Well, here we are, Super Bowl Sunday 2011. For some reason I always anticipate spring to be just around the corner when the football season comes to an end, but that is never the case. We have thawed a bit from Blizzard 2011 but they are predicting a dusting of snow tonight and another storm to move into the area on Tuesday. I fear that the balmy breezes of warmer weather are a minimum of six weeks away, no matter what the groundhog’s shadow predicted.
I have spent most of my personal time this week focused on my mom. She was rushed to the hospital on Monday morning because she had gained seven pounds overnight! Apparently eating one slice of bacon on Sunday morning caused her congestive heart failure to wreak havoc with her body. On Tuesday I was told IF she pulled through, we would have to consider a very strict, low sodium diet for her (she was always restricted to the ‘cardboard” food as she called it — which is why she ate the bacon in the first place: to have a bit of flavor). On Wednesday, she had a blood transfusion because they determined her current blood thinner medication was having an adverse effect on her body. On Thursday she was told that her hemoglobin numbers had improved, but her heart is definitely weaker. Her doctor informed us that another episode like the three we have experienced since Christmas and hospice will most likely be our next step.
Hard words for Mom to hear – but I am embarrassed to confess that it is a relief for me. I have lost track of the number of hospital stays Mom has had these past twelve months, but I am sure that it has been double digits. Each stay takes just a little bit more out of me. The emotional roller coaster of making unpleasant decisions, the wondering of what the future will hold, the constant attempt at being positive around her is taking its toll. But perhaps this new diet and these new meds will help her to maintain a certain level of health for longer than a couple of weeks.
I think I have mentioned here at least once that I am constantly revamping my lesson plans. I research online to find different ways of teaching the same topic and I am not afraid to experiment (truth be told I don’t know if I do this more to help the students learn the material – or more to help me from becoming bored). Sometimes the experiments work well and bear repeating another year, other times the experiments do not yield the expected results and I abandon them completely. Thus was the fate of this week’s trial and error.
Since our school is a University Model School and most students only attend Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, to miss one of those days for a snow day can truly put a kink in the scope and sequence. The principal advised us to post “snow day” assignments online so that students would not fall too far behind. That might work well for some classes like math or science where students can read the text and attempt the problems (with an answer key in the back of the book to double check answers) but since my classes tend to be discussion based rather than textbook driven, it is not always easy for me to assign more.
However, in all my classes but one I had a paper due on Wednesday. My thought was to have students email me the papers (which would keep them on task) and I could grade them during the snow days rather than over the weekend. Great in theory — lousy in practice.
First of all, the majority of the students turned the papers in on time, but I would say about 15% failed to do so. I then had to send separate emails to the parents to remind the students about this arrangement. A time consuming task.
I had originally thought that I could grade the papers online and then return to the student electronically – thus saving lots of paper and perhaps developing a more streamlined system for grading papers in the future. Boy was I wrong! It took me about three times longer to grade the papers online (I tend to make LOTS of comments — which I am trying to curtail — and grammatical corrections do not lend themselves to a quick and easy electronic format). It took me only two papers graded this way to realize this was not going to work.
I then had to print off each student’s paper – make sure that names were on each paper (of course they assumed that by sending in an email it would be obvious who wrote the paper) – grade the papers, and then input the grades. I spent about 16 hours over the two snow days taking care of this. I was NOT a happy camper.
So, note to self – in the future do not create more work for yourself – but rather, allow students the extra time to complete the assignment and perhaps assign a bit of outside reading and an oral report to complete on the unexpected day off.
Between Mom – blizzard – and the snow day grading fiasco – I am afraid that reading was placed on the far back burner. I did manage to read one more chapter in Little Women, and I quickly read the graphic novella that has swept the blogosphere, The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger. I must say that I loved the premise of the book: a young woman discovers a mysterious library on wheels that only contains all the books she has ever read in her life. How fascinating it would be to have a visual representation of my own reading life. Much like Proust’s madeleine cookie, just looking at the original binding and yellowed pages would immediately bring back such vivid memories. I lingered over each of the beautiful illustrations that showcased her reading collection. I tried to catch a glimpse of each of the titles, wondering if I had read the book myself, or even more, if I could find a book that I would like to read now. I would not hesitate to go back and re-read these pages again and again. However, I was not at all pleased with the ending of the book. I did like the fact that she was able to become a bookmobile librarian in her own right – I just did not like the way in which that dream actually came true. For that reason alone I would probably rate the book 3.5 out of 5.
I also managed to start reading Howard’s End is on the Landing by Susan Hill. I think I have waited for this book to arrive at my local library since October – I kid you not – and so far I would say that it was well worth the wait. The chapters are fairly short, which makes it the perfect book to keep on the nightstand – and the insight into her own reading life I find fascinating. I have found several quotes worth remembering and I hope to write a full-fledged review (my first in how long?!) sometime soon.
Lastly, I treated myself to a Half Price Bookstore excursion. I had received an email for 20% off an entire purchase this weekend, and well, I thought I deserved it after this week. I decided to begin the collection of the Harry Potter audio books. I have just fallen in love with Jim Dale’s voice – and I think this is a purchase that I will enjoy for year’s to come. I purchased the first three books and hope to start listening to them (again) as soon as I begin my exercise routine (which was supposed to start in January but at this point, is being postponed until Spring break). So far I have listened to the first book twice, the second book once, and I have managed to listen to about half of the third. I have no idea what happens in books 4-7 — but I am confident that I will indeed complete this assignment at some point in time.
I hope you all have a celebratory Super Bowl and a stress free week ahead.