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Earth Day Hodgepodge

This week’s Hodgepodge has a decidedly earthy feel to it given that yesterday was Earth Day.  I’m not much on celebrating this “holiday,” so the day sort of passed without much ado.

What does deserve celebration is the engagement of Joyce’s eldest daughter.  Congratulations, friend!  I know you’re beginning to dream of all things wedding-related.  :)

Let’s move on to the questions now!

1.  April 22nd is Earth Day. Are you inspired by nature? In what way?

God displays His beauty in nature, so yes, it does inspire me.  It’s difficult not to feel joy when I’m driving along on a warm, sunny day.  Because I live near the beach, I see all forms of nature…the good and the bad (hurricanes)…and I appreciate God’s power through it all.

2.  Down to earth, four corners of the earth, move heaven and earth, not have an earthly chance, or salt of the earth…which earthly idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.

I’ll have to go with down to earth.  This describes me perfectly.  I’m definitely not haughty.  I’m a total goof and let my students see this side of me.  I have to with all of the stresses involved in education and statewide testing.

3.  Share one piece of advice you might give a newly engaged couple.

My advice would be to make sure you are best friends with your intended.  I don’t think this is true of many married couples, and it’s a sad thing when emotional distance separates them because they can’t or don’t want to talk to the person they are supposed to be best friends with.

4.  When did you last engage someone to perform a job, task, service, home repair, or improvement? On a scale of 1-10 (ten being the best) how would you rate their work and/or your satisfaction with the job or service provided?

My most recent attempt to engage someone to perform a task would be the project I am having my students complete right now.  I’d give most of them a five thus far.  Students seem to be rushing the work even though they have many resources and much time at their disposal.

5.  When did you last find yourself engaged in small talk? Are you awkward or an expert or somewhere in between?

I guess I engage in small talk somewhat frequently, whether it’s at church or at school.  I’ll be honest with you.  Small talk is awkward for me.  I’m more of a long-talk kind of person.  I like to finish conversations.  I like to hear a person talk about the small details of his/her life.  Small talk doesn’t allow for that, so it becomes awkward when the conversation seems cut off too quickly.

6.  What was the last historic place you visited?

Gosh, but this question has me stumped.  I can’t really remember the last historical place I visited, but I do remember a few places I’ve been.  I think my favorite site was Manassas, Virginia…the site of the Battle of Bull Run (both battles, actually).

I had just finished reading the Shaaras’ series (father, Michael, wrote Killer Angels and won a Pulitzer Prize for it…son, Jeff, wrote the first and third books in the series…seamless writing styles…a MUST-read).


I am an avid history buff and was beyond thrilled that I had my picture taken by Stonewall Jackson’s statue, which is placed prominently at the battle site.  What a godly man.  He led by example and was gentle to a fault.  He was a brilliant strategist who died too young.

7.  The world would be a better place if we just__________________________.

The world would be a better place if we just stopped caring what people thought, dropped everything, and danced whenever the urge hit.


This world needs a bit more cutting loose….everyone is so serious all the time!

8.  My Random Thought

Two words…



Is Tom good, or is he bad?

Did you see the commercial that aired midway through Monday’s episode?  I tried looking for it online but couldn’t find it anywhere.  It was clever, let me tell you.

It sure doesn’t take much to make me happy, eh?


A Vegan’s Pet Peeves

Tonight, we went to a local hibatchi restaurant.

We’ve always enjoyed watching our food being cooked.  The entertainment is fun.

Everything was going along swimmingly.

I had ordered vegetable hibatchi and had swapped out white rice for the fried.

Remember, I am a vegan.  I don’t eat anything animal-related.

As the cook began preparing our food, I smiled.


He started messing around with the vegetables.

The first problem:  He slid the vegetables over to the area he’d just used to cook steak, seafood, and chicken on.

Not cool.

Sure, he had scraped the grill, but still.

The second problem was when he grabbed a pat of butter and stuck it in the middle of the vegetables.

I started seething.

The Mr. quickly looked over at me.

He knew that this was a problem.

Butter has milk in it.

I am lactose-intolerant.

I seethed.

The third problem occurred while the cook was stirring the vegetables.

Guess what he used?


The same utensils he’d used to cook the meat with.

This is obviously not a restaurant that thinks about vegetarians or vegans.

Perhaps nobody has brought these types of no-no’s to their attention.

I picked at my food after it was served.  I had lost my appetite.

