Sunday, November 30, 2014

Would you like Frie(nd)s with that?

Friends are friends forever....

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, November 30 

Practice an act of kindness this week and blog about your experience

  It's the holidays - officially - right?  It seems odd to me that the prompt for the last day of the month of gratitude is an assignment and reminder to practice kindness.  And to be honest, the thought of practicing an act of kindness for a week takes me right back to November 1st, basically tying up a month of celebration and remembrance of gratitude.

That may be confusing to those who don't know me well.  So here's the background.

November 1st is, or should I say was, the birthday of one of my oldest friends - Amy.  Amy was diagnosed with appendix cancer four years ago - which at the time she joked about the absurdity of something so small and useless causing so much trouble in her life.  She fought harder than anyone in the world has ever fought, going through countless surgeries.  The cancer didn't kill her.  The treatment for the cancer did.

If that horrible story and injustice seems like more than one can bear, consider the fact that Amy was one of the kindest people I have ever known -- the type of person who recognized the unrecognizable in society.  She worked as a special education teacher with the most profoundly differently-abled.  Her first classroom was in the basement of a school in Philadelphia next to the boiler room, so the noises of her class wouldn't "bother" the educational process in the school.  She made that little room a home for her class.  She went on to other schools in other districts, but never left that population of students.

When we were in high school, we'd take the train into Philadelphia.  Amy always bought a large frenchfries at McDonalds, and would look for a homeless person to give them to -- and then stand over them and demand that they find a friend to share them with.  She valued friendship, and insisted that the homeless needed to know that they at least had each other.

When I saw this story on Inspiyr, I thought of Amy.  Her life was dedicated to given faces to the faceless of society.  I could see her sharing this story on facebook, or being the person at school demanding justice for Jennie.

On November 1st, Amy's friends all agreed to celebrate her memory by practicing a RAC.  (Random Act of Coffee or Chocolate - two things she dearly celebrated.) We bought coffee or chocolate for strangers, and shared Amy's story with them.

Since Amy's death, her family has celebrated two important milestones without her.  Son #1 just got engaged to the girl of his dreams, and Son #2 was married - the day after what would have been Amy's 53rd birthday.  I know she knows, and is smiling somewhere, as she dearly loved both Catherine and Dani.

When I think about the injustices surrounding Amy's death, given all that she contributed to this world and to a population usually overlooked, I have great difficulty.  But this is the new reality for all of her friends, and this week will be a celebration of gratitude, and Amy will be with me.  And I bet if I nudge a few of her friends, we can change the world.

One french fry at a time.

Let the blogging and kindness begin!



Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Quiet One on the Porch.

It's weird.  I look forward to long breaks, like our Wednesday - Tuesday break at Thanksgiving, with great anticipation.  And when they arrive, I spend much of my time checking school email, gathering books to go back to school, and grading assignments that are submitted electronically, all in anticipation of returning to school feeling "almost caught up."  The other bizarre thing that happens is that after a day or so, I lose track of what day of the week it is, and double-check myself repeatedly, usually while driving.  

Yesterday I was totally convinced it was Saturday.  Today, it seems like Friday.

So I suppose that as long as I show up for work when I should, I'm still okay, right?


The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, November 29 

We all know someone who inspires us to be better. Share that person.

Regardless of what day it is, the person who inspires me to be better is, hand down, my husband.   Whether it be my personal life or my career, Bruce inspires me to find the balance in my life.    He's the quiet one, I'm the impulsive one.  He's the one that weighs carefully on decisions.  He's able to work from home, and actually stay focused instead of wandering from one project to another, barely completing anything on an original timeline, like I do.
Bruce has focus and purpose, oh, and a wicked sense of humor.  A little sparkle in his eyes makes me pay attention to just what he's trying to say - and if I miss the sparkle, I miss the joke.  This is especially true when Kristin is around, as the two of them share a humor gene that is beyond my understanding a LOT of the time.

My mother in law died two years ago, leaving Bruce as the only surviving member of his family.  He has spent the last two years focused on making sure that legacy stories are told for generations to come.  If you visit our house, you'll recognize the museum of antiques that has found its way into our lives -- and those that he has chosen tell the story of our families. has accelerated our ability to work on our genealogy -- which we started in 1983 on our honeymoon -- and has provided names for our Civil War and Revolutionary War ancestors, in addition to my father's service in the Korean War and Bruce's father's in WWII.  

Add to the purposeful antiquing, there are the letters.  

So beginning in January, I'm joining "Letters from Mom."  It certainly seems that my family deserves something more than this blog as my recollections and musings, right?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Don't Miss the Opportunity... Unless you do.

 Musings from the Day After the Turkey Coma:
We had a lovely meal, a competitive round of Thanksgiving Family Jeopardy, and wonderful conversation with family yesterday at my sister's, followed by the holiday traffic from hell ride home, which included a car on fire on the Schuylkill Expressway providing quite the backup.  Three hours later, we arrived home.  First on the agenda after unpacking the car?

Of course, wee hour of the morning shopping with Kristin.

We delayed this annual tradition for many years.  Quite frankly, there is little that I need to stay up past Hogan's Heroes for anything, but bonding time with my daughter is worth the lost sleep! It was probably about six years ago when she said she'd like to experience the craziness of the post-turkey shopping experience, so we went that first year.  And every year since.

Some years we'd get up early, shop and then have breakfast before dragging all the bags home.  But since the stores open before Friday now, we resist shopping with bedheads, and go around 11, crawling into bed around 3.  

Do I have any great tales to tell?  Nope, no 50 inch TV, no free Keurig.  Better than that.  Memories, instead.


Te@chthought's Blog Challenge for today - 

November 28 Talk about one opportunity that you are grateful in hindsight for having passed you by.

It was 1988, and we'd been married for five years.  Scott was almost three, and I'd just been offered a promotion to supervisor at the insurance company where I'd served as a claims adjuster for the last four years.  Bruce was offered what we considered to be "his dream job" working for a history publication in Harrisburg.  So much more relevant than the "job" I was doing, which was, in no way, a career goal.  I had been substitute teaching, eventually settling for the entry-level office position  to help pad the bank account and buy our first house.  The insurance job had helped with that endeavor, and could have easily become the trajectory for a lifetime "career", that didn't in any way match my passion.

