Monthly Archives: September 2007

Burnt Out

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And we haven’t even reached 40 days of school!  I really hope I make it to the end of the school year.  It has been particularly hectic lately because I have been scrambling to get my Post Fellowship Report in for my Fund for Teachers grant.  I finally finished my Reflective Report the night before last at 1:30 AM.  Somehow, I forgot that part.  Or just how big it was supposed to be.

I did a Power Point presentation about Arts and Mexico.  I started out saying that I was just going to do it, and not worry if it was not perfect.  But, of course I wanted it to be perfect.  It may actually come in handy if I find some way to go to some ESOL convention and present.

I spent the week before last making those skull magnets to send to the Sampler.  I sent it on September 17th with what I thought was a signature confirmation.  The deadline was September 20th, so I was sure it would get there in time.  But so far I have heard nothing from USPS, nothing is posted on the Sampler contributors page, and although I have sent two e-mails to them, no one at the Sampler has responded.  I will be really upset if they are lost in the mail.

Add to that having to attend meetings that I didn’t expect to have to attend, writing completely new lesson plans, etc.  Okay, enough complaining.  I consulted Tarot.com and was told to go and spend some time alone to “assimilate and process.”   So, I’m going away for the weekend.  Alone.

I started my research last night – looked at B & B’s, searched Travelocity for hotel deals, and found one place that I had been wanting to visit for a while:  Serenbe.  It’s this country inn/farm/community that is being developed south of Atlanta, in Palmetto, GA.  I called them several times and didn’t get a call back, so this morning I did some more searching and found the North 40 Lodge.  It’s in the opposite direction – north, in the hills.

I packed a bag last night, so I am going to leave right after school.  No husband, no dog – I’d like to say “no computer” but let’s be realistic…  I have the end of my book on tape – Darkly Dreaming Dexter – to listen to.  Ahhhhh, nothing like the story of a serial killer to help you wind down for the weekend!

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The Sampler

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smalldodmagnets.jpgIt has been a while since I have contributed to The Sampler. I want to get in on the October Sampler because it will be good publicity for some of the Day of the Dead items I need to sell. I still have coffins and skulls that I bought two years ago that I have yet to decorate.

While browsing Party City last week, I came across a package of party favors that were those little puzzles with four holes and four little balls that you are supposed to get in the holes at the same time. Of course, I am on a roll with those, having snagged about 80 square wooden ball puzzles at JoAnn Fabrics. I made mini Virgin of Guadalupe shrines out of those.

With these little beauties, I am making little Day of the Dead magnets. I opened each puzzle by popping the clear plastic half out with a small nail file. I then took out the cardboard insert and the little plastic balls. I used the insert as a template to cut out floral foil to put inside the puzzle – as a background. Of course, I then had to apply a circle of glitter glue to the outside to hide any cut marks or spaces.

I have a large quantity of flashy skull confetti I found last year, and they were the perfect size for the centerpiece. I added sequined eyes with glitter glue centers, for a Day of the Dead sugar skull look. I tried to put some sort of other embellishment on the skull, but there was not enough room. Instead, I put a halo of glitter glue dots around the top of the skull. As a last minute touch, I sprinkled some small iridescent confetti sifted out and saved for just this purpose. Then, I put the plastic top back in, attached a magnet to the back, and voila!

I was going to make over 200 to send, so that I could qualify for the free banner ad and other perks, but my left arm and hand rebelled after 125. I don’t know if you know this, but squeezing glitter glue can be rough on the old hand and shoulder muscles! I am going to experiment with glue and the kind of glitter you sprinkle – there’s got to be an easier way! Oh, and omitting the glitter is NOT an option!

The floral foil (which I have a lot of, in many colors) works really well for cutting out multiple circles – I could get 16 out of one template, but had to be careful not to make them too uneven. The glitter glue as a border hid a lot of mis-cutting. I did find that regular old Elmer’s did not work well with all of these slick surfaces. I ended up using Jewel-it, which is a pain to get off of the fingers!

I will package these individually, and put my card in with each one. Then, I may make sets of magnets to sell on my Etsy site. I still have 125 left, plus I bought 3 more packets of 50 today on my shopping rounds.

