Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ms. Houston meets Mr.V!

I had a special guest in my classroom today. Phil is here visiting from Santa Barbara and it is so fun!! We just finished jamming in our apartment with Melissa on the keyboard, Kate on the harp, Phil on the guitar, and me singing Portuguese (??? Phil's request). Our finished product was "sick!" as Phil would say. We had a lot of fun. Why did we never try that before?

Here are some highlights from his visit to Dixon Middle School today:

  • During second period, he successfully solved the Rubiks Cube in 36 seconds for my show choir students.

  • My show choir wanted to sing through their Disney Medley. They especially enjoyed, "Kiss the Girl," which the girls boldly directed to you-know-who. They changed the lyrics to, "Go on and kiss Ms. Houston!" Shameless.

  • In my students' little minds, the fact that Phil and I are both single and breathing makes us perfectly compatible. We gave the kids three questions to ask Phil. Twice, I had students ask, "Did you ever have a crush on Ms. Houston?" Phil told them he did and they were floored. They were simply gleeful. In the cafeteria, one student pulled me aside and said, "You have a husband!!" Wow.

  • The P.E. teacher needed someone to take pictures of her students playing ultimate frisbee for an end of the year slide show. I just happened to have an incredible photographer visiting with me at Dixon today, so he went during sixth period and got some fantastic shots.

  • At the end of the day, one of my more outspoken students from last semester came in and said, "Who's subbing for you today?" When I told her it was my friend, she said, "Oh, because everyone was saying he's really hot." Phil was definitely sitting there the entire time and she knew it.

It was a little intimidating to have Phil there, especially when I had trouble keeping my sweet little students focused. I had a boy turn off the lights about four times in a row between classes. Phil being there definitely kept me on my toes!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Chuck-E-Cheeses...where a kid can be a kid!

Today was Miss Melanie Manderino's 2nd birthday party at Chuck-E-Cheese in Orem.

Before going today, all I could remember about Chuck-E-Cheese is that I really loved it as a kid and my dad really hated it. He would bribe us with any other thing to get us to choose another place BESIDES Chuck-E-Cheese for parties or other occasions. As I entered the building today, I had two thoughts. The first one was, "I remembered this place being a lot bigger when I was a little kid." The second thought I had was, "Why did my dad have such a problem with this place? It's so harmless!"

After hearing Chuck-E and his furry band mates sing the same 80's songs over again in only a 45 minute time period, I started to get an idea of what my dad was talking about. The music DOESN'T EVER STOP. There are no pauses. You don't really notice it at first. It's only after about an hour that you realize, "Hey, this has been going on for awhile." Then you start to think about ten minutes later, "Wow, I'd love to hear some different music." Twenty minutes after that, you say to yourself, "This could get really annoying if I stayed here for another hour."

Dad, I want you to know that I no longer think you are a total "Bah-Humbug" after finally stepping into your shoes and seeing Chuck-E-Cheese from your wise eyes.

But to see Melley Manderino in her little pigtails and new party dress and her new baby brother sleeping in his car seat makes it all worth it. I realized how much I loved shopping for their birthday gifts because I have no nieces and nephews of my own to spoil yet. Thank goodness for the Manderinos. I can't think of anyone I'd rather go to Chuck-E-Cheese with!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ugly Dress Day at DMS

The outfit got progressively worse the more I was in my room getting ready. The hat was the finishing touch.

I forgot an ingredient for dinner tonight and had to go to the grocery store like this. I kept the hat on to try to disguise my face somewhat. I couldn't get out of there fast enough!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sock Hop!

Tonight for FHE, our ward put on a carnival for children with autism. It was A BLAST! Our FHE group's activity was the balloon stomp where we tied balloons around our ankles and tried to pop each others' balloons. I was plum tuckered out after a half hour of that! I'm so out of shape. Our group decided to wear crazy socks as part of our "look" (thank you sale at GAP).

Yes, I did learn to spin cotton candy this evening and no, I wasn't very good at it.

The ever popular ring toss.

How awesome was this carnival?!

We had to do some practice runs before all the kids arrived.