Bruce's career move turned into the perfect opportunity for all of us.  We sold our house for double what we had paid for it, bought a house in Lancaster County, and I was able to be a stay at home mommy for the next eleven years.  Three kids, two bunnies, 4 hamsters, and countless fish later, I finally got to do what I truly wanted to do.


The rest is history.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

I Just Realized "I Ruined Thanksgiving."

Perfection is something that we hope our students strive for, but something that as a teacher I find is rarely achieved for me as a teacher.  In addition to THAT statement, I can go a step further in shooting my career in the foot by saying that for me, a perfect day - or a perfect lesson - is one that goes so far off the original lesson plan that the kids learn more than anticipated, through their own questioning and driving of a particular discussion.  As a teacher, the perfect day is when I find out that the discussion in class continued in the hallway, the cafeteria, and on the bus on the way home.  Because that is when I know that the questioning and engagement has truly worked -- no matter what Charlotte Danielson defines as a distinguished lesson.

Oh, and on those days when the lesson gets highjacked for the better?  I learn as well.


The Te@chthought Blog Challenge question for today, November 27 

If you could bottle up the perfect day, what would it look like?

Having done the perfect setup for a lengthy post on the wonders of the perfect day in the classroom, I shift gears for just a second to remind you that today is Thanksgiving, schools everywhere are closed, and we're all silently, or not so silently, breathing and stretching after a really good night's sleep in anticipation of a really good meal this afternoon.  As I am a "glass half full" kind of person, it's difficult to define a  perfect day because perfect days with different people vary drastically.  As I've already outlined the perfect day academically, let's consider some other perfect day scenarios:

1.  Perfect Day in the Sewing Room -- no seam ripping, straight seams, and beautiful new fabric to fondle and cut. Creating something wonderful to give to someone wonderful (who may even be yourself) is such a glorious experience.  If you're not a quilter, you don't get it.  I know. It's okay.

2.  Perfect Day Antiquing - Before you go making snide comments about this next comment -- and you know who you are -- I love the feel of wood.  OLD wood.  tables and cutlery trays that have been smoothed by generations of handling.  There is something magical for me that connects me to the past as I celebrate the workmanship and marvel at the silkiness of the present day form.  It helps to have my husband along, as we frequently find things that make us go "hmmm" that we can post on Facebook to amaze and delight our antiquing friends, and puzzle those who don't know us well enough to get the fact that we are surreptitiously snapping pictures of things that we think are either insane or hideous.

3.  Perfect Day with Family - My family is warped. They have the same sense of humor that I do, fortunately.  The picture to the left is an impromptu dare reaction after a video blog entry by my daughter last Easter to spice things up to make the holidays more bearable.  Oh, yes, that is a golden crown fashioned out of the wrapper of the spiral cut ham on Kristin's head.  (And for those who follow the blog regularly and remember the competition for the center space in the shelf of grandchildren, note that Sarah's 8 x 10 is in the center space).  

 Last year's Thanksgiving featured an intense game of Jeopardy Trivia between Team USA and Team Canada.  And yes, the trivia is a legit display on the wall of the dining room with my sister at the helm of the projector.   

Pictured below, the teams, and Bruce holding the Tim Russert White Board with the totals.

 I'm off to make a vegetable turkey tray, and a cheese turkey, and have just realized that I neglected to purchase the turkey shaped butter. 

My kids will be relieved.  This recent revelation means that "I ruined Thanksgiving" this year, leaving everyone else in the clear.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THANKS-giving Pleasures

Current students (and Alex, who braved the "kids'" table)
 I slid into the seat of the new van at precisely 8:40, lamenting over my wet feet and the fact that the 
dealer has not yet called to say that the floor mats he ordered were in.  It was pouring rain.  By the time we got to Gus's  (yes, that's the name of the place!) the rain had turned to giant wet snowflakes.

Despite the weather, 47 present and former students (and two teachers) were dining.

 I wish I  could remember when we started this annual tradition, but I'm glad it was started, even if my memory fails me.  The longest-graduated student left the hallowed halls at Donegal in 2006.  The farthest traveled was a toss up between Erica (home from Japan) or Ryan from Seattle.  To be fair, Ryan was just in for the holiday weekend, while Erica's been home for a while.  Regardless, both had a lot to share about life outside Lancaster County.
Henry, Lucy, Alex, Chloe, and Alex's wife, Brynn.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, November 26 is an easy one for me. 

Write about any 3 small pleasures in your life/day.

Representatives from 2012...
 The difficult part of answering this question is the adjective - small.    Because for me, people are the pleasures in my life -- but my relationships with those people are, to me, anything but small.  My three today, in no particular order are:

1.  Students - who keep me thinking, challenge me to be a better teacher every day, and inspire me beyond measure.  When I see former students, I want to tell them how much I've grown as a teacher since they were in my class. (Truthfully, I'd like to apologize for how much more secure in the classroom I am now than when they were my learners.)
2.  Family - My daughter is home, and
my sons are close by.  They are happy and healthy, and give me great pride.   They both have lovely young women in their lives who make them shine.   And Carter - well -- of COURSE anybody who calls me Beanie is a tremendous pleasure, no matter how small he is!
 None of my kids understand my knew fascination for antiquing with my husband.  And that's okay.  (Truthfully, I don't understand all their fascinations either...)  We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with the "extended family this week, and catching up with cousins and grandparents and sisters and brothers in law.  After all, the holidays are all about family, right?

3.  Friends - From the "newest" friends in my life at UCONN and A Lunch, to people who have been friends for decades, I am ever so grateful for each and every one of them.  This year was an especially difficult one for me as I had to say goodbye to two friends way to early within ten days of each other.  Thanks to social media, connectedness, and the ability to realize what is truly important, some old friendships have been refreshed, and some new friendships grew out of our common grief and disbelief at the fragility of life.
Sophomores who braved the invitation!

Happy Thanksgiving!




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Guilty Pleasures

 Through the wonders of teacher conference scheduling, I am OFF tomorrow.  The tradeoff time has been put in to allow for this annual extended Thanksgiving break, and I'm certain that I speak for every Donegal teacher when I proclaim that at the top of the thanksgiving list is the Wednesday - Tuesday extended break to regroup and head on back into the holidays and the end of the semester.

