Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Report: Blue Like Jazz

So I've heard about this book many different times and from many different people, but I never got around to reading it. I recently paid a visit to the mother of all Half Price Bookstores on Northwest Highway (shout out to Half Price books by the way...teachers get 10% off!), and I picked up Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller on CD.

I've been anti-books on CD since the Jackson/Twilight debacle 0f 2006, but I thought it might be fun to listen to on my little commute to work and back. I cannot tell you what a wonderful surprise of a blessing this book was!

In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller shares aspects of his spiritual journey through a series of short essays. His essays are so raw and real, and they particularly appealed to me - a lover of Jesus who at times has a distrust of the institutional church. The best part was that Donald Miller read the book for the CD, so I felt like I had a buddy in the car with me all of the time -- an extremely intelligent, insightful, passionate, Christian buddy. I even found myself sitting in the driveway many times to finish a chapter before going inside.

Blue Like Jazz reminded me that it is important to ask questions, to search, and to discover the truths of the bible. The book is not preachy, but it challenges us to get to the heart of what we believe and live that everyday.

Read this book. That is all.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Friday 5....on Saturday

Better late than never!

5. Gloria's Gloria's Hallelujah!
One reason I love my job is that my classroom can be anywhere....even at one of my all time faves-Gloria's Mexican Restaurant. That's right...I got to take a student to lunch at Gloria's to teach social skills! I got to introduce my favorite 8 year old to none other than Gloria's bean dip. Love.

4. Pumpkin Guts
That's what we called the inside of the pumpkins growing up. This week, 3 of my students got to feel pumpkin guts for the first time when we carved pumpkins in my classroom. One of the students is 17 years old! It's amazing what some of my students have missed out on, and it's so much fun that I get to help them experience new things!

3. Oh. My. Gaw.
Yup, that's one of my preschool students' new favorite sayings. Even though I corrected him for saying it...I have to admit, it's pretty hilarious coming from his little mouth. And like he said, "It's not a bad word!"

2. Ninja Turtles
Yesterday an 8 year old asked me if I have ever heard of the Ninja Turtles. Seriously? Leonardo and I are BFF.

RANGERS WIN! And I'm keeping my fingers crossed for Baylor to keep their lead against UT! Sic 'em!

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flu Shot

I am a huge fan of the flu shot. However, I've been extra busy lately and have failed to make the stop to get mine despite the fact that it has been on my to-do list for about a month. So, you can image my excitement when I saw the flu shot memo on the clinic door at my school. Score.

I was telling my student about the flu shot when he asked, "Mrs. Chambers, do people die from the flu?" I explained that most healthy people do not die from the flu but that the flu can be very dangerous for people that are either very sick already or that are old and frail.

"Old, Mrs. Chambers? Like...25?"

Well, I guess I left myself wide open for that one.

Hope that made you smile like it did me. Oh, and get your flu shot.


Monday, October 25, 2010

CURE ALS Golf Tournament 2010

On Friday, I shared with one of my elementary students that I was going to be very busy over the weekend with a golf tournament. Per the usual, he had many questions for me: Would I be playing? How many people would be there? How does the tournament work? Will you get paid? Luckily, I'm used to the reel of questions....I explained that I wasn't playing, I was organizing and helping, and that my family was holding the tournament to raise money for a really great cause.

"Oh, Mrs. for charity??" he asked. "Those are the best kind!"

Sometimes it's hard to tell if my little guy is 8 or 38.

Of course he was right. My family and some amazing friends have spent months planning for this tournament to raise money for our nonprofit, CURE ALS. My father was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease a year ago, and we have made it our mission to raise money for research to find a treatment and a cure. Now, I know I haven't been a part of many golf tournaments, and I may be a little biased, but it seemed like this charity tournament WAS the best kind. :)

The weather was wonderful, the course was beautiful, and we raised a lot of money..but truly, the people, their generosity, and the camaraderie the event elicited made it perfect. Seeing my dad, my family, and such a huge network of people who care gave me a renewed sense of hope for the journey that awaits my family and all those affected by this nasty disease.

Thanks to all of you who came out and made the day such a success and so much fun.


Friday, October 15, 2010

White Cane Day

Today we celebrated the ever-so-popular holiday: White Cane Day. White cane, you ask? Yes, I would be referring to the long white canes that people who are blind or visually impaired use to travel. And YES, there happens to be a day to celebrate these things. But let me just tell you that the day was both eventful and meaningful in many ways. The eventfulness started early...

