Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Last real day of school--Hooray!

Three days of finals and another year is in the books.  I'm happy to say that I survived another year.  This one was a rough one for sure.  I learned a lot about myself and made it through some difficult situations.  I look forward to resting and rejuvenating this summer and know that next year will be much better.  Surely it cannot be as stressful as this year has been.  At least I have my quilting to keep me sane.

Here we go

Final week of school for the 2015/2016 year.  At times I thought I'd never make it and at times the year sped by.  Weird how that can happen.  Here's hoping for an uneventful day.

Monday, May 30, 2016

productive weekend

11 hours of grading this weekend and I still managed to get 5 quilts done.  I counted and there are 74 quilts hanging in the closet in my son's room.  He came home for a little bit this weekend and 'gently' reminded me that he would like his room back when he returns in 2 weeks.  There is no way I will have all 74 quilts quilted by the time he returns, but at least I know how many there are and have an idea of where I need to go to get them all done.  Once summer is here, I will have lots more time for quilting.

My daughter gave me her old iPhone 5 last week and I'm loving having so many things that I can do on my phone now.  I downloaded an app called Productive that lets me keep track of all of the things I want to do in a day.  Things like drink more water and take the dogs for a walk and read my Bible and do more quilting.  Some days I just want to sit on the couch and be lazy, like today, but getting a little reminder that there are things to be done helps get me off the couch and get some things done around the house.

I've decided it is really time to tackle the mess that is in the garage so I started in one corner and have actually thrown things away.  Today I threw away the banner I made for my oldest daughter's soccer team when she was about 7.  She is now 26.  If you could tell me why I still had it after all of these years, that would be great.  It had stars on it with all the names of the players painted on.  I have no idea who these girls ar.  It was covered with spider webs and falling apart, yet there it sat for the past 19 years, waiting for today.

I also threw away some things that had been ruined by moths and rats.  I once had visions of spinning my own yarn and came across some wool that was full of moths and bobbing that had been chewed by rats.  Into the trash they went.  I can actually see the floor in one corner of the garage and the garbage can is full.  Good thing we have two cans, so there is one for the house garbage.  Pick up day is Thursday.  Now, to keep motivated throughout the summer and hopefully get rid of half the stuff that is out there that hasn't been touched in the 11 years we've lived in this house.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

time warp?

Why is it time goes by so much faster on the weekend than during the week days?  Surely there is a time warp phenomenon going on.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

being productive

I did manage to get a couple of quilts done this week.  This is made with 3 1/2 inch strips.  Having the Accuquilt Strip dies is so handy for cutting up bits and pieces of leftover scraps.  I get a TON of scraps donated and sometimes they are such odd shapes and sizes and throwing them on the strip dies just makes the most sense.  Then, you just sew them end to end until you have a very long strip.  Decide on the width of the quilt and cut all of your strips that length.  Grab random strips and sew, sew, sew.  In a couple of hours, you have a top put together.

I love the randomness of quilts like this, but I'm sure you could pick a color scheme or cut the 3 1/2 inch strips into different lengths as well for a more planned look.

These quilts will be donated to the people of Fort McMurray once we get a bunch.  I'm hoping to have enough collected by July 15 to get a shipment sent up, but the date isn't set in stone.

Today I found time to start the great garage clean out.  I actually threw some things away rather than just moved things around.  One of my students is collecting kids books for her aunt who teaches in a low income school in Southern California.  I went through a couple of my buckets of kids books from when I taught first grade and picked out a box full.  I had probably 50 boxes of books at one time and now I'm down to about 4.  I'm saving all of the Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears because those are MY favorites.  I think I have every one in each series and maybe one day I will have grandkids to read the to.

What a week this has been

On Tuesday, my youngest had his band concert.  He plays the trumpet and was excited to be playing for the parents.  It was standing room only which is a good sign that music is alive and well in the elementary school.  He plans to continue playing next year in the middle school so may be following in his brother's footsteps.  All of my kids played an instrument in elementary school.

My oldest daughter played the clarinet, daughter #2 played clarinet, then switched to flute when she found out there were too many clarinet players.  My oldest son played trombone and then the youngest plays the trumpet.  Of course they couldn't all play the same instrument, that would just make too much sense.  When the girls got to the middle school, they gave up their instruments for other interests, but my son continued and still plays trombone in college.  He loves jazz music best and I've come to appreciate it after having to listen to it for so many years.  At first I thought it was just noise, but once it was explained to me year after year, I began to hear what others were hearing and now I actually enjoy most of it.  Sometimes when a soloist gets in their own zone and just goes off, I go back to those first days of thinking, what are they doing? But at least I understand what they are trying to do.