The little boys could run around for minutes on end.

I was UNFAIRLY ganged up on and taken DOWN and I happened to get a shot of my asailant.

Some of our ward members had a grand old time with the dress-up booth.

My new best friend Everett.

Alex being hip (above) and Dane's pearly whites (below).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Why We Sing"

Announcing our Fundraising Concert

"Why We Sing"
Featuring the Dixon Middle School 8th grade choir students
Thursday, March 19th
6:30 p.m.
Dixon Middle School Auditorium
Suggested Donation: $5.00

Fixing the Toilet for Dummies

Me, to myself: "Dang it. There's water leaking out the sides of the top of my toilet whenever I flush it. Shoot."

Me, to myself, after noticing this happen about three times: "Well, if the water is leaking out the top, that must mean there is something wrong going on inside there. Maybe I should lift the top and see."

(While the toilet is flushing, I decide to take a little look. Upon lifting the heavy ceramic lid, I am met with water spraying at me in a very abnormal fashion. I quickly replace the lid.)

Me, to myself: "Well, this is obviously a task way too big for me to handle. I should probably put a towel on the ground to soak up the water that leaks every time my toilet flushes until my dad visits one of these days and can fix it."

Today, to my dad on the phone, as an after thought: "By the way, Dad, my toilet is broken. I tried to see what was wrong and water started spraying at me."

My dad, to me: "Well, that means there is a hose loose somewhere. Look and see."

(I open the lid, find a loose hose, stick it back in its little hole, and flush one more time.)

Me to my dad: "Wow, that was it. It works."

Me, to myself, upon pondering the situation for awhile: "I was absolutely planning on leaving that towel there and dealing with a leaking toilet until some yet to be determined time when my dad might happen to make the journey from Santa Barbara to Utah to come lift the lid for me and put the little hose back in place. Could I have possibly figured that out by myself?"

Lesson learned.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I was born at night, but I wasn't born last night...

Last week, I was trying to help a stubborn student understand a musical concept regarding note names. I said to her, "Well, what's after 'c' in the alphabet?" to which she replied, "I don't know the alphabet." I was a little surprised and said, "Like the regular alphabet?" She adamantly declared, "No, I don't know the alphabet. I have short term memory loss." I didn't know what to do, so I let it go and moved on. Today, she asked to get a drink and was gone for at least 15 minutes. Our classes are only 45 minutes long. I took her backpack to the principal so she'd have to go there to pick it up since I couldn't find her in the halls. When she finally came back and I told her where to find her backpack, she said the teacher who called her down at the beginning of the period to take a yearbook photo had called her back while she was at the drinking fountain because the first picture was blurry. I marched over to the yearbook teacher and she said the whole blurry picture thing wasn't true. Arg. I was livid. This girl has pulled one over on me time and time again. And one of my true confessions is that I'm gullible to no end. But I'm learning.

In my frustration today, I started pondering the short term memory loss excuse and thought, "Wouldn't not knowing the alphabet be long term memory loss since one learns the alphabet in kindergarten?"

Friday, March 13, 2009

You know you're a teacher when...

My dear friend Caytlin Sampson posted a list on her blog of 21 ways "you know you're a teacher." It was geared towards elementary school education, but many of the principles hold true for middle school teachers as well. It was hilarious!! Here are the ones I thought most closely applied to me as a 7th and 8th grade teacher:

You know you're a teacher when...

1. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line.

9. You want to slap the next person who says, "Must be nice to work 7 to 3 and have summers off."

13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.

18. You ask your friend if the left hand turn he just made was a "good choice or a bad choice".

21. You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.


I've decided to fill in the missing numbers with some of my own that are specific to teaching middle school. I'm going to recruit my roommates to help me, as they are also teachers of adolescents.

You know you're a middle school teacher when...

2. You go home with red, blue, and green smudges up and down the side of your hand and on your fingertips.

3. You are up on all the latest fashion and music.

4. Edward Cullen has become a household name.

5. You start wondering if wearing ugg boots over your skinny jeans might actually look good on you.

6. You never wonder whether or not you're cool because your students let you know one way or another on a daily basis.

7. The words "I'll wait" take on a whole new and special meaning.

8. All your students' assignments get recycled into paper airplanes upon being returned.

10. You've had to stifle laughter at least once a term as a student falls over backward in his/her chair, despite how many times you've asked him/her not to lean back.

