Information Magnets

When I make my August home visits, I like to arrive with some information and goodies in hand. It gives me something to hold onto to prevent my arms from flailing about like they usually do, and it also feels good to arrive bearing gifts.

I’m giving my families a magnet with all the necessary contact information they’ll need this year. I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out!

I got the template from the greatly talented Jessica of How About Orange.

The tagline is what we say every day before we leave the classroom to go home. I learned it from Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.

Olympic Sculpture Park, revisited!

When we went to the Seattle Art Museum in spring of 2010, we had a chance to see some of the pieces at the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park. One of the works that caused a lot of conversation was “Untitled” by Roy McMakin:

The black chair looks like one of the plastic ones you can get at WalMart, but it’s metal, just like the white “paper” box.

When my significant other Toby was in San Francisco for WordCamp last weekend, he sent me these neat pictures. Look familiar?


This last one is designed to look like what giant computer servers sometimes look(ed) like.

Thanks, Toby!

Fabulous Thrifted Finds!

Perhaps you have had one of those off-handed conversations where something someone says winds up nagging you for months or years to come. A few years ago a fellow teacher said, “I make sure I don’t dress too nice because one of my students said it made her feel like I was trying to show I was better than her.” I respect this teacher and think she’s one of the most gifted educators on our staff, but her comment has stayed with me…

That’s the staff of the Ron Clark Academy. They look like that every day. I wear skirts or dresses most days to school, and I never wear jeans. That’s my personal preference. When my students have a free dress day, I wear uniform (which they love SO MUCH). Reading Ron Clark’s chapter on teacher dress brought my thoughts on the issue to the forefront.

I hesitate to say I support a strict teacher dress code. After all, I’ve seen teachers dress professionally in jeans, heels, and a nice blouse. Alternately, people have commented on the distracting nature of my towering yellow high heels, my pink hair, and my cloche hats (I haven’t worn them all at once. Yet.). Banning certain items is shaky, so how does an administrator tell someone, “Um, I think you’ve crossed the line.” ? Does it matter? Does it impact instruction or teacher morale? I think it does.

I LOVED it when fellow staffers wore outrageous socks and tights to celebrate my wedding shower. Even our principal on the left. (Who, BTW, is wearing jeans. And is still professional.) I’m wearing the nude fishnets second from the right.

That said, I also think we need to point out that “traditionally” “appropriate” “attire” can be inexpensive. If our kids think they don’t have access to the clothing they need to look professional, there’s a chance they won’t see themselves as future professionals. When a student complements me on a belt or a neat necklace (before class time, of course), I never hesitate to say I found it at Goodwill, Value Village or Target.

That’s why I think organizations like Dress for Success are so important. We talk about helping our students from poverty navigate the hidden codes of the middle class, and I think dressing snazzy is one of the codes they would benefit from knowing. This year, I’m planning to recruit some family members to help repair the inevitable blown-out knees and ripped shirts our students accumulate so they can be proud of the way they present themselves.

Again, looks don’t necessarily define a person. But I know I stand a little taller when I wear a crinoline-puffed shirtdress or my crocodile boots. I see teachers have a little spring in their step when they dress up for conferences. We have a little more energy, and sometimes that extra bump of energy is what’s going to make the difference in our students’ learning.

OK. Well. This started out as a vanity post of the rad items I found yesterday, but it has quickly morphed into something more. Ponder this all as you see fit. But I can’t wait any longer to show you my amazing steals!

$6 felt fedora from The Woodward Shop at Hudsons. Hand-formed hats like these sell for upwards of $300 today.

$5 Lilly Pulitzer skirt. They cost $80-$130 if you want to get one today. And none of their current patterns have zebras and antelope.

$10 Talbots suit. Whenever I wear dress pants or pinstripes, one of my students inevitably says, “You look like an office worker today, Miz Houghton.”

$5 Ann Taylor silk blouse. I’d been looking for a blouse that I could tuck in to my pencil skirts and circle skirts. Perfect. Also, I have a tattoo. Thoughts on the professional nature of a visible tattoo? Our admins don’t have a problem with it, and I told my kids if it was a distraction, I would just keep it covered up. We had the same conversation when my hair was streaked pink — if it interfered with their learning, I’d dye it back to brown.

