Sunday, April 26, 2015

Syncing Up

One project that has made its way into every Drama 1 class I've taught since I began my illustrious career is the Lip Sync Performance.

It's a wrap-up to the mime unit and a segues to monologues; a fun activity that also lets us talk about performance energy and audience engagement.  Students work alone or in groups to put together a short lip sync performance to a (school-appropriate) song of their choice.

As the students rehearsed their songs yesterday, I noticed that this project also illustrates the progress made in technology in the last 14 years of my teaching.

When I began, way back at Dead President Junior High, students had to bring in their songs on CD.  That's it - that's the only option.

A few years in, I had an iPod but few students did.  They could either bring in their own CD or pay me $1 so I could download their song choice if I didn't have it already in my music collection.  I would take the list of song requests home and spend an evening downloading them onto my laptop since iTunes was blocked.

More and more students got iPods and I gradually turned the downloading over to them.  Youtube was blocked at DPJH, though, so streaming was still not an issue.

When I started at Mountain Town High School, we used YouTube for most of the performances.  Sometimes the students had the songs on their devices already, but not all.  I still had to have the list of songs in advance, though, so I could open tabs to buffer all of the music over the night before since our school internet couldn't reliably handle playing videos.

This week, I told the students their task and in seconds their phones were out and songs were streaming.  One kid came up to my desk during the passing period and asked if he could go get his phone from the main office (school policy is for teachers to confiscate phones as needed during the day and then drop them off with the admin who track offenses and handle consequences.  According to the VP, I'm "one of [his] best customers" for this).

"Sorry, not until after school," I said.

"But I need it for the lip sync!" he protested.  "Our song's on it."

"No problem," I said.  "You can use my laptop.  Just pull it up on YouTube."

He did not like the solution that kept his phone locked up, but he couldn't argue with it.

Another handy advancement is Jimmy Fallon's Lip Sync Battles, which provide excellent examples of what I'm asking the students to do.  I can now show them something like this:

Instead of clips like this:

Still, my favorite lip sync performance is the one I've shown every class for years:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Prom 2015

So tonight I'm chaperoning prom.

Of the three dances we have, Prom has some distinct advantages as a chaperoning duty:

1) It's on a Friday, so I don't lose my weekend,

2) The venue is just 10 minutes from my house,


3) No freshmen are allowed and sophomores only by invitation.

Like all dances, though, it's rather boring.  Sure, we make occasional patrols to check nooks.  Right now, for example, I'm standing obviously close to a couple who were making out and are now instead giving me not-so-subtle dirty looks.

Still - boring.  So I shall blog the event.

The theme:

All the boys dancing together:

All the girls:

Some friendly faces - two senior boys with their (graduated) dates:

The obligatory shoe pile begins:

The view from the balcony:

The venue is in Morrison, almost a stone's throw from Red Rocks Amphitheater.  It's not a bad event space:

They just started playing Don't Stop Believing, so the balcony just emptied out:

Now I'm monitoring the drink station and I'm bored enough for a selfie:

Ooh!  Big moment!  Royalty!

Junior class:

And seniors:

I'm pretty happy that 4/4 of the court are drama kids and 3/4 are speechers.

My favorite outfit of the night:

I'm not sure why the boots, but I've always admired Sarah's sense of style.

This is my second favorite because l still have a ten year old inside of me who wants to dress like a princess:

By the way, these MTHS kids need a talking to about Prom etiquette.  The first couples showed up at 7:52 for a dance that starts at 8.  They were early!  Early!  Who does that?

To make matters worse, every kid was here by 9:15.  I don't think we'd even left dinner by 9:15 my senior year.

Aw, lonely kid who has been wandering aimlessly all night just walked off to the balcony with the lonely girl who's been looking depressed by the drink station!  Good for them (although don't worry, there's another chaperone already out there to keep them from "looking at the stars," as the couples keep claiming to be doing).

This year's gift (another thing I don't recall from my own Prom, but apparently it's a Thing) are these:

They are cups:

And they light up:

And here are some more poses:

Not pictured - another chaperone's fiancĂ© and I getting into a fierce argument   over his claim that assonance is a kind of rhyme.

Ooh!  Exciting news! The music just cut out (ironically in the middle of Ke$ha declaring "Don't stop!").  The DJ's poking around frantically with a flashlight.  It doesn't look good.  Then again, as one of the chaperones just asked our group, "Alright, which one of you slipped him a 20 to wrap things up early?"


Still no music.  It's 10:30, so a big chunk of kids gave up and took off.  There is a big group of girls in pastels singing "Let It Go" in the middle of the dance floor now.


10:45.  No music still and a lot more couples attempting to "star-gaze" on the balcony.


Music!  We have music!  And just 10 minutes left.  I'm going to post so we can wrap this sucker up.

You know what this means, though?  If Prom's over, we are definitely on the downward run to summer!

P.S. Rachel, I'm bringing some balloons over for the boys tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring Break Sleepover

Rachel and I swap gifts during each musical; and while she gave me a fun scarf of many colors in honor of "Joseph" this year, I went for the "Best Aunt/Sister Award" and offered 24-hours of babysitting.