11. You begin to understand that you haven't formally given an assignment until you've explained it to the entire class it at least 5 times.

12. You become an expert at discovering who is texting during class.

14. You go to town on dress-up days because you finally don't feel embarrassed to look like a dork in front of the whole school.

15. You find yourself saying, "I'll be checking this assignment, so make sure you do it" when in all reality, the stack of papers goes straight to the recyle bin.

16. Your students start setting you up on dates.

17. You get shivers when a student succeeds.

19. You receive assignments back with "idk" as an answer to a written question. (For any still learning the language of text, that's an abbreviation for, "I don't know.")

20. You enter grades twice: once for all the papers with names on them; then, after all the "no name" papers have been claimed.


So let's make this a list of 50! Angela, I know you're out there and can definitely help me add to this list. I'd love suggestions from any and all of my blogging friends!

My Beautiful Little Sis!

Dancesport, 2009

Right off the dance floor after having danced for the twelfth time in an hour!

I wouldn't stop taking pictures so I finally got a real smile :-)

Christina and her dance partner for Latin, Lance

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Big Week at DMS

Tuesday was our ice-skating trip to the 7 peaks skating rink for all the kids passing their classes. I cringed as I watched the kids wobbling their way to the ice as their ankles wobbled around in boots that were definitely not tied tightly enough. I asked another teacher, "Do we seriously make it through these activities with no injuries?" I got on the ice myself and even challenged several students to a race around the rink. I legitimately lost every time. It wasn't even close. I'd like to say I let them win to raise their self-esteem, but that definitely wasn't the case.

One of my slightly rebellious students was seated on the benches outside the rink with his skates on every time I passed by. I would harp on him for not being out on the ice and he would say, "I can't do it!" I basically forced him to go around once. I said, "You didn't get good grades for nothing! You're not going to come here and leave without going around the rink at least once!" It took about 15 minutes for him to get 3/4 of the way around the rink. He held on to the edge the entire way around and wouldn't let go for anything.

As I tried to figure out why he was so freaked out, I came to the conclusion that he was absolutely terrified of falling and looking stupid. He wouldn't even risk letting go of the wall for more than 2 seconds. I realized how much power our own pride has over us as human beings. What are the walls in my life that I refuse to let go of? I think one wall I've been holding on to is my adamant status as the girl who can't cook. I haven't even wanted to try. I've even refused to like it.

As cruel as this sounds, I was pleased when I noticed that my little student he was stuck once he got far enough away from where we started. He had no other choice but to go nearly the rest of the way around because there was not another place to leave. I hoped this would inspire him and help him feel successful. At the first possible exit he headed out, never to return to the ice for the rest of the day. Oh well.

Today, we had our dress rehearsal for Dixon Idol. Last week, I watched the auditions with both the ballroom dance teacher and the teacher in charge of Dixon Idol. It was really funny. The kids were so dang cute. We narrowed it down to 11 acts. Among the fabulous numbers, we have a national champion clogger (you have to see it to believe it!); a three member band featuring an electric guitar, drum set, trombone, and vocals (called the fire-breathing ants); an adorable cha-cha ballroom routine (featuring an ex BYU ballroom dancer's daughter); and several vocal solos including "Starts With Goodbye" by Carrie Underwood, "My Immortal" by Evanescence, "Vulnerable" by Secondhand Serenade, and "Must Get Out" by Maroon 5.

Only during the Dixon Idol auditions was I finally able to understand what Simon means when he talks about the importance of song choice. Some of my kids just picked completely awful songs for their voices. And these are kids who have obvious natural talent! I was picturing them singing lovely broadway songs to feature their range and ability and instead we got a lot of hip music that the audience will love, despite how whiny/boring it may sound.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Deathbed Repentance

Yesterday, a friend of mine mentioned he'd been to a symposium that discussed the idea of "deathbed repentance." That phrase came to mind today after school when one of my cute little students (who is a total mess in class) came to boost his failing grade. I should mention that tomorrow is an ice-skating field trip for all students who are passing their classes.

