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22.09.2014

Now that we're back in the swing of school and I feel like I've gotten to know my 9th graders well, there are some things I have encountered that disturb me. A lot. (One of which is the way they all use the word 'alot.' It's two words, people. A. Lot. But I digress.)I pride myself on being a tough teacher. If a student makes an A in my class, it's because he or she has earned it. I don't give A's just for showing up - students earn A's when they complete and master assignments. What disturbs me, this semester more than any other, perhaps, is how many of my students expect those A's just for showing up. The first few quizzes, tests, and homework assignments threw them for the proverbial loop. There were many grades far below par, and there were many confused students and parents. There was a confused teacher, too. If the answers aren't right, then I must mark them wrong, right? If the assignment is only halfway completed, then it cannot earn more than a 50 percent, right?Yes, my expectations are high, and no, I don't apologize for it. But what has been on my...

09.08.2014

Dear Jennie,Today you're well-rested, having just returned from a relaxing getaway with your incredible husband. The new school year is looming and you're feeling a little stressed, beginning to make lists of all that must be done. But the stress you're feeling now is nothing compared to how you'll feel next Sunday night, when you know that 75 students will be entering your classroom the next day expecting great things of you. The stress will be even greater as you begin to prepare them for the high-stakes testing that will determine so much of their future - and yours. The anxiety will mount, the exhaustion will set in, and around February of this year, you'll begin to grumble. So I'm writing to you now, before all of it starts, to remind you that the stress, anxiety, and exhaustion are all a privilege. Really, they are.You see, Jennie, how have you forgotten? You've traveled to other countries where education isn't a given. You have seen with your own eyes children carrying their own chairs to a makeshift classroom in a tin building well over 100 degrees.You have seen their kitchen, empty but for a few small bags of beans and a...

02.07.2014

My side of the family is in a sweet baby frenzy right now, with my younger sister having just delivered her very own 8 lb 14 oz daughter. Born in the wee hours of the morning, sweet Emma has enchanted us all and ended a 7 year baby drought. We are all awash in pacifiers and swaddling and worries of when she last pooped. Babies make us crazy, don't they? (Side note - those 8 lbs 14 oz and my sister's tale of delivery made me thankful for my own unexpected C-sections. They weren't what I wanted, but neither is pushing out an 8 lb 14 oz baby, thank you very much! She's my new hero.)As I've seen us all fall head over heels in love with this brand new person, it has occurred to me that the love we first feel when we see our newborns is nothing compared with the love that develops as we get to know them as people. The love we feel when we hear our newborns cry and when we nestle them for the first time is powerful and automatic, a connection so strong that we would immediately fight to the death for them....

01.07.2014

So today's deep thoughts about Food Network are 100% percent indicative of the fact that school is out and I'm at home and I have wayyyy too much television-watching time on my hands. Nevertheless.We shall begin with Giada De Laurentiis. My immediate thought every time her shows come on is, "For real?" She's a doggone chef who cooks all the time, yet she has the figure of a fashion model. She weighs like 82 pounds and smiles with those perfectly white teeth, and I am (understandably) inherently distrustful. I like my chefs to have the figure of Barefoot Contessa or pre-scandal Paula Deen. I need to know that they eat what they cook and that if I were to somehow begin cooking the way they do, I would blow up and am therefore justified in my less-than-Food-Network-worthy culinary prowess. It makes me think she's a wizard or something. Plus, "Giada at Home" contains views of the ocean through her window. Unfair.Barefoot Contessa. Ina Garten. Whatever you call her, she is a character. She says things like, "I suppose you could always use a store-bought chicken stock, but it's just so easy to kill and roast a free-range chicken from your...