Then on Wednesday, this happened.

He was one of my students.  I have him in my 5th period class and they got him during 4th.  I found out later he was planning on jumping another student because of a belt.  Really?  You ruin your life over a belt?  He's a student I had concerns about at the very beginning of the year.  I asked for a parent meeting, the parent showed up and met with the other teachers but because I have a 7th period class, she couldn't wait the extra few minutes for me to finish class and just left.  I was the one who asked for the meeting and she told the counselor she had heard enough and knew what she needed to do to help her son.

We had another meeting a couple of months ago because he still wasn't doing well or passing any classes.  I left that meeting sad that things were not going to change.

The next morning I got an email from a different parent saying there was another student in a different class with a 'kill list'.  He's an odd student, very reserved who refuses to talk to anyone.  That parent thought it might have been this student who was finally acting out on his list.  I informed the administration who searched the student and didn't find anything.  There wasn't really anything they could do.

That same day I had to file a CPS report on a student who got in a fight with her stepfather and spent the previous day in juvenile hall.

Sheep dissection lab
Yesterday a student in another class fainted during a lab and the paramedics had to be called because she hit her head hard on the way down.  We have some co-teaching classes with the special ed department and the co-teacher decided she did not want to participate in the dissection so just didn't show up to class.  That was the class where the student fainted and left the teacher with a class full of students and no extra help.  He had to deal with a student passed out, no one to call for help and of course the kids all freaking out.

heart, lungs, trachea, liver, gall bladder
We've been fighting all year with the administration and special ed department about these co-teaching classes because of things like this where the co-teacher isn't doing what they are supposed to do.  Imagine if I just decided not to show up to my class one day!  I'm pretty sure I'd get in trouble.  But nothing ever happens when they don't show up, or come late or leave early and they get paid the same as the regular classroom teacher.

You have to get your hands dirty in this job.  The kids just love it!  Some of them decided a heart surgeon was not their calling.
We are getting some training this summer after I've complained almost daily this year and hopefully will have a meeting before school starts next year to lay some ground rules so this doesn't happen again.

 We have 4 days of school left this year, three of which are finals.  To say I'm excited is an understatement.  I have tons of grading to do this weekend and lots of cleaning up to do.  I feel like renting a big dumpster and just throwing everything away and starting over, but that would be too easy!  But, I'm in the mood to just start purging, which is a good thing.  I also need some serious quilting time to de-stress from this crazy week.  There are days when I wonder what on earth I got myself into by becoming a teacher and then there are moments like yesterday when my students realized it was the end of the year and started asking if they could be in my class again next year.

"Can you request me?"

I told them I have no pull with the counseling office.  If I did, I would hand pick my classes for only students with no drama.  But, what fun would that be?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

no idea

I have no idea where this quilt top came from.  Some of the seams were hand sewn and some were done by machine.  The hand sewn ones were very tiny stitches.  I would guess it was made a long time ago so has aged nicely and is now ready to be finished and gifted to a baby.  It will make a perfect car seat quilt.

Tiny Tumblers

My friend Nancy is the expert at the tumbler quilts.  She takes the smallest scraps that most people would just throw away and lays them out into eye pleasing designs.  She calls them A-B patterns.  She taught Kindergarten for a very long time and now teaches special ed.  These quilts are made with 17x17 blocks or 289 little scraps of fabric.  It's the ultimate recycling project.  These little quilts take a long time to sew together and yet she has the patience to make dozens of them.  She's also really good at the bigger ones, but I think these little ones give her a special kind of pleasure.

All quilters are a little on the crazy size-taking perfectly good fabric, cutting it up and sewing it back together again, but when you can take fabric that is destined for the landfill and turn it into something useful, it brings you back to the roots of quilting.  After all, isn't that the original purpose of a quilt?  To take something like old clothes that were worn out and cut out the parts that were still useable.  A piece from Dad's old jacket and mom's old dress and then sew those small pieces together to make a warm cover for the bed.  Now we just throw those useless things away and run to WalMart to get whatever new things we need.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dusting off the old quilting machine

If we hope to get 500 quilts to Canada by July, I had better get myself busy.  I have probably 100 quilt tops waiting to be quilted so if I can quilt double time, not only will I get quilts finished faster, but I will also clean out the closet for my son when he comes home from college in 3 weeks.  He asked me ever so nicely last weekend when he was home if I would pretty please get all of the quilts out of his room before he came home.  Why not quilt them all up instead of having to move them and then move them again?