7:30 am
I set out on my morning commute to work, headed down I35. Suddenly, my dashboard started beeping at me, and my tire went flat. I was lucky enough to have exited in time, but what a helpless feeling! I was stuck. I don't even know how to change a tire. However, my sweet dad came to my rescue. Just in time for me to get to school for the field trip....

9:00 am
Yes, this would be the field trip celebration of White Cane Day at City Hall. My 8 year old student was literally bouncing off the walls with excitement. I humored him in his excitement but secretly doubted the amazingness that would be 100 blind people parading around City Hall and keeping my student on task during hours of speakers. Am I a horrible person for thinking this?

Maybe. Everything was nice. Teachers accompanied students on a walk around City Hall with many other blind people in the community. We enjoyed turkey sandwiches and prepared to listen to some speakers. Could this simply be just a nice break from the grind of the school day?

No. The speakers were amazing. Many of the speakers were members of the community with a visual impairment who are successful and fabulous and motivating. They encouraged the crowd to remember that a visual impairment may be a loss of eyesight but not a loss of "vision." I was encouraged to make a difference for my students and hoped my student was encouraged as well...Oh wait, I think my student is sleeping....

I guess I was wrong. As we returned to school and I prepared to send him back to class, my student asked if we could practice reading. Ummmmm, sure? He told me that he listened to the speakers talk about how he could do anything he put his mind to, and he wanted to get better at reading. He also told me that this celebration of the white cane made him think about how his white cane can remind him that he can do anything or go anywhere he wants to go. He told me that hearing the speakers and being around others who are blind reminded him that he is not the only one who can't see and that he must work hard to achieve his dreams.

As my little guy headed out for the weekend, I sat there dumbfounded. Man, he seriously never ceases to amaze me with his ability to humble me. And here is what I learned today:

1. Kids will surprise you. They just might be listening when you least expect it. You never know when they might actually hear something that will resonate within.

2. Maybe I can be more open to hearing those messages sometimes, too.

3. Feeling stranded with my flat was a temporary feeling. Nothing a quick call to roadside assistance and a really good dad can't fix. My students and the blind people in the community probably have that feeling much more often. And yes, I think we DO need to celebrate that white cane and all it signifies for these individuals.

4. A girl needs to be rescued by her Daddy every now and then. :)


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book Report: The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo

Maybe one of the reasons I love teaching kids to read is because reading is one of my favorite things to do. Some of my earliest memories are going to the library with my mom, loading up our library bag (we were green even then!), and spending the day with my books.

I don't have as much time to read now it seems, but I love it just as much.

My latest read to "diskuss": The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson

After hearing SO much about this book, I finally decided to give it a whirl. It's not the typical book I read (I am much more into cute girly books or anything with a cute picture on the front), but it was super interesting, suspenseful, and intense. It was hard to put down (once I actually found the time to pick it up!)

Something interesting I have heard about Stieg Larsson's inspiration for writing is that he witnessed a gang rape as a teenager, and he felt a strong regret over never stepping up to help the girl. This girl's name was Lisbeth, which is the name of one of the main characters in this book. The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo (and the other 2 books in the Millennium Trilogy) are based on themes of sexual violence. What an important, relevant concept. Consequently, it also makes many scenes difficult to read. I even had to stop reading the book before bed to avoid nightmares.

The book is different for me because I didn't feel myself identifying with any of the characters, but I also found myself so interested in each of them for their unique qualities. The book has so many stories within the story that kept me on my toes, anticipating how the stories would eventually intertwine.

That being said, I would highly recommend reading this book! I can't wait to read the next one.

Have any of y'all read this book? What did you think?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday 5

3 work moments + 2 non-work moments = Friday 5

5. I asked one of my young students what he had for lunch yesterday. "Nothing," he said. "Nothing???" I asked. "Nope. Just Spaghetti," he said. He went on to explain to me that it had no meat; therefore, it did not count. This is REALLY funny to me because I have had the exact conversation with my husband, and it was actually the cause of our very first fight. :)

4. If you read my post from the other day, you know that I had a moment where I fell FLAT on my face in the hallway. One of my students has proceeded to ask me EVERY day since then if I remember when that happened. Obviously, he is not going to let me forget it!

3. Picture day! There is nothing more adorable than seeing all of the students all dressed up for picture day. One of my elementary students informed me that he even had his "dancing shoes" on! Love.

2. My little brother turned 23! We celebrated Jason this week, and it was so fun to be back in Texas and share the special day in person. We had a great family dinner at this great restaurant in downtown Grapevine:

1. The Rangers, Braves, and Yankees are ALL in the post season! It's been a week of nail biting, jersey wearing, and "bling" rubbing! Talk about a house divided!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Shorty got low low low low

Ever think you should have a theme song for your day? Or maybe that Rachel Berry could come around the corner any minute and break out in song on her way to glee club practice with the New Directions? Today, I think FLO Rida could sing my theme song...."She Hit the Floor."

