Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Election Results Saved Me From Myself

As you know, I am a teacher.  And, teachers in the state of Pennsylvania utilize one of the teachers' unions:  AFT or PSEA.  Our local is under the guise of the AFT.  For the most part, I have been extremely happy with our federation.  The officers helped me and continue to help the general membership.  

For many years one man was our president.  We looked to him for answers for the tough questions and had a level of comfort under his tutelage.  However, he has since retired from teaching and taken a position with the AFT.  Therefore, our teachers needed to step up to the plate and take on the leadership roles that were being vacated by the present executive board.  Insert Tiffany...

A few years ago I ran for building representative and earned enough votes to be an alternate.  I respectfully declined as I decided that the time investment would be difficult with a small child.  Why in the hell did that not register when I decided to run for secretary of the executive board this year?  No epiphany.  No ah-ha moment.  NOTHING.  And, so I ran and LOST.  I didn't run for Homecoming Queen and I also realize that I am not a fan favorite.  However, I felt that I needed to take an interest in the future of our union. 

After some reflection, I am grateful that I wasn't elected.  In fact, it was a BLESSING in disguise.  'How in the world would I have time to sit on the executive board, teach an AP class, teach an online class, continue my blogging, (and oh, by the way) raise my children, love my husband, engage my family and friends AND have a little time for myself?'  ANSWER:  I would FAIL-abysmally. 

So, a big ol' whopping THANKS to the teachers for NOT electing me for secretary.  However, I may be involved with the newletter!  ;)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mock Crash

Today, the students of our SAD group put on the performance of their lives.  With the help of the local fire and police departments, the student organization and its sponsor demonstrated to our juniors and seniors the importance of a safe and healthy prom night.  I was very impressed and somewhat emotional as it was so stinkin' real.  It terrified me when I saw some of my beloved students portray real crash victims.  Although the junior and senior classes may have thought that the event was far fetched-NOT ONE PERSON was disrespectful or crass.  I wish the students a happy, healthy and safe PROM night. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Jenn's Journey

Queen of Awesomeness.  Magnificent  Mother.  Wonderful Wife.  Phenomenal Friend. 
Most of my friends are in my computer.  However, I met Jen through  BFF, Burgh Families and Friends, at a "live" event.  Jenn's electric and magnetic personality draws people to her.  She can make you feel like a SUPERSTAR in less than a millisecond.  I cherish the time I get to spend with Jenn and am looking forward to supporting her on her journey to health and wellness.

Jenn is scheduled for Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery in just a few short days. She started a Top Ten Countdown on her personal site.  Follow Jenn's blog, finallyfocused, for more details and sure-to-be-laughs.  Hugs to my friend, Jenn.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our Lil' Superheroes are 5 and 2!

Many of you already know that my adorable children share the same birthday.  Most children want a themed birthday party of their choice.  Walnut wanted to have a Batman party but Peanut loves Thomas the Tank Engine.  Where's the compromise?  A Batman and Robin party.  I really enjoyed prepping for their party this year.  Last year we did a carnival theme which was great but this year was even better!  The boys wore their costumes, all the children partygoers decorated masks and made no sew capes from t-shirts.  AND...superheroes and villains joined us.  Check out Batman, Robin, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, the Scarecrow and the Joker.  They even helped the kiddos decorate masks.  It was such a great day and so many people came to celebrate with us!  Check out the photos taken by Amber Doerr of Adored Photography!

 Walnut relaxing before he fights for justice!

Peanut meets Robin.  Could it be a showdown?

 Super Dad and his little heroes!

 Special Visitors

Batman and another Robin

two of my favorite people

Even Robin needs a break sometimes.

 Superheroes Unite!


Batman approves of the cake.

making capes

 Multiple Robins make for good times!


Carly, Loyola Alumna

On May 15, 2010, my sister, Carly, graduated from Loyola University in Maryland.  Last year, Casey graduated from UNH and now it was Carly's turn to enjoy commencement exercises.  Baltimore is happening city, especially during the weekend of Preakness and the Orioles v. Indians series.  I found myself stuck in a nightmare of traffic as I entered Baltimore at the exact moment of the Parade of Lights celebration on Pratt St.

Unlike Casey's very green commencement exercises, Carly's Jesuit university's tradition ceremony was filled with pomp and circumstance with a very regal feel.  However, both events were very enjoyable.  The graduation itself was held at the First Mariner ArenaHarry K. Thomas, Jr. was the commencement speaker.  While I thought his delivery to be mediocre, the message was transcendent and much needed in our modern American society.  To quote Ambassador Thomas, "We are not African Americans, Jewish Americans, European Americans, etc. WE ARE AMERICANS."  His call to action for the graduates to become involved in their communities and country was necessary and relevant in this global society.