In addition to the extended break, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is an annual celebration that rivals Thanksgiving itself for me professionally.  The Annual Gifted and Talented Thanksgiving Breakfast will commence tomorrow.  Current high schoolers and alumni will gather at the appointed hour at a local diner for a chance to catch up, reminisce, and eat Lancaster County Cookin', as well as do the usual stupid human tricks performed in diners like defying gravity with coffee cups and creamer packages.

And I will love every single minute of it.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, November 25 -

What would you like to let go of?

The obvious first choice would be weight.  I'd be fine with that.  Really.  But I suspect the prompt wasn't referring to my waist measurement, given that it was from an organization promoting metacognitive understanding in classrooms everywhere.  So, instead, I give you the big confession:

I would like to let go of the guilt.  

The guilt for staying at school longer than my husband would like, the guilt of taking home a stack of essays to grade and then ignoring them.  The constant wishing that I'd remembered to buy good tissues for my very deserving students who are already miserable with a cold and now having to blow their noses on something akin to sandpaper provided by the school.  The guilt of writing a college recommendation letter at the eleventh hour, and then realizing after I hit send  that I had the perfect anecdote to share about that student that now some Ivy League recruiter will never know about.  The feeling that these kids are way smarter than I will ever be and that I am letting them down by not stretching them to their limits because I can't even see how far those limits are.

It's Thanksgiving.  We've worked long days this week, we've laughed and cried with each other as we've said goodbye to another former student at much to young an age, and we're exhausted by the SLOs, the IEPs, and the CCS.  Teachers everywhere are thankful for Thanksgiving, not just for the obvious reasons, but for the recharging of the energy, and, perhaps, the stretchy pants that keep us from feeling guilty for not being what we think we should be for just a little while.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Camouflaging Learning

 Thanksgiving must be coming, because tonight was the night when the lights in the schools burn late as parents venture into the classrooms to meet with teachers during the festivity known as "Parent Conferences."  In our district, this is an especially celebrated time, because the late nights mean trade off time, extending the Thanksgiving holiday from Wednesday straight through to the following Tuesday.  Why Tuesday?  You ask?  Clearly you are unaware of the importance of the third most important holiday this weekend -- Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and THE FIRST DAY OF HUNTING SEASON.

In anticipation, the camo is already in full fashion this season.  So much so, that UNPLANNED, three students in one class sat down next to each other in (gasp!) the identical shirt last week.  Yes, for me, Parent Conferences is the signal that the holidays are coming.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today, 

Nov 24 What are your dreams for education in the future?

I've referenced my time at UCONN over Three Summers.   While that certificate or master's degree is directed specifically at people working with the gifted and talented population in a K - 12 environment, primarily, it is rooted deeply in the work of the patriarch of something known as the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, Joe Renzulli, and his wife Sally Reis, the implications for a similar strategy to engage students of many abilities are far-reaching. 

Students are capable of much more than we are asking of them.  If learners are interested in something, they will naturally follow and explore, and develop a fascination that is far more infectious than anything that we could, as educators, prescribe that they learn.  The idea behind the Schoolwide Enrichment Model is not unlike the ideas for Genius Hour, or Project Based Learning.

I will admit, to anyone who will listen, that I didn't get the Pythagorean theorem until I was over thirty.  I had learned it, I had applied it on the test, midterm and presumably final during Geometry in school, but I did so as a rote memory activity.  It wasn't until the early nineties that I was trying to figure out how much fabric I needed to buy to set quilt squares "on point" to make a set of completed quilt squares large enough for a queen sized bed.  By putting the squares point to point, I'd need some triangles to straighten the edges.  But how to figure out how much I'd need?

Lucky for me, my husband asked what I was thinking about, and he, being the Merit Scholar that I am not, was able to point out my oversight, allowing me to feel like I'd just discovered the new world.
In fact, I sort of had.

I'm not suggesting that every kid should quilt to understand geometry, but there certainly is sound research in the idea of projects as a means to learn.  Call them apprentices, interns, shadowers, and give students a project to solve in a real world situation, and it is amazing how much real, honest, deep, critical thinking happens.

I'm just wondering now how many lessons could be taught this week using hunting as the motivational project....


Sunday, November 23, 2014

True Love 4Ever

 Yesterday, my husband and I went antiquing.  While our son has confessed to his wife that he thinks this is a sign that we are entering the twilight years of our lives, (while neglecting to realize that he is aging at the same rate as we...), this is our new hobby -- now that our weekends are no longer occupied by hockey games and band competitions.

I know quite a few people who abandoned marriages of twenty-plus years after kids went off to colleges, simply because they couldn't find anything in common anymore.  I'm not even really sure when or why we decided to make this an official weekend activity -- it just sort of evolved into routine.

The label on the cheesebox read "WORLD WAR I Letters, $2 each." 

Mildred and Elwood are now part of my life.



Nov 23 How did your Attitude of Gratitude work out - tell us about it.

I am a scrapbooker.  I save ticketstubs and hospital bracelets, and wristbands from concerts that my daughter has worn for nearly a YEAR before they had fallen off.  So the discovery of a collection of letters, albeit being sold as less than a collection, that was nearly a hundred years old was fascinating.

While I have been unable to implement my specific plan to promote an attitude of gratitude in my classroom,  Mildred and Elwood's correspondence from 1917-1919 will certainly aid in explaining the importance of historical context, handwritten communication, the art of letter-writing.  

Elwood is the least romantic letter-writer whoever walked on this planet -- yet Mildred saved these letters.  

The first letter in my newly-purchased collection:

(Typerwritten on letterhead from the PHILIPS-BRINTON COMPANY, Manufactuers of Automobile Specialties, Ignition Department, Kennett Square, PA)

October 31, 1917
Dear Mildred:
Just a few lines as I am at work.  Iam sorry that I was not able to write to you on Sunday as I expected to do.  But I worked from Sunday morning seven o'clock till twelve that night a faast as I could go.  Seventeen hours.  Up the next morning at six and was at it till about three this next morning.  Will tell you all about same when I see you.  It takes so much of my time to put same in writing.  The supt. just came in the office and saw me running the typewriter.  I started single spacing with the intention of writing a lengthly (sic) letter but have decided to leave same till later.

I would like to see you and I asked mother wether she expected me over to Coatesville this Sunday and she said she thought I had better take a rest.  She knew that I wanted to go to Chester.  But I really thing (sic) that she needs me and that I can do quite a little if I go over.  So as far as I know now I will go to Coatesville this wee end with the intentions of working at the house.  It is pretty hard todo (sic) this when you want to do something else.  

