Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On My Mind

There's been a running thread of thoughts peeking in and out of my mind all summer, and it seems that lots of things conspire to keep me thinking along the same lines. Or maybe since I'm already thinking of "it", then my devious mind is making connections to various experiences I have.

Start: early in the summer I got a call that a previous colleague had committed suicide in the past few days. Aside from being horrific and so sad, it started the thoughts in my brain. This person seemed fine. This person was a great teacher. This person had tons to contribute. This person seemed happy with life. The public face I saw of this person gave no indication of the turmoil that must have been going on inside.

Now this is not a post about suicide, but I guess more about how we perceive the experience of others' lives. I'm guessing you have interaction(s) with people, and you make a judgment about how you think their lives are going. Many times you think: wow, they have a great life, or how lucky are they, or look how much they have or have it together. I'm wondering what percentage of the time you are wrong, and maybe it's a much higher percentage than you would think.

Next: I don't have cable TV at home for various reasons: husband severely dislikes TV, I don't get home until late, if I had convenient TV, I could see myself sucking away a ton of time channel surfing and watching. Anyway, that's not to say I don't like TV. When I go away on trips where I happen to be alone, one of my treats is to channel surf away late into the night at my heart's desire. On my past trip I came across the MTV show, "If you really knew me". I guess it was episode 101 (from the pictures on the website). Here was another instance on the same theme running through my head. You may see these students daily and know their public persona but not the struggles they're going through.

Next: During the same trip I was reading, "Mrs. Perfect", and the main character looked as if she had a fabulous life, but ..... well you get the picture.

Next: Love math, but also love other non-math blogs and check them either daily, or frequently. On one such blog, I came across a link that AGAIN added to my pile of thoughts on this topic. From browsing her other posts, she's an author and teacher and I picture her as seeming to have a ton going for her. Then you scrape a little deeper and see that she's going through this gut-wrenching continuous heartache.

Finally: I've been to a workshop these past 2 days, and in the course of it got to meet 2 new educators to our school. The first day they seemed outwardly fine about the coming school year. Now I just have to say that my new-to-me-school-of-one-year is an intense school with high expectations of everyone. I only mention this because of what happened the 2nd day of the workshop. I don't know how the conversation got started the 2nd morning, but one of the teachers said, "after yesterday I went home and started panicking and doubting myself about being able to do a good job next year." The second new person heaved a relief sigh and echoed that she had the same thoughts. Now if they hadn't shared this, I'm guessing I'd have continued to see them in a certain light of "everything's fine and functioning as it should be" instead of "take extra care to make sure they're okay".

So while this is continually popping up in my thoughts when I was wandering around Philadelphia, I took time to look at people I passed. There was the usual person type of "I look smashing", "I have it together", "my life is great" mixed in with others. But I have to wonder and most likely, no, they could possibly be going through some painful events and they're just continuing to function.

What do I come away with for all this wondering? I guess more of an awareness and a thought to treat everyone as if they're a precious commodity and not make assumptions as to how excellent things may be going for them (which may lead to me not treating them so gently or making me question my life experience more). For various reasons life is hard many times in different ways for everyone, and though it may not solve everything, hugs and smiles and kind thoughts towards others may help.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Phew. We're finally home after a marathon travel session. My husband's Canadian aunt and uncle were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary (we should all be so lucky), and their children set up a surprise gathering for them. It was so nice to see all their friends and family showering them with love at the party. My husband and I don't have children, so that's one thing I'll miss as we get older - all the offspring and their families and so on all gathered together and being a big party. Of course, if it was my family, we'd probably all be at our separate corners stewing or fighting or not showing up for the party because of issues or dancing drunk on the table tops and embarrassing everyone.

I'm thinking that as the years pass, we have to get a phone chain of our other older, childless friends and call each other every morning, "are you still alive? okay. talk to you tomorrow." or something to that effect. Maybe we can get a commune going and have an on-site nurse.

