The View

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Next fall, the boys should start Kindergarten at the K-5 school down the street with 1400 other students. This is more people than the town where I attended elementary school. The boys’ local school also doesn’t have a true dual language program, so we asked for a transfer to another, smaller dual language public school. Yet, there are only 40 spots available for over 100 students. Worried the boys might not get in, we searched alternatives. I’m a huge proponent for public schools, but we did look into a charter school across town.

Last month, I went to tour the charter school that has about 200 students K-5. The school runs almost an hour longer than public schools here, but they offer violin for every student two times a week. Art twice a week, too. And, they have lacrosse, Aikido, and fencing—besides recess. They have enrichment classes after school that include cooking, art, dancing, drama, or guitar.

Most of the public elementary schools here have either P.E. or art. Classroom teachers usually incorporate art into their lessons, rather than a true art class at least once a week. P.E. happens when it can. (I’ve known middle school students who’ve never had art as an elective & only one quarter of P.E. in three years.) Unless you’re in band, you won’t play an instrument or have chorus—ever—at least in middle school, though the public elementary school we visited did not have a regular music program.either. That means no regular schedule for music, dance, or art for students.

I just don’t understand why everyone can’t have what the charter school offers. Why can’t there be only 200 students per building? Why can’t every kid get art AND P.E. AND music? Why do we insist on spending our money on a test that my colleagues and I could sit down and guess-ta-mate within a few percentage points accuracy for each of our students, yet fail to inspire kids through the arts and physical education?

As I stood on the second floor of this charter school looking out to the mesa towards my school, I couldn’t help compare the two sites. Here, this school stood with massive windows presenting the outside world like a gift. Students could sketch the mountains from their seats in every room. There are few if any windows in our building because the district worried about vandalism and the price to repair windows. Even though we have an incredible view outside, in the majority of classrooms at my school, students look at a white, cinder block wall.

There were downsides at the charter school, too, like a missing cafeteria and no real play area (they’re working on it). But overall, I was amazed at how much students received compared to my building. When we stunt students’ growth by limiting their experiences, it’s not really a surprise they’re not as proficient as we expect. Below is a picture from my barrack window. Compared to the picture of the mountains from above, where would you feel more inspired?

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Madness

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The clock is ticking, and I’ve hardly had a chance to look at my bracket. Will Wichita St. do the unthinkable and have an undefeated season and win the tournament??? Will Nebraska and Creighton win their first rounds only to face off against each other? Will the Lobos make it to the second round? These are tough decisions I’ll be making in the next few hours.

Who’s in your final four?

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I Got Kind of Distracted

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One of my favorite singers, Ani Difranco, whose known for her overtly political song lyrics has banter from a live show included on one of her albums. As she focused on writing songs about relationships, critics worried she’d moved away from politics. “No man,” she says, “it’s just, I got kind of distracted.”

Well, like Ani, I’ve been a little distracted, too. With all the work for the National Boards, I’ve been neglecting my blog. But I do have a solid draft of two of my entries (there are four total), and I found out my days of stressing about videotaping are behind me. I now have two official videos to deconstruct, analyze, agonize over, and eventually wish I’d never even looked at! This is progress.

I may seem like a wayward girlfriend right now, but don’t worry. I’m here, plugging away.

What distracts you??

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Be Mine

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I’m dreading the super-hyped up, sugar-coma induced, love-intoxified, hormone-driven, inevitable tear-producing day that will ensue tomorrow. Yes, for those of you outside a classroom, you may have to endure a day where the lady three cubicles away will act overwhelmingly surprised by the dozen roses her “sweet husband” sent to her. Or maybe you’re the poor sap who shilled out the money for the overpriced cliche of a present. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that most of you adults out there will be living out your Valentine’s Day in your own adult way.

We teachers will be soothing the egos of rejected boys and girls, drying the tears of the girl whose boyfriend (if you can really call it that) “cheated” on her because he danced with her frenemy during the Valentine’s Day dance, and trying to encourage the shy one with the crush to just go on and give that special someone the sweet, handwritten note. Yes, there’s no doubt it will be an eventful day tomorrow filled with ups and downs, middle school drama, and an overpowering aroma of Axe in the air.  Wish me luck!

What’s your favorite middle school Valentine’s Day memory?

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Super Bowl Sunday

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In honor of the big game, I dug into the archives for a repeat. Go Broncos!

In the far-flung corner of northeastern Colorado where I grew up, almost everyone I knew cheered for the Broncos. On Sunday afternoons, if I were helping my dad with chores—putting in metal fence posts around a golden-stalked cornfield or moving farm equipment—we’d listen to the game on the radio.

As a kid, I often watched the games at my grandparents’ house. During halftime, I’d go to the machine shed and shoot baskets or play one-on-one with my sister. We’d return to the house just in time for the second half and bowls of homemade caramel corn  Gram had whipped up—a treat to savor during the rest of the game.

On the playground the next week, in a tiny prairie town, my elementary school classmates and I would take turns being John Elway, Sammy Winder, Steve Watson, shoeless Rich Karlis, among others. We’d imitate the jukes and jives we’d seen on TV. In our imaginations, we were as graceful as any professional, though I’m sure our teachers watched with quiet amusement.

Now that I’m a teacher, my students (almost all Dallas Cowboy fans) tease me unmercifully about cheering for the Broncos. When I tell them that I’ve been rooting for the Broncos since before they were born, the subject quickly changes to “How old are you miss? You must be seriously old! Tell us the truth. . .were the dinosaurs your pets?”

Who was your favorite childhood team? Do you still cheer for them?

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NDQ

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In all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I forgot to let you know  the new issue of North Dakota Quarterly is on the shelves. You’ll find my essay “Jimmy” front and center! But, I’m even more excited to tell you that it’s in the same magazine where you’ll find poems by former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser. He’s one of my absolute favorites, so I’m feeling pretty good right now!

What do you feel good about?

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Resolutions

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During our sparkling cider toast on New Year’s Eve, the boys decided on some really good resolutions.

Kiki said he wants to play games, look at clouds, climb trees, make letters, ride bikes, play Legos at school, draw, and have fun.

Javi decided he wants to ride bikes, look at birds and clouds, practice basketball, read bedtime stories at night, read Batman books, make letters, have a family day, and a family night.

The boys helped Miguel with his resolutions, too. They thought he should play Legos with them, ride bikes with them, get a good night sleep, and relax when he’s tired.

My resolutions are to submit my National Boards, continue this blog, try to get to yoga a little more often, and have fun with the boys.

Over all, I think our resolutions are very doable.

I know it’s a little late, but what resolutions do you have for 2014?

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