The state bee

Today is gonna be a great day. I usually end my posts with this, but today I’ll start AND end with the quote. The quate is aline is from a song, aptly named “Today is gonna be a great day” and it was in part, part of the inspiration for Making the Days Count almost five years ago.

This could possibly be the best day ever
And the forecast says that tomorrow will likely be
A million and six times better

So make every minute count
Jump up, jump in and seize the day
And let’s make sure that in every single possible way
Today is gonna to be a great day

It is gonna be a great day, because today is the National Geography Society’s state Geography Bee and my student qualified for it. Actually, he really isn’t my student he’s a sixth grader and he goes to my school. I just happen to be the Geo Bee coordinator and very passionate about geography. I’ve been helping him prepare, first for the state qualifying test and then for the state competition. We’ve had two study sessions where I’ve helped him and guided him by asking questions from past geography bees, but he really knows his stuff. Today will be the big test and he’ll be up against 100 other kids from across Illinois from grades 4 to 8 or ages 9-14. Most of them will be boys, about 80-90% and I wish him the best.

The best part is that I get to go and watch. Continue reading The state bee

Life in the balance

crocusthumbIn a perfect world everything would be in balance, lately though it seems the world – my world – has been out of balance. Much of the imbalance comes back to teaching and having a family. In reality, I am no different from anyone else – I have a job and life – everyone does; I just have a blog and I am writing about it. Nevertheless, I do not want to sound like I am whining and if I am, please sound off in the comments section. If you have followed Making the Days Count, you already know I share the lessons I learn from my students often and share what I learn from what I teach. It’s a delicate balance – the balance between school and my blog and between school and home.

Lately school has been winning; I have too much to learn, too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. So, I have not written as much as I would have liked. I am trying to put first things first.

It’s been a tumultuous year for us – we’ve lost two family members in the last year – both on my wife’s side of the family and in the past two weeks B’s family suffered the loss of two close family friends a husband and wife whom B has known her entire life, a virtual second set of parents. The loss has hit her hard and thrown her for a loop. Sadly, no amount of comfort I offer seems to ease the pain. I listen, hug, and stay calm. I cook dinner when I can and help as much as my work schedule allows. Still, I feel as if I come up short in every role – husband, father, teacher, and student.

Even at my age, I am a student as much as I am a teacher – because I am always learning and always asking the question of why? When we stop asking why, we begin asking the question when and it is not up to me when, so I keep asking why and trying to learn as much as I am able. Continue reading Life in the balance

Chocolate bunnies

photo courtesy of Fannie May
photo courtesy of Fannie May

A month ago, our area got its heaviest snow of the season, 19 inches, and this winter rivals last winter for being cold. According to our local weatherman, this February tied the record for being the coldest on record. We have had snow cover since that early February snowstorm and the snow has thawed, frozen, thawed, and refrozen leaving the backyard a crust of frozen icy snow. I don’t venture out into the yard often, just occasionally to quiet a barking Ivy, our Brittany Spaniel, or to toss Ivy a ball, or clean up after her. It is rather perilous tramping through the frozen yard. It doesn’t seem to bother Ivy – she has smaller paws and is much lighter than I am, so she can walk across the yard without sinking in as I do. Last Wednesday night we got another three or four inches of snow and the driveway was covered Thursday morning. I cleaned it off and the bright sunshine finished what I didn’t clean or clear; it’s evident spring is on its way and the days are getting longer again. Continue reading Chocolate bunnies

Salt from sand

Legend has it that when the Romans defeated the Carthaginians in the Third Punic War in 146 BC, the victorious Romans sacked Carthage plowing under the crops and sowing salt into the soil, rendering the land ruined. Probably by pouring seawater into the farmer’s fields because salt was valuable at the time. I learned this in middle school history in Mr. Burn’s class. It was a harsh punishment and the lessons of history are full of harsh penalties and punishments, of people acting with vengeance instead of reaching out and pulling up. Sadly, history repeats itself – repeatedly.

the sidewalk outside the school - it's dry but crusted with salt
the sidewalk outside the school – it’s dry but crusted with salt

Last week I was in Mississippi to visit my step-mom and I had to leave a day early because of Octavia. Octavia was the winter storm that wreaked havoc across America’s midsection at the beginning of last week. I decided I couldn’t risk being stranded in Oxford or at the Memphis airport on Monday and flew out Sunday evening. It was a good decision because all of Monday’s flights from Memphis to Chicago and the first two flights Tuesday were cancelled. I got home and it was bitter cold here but the roads were dry, in part to large doses of salt when it has snowed. The roads are coated with a white salt brine that seems to leach from the road and sidewalks until the spring rains wash it all away.

Enough of the history and the weather lesson and on to science. Continue reading Salt from sand

Not my problem

It’s Super Bowl Sunday and for the last four Super Bowls, I’ve made a prediction and every year my prediction has been a fail. Epic fail. Last year’s prediction was the worst ever. So this year, I won’t predict, I won’t share which team I am rooting for, I won’t tip my hand in any way. I just want to see a good game that keeps my interest until the very end, and of course I want to see some good commercials.

Last night I went to bed and the snow was beginning to fall. The weather guys began predicting a major snowstorm on Wednesday or Thursday and the hype has been building since. When I flipped on the radio yesterday, it was all I could hear – major snowstorm, blizzard warning, yada yada yada! The grocery stores were nuts yesterday as folks were out getting bread, milk, and eggs – in case we were snowed in. This morning when I peered out the window, the trees were coated and it was lovely. The snowplow had yet to clean the street and everywhere I could see was covered with a think velvety blanket of fresh snow.

my view this morning.....
my view this morning…..

