Posts tagged ‘personal’

July 10, 2012

All it took was a little time away…

by stryson

… to remind me of how much I like doing this. By “this,” I mean both blogging and teaching. After a bit of a hiatus, I’m back to both. I’m not teaching summer school – I haven’t done that since 2009 – but I am tutoring, which is just enough for me during the summer.

It seems to be an annual occurrence for me to get incredibly burned out and irritable by the end of the school year. I’m certain that I can’t be special in this – does anyone have any good tips for keeping it cool through the end of the year? I hate the way it spills over into my personal life… I’ve been spending summer trying to get back in touch with people after my coping strategy became “hunker down and ignore what you can until it all goes away.” My husband put a very positive spin on this troublesome habit the other night, though, which made me feel better: “You want to give each person and each thing 100%, so then when you’re not able to, you get frustrated.” While this is a kind way of viewing the situation, I’d love to get to a more balanced place, where I don’t get thrown for a loop as easily.

Ah, well. Back on the horse, at any rate.

I was going to end this post with a picture of the artwork with which my kids covered the board on the last day, but the picture is on my computer at home. In its place, I’ll share the artwork they left on the day of “Expo,” which is like a spring back-to-school night. (Clicking the picture should show you the full-size version for a closer look.)


November 29, 2011

Reading updates

by stryson

Moving has cut into my reading time! I’d planned to be done with my 50 book a year challenge by this week, so that I can spend December continuing to work my way through Ulysses, but such is not the case. Today, I finished my 47th book. I’ll be lucky to finish the whole challenge, at this rate.

This challenge is a Goodreads phenomenon. If you’re interested, the group is here, and my posting is currently in the P-T section. When I finish, it’ll move to the finish line section. I completed the challenge two years ago, but skipped last year in favor of reading harder, longer books – which is when I began reading Ulysses.

The book I finished today was called Robert and the Class President. Clearly, it was a book I was reading with my students in school. As far as plot goes, the book is mediocre, but it does provide some opportunities for lessons on multiple meanings of words.

On the other hand, we’re reading a completely not mediocre book in my sixth grade class – The Great Gilly Hopkins. The kids are loving it, and we’ve gotten into some really great discussions so far. Gilly is so full of sass!

In my personal reading, I’m working on two books at the moment. The first is The Pilgrim’s Progress. This book was written in the 1700s, and it’s an allegory about a Christian making a pilgrimage that’ll end in heaven/the promised land. I’d gotten interested in this book because I’d heard it mentioned in other books. I seem to remember it coming up in Little Women, for example. (Side note: today is Louisa May Alcott’s birthday!) The other is called Queenmaker, which is a historical fiction novel about Michal, the first wife of King David of Israel.

I’m not truly concerned about reaching the fifty book goal for the year, but I am disappointed that I couldn’t finish as early as I’d have liked. I’ll be doing the challenge again next year, but I may break in December/January to finish Ulysses as planned, regardless.

November 16, 2011


by stryson

My apologies for the dearth of posts lately. It’s been exactly one week since my husband and I closed on a new house! We’ve been working on this for six months now, since it was a short sale, and the seller’s bank was, to be diplomatic, not the most helpful group to work with. In any case, we’ve been quite busy, as you can expect.

Last night, I went straight to the house after school, and one of my good friends met me there. We worked on cleaning the upstairs bedrooms all afternoon, cleaning dust & grime off of the windows, walls, base boards, vents. It’s mind-boggling how much cleaning there can be to do in a completely empty room! My husband joined us after he got home from work, and we rounded out the evening with pizza, eaten on the floor of our empty sun porch, the room with the softest carpeting. I was excited when one of our neighbors saw us through the window, which I’d opened to let out some dust and let in some fresh air, and introduced herself from her driveway. I’m looking forward to living in a neighborhood where people actually socialize!

School continues on, alternately stressful and amusing. Expect more quote posts soon; I have a backlog piling up.

Now I’m off to prepare for a phone conference. We ended up cancelling our parent-teacher conferences because we missed so many days from the freak October snowstorm. However, some parents have requested phone conferences to make up for it. It should be pretty quick and easy, though.

Enjoy your rainy (at least here) day!

October 25, 2011

Technology and Life in General

by stryson

I have a major love/hate relationship with the role that technology seems to consistently take in my life, as well as the lives of others. I’ve been reminded of this profoundly on several fronts recently.

The first came in the form of a blog post that can be found here. The short version of this post is that a teacher in England was targeted by local media and portrayed as inappropriate to the extent of being a creep, entirely based on tweets that were taken entirely out of context, apparently. Provided I’ve gotten a well-rounded enough picture of the situation from what I’ve read, her plight is deeply disturbing to me. We now live in a world where it’s very hard to keep anything private, particularly when the internet is involved. There’s some degree of common sense that must be followed in regard to one’s own conduct on the internet, but it appears that this teacher did, in fact, take precautions to make these tweets private, which should have theoretically made them inaccessible to outside parties. However, these news sources got wind of them and found ways to obtain (and exploit) what they managed to dig up. This is absolutely infuriating to me! The complacency with which many people now handle blatant breaches to one’s privacy completely baffles me.

