Teaching Peace – The Elevator Pitch

Teach Peace

Mine is purple, a hooded sweatshirt, and also has a small peace sign below the words. It’s a soft and warm sweatshirt, perfect for a below-zero bitter cold day.

And so it was that I was seated in the alcove next to our pharmacy awaiting at long last my annual influenza vaccine, alongside an elderly gentleman apparently awaiting the same. He asked me about the message displayed on my comfortable hoodie.

“Tea? Peach? What does that say?”

“Teach Peace.”

“Oh.” short pause “What does it mean?”

“It means teach people to get along with one another.” Phew, that was quick thinking. 

“And so, um, what do you do?”

I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, so I answered the question I hoped he’d asked. 

“I teach middle school, so there are many opportunities to teach young people how to work together and be kind to each other.”

And before he could ask another question, the pharmacist arrived with her syringe and my paperwork. She slipped the needle into my upper arm with only the slightest of pokes – she knew what she was doing! – and away I went.

I came away with a feeling of relief that I’d finally been able to get the shot in the arm I needed to help me stay healthy. I’ll keep on washing my hands and taking other precautions to prevent these nasty viruses from entering my body. This visit was also a reminder that if I plan to wear my philosophies on my chest, I need to be ready to explain those philosophies. Wearing my “Teach Peace” sweatshirt today kept me physically warm and mentally sharp.

When school starts, I’ll be sure to follow through teaching kindness and peaceful behavior.

All Things Potter

You might be a Harry Potter fanatic if:

  1. You mutter Alohamora as you turn a key.
  2. You think Lumos as you flick a light switch.
  3. Your Harry Potter collection will never get swapped or donated to a Little Free Library.
  4. You get irritated when the family wants supper because you don’t want to stop reading.
  5. You’re nervous leaving the house without a wand. After all, there’s a war on!
  6. You find yourself quoting Albus Dumbledore at the strangest times. “Nitwit. Oddment. Blubber. Tweak.”
  7. You watch the movie The Patriot and wonder when Lucius Malfoy dyed his hair black.
  8. You go to cash a check and wonder why no one else notices that the goblins have the day off at the bank.
  9. You try to find 4 Privet Drive and 12 Grimmauld Place on Mapquest.
  10. The waiter looks at you strangely when you order “elf-made wine”.

It’s bitter cold outside – below zero wind chills, day after day. I might as well stay indoors, curl up in a blanket, and watch the Harry Potter marathon on FreeForm. It’s fascinating to look over  the details – the foreshadowing, the creation of this amazing parallel world, J.K. Rowling’s craft as a writer. So despite the cold, I’ll stay warm and cozy. As my idol Albus Dumbledore once said, “…now, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

This is an encore from a summer day several years ago as Amigo and I read the final book in the series: The Deathly Hallows. It is truly fascinating to reread and rewatch the Harry Potter series. I still wonder if I’m more like Professor MacGonagall or Professor Sprout. 

Remedies for the Holiday Doldrums

Sights seen on a short shopping trip:

  • A Toys for Tots box filled to overflowing
  • A Brownie Girl Scout troop manning the Salvation Army bells and bucket
  • Happy cashiers – well, at least one was smiling and pleasant.

It wasn’t much, but these short encounters made slogging through the difficult shopping day a bit more tolerable, if not quite pleasant. Now that the gift exchanges are over and the packages (wrapped or not) have been opened, life can settle a little. While the build-up to Christmas itself has its stresses, a few pleasant sights can help keep the season in perspective.



Feeling Fortunate

Chuck likes to say, “Good intentions ain’t worth squat.” I have to agree, even when my good intentions are the ones fading off into the distance.

I intended to get out of the house and walk every day during winter break. Mother Nature had other ideas. We are in the midst of below zero temperatures plus wind chill, making outdoor activity unlikely to say the least. Brrrr.

I also intended to spend some quality time with La Petite shopping in the post-Christmas sales. Instead, we’re huddling under new blankets (gifts) and sipping coffee and leftover mulled apple cider.

Instead of grumbling over lost goals (the afore-mentioned intentions), I’m feeling lucky. I have a home, blankets, coffee, and more. I’m warm and cozy. Missing the chances to go outside and spend money? No problem. Staying home in this case is a good thing, intentional or not.

Christmas Unwrapped

Hi. My name’s Daisy, and I don’t do wrapping paper. I have a problem in general with single-use items. Plastic grocery bags, plastic spoons, straws, the works. I’m constantly working at eliminating or at least minimizing the impact we have on the planet.

Back to wrapping paper. It’s single-use at its worst. I was almost excited when I saw a post from the county’s Recycling and Solid Waste’s Facebook page.

I can hear you now. “Recycling and Solid Waste? She saw something exciting on the garbage department’s Facebook page?” 

Take a look. Here’s a quote.

Avid recyclers know that wrapping paper and tissue are not accepted in our local recycling program. Local paper mills that recycle the paper we sell them ask us not to accept wrapping paper. 

Do I need to go into the reasons? Okay, I didn’t think so. This totally supports my philosophy on wrapping paper. Which is…

  • I won’t buy it. It’s a waste of money and a waste, period.
  • I will, however, reuse wrapping paper. I’m one of those people: I unwrap gifts carefully and set aside the paper for reuse.
  • I reuse gift bags multiple times.
  • That tissue? I reuse it, too. When it’s no longer in good enough shape to stuff a gift bag, I use it to cushion ornaments and decorations when we put them away.