Well, I probably won't get all 100 quilts done in 3 weeks, but if I can use both quilting machines at the same time, I can certainly make a bigger dent in the pile!  I had my old quilting machine set up in the living room for the past year or so, but haven't used it yet.  This quilt has been on the frame this whole time.  I have to admit, it is a bit awkward because things are somewhat cramped and I want to move some things around a bit to make some more room to maneuver, but it wasn't as bad as I had envisioned.

Of course, I had better start off slowly, because this machine isn't robotic and I have to push and pull it and I can already feel my shoulder starting to ache.  I don't want to throw it out on the first day.  So, for today, this will be the only quilt I do.  I may go in and try to move some things, or I may just wait until tomorrow to do the next quilt or any more heavy lifting.

9 more days of school and then I can quilt all day if I want to without the worry of injury and not being able to go to work.

And then life happened

O I had grand plans to quilt something every day this week and then life came along and kicked my butt.  Between a couple of migraines Thursday and Friday and grading papers for two hours Tuesday night to not sleeping well every night this week, the days seemed extra long for some reason.

This quilt has been on the machine all week because the thread broke with about 12 inches left of stitching and I just couldn't bring myself to rethread and finish it off.  Some days are like that.  You know a job will only take 5 minutes to complete, but the thought of starting the job is just too overwhelming to even make the first move.

There are only 9 days of school left and this morning I woke up with a newfound energy source and started the day off excited for the weekend.  My daughter sent me her old phone and I wanted to get it working.  I've had a non-smart phone for the longest time and recently it has stopped working half the time.  It won't let me know I have a call and then half the time won't let me make a call.  I know I've missed out on some calls for Binky Patrol so hopefully now that my 'new' phone is working, I won't be missing out anymore.  It's an iPhone 5c and there are a lot of things to learn.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Does anyone know the secret?

So, I go to school yesterday all motivated to make a difference in the lives of children.  Ready to take on the world, educate, empower, inspire the next generation of leaders.

By the end of the day I was ready to throw in the towel.

7th period there was a student working very hard all period.  This is the same student who just last week spent the entire period impersonating Scooby Doo.  He does a really good job, which is a good thing because that may be his future career.  He hasn't worked a day all semester and enjoys getting other students off task.  I was curious as to why he was so focused and on task.  He had come to class 20 minutes late and said he had spent the time in the bathroom.  We have 14 days left in school and I guess he decided it was time to get to work.  His business had been taken care of and he was all cleaned out and now it was finally time to get to work.

At the end of the period, I saw him hand a stack of papers back to his neighbor and walk up to the box where everything gets turned in.  He had a stack of papers that he had copied from his friend and was planning on turning them in.  I let him know that he wasn't going to get credit for any of that work.

"Why don't you just pass me?  This isn't going to help my future!  What difference does it make if I do the work or just copy it!"

So, what is the secret to actually inspiring kids to want to learn?  I've been doing this a long time and have read every book and tried every strategy.  I'm really good at helping kids who want to learn, but I suck at teaching those who just don't care.  I keep them safe from 8-3, which may be all I can ask for, but some days that just doesn't feel like it's enough.

I know parents have a huge role in this whole education process and I have yet to figure out how to encourage them to care more.  I know that students who have parents with high expectations do much better than those who say they don't want to hear from me.  A D is acceptable means a D is what they will get.  Student with straight F's come with the latest I phone and the parents can't understand why their child isn't doing well in school.

13 more days and then we get to do this all over again next year :)

Monday, May 16, 2016

do you love tumbler quilts?

They are some of my favorites.  Of course, I have many favorites, but the ease of sewing these together and the great look of a scrappy or designed tumbler quilt just makes me happy.  My friend Nancy is a pro at putting these together and I just love sending her home with a huge pile of cut tumblers because I know she will return many, many quilt tops for me to quilt up.  I probably have another 20 to quilt.  I have a goal of 10 quilts a week until school gets out and I'm a little behind.  I find that if I load a quilt as soon as I take one off, I am much more likely to stop by on my way in and out of the house to get the next row quilted.  With the robotic quilting machine, you don't have to stand at the machine the whole time it is quilting, but it does take some babysitting when the bobbin runs out and at the end of every row.  At the quilt shop yesterday the ladies were looking at the fancy new machines and we decided we all wanted a quilting machine that would make us dinner while we sat and quilted.  I also want one that folds my laundry and puts it away!  After all these years, you would think someone would have invented a dryer that could at least fold the clothes for you.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Binky Sunday

Today we gathered at A Quilted Heart in Vacaville to work on quilts for the Fort McMurray fire victims.  I didn't even realize, but there was an article in the newspaper about our gathering.