Then I got to visit with a friend of 13 years (in Pennsylvania) who I haven't seen for 2. She was one of the 1st math teachers I taught with in New Jersey, and I always am thankful that I ended up (by a fluke) at that particular school to learn about teaching with that particular group of people. They're passionate, smart, nice, reflective and just plain old fun to be around.

Before visiting with her, I got to walk around Philadelphia for a day. Love It. Here are some cool things about Philly:

* They have solar compacting trash and recycling units scattered throughout the city.
* They have nice signs on several corners indicating where you are and what might be interesting to see in the area.
* It's uber walker friendly.
* Tons of history you just happen upon by walking.
* Many parks and trees sprinkled throughout that provide shade and places to chat.
* Gourmet groceries that also have a breakfast bar for travelers.

But it's nice to be home and get back into a routine (soon). Here's to gaining weight on vacations and now having to deal with it (did I mention all the frozen yogurt places I was FORCED to frequent in PA?). I guess I'm pretty active during the school year (running (okay jog walking, but running sounds better), yoga, dancing, weights, walking around all day during teaching). But the TRUE me is a couch potato happy to just sit around reading books and doing puzzles and movies and napping. Hello extra summer weight. I basically sat around either on planes or couches or cars the WHOLE trip. One guess as to the effect THAT had on me. Oh well, back to the weight loss drawing board.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lucky Traveler

We just got back from Maui, and boy it was beautiful and relaxing. We stayed in a B&B in Haiku and rented a car from a local company and just decided each morning what to do. Lovely. We went to the beach a lot, hiked into the crater, tried paddle boarding, ate too much, and swam. Life's good.

One of the many beaches:

Post paddle boarding ... my shoulders are sore, waves are scary, it's not too bad falling in warm tropical water ... a lot:

A shop where my husband rented his windsurfing equipment:

Growing at our B&B:

Also at our B&B:

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Friendly Reminder

I traveled recently to visit my dad near Lake Tahoe, and I flew Southwest (love them). I don't know if you've flown them lately (I haven't), but they have a great system of boarding. When you check in you're given a letter-number combination, and when it's "time" you stand in a particular place and follow orders to board in an orderly fashion and then get to pick your seat at that time.

Anyway, as I said, it was the first time I'd been through this, and I didn't know what was what and figured I'd wait for the directions from the Southwest employees over the loudspeaker. Obviously, there were no written directions. So here's basically what I heard, "We're ready to begin boarding, people with an A something something something do something and get ready to something and others please something something ....". You get the idea. I heard a bit and then by the time I finished processing it, the next part was already said and moved on, and then of course I couldn't THEN make sense of the following part. Sheesh. Reality check on teaching for me.

I know the kids say I talk too fast (sometimes?). In my mind everything's clear (like I'm sure it is to the Southwest employee who's said the same speech many times), so I'm probably on autopilot (ar ar ar). I guess I need to make myself a poster for next year to hang in the back of the room to remind myself to slow down or to write simultaneously or to give kids processing time more consciously. My sign will probably be: SOUTHWEST INCIDENT!

Yes I figured out what to do, but, no, I still got stuck behind the smelly lady I was trying to avoid.

Sunday, July 04, 2010


I modified my Excel Slope Quiz program. Now there are extra buttons, so the students can try any number of extra random problems to test their skills. I'm pretty sure it's bug free. And Again, if you want to try it, you have to "enable macros" when you open the Excel file. Thanks Mrs. H for the idea.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Programming Attempt

Well, I don't know if Excel will be the best tool for this, but I sure had fun making the following program. My vision is that eventually I can create several of these and put them on my class website for the kids to practice their skills. I know there are great practice tools on the web, and I do link to those. My thinking in creating this type of program is that the kids will see what I think is important for them to know.

Anyway, it looks like:

It's interactive and provides hints for the tester. When you open the Excel file, you have to enable the macros in order for it to work. Now I have to figure out how to create my Geometry Proof Excel "quizzes".