And so it goes, my friends and family. I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to wrapping paper. I love Christmas, I do. But where commercial wrapping paper is concerned, I’m the Grinch.

Christmas Trees in Packerland

No one fumbles around with the tree in a Green Bay Packer fan household. Diminutive though they may be, these little delights are like prize jewels of the family ornament collection. This roly-poly guy is a jingle bell decked out in Green and Gold and a football uniform.

These two came from a student (oh, she knew me well). They look fragile, but they aren’t. You won’t see them on injured reserve. Tiny and shiny, the crystal snowmen are small enough to fit in a teacup, but they’re prettier near a string of lights that can reflect on their glory.

 They may not be in the playoffs this year, but our tree still shouts “Go, Pack, Go!”

Teaching Today and Me

Once in a while, the PR arm of our charter school calls on me to help publicize the school by writing a little something. This time around, it was all about keeping the learning going over winter break.

I feel strongly that breaks serve a purpose in schooling. Students, parent-learning coaches, teachers – all of us need a mental and physical break now and then. However, curious minds can keep on searching for new information and fascinating ideas.

So anyway, readers, family, friends, and internet acquaintances, here you have it: Daisy’s take on learning in winter. It starts, of course, with a literature reference. Enjoy!

Flu, Flu, Flu. Flu shot? Not yet.

Due to an illness in October (vertigo, big time, scary, painful, the works) and the medication to treat it, I could not get my flu shot in the fall as I usually do. Last week I messaged my doctor and his staff and asked if I could consider myself in the clear enough to get the vaccine. He said yes. Yay! Yippee! As soon as I can make it into the pharmacy, I’ll get me a shot in the arm!

But now I have a cold. Ugh. Not a bad one (knock on wood), but still a factor that puts the influenza vaccine on the “not quite yet” list.

A coworker two cubicles away had a bad case of flu-like symptoms last week. He missed three days of school, and didn’t look good when he came back. I’ve been avoiding him, but given the proximity of our cubicles, I’m still breathing the same air he does.

There are others in the office coughing and sneezing. Despite the lack of kids with runny noses in the room with us (we’re an online school), we are still sharing more than our share of germs.

With that in mind, I’ve set up a humidifier in our bedroom, poured myself beverages all day long, and I plan a Neti pot reunion before bed. I have cough drops next to the bed, and I might just take a dose of Nighttime Cough Medicine before my head hits the pillow.

Stay tuned, readers. I hope this virus doesn’t morph into anything serious. Meanwhile, I’ll keep fighting.

Copy and Paste is all too easy.

Plagiarism. Copying. Stealing someone else’s words. Plagiarism is getting worse and worse. Last year felt like the worst year ever for honor code violations. Now, it’s starting up again.

One reason plagiarism drives me buggy is the pure dishonesty of the students passing off someone else’s work as their own.

Another reason plagiarism drives me into a minor tantrum is the sheer amount of my time that gets wasted every time I see it happen.

First, I check the report from the plagiarism checker (Think Turn It In dot com). For students who followed directions and submitted their papers before turning them in to me, it’s easy. I click on the report link and check to see that their work is reasonably original. Those who don’t follow directions lose a point in their grade, and I still check their work.

But back to the wasted time. I spent an hour and a half yesterday afternoon dealing with one case of copy/paste plagiarism. The student had copied verbatim answers to two test questions. The answers had words like “pathos” and phrases that no ordinary or even extraordinary sixth grader would use. I submitted the work to the plagiarism checker. I verified that the answers were stolen from an Internet source. I called the parent. I talked to the parent. I emailed the parent and student a copy of the checker’s report – 97.35% copied. Ugly. Pure ugly.

Then I logged in to teach a class. During that class, the parent called me and left a voice mail. After I’d finished class, logged attendance, and finished the rest of the tasks involved in a virtual class, I called her back. No answer. No voice mail. That meant more time wasted logging the attempt to call, emailing the parent and asking “Is this phone number current?”

I found out she’d called the principal. Principal was out at the time, so parent didn’t make contact. However, just knowing she’d thrown a fit (according to secretary) meant I had to spend MORE TIME doing unnecessary CYA research. I found the original source web site for each of the student’s copied answers, documented both with screen shots and URLs, and sent my evidence to both the principal and the dean of students.

And then the virtual bell “rang” and I headed home, knowing that I would have to catch up on 90 minutes of other responsibilities the next day in addition to tying up the loose ends of this young person’s attempt to better a test grade through cheating.

And that’s the main roadblock. It’s too easy, so easy to copy and paste and call it “done” that too many students don’t realize it’s wrong. I can teach the honor code and review how the importance of the plagiarism and some kids won’t get it until they have to redo and assignment and face the warning that the next time, the consequence will be more serious.

To make a long story short, the family had calmed down by the time we talked the next morning. The whole thing left me drained and frustrated and behind on my work, something that’s happening all too often.

Frankly, plagiarism stinks.

Sounds of Christmas

Actual workplace conversations:

I was playing Philly Brass Christmas between 8:00 and 8:30.

Email from a teacher across the room: “Turn up the music!”

My reply: “But they’re playing Silent Night!”

I did adjust the volume. She was laughing out loud.

Later, during a department meeting:

Me to new teacher: “If the music is too loud for you, let me know. I’ll turn it down.”

Him: “I want you to turn it up!”

So anyway, no complaints here. Falalalala.