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February 2015

January 2015 entries

Runner Up!

So proud of my student, Areta, for placing second at the Poetry Out Loud competition today at Mansfield University today! She missed first place (and a chance to compete in Harrisburg) by 3 points.

I was truly pleased with her level of preparation and her deep understand of the text. It was a joy to watch her share her love of the poems with the audience.

Maybe next year...

Runner Up!

Runner Up!

Goodbye, January

Here we are: January 31. Just a month ago, we were on break and partying in the New Year. Many people made resolutions that are probably long gone by now. I set out to spend a month...not spending. While I had hoped to de-clutter our house a little more than I have, I consider this month a success. The only non-essential spending I did was at our Target Starbucks, with a gift card a student gave me. (I suppose I could count the two times we went out to eat as a family as "non-essential" because we could have cooked at home, but I won't.)

Now we find ourselves, frigid winter wind at our backs, facing a new month -- supposedly the last month of winter. And, what a blessing -- it's a short month of more cold weather. This month, musical rehearsals are starting to pick up for me, and the technical challenges of staging a show like Shrek can't be ignored. As the show demands more of my time and energy, I will undoubtedly have less time for de-cluttering and running on the treadmill. While it is tempting to beat myself up over this, my February resolution will be not to focus on what I am not able to do. Instead, I want to focus on the positive impact I am making in people's lives -- mileage aside. I think most of us could benefit from being a little less hard on ourselves.

February also brings with it a landmark birthday for my son, Aidan. He will be 10 on Tuesday. 10! How on earth did that happen? Wasn't I just 10? How did I become the mother of a 10 year old? How did he get to be in his last year of elementary school? Despite dealing with some minor behavior issues with our little class entertainer, Aidan is doing a great job being a kid. Sure, he rushes through his homework sometimes and forgets to practice his piano from time to time, but Aidan is a kind soul who thinks deeply about the world around him.

We also tend to start thinking about our summer bucket list in these very cold months. I will be heading to Nebraska again for the Thespian Conference with three wonderful young women. We want to go to the beach, and we have a NYC trip planned with Mike's parents...our elementary-aged kids will be showing their grandparents around the City for their first trip. Grandma, Pappy, and Liam will see their first Broadway show -- Aidan will see his 4th; Ellie her 3rd. (Yes, our kids know how lucky they are!) We always like to plan a trip to see our cousins near Philly. I may look into some art camps for Gabrielle, and they will probably do Lycoming College for Kids again. Just writing this out makes me wish for the sun!

For today, though, we will have to accept the sub-freezing fate that has been handed to us. I am taking a student to Mansfield University to compete in the regional competition for Poetry Out Loud. You know, just another Saturday in the life of an English/Drama teacher. (Oh, and my husband is spending his day "off" holding an all-day rehearsal with his middle school musical cast. #typical #howthemagichappens)

Girl Time

Most nights, Gabrielle comes over to snuggle with me. Gingersnap can't bear to be left out, so I end up sleeping on approximately 1/245 of the bed.

And yet, I know some day I will miss my girl time. Besides, isn't this why I have a chiropractor?

Girl Time

Girl Time

Courage in Daily Life


When was the last time you had to be truly courageous?  Unless you are

1. In the military

2. A first-responder like a police officer or firefighter or EMT

3. Living in a war-zone

4. A doctor or nurse or other health-care professional

5. In some other brave occupation I haven't thought of,

chances are, you haven't found yourself in any situations that required what you would classify as "courage".  But, other chances would probably reveal that you have been braver than you thought.  Let me explain this ridiculously wordy paradox.

In my classroom (and on the stage), I strive to create a safe environment where kids can feel like they can take risks.  I'm not talking about bungee jumping.  Or performing surgery.  What does a risk in B206 look like?  

The girl who never raises her hand in any other classes volunteers to go first in drama class. 

The boy who is a star athlete writes a personal narrative about an emotional experience.

The kids who rarely speak in class find their voice in a discussion about a current topic. 

The freshmen who are intimidated by upperclass talent step out of their comfort zone during a dance number.

These are all moments of courage.  I have been thinking about this kind of courage a lot lately, as I watch my Shrek cast learn choreography and lines and blocking.  I have been thinking about it as I watch a former student become my student teacher.  I have been thinking about it as I watch my friend's son and his blues band play professional gigs in Memphis this week.  

We do ourselves a disservice to dismiss these moments of courage.  It is through these types of moments that we grow and become better versions of ourselves.  That is not to say that stepping out and taking a risk is... well, risk-free.  We don't always succeed.  And, I tell my students, it is OK to fail in a safe environment.  We might say something in discussion that comes out the wrong way.  We might act a scene in a way we end up hating.  We might write something that sounds awful.  

BUT... that's when we learn.  We learn that we need to consider others' feelings when we speak, or that we need to tone down an accent on stage, or that we need to revise and restructure an essay.  And that, really, is success, isn't it?

Too often, our society puts a lot of emphasis on being perfect.  The first time.  Effortless.  Flawless.  Perfect.  (An interesting study would be to trace those last 3 words in advertisements to see how often we are subliminally told that it is not acceptable to fail.)  I see the ramifications in my students -- especially my high-achieving AP students over the years.  They are hard on themselves over grades, over comments I make on their papers, over perception of peer judgment.  And why?  Because they want to be perfect, and heaven forbid someone witness them fail or struggle. 

During musical dance rehearsals, I take videos so that students can practice choreography at home.  I tell them that these videos go nowhere except our private Facebook group because rehearsal is sometimes ugly.  It's hard work, and sometimes we look terrible before we look amazing.  This concept applies to every area of life.  But, we tend to forget that -- or we believe the lie that all experts were born that way.  The truth of the matter is that it takes time and a hell of a lot of practice to become an expert. 

ExpertAnd, it takes a monumental amount of courage to begin, and even more to continue down the path to being an expert.  So, while I completely revere those who exhibit true, palpable courage in their everyday careers, we must respect and value those small moments of courage that we all have in our lives.  Don't discredit yourself -- you are on your way to the best version of yourself, if you work hard and take the right kind of risks.  

Shrek Set in Progress

My little diorama is coming to life! We used spray foam insulation to create two larger-than-life swamp trees to go on the triangular columns. We are creating a back wall with swamp grass and trees, and we started making paper mâché rocks. I haven't had this much fun being crafty since the time I plotted to take over the tri-state area. Oh wait. That wasn't me. Too many episodes of Phineas and Ferb. My bad.

Shrek Set in Progress

Shrek Set in Progress

Shrek Set in Progress