For the past couple of weeks, on Saturdays, I have been sleeping kind of late – until 10 or 11AM, and then getting up and driving around. I usually stop somewhere to eat – today, it was RuSan, for sushi. Then, I took the long way home up Roswell Road, stopping in to look for free cigar boxes at the nearby cigar store (as if I need anything else to embellish!), then at another Party City (where I picked up napkins, little skeletons, and those 3 bags of puzzles). I went to Swoozie’s a stationary store, and almost got out without buying anything, but the French Bull napkins seduced me. Along with my other weaknesses, I cannot resist beautiful paper design.

My last stop was at Office Depot, where I got ink refills for my printer, magnet tape for my magnets, and other mundane items. I returned home to find my husband watching “Jason and the Argonauts” on the Sci-Fi Channel – on the little screen in my office. The satellite dish installers pulled a fast one on us and left without hooking up the TV in the living room. We are still trying to sort that one out.

School is going – I have had a couple of meltdowns, but I have also been working on getting ultra organized. A fellow teacher turned me on to Quia.com, and I think that’s going to be a lifesaver! I spent most of Thursday and Friday setting up my account (I have a 30 day free trial – but who are we kidding? I am definitely going to get a subscription when that month is up) and I also enrolled all of my students in E-Pals, so that they can participate in an exchange with French-speaking schools around the world. I think I can keep those kids busy for a while. We’ll just take it one day at a time.

Don’t forget to check out my E-Bay auctions!

140 Channels…

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This weekend, we got satellite cable installed. Well, at least on my TV downstairs. They have to come back with a taller ladder to add the living room TV.

I guess I need to explain that we have been without cable for 3 years. I got used to it – really. We had an antenna, and then an HD receiver, and that really is enough. Downstairs, I got the local channels. Upstairs, with the HD receiver, we got a few more channels, and a clearer picture – most of the time. Also, with Netflix, I could get caught up on most TV shows, now that it is popular to release them on DVD.

Still, we decided to take the plunge. Since I have lost my cellphone anyway, we decided to move over to BellSouth. We are trying out their plan where we get home phone, cell phones, DSL, and TV for one charge. My husband navigated the dizzying array of choices last week. He says that we are entitled to many many rebates in the future. I also will be getting a pink razor phone.

Friday, we went over to see friends after school, and by the time we got back I just went to sleep – it had been a weary week. Saturday, after doing some shopping, I came home and worked on putting a finish on my new Blue Dog Shrine (pix coming later) and other items. While I worked, I half watched, half listened to Alton Brown’s new series Feasting on Asphalt. There was a marathon that started at around 3 or 4 and ended at 9PM. My husband spent some time with me, working on backing up my laptop, and pronounced the show “mind-numbingly boring.” A lot he knows…

Yesterday afternoon, I came across Three Kings, that movie about Desert Storm starring George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, and Ice Cube (or Ice T – I get them mixed up). It’s an excellent movie – I didn’t see all of it, though because I was fixing food for dinner at Mom’s house.

One of the scarier things I found on TV today was Bindi, the Jungle Girl. Bindi is Steve Irwin’s daughter, and she’s very cute. And I am sure that the show is very educational. But I think it’s kind of eerie that they insert digital video clips of Steve Irwin into the show, as if he is still alive. I guess it’s okay for them to show old footage of Steve – culled from his own show, I think. But it sometimes lacks context – in time, that is. Come to think of it, Bindi seems to often refer to her dad as if he IS alive. It’s just strange, I think.

I did not do too much this weekend – I went to JoAnn Fabrics, and found a couple of things on Saturday. Yesterday, I located a Party City on my side of town, but was disappointed that their Halloween stuff is not all out yet. Last week, I found a package of round mazes made of plastic and found out how to pop the top off. I am working on something to send to the Sampler, and all of it has to be sent before the 15th. I will have to go to the Party City in Smyrna this afternoon and make them tonight if I want to do that!

I am trying to get into the rhythm of the French on Computers thing. I am learning a bit about the program, and am working on finding supplementary items on the internet for added enrichment. Now, I have to figure out how to do lesson plans and unit plans and curriculum maps. Ugggghhh! It never ends.

One thing I was thinking about last week was applying for a Fulbright Scholarship. I was surfing the net, looking for lesson plans, when I came across some French Teacher’s Association website. There was a link to the Fulbright, with these words:

SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHER SEEKS EXCHANGE PARTNER: US/Paris

You are a French teacher in the United States. You wish to come live in Paris (France) for academic year 2008-09 and teach English in a very good high school just outside Paris with full salary, benefits and some financial aid…IF YOU ARE INTERESTED:- Check the Fulbright website to see if you qualify and what the requirements are.

