The Yearbook

Photo by Jordan Doneskey

My teenager came home with her yearbook, and I asked to look through it. Why? I wanted to see how my former students were doing.

I taught for one year at her high school. The year before she arrived there, in fact. It turns out for the best that I left, since I am much happier and more effective slinging data. Plus if I had stayed, I would have had the dubious pleasure of teaching her that year.

Anyway, I browsed through. I had a few students among the graduating class this year. But most of my students are finishing up their junior years. It was good to see that most of them were looking more mature and grown up. I saw signs of it when I saw them each day.

My daughter hung over my shoulder and gave me the information she knew. One of my girls who was on the verge of falling in with a pretty bad crowd pulled herself together, she said.

I was interested, though, in those students who I had taught who were no longer with the grade they started with. Six of my students had failed at least one grade.

I was surprised at only one of them – a young man who has a lot of potential and absolutely no drive. I taught him and his older sister in the same semester. She worked hard and mastered the material with difficulty. He did not work, but still managed to scrape passing grades in my class.

The others, not surprisingly, had failed my Algebra 1 Part 1 class, some more than once. I was not surprised that they had failed other classes. And in some ways I was glad that it wasn’t just my class that they had failed.

Perhaps it wasn’t my teaching after all, but the students themselves.

That was an attitude I my principal told me that I had to correct – that every student could and would pass my class. I didn’t doubt that with hard work any of them could. I just needed them to meet me halfway.

Math is a skill that needs to be practiced, and these people didn’t do a lick of work, even in class (and since I saw them every day, we did all our work in class).

So a bit of sadness, and a little bit of vindication. And some very proud moments to see the students who had worked so hard and succeeded.

Photo by Jordan Doneskey


Looking Back

Photo by Infomastern

I recently took a step back from my other blogs. I wasn’t sure that I was going to continue blogging at all.

When I put the question to my accountability partner, she pointed out that if I wasn’t getting joy or return on investment, there was little reason to continue. I realized I was getting neither. And so I took a three month hiatus.

After taking a month off from doing anything blog related – and that extended to reading blogs about blogging, listening to podcasts, and growing my business knowledge – I realized that I missed blogging. To me, blogging is a form of thought-collecting. I use it to work through problems and concepts, albeit in a public format. So I decided I wanted to go back to blogging, but there I knew I needed to make changes.

The first change was to eliminate the amount of administrative time needed for the blogs. When I started blogging, I was working from a free platform. A few years later I pivoted after technology left my subject matter obsolete, and I bought my first domain name. I moved all the content over from the free platform and continued blogging, deleting irrelevant content as I went. Then in 2015 I pivoted again, but this time leaving the old blog in place. It was good in that it gave me a fresh start, but it doubled my administrative time. So this time, I went to a domain name that is not subject-dependent, and brought over the content from the other blogs.

I’ve had to go in and clean things up, and in the process read back through many of the old articles. It’s been an interesting journey.

I found articles from when my daughter was in pre-school, all the way through the start of high school. I saw the articles from working full time to part time to teaching and back to IT. I saw the articles as I created and adapted my systems for home and time management.

It’s been an interesting look back. I’m not one for journaling regularly. I always have good intentions, and poor follow-through. But blogging has allowed me a snapshot into my life, much like a journal.

I’m glad that I both decided to keep blogging, as well as went through the old material. It’s been a great find, and gave me the determination to continue.

Photo by Infomastern

Spring in Virginia – Reversing Autumn

One of the things I love about spring in Virginia is that it appears to be autumn in reverse. The trees get rusty, then yellow, then finally green.

I know that spring is truly on its way when I see that process happening.

(And after this spring, which feels like I’m back in the midwest, I need sure signs)

Planners? Or Scrapbooks?

Photo by cloudplanner

I’ve noticed something recently that has me bemused. There has been a trend of what I call planners as scrapbooks. People are taking the simple Bullet Journal format and changing them into artistic works.

It’s like the scrapbooking trend that hit about 10 years ago. The craft stores now have aisles devoted to planner inserts, stickers, border tapes, markers, stencils and such.

The ones I have seen are beautiful. But I’ve noticed that many of the people who use these planners put an awful lot of time into the planner itself.

I come from a camp where a planner is a tool to help you get things done; and one of the primary rules is you don’t spend more time maintaining the system than you do doing the work.

As inspirational and beautiful as these planners as scrapbooks are, they are doing a disservice to the world. First of all, people realize they can’t make theirs look that way and don’t even try using a planner. Second, because they are pushing the idea that a planner has to be beautiful rather than functional. Third, because all it takes to do a DIY planner is a notebook and a pen.

I went completely digital last year for my planners. I use software that gives me a picture of a paper on which I can draw. Like having a notebook, but I can remove and reorder pages at will. And yes, my personal planner has some decorations – mainly lines and boxes that I use to corral things together. And I will admit to putting Winnie the Pooh pictures in it as a reward for doing my exercising. But my work planner? Nothing but text. And it works really well.

Planners are for planning. Everything else is frosting.

Photo by cloudplanner

Catching Up On Magazines

Photo by bravenewtraveler

I swear they breed when I’m not looking. Not just network cables and dust bunnies, but magazines.

I am always floored by the number of magazines that come in for me to read. I’m floored because I made a decided effort to not renew magazines this year. I let three subscriptions go. And yet the pile grows.

Two of my magazines are quarterly. Two are monthly. These are of my choosing.

But there are others: the alumni magazine from my university. The magazine from my university college. The magazines from three of the environmental causes I support (and if that isn’t irony, I don’t know what is…) The magazine my mother subscribed me to because she had a buy-one-get-one. And Architectural Digest, which appeared one day with my name on it, and I know very well I never subscribed to it. The quarterly magazine from our church denomination.

It’s sad to say, but most of these last magazines don’t even make it into the house. They get dumped right into the recycle bin.

So what am I to do? I think continuing to dump the unwanted magazines into the recycle bin is good. Especially since contacting the organizations has not brought about any change. For the ones I want, though, I think I need to have a bag with me of which I can select a magazine to read. I think that toting around a bag of magazines will keep it in the forefront of my mind. But I also think that if I haven’t read one when the next comes in, the older one has to follow the unwanted magazine protocol and get dumped.

I’m just thinking aloud here. But it is something I need to vigilant with, or I will be buried under a sliding pile of glossy paper.

Photo by bravenewtraveler

The Robot Mop

Photo by Janitors

The new dog is a mess. He tracks in mud, water and who knows what else. My kitchen floor seems to always have muddy paw marks and streaks on it. Once a week mopping has given way to daily mud removal.

This came as quite a shock, since the old dog hated mud and mess. Yet here I am with noticeably muddy floors, and the other members of the household respond with “it’s not a big deal.” Of course it isn’t because they don’t do the cleanup.

So I took action. I bought a robot to do the mopping for me.

Unlike its vacuuming counterpart, the mop moves in straight lines. It also doesn’t need virtual walls to keep in contained. It does a pretty good job, as long as I remember to spray the dried mud with water.

Yes I am still irritated at having to do this extra cleanup, but it makes it easier.

Photo by Janitors

Be Careful What You Ask For

Photo by John W. Tuggle

Last week I was telling my husband that I wanted to clean up the refrigerator. This would make room, so I could give once a month cooking a try.

Last Friday our power went out for over 12 hours, thanks to the nor’easter that blew through. We ended up tossing everything in the fridge and attached freezer. (Thankfully the chest freezer was packed full and didn’t defrost)

Be careful what you ask for. You might get it…

Photo by John W. Tuggle