She and Ben were quick to get on it.  Less than two weeks later, I packed up my bags (one for me, one for the boys) and headed to the Masons for a night and a day.

As soon as the boys got up from Quiet Time, our first order of business was getting cupcakes for after dinner.  We strapped into carseats and headed to Happy Cakes.

Sam demonstrates a fine sense of irony for a 1 year old.

With two stickers for now and a box of sugar tucked away for later, we walked across the street so I could pick up dinner for myself at Garbanzo's.  The boys get pizza for dinner, but I would have falafels.

Jack eagerly accepted a free sample.
He was disappointed when I had to explain the difference between a falafel and a waffle.

Treats in hand, we headed back to the house.  Being the Best Aunt Ever means that I get to break the house rules, of course, so we spread a blanket on the floor and ate our dinner picnic-style while watching "Kiki's Delivery Service".

The cupcakes were a hit

After the movie it was time to begin the bedtime process.  I knew baths were not the favorite, but I had a secret weapon in my Bag of Distractions and Fun:

Two Cans of Shaving Cream!

Like so many of my good moves, I stole this idea from my parents.  One of my early memories is of the special bath nights where Rachel and I got to make foamy white beards and ridiculous hairdos in the tub with cans of shaving cream.  Soap's never been more fun!

After drying the boys; reading many, many stories; tucking them into bed; and mopping up the bathroom later; I enjoyed a little bit of quiet time myself.

Sam woke up first the next morning, of course, but Jack was close behind and eager to see what fun the new day held.  After breakfast I pulled out my next trick:

Marshmallow poppers made from balloons, plastic cups, and, of course, marshmallows.

Sam was much more focused on eating the marshmallows and stacking up the cups than shooting them off, but Jack and I had quite the competition to see whose marshmallows could soar the farthest and both boys thought it was hilarious when I would blow up balloons and then release them them to flap around the living room "farting".

We also sent a greeting to Rachel and Ben, since I figured they would be up by then:

Sam was pretty sleepy at that point, so he went down for a nap while Jack and I made an Easter treat:

Jack was amazed to learn that Rice Krispie Treats are made with marshmallows, and he did an excellent job with putting the eyeballs in place, even when we discovered an extra one.

Rachel and Ben came home not too much later.  Sam was thrilled to see them, Jack was disappointed, and I was happy to hand the boys back to their rightful owners and go back to my quiet home.

That is, after all, one of the best parts about being an aunt.

Oxford... Oxford!

It may be stress from work or the distraction of planning other trips (such as the one in two months where I'm in charge of 21 OTHER PEOPLE in New York City) or other issues are going on, but I haven't felt as excited about Oxford as I thought I would be.

Don't get me wrong - I am thrilled to be going.  It just doesn't feel very Christmas morning-ish, if you know what I mean.

Then again, I did get a particular thrill when I received a welcome letter today that included this:

Your mailing address, whilst you are in Oxford, will be:

c/o The Oxford Teacher Seminar
Mansfield College
Mansfield Road

I have a (albeit for only a brief time) mailing address at Oxford!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Spring is Here!



I went away for one weekend and came back to a cat covered in knots.  Poor kitty!  So, despite the weather not quite being warm enough for such a short haircut, I took Nash in for her annual shave a bit early.

She seems happier, especially while she sleeps in front of the fireplace.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A San Diego Weekend

This is my Uncle George and Aunt Nathalie:

Every spring they host an Easter brunch for my dad's side of the family.  I've only attended a few times, but I know that good food, great cheeses, fun people, sunshine, and gorgeous flowers in their backyard are guaranteed.  Thus when my parents invited me to join them in San Diego for the holiday weekend, I was eager to accompany them.

I met my parents at DIA early Saturday morning and we had an uneventful flight from chilly recently-snowed Denver to sunny low-80's California.

It was a low-key weekend.  Saturday was bracketed by Greek food and seafood and flushed out with shopping at stores that were definitely NIJ (Not in Junction) and probably NID (Not in Denver):

Rosina, Mom, and I outside the Greek place we went to for lunch.
Mom suffers from garden-envy every time she goes to San Diego and sees flowers like this growing on the street while she sweats and slaves away to get blossoms in the desert of western Colorado.

Daiso - A Japanese dollar store (well, $1.50) with a plethora of goodies and stationary supplies and lots and lots of pink

A grocery store in "Little India"

Piles of rice on the left and different flours on the right

Frozen vegetables I've never heard of (Parval? Guvar? Punjabi Tinda?)

So many tasty-looking ready-meal options!

Giant jars of garlic paste and ginger paste

Ice cream made on the spot with liquid nitrogen.
I tried paan-flavor which, when I asked what it was, the guy described it as "Paan.  It's paan."

The menu at the seafood restaurant where we met the gang for dinner

My cousins, Sadie and Lexi, checking out the sea life with Grandpa Ed

We also watched a couple sketches from the French comedy show "Vous Les Femmes" that Dad gave Rosina on DVD for her birthday. 