I realize that people don’t mean to cook in non-vegan-friendly ways, but seriously…if a person orders a no-meat dinner, shouldn’t that be a red flag?

One would think that further questions should be asked…

Are there allergies?

The restaurant industry is making strides to become more friendly as far as offering alternatives for those of us who choose (or don’t choose but must live with) certain diets.

Restaurants can go further.

If a person asks for steamed broccoli, don’t steam it in butter, and don’t add cheese to the top before serving it.

Ask before sprinkling cheese on anything for that matter.

Let customers know if something is cooked in beef stock.  A lot of soups that are advertised as “vegan” have an animal base and, thus, are not.

What happens to me if I eat non-vegan friendly food?

What’s the big deal?

I get sick.

As do others like me.

I watched a coworker get violently ill a couple of years ago after she’d eaten a salad that did not have cheese on it.

There was cheese in the dressing.

I learned this last weekend when I ate at the same restaurant and had the foresight to ask what was in the dressing.

I had to choose a different dressing altogether.  Actually, I think I went without because there wasn’t a viable option available.

But I didn’t get sick after dinner.

People wonder why I don’t eat much.

Consider yourself educated.

Officially Cool

It’s Saturday which means it’s Pampering Day.


I’m developing a bad habit of late…shopping on Saturdays…treating myself to goodies.

Today’s trip resulted in new Mason drinking glasses from Sam’s…

Each glass comes with its own band that velcros for easy removal.  The box also contained an extra set of solid-colored straws.

My other big treat was purchased at Journeys.  I had received a catalog and coupon in the mail a couple of weeks ago, but I had not found the right time to shop.

The Mr. loves shopping, so he happily went with me.

I’d been wanting sneaker-type of shoes for a while…especially after watching what my students had been wearing.

I would like to be stylish but struggle a bit.

My 6th period class had been insisting, for several weeks, that I purchase a pair of Vans.

I liked the Converse I’d seen in the catalog.

Here’s what I came home with…

It was quite the experience…trying on these shoes.  The kids who took care of me in the store were too precious…all high schoolers and very enthusiastic about the shoes.

I loved the Converse, but I had also fallen in love with two other pairs (above).  The Vans and Sanuk fit the best.

The Vans are AMAZING on my feet and look really, really good with my skinny jeans.

I cannot wait for school on Monday.

I’ll be sporting the new t-shirt I purchased at a friend’s boutique as well as the Vans.

I think I can say that, with this outfit, I’m officially “cool.”

It’s In the Details

Last weekend, I bought a puzzle at Sam’s Club…

I chose the Paris puzzle because my family, on my dad’s side, hails from France.

As I worked on the puzzle one night this week, I was struck by how closely I was having to examine each piece to properly place it.

For instance, I noticed the brown rectangle in the middle of the following piece.

I knew exactly where it needed to go…

This puzzle is difficult, so paying attention to subtle color shadings and shapes are very important…

It won’t surprise you that my thoughts naturally turned to my classroom.

This year, I’ve become even more metacognitive in my teaching.

I’ve mentioned how I’ve taught my students to “think about their thinking.”

Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, because this is a strategy that I’ve been noticing myself using more and more as well.

This simple task of putting my puzzle together…noticing that I’m noticing the details…made me reflect on my teaching practices.

One of the things that I didn’t do well my first couple of years in the classroom was to notice the small details.

Students walked in and out of my room, and because I was too busy doggy-paddling my way through each day, I scarcely had the energy to, and this will sound contradictory, slow down and pay attention to the small things.

Last year, I began learning how to do so.

This year, I think I’ve become much more adept at it.

I know that some of what I’m about to say is repetitive, for I’ve been reflecting about my teaching ever since I dove into this profession four years ago, but I can’t help it.

Teaching is much more that spouting off facts that you want your students to memorize.

Teaching is even more than developing skills.

The foundation of teaching is about making connections with your students.

You can’t do that unless you pay attention to the details of their lives.

Your classroom will never form a complete picture unless you carefully fit each piece (i.e., each student) in.

In fact, lesson plans need to be made in such a way that they fit into each student’s specific-ness, for lack of a better word.

There are nearly sixty students who walk into my door each day.

Can you imagine the number of conversations that I overhear every week?

While I don’t process everything the kids are saying to each other, there are a lot of things I do pick up on and tuck away.

I’ve become better at remembering the small details that differentiate my students from one another…specific home-life situations, particular likes and dislikes, habits, good and bad.