I enjoyed family time, beautiful weather, the Inner Harbor and great food and drink at the Cheesecake Factory.  It was surreal to see Carly graduate.  After all, she's my little sister and she's kinda unconventional.  But, she has a B.A. in Communications and is prepping to find a job.  Congratulations and Good Luck to Carly!

Advanced Placement Judgment Day

May 12, 2010=AP Language and Composition Judgment Day

The longer I teach, the longer it takes me to have anxiety.  As a teacher, I see and hear so many different and sometimes unbelievable situations that little phases me.  So, when I decided to write the curriculum for the Advanced Placement Language and Composition class I didn't worry.  But, I should have been concerned.  I am definitely not a supporter of "high stakes testing"  or even state required testing that focuses on minimum competency.  And, although AP Central makes quite a bit of money via their monopoly of the testing world it is still important that my students fare well on the exam that they elect to take.

We covered the art of the test for over two months.  I began reviews.  I mimicked writing assessments and exams after the test.  I wanted them to be familiar with the process of taking the exam.  I began to think, 'Are these kids prepared?'  Admittedly, I was a little worried.  Plus, a whopping 82% of my students were taking the test.

7:30 a.m. breakfast for my students, conversation and a few laughs

8:00 a.m. SHOWTIME:  Part I:  Multiple Choice

I teach a first period class and waited patiently for my friend and guidance counselor, Heather, to update me on the status.  I received several emails.  They seemed calm and confident.  Part I was over...a small sigh of relief.

10:15 a.m. Part II:  Synthesis Essays

I approached the class wall of the library looking for someone to give me a thumbs up-scanning, scanning, YES!  Three of my students gave me the OK signal.  I felt if I could breathe and release the inner helicopter teacher mode from my day's repertoire.

12:00 NOON-Exam Over

As students filed out of the library, they gave me the rundown.  They felt as if they did very well.  I got high fives from many of my males students.  SMILE.

I will receive their scores in July.  I am looking forward to seeing how well they actually did.  They are smart and focused adolescents.  They make me PROUD!

Mother's Day 2010: Live Life With Purpose

Race.for.the.Cure.  Mother's Day has become a day of remembrance and renewal.  As stated in an earlier post, Mother's Day Weekend, my grandmother had breast cancer but didn't tell anyone.  After years of looking for different philanthropic and volunteer opportunities, I decided to make the Susan G. Komen Foundation one of my "causes".  Therefore, Mother's Day has become "Race for the Cure Day" for our family.  My in-laws have decided to join us as we walk every year because my mother-in-law has lost two of her aunts, Lois and Gladys, to breast cancer.

During the walk this year, I really tried to focus my energy and explaining the meaning to Walnut.  As he gets older, I want him (both of them) to recognize the importance of charity, passion and finding a cause that is important to him.  Walnut asked several questions:  "What are those signs on their backs?" (referring to the in memoriam or in honor cards) and "I'm tired.  Can we stop at the playground?"  Schenley Park has so many wonderful playgrounds for kiddos.  To which I answered, "Do you see that woman wearing a scarf on her head?"  He replied, "Yes."  "She's walking and she has cancer.  She is sick but is walking and so can you."  He didn't question.  He just continued to walk.  Life Lesson=Live Life With Purpose.

I am truly proud of my family.  Bob is such a wonderful and supportive husband.  He stands behind me on my myriad of quests.  He understands me.  My in-laws are phenomenal.  As my father-in-law often asks, "What are you dragging me to this time?"  Yet, after we experience our endeavors he is always grateful and self reflects.  My children will know what it means to volunteer or to champion a cause.  What a wonderful Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bill Maher and Parking

Truthfully, I am not sure what my political party affiliation is anymore.  There are so many different pigeonholes for so many different types of Democrats and Republican that I am not sure what is right, moderate or left.  And, I teach rhetoric.  Therefore, I analyze every single speech that I hear and try to punch holes in it.  Nevertheless, I received a call from my mother inviting me to see Bill Maher at the Carnegie Music Library on her birthday.  I jumped at the chance as we are in the middle of unit I entitled:  The Rhetoric and Language of Humor.