A parallel concern of mine in regard to this situation is that teachers are not saints. The expectation that just because one has a certain profession they’ll never swear or say things in an uncensored manner is just completely unreasonable. Yet, in the age of Google, our lives outside of school are easily on display, not just for our coworkers, but also for the parents of our students… and our students, themselves. I caught a fifth grader searching my name on Google – during a class that I was teaching at the time – a couple of years ago, and I completely read him the riot act about privacy. I was mortified! There’s nothing terrible that comes up with a search of my name (I check on this now and then to be sure), but the principle of it bothered me deeply. Growing up, I lived up the street from my first grade teacher. I didn’t go snooping through her yard or peering in her windows. This feels like the modern and remote equivalent.

A key difference may be the lack of consequences. People are almost encouraged to have inappropriate curiosity. There’s no way for someone to “catch” you looking at their information, so why not? That same invincible attitude fuels the barrage of emails that I (and teachers in general, from what I can tell) get daily. As a general rule, people are way more willing to say things that might be considered rude, harsh, or irrational in an email than over the phone or in person. There’s no risk for the sender to get immediate negative feedback, which they might receive in the form of a verbal retaliation or a more subtle reaction through body language if they were communicating in person. Sending an email also takes less effort than the former ways in which parents contacted teachers. They’re no longer obliged to leave a message with the school secretary, or to hand-write a note and hope their child gets it to its destination. This is not always a bad thing! I can think of many instances where I’ve been able to help a child who struggled with his or her homework because a mother has sent me a quick note via email, or I’ve been made aware of a social problem going on among students in my class that I might not otherwise see. However, the dark side to this is that there are people who take advantage, sending an abundance of emails about issues that may not be important, or that might be better dealt with in person. Emails are also often sent impulsively; I get many “while I’m thinking of it” emails – sometimes even from Blakberries or iPhones while they are waiting to pick up their children outside of the school.

Today was a light email day; I count 9 message threads in my Outlook box. Yesterday, I had 20. Friday was 17, Thursday was 16. I counted 7 emails in the first hour of the school day on one day last week.

It’s a double-edged sword; the ease of communication can absolutely be used for good. It’s incredibly frustrating to realize how much of my planning and reflection time is consumed by reading and writing emails, though.

Anyway – I digress.

I’m not the only one ruminating on the effects of technology in a social context this week. Sarah Weaver’s sermon this week, which she posted here, dealt partly with the divisive nature of our technologically heavy lives and the basic notion of loving one’s neighbor. Much of the text struck home with me, and I would encourage anyone to give it a read, even if you’re not Christian or religious at all, because I feel she’s definitely got her finger on the pulse of this same issue I’ve been grappling with. I particularly like this quote:

And it is so easy for us to stand behind the mask of anonymity that the Internet gives to us when we disagree with someone.  It is easy to strike back without thinking or even being prayerful when all we have to do is type a few words on a keyboard and hit enter without seeing the reaction our response might elicit.

I’m certainly no Luddite, and this should not be construed as a rally against all technology. It’s a lament for the fading of common sense, manners, and basic interpersonal communication. There must be a way to use this technology mindfully.

October 5, 2011


by stryson

Oh, the conundrums with which we are faced because of certain students!

There is a girl in my sixth grade reading class that has multiple learning difficulties. Among her habits (if you’d call it that) is writing all over everything, often just her name, over and over. Today, I’d passed out a story that was photocopied. I intended to just re-collect the papers and reuse them another year. Well, this young lady wrote all over hers, of course. However, I feel strange about following through to reinforce that it was a poor choice, since what she wrote was a note to me. It said the following:

[It began with a drawing of a peace sign, a heart, and a smiley face, with the label “Peace, Love, Happiness.”]

Dear Mrs. Tryson,

You are the best teacher ever!!!

From: Her Name

To: Mrs. Tryson

[peace sign] out.

Then, underneath, an arrow drawn to the illustration for the story, and a note that reads:

This is Pocahontas and she is a Native American girl. 12 years old.

So… she complimented me, and then she added a caption to the illustration that was accurate. Knowing her processing abilities and her issues with perception, I may not even bother following through.

Until I worked with children, I don’t think I ever truly understood what it meant to be exasperated by and pleased with someone all at the same time.

September 21, 2011

Morning updates

by stryson

Today is international peace day… or maybe tomorrow is. Both are marked as such on my calendar of holidays. Oh, well! I think an extra day of peace can’t be a bad thing. In any case, today is also World Alzheimer’ Day and World Gratitude day. So – don’t forget to be thankful!

I know, that was a terrible joke. I couldn’t resist.

I should be able to finally start teaching my sixth graders today, though my fourth and fifth graders are not yet done testing, so we cannot begin yet. I feel like the testing is never ending, but I know it seems that way every year.

