bison and Caribou on most menus... Oh also, Candian Bacon is called "Back Bacon" in Canada... not just Bacon which is called Crisp Bacon.  Yeah and it is way better that that pressed round meat we put on pizza.
  8. BUY THE MAPLE __________... you will regret you didn't.  We got maple chocolate cookies and when we got home mom wished she had brought home more because they are that good.
  9. Have your camera ready to photograph wild life at any time.  We saw Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep, and one really freaky huge Raven conducting traffic in town.
  10. You will need lots of mosquito/bug spray (and it is expensive to buy on a whim so bring it with you).  The mosquitos were REALLY bad but not as bad as a the black flies... their bites really hurt and drew blood whereas the mosquitos were just annoying.
Now for some pictures.  Enjoy!  Make sure to leave me a comment to tell me your thoughts... I haven't blogged for a while and want to hear how much y'all missed me.
Mom kept forgetting that Canada had $1 and $2 (shown here) coins... and would give big tips.

The source of the hot springs was a lot more sulphur-y stinky than the pool itself.)

Here's the freaky big Raven conducting traffic.

Rundle Mountains

Our tour guide, The Beav

The Fairmont, aka "The Castle"

This is a permanent Croquet court here.

We loved all of the signs... they were so cartoony... this one says you can scuba in the lake.

In the Gondola

View from the Gondola deck.

The only Mountie mom got to see.

Me at dinner at 7500 feet.