Sunday morning dawned cool and sunny.  We arrived at Nathalie and George's place and immediately swooned over their flowers:

Once the cousins showed up, Easter went into full swing with a whirlwind of an egg hunt that left Lexi complaining that her basket was so full of goodies it "made [her] arm hurt!"

While we adults began dishing up the delicious brunch, Lexi and Sadie fell to the serious task of taking inventory:

As it does at such gatherings, the conversation roamed from jobs to upcoming travels to family stories from the past.  Grandpa talked about flying; Dad defended himself against his sisters' accusations of mistreatment in their youth (pigtail-periscopes came up in particular) and Grandma declared that I was to "bring home a Brit" this summer, the only reason to go to Oxford in her opinion.

The weather was perfect, and we all lingered at the table enjoying the breeze and the songs of the birds around us.  Nathalie brought out the lemon-blueberry cake she made in honor of the four April birthdays - Rosina, Mom, Sylvie, and George.

Nathalie swore she added up their ages multiple times to make sure the number was correct.  The birthday people insisted on recalculating, just to make sure, groaning when they realized the total was correct.

They opened presents and George brought out the cat tent so the girls could see Elsie, Nathalie and George's adorable and terrified kitty.

Lexi showing George the story she drew about how Easter was going to go.

Mom, Dad, Sylvie, and me, with Sadie in the foreground on our post-brunch walk

George and Grandpa Ed

Even our much-delayed flight home didn't mar our enjoyment of the weekend.  Mom and Dad were trapped in Denver overnight, and when I stumbled into bed at 1:00 AM I thanked Past Me for arranging coverage of my first period class so I didn't have to get up at 5.  Still, it was wonderful to see the California contingency of my family and be reminded how perfectly wonderful I think they all are.  I hope to visit them again soon!

That Sweet City with Dreaming Spires

This summer is shaping up rather nicely so far.  In addition to a voyage to China with cher Jason and another trip to New York with my students (17 of them!  Oy!), I have been awarded a fellowship to attend a teaching seminar at Oxford!

This place:


I've had my eye on these summer seminars for a year now, but they are pricy and I knew that a fellowship was the only way I could afford one.

I filled out my application on a snow day mid-musical season, secured a letter of recommendation from my principal, and sent it off with crossed fingers.

Honestly, I figured it was a long shot at best.  I had no idea how many applicants they received for such a thing; but for seminars at Oxford/Cambridge/the University of Paris, it is easy to assume that competition is stiff.

To my delight, in mid-March I received the following (slightly edited for blogging purposes) email:

I am delighted to be able to inform you that the Fellowship Committee of the Foundation for International Education met last weekend and has awarded you a Fellowship ... to attend the Teacher Seminar of your choice – in Oxford, Cambridge, or Paris - this coming July.  

This year we had a record number of fellowship applications, which made the decision process extremely difficult.  The pool of nominees was very strong, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your achievement.

A seminar of my choice!  And what a choice it was.  I've been drawn to Cambridge, lured perhaps by my crushes on Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, and Hugh Laurie (look at them!).  Alas, the Cambridge seminars were not really suited to my subject areas.  I dallied with the thought of the University of Paris for a few moments because: Paris, but those seminars are designed obviously for French teachers.

Oxford, on the other hand, offers two potential seminars I could use - Shakespeare Through History was my original choice.  It's an obvious one, yes; but the brochures described sessions dedicated to performances and revisions of Shakespeare's works over the years, sessions that sound fascinating.

And yet I was drawn over and over again to a seminar entitled "Literature and the Fantastic".  Here's the description:

This course focuses on the works of six of the most prominent children’s fantasy authors of the past 150 years. Three of these (Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien) were Oxford-based; special attention will be paid to their biographies and their interactions with the University and Oxford town life. Each seminar will cover both a special author whose work will be featured, and an investigation topic designed to focus the discussion around issues relevant to both readers and teachers of fantasy literature. In addition to learning about the history and background of these canonical texts, seminar participants will be encouraged to develop new and imaginative ways of teaching them to 21st-century students.

The truth is, I have had and will continue to have many chances to study Shakespeare.  When else will have I have the opportunity to study Tolkein and Carroll and Lewis at Oxford?  Factor in the new course in World Mythology I'm preparing to teach next year, and I had my decision made - I'm studying fantasy literature at Oxford this summer and I am absolutely thrilled!

Also?  This:


I get to visit, nay, I get to live next to the Bodleian Library this summer!  It's a bibliophile's dream.

“The Bodleian above anything else made Oxford what it was . . . There was something incommunicably grand about it, something difficult to understand unless you had spent your evenings there or walked past it on the way to celebrate the boat race, a magic that came from ignoring it a thousand times a day and then noticing its overwhelming beauty when you came out of a tiny alley and it caught you unexpectedly. A library--it didn't sound like much, but it was what made Oxford itself. The greatest library in the world.” 
― Charles FinchThe September Society

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Off to San Diego!

My parents invited me to join them for a super-quick trip (depart 8 am Saturday, return 9pm Sunday) to San Diego for Easter.  

Family, fun, and brunch at Nathalie and George's?  Definitely!

(On the train at DIA.  Not bad for 4.5 hours of sleep.)