 We meet at the quilt shop every other month and then in between regular meetings we will sometimes meet at my friend Carla's house to cut up fabric into quilt kits, sew quilt tops together and sort fabric.  The three hours flies by and we get a lot done.  I wish I could quit my job and just quilt all day every day because there is such a need for quilts.  Our goal this time around is 500 quilts by July 15.  We have about 10 so far :)  Hey, it's a start.  I did get one lady to volunteer a spare bedroom to house the quilts until it is time to ship them out.  That is a huge blessing because my house is overfull with the quilt tops and fabric that has been donated.  I really need to spend more time quilting and less time on the computer!
I was so busy working today that I forgot to take any pictures.  There were some really nice quilts donated today and we got a few quilt tops finished up.  A bag of scrap fabric was donated and we almost cut it all up.  I took two bags of fat quarters and almost all of those got cut into 6 1/2 inch squares and that will make several quilts.  Looks like I will be keeping busy once summer vacation starts which is in 14 days (school days that is).  I can hardly wait.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Confirmation of a job well done

This year has really been a struggle for me with the new Special Ed Science class I've been teaching.  I've flown by the seat of my pants and been ready to throw in the towel about 57 times so far.  I've let my quilting fall by the wayside and given up blogging almost entirely because I was just so drained both physically and emotionally.  I haven't felt supported by the administration and when you aren't sure if what you are doing is helping or hurting the situation and when doing your best is important to how you view yourself, depression can set in easily.

This week, I finally got some confirmation that I've been doing things right the whole time!  The guesses I've been making on how to best help these students from the highest gifted kids to the lowest struggling students all in the same classroom so that nobody is held back and nobody is left behind as we all march towards the end goal of learning the same material were actual teaching strategies that had real acronyms.

On Thursday, I had the final BTSA meeting of the year.  I've been a support provider for 7 or 8 beginning teachers over my career and this was the final meeting for this term's newbie.  She is doing a great job and really doesn't need that much mentoring.  I make sure she has the supplies she needs and help her with the curriculum and what the lesson is supposed to look like, but she has done all of the paperwork on her own and has the classroom discipline down really well for a beginning teacher.  This year I wanted to join the Special Ed group's meetings because of my class and she agreed that it couldn't hurt to learn more about special education and the needs of this diverse group of students.  At this week's meeting I got there about five minutes before she did and picked a table where another new teacher was already sitting.  I hadn't sat with this lady before and she looked nice enough.  She had curly hair like me and you all know that people with curly hair are known to be nice people.

We started talking and it turns out she was struggling with her co-teaching classes as well.  I explained all of the things I had tried this year and she kept naming off the 'real' names for what I was doing!  I was excited that my strategies were 'real' and were known in the teaching profession to work for students.  She was impressed that I, as a teacher far removed from the college learning environment (in other words-OLD) was so willing to try new things.  Hey, I will dance to my own singing if it keeps the students' attention!  I bet there are some youtube videos of me doing just that.

Then we watched a TED talk from a chemistry teacher who said he had three things about teaching that were his mantra.  He said most teachers bore students and stop them from questioning and inquiring.  He thinks learning should make kids wonder, be messy and something else I can't remember.  I had just gotten in trouble in the morning for having a messy room.  Here was my proof that I was doing a good job of teaching because my room was a mess!

I've always said learning should be messy, noisy and fun.  If the kids aren't talking and laughing, they probably aren't learning.  Silently sitting and reading out of a science textbook is the most boring thing in the world to me.  Give me a hands on experiment any day.  My department chair said learning can be messy, but then you are supposed to clean up when you are done.  I guess I just never finish learning :)

Then, on Friday, my co-teacher was out.  The sub she got was needed to cover the PE teacher who was also out so the front office just figured I could cover 2 positions.  I told them they needed to find someone to cover for her.  They got another special ed teacher to fill in during his prep.  He walked in and took one look at the students in my 6th period class and said, "Wow, you have your hands full with this group!"  Finally someone to validate what I've been saying all year.  He also acknowledged that the class should not be held 6th period when the kids are all wound up.  Hopefully he goes back and talks to his department about it.  He is very respected in his department and for him to make those observations really made me feel validated in my own feelings

With only 14 days left this year, I can see the end and also look back and say that I've learned at least as much from the students as they have learned about science.  I'm proud to say that I've survived some rough days and really grown as a teacher and person, but oh, so ready for vacation!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Quilt a Day

...keeps the crazies away!  I tell you the end of the year is super insane.  The kids are all tired of each other and nobody wants to get work done.  Trying to keep freshmen on task this time of year is like teaching cats to swim.  I am fighting an uphill battle and although the end is near, it seems so far when 5th period rolls around!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Newton's Laws

We are winding down the year in science and with the freshmen, I'm teaching Newton's Laws.  Some years, we run out of time for the fun activities that can be done with these laws.