Then, the snowplow came through. Continue reading Not my problem

Challenger

I’ve been teaching science for almost a hundred days now, ninety-two days to be exact.

At the beginning teaching science was a huge shift in thinking and I always felt unprepared. But, lately, I’ve been feeling a bit more on top of things. My advanced science students finished their science fair papers, projects, and presentations this past week and all of the presentations are completed AND graded. Now, I just have to pore over their final reports and grade them. The district science fair was last weekend and several of the student’s projects are very good and have the possibility of advancing to the state science fair in early May. I am excited for them, they did all of the work and they own the credit. I was just a shepherd, of a scientific sort.

I have two levels of science – advanced and regular – which means two curriculums and two separate plans. In regular science we’ve been focusing on matter and atoms; and we’ve finally gotten to the structure of the periodic table and how many electrons are in the outer electron shell. It’s really exciting stuff, trust me. In advanced science we are playing with aliens and looking for patterns. Click here for a web version of the activity. ALIENS.

Today was a special day. Continue reading Challenger

Word Press Challenge – Shadowed

It’s Sunday morning and I’ve had a good start to the day – I’ve read the paper, caught up on news, and finished watching CBS Sunday Morning’s weekly broadcast. I am full of ideas for the day, and the coming week – which usually stares me down at this time in the weekend. Tomorrow is martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday holiday and I have an extra day to prepare for the coming week. Friday was a planned teacher workday – school without kids and NO MEETINGS and I spent several hours yesterday working on school work.

animal tracks leading into the shadows of the woods and vegetation and safety
animal tracks leading into the shadows of the woods and vegetation and safety

I took these photos last week at a Forest Preserve I pass on my way to and from school. A narrow shallow rock-bottomed river runs beside the road and the cold weather has iced over much of it, except for the space where it trickles over a natural dam and opens up before running downstream. I visited the preserve last weekend. The sun was shining and the world was full of shadows. I found tracks in the fresh snow which I could only see because of the shadows and I startled a Canadian goose. I took my shots, captured the shadows and retreated home to where it was warm.

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It’s been cold here – we have had two days of no school due to the frigid temperatures, and even more frightful wind chills, the week before last. Continue reading Word Press Challenge – Shadowed

Weekly Photo Challenge – New

It’s a new year, with the some of the same responsibilities. Perhaps, I need a new outlook?

ivythesnowdog
new fallen snow and Ivy the Dog – the wonder dog

 

Normally, January 1st is not the day I choose for resolutions, usually my resolutions fall in early June when school lets out for summer and I have more time to reflect, rest, reset, and restore. But, that is summer or rather ‘some ‘er’ which sounds like summer but means some are – as in some are and some aren’t. Some summers I am more successful with the ‘reflect and reset’ than others. This past summer was one of those in which the reset was not complete. Now, I find myself in the beginning of winter and new fallen snow is beginning to cover the landscape. It brings a new outlook to the world; it’s fresh, clean, pure, and powdery. Ivy tested it earlier and came inside, curled up on the hassock, and went back to sleep. It’s a new beginning, sort of.

Continue reading Weekly Photo Challenge – New

Stille Nacht

It’s Christmas morning and we are all in Ohio. We are at grandma’s house and it’s quiet, very quiet. The kids are still sleeping, Ivy is curled on her pad, and B is visiting her mother – grandma – at the care center on the other side of town. She’s been at the care center since late September after a very nasty fall.

We arrived late Tuesday evening and visited with grandma. It was good to see her and laugh and tease – I hadn’t seen her since mid-July when I last visited Ohio. She’s my favorite mother-in-law and she still has her wicked sense of humor and a great smile. It was good to see both in action again. B’s been home a couple of times to check in on her mom and square up the house as best she could. It’s been a tough year for B and her mother – first B’s older sister passed away and then her dad passed away two months later. Truth be told, it’s been difficult for all of us.

We are staying in grandma’s house – but she’s away and it seems a bit odd. There is no one to sip coffee with in the morning and it’s even quieter than normal – even with two noisy kids and a dog. Yesterday, I visited with grandma in the morning and again in the evening. She was restless and had a difficult time settling down after dinner. I had taken a book to read to her – a children’s book – Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914. Based on the true story of the truce on Christmas Day in 1914 when the British and German soldiers took the day to stop fighting and share the meaning of Christmas with one another. This being the centenary anniversary of the beginning of the war several books have been published as well as a British supermarket chain, Sainsbury, produced a controversial video advertisement about the truce. Continue reading Stille Nacht

Tweets and time

What do dynamite, Teddy Roosevelt, and Malala have in common?

I posed that question to my eighth graders last week. It was how I began my science instruction for the day and I tweeted it on my school Twitter account. It was Thursday, the day after Wednesday; because that is the way the week usually plays out. Friday came and went, then Saturday, and now it is Sunday morning.

I’ve been feeling guilty lately. I haven’t written, blogged, or read much outside my realm of eighth grade science and history since Thanksgiving. I was looking at my blog and reflecting about its purpose and my commitment to the blog – writing, and in life in general. I looked back at the history of the blog back to my first year, 2010, and every afterward. In December, I fell off a cliff. It wasn’t just this year, it was last year and every year in December my posting dropped off and in each month there is a significant gap between Thanksgiving and the next post, today’s post is 17 days after Thanksgiving. I find comfort in the fact that every year I seem to be consumed by a vortex. It’s every year, not just this year.

Which is why I found the above riddle so intriguing. Continue reading Tweets and time