Oh, Elwood, you old softy.  And the last paragraph?

Excuse mistakes.  Give my regards to the folks.  How is Papa by this time?  Have not been to work for the last two days.  Florence is in this morning.  Lost (sic) of work to do to-day.  Government orders to be shipped out this morning.

I guess this all with love from, 
(written signature)

I've already searched, and haven't located them so far.  Two years later, Elwood gives very specific details about who should be paying for the wedding -- (not him!) and how Mildred should destroy the letter outlining her parents' responsibility to pay -- while trying to preserve his relationship with his future inlaws.

Mildred and Elwood may be non-examples of personal or gratitude writing.  Or it might be something much more.  Often my ideas for lessons require significant creativity incubation to fully develop.

So today, I have an attitude of gratitude for Mildred's persistence and willingness to preserve a stack of letters from someone who obviously cared deeply for her, yet couldn't figure out how to say it.  I'm hoping this non-example of gratitude will actually reveal the gratitude attitudes from a hundred years ago, and offer a reason to my students to preserve from of their own.

While the Library of Congress may be collecting tweets and storing them, and Google may have records of every keystroke we make, I can't imagine that there will be too many who take the time to search for something that exists only in cyberspace.  

We have a responsibility to future generations to become Mildred and Elwood -- or even better.

Oh - and because it's too good to pass up - here's the transcript from the February, 13, 1919 letter, which was handwritten by Elwood (now employed at the NOBIS Hotel and Restaurant in Wilmington, Delaware) entitled:

"To my Valentine."
I'll let you get the enclosed which you will readily understand.  (It is a photo of what I can only assume is Elwood and his Mama).  I was thinking of being in Chester on this Sunday but perhaps we had better both go the Coatesville for the day.  (that's where Mama lives)  I will be up Sunday morning as early as possible.

You told me you would write telling me how you made out with your new work.  It seems funny that I have not heard from you by this time.  Perhaps you have been to (sic) busy to write me. I guess you forgot.

With love I close, 


PS Mother is going to be in Kennett Square tonight and she wanted me to come up there.  I would like to go.  But I only have 3 men on the floor owing to the fact that I fired my first man yesterday for not doing as I had repeatedly told him.  So I have to help out in case of another unexpected rush.  I will now write Mother that we will both be home on Sunday dear. This is if it suits you and your wish to go.
Your Sweetheart,

One can only hope that Mildred responded quickly -- or perhaps Elwood fired her for non-compliance.  I'll keep searching, and let you know if there was a Happily Ever After....

Saturday, November 22, 2014

EXTRAordinary Giving

 Yesterday was "The Extraordinary Give" in Lancaster.  If you've never heard of such a thing, it's twenty-four hours of a light shining on the needs of local nonprofits, and opportunities for support that is initiated and managed by the local Lancaster Foundation, who offered $250,000 in prizes awarded throughout the day to motivate people to support causes of personal interest or passion.  
For the last three years, the giving has been crazy.  

In 2012, 1.6 million dollars was raised.  Yesterday, the final total was $4,474,027 by midnight, with more than 31,000 contributors.  Folks, Lancaster County is not just about the kind, gentle Amish population.  It's a community of gratitude.  Gratitude for the work that non-profits do, and gratitude for the ability to give back and support and improve the community in which we live.

The Extraordinary Give is a pre-Thanksgiving tradition, happening the Friday prior.  If you look closely at the photo above, you'll see my daughter-in-law, Jennie, who works for Water Street Ministries as their grant-writer.  She's the tiny person in the green sweatshirt, who has a heart bigger than her small stature.  Her enthusiasm, online presence on social media, and other support attempts made WSM the top recipient yesterday, with donations totaling $195,231.   

Te@chthought Blog Challenge of the day:

Nov 22 What are your family traditions you are most grateful for?

You may be wondering the reason for that commercial for something that happened yesterday.  Clearly, I am not saying that soliciting donations is a family tradition -- and certainly such an effort would not compare to Grammy's cranberry/applesauce or the annual tromping to the local tree lot for a Christmas tree worthy to stand in our living room, all the while mocking and searching for the very worst tree on the lot.  Yet, celebrating generosity was certainly evident yesterday as Jennie, and many in the Lancaster community, watched and dreamed of the possibilities for the next year as the tally board grew.

My family, slowly and quietly, has become involved.  They've found their own paths and do so without seeking recognition.  It's a tradition that goes back many generations, and not one that my husband and I have ever told our kids to do  - it has just happened.

"We're going to be doing the Walk for Alzheimer's that day", "I have a Tommy Foundation meeting". "I'll be sleeping in a tent/conversion van that night" (to raise money and awareness for Homes of Hope).  There are children supported through Compassion and World Vision in our lives, scholarships and educational foundations that we support, and many meetings we attend serving on various committees.  Our kids have crawled under bridges in Atlanta to talk to the homeless, have done demolition and rebuilding projects in West Virginia, and used their talents to produce videos for projects in which they believe.

Oh, and the Matriarch of Generosity encourages this involvement through her own actions. My mother has been involved in community support and giving as long as I can remember.  We have pictures of her speaking at the dedication of a community garden in memory of Martin Luther King that she worked on to help to heal and bring together the people of our town after his assassination, which is probably my earliest memory of her volunteerism.  Her specific philanthropic and volunteer efforts are far too numerous to mention, but it is evident to me that her actions have produced a tradition of generosity for future generations.

This past summer, her tax situation changed and she found herself with "extra money."

So she wrote letters.  A heartfelt letter to each of her grandchildren, outlining what she appreciated most about them.  She included a check, and asked that they tithe off of that gift and report back at some point.  Over the course of the next few months, I got tearful, "I am so proud...." updates as each of my kids chose their own areas to support.  (An underprivileged family in Chicago has winter coats, children in Harrisburg went back to school with new clothes, shoes and backpacks, and ALS had one less bucket of water wasted).

My mother celebrates accomplishment and generosity.  It has become a family tradition.
As has the coveted "center space" on the shelf of pictures of grandchildren in her living room.

This week, I received a cc of an email sent to my eldest son from his grandmother after the publication of an article for work:

Scott – I can’t tell you how impressed I am! Well, actually, I can.