Bill Maher, if you have no idea what he represents, is a LIBERAL and I don't use the word loosely.  Yet, he is FUNNY.  My mother, father and I ventured through the torrential downpour to see Mr. Maher.  The room was as hot as hades but the company was good and the laughter abound.  He mocked the right, the left, almost every religion and got a little raunchy as well.  I enjoyed listening to his take on such topics as:  healthcare reform, monotheism (omnipotent beings of every religion that has a creator god), homosexuality, etc.  Although, I have to say that I don't share the same views as Bill Maher but I could appreciate his humor and laughed a little and cringed a little at the same time.

As a side, the parking was horrendous.  We were a bit late.  I forgot that parking in a city setting is definitely not similar to parking in the suburbs.  Nevertheless, we managed.

And, I escaped without anyone knowing that I am a registered Republican.  shhhhh...

Easter 2010

We love Easter for so many different reasons:  spring, the smell of hyacinths, tulips and lillies, chocolate Easter bunnies from Sarris, pastel colors, Easter egg hunts, visits with the Easter Bunny, decorated baskets, Resurrection cookies, photos, Phipps Conservatory's Spring Exhibit, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum's Bunny Trolley, visting Kraynak's Bunny Land, coloring eggs, paska, pickled beets, Easter Vigil, hiding baskets, Good Friday mass, watching Jesus of Nazareth, family and traditions.

Here are a few pics of the boys on Easter Sunday:

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

thirty seven

I was born in the Chinese year of the ox.  My astrological sign is the taurus.  Am I defined by the characteristics of these two animals? Abso-freakin-lutely!  When I first started teaching a few of us went to a local Chinese restaurant for lunch.  I read the Chinese zodiac and started to put things into perspective.  Interestingly enough, people born in the year of the ox are dependable, hard-working and determined.  One characteristic of the taurus is determination.  Clearly, anyone who knows me for more than five seconds realizes that I am extraordinarily focused when it comes to a goal.  This personality trait is one that I welcome with open arms and own.  For several years I have asked myself a series of questions on a pretty frequent basis:  'Why must I do everything to the extreme?'  'Why is my "good enough" ridiculously overboard compared to others?'  'When will I allow myself to just relax?'  The three questions I ask myself do not shed negative light on my friends, family or colleagues.  Truly.  I just would like to understand why I do the things that I do.  For example, something as simple as a get together with friends turns into a BIG deal with favors or treats or presents and a full quasi-catered lunch or dinner.  How about a few hot dogs and hamburgers and some pasta salad.  The above are minute examples of my lunacy.  But, now I have an excuse:  I am an OX and a BULL.  Wow!

By the way, thank goodness that both of my boys are not born in the year of the ox and under the sign of taurus. 

My 37th birthday was amazing.  My students baked a cake and cookies, made cards, sang to me, and one of my dear students drew the most fabulous Perseus I have ever seen.  My husband and my children gave me some retail therapy time.  We also had a great dinner and quality time in the back yard.  Did I mention that the taurus likes things to be simple and focused?  Sounds about right...

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ten Years of Teaching: A Professional and Personal Reflection

This post is more for me than for the readers.  I am often astounded at the amount of information that I forget.  And so, it is time to reflect and then perhaps vogue.  There is always a reason to dance.  Nevertheless, I have been teaching for an entire DECADE.  'When did that happen?'  Wrapping my brain around the concept of an entire decade of commitment to one profession is frightening and rewarding and totally enigmatic.  Looking back, I recognize that I have changed my pedagogy, philosophy, style and sense of obligation.  I have created one new class, World Mythology, and pioneered the first AP Language and Composition class in my district.  I have attended countless workshops and conferences all in the name of becoming a better informed teacher.  The HP Grant team and the Classrooms for the Future initiative have permitted me to know technology better than I could have imagined.  And, the list goes on...

But, what I truly love is having a relationship with my current and former students.  PERIOD. 

That was pretty easy.

Can I Feed My Family "Knowing" People?

I love teaching-really.  For quite some time I have wondered what I want to be when I "grow up."  Here is a list of a few of the professions that have crossed my mind:  life coach, attorney, principal, scrapbook store owner and professional blogger.  My students often tell me that I would be a phenomenal life coach.  Many a graduate has come back to me and asked for some advice or even validation.  I have often wondered why.  The answer is that I listen.  Which leads me to my latest wish:  I want to know people.  I love the psychology behind personal philosophies.  I love when people are trying to find out what they want from life.  I love when people question their society and their belief system.  I love when people know who they are and intend to continue moving in resolute directions.  So, can I just know people?  If I write a book or direct a documentary-I could probably help to contribute to the family.  However, the latter seems like too much work.  Perhaps I could blog my entries about knowing people.  We shall see.  I will try to fit my new goal in between picking up the boys and making dinner.  What do you think? 


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