Things will get more interesting around this blog as my classes get going. I’ve also been looking into some new educational games to share, but I like to play them through before I link them. Look for those to come.

I’m also open to recommendations for books on a fifth or sixth grade reading level. What did you really enjoy reading at that age?

September 13, 2011

Small Celebrations

by stryson

Happy birthday, Roald Dahl!

It’s also International Chocolate Day.

Anyone else suddenly have an urge to throw a party? Or is it just me? Roald Dahl was such an influence on my love of reading, and chocolate just speaks for itself.

I have much still to accomplish this morning, but the day progresses so much easier when you start it on a celebratory note.  Happy Wear a Dress Tuesday, everyone!

September 2, 2011

And so it begins.

by stryson

Ah, Labor Day Weekend. The in-between holiday for teachers, where we’re completely immersed in prepping for the coming week, and yet we cling to the  last weekend of freedom.

We had our faculty inservice yesterday. We were supposed to have it on Tuesday, but we were delayed because of lingering damage from Irene. Regardless of the delay, most of our school remains without power. I worked in my classroom until the light wasn’t good enough anymore. JCP&L says we should get power back by tomorrow; we’ll see. In any case, we held our full-faculty meeting in one of the few rooms with power. I don’t understand how the school is wired, honestly. Two rooms in one hallway had power. The rest of the school was dark. However, the admin offices across the street were with power. Strange! In the afternoon, I set up my door and the labels for the kids’ lockers. I am going to take a picture of the door when it’s better lit; it’s actually quite cute. I got a set with a juke box and 45s, on which I printed the kids’ names. My banner, a music staff with notes all around it, reads “4th Grade ROCKS!” I’m currently working on the cover sheets for their binders, which have their names & homerooms on them. I decided to put “Tryson Group  4A ROCKS!” inside of an image of an iPod (or, at least, a generic mp3 player – the image came from Word’s Clip Art) and their names at the top, using a funky font.

It’s stuff like this that I love about teaching. I get to let my inner nerd loose.

As we gear up for the year to begin, I’d like to leave you with this quote:

“I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.”
— Haim G. Ginott

Let’s go forward with the conscious intention of being instruments of inspiration.

August 23, 2011

Awkward in-betweens

by stryson

I find myself in the usual headspace that I inhabit during late August: I’m starting to get excited about school again, I’m itching to start thinking about school and making plans, and I’m simultaneously completely resisting caving in to that urge, because I know that two months from now, I’ll be up to my eyeballs in it and ready for a break.

I don’t think I’m alone in this phenomenon.

This summer has been very interesting for me, though. I’ve really been observing a lot of my habits and my thought processes, thanks to the meditation classes I’ve been taking, and I’m trying to take a more balanced approach to my life. This seems to be an oddity in my field, at least judging by those I interact with often. I’ve had to explain several times this summer that, no, I’m not going into school more than a couple of times over the course of the summer. No, I’m not working. I need to be away from work sometimes so that I don’t build up resentment, and so that I can restore and refresh myself so that I can be there 100% once school does start again.

Have I been perfect with this? No, clearly not. One only has to take a look at my posting history to know I’ve spent some time on schoolwork this summer. I don’t regret that, because I think that simply the act of making myself aware of my habits is a good beginning. And, yes, there are things that must get done for work over the summer, but I’m working toward eventually mastering a balance wherein I can keep it tamed and in the perspective that I want, not an obsessive monstrosity fueled by my own guilt, anxiety, or distorted work ethic.

I’ve needed to take time for me this summer, and I have. I suspect I’ll see this pay off in my attitude and health come the school year, but that’s left to be seen.

All that said, I’m going to enjoy the heck out of my remaining freedom. Hooray summer!

August 9, 2011

NASA happenings

by stryson

I went away for a long weekend, and it appears that the whole universe went wonky while I was gone. Coming back to emails, tweets, updates, and so on after being completely out of internet, TV, and radio contact with the rest of the world is always a surreal experience. I have not completely caught up on current events, and I will sheepishly admit that I don’t particularly want to. All I know is that while I was swimming, reading, and playing a lot of skee ball, apparently the country’s credit rating went down, the stock market plummeted, and people in London were/are rioting. I can infer the reasoning for the former two, and I haven’t explored the latter. This at least will give you some context for my completely incongruous post, which ignores all the real-time chaos going on in the world.

One of the more blatantly “nerdy” things I do follow the various Mythbusters on Twitter. Today, Grant Imahara tweeted a link to an article that I found pretty interesting.  Apparently NASA has found the crash site of a spacecraft they downed on the moon back in the 1960s. The link to the article is here. Be forewarned, the comment section of this article, as happens far too often on the internet, is already starting to fill with nonsense. The article is not long or detailed, but it is an interesting development to note. I also had no idea that NASA was working on a more detailed map of the moon; I’ll be excited to see that as it develops.