I am SO IMPRESSED by your professional writing that I have moved your picture on my grandchildren shelf to the center space. I am cc-ing Juliette, whose picture replaced Sarah’s when she took care of (her severely disabled brother)  this summer, then got elected to president of student council, and – finally – was named Homecoming Queen. Her reign has been long and justly deserved, but it’s your turn now!


PS On second thought, I’m cc-ing all grandchildren in hopeful anticipation of re-energized competition for center space!

Scott's response:

I would like to thank everyone who made this possible... and to all other relatives in pursuit of the prestige of the Center Space.... BRING IT ON!

Clearly our family doesn't take itself too seriously.  And that's exactly the way it should be in this season of gratitude -- and every other season.  Because, for our family, our tradition is one of service.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Mental Block?

Amazon Prime is either the best thing ever, or something for which a support group and 12 Step Program will be required for me in the very near future.  I certainly get my money's worth on the free shipping alone, without even considering the potential for being first in line for drone delivery or free/minimal charge streaming of movies nearly instantly.  The thought of identifying just one book that has had a major impact on my career is difficult, as I teach stand-alone "Themes" each semester, so my "favorite" book tends to be something that I'm reading in connection with that semester's theme.

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today,

Nov 21 List a book you are thankful to have read and how it have inspired you to be better at what you do. 

Now that I've touted the wonders of Amazon, I'll give you the back story on the book I've chosen to feature -- and it involves the anti-Amazon-kindle -- the NOOK.  Two years ago, I pitched the idea of buying a full set of NOOKS for my classroom that could contain digital content for years for my gifted kids in my Themes in Literature class.  The district agreed, and purchased 25 NOOKS.  But no content.  So for the first year, I pretty much had blown my budget on what were, essentially, really expensive paperweights.
As I am good at shmoozing with the tech guys and the Tech Coach, I managed to get Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  (no kidding, it's pronounced CHEEK-SENT-ME-HIGH.  Or Smith.  You decide!).  Shortly after that, we added Talk Like TED.  I try to add new books each year to the NOOKS, with the hope that while a book or a chapter is assigned reading, the NOOKEES (aka Learners) might decide to (gasp!) read more than just the assignment.

I've been familiar with the wonderful brain research of Carol Dweck for years, and had read her book five or six years ago.  It seemed like a great educator book.  This year I got smarter (or decided to work less hard?), and once again shmoozed the Tech Coach and was rewarded for my efforts with copies of Mindset which were added to my ebooks.

The concept of Fixed vs. Growth Mindsets is certainly easy enough to understand by simply reading the first chapter.  So using a bit of reverse psychology, I assigned students to read just the first chapter.  It's an easy read, is relatable to anyone reading the book, and makes the point in chapter one.

I totally get that had I assigned the reading of an ENTIRE book, very few would have cracked the cover.  But one chapter quickly turned to two or three, or an entire book, for many of my students.  Some saw fixed mindsets in themselves, others are now "diagnosing" their friends based upon comments in other classrooms.  

Can kids read and apply brain research to themselves?  Absolutely.  Is recognizing a fixed mindset the first step to recovery?  They now think so.

It's a fast read.  Every teacher should read this.  And then every student.  It helps a lot when talking to kids about learning frustrations, and creates its own shorthand language to remind students to keep on keeping on.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sitting NEXT to Sara.

I don't know, what do YOU think?  

We all say it.  We truly know what we think, but we are too darned polite, afraid, bored, or simply unwilling to take the risk.  We'd rather listen to what someone else has to say and then judge our own response based upon theirs.  

Maybe it's to be nice and agree.
Maybe it's to be cantankerous and disagree, just for the sake of argument.
Maybe it's because it's easy to judge what the "appropriate" response is after watching/listening to someone else give it a go.  (A favorite ploy of the gifted student, I might add.)

Sometimes it's about protecting ego, other times it's about hiding something else.



The Te@chthought Blog Challenge prompt of the day:

 Nov 20 What is one life lesson that you are thankful for having learned?

  Our faculty room is long and narrow.  I mean REALLY long.  If you were to take one of those tables out of Hogwarts and put it in a windowless room with a fridge and two microwaves, well, you get the idea.  I'm also fairly claustrophobic, so I tend to sit where I can still look out the window in the door.  

Maybe it's our tendency as teachers to create a seating chart and stick with it -- but the seats in the faculty room at A Lunch are pretty much static.  I always sit across from Sara and next to Michael.  It's how we invented the importance of the "Two Spice American Blend"  (aka salt and pepper) to combat the endless recipes shared by the previously-mentioned Michael Jan that has 5 Spice Blend as the key ingredient.  So imagine my surprise -- or should I say discomfort -- when I arrived at lunch yesterday to find someone else in my seat.

Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't giving anyone that Churchlady's "You're in MY PEW" look, but I had had a pretty rough morning, and was looking forward to lunchtime to recharge my attitude for the remainder of the day.

I'm sure you're waiting with bated breath to find out how it all played out.  

Well, here's the skinny.  I wound up sitting NEXT to Sara and ACROSS from Michael.  And the change did not disappoint.  (Although I spent a fair amount of time worrying that I was sitting in Seth's seat, who, it seems, has recently given up eating lunch, possibly in an attempt to bank calories for Thanksgiving...)  I faced the creepy blank cinderblock wall, and away from the window.  And laughed harder than I've laughed in a long time.

One of my favorite assignments for gifted students is "Three Perspectives."  Choose a situation other than your own and examine the same scenario from three other points of view.  Over the years I've gotten some interesting analyses:

Premarital Sex as examined (in rhyme) by a young woman, an old man with regrets, and a pastor
A Clogged Toilet as examined by a maintenance man, a plunger, and the clogger.
A Winning Baseball Game as examined by homeplate, a trophy and a catcher.

You get the idea.  I'm all about trying to challenge kids to think differently, and viewing life with an open mind.

But I'm not willing to change my seat at lunch.

Life Lesson?  Perspective.   Just like Shawn Achor's baby unicorn of a sister, (see yesterday's blog post), viewing any given situation from a different perspective just might change the day.  Sometimes even for the better.

If you're willing to take the risk.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When emails are better than post its....

Today is my 80th straight day of blogging.  Sometimes I feel like I'm dancing the same dance on a different day, and for that I apologize - especially if it seems that way to you as the reader.