When my students come to class, they know they are to write down the new theory flashcard on the board and its definition. I told them at the beginning of the term that I would collect all the words and definitions at the end. Ever since the beginning of the new semester, I have gotten on this particular student's case for not writing down his "word of the day." Well, I collected everyone's packets of terms last week and guess who couldn't seem to find his? I realized as he came after school, desperate to get his grade out of the gutter, that this was textbook deathbed repentance. And you know the interesting part? While justice would dictate that I should not allow him to make-up the terms, mercy took hold of my heart. This kid is always creating trouble, but he is always smiling. He never gets upset about anything. His behavior is horrendous, but his spirit is brilliant.

I ended up allowing him to write down as many definitions as he could remember and giving him credit for those. He would slyly say things like, "What does a flat do again?" and I'd say, "I can't tell you that..." Once, he caught me not paying attention and he said, "Does ff mean fortissimo?" and I distractedly said, "mm hmm." Whoops. Oh well. At least he knew the term and was only asking for confirmation. The kid is so dang smart that he ended up getting the majority of the points back. Honestly. But he seemed firm in his resolve not to make the same mistake next term of neglecting to write down the terms.

Because of this situation, I have pictured myself on judgment day in front of my Heavenly Father and my Savior. While They will see my flaws and mistakes, both big and small, they will also know the righteous desires of my heart and consider the good things I have done. By considering the things I've tried to do right, they will be able to provide me with saving grace that will allow me not to fail my final exam. They will do this because they love me. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


We stole Melissa's Elvis lunchbox for a centerpiece.

Pin the kiss on Elvis!

Elvis freeze dance

Special Visit from the King himself!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

True or False

I had one of those small precious moments during school today that helps me remember why I love teaching so much.

In my seventh period, I have a student who speaks and writes very little English. I'm not sure how much she understands, but it has been niggling at me because I'm pretty sure she hasn't gotten anything out of my class because of the language barrier. I hate it that I can't speak Spanish. It's tempting to throw up my hands and try to ignore the fact that there are some students who go through the motions and therefore pass the class, but have absolutely no idea what's going on. Today, my students were doing group work and this particular girl's friend who usually translates for her was absent. I decided to go see what I could do to help her participate in the group project (a music history board game). We sat next to each other on the floor and I tried in my Portuguese/sorry attempt at broken Spanish to communicate with her, shouting to my bilingual students all around me things like, "How do you say 'who'?" and, "What's the word 'patriotic' in Spanish?" It was her job to write some questions about the romantic period. I discovered that the easiest questions for me to translate and for her to understand in English were true/false questions. It was so great to be able to work one on one, celebrating little successes like when she actually wrote an 'e' instead of an 'i' when writing a word I spelled for her out loud. We moved in tiny baby steps, but it was a sweet experience, especially in the music course that I used to dread teaching. I learn more every single day about what it means to be a teacher. I look forward to the things I will learn as I continue this journey.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pictures that make me smile...

Just taking a walk down memory lane...

I loved it when I went to visit Brie at physical therapy during the summer when she tore her ACL. Even though she is now miles away, I wanted her to know I was thinking of her, so I put this picture on my blog post today. I knew she would love it.

This is when we went to catch fish at a man made pond meant to make people feel good about themselves while they're fishing because they always catch one. Or two.

This is when Em was pregnant with Cassie at her baby shower. I just love both those girls!

This was when my three roommates and I all graduated together from BYU in April.

This is Sister Jenni Jones, one of my dearest mission companions and friends, at her wedding luncheon. She is Jenni Harris now :-). That's her husband Vaughn in the background.

This is my big brother and me.

I just love this picture that Phil took about 5 years ago of my family doing the typical model shot.

This is my parents on their wedding day. You can't see it in this picture, but my dad is wearing black socks.

This is my brother and his fiancee, Shana.

This is Anna's best friend, Scraps.