Yup, that's right...the floor and I had it out today. Here's why:

1. One of my blind students uses small cubes as manipulatives to solve math problems. Somewhere during hour 3 of administering a standardized math test to this student, he slowly counted "116, 117, 118....." BOOOM! His arm swept across the desk and small cubes flew everywhere. [Cue FLO Rida] "She hit the floor! Next thing you know!"

2. Somewhere during hour 5 of the testing, I realized that in the shuffle of students, I hadn't eaten anything yet and the coffee jitters were unbearable. Aha! I reached for my new favorite snack- a Lara Bar ...(check them out at bread, my favorite! Plop. [Cue FLO Rida] "Next thing you know! Shorty got low low low low!"

3. The day was almost over! We had all survived the testing. My student and I were laughing about something, relieved for the end of the day. Too bad about that small puddle outside of my classroom. I fell. Hard. Face First. Classic. FLO Rida, you got this.

Five minutes later my student says, "Mrs. Chambers, remember when you fell flat on the floor?" Got to love it.

Just thought I'd share because if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at right?
Here's to staying far from the floor tomorrow!


Monday, October 4, 2010

A Twinkle of Kindness

Last week, one of my little nuggets and I faced some challenges as we weaseled and worked our way through some proverbial red tape in order to get him placed in a new class.

Just for the record, sometimes I think this "red tape" has blinking flashing lights with my name on it along with a carnival man with a megaphone shouting "step right up!" I was still sticky with my last bought with the tape, but Little Nugget (LN) and I took on the challenge anyway. Thus, I was feeling worn down.

Enter Ms. C.

Ms. C. is LN's new teacher, and my own personal angel, I'm sure. Ms. C. reminded me this week that it's sometimes the little acts of kindness and care that make the biggest difference, for a frustrated teacher and a nervous LN.

Ms. C showed us little acts of kindness like teaching her class to sing LN a welcome song on his first day, like letting LN be her special helper all day long, like changing snack time to "right now" because LN just wasn't sure about his new class. And then today:
LN showed me how Ms. C. taught him to flash his fingers like twinkling stars. LN is blind; he has never seen the stars. But Ms. C. took the time to teach him this fact and explain to him this wonder.

This week, Ms. C. was my twinkling star during a week that felt dim and dull. And Ms. C. reminded me that a little twinkle can go a long way.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday 5

Considering it was a short week for students and teachers (making teacher inservice day and fair day numbers 1-5 on the work top 5 countdown this week), this week's top 5 will consist of the top 5 moments of my day trip to Canton with Mom.

For those of you who haven't been, Canton's "First Monday Trade Days" is the world's largest event of its kind. Think: 1 part antique, 1 part garage sale, 1 part flea market, 1 part art ...add in a little fair food... BOOM! You've got Canton.

Here goes... the top 5 favorite moments of the day:

5. Glass Bottle. Mom was on a hunt for some unique glass bottles for her homemade Sambuca and Limoncello. After some wheeling and dealing with the vendor, she scored a neat little glass bottle for next to nothing. Being a true salesman, the vendor tried to add on the sale by pointing our attention to an Elvis Christmas record. Sir, if you're out there, I appreciated your enthusiasm, and who doesn't love The King...but seriously? We've chuckled about it all day. Really, what shouts "Elvis Christmas" better than this?

4. Leg Lamp. One thing you should know is that Canton has everything. Mom and I had fun pointing out the most random of items. At one point, Mom says (through laughter), "Stace, do you need a Leg Lamp, like on Christmas Vacation?" I looked in the direction she was pointing. "Mom," I said, "That's not a leg lamp. That's an actual prosthetic leg."

3. Treasures. I'll post pics later of my two special finds that I discovered for Jared...they are still a surprise. It was so much fun finding little "treasures" that I know he will love. Something I bet you didn't know you could buy at Canton: Brownie Points.

2. Tables. I was on a hunt for some table legs for an inspired desk that Jared and I have in mind for our new house. I found something even better. Here are my two cute new tables that will soon be ends to a side-by-side desk, thanks to be handy-man husband!

1. Mom. Living in Texas means that I got the day off because of the Texas State Fair. Then I got to drive east with my mom for a full day with her! Antiques, haggling, treasures, tables, cornbread sandwiches, and fresh-squeezed lemonade...what a treat to spend a fun fall day with such a special lady.

Anyone free next First Monday?