Now that’s what I’m talking about! I would still be an ESOL teacher, but in France!!!

But first, I must finish up my review for the Fund For Teachers grant I got last summer.

All things bright and beautiful

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I’ll admit this now: I have a problem. A confetti problem.

I don’t know when it started: I guess it was with the shrines (see My Etsy Shop if purple dog openyou don’t know what I am talking about). I use sequins to make flowery embellishments on my shrines. It used to just consist of six-petal sequins in alternating colors framing the image in the center. I would dot glitter glue in the middle to make them look like flowers. Then, I got a little more creative: five petals, two layers of alternating petals – a tiny sequin in the center instead of the glitter glue.

Then, I started using that cute punched out Mylar confetti to accent my story boxes. I found all sorts of cute shapes: palm trees, shells, hearts, flowers, butterflies, skulls, parrots, bats, bugs, boots, bibles, crosses, suns, moons – there is almost no end to the possibilities. This would be great if I could buy my confetti in small amounts, but even a small bag is a lot!

Of course, I have an organization system for my confetti. Of course, I do. I have about 8 of those indispensable 17 compartment organizers that you can buy at Hobby Lobby for about $1.99 – I use those to organize a lot of things – especially my Loteria images. I have my sequins sorted by color group: pinks, reds, oranges, golds, greens, aquas, blues, purples, and silvers. Then, I have separate boxes for some themed sets – casino, beach, western, etc. I came across several packets of confetti letters at Eckerd – in their $1 bin. I haven’t organized those yet, so I have to sift through all of the letters to spell out any words I need.

You can get confetti almost anywhere – party stores, craft stores – anywhere they have party stuff. Yesterday, though, I decided to try another search for confetti in the shape of fleur de lis. I know that they exist – they were decorating favors from a Mardi Gras parade my niece and nephew were in a couple of years ago.  And I did find them – in a couple of places – on the internet.  Check out Confetti Party Headquarters – all they do is confetti (and other things of Mylar).   There is also Chico Party – which I think is the same company, but the site is a little nicer to navigate.

Of course, in browsing these sites, as well as the good old Oriental Trading Company, I found yet MORE shapes – some that I have to have!  I even found the confetti alphabet! Not that I will be running out of those for a while.

Easily Deterred?

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I haven’t been keeping up much with my diet blog – I know. I actually have broken my diet over the past week – several times. This is bound to happen when a bad thing happens. The bad thing in this case was my being forced to teach French this year.

I don’t want to re-hash the whole thing. Just let it be said that I was feeling pretty good about myself after winning my Fund for Teachers grant, spending the summer in Mexico studying SPANISH and researching arts integration ideas for my ESOL students. I came back to my new room, psyched for the year. I decided to go on my diet because I felt good about myself, and wanted to feel better. You know, to LOOK like a person who is going places in my chosen field – teaching English as a Second Language and maybe some day becoming a professional visiting artist.

I haven’t taught French in 6 years (I taught Exploratory courses in Spanish and French to 6th graders – a kind of “feel good” course designed to give the kids a taste of what learning a foreign language is about) – and I haven’t taught a French course for credit in much longer than that. So, to suddenly be expected to teach French to surly 7th and 8th graders who did not necessarily elect this class – is not what I signed up for.

This whole experience has left me low in spirits. Instead of teaching four classes of 20 – 30 students every day, I am now expected to teach A and B day classes – meaning that I really have 8 classes. The total of my students at this moment is 80+ and growing. The class is computer-centered, so I am basically a facilitator. I can expect more students, as my class will be the receptacle of all new and transient students, so that they can “learn at their own pace.” I have to take students to lunch every day – which I didn’t have to do before. I have weekly department meetings – while the ESOL department met on a need-to-meet basis only.

I also had some really promising students in my ESOL classes – who looked like they really wanted to learn. They have been farmed out to two other teachers – one who has never taught ESOL before. Now, I have a mixed population – some great (I’m sure), some okay, some bad. I am not used to teaching to the masses any more – I have no patience for students who feel entitled to things that they have not earned yet.

So, as usual, I have turned to food for comfort. I have not really re-gained my weight, but if I don’t get motivated again, I will. I am trying to get into acceptance of the situation, but it is hard. I feel like I have done this really great thing to further my career, only to be told that I am only useful as a warm body with multiple certifications. That is not great for my self esteem, I can tell you that.