Certainly, this month's focus on gratitude, with the questions provided by Te@chthought's superbloggers, Justine and Beth, have me singing along with the jingle bells on the commercials, even if it really isn't YET the holiday season.  

After 19 days of gratitude, I am still grateful.


 The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for Today:

Nov 19 Tell someone you know how grateful you are for the work they do. Share your story here.

It's 8 pm and I just got home.  How fortuitous it is for me that I have already done exactly as Te@chthought has instructed.  It is rare that I get a full 3 year jump on completing an assignment.

As I have mentioned numerous times, my experience in the Three Summers Program at UCONN was life-changing for me, as a connected educator, as a gifted specialist, and as someone who appreciates (and verbalizes) the little things.  Honestly, up until June 29, 2011, I'm fairly certain I would have THOUGHT about thanking a colleague, and I might even have said a quick thanks with a post it note or a quick conversation.  But the email below was probably much more meaningful for Dan than a Hershey kiss and a post it note.

And clearly, it meant enough for me to keep in my SENT box to remind myself to be a bit more grateful.

From: Susan
Sent: Wednesday, June 29, 2011 9:31 AM
To: Daniel
Subject: Thanks...

Hi Dan -

I'm sitting at UCONN in a class relative to enrichment differentiation, and flashed back on a comment you made to me at the end of the year, which I dismissed at the time.

I want to react on a more personal level to your comment about the success of the "Nations" activity that we did in your Honors 11 class last year.  While my usual reaction is to shrug and dismiss comments about how well that worked, I really feel the need to thank you for two things:

1.  You acknowledged the value of an enrichment opportunity that took a lot of time, and invited me in to do it anyway.
2.  You took the time to mention it as a highlight for the year...

I would very much welcome the opportunity to do this again, and even refine it further.

I apologize if I sound mushy and weird -- I'm incredibly saturated with gifted research and more reading than I've done in years on a single topic, as well as away from home and incredibly sleep-deprived, but loving every minute of it.

While I hope you get the admin position you so deservingly desire, I would love to work with you again and appreciate your educational professionalism and commitment to enrichment.

(And no, this was not a prompted assignment!  :)   )



Hi Susan,

Thank you so much for the wonderful email.  It was a nice surprise.  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to collaborate with you and would welcome the opportunity to do it again this fall.  Hope you are having a great summer!

Thanks, Dan

 As a means of a Post Script, Dan went on to become an administrator, leaving our district.  Occasionally I hear a report from a friend in that district about how much they love him there as well.

So I guess today's post serves as a reminder that I should be a bit more verbal with my gratitude -- and send some emails to those I really appreciate.  (And since I appreciate all of you so much, I strongly suggest that you watch "The Happy Secret to Better Work", a TED Talk by Shawn Achor.  It supports the idea of opening your email and writing one positive email every time you do so.  And it mentions baby unicorns.  Really.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ALICE isn't a blonde with a teacup.

As I was preparing for school this morning, I was greeted with the following weather report:
"The arctic blast has arrived! Morning temperatures will hover in the low-to-mid 20s with wind chills in the single digits and teens. Look for mostly sunny skies during the morning rush."

What a perfect day for an Intruder Drill.  NOT!

Nov 18 What do you appreciate about your colleagues?

While I am too young to remember cowering under a desk, fearing imminent death from an atomic bomb, I have seen pictures.  Since I moved to Lancaster County in 1988, I've been repeatedly reminded that I live within the ten mile footprint evacuation zone from Three Mile Island, and have always had a vague plan on what our family would do to evacuate and reunite, should it melt down again.  Of course we all know, and practice the monthly Fire Drills, and look forward, with great anticipation, to the annual Tornado Drill during Severe Weather Awareness Month.  (Also known as the "Butt-Crack Drill" as students hover on their knees, butts in the air, with their heads covered in the hallway to protect themselves from the mythical falling debris.) But the world has changed.  And not in a good way, when it comes to safety in schools.

My oldest son was in middle school when school shootings became real to me.  My younger son was in elementary school, which still seemed innocent.   One word made it real for all of America.


What was once a top google search for being a wildflower, is now the face of school security concerns.  Much has changed since Columbine -- nobody had even considered that such an atrocity was a possibility, let alone that drills would become necessary, yet that is exactly what is happening in schools around the world today.

After Columbine, security systems were upgraded.  Double doors were put in place with monitors having the possibility to "buzz in" people wishing to gain entry to a school after stating a reason to enter.  Swipe badges came next for us, as our district renovated buildings and considered security as something more important than function of a normal educational day.  Locked doors, locked classrooms, "Go Bags" with directions on how to make a trashcan into a toilet, among other things, became part of Professional Development Training.

Today was the first Intruder Drill at our high school.  The other buildings had already practiced one, and now it was our turn.   (As an aside, I can't even imagine explaining such a drill to primary school students.  Launa Hall, a preschool teacher, shared her thoughts about Intruder Drills in an article in the Washington Post that has caused a few nightmares for me.)

 We've been trained in ALICE, and let me tell you, this is one heck of a rabbit hole that we travel down during the process.


Yes, even  security has become an acronym in education.    The data shows that hiding in closets and being quiet is not the best way to save lives.  So today, on the coldest day in recent memory, we were practicing making decisions about safety, with kids in the classroom.

For more details about ALICE, NPR has a wonderful piece here. 

The collaborative approach taken by my colleagues was amazing.  We all knew that the drill was today.  We weren't told when it would happen so that we wouldn't be completely prepared.  I happened to be co-teaching in another classroom when the ALERT came over the loudspeaker.  The LOCKDOWN happened within seconds.

This teacher was prepared.    When the INFORMation that the "intruder" was in the building, the decision was made that we could not safely evacuate.  A strap with a ratchet closure (purchased with her own money by the teacher, I might add), was attached to the door handle and under a cabinet brace.  Students stacked furniture in front of the door, and made themselves invisible to anyone looking in by positioning themselves against the wall.

The handle on the door jiggled, and the "intruder" moved on.

The problem-solving that happened in that classroom both during and after the drill was amazing.  These kids were calm, thoughtful, and reflective.  Once it was over, we heard tales of the creative ways that others hid from danger.  Those who could evacuate, did, running across fields in frigid temperatures and wind chills.  One teacher texted me twenty minutes after the announcement that the drill was over, still hiding with his class in an area without a speaker.

