Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Pessimist Thinks Optimistically About His Upcoming Birthday

If you don't have to live with me you may not realize how much of a pessimist I am. Yes, in fact, the sky IS falling.

As a good Fancher I put on a very strong "brave face" and laugh off those bad things that happen to me or to my family and friends. But, inside, my inner Eeyore comes out to tell me how he knew this might happen - if only I had listened!

Well, I've been thinking during these last few weeks or so. And, you know what? Life is pretty darn good and I should start being happier about it.

So, I've decided to start my 2016 New Year's resolution a bit early. As of today I will, um....I WILL (that's more like it)...resolve to try (Do or do not. There is no try. - pulling Yoda from deep within me.)....I WILL RESOLVE to be happier about my life and the direction it is heading.  There, I said it. And I said it in public.

I've already had positive results. Just yesterday I heard of a potential opportunity to travel and train teachers and I replied that I would love to do this. The fact that my passport has expired and that it interferes with school only crept into my mind for a brief stay before I decided to believe that it will work out and this is a right set of circumstances for me to engage in.

2016 will be a great year. All of the [insert list of problems such as weight, debt, age, etc] will take care of themselves if I take care of my mental well being.  So, as I turn 58 on January 2, (born in 58 means there's some sort of karma thing going on this year - so I have that going for me), I want to really enjoy my last 2 years of the 50's.

I need to travel more and I need to do things I've always wanted to do - like fly fishing. Really. I want to go to some distant stream in the middle of nowhere for a couple of weeks and learn to fly fish. While I'm there I want to finish this darn book I started two years ago. And then I .....

Channeling Eeyore once again - "One can't complain. I have friends. Someone spoke to me only yesterday."

I do have friends. More than 2 or 3.  Happy Birthday to me - and many more....


Things That Piqued My Interest This Week (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Saying Goodbye to a Good Pet

[UPDATED   This post was originally written on December 7th. We weren't ready to have this news out of Facebook so quickly so I waited to actually publish it. ]

If you've had a pet you know where this is heading...

[You can stop now I won't be offended. If you continue, you may want to grab some kleenex]

There comes a time in every pet owner's lifetime when there is a decision about continuing the pet's life.

They might have been more naughty than nice. They may have shed a bit more hair than you liked. They may have even taken away part of your favorite sofa or bed. But you still know that you will miss them.

We really had a Black Friday with the realization that our cat, Jacob, would probably not make it to the end of the year. Initially we were hoping to make it through that weekend. Since then it has become a day to day ritual - walk down stairs in the morning and look to see the status. I almost feel like a Roman emperor - thumbs up or thumbs down (life or death).

12 years ago, almost to the day, we brought home 3 kittens that we named Joey, Jacob, and Link. We also brought home an older female named Mia. Mia would rule the roost for about 10 years before she lost her battle with health issues.

Unfortunately, Joey was the first to go. He had cancer and just, suddenly, wasn't well. He went quickly and even though it has been 3 years, he is still missed.

Now it is Jacob's turn. He has liver cancer which will not end well. The picture at the top is from Saturday night as I said goodnight to him. He had gotten to the point where he just wanted to lay in our front window. He was let out a few times to explore the vastness of the front yard, as a young cat, and has always wondered about that place on the other side of the glass.

It's time for Jacob to join Joey. I can never remember which was the fluffiest and which was the fuzziest. That was determined by Sheila and Nancy many years ago. But I know that things will be pretty darn fluffy and fuzzy now in that kitty front yard where there is no glass to keep kitties out.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Building Empathy Through Interviews

7th graders are all over the map when it comes to emotions. So, on one level, you might think that it isn't hard to get them to develop empathy. But how many of your students, at any grade level, have conducted interviews to gain knowledge of their interviewee?

My first semester at Meridian school is winding up and I am still getting used to the timing of projects. That led to a two week period between the Thanksgiving break and final exams.

I knew that I wanted to introduce an interview process soon. I also wanted to include either the 7th grade ELA teacher or the PE Coach with a project early in the next semester. And then it hit me - 6 Word Memoirs.

As the name implies, students write about themselves by using only 6 words. After checking with the ELA teacher I found that she had just completed a unit on memoirs. And, after talking with a few students only a handful had done a 6 Word Memoir (6WM) in the past. And so it began...

On the first day I gave the students a post on interviewing like a pro. It doesn't exactly apply but I wanted them to think about what the pros think about before, during, and after an interview. To minimize time on the article I had them do a jigsaw and we discussed things they learned about what to do before you go to an interview; what you do during an interview; and what things to think about after the interview.

Then I paired them up (key word there, "I" paired them up).  Many were with people they don't normal hang out with so getting to know them became a harder task. I gave them 10 minutes to come up with a set of questions to use as openers. And, I instructed them to go down any path that became an obvious interesting topic that might be used to write a 6WM.

To help them think, I gave them a list of topics that might be good places to draw from for questions.
The trouble is I forgot about how the 7th grade brain works. Because I put a list in front of them, they couldn't come up with imaginative questions or question sequences to go deeper on any other topics than the ones I presented to them. I actually heard one boy ask another "Have you ever been married?" When I heard that question I asked why he had asked it. He said "because I had included "marriage" on my list of possible topics." Silly me; I was thinking that maybe there might have been an interesting wedding that they might have attended.

By the end of class I actually was pleased with the results from most of my students. They had asked good questions and had made good recommendations to their interviewees on what they should write their 6WM about.  Very few ended up needing help in understanding the process and how to make a relevant recommendation.

Before the next project starts I will be able to draw from this experience as we discuss interviewing to gain empathy. Because when the next semester starts (after our holiday break) I will be having my students interview clients or other pertinent people before they start brainstorming ideas. I feel better about their interviewing skills and I believe they will be better at identifying the needs and desires from those that they interview.

To finish the 6WM, I am having them go through a critique rotation today. They are writing their 1st draft and are presenting it to their small group. The small group is tasked with recommending at least one word to be changed to make the 6WM stronger. Then the students rotate to different groups and go through the process a second time.

They will be turning in an 8.5 in. by 11 in. paper with their 6WM on it, that has been decorated to help tell the story. These will be placed on our classroom wall so all of my classes can see what the others have written.

Sometimes a quick 2 week assignment can bring out a lot of learning. In this case my students have learned about how to be a good interviewer. My students have also learned more about their classmates. And, I have learned more about all of my students. Sounds like success.