I use my knowledge to weave together the fabric that becomes the background for our learning environment.

Ultimately, by noticing small things…a new haircut, highlights in a young lady’s hair, a new pair of shoes…and commenting on these things…I build my students’ self esteem and show them I care.

This year feels as though it’s been, for the most part, one continuous string of connections.

I’m sure that’s why I’ve smiled through most of the school year.

I would venture to say that most of my students have too.


FCAT Testing My Life Away

As you read this, I am finishing up my fourth day of FCAT testing.

This week, I was responsible for administering this test to approximately 75 students.

To help my assigned charges do their best, I went shopping last weekend…

A teacher who was also proctoring in my room gave me $10, which I used to defray my cost.

Students were appreciative…especially when we allowed them to take a stretch break midway through, replenishing with one bottle of water per student.

Monday afternoon, I stopped by my church and talked to one of the youth pastors.  He gave me several boxes of Goldfish and cookies.

I took the Goldfish to school the next day for Session 2 (same students as the previous day).

Being the lazy gal that I am, I managed to find a way to carry in everything at once…

If you’ve never had the pleasure of teaching or do not have a child who has taken a state exam, you probably don’t know how stressful exam time can be.

Teachers try to alleviate anxiety in a number of ways, including feeding our children.

You should have seen the looks on my charges’ faces when they walked in on Tuesday and saw the bags of Goldfish…one full-sized bag per student.

Several students exclaimed loudly in excitement.

One of the guys later told me that this had been his favorite testing year ever because of the class he’d been assigned to.

My heart warmed.

I’m used to hearing comments about how strict I am.

I hope the kids know that they are my highest priority.  I am totally about the kids.  Nothing I do is for me.

I’m happy I could be there for the students to help brighten what is usually an icky couple of days.

Unbroken – A Book Review

I just finished book #15 of 2014, and what a doozie!!

I originally purchased this book because I have a student who is very interested in military history.  While this student was finishing a different book, I decided to bring it home.

It is, hands-down, the BEST biography I have ever read (and I’ve read quite a few, let me tell you). I became interested in this book after a segment about Louie Zamperini aired during the Olympics. It appealed to my love for history as well as my appreciation for athletics.

This book really doesn’t read much like a biography. Hillenbrand’s storytelling skills are PHENOMENAL. There was certainly a lot of information poured forth in the book’s pages, but she presented the information in such a way that I didn’t want to stop reading! I could not put this book down and resented my need to sleep, eat, and work because I wanted to read it straight through.

Zamperini’s antics as a child and young adult made me laugh…out loud. His bravado during his time drifting at sea and in the POW camps was truly inspiring. His collapse after his return home broke my heart, and his restoration brought tears to my eyes.

This is a MUST-READ.

Ready As We’ll Ever Be

Dear Students,

Today marks the beginning of FCAT testing for most of you.

For the last nine months, we have been honing the skills that you will use to answer two-days worth of reading comprehension questions.

I have worked 60-80 hour weeks preparing lessons.

You have worked through each task I’ve placed before you…sometimes willingly…sometimes a bit hesitantly.

Throughout the year, I have watched you go from students who deplored silent reading time to students who beg me to give you more time.

You have become students who, at first, could not find a book to read to students who recommend books to each other AND me!  You’ve even teared up when you have finished reading your beloved books.

Those are the signs that you have become book lovers.  May this love for reading never leave you.

Fluency was once a chore, but thanks to the research I’ve thrown in, it’s been a fun exercise.  You’ve learned a lot of extra vocabulary and bits of random facts that you previously didn’t know.

We can now call that “prior knowledge.”  It will be a resource that will prove quite useful, I promise.

You’ve gone from being students who had never heard the word meta-cognition to students use that term in daily conversations.

This is another skill that will assist you over the next two weeks.

As the months have passed, you’ve evolved from being students who shrugged their shoulders when asked to justify answers to students who actively assist each other, explaining your selections before I even ask.

I rather doubt that there will be a lot of “guessing” on the BIG test.

I want you to know that I have been praying for you.

More than anything, I have prayed that you would walk into your respective testing rooms with confidence.

You ARE ready.

You WILL succeed.

You will prove to yourselves that you ARE gifted young men and women, able to master the challenges placed before you.

I’m very proud of you and BELIEVE in the success that you are about to experience.


Mrs. AuburnChick


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