What do I appreciate about my colleagues?  It's easy to talk about the resources they share, or the giggles at lunchtime.  The friendships, the support, and the way they listen, even if all you have to do is rant for a minute to feel better.  But today I appreciated something I'd never really thought about before -- I trust these colleagues with my life, and the lives of my students.  They are consummate professionals who prove themselves day in and day out with their dedication to their jobs, and the success of their students.

Who has my back and that of every student?  My colleagues.


Monday, November 17, 2014

This Blog Thing.

A friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook telling me that she referenced this blog in her pre-observation conference with her principal as a tool she uses for reflection on her teaching, and as a means of adapting strategies in her own classroom.  I was so humbled and flattered by her kindness, both for being a dedicated reader, and for reaching out with a kudo!

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge for today:

Nov 17 -  One thing that is different from a year ago that I am grateful for...

 If you had told me a year ago -- heck, even six months ago -- that I would be blogging on a daily basis, I would have laughed, brushed it off, and blamed my schedule (among other things) for the reason why such a commitment would never become a reality.  And it's not to say that I don't drag myself home some nights and think, "Dear Lord, I have to BLOG before I can sleep?", but I really have found enjoyment in this whole reflective process.

Honestly, after the first month, my intent was to cut back to a blog entry a couple of times a week. When I mentioned this to my mother, she informed me that reading my blog had become part of her day, and provided "a window into my classroom."  Here's where I hope my own kids are reading my blog when I say -- "You should ALWAYS do what your mother suggests."

So here I am, after 79 straight days of posting, being grateful for this daily outlet.  Blogging has made me a much more thoughtful teacher.  My lesson planning is stronger, and the logic with which I approach education in general is much more evaluative.  I've connected with other teachers across the world, and now include people from New Zealand and Australia in my PLN.

So while public education has changed -- for the worse, in the eyes of many -- in the last year, THIS teacher has changed for the better.

All because of a four letter word (see the entry on the power of four letter words) - B-L-O-G.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What the heck is a HORT?

I value human kindness and support.  I was originally thinking I should add "more than most people" to that last sentence, but who am I to judge what others are thinking -- especially during the month of gratefulness.
This weekend, I presented for the first time at a national conference. To say that I'm on Gifted Education overload right now is a tremendous understatement.   Five days and four nights in Baltimore, where the conversation about teaching, intelligence, technology, (standards, groan), and changing the world, one life at a time, interrupted sleep schedules, meal schedules, and conversations in mid-sentence to share another story or idea.  

And every single minute was worth the expense, the time away from family, and the pages and pages of lesson plans left for my substitute.

Nov 16 What is the most powerful aspect of being a connected educator? What are you grateful for?

11 pm Wednesday:  I circle the "Arrival Loop" at BWI Airport.  Given that I had been out of bed at 5:15 am, the sunroof was open blasting just enough cold air on my head and face to keep me awake.  Simultaneously, the heated seats were on HIGH.   This was a necessity, as was the extra coat in the back seat.   I was at the airport to pick up my roomie, Susan Simpson, and I knew her Texas blood was not ready for the Baltimore temperatures.

Susan and I go way back.  Okay, way back to 2011 when we first met at UCONN, after being masterfully matched by the immeasurable Judith Mathews who had surveyed the list of incoming Three Summers cohort and assigning apartment-mates.  Nina, Susan and I bonded that summer, and Carrie, (next door for the first summer) moved in with us the following year.  We were all above forty.  Okay, above fifty, and marveled, suspiciously, at the alcohol, late nights, and lifestyle pace of the twenty-somethings in our building who were back for their second of three summers.  Susan was coming, all the way from Houston Texas, to attend the NAGC National Conference.

To support me.

As soon as I found out that our presentation proposal was accepted, I shared it with my UCONN cohort on our shared facebook page, and Susan immediately started courting her professional development approver for permission to attend.

We attended the conference, reflected on sessions, met up with others in the field of gifted ed.  We bought resources for our classrooms, and learned about many free ones.  We plotted about potential grant proposals we could write to support some of the too-many ideas we're taking home.

On Friday night, there was an alumni cocktail party for UCONN. Susan and I both had RSVP'd via email long before the exhaustion of Friday night made us realize that the party started at NINE PM.  Clearly this party was planned by those 2nd years from 2011.  

Instead of attending, we put on our pjs and called Carrie in Bainbridge, WA.  Our speakerphone conversation was its own alumni event, and concluded shortly after the UCONN party.  Could we have attended?  Yes.  Had we seen everyone during the previous two days at the conference?  Pretty much.  Connecting with Carrie made it seem like she was there.

In the middle of the night on Friday, I awoke and spent a lot of time thinking.  I was nervous about the presentation, I was not used to the noises of the city, and I missed the 35 on my Sleepnumber bed.  And then I wondered.  

HORT.  What the heck is a HORT?

Co-chairs, Co-presidents, Cooperate, Collaborate, Cohabit.  English tells us that the prefix "co" indicates two or more doing something together.  So what is a cohort?  It's a weird word, yet I've spent the last four years clinging to the preciousness of the word.  I am bonded, inextricably, to Carrie, Kiersten, Nancy, Kim, Nina, Rudd, Melissa, Susan, and the rest of my cohort, and I can only articulate that "we are a cohort."

According to, the only definition provided for HORT is as an abbreviation for horticulture or horticultural.  

the science and art of cultivating....

 We are connected educators.  We are, and always will be, a cohort, collectively, and individually practicing the science and art of cultivating the minds and talents of gifted students.  And I am so very grateful for each and every one of them.

4:33 am Sunday (Today):  I awoke before Susan's  alarm, which I thought was set for 4:30.  Her flight out of BWI was scheduled for 6:48 am necessitating at 5 am-ish (as opposed to Amish) departure from our hotel. 

As we traveled into the ARRIVALS loop shortly after 5 am, I stopped in front of the United entry point and Susan exited the vehicle after a quick hug.  The last time we said goodbye, it was an ugly, sobbing, hugging scene in a parking lot in Willimantic, CT.  I was determined not to have one of those post-cry headaches for the remainder of the day, so I kept the proverbial stiff upper lip.

The last words I heard Susan say, as the sliding door on the van closed was, "I miss you already."

I miss you too.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Four Letter W@rDs!