Despite these wonderful new acquisitions, I still haven’t decided on my First Day of School outfit yet. What about you? How do you decide what to teach in?

DIA Museum Trip!

If I had a travel budget to take my class around the world, you can bet a big part of our visits would be spent in museums. Art is such a tremendous way to learn about history and the world around you, and I wish we could spend time close to the masters more often.

I’ll do my best to document my trip today to the Detroit Institute of Art¬†and post it here. The DIA is one of my favorite museums in the world (The Henry Ford is undoubtedly the best, of course, and I also like the National Museum of Scotland and the National Gallery of Art in DC), and going there was about the only thing I told my parents I REALLY wanted to do when I came back to Michigan this summer.

Here are a few pieces by artists we’ve studied that I’m REALLY excited to see.

"Giant Three-Way Plug," Claes Oldenberg
"Dancers in Repose," Edgar Degas
"Basket Set," Dale Chihuly
"The Bird of Washington or Great American Sea Eagle," John James Audubon

And no visit to the DIA would be complete without an extended visit to the jaw-droppingly magnificent Diego Rivera mural (It’s the one you’ve seen in the Chrysler Imported from Detroit commercial).

"Detroit Industry," Diego Rivera

Rad pictures hopefully to come tomorrow!


Weather Site AND Potential Field Trip!!!

Hey there!

I’ve been continuing to plan our first science unit, and I’m uncovering some neat stuff!

Take a look at this website! In addition to great information on weather, it actually tells you how you can improve your skills at predicting the weather!

I’ve also discovered there’s an atmospheric research department at the University of Washington, and I’ve contacted them for information on perhaps visiting them this October! Ahhh, so exciting! The trip should be about $5 to cover the cost of the bus. Start saving!


Field Trip Photos!

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you SO MUCH for making Friday’s trip to the Point Defiance Zoo such an amazing experience. It seemed like you had fun and learned a lot, based on the facts you rattled off when we returned to Wildwood. :) Here are some photos I took of the creatures we encountered. As you know, no student faces are to be included in these pictures.

The weather held for us all day! We were so fortunate!
Sea cucumber! Larger and a different color than I thought it'd be. Just like the one featured in Dragonbreath!
It was Bali's 13th birthday, so we sang "Happy Birthday" to him!
Porcupines! Ereth would be so proud. We were all astonished at how HUGE they were. I pictured them as guinea pig-sized...
Puffins! Their wings look like bat wings when they dive into the water.
Along with cats and owls, otters are my favorite animals!
These prawns made me think of the crawdads Tom and Reg ate in Leepike Ridge.
The peacock bids us farewell.


What a fantastic experience. I can’t wait to debrief with you more next week. Enjoy the sun this weekend, and remember that there IS SCHOOL on TUESDAY (we originally had it off, but we need to use it as a snow makeup day). Be well, do good things, and keep in touch!


Pencils, Not Pens

We made this neat video just for you, ladies and gentlemen!

Here are the lyrics to our amazing MSP song, inspired by Tin Cartwright.

Never went to bed as early as I did last night
Well-rested so I shine so bright
I’ve never seen so many people tell me to show what I know
Since I’ve let stamina grow, I have as long as I need
You can not see the response I’m writing
Cannot highlight, but I certainly can circle or cross out.

Pencils, not pens
Are testing with me
There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me,
It’s where I need to be
I’m ready to show
You what I really know
I’ll never forget, a gallon is 4 quarts

Not surprised to see elapsed time on the test today
Knew an open number line would be OK
I’m amazing
Never saw paragraph numbers in my books before
Testing’s a genre on its own
Synthesizing what I learned
I have never had such a feeling
Such a feeling of complete control, as I do today

Pencils, not pens
Are testing with me
There’s nobody here, it’s just you and me, It’s where I need to be
I’m ready to show
You what I really know
I’ll never forget, a gallon is 4 quarts

I never will forget, a gallon is 4 quarts
Pencils not pens.
Pencils not pens.
Pencils not pens.
My pencils and pens. (I love you.)