#191: The Friend

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On Monday, I drove up to Middlebury to pick up a friend who was visiting from out of state. Her name is Hallie, and she lives in Seattle but used to live in Boston, so as part of a week-long tour of New England, she traveled from Boston to New York and stopped in Stamford to see us. It was wonderful to get to meet someone again who you haven’t seen in person in years.

Hallie and I have been friends since 2014, when the two of us ended up in London on the same study abroad trip, but from separate colleges. Hers was Brandeis, mine was Quinnipiac. Ever since our trip to London, we’ve kept in touch off and on, making sure to keep each other in the loop on our day to day musings and general things that are going on in our lives. It’s nice to have someone to bounce rants off of, and who I can depend on when it comes time to complain about something annoying. That’s what friends are all about, right?

Hallie also is the original DM of our Dungeons & Dragons group. She took a break because of work and time constraints, and I took over to compensate. Our group has been going steadily since then, with off and on sessions that take place around once every couple months. I have time at work to sometimes plan out what we’re doing during a particular session, which helps me because I’m sure Hallie doesn’t have that kind of time available.

Friends are valuable, helpful people who you can depend on, and who you help when they need someone to depend on, too. I’m grateful for the friends I have in my life. They make a world of difference to me. Thanks to all of them.

#190: The Dog Bed

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In my last post, I discussed what it was like bringing Angus to Petsmart, the dog store, where he got groomed and his nails clipped. Today, I’ll be discussing in more detail the bed we bought for him, and how wonderful it’s been. Having the opportunity to buy Angus a new bed was special, and we needed it in order for him to stay off of our bed during the night. Spoiler alert: the night after we bought him the bed, he didn’t jump onto our bed that whole night. So, believe it or not, it’s possible the bed was enough of a motivating factor to get him to relax overnight for once. If it stays like this, which has been a consistent problem for awhile now, the bed’s price will be worth it for that factor alone.

So, the new bed is considered an “ergonomic, orthopedic sofa.” What that basically means is that it’s comfortable for a dog to lay on, and it’s built specifically for comfort and relaxation. It’s got armrests that travel along the sides of it, making a half-circle for him to rest his big goofy head on. What Alex and I realized after watching Angus go about his day is that he loves resting his head on things, whether it’s the arm of the arm-pillow we have on the couch or a pillow on our bed. So, it was smart to get a bed that actually matches his needs and desires. I feel so much more considerate of him, now that I know something a bit more about his general psychology. The truth is, after all this time, it’s still difficult to interpret his behavior sometimes. It’s all a work in progress for us, and we are just trying to do our best with what we’ve got. Sometimes that’s good enough, like today.

#150: The Program

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Get with the program!

No, but really. This is about the reading program that kids use at school, and how interesting it’s been for me to observe it so far. I may have written about this before, but hopefully not! I sometimes forget what I’ve written about already.

Essentially, a select number of title 1 students are given access to Lexia, a reading and literacy-improvement computer program, and then on certain days during the week, I take them out of their classes and they complete their Lexia assignments. It’s a fairly complicated program, in that it’s similar to the SBAC test; it assigns work for students based on their strengths and weaknesses, and then feeds that data to my end, where I can adjust my instruction based on their performance. In layman’s terms, they work on phonics or literacy questions and growth on their own, and then I use their work in the reading group I run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. The kids love and request to use it, which makes me think that it’s probably a good thing for them. If kids are asking to learn, that’s always a positive sign in my book.

Lexia also tracks the amount of time people spend on the program, and it looks for “active minutes” to ensure that students are using their time appropriately. Sometimes, you catch a student who’s just staring at the screen, accruing minutes and minutes of time but not actually making progress in their learning. That’s a bit of a shame.

I don’t use Lexia all the time, though; sometimes, it’s more useful for us to take our instruction outside of Lexia and into a different context. For example, I’ve been using CommonLit a lot more recently, as it was a huge helper during my teaching the year before. The resources are entirely free and accessible to teachers so long as they have a school email account.

#140: The Speech

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Speechwriting is difficult. As I sit here, looking at the “Obama’s speech” handout next to me, I wonder what I can write about that’s connected in some way to speechwriting or giving a speech. Then, a lightbulb flickers in my head, and suddenly it all makes sense: I can write about the times I had to give speeches in school.

Being a public speaker as a part of my main profession was something that high school-aged Anthony would never imagine, let alone being an English teacher to begin with. I always thought of myself as a pretty miserable public speaker, all things considered, and I think back to my English class presentations back in 10th grade when I was too nervous to get in front of the class with my poster and talk about Nectar in a Sieve. Craziness that I ended up becoming a teacher after that.

I had to give speeches when I was a classroom teacher, pretty much constantly. Whenever I had a particularly unruly or disrespectful class, I made it my goal to admonish those who were disobedient and make sure they realized their misbehaviors. It wasn’t easy, though, and I definitely let some students slide more than I should have, looking back on things. Yelling at a bunch of teenagers about respect and obedience was not something I imagined myself doing when I was 14 years old, sitting in my counselor’s office as a freshman in high school.

One time, during period 6, I was so fed up by my Lit of the 60s class that I had them spend the next 30 minutes before lunch writing about what respect means to them and why it’s important to show respect to teachers. I made sure it was completely silent, and I used my loud voice. After lunch, I made connections back to the book we were reading, and only a few students got what I was trying to do there. I was in reality trying to draw comparisons between my outlandish, authoritative behavior and the behavior of Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. At least they learned their lesson before the end of the year!

#86: The Coffee Spot

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Coffee. Coffee coffee coffee. Let’s talk about coffee, the caffeinated greatness. I’m drinking coffee right now, enjoying the frothy aroma and its heat in the early morning. Fulfilling the early morning duty of keeping me awake, coffee adds so much to my normal daily routine. Alex wakes up before me and prepares some coffee for me to take to work, which fuels me for the first few hours of the working day. Coffee motivates me to get up out of bed and into a new day.

When we first moved to Stamford, there was a nice place nearby called Coffee Spot, which I visited frequently during the summer for an iced chai latte or a macchiato. I’m pretty basic when it comes to my coffee choices, but I can’t deny flavor when I taste it. I love the gingerbread latte at Starbucks, and I love the caramel macchiato at Dunkin. Like I said, pretty basic overall. Some time in the past two months or so, Coffee Spot shut down and without much fanfare or notice. It just slowly disappeared, like the result of a Thanos snap. One day, Alex said that she walked by the coffee shop and saw the seats and books gone. I thought it was nothing at first, but it turns out it was actually signalling the end of one of my favorite neighborhood spots. I wish I spent more time actually sitting and reading there, instead of just going for a coffee and then dipping quickly. There’s more to the place than meets the eye. Unfortunately, nothing has risen up to replace the spot yet, even though it’s in a prime position for commerce and activity!

It won’t ever come back, but it exists in our memories. Nothing will replace Coffee Break from Quincy, when Alex spent two and a half months living there. It was the perfect place to read and relax inside. Maybe they’ll swoop by and replace it! A man can hope.