CODE is a four letter word.
Yup, really, it is.  No denying it.
One of my seniors carries around a spiral notebook and a pencil and crouches on his chair like a gnome with his feet curled in different directions, and scribbles what appears to be something that can only be classified as 21st century Elfish on every line, occasionally stopping, looking up at the ceiling, and erasing, furiously, only to start the whole procedure again.

For somebody who registered for college courses by walking around the giant gymnasium complex (with floors covered with tarps so we wouldn't scar the floors with our flipflops?), gathering giant punch cards from tables representing each of the departments, trading them like Pokemon cards at recess with each other until we had "the perfect schedule", and then turning them in to be fed into a computer larger than most of the cars we would ever drive in our lifetimes, technology should  also be a four letter word in my book.  

Fortunately for me, TECH is more than four letters. 

The Te@chthought Blog Challenge prompt of the day:

Nov 15 What tech tools are you most grateful for? Why? How have they changed what you do?

This morning, I'm waking up for the third day in Baltimore at the NAGC Conference in Baltimore.  The wake up process happened early, as the sounds in my room were not conducive to sleep, and my mind was just a little preoccupied with the myriad of potential downfalls that might await me and my presentation (scheduled for 3 pm today, if you're in the area!).

Around 4 am, I grabbed my ipad and put Billy Joel on itunes repeat, plugged in my too thick-to-sleep-on-your-side headphones and tried to go back to sleep.

I woke up an hour later, completely versed in all the lyrics of We Didn't Start the Fire, wondering whether I could read the notes on my ipad attached to the presentation that my presentation partner and I developed last summer.  It's now 8 am, and I have given up the hope of figuring out how to do that before Leslie arrives sometime this afternoon.  (We'll have time to practice, right?)

Am I Tech Savvy?  Not nearly as much as I'd like to be.  I'd like to think that I am more savvy than the  average 53 year old?  I hope so.  I'm very competitive.

I spent my first day of the conference in (imagine!) "Building Better Blogs to Promote the 4 C's:  Creativity, Critical thinking, Collaboration and Communication - a breakout session about blogging - both professionally, and with students.  The presenters were delightful and engaging,  (shout out to Brian Housand, Tamara Fisher, Ian Byrd and Maria Selke), had quality advice that actually had the entire audience scribbling or typing frantically with their additional "off the cuff" ideas as they talked.
Somehow, I wound up in the same room in the afternoon for "The Synergistic Experience of Coding:  Uniting Creativity, Motivation and the Common Core."  (Lauri Kirsch, Brian Housand, Christie Ray)

Now I had dabbled with the Hour of Code last year, with the promise from the organizers that it basically teaches itself, which, for a 53 year old multi-tasking Teacher of the Gifted, is ALWAYS a good selling point.  But here I found myself in a safe little place where I could observe, and ask questions.  Again, a fab session, and I feel so much more confident with the impending arrival of Bo and Yana (even though they are now in the Witness Protection Program and have changed their names to Dash and Dot.)

So, yes, Tech Tools that I love now -- Googledocs, Dropbox, Flashdrives, ( they hand them out like candy on Halloween here!), Googleblogger (DUH!), Schoology, ipads, macbooks, doc camera, and my new, school issued,  Yoga Lenovo.  All a far cry from punchcards at South Campus at West Chester State College.

To quote Whitney, one of my DJH colleagues, "Thank you, baby Jesus."

#reflectiveteacher  #nagc14

Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm Going to Count to Five.


 It's easy to feel grateful this time of year.  Society is in a ramped up state of constant reminders -- and as one of my students reminded the entire class, November is the month to be grateful for all you have, only to be followed by the month of greatest greed/want as the holiday shopping launches into full swing.  

Quite frankly, at the end of the day, regardless of the events of the day, I am grateful for the continued opportunity I have every day to hang with the kids that I do and learn the lessons that I learn, while trying to teach THEM something.

Te@chthough Blog Challenge prompt of the day:

Nov 14 Name 5 things you are grateful to have learned in your teaching career.

1.  Acronym Awareness.  Educators thrive on acronyms as their own verbal shorthand.  Recently, I've been faced with a Curriculum Review Action Plan (CRAP), a Student Learning Objective Process Template (yes, a SLOP template, courtesy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's Department of Education) and, my favorite (although not a DIRECT connection to me) Teacher Improvement Training System.  (Go ahead, figure it out.)   Suffice it to say, I am extra observant when I create anything that might be referred to in shorthand.  Or posted on facebook. Or tweeted.  Or, well, you get the idea.  If and when I need to create a name for something, I am VERY aware of the potential acronym ramifications.
2.  Somebody's got my back.  No matter what, no matter when, teachers support each other.  We laugh together, cry together, cover homerooms, offer lesson plans, and share everything willingly.  It might be the teachers in my department, the gang at A lunch, teachers in other buildings in my district, or support from my multi-faceted PLN.  The biggest cheerleaders of teachers are other teachers.

3.  Learners are more successful when they actually own their learning.  It's true.  It takes time, and it is totally worth it.  Creating a democratic classroom is the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Okay, maybe even BETTER than sliced bread.

4.  Teachers are addicted to learning.  Call it an occupational hazard.  I spend significantly more money on Amazon for "pleasure reading" that is entirely tied to my classroom than any guilty pleasure reading.  I thrive when I'm enrolled in graduate learning, and am still looking for my next challenge.  (Anybody interested in joining me in the "Creativity and Innovation" certificate program at Drexel?)

5.  Humor will make any situation better.  Directives may change.  Lesson plan formats may be tossed and restructured.   Opossums can reduce stress and help teachers to connect with students. (See story #2 on Seth's blog,)   The best thing about education (facetiousness implied) is its ability to change everything, and nothing, simultaneously.

Objectives may now be known as Essential Questions, and maybe my Essential Questions aren't kid-friendly enough.  So earlier this week I changed my EQ on synesthesia from "How does a combination of senses contribute to perspective and understanding?" to "Why does Derek taste like earwax?"  It was a great discussion, a great lesson, and one of those buried EQs that may or may not attract the attention of an administrator while reviewing my lesson plans.

If an administrator asks, I'll point him towards ME Pearl.  (Again, see either Opossums or Seth's Blog, both linked above.)

P.S.  The conference is more amazing than one could ever hope.  I have no clue how many people are actually here in Baltimore, but every single one of them is excited, engaged, and focused on improving the world of Gifted Education.

Be afraid, be very afraid.  I'm coming home with MANY ideas!