Some years I run out of energy to do fun activities at the end of the year.

For the First Law, we have 10 Inertia demonstrations and activities that the kids get to try from pulling a table cloth out from under a set of dishes to knocking a playing card out from under a nickel balanced on your finger.  There are two different sizes of paper towel rolls and the kids pull on them equally to see that the smaller one is easier to get going but once you get the bigger one started it is harder to stop.  They think I'm crazy when the towel rolls and rolls and leaves a huge pile on the floor.  You balance a stack of pennies on your elbow and then swing your arm down quickly to catch them before they fall on the floor.  It's noisy and messy and fun.

We did a marble rolling activity to talk about mass and acceleration.  Again, noisy and fun and I got them to do some math without complaining!

Today we had balloon races to demonstrate Newton's Third law, the action-reaction law.  Air pushes on balloon, balloon pushes on air and that's why it zooms across the room on the string.  I was actually surprised more kids didn't pop their balloons.  I told them the story about when I was 10 and had my un-birthday party.  We always had a party in the summer for my friends because I was sick on my actual birthday most years.  I'm a December baby and having a summer party was really fun.  Every year we had a different theme for the gifts we gave away.  One year it was dolls and I remember picking out the one with the really big eyes because she was kind of ugly and I knew nobody else would like her.  Well, this year, the theme was balloons.  Special, huge balloons.  I had picked out my favorite, a really big one with farm animals all over it.  So, when it was time to get the prizes, I ran down to the den to grab my balloon and hugged it really tight.  Not the best idea because it popped in my face!  Ever since then, I've been traumatized by popping balloons.

So, the kids are sensitive to me and popping balloons.  They can be nice sometimes :)

But, I got them to calculate the acceleration and force on the balloons and have some fun at the same time. Not an easy task with only 3 1/2 weeks of school left.  It's days like this that make me remember why I love my job.

Tomorrow we start research on bridges and spend the next couple of weeks making bridges out of toothpicks.  Then we get to break them!  An awesome way to end the school year.

For a Friend

A friend of mine, who also does lots of binding for me, gave me this quilt to quilt for her a few weeks ago.  It's a graduation quilt for a family member (a niece I think).  She always has such a great eye for color.  I finally got around to quilting it yesterday after really not having the energy to get much done lately.  School has really been rough this year with a new special ed class I'm teaching that I was totally not prepared for.  I was also not supported by the administration and have been in a fight to get support all year.  With only 19 days of school left, I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm happy to say that I believe I will survive.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

I'm back-with a big project

 If you have watched the news at all, you've heard about the huge fire in Canada.  It's close enough to where my mom's side of the family lives that I feel moved to do something for the thousands who have lost homes and had to evacuate without time to grab anything.


If you were around in 2011, my group, Vacaville Binky Patrol organized a huge quilt drive and collected 1144 quilts to send to Sendai, Japan after the earthquake and tsunami there.

I've made contact with a lady on the receiving end and it looks like Fed Ex will provide shipping for us again.  Our goal this time around is 500 quilts collected by July 15.  I know, it's a huge goal, but I never believed we could collect so many last time.

It's the push I needed to get back to quilting again.  For the past few months, I just haven't had the quilt mojo and have been doing a lot of little embroidery projects.  My son is coming home in a month and I'm sure would like his room back.  I need to get these quilts finished up and having a home for them already is a great motivator.

If you would like to help out, we are accepting finished quilts from baby to queen size or quilt tops that need finishing.  Batting is always appreciated as well.

I've already had two friends step up and offer spare bedrooms to store the quilts this time.  Last time, I had a free family room and that was fully loaded with boxes by the end of the drive.  This time around, it is full of quilting machines and fabric.

You could also join the efforts at the Facebook Group:
Quilts for Fort McMurray

If you are in Canada, there are many people offering quilting services for those quilt tops you are never going to get around to.  Check it out!